Fwd: The Lutheran Hour: March 20, 2016 "Strive for What You Already Have"

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Date: 03/19/2016 9:15 PM (GMT-06:00)
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Subject: The Lutheran Hour: March 20, 2016 "Strive for What You Already Have"

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Email Us button greenSermon Text for March 20, 2016 

"Strive for What You Already Have" #83-29

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 20, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Favorite Bible Passages - Romans 12:2)
Copyright 2016 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Have you ever wanted to be a contestant on "American Idol," or the "X-Factor," or "The Voice"? Have you ever dreamed of acting on Broadway, or playing at Carnegie Hall, or having a top ten hit song? 

Now I'm not a talent agent and this isn't a message of how to make it in music, or radio, or in the movies; but I did enjoy some wisdom from an expert in that regard, some wisdom that we could use for our daily lives no matter what our talents are or what our dreams might be. In 2012, Daniel Coyle published a book called, The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills

Here are some big ideas that he found throughout his research. And the first one, well, I bet you already knew this if you just think about it. Coyle's first and most essential point in the development of talent is "it takes work." It takes work. It isn't something that people are just born with. Those who are considered uniquely talented still had to work really, really hard at developing their talents. 

But, Coyle's next observation is one I really find interesting. He states that the best way to develop a talent is to watch someone who is an expert. Watch, observe, and then, here it comes, imitate them. If you want a great golf swing, watch someone with an excellent golf swing. If you want to play an instrument well, watch someone who plays excellently. And then imitate them. 
It's not just going through the motions. You seek to imitate their approach, their mindset, their effort, and of course, their actions. Through the process of watching and imitating, Coyle suggests that our brains actually learn to perform the tasks to the best of our abilities. 

You see, talent takes work after all. To be good at something, to be a blessing for someone, yes, it takes talent, it takes ability, but it also takes hard work. 

To live the Christian life has challenges like that too. That's what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our text today. He wants you to have the same mind in you as Christ Jesus. He wants you to follow Him, living your life in the power, the presence, and with the very purpose of Christ in your life in all things. And, speaking straight, Paul reminds us that even though our life in Christ is totally a gift, even though our abilities and strengths are gifts too, the living of that life in this world can be difficult. Living the Christian life in this world can be hard. In fact, there are times when it seems downright impossible if we really think about it.

There was a popular movement a while ago that popularized the wearing of bracelets and other things that had WWJD on them. Remember? What Would Jesus Do? And while I admired the effort, I often wondered if people didn't become disillusioned, because there are times when we know exactly what Jesus would have done and we don't do it. There are times when we know what He wouldn't do and we did it nonetheless. What about those times? What happens when we realize like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 where he says, "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I don't understand what I do. For what I want to do I don't do, but I do what I hate...  who will rescue me," he says, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

How can we have the mind of Christ when we can't even think straight? How can we imitate the life of Jesus when we can't even get our own act together? If we are honest, this all seems very much impossible. 

It's hard enough to get a job, keep a job, pay the bills. It's hard enough to get married and stay married. It's hard enough to have kids and try to raise them appropriately. It's hard enough to try to maintain a household. It's hard enough to keep our houses fixed and livable. It's hard enough to understand the political realities of our world. It's hard enough to have and maintain friendships. It's hard enough just to be happy. But add to that, "Think and act like Jesus"? That's too much.

It's hard enough to deal, for instance, with this world on a daily basis, right? It's hard enough to live in a world of crime and cruelty. It's hard to live in a world in which you have to lock your car, your house, for fear of theft or violence. It's hard enough to live in a world in which people actually think it is good to kill, and destroy, and terrorize others. It's hard enough to live knowing that earthquakes, tornados, floods, famines, and plagues could break out at any moment and we are powerless to stop them. But add to that the requirement that we should be like Jesus? That's just too much!

It is, because added to all of that it's hard enough for me to deal with me. It's hard enough to deal with our own personal fears and hopes, right? It's hard enough to deal with the broken relationships in life that I know are my fault. It's hard enough to deal with the depression that creeps into all of our lives because of failed opportunities or broken dreams. And then add to that a requirement that we should be like Jesus? That's too much, right?

If that's what you think Christianity is, just another thing you need to do, it's not just too much, it's impossible! So many today think that Christianity is just another religion or philosophy of do's and don'ts. Add to that, "Be like Jesus," and you are bound to fail!

So, please give me a few more minutes today because I believe it will really change your life. Requirements, works, with a be like Jesus kicker, that's not the message of Christianity at all. That's not the message of what it means to follow Jesus at all. Christianity isn't about trying to be like Jesus so that you can accomplish all that you were to be in this world on your own with a little help from your Savior. Christianity is really about striving for what you already have, putting to use what you've already been given, and not for your sake, your status, your blessing (that's God's business for your life). No, Christianity is not about obtaining, but receiving and sharing; putting to use the things of Jesus through your life, living the life that He earned on your behalf for the sake of those you love! 

Use what you already have! At the beginning of this message, I talked about talents and how to develop them. I talked about imitating those who are experts in order to emulate them. Many think that this is really the point of Christianity and the message of the Bible. It is true that Jesus is the best example of how to be human. He is the perfect example of love. He is the model for your life and my life and everyone who lives. 

But our desire to imitate Him is not so that we might merely become better. It is more so to learn to share His love and His truth to serve others in His Name. It's not to obtain, it's to reflect. We have all that we need for our lives in Jesus, right now and forever, and living that life is about reflecting to others what we have in Him, it's about delivering to others what He has given to us. 

Paul is calling us to live a Christ-like life for others. He does tell us to "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but consider others as better than ourselves." He does tell us to live as children of God "in a crooked and twisted generation" but for their sake, not just for our own. 

Why? How? In the middle of all of that he basically says, because this is Who God is, the One Who has loved you, acted for you in His Son Jesus Christ; the power, the purpose, the perseverance for this life is all Him for you, in you, and through you. 

Think about it. In our reading for today, Paul says that Jesus is true God. And because He is truly God, He did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, or hoarded, held on to. He went to work. He laid it on the line so that you could be part of His family again. Out of love, He put His righteousness, love, His mercy to work on your behalf, not His; ultimately taking upon Himself your sin and mine so that we might have His status, His stature, His mind, His love all as pure gift!

Christianity is all about Jesus, putting our faith and hope in Jesus alone. He is unique and special, a no-one-else like Him Savior. And our lives are redeemed only because of His work on all our behalves. 

If you don't believe me, just read the Bible. Read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Test me on this. There's no one like Him. Jesus lived a life of love and He taught a love that no one had ever taught before. Jesus taught about God in terms that were totally unique. He challenged the religious leaders of the day. He condemned those who everyone thought were favored by God. He elevated those whom everyone thought were hated by God. And yet He was not subversive, but even He respected and even honored those in authority. 

And what did Jesus do because He is God? Incredibly, He put that honor at risk, choosing to humble Himself, be born among rebellious, sinful human beings, as One humble and obedient in their place, not powerful and not condescending. 

Jesus' humility was such that He was willing to be a condemned human being for the sake of all condemned human beings. That kind of humility was willing to be crushed for our iniquities and punished for our sins in a way that we could have never, ever conquered. 

And don't forget this. This punishment was not just God the Father being mad offering an eternal slap on the wrist, No, this was the full weight of hell experienced in our place. This One, God in the flesh, Jesus, humbled Himself to the point of death; even death on a cross. Humbled. Humiliated. Dead like a criminal. The innocent holy One of God for you. Only He can go to work like that; and He did! 

Why? Why did Jesus do this? Why did God do this? There is only one reason, love. God sent His Son Jesus out of love. Jesus humbled Himself because He loves you and me. And Hebrews 12 says this,"There for the joy set before Him, (Jesus) He endured the cross." Love and joy come for you! 

And after He suffered death, even death on a cross, in order to pay for your sins and mine, God raised Jesus from the dead. He conquered death itself for you. 

Jesus went to work. He accomplished what you and I never could. He lived the perfect life. He never sinned. He died to pay for all of your sins. He loves you and gives to you all that His perfect life, death, and resurrection earned. He gives to you forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life. He gives it freely to you because He loves you. Only He can go to work like that; and He did!

So, when Paul commands us to "have the mind of Christ," to imitate Christ, to follow Him, he's not saying that we have the power to do it on our own. He's inviting us to put to work what we already have in Him. To get busy reflecting Jesus, sharing what we too have been given by grace. Put to work what you already have!

You know, in the Great Depression, people really didn't have much. They had to learn to do without. I got a kick about the reporting of a potential blizzard a few weeks ago. Even before there was a snowflake, they talked about how people were terrified and afraid. They spoke of people's fears, fears that caused them to literally assault the grocery stores and strip the shelves bare. Well, merely a few weeks later, those same shelves are stocked again today. 

The Great Depression wasn't about phantom fears. No, in the Great Depression those shelves stayed empty for months at a time. So, during a time like that it was common place that you didn't waste anything. And I remember my grandfather telling the story about drinking coffee with the adults. You see, that was a big thing. That was a grown-up thing in those days. But coffee doesn't taste good to most children then or now, no matter how brave you are. To drink it down, he said, he'd have to put at least two tablespoons of sugar and milk in his coffee and stir it up real good; both of those were precious additives, though, in those days of Depression. So, he'd sip it as long as it tasted sweet but over time the sugar would settle to the bottom and the coffee would begin to taste bitter again. He'd say to his parents, "Mom, Dad, I need more sugar," and they'd say in return, "You have plenty of sugar. Stir up what you already have." 

