Service Times: Sunday 8:00 and 10:45 - get directions

“God’s Gifts of Faith, Forgiveness, and Fellowship”

Date: April 8, 2018 Speaker:



Apr82018

“God’s Gifts of Faith, Forgiveness, and Fellowship”

1st John 1:1-2:2

 Second Sunday of Easter: April 8, 2018

Pastor Mark R. Wiesenborn

St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

 

Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our crucified and risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

 

Dear friends in Christ, did you get any nice gifts for Easter? Maybe an Easter basket, filled with stuffed animals and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and Easter eggs that you open up and there’s a few coins inside? Well, I can think of some Easter gifts that are even better than that. And today I want to tell you about them. They’re right there in our readings for today, and they are these Easter gifts, three of them: “Faith, Forgiveness, and Fellowship.”

 

Faith, forgiveness, and fellowship: three Easter gifts that we have because of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And our readings today from the Gospel of John, the Epistle of 1st John, and the Book of Acts tell us about these gifts.

 

Let’s start with the gift of faith. Alright, so Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, and on that first Easter Sunday has been raised from the dead. That is a fact. But that historical reality wouldn’t do you any good unless you hear about it and, more than that, you believe that it really did happen and that Christ’s death and resurrection mean salvation for you – in other words, that you are trusting in this risen Lord Jesus Christ. And that calls for faith!

 

Because, think about it, you and I have never seen this Jesus risen from the dead. We only have the word of others to go on. But because that word of others – starting with the apostles and coming down to this day, through your pastors and preachers – because that word that they have preached to you is indeed the Word of God, and that word of God is alive and active and creates the very faith it calls for! That is why we believe in a Savior we have never seen. The Holy Spirit works through the word of the gospel to give you the faith you need to trust in Christ and receive the benefits he won for you by his cross and empty tomb.

 

You have not seen Jesus risen from the dead, yet you believe in him. You trust in him for your life, and for your eternal life that will overcome death. And you are not alone in this. Millions and millions of Christians down through the centuries, and millions and millions of Christians around the world today, share this same faith that you have. They have not seen Jesus, either. But they too are blessed like you are with the gift of faith. This shows the power of God’s Word!

 

Very few people, relatively speaking, actually saw the risen Christ. The apostles, of course, and then several hundred others, during the forty days between Easter and Christ’s ascension. But that’s it. Since then, the news of Christ’s resurrection has gone out strictly through the preaching of God’s word, starting with those eyewitnesses and then passed on in the apostolic Scriptures and in Christian preaching throughout church history. But look at the fruit it has borne! The church has gone around the world, to millions of believers on every continent! People who have borne the fruit of faith in their lives through love and good works. People whose faith in Christ enabled them to endure suffering and even martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. What a powerful thing this gift of faith is!

 

And where would we be without it? We would be lost! Still lost in our sins. Still lost in our unbelief. But God has broken through our darkness with the light of the gospel. We hear this good news of Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit takes this word and works faith in our hearts – faith to believe in a Savior we have never seen. Faith to stake our lives on him, to build our lives and our hope for eternity upon this rock of our salvation.

 

 

St. John the Apostle testifies to the power of the gospel to create this saving faith. In John chapter 20 we read the story of Thomas, who would not believe unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched the nail prints in Jesus’ hands. But then when Jesus does appear to Thomas, our Lord says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And that would be YOU, dear Christians. You have not seen, and yet you have believed. And therefore Jesus pronounces you blessed. That’s pretty good, when Jesus calls you blessed!

 

And then right after that, what does John say? He says that these accounts he has written in his gospel, these things “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” And that’s exactly what has happened! The Scriptures tell us about Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us, and through that mighty word of God, we believe in Jesus – that he is the very Son of God, that he died and rose for you and me, for our salvation, and that through this faith, we have life in his name.

