Theology for all!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

HAVE NO FEAR Matthew 10:5a, 21-33 Sermon


Predictions, projections, and best guesses—everyone likes to state what they think the future will hold. Meteorologists forecast the daily weather, sports journalists predict the outcome of a championship series, pollsters project the probable winner of an election, news commentators declare the direction of the nation, and futurists explain what the world will be like a few decades hence. In addition, our daily conversations are sprinkled with future talk: “Who do you think will win?” “What are your retirement plans?” “What will your son do after graduation?” Often these amateur prophecies are not fulfilled exactly as stated: Partly sunny turns into a downpour, the underdog becomes an upset victor, a technological breakthrough changes the way we live, and an unexpected event alters our plans. With biblical prophets, the story reads quite differently. Inspired by God, each of their predictions would come true, in exact detail. The Gospel of Matthew provides amazing examples of the power and accuracy of God’s prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah. From his humble birth by a virgin (see Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2), to his crucifixion (see Psalm 22:14, 16–17) with criminals (see Isaiah 53:12) and resurrection from the dead (see Psalm 16:10), Jesus did what the prophets had predicted—he fulfilled every prophecy and fit every description of the Jewish Savior. As you read this Gospel, follow the dramatic story, predicted in detail centuries before, of Jesus, the Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords … and your Savior too.

Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), x–xi.

Matthew 10:1-33

English Standard Version

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans

Christ told his disciples to go to the Jews first with the Gospel. 

This doesn’t mean that Christ was only giving the Gospel to the Jewish people. It just meant that moment in time in Jesus’ ministry, he wanted the Gospel preached to his cultural group first. 

Today, that causes me to think.  Here in this church, it’s easy to assume that everyone has a complete grasp on the gospel message. It’s easy to assume that our Lutheran, Christian group gets it. But do you realize that as Christians, we need the Gospel just as much as non-believers do? Do you think here in America that Christians understand the Gospel? I believe there is tremendous confusion even in our churches about who Jesus is, what he accomplished, and why it matters. I believe we have to have a clear understanding of the Gospel before we can go out and preach it. Because make no mistake, the pure Word of God will challenge and create a reaction in those who hear it. I do not believe you can be a Christian in today’s world and escape some kind of persecution for your faith. This is why Christ tells us to be both wise and innocent. We are in a world where Christianity is becoming more and more hated. But have no fear. Jesus has us covered. 

Persecution Will Come – 

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.



Get flogged, dragged before leaders

Don’t be nervous; the Spirit will speak through you.

Families will betray each other

All will hate you because of Christ

Endure to the end to be saved. 

Leave if you are persecuted. 

Israel still needs the Gospel.

A disciple is not above his teacher, but may be like his teacher. 

If they called Jesus the devil, what will they call you? 

Jesus likens the enemies of the Gospel to ravenous wolves. That is serious language that we should not be taken lightly.  Then he says that we should be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. I know that there is the serpent in the Garden, but in the Eastern parts of the world, serpents are revered for their wisdom and intelligence. I married a Chinese woman; serpents are respected in their culture. We have to be cunning and pure to make it in this world. We’re gonna get persecuted. Today, all around the world, Christians are being martyred, thrown in jail, they’re having their property confiscated, all these things. Families are turning on each other. In many cults and other religions, family members will in fact disown you or turn you in to authorities if you convert to Christianity. And that’s getting off easy. Jesus predicted the utter hatred the world will have for us. But the Spirit of God will give us boldness and wisdom to speak in front of people, wisdom that the world cannot contradict (Luke 10:10). But those that endure will be saved. Remember this Christian walk is a marathon. Maybe an ultramarathon. Jesus also said to expect opposition, but don’t foolishly throw our lives away. If we are persecuted in one location, it’s okay to leave. Jesus said that he would never be beneath us, but we could be like him. Now if we are like him, and they called Jesus the devil, of course people will say horrible things about us. But have no fear. Jesus is near. 

