Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: bible study

Come to Our Rededication Service!

Did you get one of these in the mail?

Postcard 1Postcard 2

Well, even if you didn’t, that doesn’t mean you aren’t invited.

Please come to our Celebration, Sunday, November 1st, 1:30 p.m.  Our worship space has been completely refurbished inside and out, to make us feel more comfortable, to open the space up for better utilization, but mostly, to assist us in the worship of our almighty God.

We’d love for you to join us!

Feasting with God #32 – “Lord of the Sabbath”

Feasting with God #32

“Lord of the Sabbath”

Text: Luke 6:1-5

1On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.  2But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”  3And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?”  5And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Ever on the watch to catch Jesus in some wrong, the Pharisees thought they had him now: his disciples were clearly breaking the Third Commandment!  By taking grains from the field, technically they were “harvesting,” and by rubbing the grains on their hands, technically they were “milling”—they were working on the Sabbath!  So the Pharisees, smug at their apparent victory, asked Jesus, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”

But Jesus had a precedent which he could refer to that defended the actions of his disciples: he called attention to King David, who, on an expedition with some men, had to feed them, and all that was close by was bread designated as sacred for the priests to eat; in his necessity, it was lawful for him to eat this sacred bread.  Cleverly Jesus points out this great Old Testament hero, for who among the Pharisees would dare claim that by this action the great King David had done wrong?  If what David had done was acceptable, then what Jesus’ disciples were doing should also be considered acceptable.  Ultimately, however, this is not because David set the precedent, but as Jesus explains: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The thinking of the Pharisees is an easy slope to slide down.  We can observe our behaviors: I go to church on Sunday, I have family devotions, I pay my taxes, I drive the speed limit, I do this or that good for my neighbor and I never do anyone any wrong.  Then we see someone else, someone who perhaps skipped church, someone who speeds past us on the highway, someone who walks by on the other side when his neighbor is in need.  These comparisons are easy to make: I’m good, that guy isn’t.

There are certainly hints in outward behavior that give us some clue towards the state of a person’s heart, but we also must remind ourselves that only God judges the heart.  And we can remind ourselves of Jesus’ words: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:4).  It is far too easy for us to catch others in sins, and nearly impossible for us to notice our own sins.

In fact, what Jesus’ disciples were doing was not a sin: that’s how blind these Pharisees really were!  They snapped to a judgment about their character and their flaws without actually knowing the truth; a prime example of a log in the eye blinding the sight.  But how could this be no real sin?  Weren’t the disciples working when it was unlawful to do so, because it was the Sabbath?  And God had said, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work” (Ex. 20:9-10).

The key is in what Jesus said to close this section: “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”  Jesus Christ is himself the ruler of the Sabbath, being himself God.  In a parallel account in Mark’s Gospel Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  The Sabbath with its laws ought to be seen as a gift, an opportunity for us to rest in quiet from our work as God rested from his work of creation.  He rested in order to look out over all his creation and to instead do the work of preservation.  We rest from our day-to-day work in order to look over God’s creation, his preservation, his salvation, and to do a different sort of work; a blessed work which God enables us to do.  It is not a work which wins any righteousness, but a work which shares the righteousness that the Son of Man already won for us.  This Sabbath was made for us (whether it’s Saturday as the Jews celebrated, Sunday as Christians traditionally celebrate, or any other day or even a few hours when we can sit with God’s Word), so that we can rest in God’s blessed works for us.

Yes, the Sabbath was a command.  There were harsh penalties for those who disobeyed the command.  But the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, fulfilled all laws in himself, the Sabbath included, and he paid the price for disobeying all laws.  Therefore we are set free from having to obey any laws ever again.  Instead, now we live our lives in thankfulness for the Son of Man’s payment.  This means that we are free to observe the Sabbath on any day, or on every day.  This means that we may enjoy the food and work that God provides for us, without guilty conscience.

Dear Lord, we thank you that you have given us the gift of Sabbath rest, when we may meditate on your work and your Word.  Lead us to see the great blessing we have received in your Son’s payment for all broken laws, keeping those laws in our place.  Lead us also to use our newfound Christian freedom to worship you in thankfulness.  In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #25 – Rivers of Living Water

Feasting with God #25

Rivers of Living Water

Text: John 7:37-39

37On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  39Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Today marks the celebration of Jesus’ ascension, 40 days after Easter.  We read in the Gospel account that, after these 40 days, teaching and appearing to people and performing miracles, Jesus took his disciples and “led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).  But he left with a command and a promise: Luke records that he said, “You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (24:48-49).  Matthew records these words: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).  The command was this: Tell others what you have seen.  The promise was this: You will have God present with you in this task.

