Epiphany 2

SERMON  (1 Cors. 12:1-3)                                                  EPHIPANY                                       JAN. 2019

Text:  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were deceived and somehow led away to mute idols. Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by God’s Spirit says, “A curse be upon Jesus,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

             You know that God gives gifts to you and me. He gives us basic gifts necessary for body and soul. He also gives us both physical and spiritual gifts beyond the basics. We might call them extras or nonessential. God gave you life beginning in the womb. At Christmas God gave us his Son. These are basic, very needed gifts. But he gives us extra gifts. At the wedding of Cana he provided wine. In our Epistle lesson he gives us the gift of faith in Jesus, vs. 1-3. That is a basic. And he offers it to all. But in the following verses, he gives various types of gifts to different, individual believers. This is extra, a special blessing from the Lord. You and I are to use our extra spiritual gift for the benefit of others, believers especially. So, you see in all this God gives us gift upon gift; extra gifts as well as the basics. See how the Lord our God truly loves us and blesses us! We do not deserve any gift from God, not even one!

            This is so different from those who are “deceived and somehow led away to mute idols.” Idol worshippers are continually searching for a god. They realize they need a god to help in times of crisis. But they never find the true God. (The true God has to come to them.) No matter to which god they turn. They find no answer to their prayers; no release from their fears, no real understanding. Their god is “mute”. They are victims of taboos, traditions, and false beliefs. Some turn to different gods in different situations. But they find no true God who helps.

            Now again, look at the words “deceived and somehow led away.” How did they become hopeless idol worshippers? They were deceived and led away by Satan. Some make themselves their idol. They count on themselves; they say they only want to be true to themselves. It doesn’t help them in crunch time. Others rely on power, or fame, or money. They are successful at the moment, no need for the true God. What will they do at the time of death? Others actually have other gods, that is, statues, and teachings handed down, and traditions for worship. Others, for reasons of their own, create a new religion. Neither the Mormon religion nor the Jehovah Witness religion have been existence for all that long. In all this, by one means or another they are kept from the true God. ---Furthermore, by not worshipping the true God, they are “cursing” Jesus the Savior. This is, of course, what the Jewish leaders did, especially when they condemned Jesus and ordered his death.

This is why our text says, “and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Faith in the true God is a gift. You call Jesus Christ your Lord. Since you do, it means you have the received the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit. You are blessed! This HS, whom you have received, has led you, not to idols, but to the true God.  

How has HE done this?  Roms 10:17 tells us “ So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through the word of Christ.”  Look at the word, “hearing”. Faith comes from hearing. God has given two super natural gifts to most human beings. Super natural, two words. The first gift is the voice which speaks and is heard. The second is the ear which hears. These are both just awesome gifts that enhances both spiritual and earthly life. Note why they are super though natural.  [Can you hear me? Just one voice but all you can hear me.] You use your voice for all kinds of communication. [Example] Now, the voice with its message enters the ear. What we hear affects what we think, say and do. ---Unfortunately, the devil also uses these gifts, but with a false message of lies. He uses these gifts and false message to lure you away from God. Think how the devil spoke to Adam and Eve and they listened. ---But God, the Holy Spirit uses our hearing to save us. His message is the Word that comes to us from God. His message centers on Jesus. ---In our lives we already hear that message at baptism. God’s Word enters the small child’s ears and creates faith in that child. A child knows its mother’s voice from birth; so, at baptism the little lamb comes to know it Shepherd’s voice. As we grow, we continue to hear our Shepherd’s voice. Thus, from baptism on the HS leads us to say, “Jesus is Lord, our Lord.”

Now, the HS uses the voices of all of us to tell others of Jesus. Especially, our pastor and teachers of teens and Sunday School speak publicly the message of Christ. But what exactly is this message from God’s Word?  Upon entering our ears, how does this message affect our thoughts, words and actions? The MESSAGE concerning Jesus has two parts. They are Law and the Gospel.

Let’s talk first about the Law. This Law is 3500 years old. But to this day there is no better law.  It still is very effective. The 10 Commandments summarizes the Law very well. You know them.  What message do they speak that enters your ears? Love the Lord your God; love your neighbor. This is all very helpful. We do not have to search about for what we should do nor not do. We are to love, as God loves. 2ndly, it also stops us from creating our own rules or laws that are worthless. But most important, the Law points out our failures to love God and neighbor. It convicts us of wrong doing. It places our guilt upon us. It moves us to see we need help. It also points out that neither we nor our fellow man can provide that help. The Law demands but does not have and nor give the forgiveness we need. That can only come from God.

So, the HS presents to us a MESSAGE with a second part.  We call it the Gospel.  It really is just a story. It is a story about Jesus; in Sunday School even the children hear and understand. But, of course, it is a powerful story. It is powerful and awesome because it changes lives. For some Jesus brought new physical health; the paralytic, the blind, the leper. For others Jesus brought about a change in their lives. The widow of Nain had her dead son restored to life. Remember also Zacchaeus, the publican who was a thief. He promised he was done with his thievery.  --- But for all people Jesus provides forgiveness of their sins. The man in the temple who lamented his life; he left totally forgiven. A criminal on the cross was given not just forgiveness but eternal life. Peter, who should have known better, was forgiven his denial of his Lord.

Upon hearing this story, the HS causes the listener to seek this Jesus. Why? Because we all need JESUS; and the special love found in Jesus. It is a love for us who are truly needy.  It is a special love that comes from God alone. This Lord God against whom we rebelled still cares about us. He still wants us to come back to him. The HS underlines and emphasizes this for you. Look at the cross. There God’s own Son suffers terribly. He has done no wrong. But we did! But Jesus in love took our identity, SINNER. We walked free from the condemnation and punishment of God. Jesus suffered under it. He, who should never die, did die. We, who should never live in heaven now can. Knowing this kind of Jesus, shouldn’t we with joy cry out, JESUS CHRIST IS MY LORD AND MY GOD!

God gives us gift upon gift upon gift! One of the most basic and important is our faith. Our faith comes from hearing the MESSAGE, the message that tells us the simple story of Jesus. It is a story really that never grows old. This is because it is our Savior’s story. Amen


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