Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity (Luke 14:1-11, Ephesians 4:1-3)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity + September 23, 2018

Text: Luke 14:1-11, Ephesians 4:1-3

Not everyone who gathered around Jesus was there to simply to hear Him and be healed by Him.  Some were there to watch Him and wait for Him to stumble.  At one such instance, Jesus is at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees.

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy.

As it happens, there is a man with dropsy there.  Today we would call that edema, a buildup of fluids in the body.  The two most common causes for this are heart failure and cirrhosis of the liver. [1]  In one case, edema is the result of a failing heart and you could say there’s no one to blame. But cirrhosis is a different story, because that’s usually the result of a drinking problem.

It’s this kind of hair-splitting which happens when people watch each other carefully.  It’s borne out of a prideful heart, because how can you criticize others without being sure you’ve got it right?  But Jesus isn’t interested in what caused the man’s dropsy, either spiritually or clinically. 

And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”

More to the point, when we gather for worship, are we keeping the Sabbath in our hearts?

Jesus takes the man and heals him, and calls out the hypocrisy, which would make a distinction between sinners who deserve mercy and those who made their own bed and ought to have to sleep in it.  So what is the Sabbath for, if not putting right what was broken by sin?  If you’re a hair-splitter, a prideful rule-follower, then you get out your ruler and start measuring other people (always other people!) to see how close or how far off they are.

The irony is in the contrast between the man with dropsy, who is healed, and the religious men who are swollen with pride and receive no healing of their souls.  They go home just as sick as they were before, but perhaps unaware of the severity of their soul-disease.

The Sabbath is about mercy to the undeserving, healing to the sick, and lifting up of those who are humbled.  That’s why Jesus tells the parable of the banquet:

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Maybe that’s why everyone sits in the back pews.  But seriously, no matter where we physically rest our behind, the right posture for our soul is knelt down before the God of heaven.  He has come down to us in this most ordinary of places, to meet with us and have mercy upon us.

He has come among guests who could never possibly pay Him back, even the first cent.  Now, humanly speaking, if we’re friends with someone, and it happens to be a one-way friendship where we do all the giving and they do all the taking, we consider that a burden.  But this kind of giving and receiving relationship is actually divine, because God is always more ready to give, especially to those who are sick with sin, backsliders, failures, and those who are at their wits’ end.

When we look around at our fellow guests, we share something in common with each of them—we are sick with sins both inherited and actual, we are weary from the week before and we need the Lord’s Word to refresh us, we are wanderers in the wilderness of this life and we need direction for the days to come.  These humbling facts we all have in common with each other as we gather here.

It’s kind of like when you go to urgent care.  You’re looking around at the people around you and it’s clear that everyone needs to be there, whether they have a cut or nasty cough.  The common denominator is that all of you are there because you’re not well.  The same goes for us, as we look around at those who are here today.  Whether fine clothes or t-shirts, young or old, a grizzled or bubbly personality, we are all gathered around Jesus who has mercy on us as we are.

The Lord’s calling to us to all, is one of humility.  As I’ve been saying, He calls us to humility toward God, realizing we are worthy of none of what we have—we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, but we pray that He would give them all to us by grace.[2]

He also calls us to humility toward one another, as fellow heirs of grace. It matters how we treat one another, certainly as fellow Christians but also as we regard everyone we meet.

So, St. Paul writes to us, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)

When God is at work in our hearts, this is the kind of work He does.  Not only goes He call us to a blessed calling as children of God, but He also gives us His Spirit to leave the sin-sick life for the new life we have in Christ our Savior.  The wonderful calling of God includes humility and gentleness, but also helps us with patience.

As much as we would like to have things change on our schedule and the people in our life change on our terms, God gives us His patience.  When you think about the most frustrating person in your life, consider how God thinks of them.  Sometimes you get fed up with their behavior or their hard-headedness, but then consider how long-suffering God is toward them.  That’s the kind of patience that is yours by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Even the people who drive you crazy, you are able to bear with in love because God has called you to peace, forgiveness, and humility.

Another blessing of God’s calling is that He brings unity.  Humanly speaking, there are many things which divide us—difference of opinions and past wrongs we can’t let go of.  But what is God’s bond of peace?  It’s the reconciliation which bridged heaven and earth, holy God and unholy sinners, when Jesus was stretched out upon the cross.  His blood has the power to overcome even years of wrongs.  His mercy toward us can change even the bitterest heart and make it a place where selfless love dwells.

