October 11, 2009: Let God Be God!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day we have come to worship You with our entire being. Empower us to continue that process throughout the coming weeks, months, and years. Indeed, let us bow before Your divine will and lovingly submit ourselves to You in everything, trusting in Your mercy and grace. For only then will our lives be peaceable and our souls at rest. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE BLESSED TRINITY!

TEXT: James 4: 7-12

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Next week we will have a guest preacher in our midst. Your synod president will be here to share God’s message of grace on our 125th anniversary! I don’t know what he’ll preach about yet, as he hasn’t sent me his text or his theme. But I do know it will center on God’s grace and on us continuing to let God be God as we go forward into the future.

Many years ago, another guest preacher from our synod visited us. The Rev. Dick Weichmann was here. I still recall his sermon that summer day. It was based on the 1st commandment, how none of us can carry out that commandment, and how Christ fulfilled it for us so that we’re not held guilty any longer by God Almighty. You recall the 1st commandment: “You shall have no other Gods.” You also should recall Luther’s explanation: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” It might surprise you, who have come to worship the only God there is, that our keeping of those words limps, at best. We have good intentions on Sunday morning, but during the week, we fall down on the job. We have a certain view of God in our minds and too often we try to make God Almighty conform to our thoughts about Him, thus reducing and cutting Him down. All of us do this. All of us break the 1st commandment. So, what’s the solution? As James tells us, it is to:

LET GOD BE GOD!

I

Although Sunday worship is a corporate activity, in reality it is an individual activity. Finally, true worship is about you and your direct relationship with your Creator. So, Let God Be God directly in all your life! This is James’ point when he lays out some urgent imperatives in our lesson: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil; and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Keeping the 1st commandment entails, first of all, submitting to God and putting yourself under His direct care. In short, know Who He is, and recognize who you are—a sinner who hasn’t got all the answers to life but thinks they have because of your pride. Second comes resistance—not to God but to Satan and his allies. Recognize that Satan is your natural ally—after all you and I were born into sin which is his dominion—and then break off that alliance! Say: No! to temptation. Don’t listen to his voice of compromise with Divine truth. And when you do, God promises that Satan will flee from you just as he did your Savior, Jesus Christ. Third, come near to God. Search Him out at church, in your home devotionals, in Bible Class and Sunday School. Do so with a pure heart, a heart which says: “God is all-knowing, I’m not all-knowing, and even if I don’t understand some things He demands from me, I’ll do them anyway because I trust my Creator. Fourthly, “grieve, mourn and wail” over your failures to live up to His high standards. Sometimes it is good to have a sleepless night due to unresolved sin in your life. Sometimes it’s good to feel the gloom of inward hard-heartedness. Sometimes it is good to mourn the times you’ve hurt another and thereby hurt God. Because only then will the sweetness of forgiveness in Christ taste both fresh and sweet in your mouth. Only when you realize what you’ve been saved from will we truly appreciate Christ’s victory on the cross. Yes, when we humble ourselves before God and admit from the bottom of our hearts that we need Him above all else, only then can and will we be “lifted up” as James says. Don’t ever forget that it is God Who you are dealing with. He’s jealous of His good name. He’s jealous of any one of His creatures trying to steal His honor and glory. Thus, humility is the only way to approach Him. Or as James says so well in the verse preceding our text: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

II

Let God be God is the greatest moral imperative in this life. We are commanded to do so directly in our relationship with Him, and indirectly in our relationship with other people. Recall Christ’s summation of the entire 10 commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” So, what’s our role when it comes to others? James tells us: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

In both our Old Testament Lesson and our Gospel lesson we see misguided judging of others by which the speaker of those judgments misguidedly tries to limit God and the Spirit! Both men, Joshua and John, thought their motives were pure. Joshua didn’t like those other two men prophesying in the camp because he thought it out-of-place. John didn’t like someone other than the 12 casting out demons because he thought they were taking authority away from the disciples. But in both cases, these seemingly well-intentioned Christians were wrong. They were seeking to limit the power of the Spirit. And inwardly they also thought they had a corner on the God market, and weren’t willing to share it due to their jealous pride.

Christians who slander others are guilty of the same sin. We cannot read hearts. We cannot ascertain motives in other people. But if God is glorified by what they say and do, if the commandments are outwardly kept, if they speak the truth in love—just because it hits us wrong is no reason to put them down. No instead of being talkers about Christianity, about God’s Word, we need to be followers, or “doers.” Thus, the commandments 4-10 summed up by those words: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

God is the ultimate Judge of everyone. It’s not our role or place to occupy His judge’s seat. No, that place is reserved for the One Who earned it—Jesus Christ. And surprise, surprise!—since it is the Savior Who sits in it, the same One Who poured out His precious blood to save our souls and cleanse us both inside and out from all evil, well, we can trust His judgments will be loving, holy, perfect, and the words: “You’re innocent because I became guilty for you!” will ring in our ears!

All people are naturally control freaks. It’s our way of trying to play God in our own lives. But today there’s an antidote: Let God Be God! Let go by humbling yourself before Him, by trusting in His goodness and mercy, and by clinging to Christ. Let go by putting your lives into His hands. After all, whether you believe it or not, that’s where you reside all the time anyway. And if you do that, His comforting peace truly will rest upon you….Amen