Sermon from October 29th, 2017

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“Three Pillars of the Reformation: #3 - Word Alone”

Psalm 1; John 1:1-14

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning!  Today is the 500th anniversary of the movement known as the Protestant Reformation. I can’t think of a better time to dedicate this beautiful room to the glory of God!

Over the last couple weeks we’ve look at the first two pillars of salvation revealed to us in the Bible. Grace Alone! Faith Alone!  Our foundational text are Eph 2:8-10 and Rom 1:17.  Let’s read them again.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:8-10

 “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom 1:17

Today we look at the 3rd pillar.  Word Alone!

But first, let’s review what these words mean.  Grace alone means we are saved as a gift from God, not by any effort or merit on our own part. There is nothing we can do to add to what God has already done for us on the cross of Jesus.

Faith alone means our salvation depends on trusting and obeying Jesus. Abraham believed what God promised and acted on it, Adam and Eve did not. They refused to believe God’s warning that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. Bad mistake!

Our tendency as sinners is to obey God when it’s convenient and go our own way when it’s not. Jesus didn’t do that. He was obedient even to death on the cross. How about you, how far will you go in being obedient to God? Faith involves following, obeying even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it costs us more than we are willing to give.

It was our rebellion that caused Jesus to go to the cross. He didn’t have to, he chose to. If he went that far for us, how far will we go for him?
Word Alone means rather than listening to the advice of the world around us or even our own intuition, we put ourselves under the instruction of God’s Word, the Bible. 

There’s a lot of bad advice out there - things like, “Trust, your feelings, Luke!”  Satan specializes in lying to us by telling us what we want to hear. If we chose listen to him rather than God, the Lord will hold us accountable on judgment day.  Blaming Satan or anybody else for the decisions we make won’t get us off the hook. God has revealed everything we need to know in the Bible. That’s why Satan is so persistent in his efforts to keep us out of it!

There is only one place we can go with the power to help us sort out God’s truth from Satan’s lies and that’s the Bible! It’s not Facebook, it’s not Fox news, not even your pastor.  It’s the Bible. Will we read it or ignore it?  Will we place ourselves under its authority?  Or will we put ourselves over it and pick the parts we like and dismiss the parts we don’t?
Martin Luther wrote, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me. It has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest fruit may fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, then each branch and each twig. And then I look under each leaf… the Bible is the cradle where Christ is laid.”  Martin Luther

Martin Luther and the other reformers learned that the Bible is the only trustworthy authority for faith and practice.  Every word of the 66 books of the Bible is inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand and obey Scripture.  The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to reveal our sin, help us understand the cross, and put our faith in Jesus.

Luther made this point emphatically when he appeared before the religious leaders of the Roman church in 1521. The church prosecutor asked him, “Will you recant?” Luther said  “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand, may God help me, Amen."

 Special note, our faith is not rooted in what Luther said or did. It’s rooted in what the Bible, God’s Word, says.  That was Luther’s point!

Hebrew 4:12 puts it this way: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Heb 4:12

Paul writes in 2 Tim, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Let me give you a few more… “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”  Psalm 119:9

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  Psalm 119:105

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”  Isaiah 40:8
“As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30

Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Jesus is the Word of God in the flesh. He is the One who creates and calls into being that which is not.  He illuminates, makes truth and lies visible, exposes and diagnoses sin.

Through the Word of God the Holy Spirit calls us to come out into God’s light, confess our sin, repent, ask forgiveness, be reconciled, and healed.  God’s Word gives life to the dead and empowers us to believe the Gospel and be saved.

The Bible is like a mirror in which we see ourselves as we really are.  The Bible is a fence to keep us from straying into destruction. But it can’t do this unless we read and study it!

What happens when Christians neglect the Word?  The same thing that happens to any living thing if we don’t water or feed it. It begins to die. When we neglect the Word, we may look healthy, but God’s spirit begins to shrivel within us.

Without God’s truth, we lose our ability to fight off spiritual infection. We can no longer discern Satan’s lies from God’s truth. Sin no longer seems sinful. We withdraw from worship and gathering together with God’s people. We make excuses. I’m tired, I’m too busy, I need a break. We begin to murmur. God hates murmuring!

The things of God no longer appeal to us and eventually, we even begin to avoid them. What’s the end result? Just what the Scripture warns – we return to our old slavery and eventually spiritual death.

We’ve gathered together this morning to dedicate this beautiful building to the glory and service of God, but that is meaningless unless we first re-dedicate ourselves. The Lord isn’t as interested in our building as he is in his people coming together to put themselves under the authority of his Word.

Let’s look at Luther’s explanation to the 3rd Commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” What does this mean?  “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise His Word and the preaching of it, but acknowledge it as holy, and gladly hear and learn it.”

I need to ask us all, including myself, a hard question this dedication Sunday. “Where am I at with the Lord today? Am I avoiding what the Lord has asked of me?”  Paul challenges the Corinthians with these words. “Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor 5:15

Jesus gave up everything for us and he continues to do so. Even today, he’s on 24/7. He’s ever interceding for us. Before we dedicate this new sanctuary, let’s re-dedicate ourselves to serving him, worshipping him, growing in our knowledge of His Word. Will you stand? Let’s begin with recommitting ourselves to our CLC mission statement… now let’s open our hands as an expression of humility and faith before the Lord. Let’s pray together…

“Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace, your undeserved love for us. We ask for the gift of faith, that we would not take your grace for granted. Forgive us for growing weary and neglectful. Forgive us for the times we’ve tried to fill our hunger with things that cannot satisfy. We humbly offer ourselves to you this morning. Cleanse us.  Expose every excuse and ignite us with the same love and passion that brought you from heaven to die on a cross for us. Take your place on the throne of our hearts and set us on fire for you.


Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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