O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
What does the Reformation mean for my everyday life?
What does the Reformation mean for my everyday life?
Based on John 8 and Rev. 14
Preached on October 28, 2018
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Three little words. That’s all it took for the Lord to spark a Reformation of His Church from the sleepy university town of Wittenberg, Germany in the 1500’s. What were those words? Can you guess? They are the most powerful words that can ever be spoken on the earth. These words change lives as well as the history of the world. They are the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. What are the three little words? I’ll give you a hint. One of the words is an … “F” word!
Well, having said that I have to spill the beans. The three words are: “I FORGIVE YOU” hooked with the Triune Name. The words of holy absolution! Spoken to sinners! By the pastor. In the stead and by the command of Christ Himself. Your Lord dealing with you in a way you can understand, hear, trust.
That’s it? Forgiveness? Freedom from Sin? Come on, what’s the big deal? Just like the Pharisees talking to Jesus – we don’t realize our problem. Slaves to Sin? We’re not slaves. What do you mean slaves? I am perfectly in control of myself thank you very much. Is that so?
Have you ever seen a picture of a snake biting its own tail? The snake is so quick to strike – its too late before it realizes it has struck its own tail. That is a picture of the human heart. The very moment we see others sin - our hearts spring to judge, find fault, lay blame and execute them – like we’re coiled up waiting for our prey. Can’t even stop ourselves. It’s automatic. Like something else is in control of us. And we don’t even see our chains – oh we really notice how judgy that other person is – we notice their slavery – and we judge that judgy person to be too judgy. Because we are the snake biting our own tail. We condemn ourselves when we condemn others, because we are guilty of the same things, the Bible says. Sin has us so enslaved we don’t even see it. No, our hearts are not free, and they can’t get themselves out.
Beloved, this is what makes those three little words so powerful. Because the moment you realize that Christ is still going to come to you, He’s going to free you, break your chains, and proclaim “I forgive you” everything changes. We need to be clear. He is not saying “I forgive you if you’re really sorry.” He is not saying: “I forgive you if you promise never to sin again.” That’s not freedom. That’s not emancipation. That’s just another form of slavery that points sinners to themselves: their sorrow; or their promises. You can never be sorry enough. And you don’t have the power to promise you’ll never do it again. Beloved, the Lord doesn’t forgive you, because of you. Not because of anything you feel, want, do or say. He forgives you because of His own grace shown in Christ – because that’s who He is – that’s how He loves – not because you deserve it, but because He freely gives you what you need. “I forgive you.” Full stop.
That is the power of the Reformation. Grace. Free, undeserved forgiveness for the whole world. And it matters. It means something for you, and for every person around you. This is not simply head knowledge. It is reality. The new kingdom of grace. It governs how you are to understand the world. It controls how you interact with the people in your life. It directs how your heart responds to what you experience day-by-day. Grace is the reality now. Forgiveness for all.
“I forgive you.” Are you going to forgive others? Or are you going to put conditions on them, when I put none on you? Are you going to be a stricter judge than me? Are you going to climb up onto My throne and find them guilty, after I have already declared them innocent by My blood?
That reminds me of a story from my sea-going days. Every officer who took charge of the ship was always tempted to sit in the Captain’s chair. But it was the Captain’s chair. It was only for him, and it sat there on the bridge empty when he was absent, almost as a reminder of who is really in command. Well, one night, at 2 in the morning, when I knew the Captain was sleeping and I was on watch, I went confidently over to the Captain’s chair and threw myself up onto it. I sat there boldly, perched up on that special seat – and boy I tell ya – I felt the power. And just as I was drinking it all in, I heard the sound of the door behind me. I slid off the chair in my best attempt to make it look like I had been standing and carried on with my work. Sure enough, it was the captain. He captain quietly walked onto the bridge and looked around a bit. He asked the lookout a couple of questions and looked as if he might head back to bed. But as he went, he paused behind me and whispered in my ear: “I saw that Mr. Schnarr.”
This has happened to you too. Not with the Captain’s chair on a ship, but with Christ’s throne in your heart. “I saw that” He whispers in your ear this very morning. Whenever Christ catches you on His judgment throne – you fall down on your face and you admit to Him that you got into His chair, and you shouldn’t – because you are a harsh, mean judge, and He is a gracious, loving judge. You would condemn the whole world and leave it to die because it hurt you. You would judge based on who treated you well. But Jesus justifies the whole world – through His suffering and death – He hurts for the ones who hurt Him, who sat in His chair, who were slaves to Sin – yes, even for you. And He promises that in Him alone - things are made right.
God says “I forgive you,” so that you stop looking at others in that old way. So that you stop building cases of who is right and who is wrong – stop playing lawyer – stop being the judge – for it is not your chair. Instead, call on your King to put His grace in your eyes, to shape the way you see others – by grace – seeing their need for grace - looking on them as the Father looks on you in Christ saying “I forgive you.” Grace is the reality now.
The Son frees you from your Sin. And He frees you from your grudges! You no longer need to keep holding on to all those things that someone else has done to you, as if you are going to imprison them in chains, make things right, and decide for them – The grace reality means that you let go, let your hands open up, let your heart, your squeezing heart release all those things you are holding against someone else, because it’s hurting you too. You are not in control. It is not your chair. Christ alone keeps you safe. Christ alone keeps you free. Christ alone keeps that other person safe and free.
The slave does not remain in the house forever. The Son remains forever. That old way, the old you, the slave – he does not belong in the Father’s house – he doesn’t get to come. He will be cast out – never to give you an impulse again. But the Son remains forever. The new you. Christ in you. The Word. He remains. The grass withers, the flower fades – but the word of our God will stand forever. You belong forever in Jesus.
Grace. Free, undeserved forgiveness for the whole world. No wonder there was a Reformation! Thanks be to God that you have inherited it!
Happy Reformation Sunday! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr