Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 7th (Mark 7:14-23) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
The way of Christ is surely by faith in God’s Word and promises. Faith receives the gifts of God as a child receives his father’s embrace. These gifts include the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. For where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life and salvation. These are gifts, freely offered to all humanity, graciously given to all who believe, all who receive them . . . by faith. Thus the Way of Christ is one of constant reception of God’s gifts given to believing hearts through His appointed means of grace. Faith accepts the promises. Faith receives forgiveness. Faith seeks after mercy. Faith hungers for the supper. Faith thirsts for the waters of regeneration. Faith longs for encouraging Words.
The way of salvation by faith is not the way of works, nor by love. Faith is not from the law. “By the Law we fear God, by faith we hope in God” (St. Augustine). Faith is of the Gospel. And this faith alone saves poor sinners like us through the death and resurrection of our Christ.
But such faith, such a way is never alone, never without good works. Faith without works is dead. A dead faith is a fallen faith. It is a return to our fallen, natural state. When we fall from the way of Christ we fall from the Word and promises of Christ in the Scriptures. Falling from the Word and promises of the Scriptures we fall into the wickedness of our sinful nature. And God then, “gives us over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting.” (Romans 1:28) It means falling away from Christ and into the depths of ourselves, the fullness of our own sinful nature. And that which we once thought was light is proved be darkness. “And how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)
Faith depends on the Word and message of Christ crucified for sustenance. Without God’s Word faith fades into the darkness that we once were. The Pharisees and Scribes were not a people who walked by faith. They believed the scriptures were true. But they did not live by the grace of God delivered through the scriptures. The Word of God was not the source of their righteousness, but the traditions of men, the behaviors and deeds done – these were their glory! These were their life. Therefore Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel, “Woe to you Pharisees and scribes! Hypocrites, for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)
Beloved, when the Word of God is removed from its rightful place in the life of the Christian both faith and morality suffer while our Old Adam experiences a renaissance, a resurgence, and a restoration. When the Word of God is ignored, when theologians do-si-do around the truth, when Christians belly up to drink the kool aid of this world, when man’s sophistry distorts God’s Wisdom, when we do not wish to retain the knowledge of the God of the Bible, such thinking, believing, and reasoning eventually lead to the indulgence of Old Adam. Indulging the Old Adam leads to acceptance of what God clearly calls Evil.
- Evil thoughts,
- sexual immorality and all of its perversions gay and straight,
- evil eye,
- blasphemy against God’s Word – that is the teaching and/ or believing of false doctrine,
- and folly.
All of these come from within a man – from within you, from your own heart and they defile you. All of these are of your fallen nature.
Christ would have you despair of your own strength and merits, surrender your blind trust in the “goodness” of your own heart and come to the understanding and belief that this is who you are in your broken, corrupt, and depraved humanity, even if you don’t do these things. You are, by your fallen nature, sinful and unclean. You have sinned in thought, word and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone. You have not loved God with your whole heart and you have not loved your neighbors as yourself. You justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment. You and I deserve death. That is the merit of Old Adam – he will never, ever make it into paradise!
That was the message Nathan brought to David in the Old Testament. “You are the man,” he said. Those words brought David to his knees. “I have sinned against the Lord.” David believed the Word of God and repented. “The Lord has put away your sin. You shall not die.” God’s Law terrifies human hearts because indeed, “I am the man who has sinned against the Lord. I deserve to die.” But the Lord has put away my sin. The Lord has put away your sin. In exchange for David’s life the Lord took David’s son. Sin still merits death. But the good news is that the Lord does not desire the death of the sinner. He does not desire your death. Rather, He has put away your sins. He has put them upon the shoulders of another. He has harnessed them upon the Son of David, the Son of Adam, the Son of God.
In Christ Old Adam dies and the New Adam arises. In Christ, sin, death, and devil, are put to death. The death you and I deserve is pictured for all to see right there on the corss. The cross of Christ deals with your sin the only way that God can deal with it and you still survive.
