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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Jan 21, 2018  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the 2nd part of Epistle Lesson for the 3rd Sunday After the Epiphany, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35. There we read these words:

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

In today’s Epistle, God says to each and every Christian, including you, "I want you to be free from anxieties." At the end of the Epistle, God also says that He wants "to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." With these Words, the Lord your God wants you to know that He is able to help you make important decisions in your life.

God wants you younger adults to take today’s Epistle especially to heart, now that you are beginning to make big decisions concerning school, work, family and future. You are not alone: your parents and grandparents also face important decisions all the time. God wants to help each one of us old geezers, too.

And in order to get down to the decision-making abilities God has for you in today’s Epistle, we first have to deal with the talk about marriage. God used Paul to write these Words, and Paul was unmarried.

Because there was such a high expectation that Jesus would immediately return, Paul believed that people should not divide their attentions by getting married. There would be no time to raise the kids, anyway. That is why Paul said, "Brothers, the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none… "

You see, the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and how his interests are divided. … The married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.

We Christians today still live in the high expectation that our Lord Jesus might return at any moment "to judge both the living and the dead." But time has also passed, and we have learned to wait. We also have gone on, marrying and giving in marriage, according to the Word of the Lord and with His blessing.

Now look at the bigger picture in today’s Epistle, which has to do with more than the divine gift of a man marrying a woman. God has written some important guidance into today’s Epistle that will help you with many important decisions that you will need to make in your life while you patiently wait for your Lord’s return.

First.... Let’s begin with the end of the Epistle, where God says that He wants "to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." The Words "promote good order" point us in the direction of the Ten Commandments. "Good order" is built into the commandments.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

If you make decisions by ignoring or rejecting God’s Ten Commandments, then you have no reason to expect any blessing from Him, either in this life or in the life to come. If you make your decisions with God’s Word and commandments central to your mind and heart, then you may trust that you are headed in a good direction. Therefore, the Ten Commandments should be integral to your decision-making at every stage of life

Here are some examples of what I mean: .......We live in a world that allows you to buy more stuff than you afford. But God says in His commandments, "You shall not steal" and "You shall not covet." Therefore, when you are thinking about making a major purchase—such as an automobile or a house—God wants you to make the decision that will fit your budget. God does not want you to pretend that you have more income than you do. That is "good order."

.......The world also offers you plenty of opportunity to do all kinds of things with your body—with or without marriage. God will help you make Godly decisions—and He will protect you from many evils—if you will only respect the "good order" He built into His sixth commandment, "You shall not commit adultery."

.......Again, God says in the Fifth Commandment, "You shall not murder." These Words indicate that "professional assassin" is not a good and Godly career choice. "Soldier" might be, however, because the God who said "You shall not murder" has also commanded us to obey our government (Fourth Commandment; Romans 13)—and the Fourth Commandment allows even for military service.

.......Each of God’s Ten Commandments can be brought to bear upon the decisions you must make. God’s commandments will give you the blessing of helping you narrow your options when it comes to family, career and every other part of life. Solomon said it well: "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of all mankind" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

God has also attached His blessing to your mindfulness of His commandments. No, the commandments will not get you into eternal life. Jesus has already done that job for you—exclusively and completely—with His bloody death and victorious resurrection. Yet the Words of God are clear and they declare, "Blessed are those who keep My ways" (Proverbs 8:27). Again, "Godliness is valuable in every way, because it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8).

Secondly.....Your decision-making should also take into account these other Words at the end of today’s Epistle, "to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." With these Words, God is telling you that He does not want you to take up a field of study that will cause you to doubt or to reject the divine gift of faith in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins.

God does not want you to gather friends for yourself who will devalue or undermine your Christian confession. God even says in another place that He does not want you to be "yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14).

God does not want you to do things that will prevent your access to the gifts that He has given to you for increasing your faith, namely, the preaching of the church and the administration of the Holy Communion. God wants you to make wise and careful decisions that will enhance, promote, and "secure your undivided devotion to the Lord."

In today’s Epistle, God says yet another important thing about decision-making. Before we get to that, however, we should pause and notice what God does NOT say here about decision-making. First, God does not say that He will help your decisions by whispering into your ears, speaking in a dream, or thundering from the sky. God used to talk that way in His Old Testament, but God also says in His New Testament that He is all done talking that way.

Hebrews chapter 1 states, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1). These Words indicate that the good news concerning Jesus is greatest and final thing that God wishes to say. These Words also indicate that God’s Christians today have no business seeking dreams and visions.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

You should also bear in mind that, just because you make a careful, God pleasing decision, that does not necessarily mean that your life is going to be rosy and trouble-free. The Scriptures describe the Christian life as one of hardship and cross (Mark 8:34)—one that God promises will end with a victorious resurrection. The Lord your God does not use riches, happiness or success to indicate that He is pleased with you.

God is fully and completely pleased with you on account of Jesus’ Baptism into your life (Mark 1:11) and His sanctifying death for your sins (Hebrews 10:10).

Now let’s get back to today’s Epistle, and the most important element God has for your major decisions in life. God says here, "I want you to be free from anxieties." Yes, Paul uses these Words to talk about the everyday challenges of marriage, but these Words certainly have a wider application to all decisions in life. God wants you to be "free from anxieties."

This means that: You should think things over carefully, but do not get too wrapped around the axle. Just take your best shot within the parameters of the Christian faith and LET YOUR GOD BE YOUR GOD. When you face decisions trusting in the Lord, what can possibly go wrong? "

"The Lord watches over the way of the righteous" (Psalm 1:6) and YOU have been made righteous in the blood of Christ (1 Peter 3:18). Or were you baptized in vain? "Not even a sparrow can fall to the ground outside your Father’s care—and you are worth more than many sparrows!" (Matthew 10:29, 31).

That’s why it is written, "Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22). You also have the personal promise of your Lord, "Come to Me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

It also means that: God is so thoroughly pleased with you in Christ Jesus—in His forgiveness and life—that you no longer need to worry too much about the details. "He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

That is why Paul loudly proclaims "nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ" (Romans 8:35)—not even major decisions concerning college or work, marriage or family, medical or financial situations.

Today’s Epistle speaks the grace of God and the freedom you now have in Christ Jesus your Lord. The Words, "I want you to be free from anxieties," mean that • you can choose the blonde Christian or the redheaded one to be your wife, and God will bless you in many ways either way. • you can choose work or school according to your own good pleasure—since the work of pleasing God is already fully accomplished in Christ.

• you are free to choose the surgery, or free to face what happens if you do not choose the surgery—either way, your body shall rise on the Last Day and the earth shall at last give birth to her dead (Isaiah 26:19). • you have nothing to fear in any decision you face. No matter what comes— hardship and ease, lean or plenty, sorrow or happiness—no matter what comes, your future shall be full of God’s grace.

Paul says: "I want you to be free from anxieties," my child. Because, Jesus is your past, having been crucified for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is your present, ever cleansing you and watching over you in the power of your Baptism. Jesus is your future, He will bring you at last to your eternal home and make right again everything that shall seem to have gone wrong.

Jesus, Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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