The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 20, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; we ask this in your name for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Ezekiel 33:7-11

Ezekiel is called by God to announce a warning to the people of Israel.  Failure to do so, would affect his own life too.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.  Son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what you are saying:  “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them.  How then can we live?” ‘  Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?”  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 51a

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to Your unfailing love.

Wash away all my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in Your sight.

Surely I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Hide Your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquity.

Restore to me the joy of Your Salvation,

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

                        and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

SECOND LESSON – Romans 13:1-10eba

Out of love or God, we will respect and obey the government authorities whom God has placed over us.

 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.  Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?  Then do what is right and he will commend you.  For he is God’s servant to do you good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.  He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give everyone what you owe him:  If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.  Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Alleluia.  (Philippians 4:4)

 CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 18:15-20

When sin separates children of God from each other and from God himself, it needs to be dealt with directly through admonition, repentance and prayer.

 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Christian Discipline— Tough Yet Tender Love!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As any parent will tell you one of the most difficult things to learn how to do correctly is to discipline your children.  If you try to discipline your children after you have lost your temper you could be perceived as being mean or vindictive or in our day and age you could even be perceived as being abusive.  As Christian parents we learn the correct way to discipline our children by looking at how our heavenly Father disciplines us, His children.  As God’s dearly beloved children we also know that discipline is not only necessary on a personal/family level between parents and their children, but Scripture reveals to us that sometimes discipline is also necessary on a larger scale— the family of believers, the church.

Our sermon text for today is widely known as the portion of Scripture that speaks to us about exercising Christian discipline on a congregational level.  Today as we study this text under the theme Christian Discipline— Tough Yet Tender Love! we want to focus on three questions.  The first question is — why?  Why do we exercise Christian discipline?  The second question centers on howhow are we to exercise Christian discipline?  Finally, let’s focus on the question— What is the goal of Christian discipline?

Why do we exercise Christian discipline?  Our dear Lord gives us a succinct answer to that question when He says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault.”  Christian discipline becomes necessary when we have personal firsthand knowledge that someone has sinned.  Note, my friends, that Jesus is not telling us that we should try and correct someone if they have a habit that irritates us or if they have a personality trait that we find annoying.  What Jesus is telling us is that if someone has “missed the mark” that God Himself has set for His children, if someone is doing something or believing something that contradicts God’s holy revealed will then we are to go to that person and “show him his fault” or that verb can be translated, “convince them of their error.”

While Christian discipline is necessary it is certainly not easy, is it.  Our old sinful nature tries to convince us to just mind our own business.  Our conscience might ask us, “Who are you to point out someone else’s faults?  You have more faults than they do!”  The only way we can even consider listening to that type of rationale is if we don’t care about where that person will spend their eternity.  Unrepentant sin separates a person from the grace of God, forfeits the forgiveness that Jesus won for them on the cross of Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) and places that person under the judgment and condemnation of the Almighty God.  The Lord made that truth crystal clear to us when we heard Him say to Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading for today, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (See Ezekiel 33:7-11).  When we understand the seriousness of sin and when we understand the eternal consequences of sin, our love for the person who has “sinned against” us will lead us to “go and show him his fault.”

How?  How are we to do this?  What process or procedure are we to follow when we are exercising Christian discipline?  The Lord Jesus gives us a three-step process that He expects us to follow.  First, we go to that person alone so that we can discuss the situation “between the two of you.”  We don’t talk to others about what the person has done.  We don’t post about it on social media.  We search the Scriptures to make sure that we are standing on solid ground and then we use those Scriptures to show them that this is not just our opinion.  They are in “error” when it comes to God’s will as He has revealed it to us here in His holy Word.

If they refuse to listen to us, then Jesus tells us to “take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”  The person who has sinned may try to justify both their own actions as well as their refusal to listen to you by using the same rationale as your old sinful nature:  “Who are you to tell me that what I am doing is wrong?  That’s just your opinion!  Go away!”  The presence of two or three other faithful Christians will help to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.