 

John says the same thing in the opening of his epistle. He testifies to the risen Christ and the life that he gives, and then John proclaims this message to us, that we too might believe and share in that life. John writes:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands,  concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

 

And so this faith, then, leads to the second Easter gift I want to tell you about today, and that is forgiveness that leads to salvation and eternal life. We need forgiveness. Yes, even after we have come to faith and are Christians, even after we are in this community called the church – you and I need this gift of forgiveness, for as long as we live on this side of glory. Because you and I are still sinners. We sin, we stumble and fall and stray from God’s path. We do things we ought not to do, and we fail to do the things we should do. That is sin. And the ONLY answer to sin is forgiveness.

 

St. John writes about this gift, too, in his epistle: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is God’s promise to us, dear friends! Are you troubled by your sins? Do you wonder if God can forgive you, even after you have messed up, time and time again? And be honest, you know you have. Well, here is the sure promise of God you can count on: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

On what basis will God forgive you? Not because of how sorry you are. Not because you have tried really hard. Not because of anything in you. No, you can be sure God will forgive you because of what Christ has done. John says: “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” And again: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

 

And so we always come back to the cross and what Jesus, God’s Son, did for us there, shedding his holy blood for the sins of the whole world, making the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins, so that now we stand forgiven before God. By faith this gift is yours, free of charge.

 

First faith that leads to forgiveness, then fellowship. This is that Greek word you may have heard about before, koinonia. It describes Christian fellowship as a partnership, sharing in the same things together, what we have in common that binds us into a community. And John here says that our koinonia, our fellowship, is with him, that is, the apostles and the believers of old. And more than that, our fellowship is with God himself: “indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Of course, the Holy Spirit is in there too, since the Spirit is the one working through the word to give us saving faith and to bring us into this fellowship.

 

Fellowship. Koinonia. Community. The communion of saints, the holy Christian church. When you come to faith in Christ, you are brought into the life of the church. This is God’s family, making each of us members of God’s household. There is no such thing as being a Christian apart from the life of the church. That is a contradiction in terms. No, the Spirit will always lead you into the church, Christ’s church, where Jesus is present with his people, where we hear his voice and follow him, in lives of love and service and witness.

 

And so I find it very ironic that so many people today describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Biblically speaking, that is impossible. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will always lead you into Christ’s church, the gathering of God’s people around Word and Sacrament. For a Christian to stay away from church, to choose not to go to church, is impossible. No, a Christian led by the Spirit will be spiritual and therefore religious, that is, active and regular in the life of the church. That is God’s will for his people. Every time.

 

Fellowship. Koinonia. Life together, in the fellowship of the church. We see an example of the benefits of that shared life, that fellowship, in our reading from the Book of Acts. There it says:

“The full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it   at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

 

You see, there is a beautiful unity that exists in the church, in our life together. “They were of one heart and soul,” it says. Beautiful! “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” [Psalm 133:1] And what that means is, we support one another. We build one another up. We care for one another, whenever one of us has a need. This is why God places us in his family, the church. For our benefit. It is one of his Easter gifts, this Christian fellowship.

 

Faith, forgiveness, and fellowship. Three Easter gifts that God offers to all who confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead. Much better than stuffed animals and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Much more valuable than all the coins in all the Easter eggs in the world. And you don’t even have to hunt for them. God gives you these gifts right here, right now. God gives you the gift of faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel. God forgives your sins because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. God gives you the gift of fellowship in his church, where you have brothers and sisters who will support you and build you up and care for you in your times of need. And guess what? There are times when you get called to be the one doing the helping and loving. Faith to guard and guide you during the joys and challenges of life; forgiveness for all the times we stumble or stray from the path God has established for us; and fellowship so that we however we are each blessed, we might share the eternal blessings of God’s light and love with others!

