2-12-23 Sexagesima

Bible Text: Luke 8:4-15 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus | Series: Gesima 2023 | The Word Jesus preaches is like Him. Its power is hidden in weakness. When I say it’s hidden I don’t mean that it’s hidden to you. It’s not; it shouldn’t be. It’s hidden to the unbelievers, not to Christians. You can say that Christ’s power is hidden in the cross, in suffering, but what do you see when you look at the cross of Jesus – you see power, don’t you? I do. It is hard for me to see anything else. When a pastor preaches and tells me that people look and they see it’s just a man hanging on a cross, it shocks my senses to even try and imagine that it’s just a man hanging on a cross – no, that’s my Creator hanging on the cross, the Almighty God who has become my brother, who bears my sin, who is facing my punishment and winning me the privilege to stand in the presence of God. It’s not hidden to me. It’s not hidden to you. But it is hidden to the unbeliever. And this should tell you the power of God’s Word, which is also hidden to the unbeliever. It is God’s Word that shows you reality, that opens eyes that are blind to the most beautiful things imaginable and lets them see and enjoy.

It has often amazed me and I’m sure you too that Jesus did so many miracles and yet the people still didn’t believe – just a small number, his little flock He calls them. We sing this wonder during Lent – why, what hath my Lord done, what makes this rage and spite, he makes the lame to run he gives the blind their sight! But they kill him. The smarter-than-thou academics will say it is because he never did the miracles; if he did, no way could people turn against him. I can’t imagine a blinder blindness than the intellectualism that passes for knowledge in our day. Any Christian can see, it’s not hidden from us, why people could see so much from Jesus and yet still be blind to Who He is and How much they need Him. Because we see it every day. When Jesus had finished His miracles, He tells His disciples that they will do greater works than all the miracles He ever did. Because the Word of God that they preached, that I preach, that you hear and confess and believe, it opens eyes to see a world full of miracles, constant, every moment of every day, glorious witness of God in action. And I am not speaking only of the greatest miracles that we hold most precious, the fact that we can see that the water just poured on Matthew’s head was not just water, but the water with the Word and command of God, that angels sang with us and God spoke and called Matthew His child and forgave him all his sins and made his body the temple of His Holy Spirit. Or what we will see soon, as all the angels join us in rapture that the Son of God descends from heaven as we sing Blessed is He, Blessed is He, Blessed is He, and Himself feeds us with living food, His own flesh and blood that He gave for the life of the world.

These are the greatest and the best, but we see why the unbeliever can’t see them. Because our ears don’t hear the angels either and our eyes don’t see the Son of God descending from heaven. But what we see every single day is God at work. This is what the Word of God does. It opens eyes. The birth of a baby is not simply a medical phenomenon, the natural process of human reproduction: it’s God creating life and letting us participate in it. The shining of the sun and the feel of its warmth on a February day in Casper, that is God’s sun, and that ray created specifically to warm your hand on that day. This should be obvious. Every glance of the eye at the night sky or the mountain or the bunny in the grass should make us see God at work. This is what the Holy Spirit says, “What may be known of God is evident, for God has shown it, for since the creation of the world His invisible actions are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made.”

It should be easy for us to see that the people saw Jesus’ miracles and then walked away and did not believe, because the same thing happens among us constantly. And not only do the unbelievers see God at work and yet not see it – as Jesus says, “that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand.” This happens to us. We can walk away from Jesus giving us His own body and blood and assuring us that we belong to Him and then go home and worry about money or hold a grudge against our brother or son or mother or wallow in discontent because of what God hasn’t given us – think of that: He just gave you Himself, God did, and you saw it, He placed it in your mouth, and you are discontent, you think something’s been held back from you; that we could witness a baptism and see how much God loves His children and then treat other baptized Christians like trash to be gossiped about, what is this? It is witnessing the greatest of miracles, seeing them, and then forgetting them. Yes, yes, but we still believe in Jesus, we don’t see His miracles and then turn round and crucify Him and spite Him and mock Him. Yes you do. What you have done to the least of these my brethren you have done it unto Me. Repent. Do not make excuses. You have seen miracles far greater than any miracle the enemies of Jesus saw and you bear witness in yourself, in your life, of the power of sin to blind you to reality.

