Pastor Tony Sikora from Hope Lutheran Church in DeWitt, Michigan is one of my favorite preachers. I am on a list of folks that get his sermons each week. As a way of BJS marking the Reformation I am passing this on to you our readers. To receive his sermons, please send a message to him by clicking here.
May this Christ-centered, cross-focussed, textual sermon be a blessing to you on this Reformation Day.
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
A. Jesus was just saying
Jesus is the gospel. Take Jesus out of the scripture and you lose the gospel. The Word of Jesus gives Jesus. If you ignore the Word of Jesus you lose the gospel. Without the gospel of God what is left in scripture, what is left of Jesus? Jesus becomes another Moses and the Gospel of God is transformed into Law. The Law is good. But the Law is not good news. It’s not gospel.
Many in our text were beginning to believe in Jesus. Just what they were beginning to believe about Jesus we’re not told. But Jesus knew. He knows all things. He knows the hearts of men; every heart of every man, woman and child. Knowing the hearts of men, He knows you and your heart. He knew something wasn’t right in the hearts of these Jews. Thus He gives them His Word. Jesus’ Word brings the hearts of men to light. He says, “If you abide in my Word you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Thus to be a disciple of Jesus is to be hearing Jesus’ Word. How can one abide in Jesus’ Word without hearing Jesus’ Word? That wouldn’t make sense. That wouldn’t make disciples. Disciples hear Jesus’ Word. Without Jesus and His Word there is no good news, no salvation, no Jesus.
Jesus wants you to know Him, hear Him, trust Him, believe in Him above all things. That’s why He asserts, “if you abide in my Word truly you are my disciples.” His Word and His Word alone is the source of our life.
B. You’re Wrong about us, about humanity. The Assertion of Humanity
The Jews who were beginning to believe in Him didn’t care for those words. Those Words were too assertive. Those words said they were slaves, slaves to sin and needing to be set free. Those words attacked the very heart and core of their own assertions. “We’re Abraham’s seed, we’ve never been slaves to anyone!” These were clinging to and would not let go of the oldest heresy in the world. This is a heresy that continually plagues humanity, a heresy that burdens the heart of every man, woman, and child, a heresy that was at the heart of the reformation. This heresy isn’t that people don’t believe in God. It’s that we believe too much in man. The serpent’s words are etched on our heart, (Eritis sicut deus.) “You will be like God.”
We like those words. Those words appeal to us. But those words enslave us. For, they are false. They are deceptive. They give the illusion that we have the ability and power to contribute to our salvation. They tell us we have strength, when in reality we are dead. They speak of a spark of goodness where there is only depravity. They teach us self-esteem. But a strong self-esteem only indulges in more sin. The soul that believes it will be like God, tends live like the gods of this world. Any word that seeks to trump this serpentine, self-affirming word is horrifying to us. For any word that says we are not like God, that we are blind, dead, and depraved, that Word is too assertive, too much, more than we want to hear. It is in our nature to prefer denial over repentance, our merits in stead His merits, our good works rather than Jesus’ good works. Essentially, we prefer the serpent’s word to Jesus’ Word. “Just let me “do what is in me.” Jesus can do the rest. He can make up for what I lack. But let me do my part. Let me do my best. Let me do it! Quit asserting that I can’t do it. That’s bad for my self-esteem.”
Thus our fallen hearts want Jesus out of the center. Some even want Jesus out of the picture. But if I move Jesus out of the center then I can be the focus. If Jesus is out of the picture, then what am I left with? Certainly not any gospel!
C. The Liberty of the Son
When Jesus asserts His Word as the mark of a disciple He asserts Himself, He asserts the gospel. There is no liberty in your strength and merits. You cannot set yourself free. But the Son can and the Son is willing. That is gospel. This liberty has a cost. It is not free. Yet, it is not charged to you. Again, more Gospel! There is nothing for you bring, nothing for you to pay, nothing for you to offer. There is a cost, but not to you. The cost is blood. The wages of sin, that which we deserve, that which we have earned by our strength and merits, the wages of sin calls for blood, not a little blood, not a pin prick of the finger, but a lot of blood, all of the sinner’s blood. You can’t offer that much and survive. Nor does God want such an offer. God gives His Son. His Son gives His blood.
The cost for your freedom from sin, death, and devil, is the blood of the Son, not a little, but a lot, all of it. Thus the cross! On the cross the Son gives His blood for yours. On the cross the Son offers His life for yours. On the cross the Son dies for you.
Your freedom has its cost and that cost is the death of Jesus and Jesus alone. It’s not Jesus and Mary. It’s not Jesus and Joseph, nor any other saint. It’s not even Jesus and you. There’s no room for you on the cross, no room for your sufferings, no room for your afflictions, your piety, your love, you offerings, your good works, nothing from you except your sins. Jesus dies for sinners, for those who in truth cannot be like God because Adam ate the fruit. The Jews may be children of Abraham but we’re all children of Adam. Sin and death came through one man, therefore one man pays the cost, one man for all men, for every man, woman and child. One man for you. Jesus for you. That’s the gospel. That’s liberty and freedom in Jesus and in Jesus alone.
B’. The assertion of Absolution (Beggars)
Discipleship is all about Jesus and His Word. His Word sets things straight. It sets me straight. Without His Word I think I am more than I really am. I think I’m better, stronger, and healthier than reality. Reality is that I am a beggar. We are all beggars. Beggars need grace. Grace comes to us through means. The Means of His grace are assertions. Jesus gives His Word. His Word is preached and His Word is connected to common elements. Thus through word and sacrament Jesus comes to His disciples that He give us deliverance from our sins.
Jesus is for sinners to forgive sinners. If you are not a sinner what then have you to be forgiven. If you are not a sinner He is not for you. “Be careful, therefore, never to endeavor to obtain such [moral] purity that you no longer find yourself a sinner . . . .” Such a task is impossible on this side of eternity. “Christ dwells only among sinners. That is why he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, so also to make his dwelling among sinners. Take note of His love time and again, and you will experience the sweetest consolation…. And so only in Him, through having despaired of yourself and your works, will you find peace. Here [in His Word] you will learn from Christ himself, that He, as He has received you unto Himself, has made your sins his own, and his righteousness your righteousness” (Luther). This is a sure and certain word, a Word that is not clouded with the deceits and errors of serpents, nor the follies and imaginations of the world.
A’. Abiding in His Word and doctrine
Beloved in the Lord, this sure and certain word is to be received by faith and “by faith alone – that is [to say], “I am nothing, I have nothing, I am capable of nothing. [I am but a beggar before my King]. But I have a Savior who is all, has all, and can do all.” He is Jesus. and He speaks with me of these things. His word and His doctrine are my life and my salvation.
Thus, beloved you may not fully understand the depths of human depravity. However, God’s Word reveals both the depths of our corruption and the depths of His love for us. Abide, therefore, in His Word and the right doctrine. Where the doctrine is right the Word is right and Jesus is rightly proclaimed. Where Jesus is rightly proclaimed there He is in the midst of sinners filling the font with His righteousness, setting a table with His Body and His blood, preaching the Word in a sermon, all the while forgiving sinners, and setting slaves free. “If you abide in my Word you are truly my disciples.” Disciples of Jesus are beggars of Jesus. Beggars of Jesus hear His word. The Word gives us Jesus. And Jesus is the gospel! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
To receive sermons from Pastor Sikora, please send a message to him by clicking here.