Sunday, March 1, 2015

Setting Our Minds on the Things of God

This is an excerpt from my sermon this morning titled "Setting Your Mind on the Things of God Not the Things of Men."

When Jesus rebuked Peter in Mark eight, He showed us that the evil of our own hearts, of our families, of our church, and of the world can only be conquered by looking to the things of God rather than than the things of men. 

The things of men are what we can get by our selves - by our logic, our strength, our efforts, etc. These are not bad things. But they are insufficient to conquer evil and Satan. That can only be done by the things of God. These are His righteousness, love, sacrifice, and forgiveness. As Jesus descended to death on the cross to defeat evil so also we descend in repentance to destroy evil. As He rose from the dead, so also we arise to a new life.

The following is the last part of the sermon in which I applied this principle to one of the most serious political problems of our day…

One more important application of thinking the things of God has to do with our current political situation. We recently finished one of the most popular Bible class series that we have ever had at Good Shepherd by comparing the Christian faith to the faith of Islam. No two faiths could be further apart when it comes to Jesus’ saying that we should take up our crosses and follow Him. Muhammad clearly said to take up the sword. In fact the Quran calls for violence 45 times, a fact that no Muslim can deny.  Some Muslims say these only applied to specific situations, but many radical Muslims do not agree. They say it means what it says.  I’m glad there are peace-loving Muslims who try to soften the sayings of their prophet and inspire their people to peace instead of fighting for their faith. But that is having no affect on the radicals. In fact the radical Muslims think that the peace-loving Muslims are as much infidels as Christians and Jews.
How are we, as cross-bearing Christians, to think of the radical Muslims who are committing terrible atrocities every day?  The answer is not as simple as, “Send in the Special Forces and Marines and wipe them out.” That is the thinking of men, and it’s not working so well. What would be the thinking of God?  Martin Luther faced the exact same situation in his day. The Muslims were fighting at the gates of Vienna. Germany was on the brink of disaster. Luther reminded his people that the Muslims or Turks, as they were also called at that time, would have no power unless God had allowed it. Therefore he said:
But since people (ignored the Gospel) in the course of time and many heresies arose, the blasphemous Mohammed came with his Koran... After our time punishment will come upon Germany and other countries, too, because of the terrible ingratitude and contempt for the dear, saving Word which was preached to them purely and abundantly.1
The Turk, you see, is our “schoolmaster.” He has to discipline and teach us to fear God and to pray. Otherwise we will do what we have been doing—rot in sin and complacency. If we really want help and guidance, let us repent and change (our) evil ways…”2
Cross-bearing Christians who set their minds on the things of God turn to God in evil times.  The first evil they consider is that of their own hearts. In repentance and forgiveness that evil is destroyed. Then they humbly pray to God, “Deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever” (Matthew 6.13). They know that God will deliver whatever needs to be delivered for the sake of His kingdom. They pray for their own nation that it would turn from its sinful ways, because only then can the discipline of God be removed from the land. Finally they pray for strong and courageous soldiers who put their trust not in themselves but in God and say with the Sons of Korah:
For I will not trust in my bow, Nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, And have put to shame those who hated us. In God we boast all day long, And praise Your name forever. (Psalm 44.6-8).

O Lord, You carried the cross for us to defeat Satan and to forgive us and save us. Help us now to take up our crosses in repentance and faith. Help us defeat temptations. Help us to endure hardships, slander, abuse, even suffering, persecution and death if necessary for Your sake. You will always be our help and our shield. Amen.

1Plass, Ewald M., What Luther Says,” p. 533.

2Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 43: Luther's works, vol. 43: Devotional Writings II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (224). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.