"Confidence to Face Whatever Comes Our Way "#84-48
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 30, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Creed Question about the Resurrection)
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: Romans 8:28-39
Our text, Romans chapter eight, "And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died, more than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, for Your sake, we're being killed all day long. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
Christ has risen. He has risen, indeed. Hallelujah.
Let me say it again, Paul says, "To those that love God, all things work together for good." Do you really believe that? How does that strike you today? If you're going through a period of suffering, dealing with the loss of a loved one, perhaps you're struggling with troubles in your marriage or in your family, then you might be shaking your head and saying, "This can't be true. This isn't true." If you're battling addiction or an indiscretion that's been messing up your life, maybe you're fighting depression because things haven't been going as you'd like, these words-"To those that love God, all things work together for good"-that must seem like false media or fake news or, at least, stretching the point, right? When you're overwhelmed, it's so easy to forget that you have a God who loves you and keeps His promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you, and that things will eventually work out for your good.
In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom relates an incident that taught her to be thankful for things we normally would not be thankful for. She and her sister, Betsie, prisoners of the Nazis, had just been transferred to the notorious prison camp at Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them to be extremely overcrowded and, worse, they were infested with fleas. The Scripture reading for that morning that they were reading from their smuggled Bible was from 1 Thessalonians. You ready for what it said? Here it goes, "Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances." Betsie told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Now, Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsie persisted. Corrie finally agreed to somehow thank God, even for the fleas. Wow!
During the months spent at that camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings in their barracks, without interference from the prison guards. Later, they learned that the guards would not enter those barracks, ready? Because of the fleas. Those tiny fleas provided a level of protection for them. The fleas kept the greater evils of that camp, literally, at bay.
Today we're reminded again that God has chosen us. He's called us through word in Baptism to be His own and promises us that all things will indeed work together for our good. Yet it's difficult sometimes to believe a promise like this when we witness personal hardship, difficulties, struggles, and baffling horrific events, even in our world. Our world has been filled with sin ever since the days of Adam and Eve. Even though Christians are saved by grace for an eternal life that will one day be free from it all, for now we experience hardships and difficulties like everybody else.
The sharing of God's gracious love is often met with opposition and derision instead of faith and commitment and even thanksgiving. The apostle Paul quoted Psalm 44 to point out that God's people, from the beginning of time, have always encountered opposition. He quotes, "For Your sake, we're being killed all day long. We're regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." Satan and this world are doing all that they can to destroy God's purpose for you. Satan is constantly calling out to God and pointing out your sins, your mistakes, your unfaithfulness, your doubts. For that most serious charge, the apostle Paul says, "Wait a minute! Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? Hold on there, Satan. God has a word for you on behalf of all those you seek to condemn. God has already acquitted them." That means you and that means me. He has declared you and me vindicated because of what Christ Jesus has done for us. The death of Jesus has covered your sins. They're completely paid for, forgiven, forgotten, and His resurrection has imparted to you the righteousness of Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, Satan has nothing for which he can condemn you. He may bring charges against you, but God simply reminds him, "My Son has paid for those sins. This person, you, me, acquitted. Case closed."
The truth is God's love for us in Jesus never stops. Throughout our entire life, Jesus continues to be our defense attorney. The apostle Paul makes that clear when he says, "Who's to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died, more than that, who was raised. He's at the right of hand of God, indeed, interceding now for us." Have you ever told a friend or a relative that you would pray for them and then you forgot to do it? You can be assured though that they are not forgotten. They have prayers on their behalf constantly going before God the Father. Jesus is at the right hand of His Father pleading for you right now also. He's making sure that any condemnation brought against us is acquitted, forgiven, forgotten, because He has already paid the price.
As you live your life in this world, you may not know why things are happening or why things are not happening. However, you know for sure that God is in control. You know that His ultimate plan for you is that everything works together for your good. The ultimate promise in Romans eight is not that all bad things that happen to you will themselves eventually prove to be good for you. God's certain an eternal purpose in your life and in the lives of those who love Him is to give all of us the ultimate victory in Jesus Christ. There will always be unpleasant surprises for you and me as we live in this sinful world. You know, when we think things are going smoothly and that we're in control, suddenly things can change. Life can become more difficult.
President Reagan liked to tell a story, which he said was true, about a Los Angeles newspaper photographer who was called in by his editor and told of a fire that was raging in the hilly area south of Los Angeles. His assignment was to rush down to a small airport, board a waiting plane, get some pictures of the fire, and be back in time for the afternoon edition. Breathlessly, he raced to the airport, drove his car to the end of the runway. Sure enough, there was a plane waiting with all the engines revved up, ready to go. He got aboard. At about 5,000 feet, he got his camera ready. He told the fellow flying the plane to get him over the fire so he could take his photos and get right back to the paper. From the other side of the cockpit there was a deafening silence. Then he heard these unsettling words: "Aren't you the instructor?" "Aren't you the instructor?"