If the person still refuses to listen, then Jesus says, “Tell it to the church.”  Now a sin that was committed in private is made public.  Now “the church” serves as the “court of last resort.”   The church will listen to both the accused and the accuser, the church will listen to the people who served as witnesses and the church will render a verdict.  If the church agrees that the person has sinned, but that person refuses to repent of their sin, the church is left with no choice but to “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”  In other words, the church will tell the individual that as long as they refuse to repent of this sin, they are outside God’s Kingdom of Grace and will not be saved.  (This is what has been termed Excommunication.)  And if anyone should say that the church does not have the authority to make such a verdict, Jesus reminds everyone involved in Christian discipline, “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

So far, we have emphasized the “tough love” aspect of Christian discipline.  Where in this text do we find the “tender love” aspect of Christian discipline?  Jesus emphasizes the “tender love” aspect of Christian discipline in two portions of this text.  We find the “tender love” aspect of Christian discipline when Jesus says to us in verse fifteen, “If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  A more literal translation of this verse is, “If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”  Then in verse eighteen Jesus says, “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  A more literal translation of this verse would be, “Whatever you untie/release on earth will be untied/released in heaven.”

These two verses give us a wonderful insight into the “tender love” aspect of Christian discipline.  Just as Christian love motivates us to carry out Christian discipline, so also Christian love necessitates that the goal of Christian discipline is always to “win” back or to “gain” back a sinner who had been trapped in Satan’s deadly web of sin.  Whether that person fell into sin out of weakness or jumped into sin out of defiance, our tender love for that person leads us to use Scripture to point out the error of their ways, to convince them of their fault— from God’s perspective— and then assure them without any hesitation whatsoever that when Jesus died on the cross (Pointing to the cross) He died to completely pay for all of their sins.  And then, in the very next breath, we can assure them without any hesitation whatsoever that the risen Christ Himself guarantees that when the church “unties” or “releases” a repentant sinner from the sins which have entangled and enslaved them, those sins are “untied” or “released” by our God in heaven above.

In reality, my friends, the “tender love” that we are to display throughout the entire process of Christian discipline is the exact same “tender love” that the Lord our God has shown to and for sinners.  Think back to the ministry of our Savior.  Jesus showed “tender love” to the “tax collectors and sinners” even while the Pharisees ridiculed Him for His willingness to not only reach out to them, but to actually have dinner with them.  (See Matthew 9:10-17)  Jesus showed “tender love” to the rich young man who came to Jesus and confidently claimed that he had kept all of God’s Commandments “since I was a boy.”  (See Mark, 10:17ff)  Jesus showed this “tender love” to each and every one of us— right there on the cross.  (Pointing to the cross)  “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  This is the “tender love” that our Jesus showers upon us and this is the “tender love” that we are to freely share with the person who repents of the sin that they have committed against us.

As parents and especially as Christian parents we understand that when it comes to disciplining our children we need to strive to make sure that we carry out Christian discipline correctly.  This means that we examine the why, the how and the goal of discipline.  It is no different when we carry out Christian discipline in the context of our church family.  But, there is one more key point that always needs to go hand-in-hand with Christian discipline.  It is— forgiveness.  Next week as we continue looking at Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, we will focus our attention specifically on the subject of Christian forgiveness and see how it always leads us to say:

To God be the glory!

 

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

O Holy Spirit, we know that eternal salvation is a gift of your grace freely given to those who hear and trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Impress upon our hearts and consciences that the blessed privilege and duty of bringing this precious Gospel message to this doomed world falls upon us believers.  We ask, therefore, that you inspire our minds and hearts with our Savior’s love, and so fill us with your grace that we have both the desire and the ability to share the sweet simple message of the Gospel with others— including our brothers and sisters in the faith.  Grant repentance to those to whom we witness Christ.  What a privilege is ours to announce to repentant sinners that their sins are forgiven and declare that the Kingdom of Heaven is open to them!

Put away sinful pride from our hearts that would keep us from accepting brotherly admonition directed to us in love for the welfare of our souls.  Let it never become necessary for any of us to be removed from this fellowship of saints because of unrepented sin, or because of refusal to submit to Christian discipline.  Rather give each of us a humble heart that makes confession of our sin and thirsts for the absolution pronounced in the Gospel.

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

 

C:        Amen.