Let Your Weight Down

About thirty people gathered for the weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. One of the individuals, Hank, nervously half-listened to the conversation of a small group of guys. Tonight his mind was elsewhere, for he would be sharing up front with that group later on.

When the meeting began, the group’s leader introduced Hank stating that he would be receiving his thirty-year medallion. As Hank moved forward to receive his award, the crowd erupted with clapping and hollering of congratulations. Hank received his thirty-year medallion, then turned to the group, cleared his throat, and began to speak. “Thanks. My name is Hank, and I’m an alcoholic.”

The group answered back, “Hi Hank.”

Then Hank began his story of when he took his first drink until he started coming to these meetings. He thanked his sponsor for helping him see that he was doing a really lousy job running his own life and needed to let go and turn his life over to God. He asked Jesus Christ into his life and has been keeping on track thirty years. Though it wasn’t always easy, each day he surrendered himself to God. Hank learned along the way to trust the Lord and call on him for wisdom and courage and strength as he continued to work the steps.

Then he ended with these words: “Some of you sitting here tonight are new at this AA thing. Maybe you’ve been sober for only a couple days. I’m glad you’re here. I just want to tell you, as one drunk to another, trust God with this, work those steps and trust God. You’ll be up here getting your thirty-year medallion someday. I thank my sponsor and my family, and my group, but most important, my God.”

I believe the song writer of Psalm 131 would say “Amen!” to Hank’s talk. Listen to this songwriter’s humble words.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not haughty. I do not occupy myself with great matters or things that are too wonderful for me; but I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore.

A life story is behind this song. Somewhere along the way, this individual had learned to trust God with his life. Perhaps he had learned along the way Ð like Hank Ð that, even though he thought he had life by the tail and he thought he was the master of his own destiny, nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps he even learned the hard way, as he crashed and burned, then tasted failure, humiliation, and perhaps some embarrassment and pain along the way in life. Perhaps he learned early on as a boy about the destructiveness of being haughty, which means arrogant, prideful. After all, in the Hebrew proverbs he’d been taught as a child that a haughty heart goes before destruction, but humility goes before honor.

Our songwriter points out that he’s chosen the alternative to running his own life and thinking he is God.

I’ve calmed and quieted my soul.

The picture he paints for us is a weaned child nestled contentedly at his mother’s breast, serene and satisfied in those gentle, strong, reliable arms. God’s arms.

I’m reminded of the story of a friend who was planning a vacation to Europe for his family of six. He spent many hours studying maps and other travel information. A few days before they were due to begin their journey, his youngest child came into the room where her father was working on the trip’s details. The little girl climbed up in her father’s lap and said, “I’m so glad all I have to do is go along.” That’s the mark of a trusting child, isn’t it? It is the willingness to feel secure in another’s hands.

Our songwriter says, “And so my soul is like a weaned child within me, resting in its mother’s arms.” He seems to have learned the secret of contentment Ð kingdom living Ð that Jesus said is ours when we trust God like a child. He learned that contentment came with humbly trusting God with each moment of life.

This song is a declaration of dependence. It is a calming and soothing song that goes on to appeal to us. God’s people, trust God with your life. Hope in the Lord forevermore. Place each day in his hands.

A young pilot once succeeded in convincing his grandmother to take her first airplane ride with him in his small private plane. The takeoff went smoothly, and they were soon cruising over the town where she lived and looking down at the farm where she had been born. The grandson noticed, though, that his passenger was pale and her knuckles were white as she clung to the arms of her seat for her dear life. When he landed the plane, the rest of the family waiting on the ground couldn’t wait to get his grandma’s reaction to the experience. They came running toward the plane as she was getting out. “Grandma, how did you like the ride?” they asked. “It was fine,” she said, “but let me tell you a secret; I never really let all my weight down.”

The flight would have been so much more enjoyable if she had only relaxed, let her weight down, and trusted. That is what our songwriter is encouraging us to do this day. Let your weight down and trust in the Lord. After all, God has proven himself to be faithful, true, and trustworthy. All you have to do is to look at the cross. He showed us that he is really for us in the giving of his only Son to die for our sinfulness so that we could become his sons and daughters. People of God, trust him!

