The Epistle lesson serves as our sermon text for this morning.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray: LSB 810:1
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God the Father through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Imagine trying to build a house without any plans, without a clear idea of what the owner wants.
Even if you manage to put into place (establish) some sort of ground floor structure, could you be sure that it was strong enough if the plans for the upper floors were also kept secret from you?
If a house were built that way, would you have the confidence to step across the threshold?
In similar fashion, the natural flesh attempts to establish and strengthen itself spiritually.
But unless God tells you exactly what he expects and wants, and you listen to him—unless he tells you exactly what he has done for you!—you could never be sure that your status before him was firmly established.
You could never know if your spirit had what was needed—the proper strength—to step across the threshold into God’s presence.
On this Fourth Sunday in Advent, as we stand on the threshold of giving glory to God in the highest in celebration of our Savior’s birth, our Epistle teaches us that it is God and Him alone who Establishes and Strengthens You by Revealing to You the Mystery of the Gospel.
Living in mystery with respect to God is terribly uncertain, if not dangerous.
World religions consist of uncertain seeking into the mysteries of God and life.
Thinking themselves wise, they dream up their own obedience of faith (verse 26).
Islam: Five Pillars–The declaration of faith, establishing regular prayers, paying charity, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Hinduism: The four goals of mankind–wealth, desire, righteousness, and liberation.
Buddhism: Many paths to God–find the way that works best for you.
The focus: it’s all about what you do to get to God.
Unwisely, they establish the future of their souls on uncertain “knowledge” of God.
But God alone is truly wise (verse 27).
We sometimes develop our own version of “the obedience of faith,” as if our obedience brings us to faith or helps us to the faith (verse 26).
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have given Jesus my heart.
I have asked Jesus into my heart.
Misuse of spiritual disciplines:
Devotions/Bible Study: if I don’t do my devotions and Bible Study at least once a day, the Lord will be upset with me and strike me down.
Prayer: Lord, don’t give me what I need; give me what I want. Give me what I want NOW!
Service to others: I’ll only help if there is something in it for me.
We may try to establish and strengthen our faith on our own terms (verse 25).
Not the way God has designed it.
Faith is not about what God has given to me, but what I give to God.
The result of all such pursuits is:
At best: frustration and ignorance
At worst, temporal and even eternal calamity.
The world and even our own sinful flesh regularly try to construct a spirituality based on “secret heavenly designs” we try to discover by our own devices apart from God’s self-revelation.
But such building leads only to destruction—like a house of cards that easily falls at the slightest ill wind.
For it can neither establish nor strengthen us to receive the things of the only wise God.
Thankfully, you don’t need to discern such secrets. Why?
God reveals the mystery and makes it known to you through the proclamation of the Gospel about Jesus Christ.
He promised this Gospel from nearly the beginning (Genesis 3:15).
The prophets revealed portions of it by “the command of the eternal God” (Romans 16:26).
And many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
Now it is disclosed and revealed in the incarnate Son, born of the Virgin Mary.
The Son of the Most High is truly “Jesus” (Luke 1:31–32).
the Lord who “will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
He lives the perfectly obedient faith and goes to the cross to reveal and establish the Gospel for you!
By this Gospel of Christ, God both establishes you and strengthens you to his own glory.
By the Gospel that declares to you Jesus Christ, God establishes you in the faith.
By this same Gospel, God strengthens you for godly, obedient living.
Who doesn’t like a puzzle?
Putting them together.
As you work on a puzzle, you realize a few things:
You need to follow the directions.
Having a picture of a finished puzzle is only an aid.
As you progress through a puzzle, the finished product slowly becomes apparent.
The phenomenon of a puzzle or of a mystery that we humans like—and sometimes sinfully abuse—God has used for good.
From the beginning, our triune God planned to restore the creation he knew would come to ruin by man’s sin.
He promised a Savior.
But the details remained a mystery.
Then, as the hymnwriter eloquently puts it,
The Savior is the incarnate Son of God, proclaimed to you in the Gospel.
And in this Gospel of Jesus Christ, God is able to establish and strengthen you (Romans 16:25).
The mystery has been revealed!
The puzzle is now complete!
Just as little as a contractor could successfully build a multi-story home without having a design plan given to him, so little are we (and the world) able to establish and strengthen ourselves spiritually . . . apart from God’s revelation of the mystery of the Gospel.
But in that Gospel that reveals to you Jesus Christ, the mystery of his incarnation, his life of obedient faith, and his substitutionary death on the cross, God establishes you in the true faith and strengthens you in lives obedient to his holy will.
All this is to his glory—which he mysteriously shares with you even now and will share more fully in the revelation of eternity. Amen.
Let us pray: LSB 810:4
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.