Did you know that today is international Mud Day!?! Yesterday the kids at our preschool celebrated it. There was a mud kitchen for concocting mud goodies, a mud slip 'n slide, a mud pool, even a mud art station.
As you might imagine the kids got dirty. And parents didn't usually want mud on their cars. So before mom and dad could take their child home, the mud was sprayed off with the garden hose and the kids changed into fresh clothing.
God is kind of like that. He doesn't want us home til we are clean!
We must confess our souls are dirty with sin and we cannot clean ourselves up!
"But you were washed...in the name of The Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 6:11)
"All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Gal. 3:27)
Do you see it? Jesus' blood makes us clean. Baptized into His name, we are no longer dirtied with sin.
In short, Jesus cleans us!
Now if you are like me, then this past week you muddied yourself with even more sin.
Won't you join us at church tomorrow? We will confess our sins and wash in the name of Jesus! He makes us clean with his promise of forgiveness. We will reflect on his all powerful cleaning power and be empowered to live a new week.
Apart from the mud.
Til He takes us home.
"These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb." (Rev. 7:14)
It’s one of the strangest parts of the creed.
Growing up I felt so bad for Jesus whenever we said this. “How awful! How terrible! To be put under the awful influence of the devil and his demons in the fiery place of hell. How humiliating that he would have to suffer that for us.”
Undoubtedly, I understood the devil’s power. He, at such a young age, had already overpowered me and caused me to fight with my sister, disobey my mother, and ignore my Sunday School teachers.
Perhaps you are just as aware of his power.
But my six year old interpretation was a bit off.
For on the cross Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Meaning there was no suffering left to do.
And in Colossians 2:15 “He made a public spectacle of the (evil) powers and authorities by triumphing over them on the cross.”Meaning his victory over the devil came at the cross.
So why to hell?
1 Peter 3:18-19, “Jesus was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison.”
Preached to the spirits in prison? Like tell the Gospel to the demons and unbelievers in hell? That doesn’t make sense. The Bible clearly teaches that there is no “second chance” to believe.
So what was Jesus doing in hell? What was he preaching?
“He made a public spectacle of them.” “Triumphing over them.” “It is finished.”
This is Jesus’ divine victory parade. He goes to hell to tell the devil, “I told you so!” To make it very clear that the LORD of majesty reigns supreme and the lord of the flies will be the one suffering in hell. Good won. Evil failed.
Sound a little like taunting?
He’s taunting the devil. The very one whom we have no power over on our own. The very one who has defeated us in the past. The very one who wants nothing more than our own demise in hell.
I’m ok with Jesus mocking him.
Because with Jesus victory parade comes His victory. And with His victory comes our victory. And with our victory comes Jesus and His power to win battle after battle against temptation in our day to day lives.
It also means that through faith in Jesus, we will never have any idea what hell looks like.
I'm fine with that.
"I believe in Jesus Christ...descended into hell." What a beautiful article declaring Jesus' victory over the ancient tempter.
So do you know what I do when I hear that in church now?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, forgive me for all of the times that I have lost to the devil and given into his temptations. Forgive me for the sake of your Son, who defeated him on the cross and proclaimed his victory to the devil in hell. Lord, let me taste this victory through faith in your Son, my victorious Savior. When I am tempted, help me to turn to Jesus, the one who has already displayed his supreme dominance over the tempter. Keep me safe from his jaws with your strong arms. Amen.
A sermon based on Luke 7:34-50
What do you suppose a Pharisee dinner party would have been like?
Pretty ritzy? After all, Pharisees were men who considered themselves the holiest of people AND the most qualified to handle the Scriptures. They dressed in the fanciest of holy clothing. They spoke with an air of 'impressed with myself"-ness.
Don't you think their dinner parties were similar. Only the finest non-pork meats served at just the right temperature. The aged wine was an expensive offering from a rich man looking for forgiveness from God. Everyone probably drank the wine from cups that allowed them to hold their Pharisaical pinky in the air.
I imagine Simon's party was no different. He invited the finest guests, the sharpest scholars and wisest minds in the greater Jerusalem area. Not only did it make them feel important to be invited to this event, but--even more-- it made him feel important to have such important people at his house.
That's why he had invited Jesus. He too was a scholar. A different breed, mind you, but a Bible scholar nonetheless. He didn't dress as fancy. Nor did he grow up immersed in their Pharisaical law 101 classes, but he certainly qualified as important. He had quite a following.
As these guests arrived, I'm sure Simon smiled. Smiled as he thought to himself, "Just look at all these people. Just look at how important I am. Rabbi Schweitz. Reb Tevye. Jesus, the Prophet. That fleusy Sadie from the back alley...the....
