April 2, 2020
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Faith That Sees through the Culture – Session 1


(upbeat music) -: The Word of God has two different meanings for what we translate into English, world. It might refer to God’s very good creation, that is what the Lord declared the world to be when He rested on the seventh day. By the way, this remains true. Even with all the problems in our world, it’s still God’s very good creation. Now on the other hand, the word world can also refer to evil influences in the world. 1st John 2:16 teaches us that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life do not come from the Father, but from the world. That’s not good news for us because all of us are in the world. Too often, the world entices our sinful flesh, and before we know it, we’re giving more attention to the things of the world than to the things of God. All of us are bombarded by all that the world throws at us to distract us from daily returning to our holy baptism, into the death and the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Even with all the best efforts of the world, by God’s grace, he leads us to the good news that in Christ, all our sins are forgiven, even for the times that we’ve allowed ourselves to follow the world instead of our Savior. Once we’re led back to Jesus, however, the Holy Spirit also leads us to know that while it’s undeniably evident that we are in the world, it’s also true that being covered by the blood of the Lamb, we don’t belong to it. We belong to Christ. The question is, how do we maintain the balance between in and not of? We do so only by the grace of God as the Lord leads us to walk by faith and not by sight. These words from 2nd Corinthians 5:7 are the thematic words for the entire book, “Faith that Sees Through the Culture.” If we ever needed to live out walking by faith and not by sight, then the time is now, because we struggle with the outside, not only in respect to the world, but also in respect to the devil and his demons. The moment the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens us in the one true faith, the evil one goes on the prowl as a roaring lion seeking to devour us, seeking to destroy our faith. We need to say more if we are to properly understand this threat. What would it take to destroy our faith? The answer is assuredly quite clear. Since saving and living faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ, Romans 10:17, the devil’s practical goal is to rip us away from the Word. In all the ways he attacks, he tries to draw us away from the regular and frequent reception of this true means of grace, because without the Word, our faith withers away. So if this is the evil one’s goal, and to be sure, it is, then what will he use to try to accomplish it? Dr. Luther helps us to understand how one is pulled away from the Word. In his “Large Catechism,” he says, “You can easily see and sense “how the world practices only false worship and idolatry. “For no people have ever been so corrupt “that they did not begin and continue some divine worship. “Everyone has set up as his special god “whatever he looked to for blessings, help, and comfort.” Later on, as Luther continues expositing on the First Commandment, he writes, “Just let not the devil and the world deceive you “with their show, “which indeed remains for a time, “but finally is nothing.” This two-pronged attack from the outside, the world and the devil, is formidable to say the least. It can feel and appear pervasive as well. Whole societies and nations can fall prey to the world and to Satan. In 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel suffered the results of this very thing. They became fat on the things of the world and they lived in luxury. But what was even worse than their immorality was their corresponding idolatry. They forgot about God and they chose other gods to worship instead. As a result, their nation was destroyed by the Assyrians. This is a reminder of how serious the threat against us really is. When baptized Christians feel the assault against them, then it’s possible for a Christian, yes, even for a true Christian, to feel despair. St. Paul admitted as much in 2nd Corinthians 1:8. “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength “that we despaired of life itself.” The pietistic and those who buy into the lie that true Christians do not struggle would have us believe that if we’ve ever felt despair, then we’re assuredly without faith. This is simply not true. What do we do when such days come? We need to return to our source of faith. This is when we return to Jesus. And as the people of God, we know where He has promised to be found: in His Church, where His Word is proclaimed in its truth and purity, and where His Sacraments are rightly administered. And in His Church, he gives us genuine brothers and sisters in Christ who help bear our burden, encourage us, and remind us that even in the face of the two-pronged attack from the outside, we are led to walk by faith and not by sight. (serene music) (serene music) (serene music) (upbeat music) (serene music) (serene music) In chapter one, we considered our struggling with the outside, but that’s not the end of our spiritual battle. We also experience struggling on the inside. St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, “for we brought nothing into the world, “and we cannot take anything out of the world.” We know that this is the undeniable truth of God’s holy Word, and yet, how content are we? In our sinful nature, we’re anything but content. In the flesh, we don’t want to be content with God, but much to the contrary, we strive to resist Him. In chapter two, I wrote about the story of my dad in World War II. He was driving an amphibian vehicle into battle. One of his fellow Marines panicked and jumped into the ocean, and with his heavy gear, started to drown. My dad went in after him, but when he did, his fellow Marine started to fight against my dad, and now both were in danger of drowning. My dad struck him hard enough to knock him out and take him safely back to the amphibian. When we are not content, this is a sign that we are resisting God. In grace, He knocks us out or slays our sinful nature with the hammer of His law so that we would confess our sins, and in holy absolution, be brought back to the saving gospel and the forgiveness of our sins in Christ. In Christ, we have everything we need and everything that is good for us. When we hold to this truth, we walk by faith and not by sight. But recall that 1st Timothy 6:6-7 also mentions godliness. That is, when we walk by faith, there’s something we are doing, and this too is the gift of God. And that doing amounts to the fruits of repentance, the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do, Ephesians 2:10. Faith is living and active, and to walk by faith is to be constantly aware of the new life we have through the forgiveness of sins. At the same time, however, we must understand that this new life does not eliminate our constantly being confronted with everything that comes with sin. Psalm 51:5 clearly teaches, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, “and in sin did my mother conceive me.” In fact, as we grow in faith, we become more keenly aware of this truth, so we know what to expect. So what should we daily expect? With our sin nature comes the experience of guilt, shame, and fear. When these come, ironically, our very sinful nature has its own version of what to do with these. We get busy in our own will and our own way to try to do something with our loads. We work and work to try to justify ourselves, and thereby, so the logic goes, to waylay the guilt, shame, and fear. In this way, we’re absolutely not making things better. In fact, we’re making them worse. God’s way is to take us back to the day we were incorporated into the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You know when that day was, Christians. It was the day you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It was the day that God got into the water with you and saved you as the old nature was drowned and new life was given. John 3:5-8, “Jesus answered him, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, “he cannot enter the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, “and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” “The wind blows where it wishes, “and you hear its sound, “but you do not know where it comes from “or where it goes. “So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.'” Yes, Christians, we were born again on the day we were baptized. Whether you remember it or not, that doesn’t matter. God does, and He tells us what happened on the day we were. We were born again by water and the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. The question now is what characterizes this new life? It is the constant walking by faith that asserts the truth. I do not walk alone. Jesus Christ, the one into whom I was baptized, walks with me. I do not have to look elsewhere for help as I am confronted with my inside struggles and outside ones. All I do is look to Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith. When John Newton, who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace,” had been overwhelmed with voyages, dangers, toils, and snares, and then brought to the brink by a brutal storm, the next day, he cried out to the Lord, and his coming to faith in the one who saw him through all storms, he wrote the hymn. You know the first stanza. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. This is our story as well, Christians. By grace and the Holy Spirit working through the Word, we see Christ who calms our storms. (serene music) (serene music) (serene music) (upbeat music) (serene music) (serene music)

Jean Kelley

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