Sermon for November 14, 2010

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (25th Sunday after Pentecost—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

November 14, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text for today is the Epistle lesson from 2 Thessalonians 3:

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Fact: Not all people have saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Fact: Without saving faith in Jesus Christ, people are lost to death in hell.

Fact: You and I must pray for missions and for evangelism

Fact: You and I must share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

So we start off with the problem—not all people have saving faith in Jesus Christ.  How do we know?  The Bible tells me so, right here in our text.  “Not all have faith.”  If everyone had faith in Jesus Christ, congregations like ours would be filled to overflowing with believers.  That isn’t the case because not all people have faith.

Saving faith is trust in the heart that believes that only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  This faith trusts that Jesus died on the cross to receive people’s punishment for sin, winning our complete forgiveness and right standing before God.  Faith believes that Jesus rose again from the dead on Easter Sunday morning, forever defeating death, guaranteeing our bodily resurrection from the dead.  It is faith alone that receives God’s blessings that Jesus won for us on the cross with His death and with His resurrection—the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation.  But, not everyone has this faith.

There are people living in our community, right now, today, who do not have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Some of these people are our neighbors and our friends.  They are coworkers and classmates.  They are adults and they are children.  They are the lost.  Without faith they are lost in that they do not have the hope of eternal life, but rather only the punishment of eternal death.  Without faith they are lost because they do not receive forgiveness for their sins.  They are lost because they do not believe in Jesus Christ.  The Bible makes this very clear in Acts 4:12, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth. . . . There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

One of the sad tragedies is that the Lost don’t realize their “lostness.”  They are unaware of their sick spiritual condition of separation from God.  They do not recognize their sin, their complete helplessness to change themselves, and their need for a Savior from death and hell.  Sin has so blinded people that they don’t know how dangerous it is.  People have a notion that they are basically good, that everything is fine.  If people are basically good, then why is there so much evil in the world?  If people are basically good, why are there so many murders, attacks, robberies, and the like?  People are NOT basically good.  All people, including you and me, were conceived and born sinful, evil, wicked, and godless.

Stinging words, aren’t they?  These are words that speak of a tragic, horrible reality.  It’s God’s Word in the Bible that shows us our lost condition.  It’s God’s Word in the Bible that shows us our separation from God, our sin, our helplessness to change.  Listen to what the one, true God says.

Psalm 51: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

Ephesians 2:1: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins”

We all started life in this world in the darkness and blindness of sin.  We all started out lost from

God and the eternal life He has prepared for us.  And it took an act of God to change that.  St. Paul writes in our text, “For not all have faith.  But the Lord is faithful.”

God had sinners to deal with and used His love to win them.  Immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate the forbidden fruit, bringing sin into the world, God promised to make everything right again.  He promised a Savior from sin and death and hell.  This Savior, a child of a woman, would defeat Satan, that ancient serpent.   God’s Son, Jesus Christ, walked among sinners and treated them as His friends, with His wondrous patience.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends.” (John 15:13-14a)

The Lord was faithful to His promise.  Jesus, the Son of God, was born of the virgin Mary to be our only Savior.  Jesus was faithful in keeping God’s Commandments perfectly on our behalf.  Jesus was faithful in suffering the agony of death and hell on a cross for you and me and for all of the lost.  It is the eternally valuable blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all our sins.  Jesus’ death on the cross means our forgiveness and our eternal life.  Jesus rescued us and all people from our “lostness.”  It was Christ who “came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)  It was Jesus, the Good Shepherd to us who are like sheep who have gone astray and cannot find our way home, who went to search for us.  When He found us in our sins, suffering covered in our guilt, He picked us up, washed us in His cleansing blood, put clean, new clothes on us, and carried us home rejoicing!

This happened through the waters of Holy Baptism.  Washed with the water and the Word of God, we were cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away our sin.  We were clothed with the righteousness, the holiness, of Jesus.  In Baptism our faithful Lord rescued us from our sin and its guilt by freely giving us forgiveness.  He saved us from death and from the devil’s power.  He gave us the gift of saving faith, establishing us as believers in Christ, guarding us from the evil one.  As a gift to us who were once lost but are now found in Christ, the Lord Himself now directs our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfast patience of Jesus Christ.

“Not all have faith.  But the Lord is faithful.”  He was faithful to you and me who were once lost in sin and death without saving faith.  God called us to be His children in Baptism.  He gave us faith in Jesus as our only Savior, forgiving us, saving us, and giving us life forever with Him.  And the Lord’s faithfulness continues through you and me to those who remain lost today without saving faith.

Remember the lost?  They are your neighbors and friends, coworkers and classmates.  They are adults and they are children.  They do not know Jesus Christ by faith.  They do not trust in Him as their only Savior from sin and death.  What can we do?  We can do nothing on our own.  To change sinful hearts is an act of God alone.  But God has picked you and me to carry the message of faith, forgiveness, and life to the lost.

Paul begins today, “Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.”  The Word of the Lord runs ahead and speeds along when it is proclaimed, announced, and shared with the lost.  The Word cannot run too fast and too far and receive too much glory in the hearts of people.  But how does the Word of the Lord, the Good News about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, run?  It runs with our legs; it speaks with our mouths.  If you, the believers in Jesus Christ who live by faith in the Son of God, do not speed ahead God’s Word of love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, it will not go.  God’s Word says this in Romans 10, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

(Romans 10:14-17)

Everything we do as a Christian congregation centers on Christ and His mission to seek and to save the lost.  Our Pre-School, Sunday School, Vacation Bible school all seek the bring children into a loving relationship with their friend Jesus.  Bible classes, tag sales, craft fairs, the Food Shelf Ministry especially target adults that we might share Jesus with them.  But that is not enough.  Each one of you, boys and girls, men and women, you must take the message about Jesus to your neighbors and friends, coworkers and classmates.  You simply must.  They must hear the message about Jesus.  The Word of the Lord has to run its course and it has to run through you.  There is simply no option because those who live without Christ are lost and you have the only message of salvation to give them.

With faith in Jesus, we pray that each one of us individually will carry the Lord’s Word from this place out into the community, our homes, schools, and workplaces.  We are confident to share the message of Jesus Christ because the Lord directs our hearts and our words as we speak His Word on His behalf.  He will establish and guard us against the evil one.  He will open doors of opportunity for His Word to grow so that many who are now lost will be found by His Word, Jesus Christ.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)  Amen.