All of this comes together when the Church gathers for worship.  The one Holy Spirit has called us together, as children of the one Father.  Together, we call upon our one Lord, setting aside our human and sinful differences.  Like the Te Deum pictures, we are “the holy Church throughout all the world [which] acknowledges You: The Father of an infinite majesty; Your adorable, true, and only Son; also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.”

This is what the Sabbath is truly about.  Sinners, sick and needy as we are, gather around the Lord Jesus.  Humbled as we are by our sins and the follies of this week, we come here because God exalts us, and raises us up as forgiven children to live together.  May God help us to do this! Amen.


[2] Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 5th Petition

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (Luke 7:11-17)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity + September 16, 2018

Text: Luke 7:11-17

Jesus comes to the village of Nain, two miles south of Mount Tabor in the region of Galilee.  As He approaches the city with His disciples, there is another procession on the way out of the town.  This procession is one that wrenches our hearts, because at its center is a woman who has been twice wounded by death.  She is a widow, so she has already endured and still bears the weight of losing her husband.  But now sorrow has come upon sorrow and she has lost her only son as well.

We mourn with her because we know how she feels—maybe we’ve been there ourselves when it seems like we can’t take one more thing and then it happens.  If you’ve lived long enough on this broken earth, you know what it’s like to be broken by it.  And where do you turn when the situation before you looks hopeless.

That’s what it was like for this woman.  You could say, at least she has her community around her, at least she has her synagogue.  You could name ten things she has going for her, but none of that really heals the sting that’s in her heart and the rock that lives in her stomach.

But there’s the other crowd which comes into the village.  And it matters very much who is at the center of that crowd.  It’s Jesus—not just a wonderworker who can only be in one place at a time and who crowds mob so you can scarcely reach Him, and more than a spiritual teddy bear who gives you a hug and tells you everything will be okay.  This Jesus is the One through whom the universe was made and who continues to order all things.  It’s this Jesus who came to save us in the midst of our sorrows and give us hope.

How can this be?  Not only was Jesus there at the beginning, but He was also rejected, forsaken by God, suffocated, bled, died, and was buried in the tomb.  Despite the fact that we would normally think that was the end of all hope, He lives again!  His disciples abandoned Him at His greatest need, but He came back to them with forgiveness.  He was utterly rejected and condemned, but in that act removed the wrath of God and gained the status of sons for all who believe.  Jesus breathed His last, and His lifeless body was taken down from the cross and buried, and yet this dead man rose never to die again.

Jesus looks down the hopeless, lifeless, dead end, and even there He puts hope and life.  This is why He says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)  What is impossible by human strength, God can do even in His weakness.[1]  Whatever plans we make, God directs them infinitely better than we can imagine.[2]  When we pray for a certain outcome, it is God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Eph. 3:20)

This is true for our whole life, not just when disaster strikes.  It’s a message we especially need to hear when our hearts are weighed down, but this is what it looks like to live every day as a child of God.  We live alongside so many people who have only human help to look to, but “our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 124:8)  What kind of help He gives too!  What other helper knows our every weakness, at the same time as loving us and knowing the deepest needs of our soul?  Every earth-bound help is going to be based on what our eyes can see or our own assessment of what we need, but your heavenly Father knows completely what you need—body and soul.  As we sang, “God knows full well when times of gladness shall be the needful thing for thee.” (LSB 750:4)

Our Helper is also not bound by a limited viewpoint, like we are.  Limited by time, we see what’s going on right now, and we have a memory of the past.  God, rather, sees your life from the perspective of eternity.  In Romans 8, we hear,

28 We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Think about that: For every child of God who believes in Jesus (“called according to His purpose”), He is directing everything that is happening in your life—in the life of the congregation, and the whole Christian Church on earth—toward the destination of eternal life.  That even means that He turns the evil that happens to His children into greater good than any man could imagine.[3]   How can this be?  Because our God, our Helper, is He who raised Jesus from the dead!  Never again will anything—even the most evil thing—be an utterly lost cause, because God turned the greatest evil and seemingly the most bitter tragedy and made it become salvation for the world.

Now, I want to apply this to something which is on many people’s minds here.  There is a lot of fearfulness and anxiety over the future of our congregation because of age and finances.  But, dear children of God, take comfort in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.   Consider these examples:

            In Luke 24, the Evangelist records the reaction among the disciples after Jesus was crucified: “Our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”  The disciples thought their faith had been in the wrong promising figure.  Now that Jesus was dead, the whole movement was over.  But Jesus revealed Himself to them in the “breaking of the bread” where He opened their eyes and ignited their hearts with the reality that He is the Risen One.  He continues with His brothers and sisters even today and this day you will break bread in His presence too.