- The cross of Christ is the remedy for sinful desire.
- The cross of Christ is the cure for evil thoughts.
- The cross of Christ is the medicine for sexual immorality.
- The cross of Christ is the bottoming out of the thief.
- The cross of Christ is the Husband giving everything for His bride.
- The cross of Christ is the gift freely given on behalf of the greedy.
- The cross of Christ is the righteousness of God bearing the wickedness of men.
- The cross of Christ is the truth of Salvation in a world trapped by deceit.
- The cross of Christ is the offense of Love against the indecency of lust
- The cross of Christ is the favor of God’s face to an ungrateful people.
- The Cross of Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises amid the swarms of Beelzebub’s legions.
- The Cross of Christ is the humility of God for the arrogance of man.
- The cross of Christ is the wisdom of God for the folly of man.
The Cross of Christ is the death of both sin and sinner whereby Old Adam can no longer be coddled by this world’s ever embracing ideologies, theologies, and philosophies! He is put to death, so that new life may begin. For there is God’s heart put to death for your heart!
Your heart is regenerated, renewed, resurrected in your baptism. In baptism you did die without dying. You died with Christ. Old Adam was crucified with Christ and you were raised with Christ. For Christ’s death is for you and Christ’s resurrection is for you. If you have been united with Christ in a death like His, you will certainly be united with Christ in resurrection like His. Now, clothed with Christ and His righteousness you are a new creation. You are no longer Old Adam, sinner who always sins, who loves sin, who indulges in sin. But not you are New. You are Christian. You have a new heart, a clean heart, with a right spirit, a Holy Spirit, within you. You are vastly different than you once were. You have been crucified with Christ and the life you now live you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up for you.
That’s why everything about Christendom is to be so vastly different from the devil, the world, and even our own sinful, natural, desires. We Christians have a different view of everything. We have different architecture, different music, different lyrics, different preaching based upon different scriptural readings, and we have different worship.
Holy water cleanses the heart, the innermost being of man of his sin and death. Its not the removal of dirt from the flesh but a pledge of a good conscience towards God, Christ’s pledge, and Christ’s goodness.
Bread and Wine deliver the resurrected body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
The Holy Spirit breathes life into the New man through the voice of mortal man.
Sermons, liturgy, and readings all serve God’s Word to the heart and call sinners to repentance. Through these Old Adam is suppressed under the waters of our baptism. Old Adam daily dies to sin and daily lives to God by faith and in holiness of life. Everything serves for the purpose of death and resurrection. Everything you see and hear and taste and feel in Christ’s church is meant to kill old Adam, and nourish the gift of faith within you!
Beloved in the Lord, the way of Christ is indeed by faith alone. But faith is never alone. We Christians are to be concerned with good works. We are to put our salvation to work for God and for neighbor, and for our enemies. As Christians we are to cling to His Word for life, both now and forever more. That means God’s Word isn’t only about eternity. God has something to say about how we live right now and we are follow that way!. Therefore as Christians, we are to reject evil, that is everything that God in His Word calls evil. In our baptismal vows we Christians have renounced the way of evil. “Do you renounce the devil? And all his works? And all his ways?” “Yes I renounce them!” We have renounced the evil within us, and under the Holy Waters of God we have received from outside of ourselves the righteousness which endures unto eternal life.
Now, having been awakened to our condition by God’s Word, we can begin to live not as we once were, not under the dominion of sin, for our sin has been put away, crucified, dead, and buried, but we can begin to live in the freedom of the Gospel of Christ. We learn to love what God loves. We learn to delight in God’s truth. We learn to adore the truly good things, noble things, just things, pure things, lovely things, things of good report, virtuous things, beautiful things, praiseworthy things. These are taught us by God’s Word. These are planted within us by God’s Word. These are nourished within us by God’s Word. Thus the faith born in our heart at baptism is given opportunity to grow and mature and find expression in ways that are pleasing God’s eyes. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI