Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sermon -- LWMS Rally (April 20, 2013)

JOHN 10:40-42

In the name + of Jesus.

     John the Baptist never performed a miraculous sign.  All he did was preach the word.  The results were mixed.  Many people came out to be baptized by John.  Even tramps and thieves were repenting at John’s preaching.  But then there were others.  Pharisees and teachers of the law were offended by John.  They did not repent.  They did not think they needed to.  And they were disgusted that the tax collectors and prostitutes believed that God had a place in his kingdom for the likes of them.
     John preached.  He was a voice.  John baptized.  He was an instrument.  But John did not perform or dazzle.  He did not perform a miraculous sign.  Not one.  John did one thing—he pointed people to Jesus.  He called people to repent of themselves and to go to Christ for hope, for comfort, and for salvation.  The testimony of the crowds speaks volumes: “Everything John said about this man was true.” (John 10:41)
     There is a thrill when we hear pastors and missionaries tell stories about sinners who are brought into the kingdom of God.  Some stories are stunning.  And some pastors and missionaries get to tell many amazing stories.  It is exciting and it is easy to rally behind the missionaries who have the best and the most stories.  We give thanks to God for every sinner who has been redeemed.  The angels rejoice, too.
     But for every sweet story, Satan hands out a bitter pill.  And it is easy to swallow it.  You hear how this pastor has had streams of guests flowing into his mission.  You hear how that missionary witnessed a family convert from the belligerent to the blessed.  But then other missionaries have few stories.  Some preach and seem to see no fruits from their labors.  You may also wonder why you are not seeing more guests and conversions at your own church.  Suspicions are raised.  You wonder what is wrong with some missionaries because they don’t have more stories.  You wonder: Why doesn’t my church have these amazing stories?  Why aren’t the results more miraculous? 
     Your pastor may well get frustrated, too.  From time to time, all of God’s ministers feel like they may as well be voices in the wilderness, shouting to the desert air.  When no one is listening, at least you aren’t disappointed when nothing happens.  We all long for miraculous results.  Do not be deceived.  Faithfulness is not proven by results.  Dejected pastors do not need suspicions, but encouragement.  And do not pray for miraculous signs.  God’s word does not need any assistance.  If they do not listen when your pastor tells them about Jesus, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
     When the crowds commended John the Baptist, they did not say, “Wow!  He really packs them in!  He really gets results!”  Instead, they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” (John 10:42)  God’s word is true whether people repent or not.  Preaching the gospel is fruitful whether you see the harvest or not.  John never performed a miraculous sign.  John preached about Jesus, and everything John said about that man was true.  That is what is needed.  That is all the tax collectors and the prostitutes and the Pharisees needed.  That is what the world needs.  You need it, too.
     You need to hear that your sins are not taken away by miracles, but by the God who became flesh for you.  God does not demand signs, but obedience.  Since you have not given it, Jesus Christ lived on behalf of all mankind.  He lived and kept and preached God’s truth.  There is your righteousness.
     Then he died for all who have fallen for the lies—
            for the lies that say you only need to behave,
            that you only need to be nice,
            that you must perform up to a certain level and produce results and grow the church. 
     Jesus has paid the price for all sinners—
            for the dejected who think that God has failed them,
            for the prideful who want to share credit for God’s conversions,
            for the glory seekers who think that faithfulness is measured by numbers,
            for the heathen whose fear has him cowering before his idols,
            for the loud-mouthed man who glories in his sin,
            for the quiet woman who hides her sins and lives in secret shame,
            for Pharisees, for prostitutes, and for you. 
     For all people, this truth stands: Jesus Christ has come into this world to save sinners.  He has endured the scorn, the shame, and the wrath of God for all.  Therefore, he brings forgiveness of sins to all.  He bestows peace upon all.  He has comfort and salvation for all.
     Jesus reveals and gives his blessings through his preached word.  Miraculous signs are not necessary.  Miraculous results prove nothing—though we rejoice when God gives them.  As Jesus’ ministers proclaim his word, the Lord grants faith where and when he wills.  The charge given to his ministers and missionaries remains the same as that entrusted to John the Baptist: Preach the Gospel.  Point people to Jesus.  Tell the truth.  For, that is where God’s mercy is revealed.  That is where God’s forgiveness is given. 
     That is why we rally to God’s truth.  That is why we support those who preach it.  It is all that saves, and it is all you need.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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