A Powerful Witness

Our calendars remind us of some very important holidays giving us the opportunity to think of important people and events in our lives. We celebrated Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in May. Today we have two more important holidays: the national holiday of Father’s Day and the Church Festival of the Holy Trinity. What an opportunity to spend a few minutes giving thought as to how they relate to each other!

First, the Festival of the Holy Trinity is important. Christians believe that God is triune. He is one God, revealing Himself as Father (the Creator); Son (the Redeemer); and Holy Spirit (the Sanctifier).

In our baptismal service, we use these words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I pray you remember the day when you stood at the font with your child in your arms. That was only the beginning of the covenant God established with your child. Jesus also said to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That means, fathers and mothers, you are to take the child home and through the years introduce him to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me read the parents’ charge at the baptismal font:

“In Christian love you have presented this child for Holy Baptism. You should, therefore, faithfully bring him to the services of God’s house, and teach him the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. As he grows in years, you should place in his hands the Holy Scriptures and provide for his instruction in the Christian faith, that, living in the covenant of his baptism and in communion with the Church, he may lead a godly life until the day of Jesus Christ. Do you promise to fulfill these obligations?”

While this charge is read to both the father and the mother, on this Father’s Day I would especially like to place emphasis on the place of the father in the home.

We turn to the Bible passage known as the Great Commission where Jesus is speaking. It is after the resurrection, and the disciples are with Jesus in Galilee when he appears before them and says,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

These words are addressed to fathers.

To whom are we “to go”?

Think of the most precious people in the world to you. Is it not natural to speak to your children from their infancy about the Lord Jesus? The Christian father should be seen by his children with the Bible in his hand, bowing his head in prayer with the family around him. A father’s lifestyle should display that his life is committed to Christ.

I thank God for the many Christian fathers in this world. They know the joy of watching their children grow up not only physically, socially, and intellectually, but also spiritually. What a thrill it is when one’s son conducts a family devotion in his own home! What a security it is to know that, no matter what sorrow comes to the family, the Savior is always ready to forgive and strengthen us, and to help us forgive one another and start over.

However, if you have stood at the baptismal font (or at the dedication service) of your child and made this promise, but not been true to your word, it is not too late to have a visit with your child. An elderly dad telling his middle-aged son or daughter that it is time for a good talk about their relationship with the Lord is an important topic for a Christian father.

This is what Father’s Day is about. It can be a day you will never forget.

Let the Voice of the Lord Be Heard

It had been fifty days since Easter. The Christian Church celebrates this day as the third major festival of the church year. On that special day, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, revealed himself in a powerful way.

The account of the Holy Spirit’s coming and the establishment of the Christian Church is found in Acts 2. The blessing of being a part of God’s Kingdom is now offered not only to one nation, Israel, but to the whole world. On that day, the Lord used Peter to preach a powerful sermon telling of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection as God’s sacrifice to pay the price for the sins of the world. Three thousand people gathered in Jerusalem that day and became believers after listening to Peter preach, and the Church was born.

Since that day the Gospel has been carried throughout the world and the Holy Spirit has worked in the hearts of those who have heard that message. The world has been blessed. What are some of these blessings?

1. The Assurance of Salvation. Believers in Christ have lived with this assurance wherever the Christian influence has been felt. They know their heavenly home has been prepared and awaits them for when this life is over.

2. The Fellowship of Believers. We gather in our churches and meet our brothers and sisters in Christ.

3. We know the value of the human being. There are no suicide bombers where the Holy Spirit is known. Life is precious.

4. Institutions of Learning. The Church has established many schools to educate the human mind and prepare us to serve people, who are precious and important in the eyes of God.

5. Institutions of Healing. The Church has been the world’s leader in establishing hospitals and other care centers to conquer suffering and prolong life.

All these blessings, and many more, have come as fruits of the Holy Spirit. However, we must also remember that Jesus taught us that those who trusted him as their Savior and Lord would experience many hardships as well. Remember His words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (Philippians 1:29-30).

