October 20, 2013: 22nd Sunday After Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day when we again remember Your victory over death, remind us where knowledge of such truth comes from. Focus our thoughts upon Your Word of truth and light and life! Yes, always cause us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the glorious truths You have given us in the Bible. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WORD MADE FLESH

TEXT: 2 Timothy 3: 14-17

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

“Growing Up Lutheran”—that’s the title of a book my mother sent me a number of years ago. It’s a reminiscence of how the local Lutheran church played a huge role in the lives of young people with unique customs, traditions, and oddball “stuff” that is part-and-parcel of growing up Lutheran! When you read it you laugh. It takes me back to those famous “church suppers and potlucks” with the omnipresent jello deserts, the abundance of casseroles, egg coffee for the oldsters, and the overflowing desert table. Children’s Christmas programs began in the Lutheran church and in my generation they became commonplace—complete with candy bags handed out at the end which made a huge crinkling noise throughout the church as 150 kids all started shaking them at the same time! For Lutherans Reformation Sunday wasn’t to be missed—ranking only slightly below Christmas and Easter in popularity. And we don’t want to forget the ever-present singing of hymns—the Lutheran church has been a singing church since the time of Luther.

Ask any Lutheran to describe other church bodies in simple terms and you’ll get short-hand like this: Roman Catholics—that’s the church with saint worship (veneration) and whose members always seem to feel guilty. Fundamentalists—they like to quote some Bible passages but discount much of Scripture that they don’t deem “fundamental” to their faith. Evangelicals—they are an emotional lot who have seemingly swallowed the Spirit, feathers and all! And as to the Reformed/ Congregational/Presbyterians/Methodists, well, they ignore Bible passages that aren’t to their liking and are bastions of political correctness today.

We Lutherans, and mind you I’m not including the liberal side of Lutheranism here which is a hollow shell of what our forefathers lived and died for, we Lutherans like to talk a lot about “the Word.” That is, we want to focus people on all the truths of the Bible because therein lies our salvation and comfort in a harsh world. I cannot count the sermons I’ve heard the preacher discourse on the Word and how vital it is for our faith. However, many of those same preachers often fail to explain exactly how to use that same Word to grow and flourish. Our lesson today remedies that situation.

I

If St. Paul or young pastor Timothy, whom he is writing to, came back to life today, what Christian church body would they belong to? Without a doubt it would be a confessional, conservative Lutheran church. We see that in how Paul speaks of the Word and how highly he values it—just like us. Listen to his opening words to Pastor Timothy: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

St. Paul converted Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice to Christianity. He had history with that family dating back to his first journey to Ephesus. So, Timothy grew up knowing Paul and more importantly knowing Jesus as his Savior. Obviously the family altar, Christian devotional time, was a vital part of his upbringing. Note that Paul says here this has been “from infancy.” Yes, infants can believe. How? How does the Spirit work faith into their hearts? Well, you know, through baptism! At baptism the seed was planted and by growing up in a Christian home that wasn’t afraid to put God first and discuss “God stuff” daily, so the Word fed and watered that faith. It grew. It focused on Jesus as the only Savior from sin. It told of His grace, His undeserved love, whereby our souls were saved. The Word is both informational and transportational. It worked faith and gave God’s love to us, along with a growing knowledge of how to live in a way which would give all glory to God while filling our hearts with gladness at the same time. Just as Jesus “grew in stature and in favor with God and man” so young people like Timothy do the same when exposed to the Word—the truth of Jesus Christ, Who is the Word made flesh.

II

Of course, as we get a little older, problems, questions that test our faith, and a multitude of temptations come our way. How should we handle them? What is the best way to go when faced with a dilemma in life? Does God’s Word have any really practical advice for us, any guidance in such situations? Yes, it does! You see, the Word isn’t just a “thing” it’s also a source of truth and power. Through it the Holy Spirit works. (That’s the transportational part.) That’s why reading and studying the Bible isn’t just learning factoids, it’s an ongoing practice of Godly faith. Listen to Paul’s wisdom here: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Every Lutheran knows this passage by heart. It’s the most pithy exposition of the Word there is. First, the entire Bible is inspired, breathed by the Spirit into the minds and pens of those who wrote it. Every word is true. Every thought it conveys is Godly. And we are to apply the Word to all the situations we face in life—if we want to walk with God and in His pathway of truth and light. So, now Paul gives us the checklist of how to use the Word. 1. Use it for teaching. The Greek word Paul uses here literally means: giving good things. Use the Bible to give God’s good things to others while applying His gifts to your own life, too. Knowing right and wrong is a good thing. Knowing how you’re forgiven and saved is a good thing. Knowing Heaven is your eternal home is a good thing. Knowing you’re beloved by God’s Son is a good thing. 2. Next comes: rebuking. Sometimes our flesh rebels against a command of God. At those times do we listen to our flesh, or listen to God’s Word of truth? Telling yourself “No” is an important part of life. It saves you from much heartache. Likewise, sometimes we have to tell others, loved ones, that they are wrong and on a pathway of self-destruction. If you know the Bible well enough you can explain to them what God thinks about it and show them from the Word that they are wrong. For then the Spirit can work on their hearts. 3. Correcting another’s false notions about life issues is coupled with “training in righteousness.” In other words, always be ready to use God’s Word to show others and yourself that there is a better way to live, a more God-pleasing way. Today our culture is confronted by a host of hot-button issues like: how to define marriage? “A man shall leave his mother and father and be united and the two shall become one flesh.” Is sex outside of marriage right or wrong? “Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked.” How to find fulfillment in a materialistic world? “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and yet forfeit his own soul?” What constitutes honor and ethical behavior? “The love of Christ constrains us.” Is abortion or euthanasia really not-so-bad? Or, when to pin the badge of personal responsibility on another vs. the cop-out of “it’s an addiction so I’m not really responsible”?—to name a few. Well, the Word corrects abuses by providing answers to all these and more and also trains people to walk in God’s rightness and be blest.

And all this works together in our lives “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So, what does it mean to be a Lutheran? It means taking all of God’s Word seriously, studying it, pondering it, learning it’s truths, and putting them into daily practice. It means turning ones back on the ego, the “I”, and embracing God’s grace with a humble heart. And it also means that then we walk into each day with joy, thankfulness, and praise to God alone in our hearts. Amen