Lesson of the Week
This Week’s Message
Sermon Pentecost 11 – August 5, 2018 LSB: Series B Green
Texts: Epistle: Ephesians 4:1-16
Title: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall”
Sunday, August 5, 2018 Elders Worship Service By: Jim Robinson
Thank you for the opportunity to study your Word, which is truth. Thank you for your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is our unifying force. He is our reason for faith and hope of eternal life. He brings us together into one body. Help us to remember that because of our Holy Baptism, we were given the Holy Spirit in the name of the one Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We ask that you would help us be the faithful people you called us to be. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Think back for a moment, if you can, to when you were a child. Are there any fond memories that come to mind? My favorite times had to be when our families, mom’s sisters and brothers, or dad’s sisters and brothers, would get together on Sunday afternoons at our grandma and grandpa’s houses.
My mom had nine brothers and sisters, so there were more cousins for me to play with when we visited her side of the family. We would play softball or hide-and-seek while the men would play horseshoe or just sit around telling stories and laughing. The women brought their favorite dishes to pass and visited amongst themselves.
This is what I remember about visiting either side of the family. Everyone seemed to get along and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. It was like we were all one body, just with different members. And, who seemed to be the unifying force on each side? My grandfather and grandmother. When they all passed away, gradually, the unity faded away and we all became more distant and less faithful to one another.
In our Epistle lesson here this morning, Paul is pleading with the congregation at Ephesus, mainly Gentile Christians, to remain in faith and lead a holy life. Look again at the Epistle lesson in our bulletin as I read the first 3 verses… “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord (Paul is writing this letter from prison), urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit.”
Here Paul is imploring his readers to conduct themselves at all times in such a manner as to be worthy of their calling as Christians, to prove themselves true members of the Christian congregation. But, it takes love, peace, meekness, humility, long-suffering, and patience for Christians to maintain the unity of the Spirit given to them in the Word, the result being unity in the truth.
Just as Grandma and Grandpa were the soul of our families that kept us together, members of the congregation are united and kept in the union of Christ’s body by the Holy Ghost who lives in them. The Christian Church is one body and that entire body is governed and directed by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesus was a flourishing metropolis, the seat of Greek learning and science but also, the home of the heathen cult of the goddess Diana and of witchcraft and superstition. Paul’s purpose in writing was to strengthen and establish the congregation at Ephesus and with it the daughter congregations in the entire region. You see, those who weren’t true children and disciples of the Lord were in danger of being led astray by false doctrine.
These words of encouragement, this message, sent by Paul to the congregation in Ephesus are also meant for us here at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior. Over 1,900 years later, the words in this letter pertain as much to us as it did to them. Sure. Times have changed. But God’s Word never does. The rules are the same.
Our culture is so much different than it was 2,000 years ago. But we still have the devil and his band of angels deceiving weak Christians and those who don’t know Christ at all. He uses false teachers, deceitful schemes, and seducers to lead unsuspecting souls of men to the false way of life that strays fatally from the truth.
This is a prime example, as we put away all political correctness. In 1973, a group of intellectual, respected, and yet sinful human beings, who were given power to sit on a court, called Supreme, made a decision to enact a new commandment that allows any American to have their baby killed, a living human being, as long as it is still in it’s mother’s womb. A court, appointed to protect our Constitution, decided to become God of our nation, thus replacing our one God and Father of all, who created each and every one of us. Who gave us ten commandments, and commandment number five says clearly, Thou Shalt Not Kill.
On May 25th of this year citizens of Ireland voted to repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment that restricted abortion to rare cases involving endangerment of the mother’s life. More than two million voted, with 66% in favor of revoking the amendment. The people celebrated in the streets of Ireland as if they had just won an Olympic gold medal. A 2017 Pew Research poll revealed that 65% of Christians in Ireland supported legalization of abortion in all or most cases. A true Christian wouldn’t do that. Many people are Christian in name only. Other countries who say abortion should be legal and their percentages are: Sweden – 94%, Denmark – 92%, Finland – 87%, U.S. – 57%. We know, as true Christians, from reading a Psalm of David, Psalm 139 verse 13, David is talking to the Lord. He says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” God, our one God and Father of all, does not make mistakes.