            During His missionary journeys, the great St. Paul was battered and chased down.  He wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

He was sent to preach the Gospel to the edge of the civilized world, but Paul was met with such opposition that he thought it was hopeless.  Then he continues:

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

God taught Him why it looked like such utter failure: It was so that He would stop relying on his own abilities and hope in God who raises the dead, God who is also able to create out of nothing, and bring to nothing the things that are.  It wasn’t just a once and done deliverance, but a daily promise on God’s part, to show what He will do even in humble places with humble means.

            Again as a way of illustrating this for us, this widow in Nain is now the third son restored to life.  The first was in the Old Testament reading for today, the second was near Nain in Shunem by the Prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 4:18-37.  Each time, the parents despaired at the outlook.  Yet even in that darkest hour, the Lord showed His power to comfort and deliver.

What all of this says to us here at Bethlehem and Bethel is we need to know the God in whom we believe.  A congregation is only dying if we give up on our Risen Head.  But with our hope in Him, He will do what He has always done, and far more than our feeble imaginations can predict.  He will preserve His church generation after generation.  His Word will be proclaimed, and He will gather men and women into His fold. 

Even if you don’t believe me, believe the Scriptures, for God will not ever lie to you, nor will He ever fail you.  Amen.

[1] 1 Corinthians 1:25

[2] Proverbs 16:9

[3] Genesis 50:20

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 6:24-34)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity + September 9, 2018

Text: Matthew 6:24-34

These are some of the most reassuring words in Scripture, especially in times of economic distress and danger to life.  And most of us have experienced that kind of distress in one way or another.  You have a young family and the breadwinner loses his or her job.  You’re a new college student ready to take on the world and you find out how much it costs to live on your own.  You’re retired and living on a fixed income, but what’s going out seems to keep growing.  But we also experience danger to our lives every day, whether it’s hurdling down the road in a metal box at 70 mph or going about our daily life while a deadly disease eats away on the inside.  Just regular life is enough to drive a person insane.

Our Lord pulls us out of our human tizzy and invites us to look around at the creation to the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  They are content day to day, even though they don’t work and may be destroyed at a moment’s notice.

27  These all look to you,

to give them their food in due season.

28   When you give it to them, they gather it up;

when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

29   When you hide your face, they are dismayed;

when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” (Psalm 104:27-29)

If we look at the rest of creation, we can see that it’s not a problem with God providing and ordering things; it’s a problem with us believing that.  It’s we of little faith who are anxious and fret about the future, are displeased with the present, and work our fingers to the bone in an effort to shield ourselves from destitution.

It’s not that Jesus shuns “sowing, reaping, and storing away in barns.”  That is something which is given for people to do.  From the beginning of creation, God put man and woman in the garden to work the land.  So, by all means, if you have the ability, you should work and earn a living.  That part is good and God-pleasing, especially when it’s done to provide for family and others.  Incidentally, the New Testament has some pretty strong language for those can work and refuse to: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” and “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”[1]

While work is a good thing, we can do without the anxiety.  The anxiety springs from our feeble faith, which doesn’t fully trust God and doesn’t fully commend our lives into His fatherly care.  At times, we all have fears that God has either lost control of our lives or doesn’t know what He’s doing.  We’ve seen it happen that a person does his part and suffers instead of getting fruit from his labor. So, faith is trumped by our reason and the hard evidence of our experiences.

Our Lord sums His lesson up by saying, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  As much and as often as we have the ability to put our faith in Him, that is the number one priority.  With a right faith in God—who gives daily bread even without our prayer and “causes His sun to rise alike on the righteous and the wickedp—we will experience what the birds and grass already know because they are not so blinded by sin. 

The struggle for dominance is not so cut and dry that we can easily identify it all the time.  Little faith can wear some very well-meaning, good-sounding costumes:

There’s the pragmatist who argues that God helps those who help themselves.  True as that may be for our responsibilities in the world, that’s not our Father’s primary goal.  He’s not our Heavenly Schoolmaster, but the God who created and still preserves His children, without any merit or worthiness in us.  Thus, His aim is that we believe in Him as that that kind of God, and not that we can prove ourselves to be harder workers than others.

There’s the pessimist, who looks at the figures and what he sees as the facts, and draws the conclusion that this is never going to work.  The pessimist makes one big assumption and also lacks something big.  With sophomoric zeal, they assume that their perspective is the full picture and that they know all the future holds.  Do those traits sound familiar?  They should because they should belong to God.  Because the pessimist is shouldering the weight of the world, they don’t go to God in prayer with trust.  The outward act of prayer may be there, but without truly entrusting one’s life to God, you might as well have not prayed.