 

So this joyous Easter season we celebrate three gifts our gracious God gives to us, all because of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior: faith, forgiveness, and fellowship. Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

 

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

EPISTLE READING – 1st John 1:1-2:2

 

      1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us –

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

      2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

1st John 1:1-2:2

 Second Sunday of Easter: April 8, 2018

Pastor Mark R. Wiesenborn

St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas

 

Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!) Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our crucified and risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

 

Dear friends in Christ, did you get any nice gifts for Easter? Maybe an Easter basket, filled with stuffed animals and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and Easter eggs that you open up and there’s a few coins inside? Well, I can think of some Easter gifts that are even better than that. And today I want to tell you about them. They’re right there in our readings for today, and they are these Easter gifts, three of them: “Faith, Forgiveness, and Fellowship.”

 

Faith, forgiveness, and fellowship: three Easter gifts that we have because of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And our readings today from the Gospel of John, the Epistle of 1st John, and the Book of Acts tell us about these gifts.

 

Let’s start with the gift of faith. Alright, so Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, and on that first Easter Sunday has been raised from the dead. That is a fact. But that historical reality wouldn’t do you any good unless you hear about it and, more than that, you believe that it really did happen and that Christ’s death and resurrection mean salvation for you – in other words, that you are trusting in this risen Lord Jesus Christ. And that calls for faith!

 

Because, think about it, you and I have never seen this Jesus risen from the dead. We only have the word of others to go on. But because that word of others – starting with the apostles and coming down to this day, through your pastors and preachers – because that word that they have preached to you is indeed the Word of God, and that word of God is alive and active and creates the very faith it calls for! That is why we believe in a Savior we have never seen. The Holy Spirit works through the word of the gospel to give you the faith you need to trust in Christ and receive the benefits he won for you by his cross and empty tomb.

 

You have not seen Jesus risen from the dead, yet you believe in him. You trust in him for your life, and for your eternal life that will overcome death. And you are not alone in this. Millions and millions of Christians down through the centuries, and millions and millions of Christians around the world today, share this same faith that you have. They have not seen Jesus, either. But they too are blessed like you are with the gift of faith. This shows the power of God’s Word!

 

Very few people, relatively speaking, actually saw the risen Christ. The apostles, of course, and then several hundred others, during the forty days between Easter and Christ’s ascension. But that’s it. Since then, the news of Christ’s resurrection has gone out strictly through the preaching of God’s word, starting with those eyewitnesses and then passed on in the apostolic Scriptures and in Christian preaching throughout church history. But look at the fruit it has borne! The church has gone around the world, to millions of believers on every continent! People who have borne the fruit of faith in their lives through love and good works. People whose faith in Christ enabled them to endure suffering and even martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. What a powerful thing this gift of faith is!

 

And where would we be without it? We would be lost! Still lost in our sins. Still lost in our unbelief. But God has broken through our darkness with the light of the gospel. We hear this good news of Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit takes this word and works faith in our hearts – faith to believe in a Savior we have never seen. Faith to stake our lives on him, to build our lives and our hope for eternity upon this rock of our salvation.

 

 

St. John the Apostle testifies to the power of the gospel to create this saving faith. In John chapter 20 we read the story of Thomas, who would not believe unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched the nail prints in Jesus’ hands. But then when Jesus does appear to Thomas, our Lord says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And that would be YOU, dear Christians. You have not seen, and yet you have believed. And therefore Jesus pronounces you blessed. That’s pretty good, when Jesus calls you blessed!

 

And then right after that, what does John say? He says that these accounts he has written in his gospel, these things “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” And that’s exactly what has happened! The Scriptures tell us about Jesus, who he is and what he has done for us, and through that mighty word of God, we believe in Jesus – that he is the very Son of God, that he died and rose for you and me, for our salvation, and that through this faith, we have life in his name.

