Hearing The Word Of God Selectively?

Text: Luke 11:14-28

The focus of today’s sermon comes from verse 28 that says, “Blessed rather are the ones hearing the Word of God and observing it.” 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Individual Christians, congregations, and entire church denominations have chosen to hear the Word of God selectively, giving the Bible their own personal interpretation.  But why is this so? It is this way because they want to do and believe what seems right in their own eyes without the inconvenient threat of God’s judgment.

You see, when God speaks to us, He has two words.  One is His word of Law – God’s No.  In His word of Law, He tells us what to do and what not to do. Typically, though, the Law is harsh and accusatory, not because it is bad, but rather because it confronts and exposes our sins – it holds our sins before our eyes.

Indeed, the Law shows how we have not measured up to God’s holy demands and it shows us how God will punish us sinners for all of eternity because of our sins.  The holy Law is the will of our Holy God.  And anything short of absolute perfection must be punished, that is perfect holiness.

On the other hand, the second Word God speaks is His word of Gospel – God’s Yes.  This is His word of forgiveness.  Because we are unable to live up to the holiness God demands in His Law, in His love He sent One who could live a perfectly holy life in our place.  That was Jesus. 

Even though Jesus was perfect in thought, word, and deed, He was the one who took our place on the cross to suffer and die for us.  The Gospel – that is the Good News – is the news that by grace through faith in Jesus we have God’s forgiveness, our sins are pardoned, and we are given eternal life in heaven.  This is the word of Gospel, the word of forgiveness; it is the word of life. 

Considering both God’s Word of Law and Gospel, we must acknowledge that it is that word of Law that is most often disregarded or interpreted away, at least in twenty-first-century America.  You see, we do not like to hear that absolute standard of right and wrong, it is too intruding and too judgmental.  We prefer to live in a world of gray, somewhere between right and wrong, always deciding for ourselves what we can do or maybe shouldn’t do.

So we reject God’s Word of Law.  We refuse to hear it; we refuse to keep it.  We ignore or reinterpret His Word of Law to take off the edge and make it more user-friendly, so we can do what we want when we want, whenever we want.

And I am not only talking about those other churches or those other Christians.  I’m talking about us, Zion.  Whether we like to admit it or not, every one of us does this – including me, your pastor.  For example, we are embarrassed to say what we know is right and wrong according to God’s Word when push comes to shove with our friends, family, and neighbors. We fear mankind more often than God, for we do not want to be talked about or worse yet, ostracized from fellowship activities or popular groups.

Tragically we are afraid to take a stand on the Word of God and to be right in matters of faith and religion and to say so publicly because we do not want to offend anyone and we do not want to cause division or worse yet, be accused of pride and arrogance.  And yet this kind of being right is not a matter of personal opinion.  That is to say; taking a stand on God’s Word is not a matter of personal opinion or our church’s opinion, but a matter of what God says in His Word. 

Ask yourself this, how many times have you been in a situation where faith or the Word were at stake, and you know what is being said or done is wrong – that it is wrong according to what you believe?  Let me clarify, that it is wrong not because you feel it in your heart and not because of what your parents taught you, but wrong because you know God’s Word says it is wrong. 

And yet in those times, we often change the subject or state our opinion while laughing to downplay any tension or we chose to remain silent altogether or we say, “We are saying the same thing but using different words!” while knowing that you and the other person are actually saying different things. 

Tragically, we are not only afraid of making things uncomfortable, but I believe we are afraid of being right, for we do not want to be labeled as a ‘know it all’ or as a ‘Bible thumper.’  And there is more to this; I believe we are afraid of being right because we are afraid that God’s Word is right.  And if God’s Word is right, then so many people – including us – have got things wrong. 

Keep in mind, though, that hearing and keeping God’s Word in its entirety is not a matter of simply being a good Christian.  It is not about checking off some morality checklist.  But rather, keeping God’s Word in its entity is a matter of us knowing that we are captive to the Word of God.  It is a matter of knowing that if we ignore the Word of God, we will lose it.  It is a matter of knowing that if we give up His Word, we also give up all the blessings that come through it…forgiveness, life and salvation. It is a matter of knowing that God’s Word tells us how things are, not the other way around.

Now, generally speaking, no person, no church, and no denomination would ever say they have rejected the Scriptures completely.  This is the kind of things atheists do to shock and awe Christians. So, as we have already heard, instead of rejecting the Scriptures, certain individuals and churches will just reinterpret a verse here or there or a certain doctrine that does not sit well with them.  This is the reason why not all churches are equal and not all the same.  And because of this, not all churches who claim to be Christians and biblically based are in truth.  Therefore, this is why we need to hear the Word of God and keep all of it.  Indeed, Jesus said in our Gospel reading from today that, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.” 

Dear friends, we need to hear the Word – all of it.  We need both God’s Law and God’s Gospel.  God’s word needs to challenge us, comfort us, convert us, form us, shape us, and sustain us.  Yes, we need the Word of God to kill us and give us life.

Furthermore, we must acknowledge this day that we do not come to this church merely for social or fellowship reasons, as if the church is no different than a typical rotary club or a country club.  No, this is not who you are or what we are about or what the Lord is about.  We come to this church to hear the whole counsel of the Word of God—both Law and Gospel.  And so we know that when the Word of God clashes against our ideas and takes us captive, we are not easily surprised or even offended. But rather, we know that without the clear announcement of God’s judgment on our sinfulness that we could never know the danger and condemnation that we need to be rescued from.  That is right; we cannot know the blessed Gospel or our need for Jesus unless we first recognize our malady. 

Hear this loud and clear: without God’s Law, we have no need for God’s Gospel; without God’s Gospel, we are left in our sins.  We need both: God’s Law and His Gospel. 

Dear Baptized Saints, the Holy Spirit has spoken His Word to you this morning.  Not just the parts you would prefer to hear, but in the parts that you and I would prefer not to hear.  He does this, though, in love that you and I would come to see our sins and to confess them for what they are.  And then He leads us and strengthens us to hear and keep and cling to His precious Word of forgiveness that He speaks to us because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Therefore, hear yet again, God’s Word of Gospel – for you.  You are a forgiven child of God.  Forgiven even for not hearing His Word, for not keeping it.  He spoke that forgiveness over you in the absolution, He spoke it over you in your baptism, He speaks it to you in His Holy Supper, and He speaks it again to you today in His Holy Word of Gospel.  You are forgiven for Christ’s sake!

Without the Word of God, we would have nothing.  With the Word and because of the Word we have forgiveness, life, and salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ – we have everything. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

- Borrowed in part from a Sermon by Rev. Joshua Reimche.  

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