Now what did Jesus mean by saying that the disciples would not go through all the towns in Israel before the Son of Man came?  Because of the events of the book of Acts, it seems more likely that Jesus was referring to events after his resurrection. The meaning of his words would be that the task of the mission to the Jews would be so great and so difficult (for many would refuse to believe) that it would not be accomplished even by the time of his second coming.

Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 209–210.

It’s hard sometimes to see Christ being near us when we are being persecuted. Since the time of Jesus, his followers have endured some of the most horrible atrocities. 

Besides being put to death they [Christians under Nero’s persecution] were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified; others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night. Tacitus, Roman historian

Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 208.

Hebrews tells us in chapter 11 Verses 35-38 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

This is referring to a lot of the saints of the Old Testament, but in Jesus’ time and after his time ,the church faced horrible persecution from the Romans.  And today, many Christians are still being martyred. But Jesus tells us to have no fear.

Have No Fear

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Don’t fear the authorities. 

The covered will be revealed, the hidden will be known

Repeat what I say in the dark in the light

Proclaim what is whispered on the housetops.

Don’t fear those who have no say over your immortal soul. 

No sparrow falls without the Father.

Our hairs are numbered.

Acknowledge Me; I’ll Acknowledge You.

Deny me; I’ll deny you.  

Christ is describing the great love that the Father has for us. He says that everything that is done to us as his believers will be revealed and exposed to the light. Christ says, we cannot fear those who have no immortal hold on us. Why should we be afraid of them? Even the sparrows don’t fall from trees without the Father being there. And if our hairs our numbered, how can we doubt the incredible love which the Father, Son and Spirit all have for us? 

For one thing, Jesus never commands us to meet insults with more insults. 

STICKS AND STONES Jesus was accused of being Beelzebub, and he told his followers to expect the same treatment. Words are powerful weapons, and Jesus’ disciples can count on hearing a good number of bad ones slung at them. When you’re the victim of intimidation or slander, keep your cool. Jesus took those knocks too. Instead of getting testy, try laughing a little, and if that doesn’t quiet the name-calling, try a solid, forthright, clear-eyed comeback such as, “Would you please stop? That hurts, and it’s not true.” Trading insult for insult is never Jesus’ way.

Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 210.

WHEN BAD NEWS COMES During the Vietnam war, the worst sight in the world (State-side) was two dress uniforms walking up to a door. It meant a casualty at that house, and many tears were shed at those doorsteps. Bad news comes. People without an anchor—without God—are shaken to the foundations. Grief strikes us all with bitter arrows, but God’s people rest in hope, respond with courage, and live on by faith. God’s care for each of us is greater than the enemy’s hatred. Grieve when bad news comes, but don’t fear. Have No Fear. 

Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 212.

It has never ceased to amaze me that we Christians have developed a kind of selective vision which allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities and yet almost totally pagan in the day-in, day-out guts of our business lives … and never realize it. Keith Miller

Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 213.

Folks, we can trust in the goodness of Jesus Christ, even in the face of persecution. With Christianity being more and more marginalized, we can know that the hairs of our heads are still numbered, and the Lord has our back, always.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Holiness Matters: 3rd Use of the Law Sermon


The courtroom is filled with intense drama as the lawyer for the plaintiff states the case for guilt and the lawyer for the defendant builds the case for innocence. Judge and jurors listen carefully in preparation for their verdict. Although Romans was not presented in court, this letter from Paul to the Roman believers reads like a lawyer’s brief as Paul slowly and skillfully presents the case for the gospel. Paul was a scholar and a world traveler. He was a Pharisee and a Roman citizen. But most important, Paul was a follower of Jesus Christ. Because Paul had not visited Rome, he wrote this letter to introduce himself to the Roman believers and to prepare the way for his coming. And so, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he clearly outlined the Christian message. His readers would know that this Roman citizen was first a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, a brother in Christ.

Bruce B. Barton, David Veerman, and Neil S. Wilson, Romans, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), viii–ix.

