In Jesus Christ, We Really are Above it All (sermon text and video)

24 Nov

[apologies for the poor sound quality in the video]

“…you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not…” — Malachai 3:18


In the book of Malachai, we hear how God’s people complained with the words “Where is the God of justice?” (or, we might say “of righteousness…”).

This they have the nerve to ask after God points out the many ways His people had failed to do right by Him!

  • They had offered Him lame animals for their sacrifices…
  • The priests had failed to teach the way of the Lord to the people…
  • They had fled from His decrees and robbed Him through their meager tithes and offerings…
  • Judah, he said, was enmeshed in idolatry, had ‘broken faith’… even going so far as to marry the wife of a foreign god…

So now, after all that and now hearing this question about where His justice is, He’s, frankly, had enough…

He’s done!

So He speaks of His coming judgment and speaks these words to them…

I will come to put you on trial

I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty….”

And later on, He goes on to assure them:

“…You will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not…”

Abraham’s words to God in Genesis 18, as he pleads for the lives of the righteous in the city of Sodom, come to mind:

“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?…”


Many throughout time have questioned this though….

That is, whether this God, revealed to us in the Christian Scriptures, will indeed do right…. Or even if the “righteous” he’s going to save are really all that righteous!

Just a few generations after the last of Jesus’ disciples died, a man by the name of Marcion took a look at the New Testament – particularly the book of Luke and Paul’s Epistles – and after comparing it with the Old Testament…

Decided that the God of the Old Testament was a different God than the God of the New!

Other critics have questioned whether God is truly good and just as well.

In the 3rd century, when the church father Origin defended the God of the Christians, He nevertheless did so on the basis that many of the stories in the Old Testament weren’t really meant to be taken literally….

So—perhaps emboldened through the half-hearted defense of some Christians—critics like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins haven’t really held back:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Even as he was competing with another notable atheist and excellent writer at the time, Christopher Hitchens, I think Dawkins really does deserve to win some kind of award for that one…. : )

That said, even the great contemporary philosopher and theologian David Bentley Hart—who some years ago countered Dawkins in His book “Atheist Delusions”—recently spoke about how

every evil that time comprises, natural or moral . . . is an [indictment] of God’s goodness: every death of a child, every chance calamity, every act of malice, everything diseased, thwarted, pitiless, purposeless, or cruel; and, until the end of all things, no answer has been given…”

As such, Hart is again sounding a lot like Origin… and maybe even Marcion….

Do the beginning words of Psalm 36 come to mind?:

I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.

Or, do we… perhaps find ourselves wondering about some of these critics… whether or not they might not have a point?


Well, if we have such thoughts, we would not be the only believers who have thought them!

People in the Old Testament had issues with God too.

Admittedly though, their issues weren’t really related so much to God’s cruelty (ironically, it may only be the love revealed in Jesus Christ that would make the world so sensitive to that!)

….rather, they lived in a world where might truly did seem to make right and where for that reason the gods were called upon.

In this world…

  • Violence was a very regular occurrence…
  • Live infants were seared on the heated hands of idols,
  • Women were basically owned, sometimes in mass…
  • And, evidently, well-known commands from God not to have intimate relations with animals were necessary….

So they, on the contrary—knowing the world they knew—were probably often wondering why God wasn’t more forceful and destructive with their enemies!

Be that as it may their main question– as we saw briefly in Malachai—was why the wicked, the godless, often seemed to be so blessed in this world!

Have you read Psalm 74? You too, might actually find it somewhat contemporary and relatable. It’s worth taking a look….

They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth…

Behold the very Word of God!

Giving voice to the common complaints of His children…

…but again, God insists—while men like Dawkins and perhaps even David Bentley Hart scoff at the reports of His behavior—all things will indeed be well….

And that yes, He will do right.

Hence we also read in Malachai of the final judgment:

“…But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years…”

A look at this passage in the book itself shows that this is clearly a prophecy of the coming Messiah.

And so… what does that Messiah do when He finally comes – at least initially?

Just what does He show us about God’s judgment?

Just what does He reveal to us, we who live on the other side of the Old Testament, about God’s wrath?

Why, the raging fire of God’s wrath would burn itself out in Christ’s body… that He will take it all into Himself.

And as He does this He also says—at the same time—“Today you will be with me in paradise” to the one who confesses “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong…

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Behold your God!

The God who indeed harshly punishes the evil of sin, but most harshly in His own Son

…that we might receive His most tender and gentle mercies through His own very blood!

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”…


Jesus says: Richard, David…I am that God you are talking about…


So where to do from here?

What does it mean for us who believe this, being justified by our Great God, to be just… to act justly in the world?

Especially in our world today, where there is so much discussion about things like the latest trends or fads (shall I call them that?) of social justice and rights!

Rights… Rights…. Rights…

Does being just, perhaps, have anything to do with effective political action in the here and now?

Well, the importance of us being culturally and politically wise and brave here should not be discounted….

Peter Scaer, a professor at Ft. Wayne theological seminary in the LC-MS—who is well-known for His punchy and opinionated posts on Facebook—is  sometimes criticized by his own fellow pastors for being too political…

I admire and commend him, however, when he says things like this:

“Who posts more about Christ and his life than I do? And still I am accused of speaking politically? As if abortion had nothing to do with Christ in the womb? As if the gender lie had nothing to do with the God who made us male and female? As if marriage had nothing to do with Christ and his Bride?”

Do you see what really lies beneath his words?

If you say a sly “political power play” I’m going to call foul!

We should rather see that the real power to transform hearts and minds is embedded right within what he says!