Jesus promises the same thing in the text from John, although he said these words a good while before his ascension, even before his crucifixion.  He states the task—“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’”—and connects with it the promise—“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”

Spiritually, we in our nature are dying of thirst; our soul is a cracked desert where nothing can live.  The only way to bring life to these dry souls is by the living water of Jesus Christ: he it is who suffered the hell we deserved, dying on the cross and being forsaken by God.  By that act he opened up the stores of God’s grace, and as the water and blood flowed from his side when the centurion pierced it (John 19:34), mercy and forgiveness flow to us when we are baptized in water, when we drink the refreshment of Jesus’ blood in the Lord’s Supper, when we hear the cool words of grace in the Bible.

That is how we are saved.  When we come to faith, all God’s gifts—grace, forgiveness, eternal life—come into our possession: they are ours!  And with them as well comes the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts so long as we have faith.  This Spirit Jesus promised to his disciples, to his followers, once his work on earth had been completed: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).  Jesus accomplished our salvation, and, his work done, he left our presence visibly.  Because he left, he could send the “other Helper,” who is the Holy Spirit.  This event we see on Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the disciples like tongues of fire and they were able to speak so that those of many languages could understand.

And this is the work of the Holy Spirit: he speaks through us, turning us into fountains of living water.  We received the water from Jesus’ side through the means of grace—the Word and Sacraments—and having received that, the Spirit dwells in us, so that we can share that living water with the rest of the thirsty world.  That is the task we are given, but we are given the promise of the one who makes us able to accomplish it.  We are saved, and that makes us able to perform the work of salvation, nourishing the souls of others.

O Holy Spirit, bring the refreshing waters of grace upon us every day, so that we never go thirsty.  Lead us constantly back to the sure forgiveness we have on account of Jesus Christ, and lead us then to take those cool waters to others in need.  All this we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #24 – Spiritual Milk

Feasting with God #24

Spiritual Milk

Text: Hebrews 5:11-14

11About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Instruction in God’s Word is a never-ending process.  Learning the doctrines of God, hearing his truths, growing in faith is lifelong, it is being fed with spiritual food.  Just as your body will wither away and die if you stop eating, so your soul will wither and fall into spiritual death if you stop hearing God’s Word.

But you don’t offer a rich juicy steak to babies, or lobster, or caviar, or casserole.  Babies need a different food than adults do.  Babies need milk.  The same thing is true spiritually, and that is what our text is about.  The spiritually immature—the new converts or young believers—or even the spiritually sick—those in danger of falling away—should be fed on spiritual milk, the simpler and more basic foods.  One whose stomach is not prepared to digest the more complex foods may become sick, may fall into doubt, fear, or even pride or self-righteousness.  If they have not been raised into maturity on the milk, they may not be prepared for the more mature doctrines.

Understand this spiritually: the complex doctrines we do not teach to children, to new converts, to those in spiritual danger—we by no means keep such doctrines hidden, but we keep such individuals fed on a rigorous diet of spiritual milk.  How can anyone advance spiritually if he does not have the basics?  So in our churches we have created a structure of levels: the young we teach in Sunday School, where they receive the most basic milk.  We introduce the more complex and solid food to students who go through Confirmation Class, or to adults who wish to become members in our churches.  Beyond this class we offer many more particular teachings, in Adult Bible Studies.  Beyond this still there are more opportunities for solid-food doctrine in advanced classes in our colleges, and in Seminary where men are trained to preach the Word to others.

The differences in these levels should not be confused with a difference in faith: all these spiritual foods, whether milk or solid food, serve to nourish the spiritual life of a person’s faith, and any amount of this nourishment is sufficient to give a person salvation.  But this does not mean that any person should become complacent.  It’s too easy for Christians to think, “I know all I need to know, so why should I go to church?  Why should I go to Bible Study?”  The Word should never be neglected, and Christians should always seek to be fed more and more of this spiritual food, and to grow towards more and more complex spiritual foods.  No, not all Christians are called to be pastors or teachers, but in some sense all Christians are called upon to speak of their faith.  Jesus commissioned every single Christian with the words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).  And this is what the writer in our text means: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.”  The people to whom he was writing neglected their learning, and were in danger of losing all.  They should have been receiving the mature foods so that they could feed others with spiritual milk, but they had set themselves back, and they needed to start over, to grow again into being teachers.

Spiritual life is like any other form of life: we need constant nourishment in order to survive.  This spiritual nourishment we find in God’s Word, where we hear the basics of Jesus’ perfect life, his death in our place, and his resurrection so that we have new life.  This is all we really need to be spiritually alive.  But the joy at that message will make us want to learn more and more about it, and to tell others the same things we have learned.