You know, when things change and you realize you're in trouble, when you feel like you're flying in danger with no one there to guide you, the Bible says don't despair. Perhaps today those changes might include illness and bereavement, marital or financial problems. The list can go on and on. You realize life does not always operate according to your plan. But unlike the photographer in the midst of the fire with no experienced pilot to command the situation, you have a Savior who has not only flown into the battle, He has made it through the fires of death and hell so that you might experience life and salvation-so that you might have confidence no matter what the issue is that you face today.
Things that go wrong try to separate you and me from our faith in Jesus Christ. That's why the apostle Paul cries out, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword? No way. Nothing can get in the way of Jesus' love for you and for me." We do indeed face many challenges and difficulties. You know, sometimes the trials and hardships we face-they're self-inflicted. They come from our own doing. You know, whenever we rebel against God and try to do things our way, it doesn't work out for our good. Sometimes bad things happen, too, just because we live in a fallen world. People do bad things. People get hurt. A byproduct of living in this fallen world means that we got to deal with the wrath of nature, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes.
Now, listen, I'm not saying that whatever happens to us is always a part of God's plan to bring about something better. God hasn't promised that everything will always work out in this life to make our life on earth better, but He promises that no matter what happens, He will never leave us; He will never forsake us. God has always promised us that no matter what life or Satan himself throws our way, His good and eternal purposes can never be thwarted. We are His children and we will ultimately live with Him in heaven. Faith trusts in Jesus and His love, even amidst the uncertainties of this world, because the believer is always secure in His crucified risen hands. He's overcome the ultimate enemy against us, death itself, so that abundant eternal life is sure-no matter what you and I are facing today.
Just after Jesus' resurrection, He showed Thomas the nail marks in His hands and feet. He said, "Thomas, see these scars? Stop doubting and believe." Those scars were on the risen Savior, scars from a death He suffered for you and me. Those scars mean that the hell He endured for you because of your sin is the hell you don't have to encounter. Those scars mean that eternal death's sting has already stung Him and it doesn't have to sting you.
My daughter has suddenly taken to camping. In fact, just recently, we had an outdoor camping experience for the first time. Yes, tents and sleeping bags out in nature. I remember enjoying that a lot when I was young, but here in St. Louis, the bugs and the critters are different than I remember. The mosquitoes, the snakes, the flies, even the bees-they seem more formidable than I remember. It's nice to know that there ways of keeping such issues at bay, even when you're outside.
It reminds me of a young mother who decided to take her daughter camping with the Girl Scouts. She wasn't really fond of the outdoors, but she knew her daughter couldn't wait to go, so she took vacation days off from work and, rather than a vacation at a restful spa, this mom was spending the weekend in a pitched tent out in the wild. After a day of fun and work, mother and daughter settled down in their tent for what mom hoped would be a restful night's sleep. Just as her daughter was trying to zip the tent door closed, a huge bee came in, buzzing around in the tent. It haphazardly flew around, frantically trying to escape its canvas prison but to no avail. In its agitation, it began to dive bomb mother and daughter, and the daughter screamed in fear. Mom reached up. She swatted the bee. Wham! It stung her right in the palm. With that, mom told her daughter, it was over. "You can calm down." "Why, Mom?" she said, "The bee's still buzzing in our tent." "I know, honey. We'll catch him soon, but you don't have to be afraid anymore," she said. "You see the stinger in my hand? Well, that bee only has one stinger to use, and he's used it. He can't sting you anymore."
When you and are most afraid, Jesus says, "Look at My hands. I have taken the sting out of death, the eternal fear out of life." That doesn't mean that we're not going to have troubles or that we're not going to be afraid at times. What it does mean is that we don't have to be incapacitated by those fears. We can confidently face the challenges of tomorrow knowing that the love of God in Christ is certain for us now, through it all. You can think of every terrifying thing this world can produce. None of it is able to separate you or any Christian from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. Paul said, "He is Lord over every terror, including death itself."
That's because death is not the end for Christians. It's only a step that brings us close to Christ. It's our gate to heaven. There's nothing that happens to us while we're living that can separate us from the love of God. Like Paul says, "Neither good nor evil, angels, forces of evil in the spiritual realms, no rulers on earth have the power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."
