Worship

From Jordan’s Shores to Mountain Glory- The Kindness in His Calling

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Watch the livestream beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

First Lesson: 1 Samuel 3:1-7 (NIV)
Second Lesson: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17  (NIV)

Gospel: John 1:43-51 (NIV)

Music:

  • Hymn: CW 633 “Speak, O Lord”
  • Psalm: 139E “You Search, O God, the Reaches of My Heart”
  • Hymn: CW 375 “Arise and Shine in Splendor”
  • Hymn: CW 711 “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult”

January 21, 2024                          Pastor Ryan Wolfe
Epiphany 2                                    2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

“Stand Firm in God’s Call”
1) We Hold to God’s Teachings
2) God Holds Us with His Word

It isn’t anything new for us to talk about being called by God into his family and his service. Every week we hear the good news of what God has done for us: Our heavenly Father sent Jesus to save us. Jesus lived a perfect life for us. Jesus died on the cross for us. Jesus rose from the dead. And the Holy Spirit gets involved too. He gives us faith. He strengthens that faith through the Word and Sacrament. He brings us to know and believe that we are indeed called by God to be sons and heirs of eternal life. Yes we hear that every Sunday. We know those things are true. But in the busyness of life it’s easy to forget that we are blessed in heaven and on earth. It’s great to know our eternal future is taken care of, but we’ve got issues now.

Today God brings us a part of his Word that urges us not to lose faith. God has saved us from our sins and called us away from worry. There is no more important knowledge than knowing we are saved by Christ and members of God’s own family. And there is no more important work than holding onto that truth and never losing sight of what it means for us. As we look at God’s Word from 2 Thessalonians we hear God’s call not to do anything new, but to Stand firm. We do that by holding on to his teachings. And we’re able to do that because God holds onto us with his Word..

Before we hear God’s command to us in this text he first reminds us of his call. “from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do you recognize the truth of Paul’s words here, not just for the Thessalonian Christians, but for you as well? It’s worth going over these verses with some attention to the details.

The first thing Paul says is that he gives thanks that God chose us “from the beginning.” (Incidentally, you might notice that this text is from the old NIV instead of the new. This phrase is one where they made a translation change, and not for the better.) Have you ever wondered if God is really all that interested in watching over you in your everyday life? We look at the world and all its people and honestly have to admit there really isn’t anything all that special about us. God has bigger things to be concerned about than me. Well look again. “From the beginning God chose you.” I don’t think we appreciate the “bigness” of that phrase. For God, the beginning is the absolute beginning. This verse means that as God was saying, “let there be light” he knew that his light would one day be a blessing for you. It means that from the beginning God loved you and knew your name.

He knew where you would be born. He knew who your first crush, first kiss, first heartbreak would be. He knew what you would do for work and for play. He knew your greatest joy and deepest sorrow. He knew the sin that would give you the most problems. He knew the doubts and worries that would most trouble you. And still, “from the beginning God chose you.” Not because we’re better than anyone else of course, but because in mercy God wants all people to be saved. And out of all the sinners in the world God chose you. You are important to him.

Look at what he chose you for. Look at what he calls us to. “To be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. To share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We see the Trinity at work here. God calls us to be saved and chooses us. The Spirit brings us faith to wash us clean. To give us the holiness that Jesus earned. And the end result is that because we share in Jesus’ righteousness we get to share in Jesus’ glory. Isn’t it amazing how so many unbelievers completely miss the point about being Christian. And sadly, how many Christians lose sight of it themselves. Christianity isn’t about good works. God doesn’t call us to do something, or earn something. He calls us to be something. To be his blood-bought children Part of his family. Co-heirs with Christ of eternal life and unending glory.

Over the years, as I’ve counseled members going through bouts of depression or worry or doubt, this is the truth I’ve always gone back to in order to help them. When we worry or have fear or anxiety, it’s usually because we make too much of ourselves and too little of God. Brothers and sisters in faith, have faith. Know that God has chosen you, not because of who you are but because of who he is. He called you. He justified you. He sanctifies you. He will glorify you, just as he did for Christ. We see Jesus in God’s call to us because Jesus is our past, our present, and our future. He did the work to save us. He is with us now to encourage us. And he will return to glorify us. Whatever burden you carried into church this morning, lay it down, trust your Savior, and hear his call. A call not to do anything, but to trust and believe. Stand firm and hold to his teaching!

But we wonder: how can we possibly stand firm in the truth when so many things are out there working to pull us away? How can we fight back our selfish and sinful nature that sees our gifts and our time as something WE’VE made for ourselves rather than recognizing all we have as God’s gift to us to be used for his glory? How do we keep God first in our homes and in our hearts? The same way we came to him in the first place. We trust that he does it for us.

Our text told us that the Holy Spirit brought us to faith through the gospel that was shared with us. He strengthens us using the same means. By convicting us of our sins and forcing us to rely only on God for salvation, the Spirit turns us back to God. By comforting us with the news of eternal life purchased by Christ’s blood, he encourages us to live with hearts free from guilt. Those guilt free hearts lead us to seek to serve God in whatever way we can. In God’s Word, the Spirit holds us up, gives us strength, and keeps us his.

Think of this example. Many of us have tried to start some kind of Bible reading plan or Bible devotions at home, either alone or with our family. We know God wants us to see him in his Word. He wants us to grow deeper in our understanding of his love and to come closer to him through that. There is no better way than personal Bible time. How does the Spirit give us strength to do that? Through the very words that we seek to read! The Spirit shows us examples of faithfulness in the past as we read about imperfect, but faithful, people like Abraham, Moses, Ruth, and Esther. He encourages us with promises of blessings in the future. He gives us life with messages of grace and love on every page.

So why is it so difficult? It’s January 20th and I’ll confess, I’m behind. Maybe you are too. Why do so many of our plans to do good fall by the wayside? Because Satan attacks most when we’re trying to do what is best. He knows the comfort and strength that comes from having God in our homes. He understands how much stronger believers are when they come together around the promises of God. And he doesn’t want that. So when you find it a struggle to keep God in your home, when you struggle to stand firm in God’s call, when it’s so hard to do the right and Christian thing…take heart. The devil would not fight against you if you were already his. No, you belong to God. Look to the Spirit for strength. Look to Christ for salvation. And look to our Father in heaven to give you strength and keep you as his own dear child. Stand firm, not because of your strength, but because of his.

There’s a story I love to tell whenever I’m thinking about my relationship with God and how I serve him compared to how he serves me. I don’t think I’ve shared it here yet, but if I have, it’s still worthwhile. It’s about a father and son walking on an icy sidewalk. As they walked the boy held onto his father’s hand but kept slipping, losing his grip, and falling down. Finally, the father told his child, “How about I hold on to you instead?” From that point on, whenever the child slipped the strong grip of his father held him up and kept him from falling. Brothers and sisters, you are that child and God is that father. As we see more of Jesus and our salvation in this Epiphany season recognize today that He calls us to be his own, but doesn’t leave when that work is done. He declares us his children, and then holds us to be with him in his Word. Stand firm in this call. Hold onto your faith and seek out his work, knowing that your Father who chose you from the beginning will never let you go. Amen.

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