That's Jesus message to you today. He did all things well for you. He did the impossible so that your life in Him is forever possible again. Salvation is yours. It's sweet. Jesus has done it all. You don't have to work for God's love. Jesus pours that into your life through His word and sacraments. And living life in His Name is putting to work what He has already given you as a gift. Stir it up; His life, His salvation, His forgiveness, His peace. 

So, roll up your sleeves, get to work. The blood, sweat, and tears of a graced life in Jesus for others; it may be hard, but it's worth it when you have Jesus as your Lord and Savior, now and forever. Amen.

LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for March 20, 2016 
Topic: Favorite Bible Passages - Romans 12:2 

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions. I'm Mark Eischer. Pastor, Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Why do you suppose that verse is so popular?

SELTZ: Mark, Romans 12:2 is powerful and important because it gets to the heart of what it means to live the Christian life. Paul reminds all followers of Jesus that we aren't simply to go along with what the world tells us to do. 

ANNOUNCER: Right. Instead, we're supposed to live according to God's will. 

SELTZ: Right, but there is so much more to the story. 

ANNOUNCER: Okay. What is the "more?"

SELTZ: Just before the verse in Romans 12:1 it says clearly, "I appeal to you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, that's your spiritual worship" he says. 

ANNOUNCER: Also a great verse. Why do you suppose it is important that we understand verse 1 in order to understand verse 2? 

SELTZ: First of all, in general, it's good to get the context right to get the meaning of a particular verse correct. The surrounding passages help us to understand what is going on and how the verse was intended to be heard. 

ANNOUNCER: Right, because it can be dangerous and even misleading if you start quoting Bible passages out of context. When we do that, we make the Bible say things it doesn't really intend to say. Would you say this one of those cases? 

SELTZ: Not really, but we can miss the fullness of this verse when we don't know what comes before. 

ANNOUNCER: What in verse 1 should we understand in order to better grasp what verse 2 is telling us?

SELTZ: Well, let's start with the word "therefore." 

ANNOUNCER: I've heard that whenever the Bible uses the word therefore, it is important for us to pause and take a look at what all was said before. 

SELTZ: You're right because Paul is saying "all 12 chapters before" are important to understanding this next verse. The main point of the book of Romans is actually found in Romans in 3:23-24 where it says,"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified (that is declared innocent) by his grace as a gift, because of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." So, when he says, "Therefore, in view of God's mercy," that's the foundation of everything now that's to follow! 

ANNOUNCER: Something very important. In fact, that's the central truth of Christianity.

SELTZ: You are exactly right. These chapters delineate the main teaching of the whole Bible. This is important stuff. 

ANNOUNCER: So, when Paul is saying in verse 1 "therefore," he is referring to all of that teaching. 

SELTZ: Another way we could say it; think of it this way, "Because God has saved us by his grace through faith for Christ's sake, now offer your bodies as living sacrifices."

ANNOUNCER: How would that affect our reading of that second verse, Romans 12, verse 2?

SELTZ: It reminds us to read Romans 12:2 in light of God's grace and mercy, that's our power, that's our foundation. Now the focus of "how" to live, not in the pattern of this world of sin and death; we now live in the will of God expressed in His love, His grace, His forgiveness. 

ANNOUNCER: How again does that help us understand that verse?

SELTZ: It gets to the motivation; the motivation of why Christians try to do the right thing. It's not out of guilt; it's out of the joy of guilt removed. We don't want to conform to the pattern of this world, not only because the pattern of this world is sin, guilt, and death, No, we don't want to conform because we already have with God grace, salvation, life, even transformation. We follow Him because He already loves us in Jesus Christ. 

ANNOUNCER: St. Paul is telling us, then, be careful. Don't get entangled in the things of this world. But would you say the world is really that sinful? 

SELTZ: When Paul talks about not conforming to the pattern of the world, he is referring to the sinful influences of this world in our lives, the way the world encourages us to be self-centered, to do things that are destructive to ourselves and others; to actually disconnect ourselves from Jesus. It's sinful; it's destructive, and debilitating. 

ANNOUCER: So if the pattern of the world leads to sin and death, then the alternative is the will of God?

SELTZ: Exactly. God's will for us is life and salvation. Since we have been forgiven; given life because of Jesus, seek to live in that will of God for you and for others. 

ANNOUNCER: Explained that way, this becomes a very, very important verse. Living in the pattern of sin and death; no, we have a better way in Christ for others. 