And here you will see how great the power of God’s Word is. This is hidden from the unbelievers. It is not from you. You have seen exactly what Jesus is talking about in the parable of the sower and the seed. You have seen the Word of God sown in hearts of stone that simply will not accept it. The devil snatches it from their hearts. You have seen people receive it, so happy, so convinced, on fire for the Lord, and then they wither away, because they couldn’t take the heat. They never took to heart what it meant that Paul himself, the blessed apostle, begged God to take the pain away, and God said no, and Paul was content and could still say, Rejoice in the Lord always, and still say, I count all else rubbish in comparison with the excellence of having Christ and belonging to Him. You have seen people, your own loved ones, believe and then throw it away because they loved money or sex or the approval of their friends more than their God.

But you have seen these same things tempt you. You have felt the horror of the devil tugging and pulling and trying to rip faith from your heart. You have felt the high of trusting in Christ, the absolute joy of it that brings tears to the eyes and complete peace to the heart, and then moments later the fear and anxiety and doubt have rushed in to put that fire out and make of a burning flame a smoldering wick. You have found your greatest care in keeping the faith and your greatest pleasure in knowing Jesus’ blood and your Father’s love, and then lusts and pleasures have lured you to sin against the very God whom you so adore. These are not foreign to you. You understand their power, you see what blindness looks like, and so you can sympathize, you can empathize, with every lost soul who lost the fight and now is blind to the glory of God among us.

But you have seen the power of God’s Word is stronger, greater, and altogether different from the power of sin and blindness. The pleasures of this world do not forgive, do they? The cares you so worry yourself over do not give contentment. The approval of men ends up meaning nothing, is so fickle, and who cares, because they are only men and you know what’s in men, because you’ve seen it in yourself. But God’s Word is forgiving. Ask yourself this. How is it that you know what the hardened heart feels like, what the shallow root is, how the thorns prick and choke, and yet you stand here a Christian? What is this? Why has faith remained, why has the devil not prevailed, what did the root end up going deeper and pushing the rocks away, why did the plant fight off the thorns and rise higher and refuse to be choked? Is it because you struggled harder, fought with more endurance, overcame with sweat and tears? Yes, it is, actually. But you know by what power you struggled and prevailed, what gave you the endurance, what fired you for the fight. It was the Word of Jesus and it remains the Word of Jesus.

I do not have to explain to you its power. I do not have to tell you how it created the heavens and the earth. Because you have experienced a greater power than the creation of all things. That is the power of the Word of God in your life. That God forgives wretched sinners of whom you are chief, that the blood of His Son calls you back from aimless pursuits not by compulsion but by a holy lure, a pure enticement, that so far exceeds sinful pleasures that the thorns only work to strengthen the plant until scarred and strong its branches bear the most beautiful fruit of thanksgiving to the God who so loves us.

There is no need to explain how much the Word of God can do. Only believe it and trust in it and hear it with patient and noble hearts, and you will see what every Christian sees: miracles everywhere, God never stopping to bless, even in your sufferings a blessed cross that works for your good and makes you cling to the cross of your Savior and know His love and see that no pleasure on this earth can compare, that you would be happy to lose it all like Job if only in the end you know that your own eyes will see your Savior standing on the earth. When the darkness veils His lovely face on this earth, when your eyes begin to be blinded, when the thorns rise up and the cares annoy, run to His Word. And when I say “when” I don’t mean in a year, in a month, in a week, I mean today, and every day which is the day of salvation, which is the day that the Lord has made, which is the day that will have cares and worries and temptations and the devil lurking around like a lion seeking whom he may devour. So wield the sword of the Word and you will see its power daily. The devil tempts you and lies to you and tells you you are unhappy unless you have this or that and then rubs your sins in your face, run to your Savior’s Word, see His purity, your eyes are not blind, He is not like the world, not like their empty promises, He stands with open arms and calls to you as the perfect husband who has laid down His life for His bride and clothes you with His righteousness. The cares of the world come over you and they will, and you’ll think you need more money and worry and your eye will covet your neighbor’s happiness and unrighteous anger and sheer annoyance will rise in your heart, so today, tomorrow, every day, immediately answer the call of the Jesus’ Word, read it, pray to Him, think of Him, stop and rest and see that He is good and cast your care on Him and know everything is fine, is beautiful, is wonderful, because He is yours and you are His and that’s what matters and that’s what will always matter.

And then the fruit will come. And you will increase in love for God and love for others. And you will rejoice always, because the Word of God will always be with you, and that is a Word that shows God always at work, always for you, every minute of every day, until days are not counted and we bask in the uncreated light of God forever. Amen.

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