December 17, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 61:1-3

                                      Isaiah 61:10-11

Gospel Lesson; John 1:6-8

                             John 1:19-28

Sermon Text; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

The Word of God we focus on for today is taken from our Epistle Lesson, looking at 1 Thessalonians chapter five, verses 16 through 24. This is in our Savior, Jesus' name.

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. For this is God's Will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. But test everything. Hold on to the good. Keep away from every kind of evil. May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


So, as I mentioned earlier, this is the third Sunday in The Advent Season. Really the message, or the mood changes just a little bit. Last week, Pastor Bartels was telling us about the ministry of John the Baptist. One of the themes during The Advent Season is a message of repentance. That is what John the Baptist came to do, to prepare people for their Savior by saying,


for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Well, that mood changes just a little bit. On this third Sunday in The Advent Season it becomes a message of joy, (like that of the angels, bringing the good news of the birth of the Savior).

And so, we gather together to rejoice, and have joy, because the Savior is coming!

Now, recently you have heard me say this, and you have heard Pastor Bartels say this recently, too. The word 'advent' means 'coming'.

-We do focus on Jesus coming as a baby, the first time, to be our Savior.

-We do focus on Jesus, when He is going to come again, the second time. When He comes, He is going to come to be our Judge.

But, here we are now, living in between that time, aren't we? We are living after He came to be our Savior, and before He comes to be our Judge. So, how is it we should live, as we are in this in between time? How is it we should live our lives? Well, this text from 1 Thessalonians, chapter five, really is telling us how to live our lives, in between those two periods of time. It is the Apostle Paul's, Last Will and Testament. They are his final instructions. This is how you are to live. It is kind of like a 'Christmas Shopping List' that is filled with attitudes and actions we should have as we are living in this in between time.

So, what is 'A Will and Testament'? 'A Will or a Testament' is 'a legal document', isn't it? It simply states the individuals, or charities that a person's money, or property goes to when they die. Well, it is not always the case, but sometimes with somebody's Last Will and Testament, they will include something known as 'A Christian Preamble'. 'A Christian Preamble' is 'a very clear directive what the now deceased person's faith was'. I want to read a paragraph talking about that Christian Preamble to a Will, or Testament. “A Christian Preamble to your Will provides a significant opportunity to share your faith with family, and friends, as part of what may be the last document they read, or hear about you. Through this personal statement of your faith, a significant message will be delivered to those you love, and know best. This message of faith comes at a time of grief, and loss, and serves as a reminder to your loved ones to place their trust in Jesus, just as you have.”

And so this morning, let's look at Paul's Last Will and Testament, for the people who he loves, and again encouraging them to live their lives in preparation for Jesus' coming the second time to be their Savior.

So, let's go through our text for this morning.

“Rejoice always.”

If you rejoice, that means you have joy, right? Maybe the passage in scripture that is even more clear than this one, is one the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians. It was the theme for our school last year.

“Rejoice in the Lord, always.

Again, I will say rejoice.”

Sometimes, when we look at the three scripture readings on Sunday, we may wonder, “How does this fit in with the theme for the day?” Here is one of the two ways it does. It is a message of joy. “Rejoice always.”

“Pray without ceasing.”

I think I have told you before, oftentimes when I am in sermon preparation, I like to go to our Catechism to see if there are any Proof Passages in our Catechism, with the text I am preaching on. This is the one, and only verse from this text that appears in our Catechism. It falls under this question: “When should we pray?”

Certainly, the answer in general is, “In all times at all places.”

But, the answer our Catechism gives is: “The desires of our heart should be directed to God at all times. We should also have regular times of prayer.”

It gives two examples.

-One is Daniel in The Old Testament, in which it tells us Daniel set aside three times each day, specific times, to come before the Lord in prayer.

-The other example it gives is the persistent widow in The New Testament. The persistent widow went before a judge, and asked for justice. But she didn't do it just one time. She did it continually. Scripture says this about the judge. It says, “He did not believe. And yet, he said, 'I am going to give this woman justice so that she doesn't come bugging me, anymore.'”

She was persistent, wasn't she? She came before the judge continually, and that is what Paul in this 'Shopping List' of attitudes and actions is really telling us to do. Pray without ceasing.

In everything give thanks, for this is God's Will for you in Christ Jesus.

In everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

It is easy to come before God in prayer, when things are not going well. But, this is a reminder to us to also come before God, when He has answered our prayer, and return to Him in thanksgiving. I can't help but think of the Ten Lepers, here. Remember when they came to Jesus, and asked Him to cleanse them of their leprosy? They went away, and what happened? They were cleansed. One returned to give thanks, and what was Jesus' question? “Where are the other nine?”

Here, Paul is giving us an encouragement not to forget to return, and give thanks, when we have come before Him, when we have had a problem, and to now come before Him in thanksgiving.

Yesterday, there was one of our members here at Holy Cross who was in a car accident. Her car was totaled, but she is fine. So, what did she do? She went before the Lord in a prayer, because there was a trouble in her life. But, she also went before the Lord in thanksgiving too, because God kept her safe.

This is God's Will for us.

Certainly, as we pray The Lord's Prayer, and we pray the petition, “Thy Will be done”, we are simply fulfilling what it is Paul carries out in this Last Will and Testament.

“Do not extinguish the spirit.”

What is it that needs to be extinguished? Something that is on fire, right? So, out in California right now, what are the firefighters out in California trying to do, right now? Trying to extinguish the fire, right? They are thinking it is the largest fire, the Thomas Fire, in recorded history. So, something that is on fire needs to be extinguished.

But, Paul is saying here,

“Do not extinguish the spirit.”

What is it you have? You have faith in Jesus, as your Savior. That is that flame, that flame of fire Paul is talking about. He is saying, “Don't extinguish that.” We extinguish the fire of faith, when we stay away from Word and Sacrament. But, here we are gathered together this morning, and what are we doing? We are adding fuel to the fire, aren't we? We are being strengthened in our faith through Jesus, as our Savior, through His Word. Soon you are about to receive The Lord's Supper, in which through His body and blood you are receiving the forgiveness of all of your sins.

“Do not treat prophesies with contempt.”

Now, this is just saying, “Don't add to what scripture says. And, don't subtract from what scripture says.” There are church bodies today, and there are individuals who like to add to what scripture says. They like to subtract from what scripture says. But, Paul is just saying, “Take God's Word at its simplest, plainest, clearest meaning, and don't change, or alter what it is that God's Word is saying.”

“But test everything.

Hold on to the good.

Keep away from every kind of evil.”

The Greek word here for 'test' is really 'to see if something is genuine'. It was used for testing silver. It was used for testing gold, to make sure it is silver, and to make sure it is gold.

Right now, with the sanctuary project we have, my email in-box is getting filled up. And, Pastor Bartels' is too. One of the things that we are getting reports on is concrete. They are testing the concrete. The group who is testing our concrete gives us reports that talk about the number of specimens that were taken, the number of cubic yards that were placed, what the air temperature was when the concrete was poured, what the temperature of the concrete was, who the supplier of that concrete is, what the mixture number is, and the design strength.

What are they doing with those tests? They are making sure it is going to be able to support our future sanctuary, and to make sure that cement they are pouring doesn't crumble. They are testing everything to make sure of its integrity, and it genuineness holds up.

Here is the second verse that ties in with our theme of joy, today, on this third Sunday of Advent.

“May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely,

and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are living in that in between time, aren't we, after that first time Jesus came to be our Savior, and before the second time, when He comes to be our Judge? May you, and may I be found blameless.

Here is what Paul has done. He is making some assumptions on our behalf. Here are the two assumptions he is making.

-He is assuming you know The Law. He is assuming we have followed what the theme from last Sunday is, of repentance. We know we have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed, and that we have repented of our sins. We are sorry for our sins.

-The second assumption he makes is that he knows you know Jesus is your Savior, and that Jesus was born for you, lived for you, and Jesus rose for you. And through your faith in Jesus, as your Savior, God sees you through Jesus, as if you are blameless. God sees you through Jesus, as if you had never sinned, and you are prepared, and ready for His second coming, as He comes to be your judge to bring us to be with Him in Heaven, for all eternity.

“The One who calls you is faithful,

and He will do it.”

It is comforting to know that whenever God makes a promise, He keeps His promise. In The Old Testament God prophesied He would send His Son to be our Messiah, and Savior. God kept that promise, didn't He?

God makes promises that His Son will return in glory to be our judge. While that has not been fulfilled just yet, we look forward in joyful anticipation for that day, don't we?

Today's text was Paul's Last Will and Testament. Again, a 'Christmas Shopping List' of attitudes, and actions on how it is we should live, after His first coming, and in preparation with great joy for His second coming. God grant this to you for Jesus' sake.