Whatever is happening at the present or might happen in the future, the threat of ISIS, North Korea, Iran, Russia, political uprisings-these are powerless against the love of God in Christ. Whatever is in the farthest point of the universe where scientists have recently discovered another solar system they feel could support life, or anything in the depths of the sea where it might be volcanic activity, poisonous gases, or unknown sea creatures that may threaten-these cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, today, you and I, we're reminded with certainty that as Christians who love our Lord Jesus Christ, who trust Him, there's nothing that can separate us from His love. All your hope is in Jesus Christ. All your life is in Jesus Christ, and knowing this you can face all things, confident that God has a plan for you. And His plan is always for your good.
Today, I pray that in the power of the faith that you have in Jesus Christ, you can boldly proclaim with me, with confidence, that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Amen and amen.
Action in Ministry for July 30, 2017
Guest: Felicia Kirk - God gives strength and joy even when life is hard
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. This is Action in Ministry. Your call to action in response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Seltz: Mark, I mentioned this verse in the sermon today: "Those who love God, He works all things together for good." That's a simple sentence of hope, but when we struggle with tragedy and loss, it's difficult to accept that.
Mark Eischer: Joining us today is Felicia Kirk. She's a wife and mother of three, who knows the reality of God's goodness, even when life is hard. Hers is a comeback story and that's also the subject of a free resource we're offering this week.
Pastor Seltz: Felicia, thanks for joining us.
Felicia Kirk: Glad to be here.
Pastor Seltz: Our pleasure. Tell us a little bit about your family.
Felicia Kirk: My husband and I both were raised in Christian homes. We've been married for 36 years. We have three children, 34, 33, and 27 years old, 11 grandchildren. We raised our kids in church. When the doors of the church were open, we were there. They went on mission trips. We were very, very involved in our church.
Pastor Seltz: Challenges can then even come to Christian folks, can't it?
Felicia Kirk: Yes, yes.
Mark Eischer: Now the free booklet we're offering this week is titled, Comebacks: How to Get Back Up After Life Knocks You Down. Felicia, tell us how had life knocked you down.
Felicia Kirk: Two of my children are in drug rehab right now, and my youngest daughter-she's had a lot of relationship issues. She's been married three times, has four children by four different dads, and is currently in a domestic violence shelter with two of her children.
Pastor Seltz: I guess my question is how have you reacted to this situation?
Felicia Kirk: Well, in a lot of different ways, from one end of the spectrum to the other. I've been mad at God, mad at myself, angry with my children. I've even looked at other Christian friends and their children and have been jealous. Why can't my kids be like theirs? You know? You know, God reminds me. Like it says in John, in this world, we're going to have troubles.
Pastor Seltz: Take heart.
Felicia Kirk: Take heart. He's overcome the world. That's right.
Pastor Seltz: Well, thanks for being honest because, you know, a lot of times people think if you're a Christian, you always have the right response to everything, but sometimes we get overwhelmed too, right? I mean, we have the gambit of emotions like everybody else.
Mark Eischer: How are you staying firm in your faith and even keeping a positive attitude to the point where you can talk about this?
Felicia Kirk: Well, I love the three points that the booklet gives because they're so true. God never promised us a life without troubles and who am I to say, "Why me?" when God says, "Why not you?" We live in a fallen world and sin is everywhere and there are consequences. Then, number two, God can bring redemptive value out of even the most senseless difficulties that we endure.
Pastor Seltz: You've got a story to tell about that regarding your daughter, don't you?
Felicia Kirk: I do. My daughter moved out about seven months ago, out of my house, and with her ex-husband, who was an abuser. I have been praying this whole time for God to restore our relationship. She hasn't spoken to me, hasn't let me see the grandkids, not on their birthdays, not for Christmas. About three weeks ago, I got a phone call from a sheriff that she was taken to jail and being arrested for a domestic dispute. Through that, God has restored that relationship.
Pastor Seltz: Through another difficulty, something good.
Felicia Kirk: Right, right.
Mark Eischer: And you're even seeing evidence of your daughter's trust in God through this circumstance.
Felicia Kirk: Yes, she has been praying and she's telling me answers to prayer and a "miracle" is what she's called it: a miracle.
Pastor Seltz: That's great. That third point you were talking about, too, that kind of undergirds all of this, right?
Felicia Kirk: Right. God is always good to those who love Him. The booklet describes that cycle so well. When you believe God is good, it helps you through the trials.
Pastor Seltz: You know, that's what people don't realize. The Christian message is that God sent His Son into our mess. He deals with these things. Even when we talk about God suffering, it's not a morbid thing, it's He actually wants to do these things to reconcile, to redeem, and to heal. Then again, He sends folks like us sometimes into these same situations.
Felicia Kirk: Right.
Pastor Seltz: For the sake of others. You know, when we talk about this message of hope, this joyful feeling. How do you maintain that from day to day?
