3rd Sunday in Advent (13/12/2020)

Advent 3- Sermon- “Repentance”– 12/13/2020- Pastor Joe Asher, Kaiserslautern Ev. Lutheran Church- Germany- Office of International Mission, LCMS, Psalm 51 included *IN NOMINE JESU*

John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The Testimony of John the Baptist

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The last few weeks we have examined Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the coming Warrior King and Shepherd Jesus.  For the great Old Testament prophet, the Savior was a powerful Warrior coming to defeat Israel’s enemies, while restoring God’s people to a forgiven and blessed relationship with God.  What we know today as we look back on God’s plan for salvation is that Isaiah was giving his prophetic picture of Jesus coming to defeat our enemies of sin, death, and hell by our Lord’s death on Calvary’s cross and by His Easter resurrection.  And from Isaiah chapter 40, we know that the glorious promise is that the Warrior King, Who is also our gentle Good Shepherd, will lead His faithful people home when Jesus appears again in His resplendent Second Advent.

But now, just eleven days away from Christmas Eve, our attention turns directly to John the Baptist who in His ministry welcomed the Lord Himself, baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, and who testified of our Savior- John 1:29-

Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.

The mission of the Baptist was, verse two, 

To bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him.

John pointed to the Savior.  For him and for all of us, Jesus is the Deliverer from sin and our only hope for this lost world.

So out in the wilderness at a place along the Jordan River, John called people to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  To prepare for the coming Savior, people left their comfortable homes and way of life in order to hear John preach God’s Word, and then respond to the Word with repentance and faith.  This was followed by water baptism, and with it God gave what was promised- the forgiveness of sins.

Preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus always begins with repentance.  500 years ago, during

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the time of the Reformation, Repentance was also a major theme.  Just about everyone in Germany was asking the question- If faith alone saves, how should we approach our God in faith?

Martin Luther, when he launched the debate with his 95 Theses, said this in his opening statement-

“The entire life of believers (is) to be one of repentance.”

If this is true, and it is… then, why do modern Christians know so little about repentance?

Today, I want to give you a helpful understanding of what it means to have God-pleasing repentance in our lives.  My hope is that you will come to an understanding of how God wants us to respond to our constant and repeated sins.

The first and best place to go to understand repentance is open God’s Word to Psalm 51.  Here, King David had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, and the Prophet Nathan confronted Israel’s king with the sin.  And in this psalm, David is crushed when he finally recognized the wickedness in his own life.  He had committed sexual sin with another man’s wife.  He had conspired and succeeded in murdering her husband.  And at this moment, in Psalm 51, he is staring at himself and seeing his wretched condition.  David clearly sees that he is under God’s condemnation and deserves both God’s wrath and hell.

So David does the only thing he can do.  He calls out to God for mercy.  Verse 1-

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.

And then David confesses his sin, and in his confession we can see true repentance.  Verse 3-

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.

This confession shows awareness of the evil in his heart and actions, not only against others, but especially, primarily, even singularly against the Lord.  But in the psalm, David goes beyond confession as he recognizes that what he is done is evil and deserving of eternal death and separation from God.

All sin transgresses God’s law.  All sin must be condemned by God’s righteous judgement.  All sinners including you and me deserve hell.  So when we see our sin, we must repent and ask God for mercy.

And now we can see the first part of repentance.  It is called “contrition.”  This word is defined in the Lutheran Confessions as…

The terror striking the conscience through the knowledge of sin. (Augsburg Confession)

In Psalm 51, David understands that without God’s mercy, he is lost.

What about today?  Does terror ever strike our conscience through the knowledge of our sins?  Well, we should be in terror over the consequences of our sin.  While we take our sins far too lightly… the Law says that the “wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  That’s eternal death and hell.  The Law says that “the soul that sins, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18)  The Law says that “it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27)  

So when we get angry at an enemy, and essentially wish that person was dead, then we murder them in our hearts, and we transgress the 5th Commandment.  The wages of our sin is death.  And when we fail to honor our parents, we transgress the 4th Commandment, and the wages of our sin is 

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death.  When we tell little lies, or when we fail to tell the whole truth, we transgress the 8th Commandment, and the wages of our sin is death.  In fact, as we think of our sins of thought, word, and actions throughout each day, the evidence mounts up for our death penalty conviction so much that we have to wonder how we can ever escape God’s righteous condemnation.  In the Lutheran Confessions, this is the terror striking our conscience.  And when we contemplate what our sins deserve, which is hell and total separation from God, this is “contrition” and the first step in repentance.

So when we confess our sins… and we have an excellent confession on LSB page 167, and when we really mean what you are saying, we are showing true contrition before God.  For we must have a repentant heart when we honestly say…

I am by nature sinful and unclean.  I have sinned against you in thought, word and deed.  By what I have done, and by what I have left undone.  I have not loved you with my whole heart.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself.  I justly deserve your present and eternal punishment.

Whenever you sincerely confess your sins in the service or anywhere else, and when you sorrow over and hate the sin in your life, you are demonstrating contrition and true repentance.  

Going back to Psalm 51, God’s Word tells us- verse 17-

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

When we sin, the good news is that God loves you, and me, and this fallen world so much, that He promises to welcome back and not despise repentant sinners.

But the last thing everyone needs to know about repentance is that, once we are broken and hate the sin in our lives, the SECOND PART of repentance is that in t he power of the Holy Spirit, we turn from sin back to Christ and the Gospel.

The Greek word for repentance is μετάνοια

It literally means to “change mind.”

The ability to turn from sin back to God comes as the Holy Spirit convicts us of the sin in our lives, and then turns us back to the mercy of God.  The wonderful work of the 3rd Person of the Trinity is that He points us again to Jesus.  And with Jesus in view, God heals our sin brokenness and restores us again to Himself.  As we believe that the Gospel is for us. And that Jesus died and rose again for us, in the second part of repentance we take our eyes off ourselves and off our wretched sin, and we look to our Savior Who paid for all sin on Calvary’s cross.

And the Gospel is that in Jesus, we receive the mercy of God.

And God’s Word joyfully tells all repentant sinners- Romans 8:1-

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

And this brings us full circle back to John the Baptist’s call to repent and make straight the way of the Lord.  The King is coming.  And in Jesus our Lord,  through faith we receive the mercy of God.  And to all who repent and believe in Him, Christ brings His mercy, forgiveness of sins, and salvation with Him.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.  +Sola Deo Gloria+

KELC Prayers- Advent 3- December 13th, 2020

Dear heavenly Father, In this day when sin is minimized and justified and explained away, help us always as Your people to take sin seriously, and with contrite hearts confess our sin and in repentance turn to You for mercy.  We thank You that in Your Son, we find Your welcoming and forgiving heart.  And when our sins seem to condemn us before Your judgement throne, help us always to remember that there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Lord in Your mercy………………………………………………………… Hear our prayer.

Blessed Savior, as we await the festival of Your birth, turn our hearts to Bethlehem and the joy we have in your arrival.  As Christmas swiftly approaches, help us remember that You are the precious gift for our lives.

Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………… Hear our prayer.

Precious Holy Spirit, As we continue to suffer through these days of COVID and isolation, in these dark days turns our hearts to the light of Jesus.  Our Savior alone can turn sadness into joy, despair into hope, and worry into peace. Give us Your power we pray, since in our weakness we are in great need.

Lord in Your mercy………………………………………………………………… Hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord, 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, lonely,  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.

(Be seated- offering)  

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