Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Way of Discipleship

September 4, 2016 — Proper 18
Sermon Text — Luke 14:25-35
Audio —


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. Luke’s gospel account the 14th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

Life and Good, Death and Evil

SermonGraphic_300x220God’s Children are His baptized children.  Israel was baptized in the Red Sea, you were baptized in water and the word.  God’s children are His baptized children.  As His baptized children the Lord sets before you life and death, good and evil, not to tempt you – for the Lord tempts no one but to teach you that there is always a way from God and in the end that way leads to eternal death.  Jesus is the only way to God and wherever Jesus goes there is life and there is all good.  In the waters of Baptism is life because Jesus is in the waters of baptism.  All is good in Jairus’ home because Jesus comes to Jairus’ home.  There is life and there is all good in this place not because we are here, but because Jesus is here with His life-giving gifts.

So with the multitudes in our gospel text we go where Jesus goes for wherever Jesus goes there is life and there is good as we live in a world surrounded by death and evil.  Following Jesus we learn the way to God and the way of God.  His way leads through death and grave to eternal life.  His way is good.  You have been baptized into His way.  Landyn has been baptized into His way, thus the baptized  of God are disciples of Jesus. There are no disciples that are not baptized.  It is God’s will that His baptized follow Jesus that following Jesus faith in Jesus is strengthened and love toward one another is nurtured.  Following Jesus leads to eternal life.  That is the good way set before you this morning (evening).

Hating and Loving Out of Order (hearts turned away so that you do not hear)

But there is another way, a way in which we are tempted by the devil, the world and our own sinful nature.  It is the way that we would love to walk for it is the way that we would walk by sight.  A picture is worth a 1000 words, but whose words are they?  Walking by sight means walking by our own words, our own understanding, our own perceptions and interpretations.  We walk this way or that way because it looks good, is attractive to the eyes, pleases the senses, stimulates the mind, invigorates the flesh, in other words, because it makes us feel alive, it seems right.

Jesus calls us out in our text this morning (evening) when He says, “if anyone comes to me and does not hate, father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”  Our contemporary ears are scandalized by such words.  Followers of Jesus are called to hate?  And worse than that we are called to hate that which God has commanded us in His Holy Law to love and honor?  But think and these things beloved.  Our text this morning (evening) is not about our coming to our parents but our coming to Jesus, following Jesus, being Jesus’ disciple.  Of all those in our life who would we most likely be tempted to love more than Jesus?  Who would we most likely put before Jesus and His way?  Family and loved ones can quickly become idols in whom we see life and all good.  Today Jesus sets before you Himself and your loved ones.  Who alone leads to eternal life?  Who will you follow?  Who will you love above all others?  Who is your source of all joy and happiness?  Truly families are good and from families comes new life, the next generation but these do not lead to life they rather flow from it.  “For every good and perfect gifts comes down from above, from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  Disciples of Jesus are to be followers of Jesus, not followers of the world, not followers of our families, friends, neighbors, or whatever vocation has been given to us but all that we are is to be following Jesus.  So the question put before us today is:  Are we following Jesus?  Does our vocation as parent or child, husband or wife, friend or neighbor, employer or employee flow from our following Jesus or is our following Jesus dependent on how such following fits in which our relationships?  When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus there is no equating the love we have for others with the love we owe Him.  Where we have failed in this regard we are called to repent.  Where we have wandered off we are called to return.  Where we have set down our cross, stopped building the tower, disengaged from the battle against sin, death, and devil, we must repent.

Coming After Him to Share what is His

To be His baptized children means to be His disciples.  To be His disciples means follow where He leads, as He leads, when He leads, no matter the temptations to do otherwise.  To follow Jesus as His disciple is to share in the Jesus’ life.  His life was given you under water and the word.  That’s what made you His disciple.  That’s what made you His dearly loved child.  Under that water you were crucified with Christ and you were raised with Christ.  The Holy Spirit was generously poured into your heart and you were quicken to faith and new life in Him.  His life, the life given on the cross was given to you.  Your sins and death, what you have earned and what you deserve for eternity, were taken by Him.  What was old was made new.  What was sinner was made righteous. What was dead was made alive.  A great and mighty miracle was wrought beneath that water.  A wondrous deed was done by God’s Spirit filled Word.  And it all happened so quickly, so uneventfully, so gently that it is easy forget what happened and so also who you are in Christ.

Its for this reason that we are called to be His disciples, to continually be coming to Him to share in His Words, His life, His mercy, love and forgiveness.  Thus being a disciple of Jesus is not a single event but a lifelong endeavor, it’s not a few minutes or hours a week, but a daily drowning of the old under those waters and a daily rising again to new life.  Being a disciple of Jesus means being where Jesus is:  during the week that means serving your neighbor with the love and life of Jesus through your vocation.  And most importantly that means regular attendance in the Lord’s House receiving that love and life of Jesus through Word and sacrament.  Life is spent during the week.  And life is renewed by God’s Word of Christ crucified for you.  Thus the whole life of the believer is one lived in Christ, receiving from Christ His life and love and then living that life for others.

