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Preaching sanctification: an example

07 May
My pastor with a student in Nigeria

My pastor with a student in Nigeria

(Tomorrow, the 2KR series continues)

This past weekend my pastor, Paul Strawn, preached the following sermon on confirmation Sunday at Prince of Peace Lutheran church in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota.  I know some persons are wondering what “preaching sanctification” might look like today (we have some examples from Luther, referenced in the Formula of Concord – see here ; Pastor Holger Sonntag also recommends here and here).  My pastor preaches sanctification regularly, which I submit simply means preaching Christ and all the gifts He has for us.  This struck me as a good example, particularly in showing how the concept of the old and new man can be used in ways that connect with every believer’s experiences.  I left the sermon’s format as my pastor had it in the word doc he sent me.

“Come and see what God has done: He is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.” Psalm 66:5

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is Martin Luther,

Who popularized the idea,

That not only are the 150 Psalms

The Hymnbook of the Bible,

But they are in fact,

A mini-Bible.

What did Luther mean?

He meant that everything that we need to hear

About God,

About our Creation,

Our Redemption in Christ Jesus our Lord,

And Our Sanctification by the Holy Spirit of God,

Can be found there,

In the Psalms.

And so we hear this morning,

This wonderful text

From Psalm 66

Which would urge us,

To Consider,

What the Lord God Almighty

Has done for us:

“Come and see what God has done!”

The ESV has it,

“He is awesome in His deeds

Toward the children of men.”

Luther’s own

Translation

Of this verse,

Probably catches it

A bit better:

“Come and observe the works of God,

Who is so wonderful with His actions

Among the children of men.”

And certainly our heavenly Father is just that:

Wonderful with His actions

Among the children of men.

And that is why,

For the last two years,

On Wednesday evenings,

Our Confirmands  ___, ____, ____, etc.

Have been brought to the church here,

By their parents.

Why?

So that they might learn,

Of the wonderful actions of God

Among us,

Among the children of men.

When You think about it,

That is quite a privilege,

Even a wonder itself.

What is?

To be able to hear,

Repeatedly,

About wonderful actions

Of God among us:

How He has created us,

Redeemed us from sin

And death,

And the power of the devil,

Through His Son

Jesus Christ,

And how He sends

His Holy Spirit

Into our hearts,

So that faith can be worked there,

Sanctification occurring.

So that pastors

And teachers

And evangelists

Can be shaped

And formed

And so that

We might

Experience love,

And joy,

And peace

And patience

Kindness,

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

And self control.

All of these things

Are actions of God,

Accomplished among us,

Wonderful actions of God,

Which He accomplishes

Through His Word.

Why?

Because our Heavenly Father loves us.

“God so loved the world!” the most

Well known passage of Scripture

Begins,

John 3:16,

And it was God’s Love for the world,

Which caused Him to act, wonderfully

Even among our confirmands.

How so?

Well they exist,

Don’t they?

Here they are,

Sitting before us,

Every one,

A creation of God.

An amazing,

A wonderful,

Creation of God.

And what is more,

When these confirmands,

Were brought to baptism,

They became New Creations

In God,

The Holy Spirit,

Coming upon them,

Working in them faith,

So that they would grasp

Their Savior

With their hearts

And souls

And minds,

Yes,

They would believe in Jesus

As their Savior from sin,

And death,

And the devil,

And so would daily,

Have their sins

Forgiven

Again,

And again and again.

This truly is a wonderful action of God.

So wonderful in fact,

So wonderful an action of God,

(Driven by His love for us)

That God has made

Part of His definition of what love is,

A hearing

Always,

Of His Holy Word.

What am I talking about?

I am talking about the Ten Commandments.

What are the Ten Commandments?

God’s definition,

Of what Love is.

Yes,

We have our own definitions of love,

Don’t we?

But the only true definition of love

Is that Given to us

By the One who created love,

And who Himself

Is Driven by Love

And Who is Himself Love

And that is our Father in Heaven.

Part of that definition,

Of love

That our Father in heaven gave us,

Is “to remember the Sabbath Day,

By keeping it holy.”

“What does this mean?”

Luther asks in the Smaller Catechism

“We should fear and love God,

So that we do not despise preaching and His Word,

But Hold it Sacred

And gladly hear and learn it.”

Once again:

Why?

So that God,

Our Loving heavenly Father,

Can be wonderful with His actions among us!

He can admonish us,

When we sin!

He can forgive our sin!

He can give us joy,

And peace

And patience

Kindness,

Goodness

Faithfulness

Gentleness

And self control.

But of course,

It can all seem,

Like so much drudgery,

Can’t it?

Coming to church.

Attending confirmation instruction.

Opening up our Bibles,

And trying to find

A Bible verse.

Attempting to understand

What a Bible verse means.

Sitting and thinking.

Examining ourselves spiritually,

As the Holy Spirit,

Convicts us,

Of sin,

And righteousness

And judgment.

And what of our children?

What of trying to get them,

To Sunday School,

Or confirmation instruction?

It is not easy.

And of course it is not easy.

For when we fight

To get our children to church,

To the place

Where they can hear of the wonderful

Works of God,

We fight with ourselves

Don’t we?

We fight with the notion,

Of needing to hear the Word of God.