Finally (this may be the result of the previous two), there’s the idolater who outright believes that God has forgotten His job.  Sure, He promises to provide, protect, and everything, but I can’t wait for him.  I better take matters into my own hands and start looking for more practical help.  Is it money you need?  It doesn’t matter how you get it, as long as your bank account keeps a high balance.  Is it the future you want a clue into?  Read the horoscopes.  Is it length of life you’re after? Put your faith in genetic engineering and stem cells harvested from aborted fetuses.  Since God doesn’t seem to be coming through, you’ve got options.  All of these echo with the hiss of the Ancient Serpent.

These outlooks are all ultimately dead-ends, because they take our little faith, and make it even smaller.

If we had perfect faith, we would be as content as the bird who flying through the air one minute and gets sucked into the jet engine the next.  We would delight in the fleeting beauty of our youth and the fruit of our labors, and no less content when it was taken away.  If we had perfect faith, we would be Jesus.  But we’re not, and for now we have to leave that perfect trust to the birds and the flowers.  Meanwhile, God is gracious to us and bears with us with our anxious and troubled hearts.  Joined to Christ, the Perfect Man, He forgives what is lacking in our little faith.

“All these things will be added to you.”  Here’s another place where we have room for improvement.  “These things” is equivalent to the “daily bread” of the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s everything that we need to support this body and life.  (Check your Small Catechism on the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer for the full list.)  What God is promising and what we expect is not always in synch.  Your heavenly Father promises to provide you’re your needs—“The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food in due season.” (Psalm 145:15).  He promises to protect you from danger—“He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Ps. 91:11-12)  He heals you both in soul and body—“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…who satisfies you with good” (Psalm 103:2-5)

Is it really that God fails to keep HIs promises?  I think not.  Could it be, as it was with Israel in the wilderness, that He lets us hunger for a while so that we might learn “that man does not live by bread alone.”[2]  Often times when He lets us hunger and long for a while, it’s to expose and put to death our trust in that 2nd master, Mammon.  His desire for you is that you would have Him alone as your Lord and Master, because He does give you all that you need both for this life and a blessed eternity.

By grace, He has given us His Kingdom and clothed us in His righteousness to cover up all our doublemindedness.  Through the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, our little faith grows and dominates how we regard “these things.”  You have been called out of the futile ways of the nations, groping in the dark for what God freely gives!  Return to the Lord your God, for He is our help and your only salvation—not just in this life but for all eternity.  Let Him teach you anew every day that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Brothers and sisters, live by these Words of your God:

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Thanks and praise to God through Jesus our Savior! Amen.

[1] 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8

[2] See Deuteronomy 8:3-5

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Galatians 5:16-24)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost + September 2, 2018

Text: Galatians 5:16-24

When we go to the doctor, they are checking for symptoms.  If it’s an annual exam, they’re looking for symptoms of a healthy body—heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, good glucose and cholesterol levels.  If it’s to diagnose a problem, they use the symptoms and other tests to determine what’s going wrong on the inside.

Though it sometimes manifests in bodily symptoms, there is a diagnostic tool for our faith in Galatians 5.  It’s stated in terms of works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. 

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

These are symptoms of an unhealthy, dying, or dead faith.  They can also manifest in ingratitude, grumbling, complaining, backbiting.  They’re not just negative traits for a person to have; they are the product of sin and must die or we will die with them.  These are the visible signs of an unbeliever.  If you have these symptoms and do not treat them with the medicine of repentance and faith, the prognosis is grim: “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Far worse than even the most painful and slow death by cancer is the outlook of eternal death and torment in hell.

On the other hand, the symptoms of a healthy, living faith are these: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” If you see these in your life and are daily increasing, your spiritual health is good.  These are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work within you.

But we need to be more concerned with the works of the flesh because we want to see less of them and more of these healthy indicators.  The works of the flesh indicate a danger to your spiritual welfare.  But if they are only symptoms, what’s the root cause?

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

There is a deadly disease at work within every person—Christian or not.  It’s the deadly infection of sin.  Now, to those who have been brought to faith in Jesus Christ, they are saved from the end-result of sin, which is death—even eternal death.  By grace through faith are you saved.  You are counted righteous and even called a saint, “holy one” by God.

Nevertheless, your disease still remains.  The old wording for the distribution of Christ’s blood is helpful: “The blood of Christ, shed for the remission of your sins.”  Your disease of sin goes into remission.  But it’s still there, because it clings to your flesh.  Every day there’s the potential for it to break out again.  It may erupt and show forth its ugly nature in works of the flesh.  Be it tumors, leprosy, or blood poisoning—the flesh has its way of manifesting the life-long infection of our human nature.