SELTZ: Absolutely.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Action in Ministry for March 20, 2016 
Guest: Rev. Stephen Hower 

ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. Up next, Action in Ministry. Once again, here's Pastor Seltz.

SELTZ: Whether we like to think about it or not, death is inevitable unless Jesus returns first. Pastor Stephen Hower is here with us. He's written a resource titled What Happens When I Die? and he joins us to discuss what happens after we take that final breath; what do we need to know and believe before then? Pastor Hower, it's great to have you with us. 

HOWER: Thanks for having me here.

SELTZ: We hear about people who claim to have had near-death experiences, having a bright light shining and they rise above their body; is that what we should be talking about? Is that what we should expect?

HOWER: The reason that I authored this booklet is because people read that stuff. As a pastor, I visit people who are near death and by their bedside are all kinds of books about personal experiences, life after death experiences; and there have been so many of them. They've made movies out of them. There may be even things that I agree with that have been taught in those books but it's not based in truth. 

SELTZ: Regarding our physical body at the time of death, what does the Scripture say? What can we know? 

HOWER: The Bible says that this is a temple where God indwells and so we treat it with respect and God will raise this body up again. We go to the cemetery or now, more and more, half of my funerals are cremations and that's a struggle for people; is that acceptable to do that? I say, "You're going to become dust one way or the other if your body exists long enough before the Lord returns." But then that body will be raised up and we will receive a body like unto His glorious body and in that body we will live forever in heaven.

SELTZ: The Scripture also talks about a separation of body and soul at death. What happens to the soul?

HOWER: Our soul immediately goes to be with the Lord. He said to the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me in paradise," and so he would be. Paul, even, in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4 speaks about this. He says, "I don't want you to be uninformed about those who have died so you would not grieve like the rest who have no hope." Notice he didn't say, "So you would not grieve." He says just don't grieve like other people who have no hope. We grieve. We've lost something precious to us. But we know that we will be joined with them again. It says the Lord will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. It also says that their bodies will be raised and join the Lord in the air. So at that second coming, our bodies will be reunited with our souls and we'll live with the Lord forever. 

SELTZ: Talk again about what's happening in that transition. 

HOWER: I've had people who have not been verbal for days, who have been in a coma for days, and we're all gathered. The nurse called you in and they called the pastor; so we're all there and we're having a prayer, and I've seen people just come to animated life and say, "The voices. The angels. The songs." And I've seen them even reach up and then they die. I think...wow; they are experiencing something that we cannot see as God cares for them as they pass through the valley of the shadow. I do believe that people have had life after death experiences. I just don't think that you should trust anybody's experience. I think we finally have to go back to what we know is true and that is the Bible. But too often the Bible is a difficult book and they struggle to know where do I go to find all these things; and they're scattered throughout the teachings. So, this booklet that The Lutheran Hour has produced really helps bring some of that teaching into one place. I know people have been blessed by it. It's been a book that a lot of people have consulted and it's been one that has been in demand here. 

SELTZ: Yes, and the thing is when you start talking about it too, the Book-and the book is ultimately about this Jesus-Jesus has actually been to hell and back. So, if you really want to know what it's like, trust the One who died and rose again. Right? 

HOWER: Yeah, and He also said that no one has been to heaven and to earth except the One Who came down. So, He reveals....

SELTZ: He's been to heaven, to hell, and now back to heaven and He's calling us home. So, again, this brings us to that topic-heaven versus hell-what do we need to know and what should people be hoping for or knowing, if you will, at that particular moment of death?

HOWER: Well, we know that God is a lot of things; the attributes of God-that God is mercy, God is grace, God is love. God is also just. There is a justice to this world and there will, ultimately, be a Judgement Day. If you reject God and the grace of God that He extends toward you, God will ultimately say "Have it your way. If you don't want Me in your life for eternity, you can have eternity without Me." But that would be an awful way to spend eternity. But God isn't going to force anybody to believe. He says "You can have it your way. That's not what I wish for you. I wish all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." That's an awful choice for somebody to make-to be separated from God in this life and especially in eternal life. 

SELTZ: He's inviting all of us who are listening today to the confidence of knowing they can live forever with Him in Jesus Christ for what He's done for us. There is so much more that we could discuss on this topic. It's so important. You address many other questions in the booklet; give hope and comfort on a subject that is quite fearful for a lot of folks. So, thanks for talking with us today. 

HOWER: Good to be here and God bless your work.

SELTZ: Thank you so much and that's our Action in Ministry segment today to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others. 

ANNOUNCER: The name of this resource is What Happens When I Die? For your free copy, call The Lutheran Hour toll free, 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Or go online, lutheranhour.org. Our email address is info@lhm.org. 

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Awake, My Heart, with Gladness" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)



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