PENTECOST 7, B – July 12, 2015

 SCRIPTURES – Amos 7:7-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. Eph. 1:3

 

Life as a Christian – not only believing but living the faith in Christ that is taught in the Bible – is getting tougher and tougher these days. There is an increasing hostility toward what the Bible teaches, and so an increasing possibility of being spoken against and perhaps even enduring loss if you believe and follow and proclaim it.

 

In some things it’s been this way for a long time. For instance, if you believe that God created everything and so do not believe the theory of evolution you’re considered an unthinking hick who is captive to superstition. If you believe Jesus is the true and only God and Savior you’re considered unloving, even racist. But now, if you follow what the Scriptures teach regarding morality and so say, for instance, that sex apart from marriage (which is of a man and a woman) is sinful, you’re called hate-filled. If you oppose abortion you’re called a hater of women. But, hey, at least you’re not being beheaded for it, as was John the Baptist! (Although, this is still happening in some places). You’re not threatened with expulsion from the country, as was Amos!

 

Still, it’s getting tougher, more costly in reputation and friendships and perhaps even financially, to be a Christian who believes and declares what the Bible says. So, what do we have to rejoice in? We have this: that in Jesus God is our Father! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” St. Paul declares. He blesses God the Father, and so calls us to join Him in blessing God the Father. For:

 

  1. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in

    the heavenly places.

     

    With every spiritual blessing. This does not mean, then, that you will receive every physical blessing you think that you need. Believing in Jesus as your Savior is no guarantee of a good life. You may struggle financially and not always be certain of having a roof over your head. You might not get, or keep, a job that you want and like; or even any job. Financial struggles, and even poverty, may befall you. You might endure a long and increasingly incapacitating illness. You will experience rejection and persecution because you bear Christ’s name. Our Father in heaven does not promise that He will keep such things from us. In fact, there may be times that difficulties will befall you because you believe in God as your Father in Christ.

     

    But, no matter what you may endure and suffer, no matter what may come in the future, there is this for you to hold onto: God is your Father in Jesus! And so, every spiritual blessing, every blessing the Holy Spirit has to give, is yours. In essence, everything that God is and has is yours. And so:

  • If you have no home, or if your ability to keep your home is threatened… know this: your heavenly Father’s eternal home is yours!

  • If your faith is weak; if you feel bad because you have kept quiet and not spoken of your faith in God, or to avoid conflict have done something you shouldn’t have, or not done something you should have… confess your sin to God and know that you have His love and forgiveness. He sent His Son to bear all of your sins for you, and “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.” (Eph. 1) God is your Father in Jesus! He will always love you and forgive you.

  • If you are sick and are not getting better, or will not get better; if you are getting old and weaker… a new and eternal life in a perfectly healthy and wonderful body is yours! You know how it is said, “A mother never stops being a mother”? Well, the eternal God truly never stops being a father! Not even death ends His being our Father. He raises us to never die again and never be apart from Him!

    These are but a few of the spiritual blessings, the blessings of the Holy Spirit, which are ours, a gift from God our Father in Christ.

     

    In Christ – in Him, completely and only in Him. God isn’t a Father who accepts any belief one has, even of those who reject Jesus. God does not ignore His Son, for He is of one essence and being with Him. He comes to us through Jesus. Let us, then, cling to Him alone and thank God in Him alone! Especially let us thank God that He receives us in Christ, and only in Christ. Your salvation is not dependent upon the fervency of your faith, or its constancy or strength or anything else. Jesus has done all things well for our salvation. Your salvation is secure in Him – and always has been! Paul emphasizes this by saying in Ephesians:

     

  1. GOD chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

     

    Yesterday I attended the marriage of Lorayne’s and my godchild, Hannah, whom I baptized years ago at Our Savior Lutheran in Londonderry, NH. Her parents thought of her and planned and prepared for her from the beginning of their marriage. She was brought forth by their love. On their wedding day Hannah and her husband, Donald, spoke of doing the same. Well, do you think that your eternal Father, whose wisdom and knowledge and power and love knows no limit, would have you in His mind and heart any less? His love for you is from eternity! So also is His planning and preparing for you and His choosing of you. “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” St. Paul declares. “In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.”

     

    To the people in Ephesus 2,000 years ago the knowledge that a loving God had chosen them was incredibly freeing. They had been raised in the belief that their lives were controlled by fickle and uncaring gods and hostile spiritual forces, by enemies wielding magic, and by astrological signs. Fate controlled their lives; they were but puppets on this earth. Are we different today? Many still follow astrology, believing that the position of the planets and stars in the heavens when you were born somehow define your life. Events beyond our control cause much fear and doubt.

     

    Do not fear or doubt your God! From eternity your eternal Father chose you to be His beloved child. Then in this time – in your Baptism – He reached down from heaven into your life to put His name on you, take you as His, and seal you with His Holy Spirit. You are God’s child, and no hardship in this world and life, no negative response of a person toward you and your faith in Him can ever change this. This is all by grace, by His choice and work in Christ alone. How could your life and works have anything to do with your salvation when you were chosen by God before you even existed? It is truly by God’s grace alone that we are His children. Rejoice and be glad!

     

    Let us rejoice in Him and praise His name, even when trials and tribulations and sufferings come upon us. They have a purpose, just as chores assigned by mom and dad have a purpose for their child. God has chosen you “that [you] should be holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1). As I often tell people on the golf course, He does His best teaching – and molding and shaping – through suffering. God wants you to be seen as different in this world. By what you say and how you live your life let Christ and what He calls holy be seen. This is why your heavenly Father chose you and in Holy Baptism brought you forth. In this He will bring forth His holiness from you.

     

    When you don’t see it; when you don’t see any holiness in yourself or any good in what you are enduring; look to Christ and trust in Him. Look to His cross, and then His resurrection on the third day. This is yours! Into this you have been baptized. Your Father in heaven will keep you in Christ. Here in this time, and then especially in eternity, He will bring forth Christ’s holiness in your life.

     

    This is the inheritance the Father has given us in Jesus, the hope that is ours in Him. And so, with Paul, and Amos and John the Baptist, and all of God’s people throughout the ages, we say: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” In the name of Jesus. Amen.