Our Ministry Stands on the Rock-Solid Truth
of God’s Word
(Matthew 7:15-29 / June 14, 2020)
If you watched the sermon video last week you will recall that our ministry is to carry out the mission that Jesus left us. We are to proclaim the name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to all people no matter where in the world God has set us down. And of all the places in the world where he has set us down, right now at least, that place is Waukegan and its surrounding area.
We said that our message is one of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. It is not just apologizing. Nor is it simply saying, “That’s okay; it’s no big deal”. Rather, it is releasing someone from their debt of offense because Jesus has released us from our debt of offense to him; he died on the cross. And on the cross God did not say, “That’s okay; it’s no big deal.” Rather, the deal was so big that it cost Jesus his life. Sin is always serious. But because Jesus died as a means of payment for our sin, we are now free from our debt to God, and here is the Good News we get to proclaim as a church: so is everyone else!
So, the ministry (the work of the Christian on earth), is, in its purest form, a message. It is the message that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all working together to save us from death so that we might live forever in heaven. We could refer to our ministry here at Immanuel Lutheran as the Ministry of God’s Word. Not everything we do explicitly proclaims God’s Word, but everything we do has as its ultimate goal to proclaim God’s Word to everyone who is willing to hear.
It is very important that we get our message straight. It’s especially important that I, your pastor, get our message straight, but it is also important that every one of you, as a representative of our church, also has the message straight in your mind. For if we were to go out into the city saying all sorts of different things, that would be pretty confusing, and confusion is chaos, or as Don Miller likes to say, “If you confuse you lose.” If someone is not going to believe in Jesus, may it not be because they didn’t understand our message.
Of course, all of this may sound rather ironic because if there is one message in our modern world that confuses people it is the church’s message. “What does the Bible actually say?” In fact, it would be an interesting exercise to have all of you write down on an individual piece of paper what the Bible has to say regarding the hot button issues of the day. Now take that exercise and extend it to the residents of Greater Chicago. Hence the confusion.
Maybe you’ve wondered, “If the Bible is one cohesive book that hasn’t changed since Moses wrote on a piece of papyrus, why is there so much confusion? Jesus answers that question for us today straightforwardly: it is because of the presence of false prophets.
So, what is a false prophet? Well, it doesn’t sound like a positive description for a teacher of God’s Word. No preacher wants to be labeled as a “false” prophet. The adjective “false” has negative connotations to it. It means that what the person says is not true, which furthermore means that there is no point in listening to that person. Why would someone ever want to fill their mind with false information, especially when false information, as you well know, is not benign, but can be terribly dangerous? Well, no one in their right mind would. But that’s the point. When you are confused, you don’t know, and so you are not sure.
Think of all the young people in our country trying to figure out what they should and shouldn’t think regarding our nation’s state of affairs. What Jesus is saying is that when it comes to His message (and therefore, our message), misinformation concerning what God says will be a reality. There is going to be misinformation. Is it going to be disseminated on purpose? Well, some of it will be and some of it won’t. Understand that much of it is just plain ignorance. But whether it’s done on purpose or not is really a moot point: it’s not the person that matters; it’s the person’s message.
That leads us to our understanding of the term “prophet” in the Bible. Most people, when they hear the word prophet, think of someone who is able to tell what is going to happen in the future. There were prophets in the Bible whom God told what was going to happen in the future, but there were very few of them. If you were a Jew living in Old Testament Jerusalem and heard the word prophet, you wouldn’t think of a fortune teller or someone who can predict the future. You would think of a man who represents God in what he says. You would think of a preacher. You would hear about him and say to yourself, “That person speaks for God.”
What Jesus is saying is that not everyone who claims to speak for him actually does. And so, he tells us that we need to watch out. We especially need to be observant because false prophets aren’t immediately recognized. Jesus says, “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (v. 15). So, you won’t be able to determine whether what a preacher, priest, or rabbi says is actually what God says in the Bible based on how they look. I can’t tell you how many people choose a church based on how it looks. Or how many people call a religion their own based on outward appearance. “Oh, this church looks like a real church. They have vestments, candles, and high ceilings with lots of icons.” Or on the flipside, “No, this church looks like a real church! They don’t have any of the fanfare and fanciful decorations like the other churches I grew up in.”
Well, forget all that! What matters is the preacher’s message. Which is the meaning of verse 16: “By their fruit you will recognize them.” What is the fruit of a preacher? It’s the message that comes out of his mouth. Not whether he is hip or cool, young or old, whether his presentation is polished or unpolished. It’s what he says that matters, because at the end of your life, it is what you believe that counts. Note the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (v. 21).
What is the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven? Well, Jesus tells us that too. John 6:40: “For this is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son [Jesus] and believes in him may have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the Last Day.” That’s God’s ultimate will—that all people may have faith in Jesus so that they might escape death on the Last Day. Which is why our message, our ministry, is one of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name. And it is imperative that we stay on point because the gate is narrow, and the storms we encounter in life are great.
You see, the danger for an unbeliever is to never understand what it means to be a sinner, and hence, what it means when the Bible calls Jesus their Savior. But the danger for the believer is to become so distracted by the many other messages in the world, that when it comes to sin and a Savior, you no longer care. “I already know all that stuff! I don’t need corporate worship or adult Bible study. I still believe in God!”
Jesus says, “There are two types of people in this world: wise and foolish. The wise person hears His words and puts them into practice. Both are ongoing activities. The foolish person hears Jesus’ words and does not put them into practice.
Verses 24-27: “Everyone who hears these words of mind and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on bedrock. The rain came down, the rivers, rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not fall, because it was founded on bedrock. Everyone who hears these words of mind but doesn't do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the river rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—it was completely destroyed” (EHV).
Kind of like the Three Little Pigs. Actually, I think Disney stole the idea from Jesus, but it’s the same idea. What’s the point? That there is evil in this world. And if there is evil even in fairy tales, should we be surprised when the storms of life beat against our house? Or should I say household? What’s the foundation of your household? God’s Word or man’s word? How do you know? Is your household still standing on the principles of God’s Word or have those principles long been compromised? How’s your marriage doing? How is the faith of your children doing? How’s the climate at home? Constant bickering and cut downs? Or bickering which eventually resolves itself through forgiveness? Take the test.
The test that we’re doing okay is not that we avoid the storms. You’re living in la-la-land if there are no storms in your life. The test is whether we and our household weather the storms. What does that mean, “weathering the storm”? Well, it doesn’t mean we come through life unscathed. Christians sin just as much as non-Christians. The test is whether our household is still standing on the Last Day.
You may have had the siding blown right off of your household. Fair enough. But are you still standing? Are you still humbly repenting of your sins before God and asking him to forgive you because of Jesus? That’s the key. That’s the test. That’s the message. “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his [Jesus’] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
Somebody says, “Well, we’re not in Jerusalem.” That’s right. We’re in Waukegan. Our ministry is right here where God has set us down. And our ministry is based on the rock-sold truth of God’s Word. That’s why it is going to stand. That’s why the households of our congregation and those who come to it are going to stand. The foundation is firm. The message is clear. There is forgiveness for all who repent in Jesus’ name. Jesus sinners does receive! (CW 304)