Thursday, January 22, 2015

“Matters of the Heart” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

S-1472 SOHLS/3B 1/18/2015 Hymns: (O) #234; #535 vvs1-4; #535 vvs5-9; (S) #61; (C) #47
Texts: Psalm 51:1-6; Isaiah 40:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:1-18; John 14:1-7
Theme: “Matters of the Heart” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Question: “Do you have heart troubles?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the O. T. lesson: “Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended that her iniquity is pardoned that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).

Precious children of the heavenly Father, I ask you to look at the back cover of your bulletin and read the portion that deals with: “About the Cover:” We are told that Philip’s joy cannot be contained: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote” (John 1:45). But Philip issues the invitation: “Come and see” (v. 46). This is the heart of the Church’s Mission in the world: To invite the skeptics to come and see, to meet Jesus as He still comes to be among us with His saving gifts in Word and Supper.”

Indeed, the Church’s mission is a matter of the heart—a heart that is broken and blackened by sin; a heart that bleeds and burst due to damaged relationships with God and others. The Church of God has been planted on this earth to help others know who Jesus Christ is and turn hearts back to God’s, to worship Him, fear Him and serve Him with heart, mind, body and soul.

Today as we observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we confess and teach that this is not a political or a personal issue, it is not a secular or choice issue, but a matter of the heart that chooses to be disobedient to the Living God and His precious Word. In this way there financial gain through the slaughter of unborn children and indulge in sexual immorality.

I ask you to brace yourself; because this is not going to be pretty. A nation that snuffs out its next generation is one whose torch won’t burn long. A nation that puts to death unborn children who are helpless is one who will endure severe punishment at the hands of the One who said, “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:16). A nation that disobeys the Word of the Lord will endure His wrath. Actions have consequences in this life too. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, abortions performed in our nation from 1976 through 2012 ranged from a little over 500,200 to more than 700,000 per year! That amounts to obliterating Seattle, Denver, Louisville, Baltimore, Tucson, Nashville, Milwaukee, and Las Vegas—one city every year for 36 years and counting. All this, with the sanction and blessing of the US Supreme Court, the joy of many secularists; and the uncaring approval of liberal churches. How sad that life created in the image of God can be disposed of like a dirty diaper in a dumpster.

Martin Luther, that great German monk, who set the Church back on the right path, once remarked that this world is nothing but a large graveyard. It’s rather hard to disagree, isn’t it?

Yet into this fallen, bloody world of death, the God of free and faithful grace sent His Son, to show us the way, and fix our hearts to love and obey Him. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, today’s text calls us to repentance and drastic change in our lives and the lives of people we know. God comes to do the impossible for us, exchange our hearts because our hearts are full of evil and wickedness.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells him to cry out to His people saying their warfare has ended. Inside of each of us is a spiritual struggle for first place in our hearts, for who or what will be God in our lives. When we arrive at the place of repentance, knowing we cannot save ourselves, we have reached the point of surrender. We are captive to Christ and no longer insist on our own wisdom or our own way. There is no longer a need to resist or rebel. We have lost the battle and He has won the war for our eternal salvation.

Isaiah calls us today to look up and outside ourselves to the One who created us in His image to love life and care for it. Isaiah exhorts us to fight the fight to protect and preserve life. But alas, it is impossible for us because none of us have hearts that love God or desire to serve Him constantly. The prophet Jeremiah said this: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah. 17:9). The Spiritual Cardiologist—Jesus Christ scans our hearts and finds deep disease: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,  coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). He describes our problem in gigantic proportions: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11). You see it is a matter of the heart.

We live in a day and age where sin is not talked about. People and even churches are silent about sin and its consequences. Some mental-health professionals mock our need for divine forgiveness. At the same time we are destroying life that God created whether planned or unplanned. This is life in the womb—life in the image of God. PAUSE.

Today, in our observance and celebration of Life Sunday we acknowledge that we are all participants in a culture that promotes values that lead to the acceptance of abortion as a right. In many ways we have all failed to speak up in opposition, all accepted it as inescapable, all compromised in part by believing it is possible to accept both the values of the secular culture and Christian faith. Instead of pointing the finger of judgment at others, we realize we too are convicted by the wise counsel of God through the prophet Isaiah and need to hear these words. This is truly a matter of the heart, our hearts!

This is a matter of the heart that is more than a book by Danielle Steel, more than a song by Tracy Chapman. It is more than our feelings, our pleasure, or our preoccupation with our own desires. This is really the greatest matter of the heart, the everlasting and Ruler God in our lives. This is the issue raised in the first commandment. What place does God have in our lives? Luther makes clear in his explanation to the first commandment that an idol is anything that we give priority over God’s rightful place.

If God occupies our hearts completely, then He alone rules our lives. His Word guides and directs our lives, our behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and desires. His Word shapes our values and decisions. When His Word conflicts with the values of the world we oppose the world and follow Him.

Above all else, His Word proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the profound nature of His love for us. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive the promise of salvation and redemption. His love for us in Jesus Christ has the power to free us from the bondage to all other idols, all competing cultural values, all self-destructive behaviors. This is the greatest word of comfort for our hearts.

“Comfort, comfort My people says Your God.” The Holy Spirit is the Comforter Jesus promised to send. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms our lives and guides us in the paths of righteousness. To those who admit their sins and struggle to turn in the direction of faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to “speak tenderly.” To those who grieve the fact they have compromised their faith to worship idols, embraced culture above Christ, and participated in perverse sexual activity, including those behaviors that contribute to the acceptance of abortion and now long for transformation and for the redemptive embrace of Jesus, God speaks a tender word into our hearts.

We, who are His chosen and precious children, by the Spirit’s power hear the comforting message that deals with our hearts saying: “Comfort, comfort My people says Your God.” For the sake of Christ our Savior, the Lord has comforted us by exchanging our wicked and evil hearts with His and now we live with the hope of sins forgiven and salvation received. All because He let His heart be torn open on Calvary’s beams and place in our heart the love that leads us to honor, serve and worship Him forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

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