[Special thanks to my son Sam, who formatted our pastor’s sermon text for this blog post]
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, when I was working as a kitchen installer in Germany, I was taught a saying which the workman went by there, and that was this:
“There are only two ways to do something: the right way, and the wrong way.”
Now that made some sense to me.
For when I had worked at Taco Bell while in high school in Colorado, I went through a great deal of training on how to make every item they sold there the right way.
You would think it would not be that complicated, but it was somewhat, and it took quite some time to learn to place the right amount of each ingredient on each item. We even had a scale handy. And every once in awhile, a burrito or taco or tostato would be weighed to make sure that we were making every item exactly as we should. We were doing everything the right way.
Of course I think that learning to do things the right way is a common work experience no matter where we work. Whether in a factory, a corporate facility, a hospital, or in the military, people are trained to do things the right way. And they do in fact learn to do things the right way. But then something changes. The store, company, or hospital is bought out. New managers appear, and suddenly, the “right” way of doing something is no longer the “right” way.
A new “right” way must be learned. Nowadays of course, that has come to be somewhat expected.
We have grown used to change. No, we may not like it, but we have grown used to it. Every electronic device is a new adventure. Every new car has features never seen before. Even a trip to the grocery store can be a journey into the “change” as every once in awhile, the store is shifted around.
“The only thing that remains constant” so the saying goes nowadays, “is change”. Of course, that has not always been so. At times in history, things were done the same way, for not just a few years, or decades, or even for centuries. And so people then learned how to do something a certain way:
- make shoes,
- sew clothing,
- weave cloth,
- milk cows,
- build houses,
- catch fish,
…stuck to that way, and could make a living at it.
Living their entire lives doing the same thing, the right way. And there is appeal to that, isn’t there?
All this change we experience daily, after awhile, just gets to be tiresome. Now that being said, there is one area in our lives as Christians where change has not occurred where it actually should. Here I am talking about our need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In other words, within the Christian life, our life in Christ, whether we like it or not, there should be change involved. And that change involves our learning. But that is (learning that is) what makes change so hard in general, isn’t it? I mean, it is not that change does in fact occur, it is the fact that WHEN change occurs, we MUST LEARN. And let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t want to learn anymore.
I mean, we know enough already, we know enough stuff to get along. We have learned enough to live in this world. Why should we need to figure out the difference between Ethanol and E-85? Why do we need a smart phone, when the one that hung on the wall for 30 years worked just fine? Why do we need to go hunting for an ingredient at the store that was on the same shelf, in the same isle for years, and now it is probably on the other side of the store. The issue really, is the learning. Isn’t it?
Think here now of our Christian faith. We know we were created by God. We know we were born sinful, and in need of a Savior. We know that Savior is Jesus Christ our lord. We know that through faith in Him, faith is created by the Holy Spirit within us at our baptisms. Or when we first heard the Word of God preached to us, that all that our Savior has done for us, is credited to us, that through faith in his son, God, in his grace, has deemed us righteous and holy.
I mean, what more do we need to know? What more do we need to learn? After all, we spent all of that time in confirmation class. We have that certificate somewhere. Why do we need to know any more?
And then we hear about the boy Jesus in the temple, the very Son of God, listening to and asking questions to the teachers there. What was he doing? I mean, why does very God need to learn about himself? And then we read our text: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Okay. How is it that very God, of very God, could increase in Wisdom? How is it that the Son of God (become sinless man in Jesus Christ) could increase in favor with God? Now, the short answer is that this text mainly refers to Christ according to his human nature, not according to his divine nature. So as God, yes, Christ did know everything, but as man, He did not.
Consequently, Christ did learn and grow in wisdom, and in favor with God. As the son of Mary. Yet, even as the son of Mary, Jesus was sinless. And being sinless, why would Jesus need, even as man, to learn? To grow in wisdom? Even to grow in favor with God?
So here we need to remember that even if we were sinless, that would not make us omniscient. That is, if we ever found ourselves to be without sin, that would not mean that suddenly we would know everything that we needed to know, or even that we had matured into what we are to be.
The angels, for example, have no sin, but that does not make them all-knowing. Now here as Christians, interesting enough, according to our New Man, we are, like the angels, without sin. In other words, our New Man simply does not like sin by definition. Our old Adam does of course, but not our New Man. But even though that is true, it does not mean that our New Man knows everything it could or should know. Nor does it mean that our New Man has matured into that which it should ultimately be.
How to understand this? Think of a sapling of an apple tree that we would plant in our yard. Now there is nothing wrong with that sapling, it is exactly what it should be as a sapling. But as it grows into a mature tree, what does it do but provide shade for our lawn, beautiful flowers in the spring, a place for birds to nest, and squirrels to hide, pollen for the honey bees, ultimately fruit, good fruit for us to eat. Now there was nothing wrong with the apple tree when it was a sapling, it was just not fully matured into a fruit bearing tree. Similarly, there was nothing wrong with our New Man when it is created within us, we are baptized, or come to faith in Jesus Christ. But, we must say like the boy Jesus , Jesus according to his human nature: “There is room to grow, room to bear fruit, room even to do those things which are pleasing to God.”
So that then is why, along with the assurance that our sins have been forgiven, that we continue to remain in the Word of God, (as we do in our Worship Services). We continue to receive the Lord’s Supper. And we continue to read, and learn, and inwardly digest the very Word of God.
If you are not doing that presently, now, in the New Year would be a good time to start. There are for example, any number of devotional books which can be used that purpose. We provide for example, Portals of Prayer quarterly. But there are others.
Again, the reason? In view of the boy Jesus in the temple so that we can do as he did. And that is, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So that we too can mature, and serve, and bear fruit.
And the modern question: “What is in for me?” really is not the question.
Here we should be more like the young Solomon when asked by God for what he wanted, requested, (of all the things) that Solomon could have had, Wisdom. Wisdom to be a good king; to be a good ruler; wisdom to be a good judge. What was it in for Solomon was that he could be that which he should be, knowing, that it would then be beneficial for the entire nation of Israel.
Now, would the same not be true for us? If we were to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, would we not become more and more beneficial in our service of love to those around us?
Yes. Is this learned by means of our study of the Word of God? Well yes.
Of course, going back to where we started, we can refuse to change, can’t we? Realize when we do this, it is not our New Man speaking, but our Old Adam. Our Old Adam would like nothing better but to remain and wallow in its hatreds, and prejudices, its arrogances, fears, and envy.
No, if we don’t have a desire to grow as Christians, that is our old Adam within us, talking – which needs to be rebuked, stomped upon, or simply ignored. When it comes to the Christian life, the Old Adam wants to see no growth whatsoever. But the same is not true for the New Man. So let’s listen to the New Man.
Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God. Let us even follow the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, who although he was very God himself, humbled himself, and becoming man, actually, as man, grew in knowledge, even knowledge of himself. It really can be difficult to comprehend. And yet it is wondrous to grasp, and so we too should seek in this same Christ always to increase in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen.