Sermon- “Instructions to the Church,” Pentecost 17, Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church, Pastor Joe Asher, LCMS, Germany, September 27th, 2020, *IN NOMINE JESU*
Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others…
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Over the last three and a half decades, I’ve had a lot of experience with church ministry. As a pastor I’ve served loving churches and hard-working churches. I’ve served churches that emphasized Christian education and social ministry, worship and fellowship, and a lot of other things. But while every church demonstrated its own unique strengths, what all the churches also had in common was the weakness of being comprised completely of sinners.
Sinners make up the congregations of every single church on earth… including this one. Sinners recognize their need for Jesus as Savior… which is why sinners come to church. And we all know that sinners have hang ups. They struggle with pride, selfishness, and indulging the sinful nature.
So when we come to God’s house, and as we live our lives in this world, there is always a tension between pleasing God with righteous and holy lives, or falling back into the old pattern where sin drags us down to serve self, the world, and the enemy.
In today’s Philippians reading, we see that the church in Philippi is going back to serving the sinful nature. In the first paragraph, Paul mentions the sin of divisiveness, because he wants them to again have the “same mind,” and the “same love.” The apostle also mentions the sin of rivalry, because everyone wanted to be the most important. So Paul tells the church…
…in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
And the Philippian church needed to be reminded to help others, which indicates that the Christians were sinfully serving self-interest.
The Church has always been a flawed institution. While we call it the “one holy Christian church,” the only reason why it is holy is because it has been redeemed by Christ and washed clean by His holy, precious blood. So the church isholy, and we are clean and forgiven by our Savior Jesus. Based on the cross and our Lord’s death and resurrection for all believers, we stand before God cleansed of all sin.
But the church is also flawed because sinners are in it. And that means that within the church we are
going to struggle with sin and worship and serve beside other sinners who are just like us.
So one of the ways I like to describe the church on earth is to call it a “hospital” for sinners. We all come here because we need the healing and help God provides in this place. He gives us His Word and Sacraments, the Means of Grace, and these gifts give strength to our daily Christian life. In this place God also works in our lives so that we are conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), and also clothed with Christ in Baptism. (Galatians 3:27) And in the Holy Spirit’s power, we grow in faith and maturity so that as the people of God we can be witnesses for Jesus. He alone is the hope for this world.
As Christians in the Church, we listen to Paul in God’s inspired Word as he instructs us, verse 14-
14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation…
Now, that’s quite a statement. We are to do all things without grumbling and questioning?
The truth is that we constantly grumble, question, and complain about everything. We grumble about politics and politicians. We complain about traffic jams on the autobahn, and the long lines everywhere. Crying babies, misplaced keys, cold food, noisy neighbors all tick us off and prompt us to grumble. We gripe about our family, our relatives, and our finances. In the workplace, we get irritated about our bosses, teachers, work situations, lazy co-workers, and slow teams.
But most often we complain about our circumstances. We ask- why am I in this place? Why do I have to manage these problems? Why isn’t life easier and less complicated?
But Paul says,
Do all things without grumbling or questioning
Christians need to be different. And since we have God in view and love Him, we are different. The world has nothing better to do than complain. But through faith in Jesus, we are linked to the power of the universe. And God loves us, and in Him we are “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37) And that means that as Christians, we can not only “survive,” but “thrive” in this fallen world. It’s all because God is with us, and He will never leave us for forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
So Christian brothers and sisters, let’s stop grumbling, questioning, and complaining. Instead, let’s mature in the faith. Let’s allow God… for we can push Him away, let’s allow God to deepen our relationship with Him so He can have His way with us. For when we take God’s perspective, we can be confident that He is in control, and we can trust Him through all the problems we face.
Now in today’s Philippians reading, there is one more reason why we need to show by our behavior that we are different from this fallen, grumbling, and complaining world. Paul says that while we are in the midst of this crooked and twisted generation, that our mission in this life is to, verses 15-16-
…shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life.
The whole reason why it’s important that we don’t grumble, question, complain, and lose our composure when things don’t go our way, is because with our lives, we are lights in the world. We are witnesses for Jesus as we hold fast to God’s truth, which is the Word of life. While the whole world goes
spiriling down into desperation with no view of God and no hope, our Lord wants us to shine as lights in this dark world, and point to Him as the TRUE light of the world.
For Jesus said in John 8:12-
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The true function of light is to dispel the darkness. Darkness cannot remain when illumination is present. In this crooked and twisted generation, the light of Christ is essential. It is crucial. And servants of Christ, you and me, have a mission to shine with Jesus’ light in a world that is hopelessly lost.
As a Christian on an athletic team with non-Christians, you are the light in darkness. If you are a Christian family in a non-Christian neighborhood, you are the light in darkness. The same is true if you are the only Christian nurse on your floor, or student in your school, or soldier or airman in your unit. You are the light in darkness—a servant of God who is a follower of Jesus, and you give off light because you know Jesus as Savior.
God bless you all as bright and shining witnesses for Jesus our Lord. Amen. +Sola Deo Gloria+
Pentecost 17- KELC- Prayers of the Congregation- 9/27/20
Dear heavenly Father, In YOUR KELC congregation, bind us together in love as Your people. Help us to always be at peace with one another, and keep us from all grumbling and division. Through our absolute trust in You, help us to live in godliness so that in our behavior we may shine as lights to the world in our witness to Jesus Christ.
Lord in Your mercy………………………………….Hear our prayer.
Blessed Savior, unite us, that we may be of one mind and one will in doctrine, witness and service. Bless us as we come at Your bidding to receive Your body and blood at this table. Strengthen us in our faith, and make us confident in the forgiveness of sins which You provide.
Lord in Your mercy………………………………… Hear our prayer.
Eternal Holy Spirit, bestow on us the fruit which You provide Your people. Give unto Your Church the gifts which we desperately need, particularly love for each other, and peace and joy in our fellowship.
Lord in Your mercy…………………………………….. Hear our prayer.
Finally, heavenly Father, in our families and among our friends and co-workers there are many who are in need of Your care. For those who are sick, hospitalized, away on duty assignments, traveling, unemployed, and for all other needs, we name our loved ones in our hearts before you now…
Lord in Your mercy/ hear our prayer… Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.