Up to this point in his letter, Paul has shown people’s need for salvation, God’s gift of that salvation through the death of his Son, and God’s grace in forgiving the sins of all who accept him. Paul’s focus was on justification. This next section of the letter (chapters 6–8) deals with sanctification—God progressively separating believers from sin and making them more like himself. Justification is the first moment of sanctification; it is when we pass, through Christ, from death to life. Sanctification is the step-by-step process when the Holy Spirit works in our lives and conforms us into the image of Christ (8:29). Paul’s discussion of sanctification follows this outline: chapter 6 explains that believers are free from sin’s control; chapter 7 discusses the continuing struggle believers have with sin; and chapter 8 describes how believers can have victory over sin. The key point to realize is that all believers have a new nature and the Holy Spirit within, yet they also have the old, human nature with its capability to sin. These opposites are in constant tension, yet God promises help and victory. Paul begins this chapter by describing the miraculous power of the gospel; it sets people free from sin’s control. It’s not that Christians don’t or can’t sin anymore, but that they are free to choose between doing wrong and doing right. This Christ-bought freedom brings great responsibility. Believers must use their Godgiven opportunity to make right choices, replacing sinful thoughts and actions with righteous ones. Failure to do so means remaining enslaved to sin. But the rewards of serving God include abundant joy and eternal life.

Bruce B. Barton, David Veerman, and Neil S. Wilson, Romans, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), 112–113.

That is the summary of this message. We know that we are free in Christ, especially us Lutherans. But why are we free? We are free to be his slaves, his servants, his instruments, his friends, His Bride, His body. In a world where people are doing whatever they want, holiness matters

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

After explaining what the earlier points of this chapter of Romans entails, Paul encourages the people to still pursue those things that pertain to righteousness. The Apostle encourages us to present ourselves to God has a people resurrected, and our members to God as instruments for righteousness. Then it says sin should not have dominion over us, since we are under grace. And since we are under grace, holiness matters. 

Now we know as Lutherans that our salvation is by faith through grace, through Jesus Christ. We know that we don’t possess any righteousness in and of ourselves to live a holy lifestyle, and we don’t have any merit in us that would allow us to save ourselves. No, we fully rely on Christ for our justification, that is, the declaration that we are not guilty because of our faith in Christ. Our sin debt has been paid in full. However, Paul is not so much talking about justification here, but about sanctification. What is sanctification? It is the gradual process by which we who have a relationship with Christ become more Christ-like. 

How is this accomplished? Is this a matter of mental toughness, or simply trying harder to be more holy? No! It is all faith-based. We are given the gift of righteousness by Jesus:

2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Corinthians 1:30-31  30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

There we have it. We fully rely on God for our salvation, but many people think it’s up to us to start that process of inner cleansing. But no, it’s all Jesus, from start to finish. Hebrews tells us that he is the author and perfecter of our faith.  

And now that we know this, what do we do next? Let’s go to verse 15….

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

So Paul asks and says what now? Since we are not under the law but under grace, should we just sin willingly? Not at all! He says we are slaves of whoever we obey, either sin or obedience. Then Paul thanks God that we were once slaves, but now we have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which we were committed, and are now free from sin and slaves of righteousness. Then Paul says, since we were slaves to impurity, now become slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 

Paul says that since through Christ we have BECOME slaves of righteousness, now present our members, or our bodies as slaves of righteousness. So become slaves of righteousness, because we already ARE, slaves of righteousness. What does this mean? This means that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we walk by faith with the Spirit of God. The book of Galatians tells us to keep in step with the Spirit. Not move ahead of Him, not move behind him, but rather keep in step. It really sounds like a military language, doesn’t it? How do we walk by faith with the Holy Spirit? Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. In other terms, the Spirit of God works through the Word of God, so that we can do the Will of God through faith. 

  • Psalm 107:20 (ESV)
    He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.

