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Lent 3 – Luke 11:14-28

by pastorjuhl ~ March 23rd, 2011

I am indebted to Rev. Larry L. Beane, II for some of his thoughts. Soli Deo Gloria!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

When we take our eyes off something, it can be hard to find it again. Golfers have trouble following a little white ball in flight. Stargazers squint their eyes to find stars that form constellations. Christians look around at other gods only to repent and return to the one true God, but He can be hard to find if they haven’t seen Him in a while.

Psalm 25 says my eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afraid. When our eyes turn away from the Lord, we may not feel lonely and afraid. We may feel bold and confident, but that feeling will not last long. If we think we are bold and confident without the Lord now, imagine how it will be without Him for all eternity. That is what hell is: eternity outside the presence of God.

Our Lord responds to the woman who cries out Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You with a sentence that brings more comfort than the womb or a mother’s breast: blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it! One could not get away from that Bible verse at my seminary fieldwork congregation. It was painted above the altar in a beautiful mural that expressed the Holy Trinity. The words were in German, so the weekly bulletin always printed the English translation. Whether in German or English, the Word of God was right there before one’s eyes.

Notice that Jesus does not say that we are blessed if we read the Word of God at home and do nothing about it after we read it. Jesus says nothing about knowing the content of the Word but never putting into practice what we hear. He mentions specifically hearing the Word and keeping the Word. Hearing the Word but not keeping the Word is a dangerous thing. What good does it do us to hear something but never do anything the Word says? Why not ask those who claim to be a faithful, God-fearing Christian but give no evidence in their life that they hear God’s Word.

Why not ask ourselves first? Sin is never a trifle. Sin is always a big deal. This is why our Lord warns us that when an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

We cannot be saved by our own holiness, but we can lose our salvation by the neglect of our holiness. Here’s how C.F.W. Walther, the first president of our beloved synod puts it: A Christian who will not continually fight against sin, earnestly strive after the virtues that please God, faithfully watch over his heart and life, and always pray for new power and grace soon ceases to be a Christian.

We cannot be “Sunday morning Christians” and live like pagans the other 167 hours of the week. Just because you have the ability to neglect prayer, not come to Divine Service, never make diligent use of Individual Confession and Absolution, gossip about our neighbor, neglect Christian stewardship, never forgive our neighbor, be gluttonous, ogle at pornography, never show compassion, be greedy, never practice self-discipline, and make all kinds of foolish excuses for sins, does not mean that you are allowed to continue to do these things on a regular basis, yet rejoice in your Baptism and flaunt your “get out of hell free card”.

Listen again to Saint Paul in today’s Epistle: no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).

It is good not only to hear this in Lent, but also to remember this all year round. The Christian life is nothing other than warfare. We prayed in the Litany on Ash Wednesday: To beat down Satan under our feet. What a marvelous picture this sentence paints! We are dealing with eternal life and death! Consider the weaponry at our fingertips to fight back against Satan and the powers of hell. Listen again to our Savior’s Words: blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!

We have the privilege to listen to God’s Word every Lord’s Day in the Divine Service. We have the privilege to study God’s Word together twice a week. Most, if not all, of you have Bibles of your own to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word. Later in Ephesians Saint Paul calls God’s Word the sword of the Spirit. God’s Word teaches us that it is His glory always to have mercy. God covers us in His mercy from His mercy seat, the place where Jesus sits down to atone for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Stronger Man, sits on the mercy seat to prevail against the enemy who enslaved us in sin and disobedience. Our eyes are drawn to this mercy seat, the cross of Christ in which we glory. Psalm 123 says as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us.

He has mercy upon us in His blood and righteousness. The strong man is strong, but the Stronger Man is triumphant. He has considered our affliction and our trouble, and forgiven all our sins. This is why we pray with the Psalmist: Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You. We take refuge in Christ when we keep His Word. Keeping His Word means to retain it, to cling to it in every time of need. His Word declares you forgiven, absolved from sin because of Jesus Christ. Why would we want to return to the fleshpots of Egypt when we have new life and new hope in the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world?

Blessed, indeed, are those who hear the Word of God and keep it. They shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. They will not be put to shame because they take refuge in the shelter of the Savior, Whose death has destroyed death and whose resurrection from the dead paves the way for our resurrection too.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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