Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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

Tag Archives: resurrection

Feasting with God #41 – Feed Not the Earthly Belly

Feasting with God #41

Feed Not the Earthly Belly

Philippians 3:17-21

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

There are two types of people in the world: those who are spiritual and religious, and those whose “god is their belly.”  The last might often repeat: “Out of sight, out of mind.”  Is that how you treat spiritual things?  In fact, only 2.5% of the world claimed to be atheist, completely disregarding spiritual things, in 2011.  The other 97.5% claimed to have some acknowledgment of spiritual things—but what do they really mean?

Paul in fact draws the line into much narrower focus when he says to the Philippians, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”  It’s not just the lack of spiritual things which constitutes the idolatry of the belly.  It’s the ignorance of this very objective—in fact, very material—thing: the cross of Christ.

That same survey revealed that 33% of the world claimed to be Christian in 2011.  Another study, a year later, in 2012, estimated that 31.5% of the world claimed to be Christian.  Yes, the numbers seem to be decreasing, but do those who claim Christianity as their religious affiliation really cling to the cross of Christ, or is it a meaningless label?  Are they Christian because they might upset their family if they left?  Are they Christian so they can get their kids into a good school?  Are they Christian out of convenience?

Thoughts like these are what led Paul to tears.  Many, even though they may not look it, are “enemies of the cross of Christ,” and for such as these, “Their end is destruction.”  A pitiful, sad end, and Paul weeps for them.  All such, whether they claim to be Christian or not, if they are Christian not in faith but in name only, worship their bellies—that is, their own earthly wants and needs.  The spiritual, even that cross of Christ, is out of sight and out of mind.  They are concerned with the here and now, with paychecks and food on the table and clothing and housing and luxuries and toys.  Some of these things are in fact necessary for this earthly life, but rather than see that the eyes of all look to God, and he alone gives food in due season, opening his hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing (Ps. 145:15-16), they focus on these things as an end in themselves.  The belly-worshipers may think of the spiritual as something to be concerned with years down the road, or when trouble strikes, but not right now.  Right now, I need to get that meal.  Right now, I need to work this job.  Necessary, but God also says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Here’s the comfort that the Gospel brings: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That objective man who lived perfectly, yet died the death of sinners, is our Savior: he paid for our sin and gave us the prize he earned.  Because of him, we have our free ticket to get to heaven, and as the hymn says, “I’m but a stranger here; / Heav’n is my home” (ELH 474).

But he has already come.  Why does Paul say “we await” this Savior?  It’s because we await him to “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”  We await his return.  When we die, our material bodies will lay in the ground, “for you are dust, / and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19), “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7).  If this material body dies and rots, then our hope must be in what lasts: the spiritual.  But even after this, there is hope for the material!  For when Jesus Christ returns in glory, “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16).  We will rise, our spirits will rejoin our bodies, and our bodies will be glorified.

This is ours because we are not belly-worshipers, we are not enemies of the cross of Christ, but by faith we cling to that cross, and that Christ raises us out of the dust of our sin and makes us able to live our lives in him.

Dear Christ, we were born in sin, but you were born immaculate and pure.  We live our lives in constant sin, but you have kept every law in perfect obedience.  For our wickedness we deserve to suffer the pains of hell separated from our God, but you took that suffering on your own head on the cross.  We would be lost in our graves, but you rose and shattered the power of death, so that we are enabled to share our heavenly citizenship with you.  For this we thank you, and we look forward eagerly to your return when we are delivered from this wicked earth and brought into glory.  In your name, we ask that you come, Lord Jesus.  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 #30 – What Living Things Need

Feasting with God # 30

What Living Things Need

Text: Mark 5:41-43

41Taking her by the hand [Jesus] said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.”  42And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.  43And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Notice how Jesus has concern for the little things.  Jairus, a Jewish elder in the synagogue, had come to Jesus asking him to heal his sick daughter.  By the time Jesus arrived, however, it was too late; the daughter was dead, and the family was in mourning.  But Jesus surprised them by telling them that it wasn’t too late: “The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39).  They laughed at him, naturally—how could such a highly reputed healer not know the difference between sleep and death?  So Jesus sent the mourners away and, before his disciples and the girl’s parents he performed this miracle: raising her from the dead.

Shock and awe immediately overcame them.  They knew she was dead, and now she was alive!  Such a change, how could they help but to be amazed?  Jesus knew how their amazement would distract them from what was needed next, so he “told them to give her something to eat.”  He paid attention to the little things.

This girl’s eating after being raised to life accomplished two things: 1) It filled her stomach.  Doubtless she was hungry.  It had probably been hours since her last meal (and perhaps a great deal more, if her illness had kept her from eating anything substantial).  Jesus knew the parents would be excited about their daughter’s rising to life, and that this would probably distract them from doing anything practical about it.  Their natural reaction would be to parade her around town, show her off to all their friends, and forget totally about any sort of food, not out of negligence, but out of excitement.  So Jesus showed he was concerned for her well-being, because as a newly alive being, she needed the sustenance of food.  2) It proved that she was indeed alive.  Yes, she had started walking around, and this proved her coming to life, but the need for food, the act of eating, was the nail in the coffin of proof—so to speak—because all living things need to eat something.  Jesus himself would demonstrate this very proof at his resurrection (“And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ [Luke 24:41]).

All life must be nourished by food.  This is a fact of nature, and a given.  But it is sometimes forgotten that this applies to spiritual food as well.  When we are reborn in the waters of baptism and raised to new sanctified life in Christ, that New Man must be fed in order to remain alive, and that feeding must begin immediately.  The very Word of God which raised that New Man to life in the first place is his food.  We must return again and again to God’s Word to nourish our souls, so that we don’t go spiritually hungry and die spiritually.  But also such feeding proves that we are in fact alive to begin with.  An unbelieving heart does not seek nourishment from God’s Word.  An unbelieving heart may come to God’s Word in search of “teachers to suit [its] own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3), but not to be nourished.  It may come to God’s Word seeking to disprove God, to call God a liar, but not to be nourished.  In this way we can see a glimpse at the heart to find out whether it is alive or dead: only a living heart seeks spiritual food from God’s Word.

And this God provides, before we can even ask for it, just as Jesus provided food for Jairus’ daughter, before she could ask or her parents could think of it.  Just think: if God is so concerned for life to rise up in us, won’t he be equally concerned that that life be sustained?  He will sustain it.  He will give us all things necessary for this spiritual life; and he is even concerned about the little things, the daily bread we need for this physical life as well.

Give us this day our daily bread, heavenly Father, even as you have promised to do.  And above this, give us our daily spiritual bread, so that our souls may be ever nourished in faith toward you, and so that the spiritual life you have begun in us may be sustained by you until we come to our everlasting life with you.  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 #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.

Easter Joy

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Last Saturday Redeemer hosted an Easter for Kids event. The children sang songs, made crafts, ate snacks, and learned the story of Jesus’ resurrection.

We invite everyone to come to our service tomorrow morning at 9:00 to hear that same message, and to share in the joy of our salvation!