We fight with the idea,

Of having to be still,

So that we can know,

That God is God!

Why do we fight?

Why should we fight?

Why isn’t it easier?

The reason of course,

Is that our old man within us,

(The sin that still adheres to us)

Does indeed not want to hear the Word of God.

Why?

Well there is nothing there for him.

Our old man,

Our old adam,

Would like nothing better,

Than to be out in the world,

To be entertaining our flesh,

And to be flirting with the devil himself.

Not so the New Man.

Not so the New Creation within us,

Not so the wonderful work

Accomplished within us by God.

Our New Man,

Is the one

Who says to us:

“I was glad

When they said unto me,

Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

And also

“ Blessed is the man

Who walks not

In the counsel of the wicked

Not stands in the way of sinners

Nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

But his delight

Is in the law of the Lord

And on his law

He meditates day and night.”

Yes,

There is this New Creation,

Within us,

Which Scripture calls the New Man,

Which daily,

Even hourly,

Moment by moment

Does battle with the Old Adam

And does take the upper hand,

And should take the upper hand.

Who is this New Man?

That created within us

At our baptisms,

Which is formed in the image of Christ,

Which itself,

Never sins,

And never wishes to sin,

And would

Every day,

Strive to make our entire selves

In the image of Christ.

Of course

For that to take place,

Daily

A struggle occurs.

But realize,

That struggle does not mean that we are not Christians,

But that struggle means we are Christians

That daily,

The Old Adam within us must be put down,

That Daily,

The New Man must come forth and arise.

How to think about this?

One way,

Is to think that when we were placed,

As infants, or adults

Over the baptismal font,

And water was applied to us,

In the Name of the Father

And the Son,

And the Holy Spirit,

We never left that moment.

Yes,

The baptism ceremony,

Came to an end,

But the baptism itself,

Never did,

For once the Holy Spirit

Enter our hearts,

From that moment on,

The New Man

Within us,

Began to work

To fight

The Old Adam

So that daily,

By the power of the Holy Spirit,

We would become more and more

Like Christ.

And that becoming more and more like Christ,

Is that battle within us,

That battle which we do indeed feel.

It is God Himself,

Being wonderful with His actions within us!

Here is Luther on that Battle

From his Galatians commentary:

On that wonderful work of God within us:

“Thus there is great comfort for the faithful

in this teaching of the Apostle Paul’s,

because they know

that they have partly flesh

and partly spirit,

but in such a way

that the spirit rules

and the flesh is subordinate,

that righteousness is supreme

and sin is a servant.

Otherwise someone who is not aware of this

will be completely overwhelmed

by a spirit of sadness

and will despair.

But for someone who knows this doctrine

and uses it properly

even evil will have to cooperate for good.

For when his flesh impels him to sin,

he is aroused and incited

to seek forgiveness of sins

through Christ

and to embrace the righteousness of faith,

which he would otherwise

not have regarded as so important

or yearned for with such intensity.

And so it is very beneficial

if we sometimes become aware of the evil

of our nature and our flesh,

because in this way

we are aroused and stirred up to have faith

and to call upon Christ.

Through such an opportunity

a Christian becomes a skillful artisan

and a wonderful creator,

who can make joy out of sadness,

comfort out of terror,

righteousness out of sin,

and life out of death,

when he restrains his flesh

for this purpose,

brings it into submission,

and subjects it to the Spirit.”

So Luther.

So what does this mean parents,

But that by the power of the Holy Spirit

You overcame yourselves,

And brought your children

To confirmation instruction?

What does this mean

Confirmands

But that You overcame yourselves

And actually learned

Something

In Confirmation?

And throughout this whole

Process

What was going on

But

“the work of God,

Who is so wonderful

with His actions

Among the children of men”?

It seemed different

Didn’t it?

It seemed like such a struggle.

But that is the Christian life,

So often.

That life,

Which flows from the greatest struggle,

Between the Son of God,

And Satan,

That struggle,

Which was won,

By the Son of God,

Jesus Christ

Who offered Himself

On the cross,

After having never,

(Not even one time),

Fallen to the temptation of the devil,

Successfully,

Keeping His Human Nature,

His flesh,

From falling to the temptations,

Of the devil,

The world

And the flesh.

By doing so,

By conquering all three,

By Offering Himself For Us,

Christ Now,

Being Raised from the Dead,

And Seated at the Right Hand

Of the Throne of God,

Can and does,

Continue to Strengthen us,

Through His Word

And Spirit.

So what does that mean

For us this morning?

It means that Confirmation

Is not an ending

But only a beginning!

The instruction of these Children in the Christian faith,

Has only begun.

Even now,

As they have become more fully aware

Of the battle going on within them,

They will need

(More than ever),

Our prayers,

And encouragement

And yes,

Our insistence,

That they continue

To hear the wonderful works of God

Among the children of men.

What does that mean,

But that not only should we encourage these

Young men and women to come to church,

But we should set the example for them,

And bring them to church.

In other words

We are to continue to work

And struggle and strive

Against ourselves

So that the Lord

Who has begun

A good work

In each of these Confirmands

(As He has done

Within each of us),

Bring it to completion

In the Day of our Lord and Savior

Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting,

Amen.

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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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