SERMON: Who Do You Think You Are!?! (Philippians 2:1–18; Matthew 21:23–32)

The "Five Two/Wiki 14" fiasco has only highlighted the need for ongoing and proper catechesis within the LCMS Church.

In addition, it's highlighted the importance of Pastors who faithfully preach Law and Gospel week-in-and-week-out.

This week, I want to give you a smorgasbord of Bible-based preaching and teaching that will include 4 separate but related resources -- an introduction to this week's Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings (with discussion); a video presentation on the Epistle reading; a sermon on Philippians 2:1-18, and another on Matthew 21:23-32.

Yes, that's a lot, and my intention is not to overwhelm anyone, but I think I'd like to try to make the posts in this weekly series sort of a "One Stop Shop" for anyone who's looking for those Lutheran Pastors who are mindful of fulfilling their calling to be ministers of God's Word and Sacraments.


2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.


We should pray for Pastors who do not preach self-consciously, as if they need to prove themselves, but those who preach as ones already accepted by God through faith in Jesus; those who "rightly handling the word of truth" properly preach Law and Gospel.

Let's start with this week's episode of LampLight Conversations.


Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost 
This week on LampLight Conversations, Vicar Jacob Hercamp, who is serving out the 2014–2015 academic year at Zion Lutheran Church, in Imperial NE, joined our conversation on the lessons for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, which are: 
Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32 
Psalm 25:1–10 
Philippians 2:1–18 
Matthew 21:23–32 
CLICK HERE to listen to this week's show.


I've only listened to LampLight Conversations once before today, but I think I'm going to try to make this a regular part of this weekly sermon series, because it's a great way to get yourself acquainted with the week's readings you're going to hear in church (or should).

Plus, the more faithful Bible study resources the better, right?

Now, we turn our attention to Worldview Everlasting's video on Philippians 2:1-18.


VIDEO: The Grammar Police Use Dodgeballs (Philippians 2:1-18) 
Sometimes something as simple as an alternate translation can make the difference between salvation by faith and salvation by works. Philippians has many famous passages concerning what we are supposed to do as Christians – how we are to live out our Christian life. But as is so often the case, what if Philippians 2 isn’t about so much as what we do, but what Christ has done for us? Pastor Fisk takes on Philippians 2:1-18 in today’s Greek Tuesday and points us back to salvation by grace alone through faith alone.


Next, let's turn our attention to a sermon on that same passage of the text from Philippians 2 since it's now fresh in our mind.

 It's a sermon from Pastor Charles Henrickson and it was found over at Steadfast Lutherans.


 
"You Shine As Lights In The World" (Sermon On Philippians 2:1-18) 
In our Epistle for today, from Philippians 2, St. Paul appeals to us Christians to live as who we are, namely, “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” 
Did you hear that? “You Shine as Lights in the World.” Yes, you do! And today we’ll find out why and how. But before you can shine, first you have to be children of God. How did that happen? God had to make you his children. And that did not happen by your birth according to the flesh. No, you needed to be born again. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You had to be born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit. In other words, Baptism. You needed a new nature. Your old self was born in sin, the original, inherited sin that came down to us from Adam. We all are born with it, that old, Adamic sinful nature, and we all grow up in it and go along with it. Rebellion against God. Wanting to be our own god. Not loving God. Not loving our neighbor. Turned in on ourselves. That’s who we are by birth. And that birth will get you nowhere–nowhere except to the grave and hell. 
But God in his grace gave you the new birth in Holy Baptism, what the Bible calls “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit worked faith in your heart, through the Word of God, so that now you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior. Christ has washed away your sins by his blood shed on the cross, making you blameless and innocent and without blemish in God’s sight. In Baptism, God put his name on you and claimed you for his own. You have a new nature now. You are the children of God. Now we’re talking. Now we can hear the words of our text and apply them to ourselves. We are the children of God spoken of in our text. The Apostle Paul is speaking to us today, as well as to the Philippians of old. 
You, dear friends–yes you–are “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” You are children of God, but you live in a world that is decidedly not a friendly or compatible environment for the children of God. St. Paul here says that we live “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” It was so back then, and it is so today. Want any proof of that? Just turn on the television or read the newspaper. You can see the crookedness and the twistedness of this generation on full display. Half-clad pop tarts twerking away. Islamic terrorists chopping people’s heads off. The President of the United States applauding and encouraging sodomite “marriages,” so called. Real marriage being disdained in favor of hooking up and shacking up. Materialism and greed and the love of pleasure being the top pursuits. The world has gone completely mad. Evil is called good, and good is called evil. That’s the world we live in. Truly a crooked and twisted generation. Hardly a haven for Christian faith or life. 
We are in the world, but we are not of the world. We have a different set of values. We have a different God, the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this God gives us our meaning, our identity, our purpose, and our security in this world gone mad. We march to the beat of a different drummer. And God has a purpose for us in this sin-darkened world. We’re here for a reason. I suppose God could have just beamed us up and whisked us away as soon as we were baptized. But instead God left us here for a reason. There is a purpose for us being the church in the world. And here it is. Paul says it: “You shine as lights in the world.” This is a world that needs the light that we have, and God will use us to shine forth with this light. The world is lost in darkness, groping around, not knowing God, and not even knowing that they’re lost and heading to hell. But instead of us bemoaning the fact that we have to live here, God has a positive purpose for us as church in the midst of the darkness. We shine as lights. And today let me suggest two ways in which we do that. 
We shine as lights in the world because we have the mind of Christ. And second, we shine as lights in the world because we have the message of Christ. 
First, we shine as lights in the world because we have the mind of Christ. This is our new nature again that I’m talking about. The Spirit forms in us the mind of Christ, so that we begin to think and act as our Savior did. This mind of Christ–this is a mind set on service, enlivened with love, and clothed with humility. And God has prepared and equipped us so that we can respond in this way. Paul writes at the start of Philippians 2: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” And later Paul adds, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is to think and to act in a Christ-like way. But you say, “I can’t do that!” No, according to your old nature you cannot. And even as a Christian, your old Adam will still be tugging at you, pulling you back to the ways of the world, the ways of the sinful flesh. But remember, you are baptized. You have a new nature, created in Christ Jesus, formed and led by the Spirit. So these are words for you. Listen to what Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” This mind is yours in Christ. You have it. It is God’s gift to you. And this mind of Christ is a humble, loving, servant mind, bent on doing the will of God and loving and serving others. That’s the mind you have now, in Christ. And this makes a difference in how we live. So this is the first way in which we shine as lights in the world: We live differently. We love and serve one another. We love and serve our neighbor. This stands out. This shines out. 
People notice the way we live as Christians, as church. It was said of the early church, that the world would look at them and say, “See how they love one another!” The light of Christ shines through in the way we live and it brings honor and glory to God. Jesus said this very thing, didn’t he? He told his disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The church is called to be an oasis of love in a dry and thirsty land. Our congregation is called to be a family of brothers and sisters, serving one another in love. Yes, we have the mind of Christ being formed in us, and it shapes the way we live. And this, in turn, will draw people to our message. And so that now is the second way in which we shine as lights in the world: We have the message of Christ. 
Paul gives a great summary of this message smack dab in the middle of our text today. Philippians 2:5-11, one of the great passages in all of the New Testament: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” What a wonderful confession of the person and the work of Christ! He, the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, willingly took on human flesh and became our brother. He came down from heaven “for us men and for our salvation.” He took the form of a servant, just as Jesus said about himself: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 
Yes, Jesus is our Redeemer, who sets us free from our bondage to sin and death. He did this by humbly doing the will of the Father to the point of death, so great his love for God and for us. And not just any death, but even death on a cross, the most brutal and shameful death there could be. He, the innocent one, bore the sin of the guilty, namely, you and me–indeed, the sins of the whole world. With his saving mission accomplished on the cross–“It is finished!”–God the Father then raised up his Son, exalting him to the highest place, so that now the name of Jesus is the one name under heaven by which men are saved. It is the name we Christians praise and glorify. It is the name, this name of Jesus, the Savior of the world–this is the name we spread abroad, as we shine as lights in the world. “You shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” 
We are holding fast to the word of life, for we know that this is the word of life for us. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train. No, it is our soon-coming King, Jesus Christ, who will come and take us home to be with him forever. Having this sure hope, we hold fast the word of life. And at the same time we hold forth the word of life, for this is a word not only for us but for the life of the world. 
How do we do that? By having the mind of Christ and the message of Christ. We shine as lights in the world because we have the mind of Christ, loving and serving one another, and the world will notice that. And we shine as lights in the world because we have the message of Christ, preaching and teaching, sharing and spreading the only saving gospel in our community and around the world. Beloved, know this today; take it to heart and take it home: Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”


Finally, we wrap things up with a short sermon from Pastor Karl Weber on Matthew 21 (also from Steadfast Lutherans).


By Whose Authority? A Sermon On Matthew 21:23-27 
Some people ask questions because they do not want to learn. Let me repeat that: Some ask questions because they do not want to learn and this is what we see in our text for today. 
The Pharisees believed in the resurrection and that is the main thing which separated them from the Sadducees. But the Pharisees were becoming uncomfortable for they would hear in Jesus’ words that he is the resurrection and the life and no one come to the Father accept through him. For Jesus to make this claim or to imply that he is God was blasphemous for the Jews. It is also a blasphemous for Islam, Mormonism, and all other religions. The chief priests and elders of the people were asking questions in attempt to domesticate Jesus, to tame him, to place him under their control. 
You know the truth that the person who asks the questions is in control of the conversation. You see this all the time with the news media and that is why an astute person will answer questions not asked in order to not be placed under control. But to not be under Jesus’ control invites death and it is a death that continues when you have ceased to live. As Jesus tells us through Jeremiah, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (18:6). 
Unbelieving rebellious clay does not to submit to the hand and way of the potter inviting destruction. "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” [asked the chief priests and the elders]. Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things” (Mt 21:23-24). Out of love for their souls salvation Jesus will not go down the path they desire. They hedged their bets knowing if they said John’s baptism was from God that would mean they needed to believe John’s message. And what was John’s message regarding Christ? We confess the Baptizer’s message using his own words found in the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel which are now used in our liturgy. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me’ (Jn 1:29). With these words John confesses the eternal nature of Christ, that is, his divinity, and that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system. 
By-far-and a-way the most common sacrifice in the Old Testament was the morning and evening sacrifice which involved a lamb. The Baptizer is saying that all four legged lambs pointed to and find their culmination in this two legged lamb standing before them—Jesus. The chief priests and elders also knew if they denied the authority of the Baptizer they would have a riot on their hands for the people held John in high esteem. Knowing what is in the hearts of all people (Jn 2:24) Jesus did not entrust himself to the questions asked. They were being asked to put Jesus in his place, mock him or otherwise control him. Not all questions are meant for learning. Jesus will have none of this for he came to the world to save the world. 
Remember what we learned from last week’s Gospel, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mt 9:12). You are here this day my friends because you confess that you are sick and need help from outside yourself. Those who continually skip church are, in their own eyes, well and are saying they have no need of a physician. This sickness which all people have is a contagion worse than Ebola and it always ends in death. It is this contagion of sin, original sin that Jesus absorbed onto himself so that he became the host body. And our Lord allowed this contagion to infect, weaken him and draw out his blood while on the cross so your sins are forgiven. 
That which was meant for ill, for evil—the death of his Son on the cross—God worked for good for your salvation. Through Christ’s shed blood on the cross your sins are forgiven! Jesus’ authority comes from the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh. This authority also comes from the heavenly Father. "I speak of what I have seen with my Father, (Jn 8:38). I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (Jn 8:42). "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (Jn 10:18). The authority of Jesus and the ability to believe on him comes not from people, society, or government. This authority to believe on Jesus and receive his gifts comes from the heavenly Father. 
This tension or this division in understanding runs throughout the history of the human race. Does our freedom to worship God come from the chief priests and elders? Does this freedom come from government, from people, or from God himself? The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America says that the: Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” These words from the Declaration of Independence confess that the freedom to Worship God comes not from the elite, be it the chief priests or elders of the people or any form of Government, but from God himself. And now listen to what the First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … The First Amendment says we may engage in the free exercise of religion in the public realm. Human quests for power seek to stifle this freedom and these days we are being told the First Amendment say religious people have the free exercise of “worship” within the sanctuary walls on certain days and hours. This is altogether different from having the free exercise of “religion” in the public realm. 
The chief priests and the elders of the people sought to control religion saying the freedom to worship God come from government, the elite, and not from God himself. As such tyrants of any age, whether it was Cain when he slew Able, or the Pharaohs, or Nebuchadnezzar, Hitler, Stalin or those of more recent time say you can “worship” God in your heart or during certain prescribed venues but you cannot bring your beliefs—your religion—into the public sphere. 
As Christians our authority and freedom to believe our religion and believe on Christ comes from Almighty God, not from our any earthly power. Exercise that freedom my friends, respectfully and honorably as you bring your beliefs into the public market place. Share the Gospel in creative ways where you have the credibility and platform to speak based on your generous abundant, good works (Gal 6:10) so that more may be snatched from the fire (Jude 23). Those who asked questions to control and not learn were not answered by Jesus. Our Lord is not controlled by anyone. And those who persist in hardening their hearts will be met with silence for eternity.


In a Lutheran layman's terms, who do you think you are!?! I'll tell you -- you're IN CHRIST!

Pray that Jesus' life and sacrifice would be firmly placed in our hearts and minds so that the "new creation" we are in Christ may reflect God's light (His truth and grace) as we ourselves faithfully confess His grace and image to others.

I hope you enjoyed these commentaries and sermons that pertain to this week on our church calendar. There's certainly enough here for us to prayerfully consider that I don't need to include the usual notes that correspond with these Bible passages from my Lutheran Study Bible.

By the way, if you're a Pastor who would like me to share your sermon in a future installment of this weekly series, then please just let me know and I would be more than happy to do so.

If you're a layman who knows of some other places where I can find some good Confessional Lutheran sermons to share, then please let me know since I have had a difficult time finding them myself (at least, those that include the text of the sermon).

There is simply no substitute for intensively catechizing (a.k.a. educating) ourselves in the Word of God at home, at church, at school, and online through the use of faithful sermons from faithful Pastors like the ones shared above.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!