Sunday, March 18, 2012

“A Letter of Preparation” (Ephesians 2:10) 4th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1304 4SIL/3B 3/18/12 Hymns: (O) #300; (S) #149; (C) #540

Text: Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21

Theme: “A Letter of Preparation” (Ephesians 2:10) 4th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Question: “Are you well prepared?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 4th Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

You are who are cherished, loved and adored by Your Faithful God and Lord, Jesus Christ. Today we pray that the Holy Spirit will give us faith to grasp the mystery of His suffering, death, and resurrection as we continue our journey with Him this Lenten season to the cross and beyond that, to the empty tomb; as we consider our role as A LETTER OF PREPARATION.

The Apostle Peter writes: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being PRREPARED {emphasis mine} to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Pastor Pete exhorts us to always be prepared. But for what? To tell everyone of the hope that fills our hearts. That hope has been given to us as a gift from Him who suffered, died and rose again—Jesus the Christ.

The Missionary preacher—Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has penned the words of the text, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. (Eph. 2:8-10).

I am amazed at how many of our saints know those two verses, but don’t know the following verse (10). I call it “the most forgotten verse among Lutherans”. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them We know that we have been saved. We know we have been redeemed. We know we have been restored to God again. We know it is all the work of God. We know we shouldn’t boast about it, since it is not our doing—it is ALL the work of Christ. But we fail to understand and tell the world that God has prepared us for loving service in His kingdom.

To be prepared is a wise thing. The other day, I was reading the March issue of LW (2012), and on P. 5 found this advertisement (show picture) Preparing for ‘Rainy Days’. It is important and prudent that we plan for the future, for retirement, for health care and other things.

All of us in this room prepare for all sorts of activities: A mother prepares supper for her family. A coach prepares his team for the next game or tournament. A contractor prepares to make sure he has all the materials and help needed for the job. A CEO prepares for his next board meeting. An attorney reviews the case in preparation for the upcoming court. A teacher prepares her lesson plan. And a Pastor prepares to write and deliver his sermon.

But what about being spiritually prepared? What about being prepared for the work the Lord has given us to do—His loving, caring and serving others? What about being prepared to share the Gospel with those around us? What about being prepared to always to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

In this letter to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts and encourages the saints to live out their calling. He moves them to be prepared to do the work God had established before the foundation of the world for us to do.

Look at your life and answer these questions: Am I spiritually prepared to meet my maker? Am I prepared to share the Good News with all people? Am I prepared to defend the faith? Am I prepared to honor my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ with my life—whole life, not just for one hour on Sunday morning or when people are looking? Am I willing to forsake all, but not Christ? PAUSE.

John Hus, who was born in 1369 was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer, and master at Charles University in Prague. He lived 100 years prior to Martin Luther. We are told that when John Hus was arrested and informed that he would be burned to death for his faith, he purposely practiced holding his hand over fire to prepare for his final test. He burned himself in preparation. He wanted to be faithful to the end. And on July 6, 1415 he was burned at the stake.

This event in the life of John Hus and other Reformer prepared Monk Luther 100 years later to be the Great Reformer, who would stand against all declaring that we are saved by Grace Alone, by Scripture Alone, and through Faith Alone (Three Solas). Luther became the Letter of preparation for many others in His solid and strong stand on the Divine Word of God.

You and I are blessed because we have had others who prepared to teach us the truth of Scripture that we are saved by Christ alone through His death and resurrection apart from any works or worthiness in us. Thank God for Pastors, Godly parents like Nathan and Becky who bring their children like Allison to receive the gift of grace in the waters of Baptism, teachers who have instructed the young the precious Life-Giving Word of God.

Today, this church, Redeemer Lutheran of Armour, SD after 71 years stands strong and firm in preparing you to be the letters God wants you to be. For 71 years Pastor after Pastor, teacher after teacher, parent after other parent have passed on this letter to prepare their children to receive this God giving gift of faith.

What a blessing to know we are indeed loved and cherished by Pastors and parents alike. What a blessing for us to become parents that we might prepare our children to know the Scripture, live by the Scripture and teach the Scripture to the next generation.

We do all of this not to boast but because it is our privilege having being prepared to go out in His name and tell the World of our Awesome and Gracious Savior, who prepared Himself faithfully to giving up His life for our sins and paying the punishment of hell for us.

From the day He was baptized, Jesus began the preparation of laying down His life. He prepared for the moment of choosing the 12 by spending all night in prayers. He Prepared and equipped the 12 disciples to go in His name and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In His final week, He prayed often as He prepared Himself and followers for that which was to come—death by crucifixion. When Good Friday rolled around He was well prepared to say, “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” He was well prepared to say to the thief next to Him: “Today, YOU will be with Me in Paradise.” He was well prepared to say to those who hated Him, spit upon Him, dragged Him, beat Him and crucified Him, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they do!”

By the grace of God today, you and I are the new believers—His workmanship created to do good work. As a believer, I am a unique design of the God of all compassion and grace. He who put faith in the Savior into my heart expects me to show it in my daily life. He wants me to follow His Son’s example in life, not as a cause for salvation but as a result of salvation. He wants me, like someone who had received a glorious gift to throw my arms around His neck in appreciation for what I have received.

My beloved saints, today again, you have received the grace of God in the words of forgiveness and the miracle of baptism. Today, you have been well prepared by the power of the Holy Spirit to be His letters. Today, the Holy Spirit exhorts you to go out and share that glorious hope not because you “have to”, but because you “WANT TO.”

As a letter of preparation, we want to go in His name to every place and tell them of the Hope and joy and peace that fill our hearts on account of Christ our Savior. In His mighty name Amen.

Now the peace…


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