Building a Tower that Overcomes the Devil (Christian life in battle)

This is not something that you can just sit idly by assuming that it will happen all on its own.  This is not something you can do apart from Christ’s Word and sacraments.  Jesus likens such a new life to the building of a great tower and the waging of a seemingly unwinnable war.  The task is too big.  The battle too fierce.  The temptation is quit and go with the flow, to make terms of peace with the enemy.  Too many who would be called Christian are content with such lazy discipleship putting worldly joys and the comforts of this life before faithfulness to Christ.  To be made a disciple is truly by God’s grace and God’s grace alone.  Salvation does not necessitate works on our part but is given as a gift solely for the sake of Christ alone.  But discipleship does involve work; building a tower and waging a war.  In no way does our Lord advise us against such labors but in fact sets before us the Christian life of discipleship in our text.  Jesus wants disciples.  Jesus wants builders and soldiers; that is those who upon hearing His Words and believing them put them into practice and through your vocation engage the enemies of humanity, namely sin, death, devil and hell.

This is not easy.  Oft times it is uncomfortable and inconvenient.  Loved ones will pull in different directions.  Neighbors will ridicule you.  Co-workers will judge you.  Families will be divided.  Circumstances will pressure you.  Your own wants and desires will work against you.  Your flesh will grow weary.  Your soul will grow faint.  It will be easier to follow them that it will be to follow Jesus.  The easy path will look better.  The broad path will seem more exciting.   Everyone will tell you that “this way” is the right way.  Following Jesus is bearing a cross because Jesus is leading you away from sin and death.  Jesus is leading the only way to the Father.  Jesus is the only way that leads to life eternal.

Life and Good, Death and Evil.  

Beloved in the Lord, today our God has set before us the way to life and all good.  That way is led by His Son.  Where Jesus is there is life and all goodness.  Today Jesus is here, in our midst, leading the way.  We can’t see Him, not the way the world would see Him, yet we follow Him.  We walk by faith and not by sight.  The one we follow gives us His Word and His supper for the journey.  Our ears know His voice.  Our hearts burn within us as He forgives our failures, binds our wounds, strengthens weak knees, and quickens unto newness of life.  We can’t see Him, not the way the world would see Him, but He is here for our good, for our life.  Without Him we are lost.  Apart from Him we are dead.  Where He is not there is no good. Therefore let us not be deceived by the devil, the world and our flesh, but let us listen to the Savior and heed His words, build that tower, fight the good fight of faith.  In Him we are more than conquerors.  In Him we cannot fail.  In Him we have eternal life and the final victory.  God grant such a life of discipleship for each of us today,tomorrow, and forevermore.  AMEN!


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


Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — The Way of Discipleship — 13 Comments

  1. Pastor,
    Slight error – second section (“Hating and Loving Out of Order”); second paragraph; fourth sentence “But think and these things beloved.” should read “But think ON these things beloved.”?


  2. Dennis, thank you for the textual criticism. Changes have already been made for the congregation. 🙂

  3. “The Holy Spirit was generously poured into your heart and you were quicken [sic] to faith and new life in Him.”

    Might the Holy Spirit come before baptism? Acts 10:44-48 comes to mind.

    “… and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” 1 Cor. 12:3

  4. @Carl H #3

    Carl wrote, “Might the Holy Spirit come before baptism? Acts 10:44-48 comes to mind.”

    Yes, certainly, regarding adults or older children who hear the Word. The Holy Spirit can work through that Word which is heard or read and create faith. However, I had this discussion with someone else regarding the faith of infants prior to Baptism. That person held that an infant can hear the Word in utero or shortly after birth and come to faith. Is that possible? The Holy Spirit can certainly work in any way He pleases, but is such a coming to faith promised in Scripture? Not that I know of. The example is given of John the Baptist who had saving faith in the Messiah in utero. Certainly, but John’s was a miraculous conception; and I see no indication that we can use this example as a sedes doctrinae for the faith of infants prior to birth or shortly after birth.

    The Word may be heard while in the womb or after birth and before Baptism, but that child has not yet learned what those words mean. Can the Holy Spirit still create faith under those circumstances? Possibly, but I see no promise of that in Scripture. If this is the case, however, does that mean that I can go out and preach to those who speak a different language and the Holy Spirit can create faith in them through the Word without them understanding that Word? Possibly, but I see no promise of that in Scripture.

    Regarding those in utero who die before birth, and those infants who die before Baptism; most pastors (including myself) comfort Christian parents in such circumstances by saying that the child heard the Word and that God knows that those parents intended to bring the child for Baptism—thus we have confidence that God will save that child. However, we well-meaning pastors have no (or scant) Scriptural basis for saying that.

    Finally (and about time!), just because someone hears and understands the Word doesn’t mean that saving faith will be created in them. If that were the case, then I could preach good Law and Gospel in Times Square, and everyone within the sound of my voice would be converted. That’s not the way the Holy Spirit works, however.