Thank you, O Lord, for constantly keeping our spiritual plates filled with the food you provide.  Lead us to always return to the table where we can find such food, in church, in Bible Classes, in private devotions.  Guide us to grow to maturity, so that as we mature we may also provide this food to others, leading them to the same life that we enjoy on account of your Son’s atonement.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #20 – See My Hands and My Feet

Feasting with God #20

See My Hands and My Feet

Text: Luke 24:36-43

36As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”  37But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  38And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  39See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate before them

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Easter Sunday we Christians rejoice in our risen Savior, because he not only died to take the punishment that our sins deserved, but he rose to life to prove that God had set his seal of approval on Jesus’ sacrifice.  Therefore we know that we, too, will rise again to new life through our faith in him.

Of course, that fact means little if we never heard about it.  It could have easily been left as a mystery in the ages what happened to Christ’s body.  He could easily have become just one more idealist who died for his beliefs.  But the plain fact is that he didn’t stay dead.  And we know this because he appeared to his disciples alive again, proving to them that their sins were paid for.

Think of the progression: Jesus rose from the dead, then he appeared to a few on Easter Sunday.  Those few told others, and Jesus himself appeared to others in the days that followed.  Then the message spread from those who saw him to others, who told others, who told others, until, 2,000 years later, you and I heard about it.  Hearing this message should bring us such joy!  Hearing that our Savior rose from the dead should give us confidence to go through life, because we know that only joy and blessing await on the other side.

At Jesus’ resurrection we commonly talk about the beginning of his “exaltation.”  While he lived on earth, from his conception until his death and burial, we speak of his “humiliation.”  That was the time that Jesus humbled himself, brought himself down to our level, was “born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:5).  But at his resurrection he returned fully to his Godly power.  Now that the work of redemption and salvation was complete, he could come into his power once again to attend to the work of preserving the world, of exercising God’s power and authority in heaven.  And yet, even after his humiliation was complete, Jesus demonstrated some of that humiliation again.

The almighty God needs no food.  The Creator of the universe doesn’t need something cooked up by men in order to survive.  And yet, Jesus asked, “Have you anything here to eat?”  He ate not for his own nourishment, but for the benefit of his disciples.  He showed a little bit of humility once again, stooping down to do something as simple and base as eating.  By this he proved two things: 1) He wasn’t a ghost, but real, flesh-and-blood, alive; and 2) He is still a human being.  This is comforting to us on two accounts.  First of all, we see the proof that our Savior has really risen from the dead!  He has come back to life so we know that the price he paid has been accepted, and there’s nothing more we need to add.  Second, that Savior, our God, who sits in heaven, shares still in our human nature.  He still eats and drinks with us, and he understands the weaknesses, frailties, sorrows, and even joys of our humanity.  We have a God and a mediator who knows all we go through in life, and he promises to hear us and care for us through it all.

As the season of Easter progresses, rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord, and see what it means for our comfort and our salvation!

Dear Jesus, who suffered even the torments of hell in our place, we rejoice today in your resurrection.  Help us to rejoice in that event ever after.  Keep us from growing bored or tired of hearing the message of your resurrection, and lead us to acknowledge its truth.  Each time we sit to eat, remind us that you are there as well, as a human being the same as we are, and that you are also true God who hears our prayers and works for our benefit.  In your name and on account of the pure merits of your life, give us those blessings you have promised us of forgiveness, new life, and salvation.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #19 – Communing with a Betrayer

Feasting with God #19

Communing with a Betrayer

 

Text: Luke 22:19-23

19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying,“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

The Lord’s Supper is often called simply “Communion.” We refer to it in this way because in this meal, as we eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood we find ourselves in communion or fellowship with him. This meal brings us so close to Jesus, it is as though we are sitting down to an intimate dinner with family and close friends.  And not only are we in such close communion and fellowship with Christ, but we are with our fellow communing Christians – those who stand or kneel next to us at the altar rail, those in all other churches around the world, and even those who have died, the saints in heaven.  This sacrament is a sacrament of community, by which we confess that we share in the beliefs and mission of those we commune with.

But the first communion hosted an intruder.  It should have been the most intimate of suppers: Jesus and his closest followers, his twelve disciples.  But among them was the one who would betray their master.

