Sunday, May 5, 2013

“The Gospel Changes Hearts and Lives!” (Acts 16:14-15)

S-1360-Sixth Sunday of Easter/C 5/05/2013 Hymns: (O) #360; (S) #297; (C) #644

Texts: Acts 16:9-15; Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27; John 16:23-33

Theme: “The Gospel Changes Hearts and Lives!” (Acts 16:14-15)

Question: “How well do you like change?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Sixth Sunday of Easter is from our first reading: “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay’” (Acts 16:14-15).


People of the Resurrection, it is such a joy to be back in the pulpit. After an unusual sabbatical and change of life, it is indeed an honor, privilege and blessing to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with you again. If it has ever seemed over the years that I have taken this privilege for granted, please forgive me. I treasure the undeserved call to be your pastor. I am humbled beyond measure that God would grant me once more to resume the ministry among you and to proclaim the Gospel that changes hearts and lives.

Yes, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes hearts and lives. It is the Gospel—God’s good news that changed 12 ordinary men to become the heroes of the faith. It is the Gospel—God’s good news that took these 12 uneducated, common fishermen and changed the world through the preaching of this Gospel, so that those who heard the message became followers of Jesus and People of the Resurrection. And it is that same Gospel—God’s good news preached from this pulpit week in and week out that has changed us from sinners to saints. PAUSE.

But change is not an easy thing. Having gone through some personal changes in my life, I know full well it isn’t painless. We are creatures of habit and DON’T like changes. We don’t like change because we like to be our own little gods and do things our way, not God’s way. God doesn’t change us just for the sake of change, like the world changes clothing fashion styles every year just so you have to buy new clothes  (or think you do!) whether your old ones are worn out or not. God changes us for our good, like a doctor cutting out cancer, when He points out our sin, and calls us to repentance and new life. Having had open heart surgery and another unexpected was not without its difficulties and hardships. As a result of these surgeries I had to go through many changes.

People of the Resurrection, did you know that my life has more value to it now? I am bionic and worth over ¼ of million dollarsJ. Here are some of the changes I have gone through: I needed help with so many things, it was almost embarrassing to ask—pride got in the way. But I had to admit, I couldn’t do it on my own. I am thankful for those who helped me. I have a new mechanical valve instead of the one God gave me at birth. I have changed from being healthy to becoming sick, from being strong to becoming weak, from not taking any medications to having to take my 8, 5, 8, and bed time meds. Being laid up for months going from this doctor to the next, along with rehabilitation and doctors appointments was a change, but was necessary and good. Many changes that took place were physical, emotional and spiritual. PAUSE.

Consider this, every single day we have certain routines. We rise @ a specific time. We sit in the same chair, drink coffee from the same cup and perhaps have the same breakfast. When we go to work we drive the same route, however if there is a detour, we are forced to change and we do not like it. Change is not easy for most, change can be very painful and we do not like pain.

Even as we attend church, change is not easy for us. We almost always sit in the same pew almost always do the same things week after week. If we deviate from this pattern we tend to become disappointed or uncomfortable. Even as we have tried to change various things to benefit and encourage growth in our own congregation, it involves change. If we don't like it we are uncomfortable and rub us the wrong way, even if it is good for us.

But, People of the Resurrection, you should know with certainty that change can be good; as it was in the life of the Apostle Paul. By the power of the Gospel, this man went from persecuting the Church to becoming the greatest preacher of all time. He went from unbeliever to a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Today, you, as People of the Resurrection are invited to listen to the Holy Spirit who works in the life of Paul and sends him to Macedonia to help someone in need. Through the preaching of the Gospel—God’s good news, the life of Lydia was changed forever. This change in her routine was the surprise of joy.  She already knew the Word of God and worshiped, but felt like an outsider, maybe like, someone in a sick bed, remote, outside, disconnected - somewhat how I felt during these past 113 days - yet she was truly connected, and surprised by that joy of knowing that as Paul came under her roof, she knew she was fully in the Family of Grace. 

While I was convalescing, I also knew that I was not remote, outside, nor disconnected.  Your prayers, your love, your carrying Christ to me, under my roof was a glorious gift and joyous surprise.  Today we continue to celebrate the change that happened because of the RESURRECTION. Paul was sanctified as he came under Lydia’s roof. I know you have sanctified my life by coming under my roof, and certainly, though we come to His house, as we have it here today, when He, our Savior comes under our roof, He sanctifies, glorifies, and redeems crippled sinners like you and me. What a glorious change He works in our lives.

People of the Resurrection, God has called you in your vocation to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world; beginning right where you live. Because only through the Gospel will hearts and lives be changed. It is of the utmost importance for us to remember that and work together to share the Gospel. By the power of the Holy Spirit may we be bold and brave, caring and compassionate, devoted and dedicated, faithful and fervent in sharing the Gospel with others. We cannot sit around and assume it is someone else’s work. God didn’t call the next person but you as the baptized and redeemed people of God to go in His name and share the blessed Gospel message—so that hearts and lives might be changed.

As People of the Resurrection, we are called by the Gospel to share what Jesus Christ has done to change our lives. He suffered, died and rose again to guarantee our future and count us worthy to be with Him in heaven. Because of His death and glorious resurrection our lives have changed from sinners to saints, from hell-bound to heaven-bound, from being enemies of God to becoming the friends of God. All of this because of the Gospel that changes hearts and lives forever. PAUSE.

3 years ago, I was invited to join my oldest son, Tony’s book club to discuss the book by Joel Rosenberg, Inside the Revolution. One of the young men who was there was an agnostic. While visiting with Justin about the love of God. He said, “You can’t tell me you believe that archaic book and all that Jesus has done. How can you prove this really happened?” I responded, “I don’t know how to prove it for you, because it is all by faith. When you are in contact with the Word, something happens to you.

I then, asked, “Justin, have you ever read the Bible?” “No! Neither do I want to.” I told him: “Justin, I am going to challenge you to read it. And I assure you if you read it you will never be the same man. Something will happen to you!” He snorted and laughed at me.

A week ago Saturday (4/27/13), we were in Sioux Falls at a surprise birthday party. While there, Justin came to me and asked, “Do you remember me?” I said, “Certainly!” He then smiled and reminded me of the challenge I put before him three years earlier. He said he took my challenge to heart and started reading the Bible. Seven months ago by the power of the Holy Spirit he became a follower of Jesus Christ. What joy filled my heart at the words shared with me! The Gospel has done its work and changed the heart and life of this young man.

I then, said, “Justin, do you know what Isaiah 55:10-11 say?” He said, “No!” I then quoted from memory the texts: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it”. PAUSE.

People of the Resurrection, today, by the power of the Holy Spirit you have heard the Gospel—God’s good news once more. Today, you have been challenged to live as People of the Resurrection and share the glorious message with all. For there is someone out there crying like the man in Macedonia saying, “Come over and help us!” May God empress upon us the joy that comes when we share the Gospel—God’s good news that changes hearts and lives. Amen.

Now the peace…

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