Sermon Text: St. Matthew 18:6-14
Sept 7th, Proper 18
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 sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 18th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Faith and Love
The Christian life is always one of faith and of love. As Christians we are bound to the Word of Scripture in all matters, both faith and love, what we believe and how we live. The Christian cannot have one without the other. For what is believed in the heart is confessed with the lips. What is received in the ear is manifested in hands, feet, and eyes. James teaches us that “Faith by itself if it does not have works is dead.” And St. Paul teaches that this faith works through love (Galatians 5:6). There is no faith without works and there is no faith working without love. The Christian life is always one of faith and love.
Faith is given as a gift. Love is the fruit of faith. Faith receives the great confession; “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God.” Love takes up one’s cross and follows Jesus. By faith a man is justified. Through love the justified person works out their salvation for the good of their neighbors. Faith listens for the voice of the Shepherd. Love looks for the neighbor to serve. Faith follows Jesus, goes where Jesus goes, hears what Jesus speaks, receives what Jesus offers. Love suffers the loss of wealth, health, and self for the sake of following Jesus and serving one’s neighbor. This is the Christian life. It is the life living by the Words of Jesus and doing for our neighbor what Jesus has done for us. It is a life of faith and a life of love.
To believe in Jesus is to be a little one in His kingdom. Only “little ones” are found in Jesus’ kingdom, only those who believe. There is no place for those who gain the whole world. In so doing they have forfeited their soul. There is no room for those refusing to deny themselves for the sake of others. In so doing they have refused the cross in favor of fun. Those who believe are Jesus’ little ones. Those little ones who follow are Jesus disciples. Little ones are given to follow Jesus, to be His disciples, in order to be in His kingdom. Jesus loves His little ones.
Temptations to Sin (causing “little ones” to sin)
Therefore, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Yes, beloved Jesus loves His little ones, little in size, little in stature, and those with little egos. Jesus loves His little ones and would have his little ones follow Him without stumbling. Jesus love you and your little ones. He would have you follow Him without stumbling. That’s what he means when He says, “whoever causes one of these little ones to sin.” He means whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, to be scandalized, to lose faith, to no longer believe. Where is no faith, there is no love. The Christian life is always one of faith and love.
For the little one who follows Jesus, your little ones and your little self, Jesus says that “it is necessary for temptations to come.” Temptations to what? Temptations to low self-esteem? Temptations to bad attitudes? Temptations to poor choices? Temptations to ignore your homework. Temptations to grill dinner on an “Ozone” safety day? No! Jesus isn’t concerned with the psycho-babel of our politically correct world or the pseudo-morality preached from the Universities. Jesus is talking about temptations to unbelief, falling away, temptations to “no faith.” And these temptations afflict everyone who believes in Jesus, everyone including you and your children.
Faith in Christ is borne of the Word of God. To tempt towards “no faith”, temptation must lead away from the Word of God, away from the preacher of that Word, away from the study of that Word, away from the schooling and memorizing and catechizing of that Word in the heart of the little one. Thus temptation appeals to the hands, the feet, and the eyes. The heart expresses itself through these and can also be manipulated through these. What the hands do, where the feet lead, and the object of one’s eyes all can be used against Christ’s little ones to make Christ’s little ones think they are too small and they must be made big.
Temptation can all too easily lead one to believe he or she is not doing enough and must do more. The works of our hands become the pride of our heart and the Word we once followed is set aside for banal possessions and earthly praise, and double overtime. Temptation can all too easily lead one to believe that he or she is going nowhere in this life. Filled with a wanderlust the heart of a little one once delighting to go to Church, now is lead everywhere else in the pursuit of adventure and the journey of our lifetime and the well rounded existence. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? That’s the point. Temptation tries its best to sound exciting and while following Jesus, going to church, coming to bible study, getting up early is made to sound borrrrrring. If temptation to the hands and feet don’t sever us from Christ then temptation appeals to the eye. The eye delights in the pleasures of Old Adam. The eye likes shiny things, pretty things, things the a move on the screen, things that excite the senses. The eye is the window to the heart’s lust and covetousness. Lusting and coveting leads right back to more working, more doing, more going, less hearing, less worshipping and studying, less following, less believing and less loving. Less hearing of God’s Word leads to lesser faith and so also lesser love. Love follow faith and faith is borne of the Word of God. Without God’s Word faith dies and love grows cold and eventually the person is lost. You know people like this. We have members of our church like this. They are your sons and your daughters, your grandchildren, your parents, your husband or your wife. Maybe even you. They are lost, lost and looking for a way back, a way home, a way to life everlasting.