Paul warns other Christians against the same thing in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).  The Lord’s Supper brings us forgiveness, and where there is forgiveness there is also life and salvation.  These are brought to those who are in true communion with their Savior and with one another, but anyone who eats and drinks as though he is part of this communion and yet is not “eats and drinks judgment on himself” (11:29).  This difference we see between Judas and the other disciples, when we examine their ends.  Judas, who betrayed him, hanged himself in sorrow, unwilling to accept any forgiveness that would be offered to him.  The other disciples, after Jesus’ resurrection, were sent into the mission of their Lord, to make disciples of all nations and baptize them, and to teach them Jesus’ doctrines and truths.  This they did joyfully, because the forgiveness that was offered to them on account of Jesus’ death – the forgiveness tangibly fed to them in this communion, inspired this new life in them.

Let us be aware of the forgiveness we receive in this communion, and of the closeness of our relationship with our Lord and one another.  Judas sought silver to replace all that, but what could be a greater treasure than forgiveness, life, salvation, and communion with God and our fellow Christians?  All that is possible because of the sacrifice Jesus made and the Supper he instituted.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the great gift you have given us in the Sacrament of Communion.  Guide us to see the wonder of the forgiveness, life, and salvation we receive there, and move us into ever closer fellowship with you and one another.  Make our faith and new life sincere, and strengthen it by this Supper.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #16 – Eating Abominations

Feasting with God #16

Eating Abominations

Text: Deuteronomy 14:3

3You shall not eat any abomination.

Has it ever struck you how strict the diet was for the Israelites?  Sure, today we see things labeled “Kosher,” and we know that Jewish people don’t eat pork.  But I suspect that unless we’re a part of that demographic, the restrictions of their meal plans don’t really stand out.

This verse today from the book of Deuteronomy serves as the overarching theme of what the nation of Israel was not to eat: no “abomination.”  The meaning of this word depends exclusively on the perspective of the person who speaks it, so as God is the one speaking it, what he means is that the Israelites were forbidden to eat anything that God would deem offensive.  Maybe his rules on their food were a little bit arbitrary, but he was grooming this nation to be one that was exclusively his, one to be separate from all the pagan nations of the earth.  The nation of Israel would have the true God, while all these other nations would have false gods.  One way this distinction was to be outwardly shown was through diet.  In worshiping the true God, the Israelites would obey God’s commands for what they were and were not to eat.

Now why don’t Christians follow these dietary laws?  It’s fairly common for Christians to eat things like pork and shellfish, but since we believe and follow the whole Bible, including the Old Testament, it seems we ought to make ourselves aware of these laws and do our best to follow them, so that we can be God’s pious people just as ancient Israel was.  But the answer comes in Acts 10:13-15.  Peter was given a vision of animals, all kinds of animals that would be called unclean or abominations.  “And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.’  And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’”

This new church of which Peter was now a part was no longer restricted to the nation of Israel.  The Gospel message was to be taken to all nations, and disciples made of all the people throughout the world.  There was no need for a diet to distinguish the people of God’s nation from all the heathen nations, because all nations were to be God’s.  And more than this, these laws of diet were given as a requirement to enhance the holiness of God’s people.  But because of what Jesus had done – keeping all the law perfectly, and dying for the sake of all uncleanness and abomination – there is no need for us to try to save ourselves by any law.  We are saved by grace and faith.  This is given to us freely, and that sets us free.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Paul writes (Gal. 5:1).  No laws can burden us, no special diets are required.  Instead, now, we are free to live and act in love – free to “eat or drink, or whatever you do,” but in every case, whatever we do, to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Yes, there are still things that will distinguish the Christian Church from the rest of the unbelieving world, but it’s not obedience to any law.  Instead, what set Christians apart are the fruits of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).  We live free from all laws, so we live in love toward God and one another, and that – not what foods we eat or don’t eat – marks us as God’s people.

Lord, guide us to a greater understanding of our Christian freedom, and to an appreciation for what a great gift it is you have given us.  Although we are no longer bound by any laws, O Lord, lead us to submit ourselves to the law of love, in which we can share the Gospel message of your Son who set us free, that others might also rejoice in this freedom.  In your Son’s name we ask it.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

“Finding Christ in the Psalms” Lesson 1

Missed the first class for our “Finding Christ in the Psalms” Bible Study? Never fear! The PowerPoint presentation, along with an audio file of the class, is available to you now.

Instructions:
  1. Download the file: Finding Christ in the Psalms – Lesson 1 – Watch
  2. Start the slideshow: 
  3. Let the presentation do its work (the slides and animations will transition automatically on a timer).
  4. Let us know your questions and thoughts in the “Comments” section on this page.

This class will continue every Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 125 North St., Iola, WI 54945.  Hope to see you there!