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Monday, October 12, 2015

Sermon for October 11, 2015

Oct. 11, 2015

             Unsure of Yourself; Sure of God

                                                                  Mark 10:17-22

Grace, Mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
            Hear again the starting sentence from the Gospel reading for today: 
Mark 10:17
    And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

   Notice the posture of this man with a question. He was not standing with a sneer as did so many other questioners we hear about, cynically trying to catch Jesus in a trap of words, proving that His message is wrong and He is a fraud. He doesn’t sit there scoffing, refusing to believe all that Jesus would say, refusing to appreciate all that Jesus would do. No, he kneels. He seems to sincerely fear the Lord. He seems to be genuinely concerned about his future, his destiny. Sadly, his question didn’t get an answer he could accept.
            This man sure seemed religious enough. He knew the commandments and had kept them his whole life. He was doing well for himself, great possessions, a success in life. But he had to ask Jesus, what must I do? He had everything going for him; still he was unsure of himself and uncertain about his eternal salvation.
            That’s how it is, folks. When you cling to the things of this life, you can’t be sure of yourself. There is uncertainty in your riches, in your status, and in your accomplishments. But there is certainty with God. If you only measure life in terms of how much you have or what you do for a living or what good you yourself can do, you will end up with nothing but uncertainty. You’ll worry and wonder, will I be able to keep what I have and get more? Will I be noticed, and recognized for what all I’ve accomplished? Have I done enough good? That’s uncertainty.
            With God there is certainty. He says it. And it’s so. And you know what He says -- things like this: “God so loved that world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
            God says things like, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
            The Old Testament reading today ended with this sentiment:
Amos 5:15
    Hate evil, and love good,
        and establish justice in the gate;
    it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
        will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
            This is a tricky verse. It might sound like Gospel at first, but really it worked as law for  the people Amos was preaching to. It set them up to desire something more, something more certain than just a “maybe”. This was a call to repentance. Hate evil, and love good and maybe the Lord will be gracious.  
            The Holy Spirit works through the law to tell sinners to turn from their sinful ways and listen to what God has to say next. A sinner, convicted of His sins, fears God and worries about judgment, wishing that maybe, the Lord will be gracious.
            And many people that that’s the best they can hope for. The best feeling that they can get. People don’t expect certainty. Some of you probably feel that way when it comes to your eternal destiny. Saying, “Maybe the Lord will be gracious to me at the end. But I’m not so sure.”
            The Gospel of Jesus Christ has more for you than maybe, more for you than probably, more for you than uncertainty.
            My hope is built on nothing less
            Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
            No merit of my own I claim
            But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
            On Christ the solid rock, I stand;
            All other ground is sinking sand.
 You ought to be unsure of yourself, your merit, your works, your riches. But you cannot be unsure of Christ. He is the Rock, the only Rock, on which you stand.
            Throw away whatever uncertainty you have about your status with God, your acceptance by God, your eternal life with God, and set your hopes on the solid foundation of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
            Don’t settle for maybe or probably when it comes to your salvation. Uncertainty about your salvation is a big problem. Martin Luther called uncertainty a “monster”, “worse than all the other monsters.”
            It’s a monster that attacks and strangles faith. It leads poor believers to doubt and to despair and to just give up. The uncertain soul is anxious for a while, but the Monster of Uncertainty uses that anxiety to so tear up faith that eventually there’s nothing left but apathy and hopelessness. And so the defeated person just walks away, physically like this man in Mark 10, or walks away intellectually and emotionally from the things of faith.
            Martin Luther warned people about the Monster of Uncertainty. Christians will invite that monster in whenever they start thinking that their salvation has something to do with their works. That is, they believe, foolishly, that God will like them if they do good and avoid evil. Sin rises up as it does in all of us and the poor sinner worries, have I let God down? He probably doesn’t like me anymore.
            Or here’s another common way that the Monster works on Christians. Many believe a message that the Gospel is only real to those who feel it in their hearts. Those glowing warm, happy feelings that you get when you are really feeling religious, those are the key to faith and righteousness before God. The Monster of Uncertainty waits until you are feeling down, tired, sad, and the Monster of Uncertainty says, maybe you aren’t saved, because you aren’t feeling it. You don’t have that bubbly feeling? You must be separated from God. So says the Monster.
            Such doubts and worries will inevitably arise as we cling to our riches, whatever our riches may be. None of us here cans say, well, I’m not like that man in Mark 10. He was rich. I’m not rich. We all have riches. Whether it be enough money to splurge, or rich in emotions of happiness and pleasure in this earthly life, or rich in relationships with the friends and family God has given. Whatever our riches, when we cling to them we are not clinging to Christ and we will soon feel the effects of the Monster of Uncertainty.
            If you ever wonder “How could I survive without my riches, without my happiness, without my loved one? What will happen if I lose that which I love so much?” That’s the uncertainty that the riches of life bring.
            Instead, trust in this. You have treasure in heaven. Jesus Christ and Him alone is all you need. So long as Jesus sits in heaven at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for you, watching over you, you have all that you need.
            Whatever your sins, whatever your mortality and your fear of death, whatever attacks the devil and his monsters may bring against you, You have a sure and certain Savior, Jesus Christ. He died for you to take away God’s wrath and disappointment. He died and rose again, to defeat death and all the reasons you might have for worry and fear about death. He gives you continuously His words and promises of forgiven and salvation. He gives you baptism, and the new life that comes from there. He gives You His body and blood for your forgiveness life and salvation.
            How, then can we doubt? If God did not love us, He never would have gone to all that trouble.
            If you love someone, you prove yourself trustworthy to them. You keep your promises. You tell them the truth. God is, of course, better at doing that kind of thing than you are.        He loves you. He cannot lie to you. He cannot fail to keep His promises to you. You can be sure of God.
            Now you might say, “Doubts and worries are unavoidable. They are to be expected. Everyone has them. No one can be 100% certain.”
            Let’s be very careful to define what doubt is. When you doubt God, you are insulting God.
1 John 5:10
    Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
            See what horrible, blasphemous thing the Monster of Uncertainty does in you? It says, “God’s lying”.  He is lying when He says He loves you. He is lying when He says, “I forgive you.” He is lying when He says you will have eternal life.
            Doubt is a sin. Call it a sin. Treat it like a sin. Repent and believe the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Follow Him and you will have treasure in heaven.
Romans 10:9
    If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


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