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Take Pride in the Lord

Sermon 1867 1 Corinthians 4.1-7 June 18, 2023

Welcome, Stanley! We won! We won! Go, Knights, Go!

Get used to it. For the next year whenever it is a slow news day a look back to Tuesday night will never grow old. Mark Stone stopping on a dime in front of the net to flip it in will be replayed more often in Las Vegas than Jerry Kramer’s winning block from the 1967 “Ice Bowl” Packer Cowboy championship game is replayed in Green Bay.

Unfortunately, that pride in beating someone else and coming out on top of the other guy can sneak into the church. It happened in Corinth. It can happen in Clark County. Yes, take pride, but take pride in what really is always praiseworthy.

Take Pride in the Lord

1. The messengers come from the Lord.

2. The message comes from the Lord.

3. The praise comes from the Lord.

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ (1).”

Here is where we must start. Christ. Christ is not the family name. Here’s Joseph Christ and Mary Christ and Jesus, the Christ family! No, Christ is not a family name. It is an adjective that has become a proper noun, like Messiah. Both mean the same thing. Anointed. Jesus of Nazareth was anointed, set apart and specially equipped to be the Savior of the world, as God had promised already back in the Garden of Eden. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her Seed and your offspring. He will crush your head (Genesis 3.15).” When Jesus entered the world angels heralded his birth. A special star appeared. But when Jesus entered his public ministry as the Christ, the Anointed, something greater happened. At his baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil. He proclaimed the Good News. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

We needed this Christ, the Anointed Savior, because of that first sin in the Garden of Eden. Pointless to announce forgiveness from sins if there were no sins. Adam and Eve had sinned and brought sin and death on the whole human race to come. We show that original sin, both in the actual sins we have committed and the death, inherited from Adam, which we display in graying hair, wrinkled faces, lousy backs and creaky knees whining for a replacement. The Savior is behind the public ministry of his Church.

The messengers come from the Lord. Now, some of us might think ministers, pastors and teachers, come from the Synod. That is as short-sighted as thinking that the groceries come from the grocery store. Farmers planted the seeds and nurtured them, harvesting them at the right time. Others took that feed or pastureland and tended livestock so we could have more than oatmeal three times a day, seven days a week. In the same way the Lord tended his garden of this world. He made the conditions right for faith to grow. He put us in the right place at the right time so we could hear the Gospel, the message of his apostles and prophets whom the Holy Spirit led and directed to write down. He sent that same Spirit into our hearts through that Gospel to create faith. He put us in contact with his Church, the gathering of believers, moms and dads, too, brothers and sisters, yup, that gathering of believers around the Word so that we would grow in our faith. And for some, he created that godly desire to become pastors and teachers, taking the hard road to learn what needed to be learned in order to preach the Gospel. He gave them the insight and wisdom to know not everyone, even them at times, would be doing the right things for the right reasons—and sometimes it would really show! There was a higher purpose, a higher motivation. He created in them a love for the Lord and a love for the Lord’s people. And through that gathering of believers he called them for works of service in the public ministry. They were not self-educated. They were not self-motivated. They did not choose the faith. They did not call themselves. Messengers come from the Lord. Your next one will, too, just like your last, broken down one. So take pride in the Lord.

Take pride in the Lord because the message comes from the Lord.

Paul went on to say, “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.”

The messengers from the Lord have a message which comes from the Lord.

I remember an article early in my career with a picture of a worried preacher in bed, beating up his pillow with the subheading, “What am I going to preach about in the morning?” How I pitied that sort of preacher. I knew what I was going to preach on. I knew it the Monday morning before. I knew it the month before. I was going to preach what was set before me in the appointed readings—the hotshot worship people call it the perciopes. I was going to preach the Law and Gospel contained in that text, explaining it and applying it to the congregation’s (and my) situation. It wasn’t hard. I didn’t even have to come up with a lot of witty ideas. The words in the Greek or Hebrew would paint a picture for me. That’s why so much of my theological training was learning to read Greek and Hebrew (or at least to understand it!). It was no secret.

But for those preachers and teachers who think the message is theirs, that they have to come up with the trendy ideas and the flashy slogans, even if it means grabbing someone else’s phrases and pretending they are their own, the way I and every faithful pastor go about preaching is a secret thing. The world can’t understand it. The sinful human nature will have nothing to do with it. The devil doesn’t know what the words mean. “Repent and believe the Good News.”

