Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“You Are Different!” (Leviticus 19:1-2).

S-1234 7SAE//3A 02/20/11 Hymns from LSB (O) 706; (S) 851; L.S. #620; #638; 633; (C) #783

Text: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; I Cor. 3:10-23; Matthew 5:38-48

Theme: “You Are Different!” (Leviticus 19:1-2).

Question: “Do people see you as being different?”

SOLI DEO GLORIA, Mt Calvary @ Richfield, MN

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany is from the Gospel lesson: “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them You shall be holy, for I the LORD Your God am holy’” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

You who are the most beloved congregation in the Lord Jesus, today’s text challenges the preacher and the people of God to be different. In these words, Moses tells us that we are to be holy, because the Lord is holy. These are strong words for the believer living in this politically correct society where everyone should be treated on equal level. These words pierce our hearts to be different because God demands of us—His redeemed and blood-bought children to be like none-other in the world.

If you study people you will notice that many people want to be the same. People get haircuts similar to movie stars or politicians. Others want to dress like them, or drive the same kind of vehicle. Some even want to act like them—walking, speaking and behaving like them.

In a sexually saturated society, many fall prey to the desires of the flesh and sleazy life-style that is promoted and publicized on TV. Perhaps you have noticed that so many of the TV programs are not wholesome or God-pleasing. On top of that, almost 60-80% of TV programs are reality shows. People want to be part of the crowd, they want to be noticed and tell their story which is not a story at all.

However, we who have been forgiven and redeemed by the ONLY Savior, Jesus Christ have been called to be different. We shouldn’t be following the ways of the world, but the ways of the Lord. The Word of the Living God should be our guide and blue print. We should stand out like a sore thumb. For we, too, have a story to tell—not a sleazy story, but salvation story. But we can’t tell that story and make it powerful if we don’t obey the will of the Lord our God by being holy and different. PAUSE.

Max Beerbohm wrote a story which he entitled, “The Happy Hypocrite.” It is a story of a man whose face personified evil. He was faced with a dilemma. The woman he loved refused to marry him because he didn’t look saintly. To solve the problem the suitor put on a mask with a kind face. The young woman married him despite the face beneath the mask. Her husband proved to be an attentive, caring and unselfish husband.

One day in a moment of rage an enemy abruptly tore of her husband’s mask before his wife’s eyes. Instead of a cruel, grotesque face, the man had become what he lived for many years. Kindness, not evil, radiated from his face. PAUSE.

What is our goal for life as Christians? To be holy even as our God is holy. As God said to Moses, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them You shall be holy, for I the LORD Your God am holy.’” And what does it mean to be holy and set apart for God? To love –– to love God and neighbor.

He who is LOVE—Jesus, was confronted by those who wanted to trick Him. They asked Him which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus knowing their hearts and the evil within summarized all the Law and the Prophets in two lines: “‘You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). The Bible is clear that to be God’s people means to be set apart, to be different, to be a holy people for a holy God.

And what is that makes us different? What is that sets us apart? What is that makes us holy and noticed by others? It is the work of Christ in us in spite of us. For it is Christ and His shed blood on the cross that makes us holy and different. He made us holy by taking our sins upon Himself and giving us His righteousness. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, “For our sake He [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21), and again Pastor Paul put it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

The blessed news is that our story is not one that is made up like Max Beerbohm’s of the Happy Hypocrite; bur rather one that is written by the Author of Life Himself—Jesus Christ. And Christ doesn’t give us a mask to wear, but His white robe of righteousness in Baptism, so that we may live our lives differently in a world that is filled with sin and hate. Because of Christ’s work in us, we become His holy, pure and kind people. Because of Him we stand out like blossomed tulips stand out in the spring against the harsh reality of the fading winter. We are noticed like a beautiful bouquet of roses in the living room. The aroma of those roses causes people to come and smell and notice each pretty petal.

That is the life of the Christian man and woman, boy and girl. We are called to be different and not part of the crowd. We are called to live our lives as salt of the earth and light of the world in order that we might glorify our heavenly Father. PAUSE.

But, let’s be honest. How many of us live differently than the world around us? How many of us speak up when we should against the evil of the world? How many of us call sin, “SIN” rather than saying it is no big deal.

For God sin is a big deal indeed. For the wages of sin is death. Sin destroys life. Sin separates us from our Holy God. Sin sends us into the depth of hell for eternity. As the Baptized, Redeemed, Forgiven, Blood-bought and Heaven-bound children of God we can’t remain silent and say nothing against the immorality in this world and in our lives. When you know of someone living in sin, kindly speak to them about it. If you know of a couple shaking up together, tell them lovingly that is sin. When you know of someone who is thinking of having an abortion, tell them that is sin. And when people deny the inerrancy of the Scripture, tell them kindly that is not the case.

Why do we want to do that? Because we are DIFFERENT! We live under the Grace of Him who made us different Jesus through His suffering and death. We live our lives to magnify the name of Christ our Savior. We live different lives because we want others to come to know the grace and love of Jesus that forgives their sins, heals their guilty conscience and calls them to a life of holiness and righteousness. PAUSE.

In St. Paul, MN not far from here, there was a church in the heart of the city. At one time, the church was blossoming and growing and people came there by the throngs. But as the business district closed in, it began to dwindle and it wasn’t long before they had only a handful of worshippers. One cold January day, a fire started in that place and before the fire department could come to the scene, most of the building was burned. In the center of the church, was a huge statue. A larger than life size, 8 foot tall statue of the Savior with His arms outstretched. Somehow it was untouched by the flames. When the fire was under control, the firemen took the statue outside and put it on the sidewalk. You should have been there the next day. Cars were driving by so slowly to look at the beautiful statue. People who did not ever enter the church were now able to see the statue of Christ. That’s a great illustration of what it means to be different, and what being a Christian is all about. We need to take Christianity outside of the church walls and take them to the sidewalks and the byways. We are witnesses of what we have been told and what we have seen God doing for us and to those around us.

Indeed the Holy, sinless, Son of God came into the world and lived a different life-a life of humility and faithfulness to His Father. By His obedience to the will of God His life drew others to Him and caused them to become His followers. They followed Him because they heard from Him the truth that leads to eternal life. They followed Him because He showed Himself to be the Way out of hell and the way to heaven. They believed in Him because He is the truth that gives hope to all. They saw in Him the message of hope and salvation, as they witnessed the brutality of His death on the gallows of the cross.

Because of the cross of Christ and the empty tomb, Christ makes us different. His blood washes away our sins. His Word makes us strong in faith. And His body and blood nurtures us to remain different without compromising the truth that we are His precious and priceless children.

Oh, the joy of being different. Not as a laughing stock, but as the carriers of the message of hope the story of our salvation. God grant us the privilege and honor to remain different by sharing this marvelous and wonderful story with all people now and forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God...

Soli Deo Gloria

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