  • Matthew 13:15 (ESV)
    For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

Do you see? It is in the word of God, and the Words of God that you find healing. Seeing with our eyes, hearing with our ears, understanding with our heart, and turning, Christ says that when we do these things through God’s Spirit, he will heal us. To turn means to repent. To repent means to change our minds. This means aligning our view of sin with God’s view of sin. Aligning our beliefs on what’s right and wrong with what God’s Word says about what’s right and wrong. Because holiness matters.

So we are now in Christ. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have recieved the forgiveness of sins through our faith in Christ’s proclamation that our sins are forgiven. Now Paul goes deeper into his comparison of our old lives and our new lives. 

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul says that when we were slaves to sin, we were free in regards to righteousness. But he asks, how did things go before you knew Jesus? How did it go when you were living in sin? He says those things only result in death. But since we are free from sin and are now slaves of God, the fruit we receive now leads to sanctification and eternal life. Then Paul says a very famous verse. He says that the payment we receive for sinning is death, but the free gift of God is life everlasting through Christ. 

Now what is Paul saying exactly? He is saying that we are released from the Old Adam, and the Old Eve, through the Word, through our faith and through our baptisms. We have the Spirit living in us, who gives us power to not always give in. Because holiness matters


" 'Our old self was crucified with him [Christ] so that the sinful body might be destroyed' [Rom. 6:6]. He says our old man is crucified, and yet the sinful body must be destroyed even in us. He would never say that Christ destroys the imperfect body, or the body of punishment. Observe that we have five clear passages in which he speaks of sin, in addition to the places which we have not enumerated where Paul speaks of individual faults. Yet these insignificant vendors of smoke would compel all these heavenly thunderings to yield to an invented interpretation, spawned out of their own heads, unconfirmed by a single text of Scripture. We shall deal later with the seventh chapter [of Romans], which is closely related to this.

What then, are we sinners? No, rather we are justified, but by grace. Righteousness is not situated in those qualitative forms, but in the mercy of God. In fact, if you remove mercy from the godly, they are sinners and really have sin, but it is not imputed to them because they believe and live under the reign of mercy, and because sin is condemned and continually put to death in them. This is a most glorious pardon which comes through baptism."

Martin Luther

Luther's Works

AE 32:208

Career of the Reformer II

Against Latomus

Theologian of the University of Louvain in Belgium


So what do we do? We trust in Christ’s ability to change us. Hebrews says: 

Hebrews 10:14 ESV

14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He already has, perfected for all time, those who are being sanctified. On earth as it is in heaven. In other words, when scripture says Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, it is saying our redemption was accomplished on the cross. The process of being sanctified, or being more Christ-like is our walking out on earth what has already been accomplished for us in the heavens. So in the purity and simplicity of the Gospel message, yes, we should pursue holiness, but the pressure is off! We don’t have to feel guilty if we don’t live up to certain standards. Our destination is already decided as Christians; so we are given grace for the journey. The journey, or the pilgrimage through this life is us pursuing Christ-like character through the Word, Spirit, and Sacraments. But why? So this world can be drawn to the Christ they see in us. So our neighbors and friends and colleagues can benefit from the Christ that is in us. Holiness Matters. 

So now, we have been bought. We have been captured. We are now slaves of righteousness. We can live in this world without being conformed to this world. In spite of what our culture and society are saying, Holiness Matters. We live in a time where there is an LGBTQ+ agenda out there. Yet holiness matters. Jesus was the most pure person who ever lived. The hypocrites and religious leaders were turned off by him, but the sinner, those who knew they needed forgiveness, were fiercely drawn to the character of Jesus, like a moth to the flame. There is a book called “Beautiful Outlaw” that talks about how the character of Jesus was utterly attractive:

“He is the playfulness of creation, scandal and utter goodness, the generosity of the ocean and the ferocity of a thunderstorm; he is cunning as a snake and gentle as a whisper; the gladness of sunshine and the humility of a thirty-mile walk by foot on a dirt road.”

John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus