The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Advent, 2016. Philippians 4:4-7.
The Peace That Passes All Understanding

The Fourth Sunday in Advent, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Christmas Eve Service at 7 PM Central Standard Time
Christmas Day Holy Communion, 10 AM

The Hymn #477                    Lord Jesus Thou             
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #90               Come, Your Hearts              

The Peace That Passes All Understanding

The Hymn # 103 – Luther          To Shepherds             
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #95                Savior of the Nations              

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

KJV John 1:19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Fourth Sunday In Advent

Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto Thee, that Thou hast given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and hast therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Thy Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech Thee, in such faith in Thy grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Thy promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Thy Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Thy grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Peace That Passes All Understanding

KJV Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Unlike modern thinkers, Paul gives a reason for his arguments. The passage begins with "Rejoice always" and emphasized with "Rejoice" repeated.

2. Joy is the natural fruit of faith. The apostle says elsewhere ( Galatians 5:22-23): “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.” Until the heart believes in God, it is impossible for it to rejoice in him. When faith is lacking, man is filled with fear and gloom and is disposed to flee at the very mention, the mere thought, of God. Indeed, the unbelieving heart is filled with enmity and hatred against God. Conscious of its own guilt, it has no confidence in his gracious mercy; it knows God is an enemy to sin and will terribly punish the same.

When people have no faith or lose faith in God, they are tormented by God, because the Word is efficacious in unbelievers as well. They feel the pain and harden their hearts against the Word. They are blinded by the Word and find themselves energized to silence the Word.

There are no organizations in America to silence atheists, but they have several where they go to court to get rid of all vestiges of Christianity and religion in general. They are the American Humanist Society and a group called Freedom From Religion. The ACLU also helps out.

One LCMS-WELS pastor was well trained in Universal Objective Justification and Church Growth. They go together so well. He lost all faith, got himself kicked out for cause, and joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation, where they brag about his past as a minister interested in evangelism. For them, the light dawned on this poor misled parson and he became enlightened by atheism.

His training in atheism really began with UOJ and Church Growth, because both are based on unbelief and derive their power from rejecting the Word of God in favor of man's philosophies and opinions. The final leap of unfaith is not difficult to make.

As Luther observed, the unbeliever feels the guilt and wants to get rid of it. That is why we see so many spectacular, look-at-me charitable and political efforts, as if the ultimate absolution comes from confessing one's overuse of Planet Earth and a pledge to find an alternative to bottled water.

Joy is the fruit of faith, and this is explained in the next verses. We went to a wedding yesterday where the stars were the tiny girl who carried the flowers and a boy who was ring bearer. The slightly older brother carried a box that said RING SECURITY on it. He took it upon himself to praise the tiny flower girl and to boast about his role in ring security. His joy had to be tamped down a bit, but it was fun to watch.

So just as the unbeliever is tormented by faith and must silence faith in God, so the believer rejoices in the gracious God who forgives sins through faith in Christ. 
The believer is in a continual state of repentance and forgiveness. That should help people understand the efforts made to exclude Justification by Faith from the Lutheran Church - in all synods, from ELCA on down to the WELS-LCMS-ELS-CLC (sic). What do they fear since the Lutheran Reformation and the Bible are so clear about this Justification by Faith in Christ?

5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. 

This rejoicing is not to be matched by being unbearable to others, as those who boast about themselves and hold themselves superior to everyone else. The playground bully who meets his match has many counterparts in adult life. I was recalling someone in education who took his new job so seriously that he wanted to show what a boss he was. Actually, there were several like this, junior managers with short life-spans. Both tried to act out a part and soon were pleading for help in finding a new job. 

The social media have given leverage to this kind of person, who can now say, "Oh here is how I can inflict some damage with a thoughtless comment."

Moderation could be called thoughtfulness as opposed to "look at what I have."

Paul conducted himself as a Pharisee when among the Jews even though he was not obliged. In fact, he was the one apostle who emphasized that the Jewish customs were not necessary for the Gospel. But to convert his own, he moderated his behavior and subordinated his cause to the higher cause of bringing the Gospel to his own people. He knew more than others that there is a great resistance to the Gospel when people think they are saved by works of righteousness.

Many American missionaries have lived like royalty in foreign lands, never sharing the hardships of the people. They train some native pastors, but decades later they are still in their great houses with their many servants and not able to let go and let those people run their own denominations. The flow of big money from the USA keeps up the mirage.

The Lord is at hand. 

These statements are used to make Paul look foolish. But that has never been more true than now. I studied Roman Catholic history and theology for a long time - and have no recollection of cardinals telling the pope he has to fix his latest, infallible pronouncement. (Look up "pope" and "dubia" on Google) They are saying the pope they elected is an apostate from the Christian Faith, as they understand it. 

Many other examples could be cited, such as the LCMS in convention re-establishing the papacy by declaring that no one can discuss doctrine and practice in public without having official approval and the correct synodical office for those thoughts. The so-called conservatives are in power now because the LCMS debated doctrine at all levels during the Seminex crisis, the other groups a decade before (ELS-WELS break with Missouri).

6 Be careful for nothing [GJ Do not be anxious about anything]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Now we use "careful" about being safe, as many people warned me last night as the storm visited Springdale. "Be careful. Stay warm." Now we are more likely to call Paul's term anxiety, a fretting and worrying about pain, medical problems, legal issues, and income.

Anxiety is our Old Adam expressing doubt about God answering prayers even before we ask. Or forgetting that Jesus Himself said to pray for anything in His Name that God might glorify His Name by granting the prayer.

John 15 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

Anyone can agree that anxiety keeps them from doing minor tasks. For instance, some loathe learning a new computer program, a new technology, a new skill. I am about to learn a seventh way of doing online teaching. All the controls and commands change. Once I had to take a test on that new technology, and I stalled, worried, anxious. And it was nothing.

We have much bigger, more ominous unknowns before us. And yet, they may be just a intimidating as we think, but God is far more powerful and knows our every need. During this season especially we should think about the Incarnation and what it means for Jesus to share our human nature and help us in that way. 

In thankfulness we ask for those things we need, and pray for others, knowing we have the Savior praying with us and for us. As I said to one colleague in sales, who was paralyzed by his fears, "Do you think God created the universe, became man, suffered and died for our sins, rose from the dead, and cannot keep your family fed?" That is an oft-told story, but he cried and laughed at the same time. So Christians must face our own absurdities, that we profess our beliefs but forget the implications of our faith.

Forgiveness of sin is a much greater miracle than we think about, because mankind has sought this peace for thousands of years and found many brutal, foolish ways to appease the angry god they imagine in their faithless hearts. That is why Paul could say to a tiny, persecuted minority in the Roman Empire, "Rejoice always."

The Votum - Prayer
 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This is Paul's prayer for the Philippians. The peace of God is the knowledge of absolution, the forgiveness of sin. The entire Bible - and more specifically - the New Testament teaches faith that receives the treasure of the Gospel, forgiveness of sin. 

Someone made a confession on Facebook, and I reminded her, since she was repentant and suffering, "Christ died for great and terrible sins, too, not just for minor sins, or sins we can conquer (which we cannot)." We do not conquer sin, but Christ in us believers, He conquers sins. 

Exceeds all understanding. 
If we look at the language of Paul, understanding is an important term. We should use our minds and be studious in the Word. The Holy Spirit in the Apostle's words uses rhetoric, logical arguments, reason to get the entire message apart. But forgiveness gives us the peace that exceeds all understanding. In other words, like the mysteries (Trinity, Creation, Virgin Birth, Incarnation, Miracles, Atonement, Resurrection, Ascension) - this can only be grasped by faith.

shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The word for keep is also used for guarding a prison or something valuable. This phrase is so beautiful, because the peace of forgiveness guards our hearts and  minds from apostasy - falling away from Christ.

Hearts and minds - that means both our emotions and our intellect. They work together and sometimes battle one another. When someone is afraid and anxious.  faith goes out the window, as Luther wrote. Our understanding of the Gospel, our ability to speak it to ourselves and others, guards our emotions from running loose and doing or saying foolish things.

38. Note the beautiful logic and order of Paul’s teaching. The Christian is first to rejoice in God through faith and then show forbearance or kindness, to men. Should he ask, “How can I?” Paul answers, “The Lord is at hand.” “But how if I be persecuted and robbed?” Paul’s reply is, “In nothing be anxious. Pray to God. Let him care.” “But meanwhile I shall become weary and desolate.” “Not so; the peace of God shall keep you.” Let us now consider the last thought.

39. By the phrase, “the peace of God,” we must understand, not that calm and satisfied peace wherein God himself dwells, but the peace and contentment he produces in our hearts. It is called the “peace of God” in the same sense that the message of God which we hear and believe and speak is styled “the Word of God.” This peace is the gift of God, and is called the “peace of God” because, having it, we are at peace with him even if we are displeased with men.

40. This peace of God is beyond the power of mind and reason to comprehend. Understand, however, it is not beyond man’s power to experience ¾ to be sensible of. Peace with God must be felt in the heart and conscience. How else could our “hearts and minds” be preserved “through Christ Jesus”? To illustrate the difference between the peace of God and the peace comprehensible by reason: They who know nothing of fleeing to God in prayer, when overtaken by tribulation and adversity and when filled with care and anxiety proceed to seek that peace alone which reason apprehends and which reason can secure. But reason apprehends no peace apart from a removal of the evil. Such a peace does not transcend the comprehension of reason; it is compatible with reason. They who pray not, rage and strive under the guidance of reason until they obtain a certain peace by fraudulent or forcible removal of the evil. Just as the wounded seeks to be healed. But they who rejoice in God, finding their peace in him, are contented. They calmly endure tribulation, not desiring what reason dictates as peace ¾ removal of the evil. Standing firm, they await the inner strength wrought by faith. It is not theirs to inquire whether the evil will be short or long in duration, whether temporal or eternal; they give themselves no concern on this point, but ever leave it to God’s regulation.

They are not anxious to know when, how, where or by whom termination of the evil is to come. In return, God affords them grace and removes their evils, bestowing blessings beyond their expectations, or even desires.

41. This, mark you, is the peace of the cross, the peace of God, peace of conscience, Christian peace, which gives us even external calm, which makes us satisfied with all men and unwilling to disturb any. Reason cannot understand how there can be pleasure in crosses, and peace in disquietude; it cannot find these. Such peace is the work of God, and none can understand it until it has been experienced. Relative to this topic, it is said in the epistle for the second Sunday in Advent: “The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” What the apostle there terms “peace in believing” he here calls “peace of God.”