The Son of Man has come to Save the Lost
It is the will of your Father in heaven that not one of these “little ones”perish, remain lost in unbeleif. Lost little ones are still His little ones despite losing their way. The One who heads toward Jerusalem is not going so fast as to leave us or our loved ones behind. He knows you. He knows your loved ones. He knows what’s going on in your life and He knows the temptations you face. He has not left you to your own demise. He has not surrendered you to the enemy’s camp. Jesus has come for sinners just like them and just like you and just like your little ones sitting next you.
The Son of Man has come to save the Lost. To save the lost Jesus, Himself was tempted, tempted in the wilderness, tempted in every respect as we are, tempted but without sin. He did not fall. He did not sin. He did not lose. Tempted as we are He defeated temptation and the tempter. Having come in the likeness of flesh Jesus walked the perfect life of faith – He trusted His Father, and He walked the perfect life of love – He obeyed His Father and loved His neighbor. Which means His loved you while obeying His Father. Obeying His Father meant offering Himself for you, in your place, on the tree of the cross. Obeying His Father means bearing the burden of love for the World, suffering the sins of the world, and putting sin, death, and hell to death in His own death on the wood. There, beloved is the savior of the Lost. There is the sign and symbol of our victory, the light that shines in the darkness, the banner around which we gather, the triumph of our God for us and for the world. There is the way back, the way home, the way to life everlasting. There is crux of the cosmos! Heaven and Earth meet on the tree of the cross! Justice for sin is meted out in His death. Mercy for the world is poured out from His veins. The Son of Man has come not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. In the death of Jesus, sin is condemned, our sin is put to death, while humanity, all who are descendants of Adam are justified by His resurrection from the dead.
Call to Repentance
And so our Risen Savior sends forth the hound of heaven, His Holy Spirit to seek out the lost and call back the erring. This seeking and calling is vocalized, voiced, spoken for the world to hear. It is the Spirit’s call to repentance and it echoes from this pulpit and amidst these walls through your heart and lives and out into the world. The call is for you who are here today, and for those who are not. The call is for all who near or far, all who are descendants of Adam, all who are lost and hiding in the bushes of this broken world.
The call to repentance is a call to change. Those who would be Christ’s little ones need to hear the call and then listen for the Word’s direction. For the life of the Christian is one of faith and love, of believing what Scripture teaches and doing what the Word says. Neither of which can be accomplished without actually hearing the Word! Therefore, when Jesus speaks of cutting off hand and foot or gouging out your eye. He’s teaching His little ones, those who believe the great confession and are called to follow by faith, those who suffer temptation and are led away from the Word, He’s teaching you to take drastic measures to resist temptation, to overcome temptation, to remove the temptation, the source of the temptation. If what you are doing is getting in the way of hearing the Word of God, Repent! If the places you are going is getting in the way of you hearing the Word of God, Repent! If what you are seeing is luring you away from hearing the Word of God, repent! If you are not regularly hearing the Word of God in worship or bible study then something somewhere along the way is getting in the way and you need to change! The call to repentance is a call to change. “Present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. . . . Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” (Romans 12).
Faith and Love Rooted in God’s Word
Beloved in the Lord, the life of the Christian is always one of faith and one of love. Those who would be Christ’s little ones are bidden to follow by faith and to walk in love. Faith listens for the Savior words. These words are here for you today. These words speak His forgiveness into your hears and over your hearts. The things you’ve done, the people and places you’ve followed, the things you’ve sin, things that have been a snare to your soul, these things Jesus covers in His blood. If you doubt the truth look to the cross, the cross that fills that font with divine mercy and love. There in the water is your Savior’s heart for you. Look also to the altar. There is the sacrament of your Savior’s body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Let your eyes behold the mercy of our God. Let your feet lead you to His throne of grace. Let your hands gather up His body for you to eat and His cup for you to drink. These give God’s grace through God’s Word. And then having tasted the goodness of the Lord, Let your eyes behold your neighbor and let your feet be moved toward them in love, where your hands may lift them up and bring them also to this place of God’s mercy. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!