Sunday, September 16, 2012

Trinity 15 Sermon

Trinity 15 – September 16th, 2012 – Matthew 6:23-34


In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +

          “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”  Whom do you love and whom do you serve?  What is the priority in your life?  Which is more important, growing your pocketbook or growing in knowledge and understanding of Christ Jesus and what He has done for you?  Jesus here lays things out rather bluntly.  You can’t do both – your focus will either be on Cash or on Christ – one or the other.  Your focus will be either or the things of this life or on the things of eternal life.  That’s just the way it works.  The things of the world – money, power, glory – they will grab more and more of your time – and God says, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”  God doesn’t want to play second fiddle in your life.  That’s the setting.  That’s the situation.  This is the contrast and difficulty we face – there is a battle going on within us, a battle for supremacy between money and God.

          When we start looking at what Jesus says here – how He warns us that we can’t divide our love between Him and money, we need to remember one thing.  Jesus wants our love not for His benefit, but rather for ours.  Sometimes, when we see Scripture talking about God desiring our love – we can be tempted to think that God needs us – that the focus should be on what we do for God.  No.  The Christian faith isn’t about the praise you give God.  If God desires praise, He could make the stones sing out.  The heavens themselves declare His Glory.  The Christian faith isn’t about what we do.  But this comes up often in language used by many Christians.  For example, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m going to give my heart to Jesus.”  That statement is about what you do for God.  I’m going to give. . . as though Jesus is some lonely teenager waiting for the phone to ring. Give Jesus your heart – why would that be a good thing to give Jesus – your heart is corrupted and filled with sin.  What good is that going to do God?  Talking about and focusing on what we do, what we give to God is sort of like a guy bragging that he gave his girlfriend a wonderful bouquet of dead flowers.  Whenever you “lift up your hearts” – you aren’t doing something for God – you are asking Him for forgiveness.  Create in me a clean heart, oh God, as mine is dirty.  The focus isn’t on what we do for God – and Jesus isn’t trying to guilt us into doing more things for Him – He’s not the moping relative saying, “How come you don’t come to visit anymore?”

          You cannot serve God and money.  No, Jesus says this for our benefit.  So that we grow, so that we may be at peace, so that we enjoy His blessings to us more.  Christ’s focus isn’t on what you can do for Him, God’s focus is always on what He can do for you – how He can show you love.  God created you – He knows how you should operate, what you should be doing, what is best for you.  And what is best for you?  To serve God.  That’s what we were designed for, that’s what we were created to be – to be people that show love to God, to be people that show love to our neighbors.  When that is who we are, that’s when we are at our best.  But when we listen to our old sinful flesh and shift our focus away God and onto money, onto wealth and earthly power, it’s bad for us.  It makes us unhappy and dissatisfied and just not how we are supposed to be.  Listen to how Jesus explains this.

          “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than clothing?”  Do you see what Jesus does here?  Therefore.  Therefore is a great word.  Because your focus is to be on God and not on money – don’t worry about your life.  Don’t worry about how great your food is or if your clothing is the latest fashion.  Don’t get caught up in the rat race that this fallen world is.  Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses – don’t worry about trying to be more successful than your neighbor – don’t worry about how big the other guy’s farm is, don’t worry about whether or not the other folks in the office get paid better than you.  Why?  Because if you are worrying about those types of things – your focus is off.  Your focus is misplaced – and instead of being on God, it’s on money and the things of this earth.  And what happens then?

          When you start looking at money – and what you have and what you don’t have – you will always be dissatisfied.  Why?  Because you could always have more.  There’s always more money that could be made.  There’s always more land that could be bought.  There’s always more work that could be done.  There’s always newer cars.  There’s always better stuff.  And when we focus on these things – all we see is our lack.  All we end up seeing is what we don’t have.  And that’s the way of misery.  And even the world knows this.  You can hear this on the radio as the hugely wealthy musicians lament how more money means more problems, how the promises of fame and wealth don’t satisfy, so on and so forth.  What happens is it is easy for us to get caught up in stuff, in money, in mammon – and then we are not satisfied.  When we look to the things of the world all we will ever see is what we don’t have and be miserable. 

          That’s not what God wants for you.  God wants your focus to be on Him.  Why?  Not so that you can do things for God, but so you can see and focus on all the things that God has done for you.  The world shows us stuff and our lack – Christ shows us that He is our savior and that we are fulfilled in Him.  In Christ, you lack nothing.  Hence, Jesus instructs us, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Seek first the kingdom of God.  So what is the kingdom of God?  John the Baptist preached that the Kingdom is coming.  Jesus told the disciples, “The Kingdom of God is within your midst.”  We pray, “Thy Kingdom Come.”  What are we talking about?  We are talking about Jesus.  Wherever Jesus is, there is God’s Kingdom.  Seek ye first Jesus.  Seek not the power of the world, but seek the power of Christ.  And what is Christ’s power for us?  Christ’s power isn’t focused on wealth or stuff – but this.  His righteousness.  This is the power of God – that He takes us sinful men and women, and by the power of His righteousness – by His holy righteous precious blood which He shed upon the Cross we are made holy and righteous.  In Christ Jesus you lack nothing.  You have everything – for you have salvation and life and forgiveness – and nothing the world does can take that away.  Nothing your neighbor has robs you of Jesus.  No struggles, no hardship steals Jesus away.  Learn your Luther hymns and you will see this.  “And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife” – all the things of the world, everything, “Let these all be gone.  They yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.”  Satan wins nothing.  The world can do you no real harm.  Why?  Because Christ Jesus has come to you.  When you were baptized Christ Jesus gave Himself to you, bound Himself to you, tied Himself to you – and that trumps anything in the world.  Christ has fulfilled you, has filled you up with His righteousness, and you have all that you need.  You have Christ.

          You see, this is what happens, this is the danger of money and wealth and power.  They offer so much joy and happiness and glory – but they are powerless to deal with the real driving problems we face.  Money is powerless to deal with sin and its impact.  Oh, it can be a servant, I suppose – but to really fix sin, fix sin’s impact?  No, it can’t do that – the fact remains this.  The wages of sin is death, and all the money in the world, all the food and clothing in the world can’t change that, can’t fix that.  And yet, our old sinful flesh craves these things, and would have us ignore Christ – indeed, our old sinful flesh would have us miserable ignoring Christ rather than simply resting contentedly and trusting in Him.  Rather than being God’s servant, knowing that you have a Master who loves and cares for you because He is good, sin would call us out to join in the rat race, the hustle and bustle, to wear ourselves out all in vain, for fleeting wealth and riches.  No, my friends – Christ Jesus is your Lord, and He will provide for you all your days in this sinful fallen place, but even more wondrously, He has given you the life everlasting, life where moth and rust do not destroy.  Mammon cannot offer that.  

Dear friends in Christ – be not anxious in this life – don’t worry about stuff and things.  In fact, learn to give them away.  I do not say this in a finger waving way, I do not say this as cruel law.  No, Your Lord and Master, Christ Jesus has promised you that you need worry about nothing – that you are in His care, that He has given you what you need for both this life now and for the life of the world to come.  Let your focus be on Christ – let first and foremost be this fact and truth – that Christ Jesus has died for you.  You are forgiven, and with His forgiveness you have all that you need both now and eternally. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

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