 

John says the same thing in the opening of his epistle. He testifies to the risen Christ and the life that he gives, and then John proclaims this message to us, that we too might believe and share in that life. John writes:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands,  concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

 

And so this faith, then, leads to the second Easter gift I want to tell you about today, and that is forgiveness that leads to salvation and eternal life. We need forgiveness. Yes, even after we have come to faith and are Christians, even after we are in this community called the church – you and I need this gift of forgiveness, for as long as we live on this side of glory. Because you and I are still sinners. We sin, we stumble and fall and stray from God’s path. We do things we ought not to do, and we fail to do the things we should do. That is sin. And the ONLY answer to sin is forgiveness.

 

St. John writes about this gift, too, in his epistle: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is God’s promise to us, dear friends! Are you troubled by your sins? Do you wonder if God can forgive you, even after you have messed up, time and time again? And be honest, you know you have. Well, here is the sure promise of God you can count on: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

On what basis will God forgive you? Not because of how sorry you are. Not because you have tried really hard. Not because of anything in you. No, you can be sure God will forgive you because of what Christ has done. John says: “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” And again: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

 

And so we always come back to the cross and what Jesus, God’s Son, did for us there, shedding his holy blood for the sins of the whole world, making the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins, so that now we stand forgiven before God. By faith this gift is yours, free of charge.

 

First faith that leads to forgiveness, then fellowship. This is that Greek word you may have heard about before, koinonia. It describes Christian fellowship as a partnership, sharing in the same things together, what we have in common that binds us into a community. And John here says that our koinonia, our fellowship, is with him, that is, the apostles and the believers of old. And more than that, our fellowship is with God himself: “indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Of course, the Holy Spirit is in there too, since the Spirit is the one working through the word to give us saving faith and to bring us into this fellowship.

 

Fellowship. Koinonia. Community. The communion of saints, the holy Christian church. When you come to faith in Christ, you are brought into the life of the church. This is God’s family, making each of us members of God’s household. There is no such thing as being a Christian apart from the life of the church. That is a contradiction in terms. No, the Spirit will always lead you into the church, Christ’s church, where Jesus is present with his people, where we hear his voice and follow him, in lives of love and service and witness.

 

And so I find it very ironic that so many people today describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” Biblically speaking, that is impossible. The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will always lead you into Christ’s church, the gathering of God’s people around Word and Sacrament. For a Christian to stay away from church, to choose not to go to church, is impossible. No, a Christian led by the Spirit will be spiritual and therefore religious, that is, active and regular in the life of the church. That is God’s will for his people. Every time.

 

Fellowship. Koinonia. Life together, in the fellowship of the church. We see an example of the benefits of that shared life, that fellowship, in our reading from the Book of Acts. There it says:

“The full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it   at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

 

You see, there is a beautiful unity that exists in the church, in our life together. “They were of one heart and soul,” it says. Beautiful! “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” [Psalm 133:1] And what that means is, we support one another. We build one another up. We care for one another, whenever one of us has a need. This is why God places us in his family, the church. For our benefit. It is one of his Easter gifts, this Christian fellowship.

 

Faith, forgiveness, and fellowship. Three Easter gifts that God offers to all who confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead. Much better than stuffed animals and chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. Much more valuable than all the coins in all the Easter eggs in the world. And you don’t even have to hunt for them. God gives you these gifts right here, right now. God gives you the gift of faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel. God forgives your sins because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. God gives you the gift of fellowship in his church, where you have brothers and sisters who will support you and build you up and care for you in your times of need. And guess what? There are times when you get called to be the one doing the helping and loving. Faith to guard and guide you during the joys and challenges of life; forgiveness for all the times we stumble or stray from the path God has established for us; and fellowship so that we however we are each blessed, we might share the eternal blessings of God’s light and love with others!

 

So this joyous Easter season we celebrate three gifts our gracious God gives to us, all because of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior: faith, forgiveness, and fellowship. Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

 

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

EPISTLE READING – 1st John 1:1-2:2

 

      1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us –

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

      2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

 



No Response to ““God’s Gifts of Faith, Forgiveness, and Fellowship””

Comments are closed.