God’s forgiveness is the answer. It is not an answer. It is the answer. Everything else is simply an application or explanation of God’s forgiveness. Got a problem with self-esteem? Look to the cross. That’s how much God thinks of us. Got a problem letting go a past wrong done to you? The Father has put our sins off from us as far as the east is from the west. Don’t rehearse a litany of wrongs. That will only embitter our lives. Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

But let’s not pass over that secret part so quickly. It is remarkable, amazing. God, for the sake of his Son, Jesus Christ, freely and fully forgives all sins to all people. We don’t have to meet God halfway. We don’t have to earn or deserve it. We don’t even have to make half-hearted attempts to be good to show God we want it. No, we all were dead in our transgressions and sins, the Bible says. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, the godly for the ungodly. I cannot state it more simply than that. That’s because that’s how the Bible states it. My explanation of God’s undeserved love for us is the strongest when it stays close to the very words and phrases the Bible uses. So you see, it’s not my message. The message comes from the Lord. God’s love is the cause. God’s will to save is the reason. From A to Z he is why we will be in heaven. So don’t brag up this or that flashy or witty pastor. At his best he is simply saying what the Bible is saying. At his worst he is distracting his listeners from God’s Gospel truth.

Take pride in the Lord because the praise comes from the Lord.

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives and men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (2-5).”

The praise we all are seeking is “Come and share your master’s happiness.” “Enter into the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” The praise we all are seeking is that we enter heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord will judge that. As for the other things in this life, God will bring them to light on the last day. If they come from a heart of unbelief and that unbelief persists to the person’s dying breath, that will be revealed on the Last Day. If those people who trouble God’s Church repent of their sins, through the blood of Jesus, that will also show on the Last Day as they join us in the ranks of the saved. If that seems a little wishy-washy for us, well, we would prefer to make life a whole lot easier for ourselves by walking in the paths of the Lord. We would prefer to end our journey gliding into a harbor on a nicely appointed cruise liner rather than being rescued by the Coast Guard after floating on debris in the ocean for a week. In keeping God’s commands there is great delight. On the other hand, a life of willful sin is hard. When people are in the habit of thinking they can pull one over on God, they tend to fall into their own traps. They pull one over on themselves, too. They reach a place where they cannot repent, where they have run out of time to repent. There is a time for man to die once and then face the judgment. I always took a dim view of teams who excused their loss by saying they ran out of time. The biggest promotion a preacher will ever receive is Jesus taking him to heaven because Jesus washed away all his sins on the cross. That’s also the biggest promotion everyone that preacher serves will ever receive.

And here’s where it especially applies to the public ministry at this time of year. The new Seminary graduates are being ordained and installed. The older generation is fading away in retirement.

“Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another (6).”

The public ministry is not a competition. We are on the same team. The weaknesses are all the same—sinful human nature causing us to daily sin much and deserve nothing but punishment. The strengths are all the same—the Gospel, the power of God for eternal life. The goal is the same for all—that by being all things to all human beings God might save some through the Gospel we hold out.

We are going to get a new pastor. Maybe it is Pastor David Starr. I pray it is. I think he would be terrific! Maybe it’s the guy after him or the next one, in which case we still we get a new pastor, a vacancy pastor, which you will call during the Voters’ Meeting on July 17 right after church. But one way or another, we are going to get a new pastor. He will be just the man we need. He will be a messenger who comes from the Lord. The message he brings will come from the Lord. And the benefit he will reap and we will be given is a stronger faith that grasps our Savior, Jesus. Jesus will give us eternal life through that instruction in his Gospel.

Take Pride in the Lord

1. The messengers come from the Lord.

2. The message comes from the Lord.

3. The praise comes from the Lord.

Hockey fans, enjoy the next month while you can. Once the cold-blooded front office does its work the remaining Golden Knights might not win the Stanley Cup again. For a long time. Jerry Kramer’s ice block was shown over and over again in Wisconsin for years, because the Packers were so bad, that was the last good memory anybody had.

We have a source of lasting pride. Season after season, year after year, our Lord does not disappoint us. He sends out messengers with a message that leads to our eternal praise in heaven. Take pride in that. Take pride in the Lord.

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