Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Way of Wisdom

Sermon Text: 6:1-6, 16-21
Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2014 AD

In the Name + of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,

The Way of Wisdom

The way of Jesus is the way of wisdom. It is the way of the cross. It is the way of suffering, death, and resurrection. There is no other way, for there is no other savior. This way is not the way of man. Man’s wisdom goes another way, his own way. God’s Word teaches: “All we like sheep have gone astray we’ve turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). But we don’t really go our own way, we go man’s way thinking it’s our own way. We go after those who have gone before us. We go where we think we should be going. We walk the path that seems right. “There is a path that seems right to a man but in the end that way leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). We go anyway. We go that way because that way feels good. That way is rewarded by friends and family and multiple hits on social media. That way garners hits on facebook, tweets on twitter, comments on instagram. That way fills our inbox with praise and public acknowledgments. That way, the way we all want to go, the way we have been going, that way gets us attention. And we’re all about attention.

The scribes and Pharisees were all about attention and praise from the crowds and the religious leaders. They may not have had facebook or twitter or instagram but there was always man’s most troublesome muscle – his tongue to carry the news of one man’s piety or another man’s immorality. They were always about the praise of others and not so much about the praise of their heavenly Father. If there had been selfies back then they would have been all about it, posting pictures of their disfigured faces, highlighting their generous offerings, uploading videos of what they weren’t eating during the fast. And with all the attention they received Jesus says they have their reward. And their reward doesn’t even last the 15 minutes of fame their hearts crave. So they do it all over again.

Repent

Jesus cautions His disciples, not against being pious or practicing righteousness, or giving alms, or even fasting. He warns against practicing such things before men in order to be seen by them. He warns you about making your good works about you. He warns about focusing your strength and efforts to garner attention for yourself. He warns about making your following Him, about YOUR following Him so that the attention is on you and not Him, so that your works give praise to you and not Him, so that the light of your deeds shines before men and men give thanks to you and your heavenly Father. Jesus warns you about making religion about you, about making yourself into a god as you follow the way that leads to death, even if you lead a good moral life along the way.

Repent! For there is not one person among us who has not coveted the praise of his neighbors. Repent! For there is not one person among us who has not trumpted his own horn and drawn attention to his good works. Repent! For this is not one person among us who has not wandered like a little lamb, gone astray and followed his or her own way. Repent! For what Jesus says against the scribes and Pharisees, He says also about us. This is why you have that mark on your forehead. Remember, dust you are and to dust you shall return. We forget who we are. We forget Jesus’ words of warning. We forget the consequences of sin is death, that the way we’re traveling, the way that seems right, the way that often feels good and exalts our self-esteem, actually is a way leading to death and hell. The mark on our foreheads is a very real reminder of our mortality.

The Way of the Cross

Repent! Those who chase after the praise of men will have their reward and that is all. In their hypocrisy they will perish and be remembered no more. There is, however a more noble way, a holy way, the way of righteousness. It is the way of wisdom. It is the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is not devoid of good works. In fact, Jesus is Himself a treasury of good works, abounding and sufficient to fill up every person’s heart. These works He has done for you and in your place. The way of man follows the way of Adam. And Adam is destined to die because when Adam sinned all men sinned. But Jesus is the second Adam, the New Adam, the One Man through whom the world is justified before God. Through one man sin entered the world and death spread to all men, even you and me. But through the New Adam, Jesus Christ our Lord, sin is conquered and death is destroyed for all men. For the way of wisdom is not the way of men, it is the way of Jesus the new Man, the perfect Man, the God-Man who has taken away the sins of the world, even your sins and crucified them in His own flesh.

Rather than allow sinful mortals like us to continue down the path of destruction our Savior assumed our position and though undeserving of death, He entered death’s domain and suffered death’s torments on the tree of the cross. Man’s way goes the other way, but the way of Jesus takes sin and death head on with a full frontal attack on death’s power, death’s sting, and death’s dominion. In dying Jesus covered over the sins of the world with holy blood. And in rising on the third day He has destroyed our enemies and lifted the pall that has been over mankind since his banishment from Eden. Now all who believe shall be remembered by the King who was crucified but is now and today risen from the dead. Today all shall be with Him in paradise. Because Today Jesus is for you.

Remember Your Baptism

But how do I know that Jesus is for me? I bear the mark of the ashes on my forehead. The curse of Adam is upon me as I suffer the frailties of the flesh and the angst of the devil and my own conscience. I know death will come. I know God will be my judge. Jesus has done all these things but how do I know He’s done them for me? Beloved, it is easy to remember your sins when there is always someone reminding you. It is easy to feel the pangs of death, when you are marked with ashes. But there is something greater for your heart to cling to; Baptism. Remember your baptism, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:11 ESV).

5“He saved [you], not because of works done by [you] in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on [you] richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace [you] might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy,” (Tit 3:5-8 ESV).

The promises of God are mightier than the accusations of the devil and your own conscience. The God’s Water, water that has been joined with God’s Word and command, is able to not only wash away the spots, stains and blemishes recalled by those ashes, but also the very curse calling for your death. In Baptism you, the one very one who got wet with God’s Word have been united to a righteousness that avails in heaven, a righteousness pleasing in God’s sight, worthy of God’s delight and praise. For you have been baptized into Christ Jesus His Son, who without spot, stain or blemish, has covered you, clothed you, and filled you with Himself, His death, His resurrection and His Holy Spirit. Remember, who you are in Christ, not who you were in Adam.

The Way of Jesus

Beloved in the Lord, direct your heart to Christ who is your treasury of merits. Let your faith cling to His word and promises given you under holy water and offered to you in, with, and under bread and wine. Jesus is for you and that is all you need. Take to heart His Words and let your life trumpet His glory, His Way. The way of wisdom is the way of Jesus. And the way of Jesus is the Way of the cross, suffering, death and resurrection for you. The way of Jesus is the way of life. Let that life be manifested in you as you walk this way, talk this way, live this way, and follow this way practicing your righteousness which you’ve received by faith, not before other people in order to be seen, but for other people in order that they may see the Love God for them and glorify your Father in heaven. Let the way you go be the way of wisdom, the way of Jesus, the way of Cross. For that is the only way that leads to life. AMEN!

The peace which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!


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