Felicia Kirk: To be honest, I don't even know what each day's going to hold. I can get a phone call. I don't even know what's going to hold. Before my feet hit the ground, I pray.
Pastor Seltz: You're praying.
Felicia Kirk: I'm praying. I've come to realize that I can't find joy in my circumstances.
Pastor Seltz: Well, that's a powerful thing that you just said there though because most of us look for joy in our circumstance. Where is your joy then?
Felicia Kirk: My joy is in Jesus Christ.
Pastor Seltz: It's coming from Him, first and foremost.
Felicia Kirk: Yes, yes. I have friends, I have family members that pray for me and encourage me, and Bible study. That's how I make it through.
Mark Eischer: Again, this week's resource is a booklet titled Comebacks: How to Get Back Up After Life Knocks You Down. It's yours free when you call to request a copy or you can also download it for free at our website, and I'll be back in just a moment to tell you more about that.
Pastor Seltz: Felicia, thank you so much for being here with us, sharing your heart. I know it's going to bless a lot of folks. A lot of folks are going to get this resource, so thank you again for being with us.
Felicia Kirk: Thank you for having me.
Pastor Seltz: Pleasure's all ours. That's our Action in Ministry segment today, to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
Mark Eischer: To view or download this resource for free, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action in Ministry or call 1-855-JOHN316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for July 30, 2017
Topic: Creed Question about the Resurrection
Mark Eischer: We are back once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz responding to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.
Pastor, in the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed we say Jesus rose again from the dead. Does that mean He had already risen from the dead once before?
Pastor Seltz: Now, Mark, that's a compelling question because the death and resurrection of Jesus are the cornerstones of the Christian faith. Let's get at this.
Mark Eischer: All right.
Pastor Seltz: Many of us have probably confessed these words sometimes without thinking about what that word "again" means here. It can be confusing, especially if we take it literally like Jesus rose from the dead more than once.
Mark Eischer: Since we know from Scripture that Jesus only rose from the dead one time after His death on the cross, I suppose there must be some other explanation as to why the creeds specifically use the word "again."
Pastor Seltz: Maybe a better way to say a different nuance. The English word "resurrect" comes from the Latin word "resurrexit." So just like English language that Latin has that prefix "re." It can mean a repeated action or it can mean anew, as if we would say that things are back to normal again. When we say that Jesus was resurrected, we don't mean that He rose from the dead a second time. Rather, we mean that Jesus came back to life. He has life again. He has life anew.
Mark Eischer: The creeds simply echo what Scripture says when they use this terminology, saying that Jesus rose again.
Pastor Seltz: They do. In most translations, the Greek word "egeiro," which means to wake up from sleep or to come alive from death, that's what we're talking about. Like in 2 Corinthians 5:15, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-it's translated in English rose again. This means Jesus came to life again, anew. As a result, rose again has become the terminology that's commonly used when we refer to the resurrection of Jesus, especially in English.
Mark Eischer: I guess what you're saying is that this is kind of a matter of semantics. You know, words sometimes have multiple definitions, and translators always strive to find the best word that fits the situation they're trying to explain, but it's especially difficult when they're translating these phrases from one language into another.
Pastor Seltz: When we recite the creeds or these sections of Scripture, we're saying Jesus was alive before, then for a while He was dead, and now He has returned to life again.
Mark Eischer: Sometimes this kind of question arises from doubt or confusion. It's like "What are you saying? Are the creeds and the Bible giving us wrong information and someone got it wrong, and it's been uncorrected for all these centuries?"
Pastor Seltz: Well, we got to remember these creeds are simply condensing for us the most important doctrines of our biblical faith. Our study of Scripture makes it perfectly clear that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, lived a life in human flesh on this earth and, here it comes, on the third day, He came back to life again, or as our Scripture and our creeds translate it-He rose again.
Mark Eischer: To be clear, this was the first and only time Jesus came back from the dead.
Pastor Seltz: Indeed. The first and only time and He is literally alive and well, ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of God. Like we say, "He's coming back to judge the living and dead." Now, think about it though-the resurrection of Jesus-it's one of the most important keys to our faith. Here's why all this really does matter to us and to all who believe. His resurrection is proof of the fact that because He rose to live again, we also will rise to live again with Him. Jesus made this a reality when He said in John 11, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live even though he dies. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die." Anew, again, we too will rise again or come back to life in the final resurrection.
Mark Eischer: I hope your explanation today has helped to clear up any confusion some may have experienced when they first encountered these words. Even more though, it gives us hope for what is yet to come for all who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Pastor Seltz: He rose again. That is real hope, indeed.
Mark Eischer: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"From God Can Nothing Move Me" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Scatter the Darkness, Break the Gloom" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)