There. At Jesus' feet. Was a woman. Unimpressive. Disheveled. Her eyes were stained with tears. Her hair was stringy. Wet in clumps where she had been wiping up the tears from Jesus' feet. Her lips were shaking as they slowly kissed the tops of the good teacher's dusty sandals.
Simon was embarrassed. "What are you doing here? Why is this sinful woman in my house!"
Sinful woman, of course, is unnecessarily repetitive. Just like sinful man. Or sinful human. Because all humans are sinful. It's like saying "Wet water" or "delicious Doritos."
But the word "sinful" had taken a new meaning for this woman. It had become her identity. She was obviously guilty of some very public and very taboo sins that caused regular sinful people to feel the need to quantify her as sinful.
At the very least, she was guilty of sins that Simon, himself, would never be guilty of. (Or at least so he thought). Sins that a Pharisee would never be caught dead doing. Drunkenness. Drug abuse. Prostitution. Lesbianism.
Whatever it was...it had given her a bad reputation. Such that appearing at this type of party was social suicide!
And Simon knew it! "What's she doing over there anyway? This isn't that bar in the dark alley behind the marketplace! Her kind aren't welcome here. And she's kissing his feet? Is this her pathetic way of hitting on the good teacher? Disgusting."
But perhaps more disgusting to Simon was that Jesus wasn't reacting with disdain: "Surely, if he were a prophet, he would understand what type of woman was touching him." The logic was simple. Prophets are holy. They don't like unholy people. This person was unholy. If he were a prophet, he would know it and be repulsed.
But he wasn't.
In fact, Jesus called Simon over to him.
"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I supposed the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
Then, he revealed his point.
"Simon, you invited me over here to eat. In our culture, when guests enter a home, it's customary to provide a bowl of water to wash off feet left dusty from the desert walk. You didn't do that. But this woman, she has used her very own tears to wash my feet and her hair to clean it off.
Simon, in our culture, it's customary for friends to greet one another with a kiss. You didn't do that to me. But this woman has been continuously kissing my feet...my dusty, stinky, smelly feet...since I came in!
Simon, in our culture, it is customary, especially among the finer guests, that the host anoint his guest's head with oil. It gets rid of the stink and musk of a long day's travel. You didn't do that. But she anointed my feet with fine perfume.
Here's the main point, Simon, You call her a sinner. And to be sure, she is one! In fact, she's sinned much! But she has also been forgiven much. Through faith in me,all of her sin has been forgiven.
This is why she's acting the way she is. She loves me. She's thankful. In other words, what you see as a nuisance and a distraction to your party, is actually a beautiful display of worship. It's her love for me...proof of the forgiveness that is hers!"
Now what about Simon? I'm gonna to assume he was like most of the Pharisees. They were much different from the woman. They didn't have any thankfulness to Jesus, because they assumed, wrongly, that they didn't have any sin.
So I picture Simon gritting his teeth. He had been upstaged by this Jesus. He felt foolish. He felt tiny.
But he would get revenge on Jesus. Maybe, what his Pharisee friends had mentioned wasn't so peculiar after all. Maybe, the only way to stop this Jesus, would be with death.
But Jesus had moved on. He was more concerned with the woman. Lifting her chin. His holy, loving, forgiving eyes met hers. And he reminded her of what she already had: "Your sins have been forgiven. You faith--not your works, but your faith in me--has saved you. Go in peace."
The account is touching. A brave woman. A haughty party. A spiteful villain. A forgiving Jesus. But what does it mean for us?
1. It reminds us that sin is terrible. It can ruin your social status. It can ruin people's perspective of you. It can fill you with guilt and despair.
Sin certainly ruins our relationships on earth.
But more than that, it ruins our relationships with God. Notice Jesus never accepted the woman's sin as not a big deal. In fact, he called it what it was. Sin. In fact he said much sin!
Would Jesus use that adverb when he was referring to your past? (He would for mine.)
2. God forgives sin.
This is what Jesus implied when he forgave the woman.
But, as the other party goers themselves wondered, "Who is this that he even forgives sins?"
This after all is the one who would live without sin! The only person in that party that really didn't need forgiveness from God! The only person, whom the Pharisees would be completely unable to pin a single false deed on.
Yet, he would die. Killed by these Pharisees. Killed by sinners.
Yet, hidden in their murderous attempt at his life, was the truth. The truth that because of Jesus' death, God forgives.
3. Think about this for you. Maybe you could compare yourself to the sinful woman. Maybe your sins are different, but just as haunting. Maybe you've done things that have made you a stench to your family. Or ostracized you in society. Or made you feel lonely at church. Maybe you've done the taboo. Maybe you feel like an outsider.
Think about your sin. Then think about your Savior. Think about your Forgiving God.
The words that Jesus spoke to the woman? He speaks to you after his death on the cross: "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
Did you hear that? I'll repeat it: "Your sins have been forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
That's it. That's the kind of forgiveness our God has for all who seek it. Real forgiveness. Complete forgiveness. Done forgiveness. Sweet forgiveness.
Brothers and sisters, go and praise the LORD! Praise him with tears. With songs. With smiles. With gifts. With lives that live apart from past sins. However you do it, go and praise the Lord!
But, you know, Christians are kind of funny. We love and cherish that forgiveness is for us. But we have a hard time believing that forgiveness is for others.
Because the devil is tricky. It's easy for him to get us to think like Simon: "I can't believe that person is going to our church. I know he usually loves hanging out at the bar. " "I can't believe that person on Facebook is singing praise to God now. I grew up with them. I know the awful things he's done. He can't be a real Christian" "I can't believe this person is on our member board. Pastor, do we just let anyone in now?"
God's forgiveness is for all. And it belongs to all who believe in him. So why judge others for past sins?
Rather avoid Simon syndrome. Watch out for thinking that everyone else is a sinner and you aren't.
Instead, bow before God. Remember he is a God for forgiveness. Forgiveness for you and all of your sinful pride, but also a God of forgiveness for others too. Forgiveness for those of different cultures. Forgiveness for those with different sins. Forgiveness for people of all walks of life.
What incredible forgiveness is found through faith in Jesus! It's full. It's complete. It's all encompassing. It requires nothing but hearts that believe!God's forgiveness is something to glory in.
So...Glory in it.
But be prepared for that to be different too. Maybe even strange. (Think of the woman on the floor wiping Jesus' feet with her hair.) Because (here's a shocker) people are different. These different people give glory to God in different ways.
You may see someone clapping in church to praise God! Don't judge, but give thanks for faith in God's forgiveness worked in her.
You may see someone crying in church. Don't pull off the, "I wonder what that person did that was so awful!!" Instead, give thanks to God for the his forgiveness for her.
You may even see someone cross themselves in thankfulness for the Lord's forgiveness (gasp a Catholic thing). But don't you judge! Instead, give thanks to God for the forgiveness he has worked in that person too!
Brothers and sisters, glory in God's forgiveness.
Forgiveness, which was not only offered to the woman, but through faith it became her new identity: FORGIVEN.
Forgiveness, which is not only offered to us, but through faith in our Savior Jesus, it has become our new identity: FORGIVEN.
Give thanks to our forgiving God, oh forgiven children of God. Amen.
Father's Day is tomorrow.
For some, it means a round of golf hitting the ball not so hard so that dad still thinks he has it. It means grilling four separate types of meat on the grill. It means taking the tour of dad's workshop (for the fourth time this year) and commenting on just how nice that birdhouse looks.
In other words, it is a time of thanksgiving for dad.
But this is not true for all of us.
Because some will spend tomorrow without any idea who their dad is. Others will be wondering where dad is. Still more will spend tomorrow remembering dad's drunken rage, his unfaithfulness to mom, even his lethargy toward being a parent.
In other words, it will be a time of sadness.
Is this the norm? Everyone celebrates Mother's Day, but Father's Day?...Divorce. Premarital impregnation and abandonment. Irresponsibility. Drug use. Alcohol abuse. These things have ruined dads. Ruined relationships. Ruined Father's Day.
This is sad.
This is sin.
But even if you won't be fishing tomorrow with an earthly father figure, please don't let Father's Day be a sad one.
Because you do have the best dad anyone could ask for.
(And I'm not talking about your earthly dad, no matter how wonderful he was...)
I'm talking about the One who is always there for you. The One who always listens. The One who always loves you. The One who disciplines, but only with your best interests in mind.
The One who saw you grow up. Who loves you at the present. Who has a wonderful future in mind for you.
I'm talking about the One who gave up the only Son who perfectly loved, listened to, and obeyed Him. The One who gave up this model child for you--his stubborn, rebellious, wayward child, the one that doesn't listen--just so that one day you might come home.
I'm talking about the One who never gives up on you. Who always chases after you. Who holds you tightly in his warm embrace.
I'm talking about God.
Your heavenly Father.
Give thanks tomorrow for any earthly father figure that you have been blessed with, but don't forget about your Heavenly Father either.
He'd love to have you chat with him. Look through the family history with you and remind you of how much he loves you.
Maybe you could even go to his house!
However you celebrate, may your day be blessed as your remember your fathers and your Father.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, Father's Day is tomorrow. For some of us it is happy, for others it is sad. Today I am reminded of the joy that I do have in having you as my Father. Forgive me for the rebellion I have had against you my heavenly Father. Thank you for always being kind, for always being loving, for sending Jesus, your son to die and rise against in order to save me. Thank you Dad for your true love. May I always reside in that love. Help me meditate on that this Father's Day. And I thank you for the father figures you have given me in this life. Be with them. Bless them. Raise them up to be true leaders, fathers who train with God's Word and love with God's love. Amen.
I've never spent time inside of a grave. I imagine it's dark. Cold. Damp. Perhaps there are a few creepy crawlers that call it their home.
This is not place for a living human being. It's only for the dead.
That's why Jesus was there. He was dead. His lifeless body now called this dungeon of death, its home.
But he wasn't the only one there.
You were too.
Romans 6:3-4 says it this way, "Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death."
Baptism is powerful. It's a washing with water into Jesus. Jesus who died. Jesus who was in the tomb for the dead. Jesus who took our sins to the grave.
And left them there.
Think about it:
Your sinful selfishness? Dead on the floor in the tomb.
Your vicious jealousy? Over in the dark stale corner.
Your outright rebellion against God? Powerlessly lying on the floor. Without any air to breathe.
But Jesus? He's alive. And in Baptism you're alive too! Powerfully, miraculously, supernaturally alive.
All because of Jesus who cannot be held back even when dead in a tomb!
So why act dead when you're alive?
Read the rest of Romans: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
Live that new life. Leave your sin in the grave. Follow your living Savior out of that tomb!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you so much for taking my disgusting sinful nature to the tomb. Thank you for burying it there and leaving it behind. What a glorious truth that means I now live a new life. Through baptism into your name, sin has no power over me! Praise and thanks be to you. Help me to live with power over sin this week and always. Amen.
"None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)
They didn't get it.
The man whose life they had taken was no ordinary man.
He was the one who had given life in the first place. To Adam. To Eve. To dogs, anteaters, grizzly bears, and centipedes. To them.
To you and to me.
He is the one who preserved these lives. Keeping the heat of the sun at just the right distance to warm and not burn. Providing rain for the crops for his creation to make cole slaw, Pop Tarts, and apple pies. Moving winds and storms past apartment complexes, three story houses, and trailer parks that his creation might continue to live.
Now? He was dead. Killed by the very humans he loved: by his creation. By his people.
by you and me.
1 Corinthians 15:3 says it this way, "Christ died for our sins." For the sake of. Because of.
On the one hand, this is the greatest injustice of all time. The Creator killed by his created.
On the other hand, this is most loving act of all time. The Creator permitting himself to to lose His life, for his creation.
Apart from this moment on Calvary, our sins would cause us to lose our lives.
But through faith in the Creator, our Creator, who gave up his life for us, we will live.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, when I look at the cross I am faced with the horrors of my sins. My sins caused you to die! Forgive me Lord. Forgive me for the sake of that death, which you permitted. A death you died, only to rise again. Resonate that truth within me today, dear Lord, that I may live my life in you and for you. Amen.
God was not created. He always was. Eternal.
And yet, he was born.
On a quiet night. In a lonely barn. Amidst the smell of the animals...God was born.
He also grew. Took his first steps. Said his first words. Learned to tie his sandals. Maybe Mary had a post in her Nazarene home where she kept track of Jesus' monthly height!
A normal childhood.
Except there weren't any temper tantrums. He never told a fib. He never took a Hamantash cookie when he wasn't supposed to.
Even as a teen, he never said, "Mom, I hate you!" He never snuck out at night to graffiti the local synagogue. He never missed an opportunity to show his parents how much he loved them.
He was perfect. In every way.
Thank God for Jesus' perfect. Because when Jesus died on the cross, He exchanged this perfect life of His for your imperfect one.
It's why he died.
It's why through faith in him you'll live.
PRAYER: Dear heavenly Father, I have been sinning against you since I was very young. I was spoiled, rotten, and awful to my parents. Forgive me O Lord. Forgive me for the sake of my perfect brother, Jesus. He died for me and took my punishment. Through faith in Him, I know I will live to be in your house in heaven. Help me today to live as he did in thankfulness to you. Amen.
And this was before death row was 'humane.'
It wasn't a high dose of poison quickly inserted into the blood, but a long, drawn out, tortuous death.
Nails through the hands.
Thorns through the skull.
Lungs that slowly collapsed lacing each breath with the burn of a severe asthma attack.
It's so terrible that you'd think it would be reserved only for the worst of criminals. You'd certainly want to make certain that anyone who suffered such a death deserved it.
He was innocent on all counts. No crimes against the state. No crimes against the church. No crimes against God.
Would you believe that's because he was suffering what we deserved?
"He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Meaning we aren't on eternal death row, but we await the glorious of heavenly living.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, Thank you so much for going through the painful death I deserved. Thank you for taking my place. Thank you for being my perfect substitute. Lord, please help me to appreciate that today as I ponder what you have done for me. In Jesus, Amen.