For He is simply insisting that both God’s Law and Gospel, while needing to be kept distinct, testify to the same love of God – indeed, the same goodness of God shown to us in Jesus Christ!

And this changes everything!

With life in Christ we have the beginnings of true love, life, safety, and peace!

But do we really?

After all, in looking over history, one great theologian came to this rather depressing assessment:

“As it is in my own life history, so it is in world history, is a part. We should speak more cautiously and soberly in the plural, of world histories: namely, the histories of great social groups or movements; the histories of alliances, nations, and blocs; histories which stand apart and never merge into a world history in the singular. These world histories are nothing but the histories of the seeking, enforcing, denying, or lacking of mutual recognition. They are the histories of vindications and the assigning of guilt. They are one long story of the battle for mutual recognition, a life and death battle. In this regard, then, we can indeed speak of a world history in the singular.” (Bayer, Justification and Sanctification, p. 4)

It is indeed such observations that led the liberal theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick to write these words, which even theologically conservative churches have been willing to sing:

Cure your children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to your control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss your kingdom’s goal.

(God of Grace and God of Glory)

I think some of you know that even as we sing a hymn like that we begin to feel an answer to that prayer as well… We have realized the difference that Jesus Christ makes.

World history might be life and death battle for recognition, but it is more than that. It is God’ story of His work in Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness, life, and salvation…

In the lives of our family, our church, our local community! This is where we can make a difference, and where the love of God can begin to be known!

All that said here, it is easy for us to think less and less locally… and to even get overly preoccupied with earthly powers… and the heights of earthly power – especially in this days when the drama runs high!

We can forget that our real battle is against spiritual foes—and that the power which can really defeat and dislodge such foes is the Word of God—particularly the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For while the earthly powers are not unimportant—and our place and right to speak the truth in the political realm should never be questioned for a minute and we should never discourage brothers who do this!—it also does us well to think more on, to reflect more, on the Higher Things!

…to direct our attention there…

What will happen then?


When we do this, we will find ourselves not less, but more eager, to show true justice and mercy to our neighbors – first to fellow believers and then to unbelievers, unsettled by life’s trials and willing to hear…

We will want not only to share God’s forgiveness in Christ, but offer physical assistance as well…

This is what the separation of the sheep and the goats on the Last Day is all about, right?

Those who have forgiven much, those who have shown much mercy – echoing the mercy of God Himself – will be shown mercy.

Those who opened up the Kingdom of Heaven to others will have the Kingdom of Heaven opened up to them.

In other words, these are the ones who have demonstrated themselves to be God’s children…

After all, sons and daughters of God act like sons and daughters of God and it is right that they should be found with their father and brother….

Like Christ, they eagerly gave the promise of paradise to all—even to those enemies of God dying to the left of them (and to the right, if they would only have it)—who had nothing to give, and could pay nothing back.

For God’s people, like God Himself, are profligate with pity, mercy, and grace….

As Paul puts it “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you….”

So, confident that this is us…  how can we do this more and more?

And… also, to even be fighting men like Peter Scaer?

For, as he would undoubtedly tell you, love for life in this world is a good thing… deep involvement in the world’s affairs is a good thing…

but our love for the life we know in this world should be always be driven by an eternal mindset and perspective rooted in Christ!

Many times, men have desired to fight for their country…

but can we also be those today who will fight in and for Christ’s church?

The old.. The young…

The church needs soldiers.


How can this happen? How will this happen?

And how is it that we Christians are even the ones, who when it comes to the Final Judgement, who will judge the world as Jesus says and Paul echoes? (1 Cor 6: 2-3)

It is because of our Lord Jesus, “the Head of the body, the church;

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy….”

There is the kind of supremacy the world needs!

As Paul reveals in Colossians, “knowing Christ is the key to knowing how things began, how things are, and how it is going to end…”

This also means you know: “where you have come from in Christ, where you are in Christ, and how it ends for you in Christ.” (Bombaro).

For who are we and why do we do what we do? What are our “identity politics?”

  • Christ has overcome the world and has all authority!
  • And we are put in Him! (put a bookmark in the Bible…) In baptism, we are united with the One who both created and redeemed us…
  • As Christ was crucified and buried, our sinful self was crucified and buried!
  • As He came from the grave with new life, so we to have new life in Him!
  • And as He is ascended of God and reigns at the right hand of God, and who will judge the world, so too will we!

It’s not really that we were baptized – we are baptized!

And so, “since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God!”

For that is where our True Hope lies!

Every day, and all the time! 24-7. Stay in touch! He wants to be with you and hear from you even more!

Not only can we “know ourselves as delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of His beloved Son”, but Christ “has broken into the old world through the cross and empty grave and is supplanting and reversing the old-world bit by bit…” (Bombaro)

And so, in Christ’s church it is good for us to fight for what is good and right and true….

The old… the young… The church needs soldiers.

And what a Commander we have!

As the Lutheran theologian, and by the way, military man, John Bombaro recently pointed out, things people might say sarcastically about certain popular figures in society really can be said about Jesus!

  • We are just supposed to bow down and worship at His feet!
  • He is never wrong!
  • We are all just supposed to believe everything He says!
  • He does act “like He walks on water or something…”
  • The world really does revolve around Him!
  • He is God’s gift to humanity!

“He’s the firstborn of all creation, the head of the body, the very ICON of God the Father on earth!” (Bombaro). He shows us the face of the One True God

…and that is good news! Very good news…

So let’s roll!

Like a wise church father said long ago, “they can kill us but they can’t hurt us…”

Let’s give them Jesus

…as He has been given to us!








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Posted by on November 24, 2019 in Uncategorized


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