Which leads us to another deception the devil has implanted in the minds of some, who think they were born gay. The gay lifestyle is based on feelings of an individual to satisfy those feelings. It is a sinful, unrighteous lifestyle that suppresses the truth. If you don’t believe me, then read Romans, Chapter 1. These are not my words. They are words from our one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
A former woman pastor in a major denomination was recently the first lesbian to be given the title of bishop, and has officiated at several same sex ceremonies. In August of last year, she wrote a sermon, also posted on Facebook, in which she calls Jesus a bigot and a changing, flawed human being. She said, “Like you and me, he didn’t have his life figured out…” She concludes, “If Jesus can change, if he can give up his bigotries and prejudices… then so can we.”
We must beware of false doctrine and false teachers. The only way we can know is by being firmly anchored in the knowledge of Christ through the preaching of sin and grace.
Our country is so mixed up that Americans are even divided over the definition of God. In the past decade, belief in God or gods has steadily declined in America. Again, Pew Research Center asked people if they believe in God. 80% said yes, and about 20% said no. Of those who said yes, 56% said they believe in God as described in the Bible. 23% believe in some higher power or force. And we wonder why church attendance continues to decline.
God has given us free will. He doesn’t make us believe in Him. If we want to live in the world and live of the world by ignoring his commandments and seeking things that please us, He will not stop us. But our one God and Father of all continues to love us all and wants us all to be saved. And, yes, he sent his only Son to this earth to serve, not to be served. He even ate and drank with awful, sinful people. He suffered and died on the cross, taking all of our sins with him. He died once, for all, and rose again so that we would have the hope of eternal life.
So, what’s the catch? There is no catch. All who believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior and are baptized will be saved. But there must be repentance in your heart. You must be genuinely sorry for your sins and then there is forgiveness.
I sinned yesterday. All of you sinned yesterday. I have sinned and/or will sin today. So will all of you. I will sin tomorrow and so will you. Here is the truth. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But, for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, verse 24 continues, “We are justified by his grace (God’s grace) as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Those who live according to worldly standards, who try to rationalize their sinful ways as being normal and without consequences, actually believe that we Christians hate them and are judging them. They really can’t comprehend that we are the ones who actually love them! Speaking the truth in love is meant for them to repent and come to the knowledge of the truth so that they, too, might have the hope that we cling to, eternal life, not eternal damnation. It is time for us to come out of the closet and tell the truth in love. That is our calling.
I have a warning sign on the back of my pickup. It states, “Many people who plan to seek the Lord at the 11th hour, die at 10:30.” My advice is – don’t wait!
Some people try to hide their sins. They think if nobody gets hurt, they are justified. They can continue on that path. But here is what our one God and Father of all asks us in Jeremiah 23:24… God asks, “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” What a powerful question, because He is warning us that we cannot hide anything from him, and yet, we should be encouraged to know that he is with us wherever we go.
Back to the Epistle lesson. Paul is telling us in verse 7… “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gifts.” In other words, even though we are members of the union of all believers in Christ, the body of Christ, every single Christian has received special gifts or some special gift from God. These gifts of grace, or talents, are to be used by each Christian to do his part toward the maintenance of unity and peace, as well as toward the further growth of the church. This can’t be done if you don’t come to church. This can’t be done if you don’t participate in fellowship with one another. And this can’t be done if you refuse to study God’s Word.
Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and those who practice it have a good understanding.”
Everyone is given the opportunity to become a member of the family of God. Through the Gospel, the Good News, we all can cling to that one hope because of one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
Since my grandpas and grandmas have left this earth to be with their Father in Heaven, I only have memories remaining of those good times when we all were together celebrating the unity of family. But praise God that we are all here today as members of one family – the family of God. We are one body and one spirit who share one faith and one baptism. We are united with the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. United we stand. Divided we fall.
Let us pray. Lord, Thank you for bringing us together today as children of God. We know we can only be unified through love, humility, patience and long-suffering with each other. That can only be maintained through the Holy Spirit. You have taught us that it is not intellectual growth, but spiritual growth that is of the greatest value in the church. By growing in the knowledge of Christ, we have an even more intimate fellowship with Him. Help us to remember that. Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.