Monday, February 19, 2018

Sermon February 17-18, 2018

Title: You are made new in Christ!
Text: James 1:12-18

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Historian Shelby Foote tells of a soldier who was wounded at the battle of Shiloh during the American Civil War and was ordered to go to the rear. The fighting was fierce and within minutes he returned to his commanding officer. "Captain, give me a gun!" he shouted,
"This fight ain't got any rear!" 

Daily Walk, July 10, 1993.

That is what it is like with trial and temptation. It feels like there is no end. Day in and day out we daily are confronted with trials. How is your health; or finances? Does your car or home need repair? Are your children having issues and you’re faced with how to help, can you help - or will they let you help?

Is life one trial after another?

We are so blessed.

James begins his epistle with these words.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, James 1:2 NIV 1984

Joy really? Trials are not fun. We all know the struggle that it can entail. Up, down, joy, sorrow, struggle, anger - sin most often is the result - but hopefully so is repentance.

But here, in our epistle for today, James speaks of being blessed.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ESV

Blessed and steadfast - the riches of God come by standing firm and through these trials God promises the crown of life.

James here is echoing the words of Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

We talked last week about the light of Christ in each one of us. The good deposit of faith that began at our baptism as God himself washed away our sins and marked us as his child. That child, you and me, needs to be fed. We need Spiritual food so that we can remain healthy, vibrant and grow in our lives so that we can stand firm and not sway during the tempting and testing that comes and will come.

God is not the source of temptation.

Though God temps no one he does allow temptation. Why? What possible good can come from temptation?


In October of 2015 trial and temptation came for Monica and me. I had just finished the LWML rally at Holy Cross in Oxford and was getting ready for service that evening at Peace when I got a call that Monica had to go into the emergence room for a procedure. Ultimately that turned out to be cancer and that turned into two surgeries, a long healings process, doubts, concerns, worries, and you name it. Thankfully, this week her CT scan and report came back good – no cancer - so we’re good for another 4 months!

And then in November of 2015 Thanksgiving evening to be sure I get a call from fellow member Sue Vogt that she is in the hospital having just been diagnosed with Leukemia. Chemo, blood draws and the like have gone on for her since. A broken foot and hip along the way and now she is home from rehab looking optimistically at the future and continued healing.

And there are so many others, health, finances, marriage issues, jobs and the tempting and trials never seem to end.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. James 1: 13

It is easy to look and ask - why me? But that is not what I heard from Monica or Sue and so many others. They were resigned to fight these illnesses and setbacks and though I’m sure concern and uncertainty came into play, the temptation is mediated by faith in Christ and this faith produces a steadfast resolve pointing outward to the hope that doesn’t fade and will not leave you nor forsake you.

We take our eyes off of Christ.

In life we lose sight of Jesus. It happens when things get bad or when things get good or too good. At times we run from those that most love and want to help us to those who lead away from Jesus and destroy lives. The devil is the source and tempter who points to joys and blessings that are temporal, and because of sin we can all fall victim to this enticing.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14

As my friend Dan a musician in Nashville once told me when I asked him about the faith of another musician, “Well, he’s not interested in God right now things are going too well for him.”

If it is not trial and illness that point you to the brokenness of this world and a need for Christ, then it is in the sinful desires of a heart, content in the ways of the world who goes it alone or in a direction opposed to Christ.

How far off course can we go before we are truly lost we might ask?
How much sin is too much?
What does true repentance consist of?
Can we squander the gift of salvation?

Unrepentance dear friends brings death.

I was talking to a young man who was wrestling with the word of God as it is revealed as Law and Gospel in scripture. He said to me:

“Pastor, I don’t know if I buy this Law and Gospel stuff. I mean when we sin we can just go to God and say I’m sorry? I know that we’re forgiven but it sounds so cheap. Oh yeah – I’m sorry God forgive me - and then we go right back to doing the same sin!”

My response to his concern was do you think that God is fooled? I mean, do you really think God is fooled by false repentance? Maybe at times we think that? We’ve all probably said we were sorry for something we weren’t really sorry for but being sorry is only part of repentance.

Repentance requires being sorry for sin and then it requires a turning away from sin and a turning back to God. It doesn’t mean that we will be successful in walking in the right way before God - but only that we desire to walk with God and away from sin.


Louis Berkhoff writes: Moreover, true repentance never exists except in conjunction with faith, while on the other hand, wherever there is true faith, there is also real repentance. The two are but different aspects of the same turning - a turning away from sin in the direction of God. The two cannot be separated; they are simply complementary parts of the same process. 

L Berkhoff, Systematic Theology, p. 487.

So, repentance requires faith.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:16-17

When thoughts words and deeds lead to sin, God by his Spirit comforts us with forgiveness. Through his gift of faith he turns you and me in repentance and comforts us with his forgiveness.

18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

All things work together for good.

By God’s work he keeps us connected to him by faith.

By his work he turns us to see our failings and also to see our savior. 

By his work we keep our eyes upon Jesus so that no matter the trial and temptation we can turn in faith to repent of our sins and receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ our Lord!

By his work we are forgiven and made new in Christ!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!


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