    So, back to the question, “Might the Holy Spirit come before baptism?” Yes, but the key is the word, “might”. What promise then can I lean upon? That in the sermon above: “The Holy Spirit was generously poured into my heart in Baptism and I was quickened to faith and new life in Christ.”

    I realize that some of the opinions above may be controversial and I make no claim of infallibility. I welcome the opinions of others on this subject.

  5. I thought of a possible objection someone might raise to my thoughts above, that of Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones (Ez. 37):

    And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.”

    Bones don’t have ears and can neither hear nor understand the Word of God, yet those dead bones came to life through the preached Word. But those weren’t literal bones, they were the spiritually dead—but physically alive—people of Israel, who could hear and understand the Word of God Ezekiel was preaching to them.

  6. Someone e-mailed me with the question, in effect, “Are pastors lying to Christian parents when they say that they believe that the parents’ still-born or otherwise unbaptized infants are saved?” No, not at all, we sincerely believe this based on the love of God. We just can’t point to a specific Scripture giving that promise. There are examples (besides the very explicit case of John the Baptist) of apparent faith created in the womb, such as in Isaiah 49:5, “And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant…”, and Jer. 1:5, “”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” However we don’t see a general promise of such faith. Again, in the very difficult situations of death in utero, or death before baptism is able to be granted, we look for comfort to a passage such as “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).

  7. I think there are a few things missing from this discussion:
    1.The New Covenant is not just the Old but with Jesus. Our Lord clearly made the distinction when He said, Luke 16:16, “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.” Luke 7:28, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Therefore, we must be careful when applying what happened in the Old Testament to the New, particularly with regard to the Holy Spirit.
    2.The relationship of the Holy Spirit to the believer is different in the New Covenant from the Old. John 7: 37, “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’ 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Also, John 14: 16. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Our Lord clearly distinguishes between the two tiny words “with” and “in.” There is only a handful of instances where the Old Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit being “in” someone.
    3. The New Testaments provides the instructions we should follow. For instance, with regard to whether the Holy Spirit may come before Baptism, here is the general rule, Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Beyond that we should not speculate, except to acknowledge the fact that if it does not always happens in that order, it simply means that salvation, in its details, remains a mystery. God may choose to save anyone in any way He wills without regard to the order He instructed us to follow, as our Lord did with the penitent thief. Clearly, we are to follow the general rule. Anything beyond that is out of our hands.
    4. As to those who die in utero, I believe that we should trust God to be merciful to the most vulnerable human life on earth. Rev. Fischer, to the best of my knowledge, is right when he writes that Scripture is silent on this topic. When Scripture is silent on a topic for which we need to give someone an answer, I think one solution is to think of the nature of God and to formulate our answer according to the spiritual discernment God has given us (1 Corinthians 15:16). Psalm 130:7, “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” Romans 9:15, “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  8. In the General Prayer I would regularly insert, “Be Thou the God and Father of the widow and fatherless children, and of those who are conceived but not yet born, along with their mothers…” If a child of the congregation tragically died before birth I would point everyone to our gracious Lord to whom we prayed.

  9. @Carl H #3

    There is actually great benefit to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Christ promises that “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” We also see Peter promise in Acts 2:38 that forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit will come with baptism.

    If you do not have the sacrament of baptism, you will always be stuck questioning whether or not your faith is really, truly, really real. You could just be deceived, right? With the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, we can have confidence of our standing with God because of our baptism.

    So like the good Pastor said, you can be saved without baptism, but you’ll likely be left with many doubts. That was my experience as a Baptist, anyway.

  10. @Rev. Robert Fischer (Emeritus) #4

    Go to Just & Sinner Publications and get a copy of Charles Krauth’s 2 Works on Baptism put together into one little booklet. He treats the subject really well! He quotes all of the classic Lutheran theologians to show that we can have great hope that the unbaptized are in heaven, even though we do not have specific promise that this is the case.

  11. @Ken Miller #12

    Ken wrote, “Go to Just & Sinner Publications and get a copy of Charles Krauth’s 2 Works on Baptism put together into one little booklet.”

    To save someone else some time, here’s a link to it— Two Writings on the Sacrament, and a description:

    No doctrine differentiates Confessional Lutherans from the broader Protestant world more than the conviction that regeneration comes through baptism. This volume consists of two treatises by Charles Porterfield Krauth on the subject.

    The fist work is “Infant Baptism and Infant Salvation in the Calvinistic System.” Through an extensive look at Reformed divines, Charles Krauth demonstrates that Reformed theology has no grounds for assurance that one’s baptized children are saved. He shows that the Reformed tradition has a consistent belief in infant damnation, whereas the Lutheran reformation gives assurance to parents of baptized children.

    The second treatise, “Baptism: The Doctrine Set Forth in Holy Scripture and Taught in the Evangelical Lutheran Church,” is a systematic study of the Lutheran view of baptism in contrast to other perspectives.

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