9 Pentecost Sermon 2019

Johnny Lee’s hit song says that he’s, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” You and I, we do that – we look for God’s love and salvation – in all kinds of places, things, and persons, and most of them are the wrong places. We want and need God’s love, but all too often we end up Looking for God and His love, in the wrong place.”

Generally, we think that love begins with us. Our hearts want to love, and we want to find another heart that will love us in return. Whether we realize it or not, that’s a very conditional kind of love. And conditional love rarely lasts very long. 

Whether we’re realize it or not, all too often we love God in the same conditional way.

We think that we believe in the God of the Bible. Yet, more often than not, we’re looking for a God of our own imagination and creation,“ and looking for that God in all the wrong places.”

Take our text, Hebrews chapter 11, for example. These people are great heroes of faith. Let’s take a brief look at what they did: *Abraham offered up Isaac in obedience to God; *Isaac blessed his sons Jacob and Esau; *Jacob wrestled with God; *Joseph saved all of Israel from famine; *Moses parted the waters and led his people across the Red Sea; *Joshua caused the walls of Jericho to crumble and fall; *Rahab helped the Hebrew spies avoid being captured. 

We could go on, but the point is this – if you really want to be faithful, you need to be like these great men and women of faith, and do the kind of things they did. That’s what many people believe this text is about – giving us examples to follow and heroes to emulate. But if we do that, we’ll once again be “Looking for the wrong God, and looking for that God in all the wrong places.” 

Our text this morning, Hebrews chapter 11, isn’t about these great heroes of faith or all the things they accomplished. These verses are about faith, and what God was able to accomplish through these men and women because of their faith. In term of law and gospel, its not about what these men and women did for God. This text is about what God was able to accomplish through them.

Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, These great heroes of faith had absolute trust in God, and they believed every promise God made to them. Notice that each example in our text begins with the words, “By faith…” “By faith Abraham offered up Isaac.” “By faith Moses left Egypt.” “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land,” and so forth.

You and I, we believe in the same God Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob believed in. And God has spoken His promises to us, just as He spoke His promises to them. But do we believe and trust the promises of God as they did?

In the Catechism, Luther reminds us that we cannot believe in God without the help and support of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit created our faith, the Holy Spirit sustains our faith, and it is the Holy Spirit who causes our faith to grow and become stronger. 

In the explanation of the 3rd article of the Apostle’s Creed, Luther writes, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and keeps me in the one, true faith.”

We cannot believe in God or trust any of His promises without the help of the Holy Spirit. When you were baptized, God marked you with the sign of the cross, wrote your name in the “Book of Life.” Then His Holy Spirit gave you the greatest gift possible – a faith that believes and trusts God and all His promises. That gift is a living, breathing thing, and it must be properly cared for. 

Faith lives and feeds on God’s Word – deprive it of the Word and it will become weak and feeble. Feed and nourish it with God’s Word, and it will grow deep roots, becoming strong and dependable. If you want God to accomplish great things through you – if you want to be a great blessing to the people you care about, give your faith what it wants and needs, God’s Word. I promise you will soon see God at work in your life.

During His 3 years of public ministry, Jesus went up to Jerusalem many times. And each time, He looked toward that hill just beyond the city wall, the hill called Golgotha. It was there that He would endure the cross, suffering and die on a cross for us and our salvation. As our substitute, He suffered the wrath that God felt toward us because of our many sins. The cross would torture Him to death, Yet He remained true to His mission, to redeem us with His own suffering and death. 3 days later He rose alive and victorious, just as He promised He would, having defeated sin, death and the devil. 

Jesus’ victory is our victory, and because of that, God’s Kingdom is our Kingdom, Jesus did for us what we never could have done for ourselves. Paraphrasing our confession, “Who for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven; was crucified, suffered, died, and was buried; on the 3rd day He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.”

By faith, we were joined to our Lord’s death and resurrection in the water of our baptism; By faith we receive that forgiveness He accomplished for us on the cross; By faith, we receive His Body and Blood in His holy Supper; By faith, we believe God’s promises of salvation and everlasting life are certain and sure. By faith, we experience and acknowledge God’s love in our lives, and seek to share that love with others. 

Our search is over – now we know where and how to “Find God’s love in all the right places.” The water and Word of Holy Baptism is the right place. God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the right place. The Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper is the right place. Jesus’ cross and empty tomb are proof that the promises God has spoken to you are certain and sure. Amen!