How we need to be reminded of what Christ continues to teach His Church through the Word! There never has been a time when it was easy to be a committed Christian without experiencing suffering in some form. However, we have somehow figured out a way to have a Christianity that avoids conflict. If all else fails, adjust God’s law by making it more adaptable to our culture. By living this way, our faith is no longer built on biblical Christianity, but modern man’s version of it.

I am sure that many have heard of, and perhaps even read, some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings. He is often introduced as pastor, theological professor, prophet, and martyr. He was killed at Flossenberg by the Nazis on April 9, 1945, just days before World War II ended.

In the book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, author Eric Madhouses presents Bonhoeffer as a servant of Jesus Christ living in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer is described in this book “as a man who strove to see what God wanted to show and then to do what God asked in response. This was the obedient Christian life, the call of the disciple.”

As we look at the Church on this Pentecost Sunday, we can see the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst. People are meeting Christ and becoming new creatures. The Gospel is being proclaimed throughout the world. What would this world be like without the comfort of the Church? Let us never sell the Church short; the Holy Spirit is at work.

But we must also ask some tough questions. Are people both the Law and the Gospel hearing from the pulpits each Sunday as presented in the Bible? Are Christian people talking to others about Christ and about being used by the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with this world? Then the Holy Spirit is doing his work today as he was on the first Pentecost.

A Controversial Answer

In last Sunday’s sermon we centered our thoughts around the question, What happens after death? Jesus answers that question clearly: “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.”

Today’s question is, How do we get to that heavenly home? Jesus answers, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This answer is very controversial.

Dr. Tom Wright comments on this answer of Jesus, “Within the western world in the last two centuries or so, this saying of Jesus Ð ÔI am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ Ð has become most controversial.”

People ask, “How dare Jesus, how dare John or the Church or anyone else put such words into another’s mouth? Isn’t it the height of arrogance to imagine that Jesus, or anyone else, is the only way? Don’t we know that this attitude has done untold damage around the world as Jesus’ followers insist that everyone else should give up their own way of life and follow his instead?”

Tom Wright, and all committed Christians, do not like this statement, but it is the conviction of the majority of people in our world. What is alarming is to hear people within the congregation saying there are many ways to heaven.

In our text, John 14:5-6, Thomas was having his doubts. He said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

From reading this text, one can feel that Jesus was happy with Thomas’ sincerity. He wanted to know the way. But Jesus was disappointed with the disciple’s lack of understanding.

Our Lord continues to help us understand that he is the only way to heaven even though he doesn’t give us all the answers to our questions. Some of these answers, however, will have to wait until we see him face to face.

People ask about the millions of people who have never heard about Jesus. What about those who live in our own land today and were not born into Christian homes? There was no Bible reading or attending Sunday school and church, while others attended churches where it was taught that all people are saved. Two of my childhood best friends had no understanding of what it meant that Jesus died for our sins and a place waits in heaven for those who trust Him. One family belonged to the Universalist Church. The other friend’s family had nothing to do with any church.

What will Christ do with them when they die? While we seek answers, we must also remember St. Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully . . . ” (I Corinthians 13:12).

We read how some of the greatest preachers through the centuries have interpreted this teaching of Jesus; preachers like Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. From their theology, they made it clear that God can have nothing to do with sin. As long as we have unforgiven sin in our lives, a dividing wall exists between God and us. However, God loved us and wanted unity between him and us restored. So He sent His Son, Jesus, into this world to atone for the sins of all people. God gives this forgiveness to all who receive Christ as their Redeemer. Because only Christ can forgive sin, He is the only way to heaven.

Friends, a difference exists between heart knowledge and head knowledge. We know in our hearts that salvation through Christ is the only way to heaven, yet with our head we cannot always comprehend it. Paul writes, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10).

Do you remember the story of the father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed? “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” the father asked Jesus. When Christ had healed the boy, the father prayed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24).

Isn’t this our prayer also? While the basic truths of the Bible are clearly taught, many questions are left unanswered for us on this earth. Yet some day we will understand.