But you are under the care of a physician—the Great Physician of soul and body, Jesus Christ.  “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31)  Far better than any durable medical equipment, He has given His Holy Spirit to you.  It is He who is able to fight and at last overcome this deadly sin-disease.

In Holy Baptism, He gives you His Spirit and the Spirit possesses your heart.  In His Word preached, He gives you His Holy Spirit.  In reading His Word at home, He gives you His Holy Spirit.  In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, He gives you His Holy Spirit.  In short, where Jesus is and speaks, there is the Spirit also (John 3:8, 20:22-23).  From there, the Spirit rules where sin once reigned.  From the heart out to thought, word, and deed, it is His work to sanctify all that we think, say, and do.  And it is a daily battle (thankfully not one you wage alone): “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  You have the almighty aid of the Holy Spirit in times of doubt, temptation, rebellion, or failure.  While your flesh will resist and fight Him, the Spirit tirelessly strives to keep your heart and keep you on the way that leads to eternal life!

Because the flesh is so infected, and the devil is always close at hand for the Christian, life is difficult and the road is long.  You may not have had a “flare-up” of your flesh lately.  God may have set a hedge around you and spared you from deep-felt spiritual struggle.  Nonetheless, you must remain vigilant, because the devil does prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [1]  Who more delicious than a once-strong Christian who led and encouraged others?

Also beware, lest you take yourself out of your Great Physician’s care, AMA—“against medical advice.”  You start to think the PA He has assigned to you—your pastor—is just a quack.  You make excuses not to see him.  If I go to the office (I mean, church), he’s just going to find something wrong with me so he can keep me coming back.  It’s just too much trouble, and besides I feel like I’m doing pretty good.  Like the bipolar person who feels alright, you stop taking your medication.  What’s going to happen to your sin-disease?

Let me ask you, who are here today (or are reading this): How do you know if you’re spiritually healthy or not?  Will you go on waiting until symptoms get bad enough?  God’s Word alone can diagnose our spiritual condition—“the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) 

As for self-diagnosis and self-managed care, God makes clear, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Who better to diagnose you than the Maker of the human heart!  He understands and knows each of us intimately, and if you are led by the Spirit, you will acknowledge that His will for you is always good—even if it may mean some discipline and correction for the moment.[2]

We all need regular Sabbath-day checkups.  Rest from your work, and rest in God’s work for you and in you.  We listen to our doctors when they say we need CT scans every three months to look for relapses.  How much more should we listen to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier who speaks through His called servant?

Speaking of that, we spend a lot of time and money on our physical health.  They say you can tell a lot about a culture by what its biggest buildings are, and boy to we ever have big medical facilities—so big they’re called “campuses.”  But as God’s redeemer and heirs of the resurrection, we know that this body is going to wear out and die.  There’s no problem pursuing good health, but what return to you get on it?  What about our spiritual health?  In comparison, how much do you invest in that?  I would say it’s the better place for your efforts because your body in its present condition will pass away, but your soul will endure forever.

So spiritual exercise is good for your soul.  “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control”  These are the virtues which are meant to be in a child of God.  Because God has planted His Spirit in your heart, these are the things which God desires to train us every day in.  In place of animosity, He puts love.  Instead of bitterness, He gives joy.  When there is wrath, He works peace.  Even though we want it all to happen on our schedule, the Spirit gives patience (longsuffering).  When it seems more convenient to write another person off, the Spirit is there teaching us kindness.  While something might seem good in our eyes, the Spirit is the one who teaches true goodness.  It’s also the Spirit who—in the face of all things that look contrary—teaches us to cling to God’s words and promises (faithfulness).  When we would become conceited about all we’ve done for God, the Spirit instead teaches humility.  And finally against the corrupt desires of the flesh which seem to have power over us, the Spirit enables us to control our bodies and use them to serve God alone.

Just as you are not left to be tempted by the flesh alone, you are not alone to grow in the fruit of the Spirit.  In His tender mercy, God is with you every day so that you grow as His beloved child, looking forward to the perfect and the eternal.

So, now attend to the words of your Great Physician.  He has a wondrous cure for you.  It’s offered without cost, it has no side effects unless you do not believe, and it renews your strength not only in this frail body but its healing continues into eternal life.  It is the Body and Blood of your Lord Jesus Christ, given and shed for you.  Heavenly health and eternal life be yours in Christ Jesus.  Amen!

[1] 1 Peter 5:8-9

[2] 2 Timothy 3:16