S-1413 7SAE/3A 2/23/2014 Hymns: (O) #388; (S) #276; L.S. #324; #307; #246; (C) #54
Texts: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Theme: “I Can’t Do It!” (Leviticus 19:1-2)
Question: “Have you ever said, ‘I CAN’T do it!?’” Armour, SD
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 O.T. 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’” (Leviticus 19:1-2).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Children of the heavenly Father today’s text is a hard pill to swallow. The Lord God Almighty asks a hard thing of us mortals. He asks us to be holy as He is holy. He asks us to love Him with our whole heart, mind, body and soul. Love our neighbors, our enemies, not to lie, not to gossip, not hurt or cheat others. This is not only hard, challenging, difficult, but it is downright IMPOSSIBLE.
Certainly it is harder said than done. I don’t have to tell you the difficulties that we face daily as sinful human beings who want to serve God always but can’t. I don’t have to remind you of the burden of being obedient to the command and will of God. All you have to do is look into the mirror of God’s Law. Though it is hard, God’s request is not a laughing matter. He is not kidding with His request of us. He is serious. He asks us to be holy, perfect, righteous and blameless. But how can we be when we daily sin much in thought, word and deed.
“I can’t do it!” You have said it too. Last year after my open heart surgery, I had many health and physical challenges. There were many days when I couldn’t do what I wanted. Oh, I tried, but eventually, I cried and said, “Lord, I just can’t do it.” The older I get the more I realize I can’t do what I once was able to do. It is true. If you are honest you would admit that you, too, have limitations and can’t do what once you use to do. Even Ann Lander’s once joked about an elderly lady who had bent down to get an item of the ground, and said, “Lord, what else can I do while I am still down here?” PAUSE.
We have a major problem on our hands. God is asking us to do the impossible, yet we fail miserably because we can’t stop sinning. We often joke saying, “I am not perfect!” But God demands perfection. Know this: if you are NOT perfect you can’t enter the Kingdom of God. The problem is we daily fail to do the will of God. And if we haven’t done it completely, we haven’t done it at all. (James 2).
But we are not alone. When God asked Moses to go to Egypt and free the Israelite, he cried out saying: “Lord, I can’t do it. Send someone else.” (Ex. 4:13). When Jeremiah was asked to be a prophet to Israel, he complained to God saying: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jer. 1:6). Elijah, the mighty prophet of Israel, who challenged with courage the prophets of Baal and put them to death ran for his life from queen Jezebel saying “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4). And Jonah when God called him to go to Nineveh ran away from God and the responsibilities to preach repentance. (Jonah 1) All of these great men of God in essence said, “I can’t do it!”
But wait there are more men of God who said the same thing. When Mark John had joined Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey, he too cried out, “I can’t do it!” Mark wasn’t prepared for the work, and when the going got tough the young John Mark got going (Acts 13). And let us not forget Paul, that great preacher who traveled the world over proclaiming that salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through Christ alone. In his letter to the church at Rome cried out, “I can’t do it.” I try not to sin, but can’t. (Romans 7) PAUSE.
Let’s not forget Luther, the great Augustinian Monk and theologian before he understood the grace of God and the sweet Gospel cried out, “I HATE GOD! I HATE GOD!” Listen to Luther’s own voice saying: “I could not believe that He was placated by my satisfaction. I did not live, indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. Secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.” Luther in essence was saying: “I can’t do it!”
Luther got this so well that when he was writing the Catechism in his explanation of the 3rd Article of the Creed wrote, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
As you can see, there is not one of us who has kept the Law of God perfectly. None of us are holy like God demands. Indeed, can a mortal be in the right before God? Can anyone be pure before His or her Maker? No, not one of us is guiltless, not one has true integrity, not one is without sin; no not one. Who then can stand before the presence of a holy God (Psalm 24)? Who then can survive His punishment and wrath? Who then can live without fear of destruction?
What a dilemma we have. God demands perfection, and we can’t enter the Kingdom of God without being perfect. But we are far from it. This causes us troubled hearts and guilty consciences. I know the truth and at times I want to throw my hands up and cry out, “Lord, I CAN’T DO IT!” But wait. Before you throw the towel in the ring, listen to the Rabbi from Nazareth as He invites you saying: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).
But don’t stop there, lift your eyes up and see the shadow in the distance. Look and see the bloody body barely moving. Look and see the hunched body carrying a heavy cross. Look and see Him drag one foot after another as He climbs up crucifixion Hill. Look and see His eyes reaching out to those who are hurting on account of sin. Look and see as Roman soldiers strip Him naked, lay Him on the wooden beam and with a huge mallet drive 6 inch spikes into His hands and feet. Look and see the God Man hanging on the cursed tree. Look up and see…and hear Him say, “I CAN! I WILL! I HAVE! I AM GIVING MY LIFE FOR YOU!”
Hear Your Savior say “I lived the perfect life for you. I have fulfilled the Law of God in your place. I have washed you from every stain of sin. I have redeemed you by my shed blood and glorious resurrection. Remember though, I stood before Pilate who covered Me with a robe to mock and humiliate Me. But today, I in love and joy put on you My robe of righteousness and holiness to present you perfect in the presence of My Father. I AM THE ONE WHO MAKES YOU HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, BLAMELESS AND PERFECT NOW AND FOREVER.”
As stated above, we can’t enter the Kingdom of God unless we are perfect. Well, I have good news for you today. You are perfect because Christ has made you perfect through His suffering, death and resurrection. Yes, you can’t do it, but He can, He has and He will. Take comfort then because you are perfect and you will be in the presence of the PERFECT Savior, Jesus Christ. FOREVER. Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA