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Walker, MN

August 18, 2019              Lookin’ For Love

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ

In 1980, country singer Johnny Lee sang, “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.

I suppose he was talking about trying to find a loving spouse by going to bars & such places where ‘true’ love is not the focus. The worldly heart can be fooled like that. So, people go to places where folks gather & have fun, even tho that fun is alcohol-related.

Or, the sinful world will offer assistance from other places that aren’t always good.

Like the on-line dating sites to help us ‘find love,’ to find ‘harmony,’ & our perfect match. You fill out an inventory of your likes & dislikes, and what you hope for in ‘soul-mate.’ I guess a website seems better than looking in a bar. BUT, have you ever heard that ‘opposites attract’? So, if you begin with yourself & all your likes & desires, and are matched with a person who is the same, *will you choose someone who’s the same as you, or someone who complements & completes you?

As a living, breathing soul under the will of our Creator, humans are more than the answers we type into a computer; a person is not just ‘information’ & a few pictures.

Our information actually has a living context that can’t be fully understood in words alone.

A real person must be known in real flesh & blood.   Questions & answers & information is a good place to start, but too many get their hopes up too quickly, and then when they meet someone ‘live’ & ‘in-person’ they’re very disappointed. So, ‘looking’ could begin in a social place, or on a website, where you can find people & potential; but ‘love’ has to be more.

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People also look for God’s love & hope in all kinds of wrong places, persons, & things. By nature, we know we need to be loved in this fallen world; we need to be ‘saved’ & have somewhere to go after this earthly life. But people are not always clear on where that kind of real & eternal love can be found. People look for God’s love & rescue & hope in wrong places.

Our old nature will begin looking for ‘a god’ who is like us, and reflects our own likes & dislikes & ideas. So, a person decides what their ideal ‘supreme being’ is supposed to be like from their own thoughts & ideas =which are imperfect. SO, their ‘god’ might be a he, she, or it; as long as it fits their ideas. They’re lookin for love in the wrong place.

We run into people who say that they don’t like how traditional history or ‘the organized church’ has defined God. They want a different god = kinder, more tolerant; one they like & understand. So, some have a god that’s a nice santa-clause type, / a sweet grandmother type, / or a kindly wise wizard. Some want a ninja-warrior-god, who fights for good people, and will punish their enemies, and be loyal to them & do what they want.

People imagine they get to choose their own god. They decide how this god loves them and accepts their excuses for doing wrong behavior. Their god is near when they want him, &far away when their not needed. Their god isn’t so picky that he tells them what to do or not do. Their god will do things for them when they use the right religious words & procedures.

For some, their god is not even a spiritual being, but they worship & trust in those earthly things that support their /lifestyle, /freedom, /pleasure, /& happiness. This kind of ‘god’ might just be money, entertainments, a career, or even friends;   whatever keeps a person feeling loved, and giving their life meaning & purpose. And some think WE are our own god. It’s the idea that there is nobody ‘out there’; we must rely on our own smarts & determination to define our life; life is whatever you make of it. You are your own god. Our sinful nature is lookin for love in all the wrong places.

Our old nature can also affect a true faith. People who believe in the God of the Bible = the Triune God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit = are still tempted to think that His love only depends on the things WE DO in life. But, *is the Lord waiting for us to do the right things so that we are worthy enough to come into His presence, & eventually into His heaven? We hear people say of others: they’re such a ‘good christian’ because they’ve done this or that.

It’s true that we show that we are the Lord’s disciples by the works of faith we do, & by our obedience to His Word; but those works don’t make us more loved by God. And our good works don’t cancel out our need of daily repentance, a weekly sabbath-worship, and the mercy & forgiveness of God thru Christ & His cross.      One person does not deserve heaven more than another based on the things they do.   The things we do will express the maturity of being a faithful servant, but they don’t determine whether we are a child of God & loved by Him.

Our works don’t earn us God’s love & salvation. In our Lutheran history, CFW Walther wrote that =Biblically speaking= there is no more perfect Christian than the newly baptized baby;…> who simply receives God’s mercy & the gift of faith, without being able to ‘do’ or deserve anything.   It reminds us of the time Jesus said, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mk.10)

These thots about who God is, what we do, & our connection with God’s love, & our salvation, bring us to Hebrews 11, where it talks about some great heroes-of-the-faith whom God wanted us to know about. And look at all they DID! Abraham offered up Isaac; / Isaac blessed his sons; / Jacob wrestled with God; / Joseph saved the sons of Israel from famine, preserving the human lineage of the Messiah; / Moses stood up to Pharaoh & led God’s people thru the Red Sea & thru the wilderness; / Joshua brought the walls of Jericho down; / Rahab protected the Israelite spies. We could wrongly conclude from this listing that ‘IF you want to be a really good Christian, THEN you need to be like these people, and do the things they did.’

But then we’d really miss the point. This chapter isn’t about what they did; rather, it’s about God’s gift of faith to them, which was what they needed for their own situation.

It’s about how God was able to use them to accomplish things in His Kingdom thru the faith He’d given them.   The thing that connects & commends all these different Bible people, from different times in history, is FAITH or trust in God & His Word.     It’s not that they all copied each other in trying to do the same works that would please God.  They all did different things in response to God with the Faith they were given. Moses did not offer up his son as a sacrifice, and Abraham did not lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.   Rahab did not preserve God’s people from famine, and Joseph did not protect God’s spies from the enemy.

So, this chapter is not about teaching us to mimic the works of these heroes so as to please God;   but rather for us to see that they were all trusting & walking with God in their time & place; it’s about God’s gift of faith = which you & I have been given in baptismal grace, & in the full Gospel message of Christ Jesus.   Yes, their lives had activities & troubles to face, like everyone’s life does; but those actions of faith are different depending on God’s will for us.

So, it’s not those particular actions of faith that show us to be God’s people, but rather it’s the gift of faith itself that shows us to be God’s people. As Christians, the fruit of our faith will vary depending upon our stations & situations in life. This is why =earlier in Hebrews=

it says: without faith it’s impossible to please God, no matter what we do. (11:6)

If we miss this point of God’s gift of faith, then we just might be looking to the work of our own hands, or to the gods of our own making.   We may look for spiritual comfort & salvation in our selves, and in how many times we are kind to others, or how many charities we give to. We may be lookin for God’s love’ in all the wrong places.

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Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the rest looked to the one true God = the God who does not wait for us to find him; He searches for us, and makes Himself known to us. His promise was to come & rescue us by one Savior. This is the God who is described as ‘love’ itself = says 1 John 1:4 “God is love.”   The saints of old looked in the right place to the promise of God’s saving mercy in Christ & His cross = & so do we. This has always been The One True Faith; ‘look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.’   He alone is the right place of God’s love.

For each example, the author of Hebrews begins with the phrase “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.   You see, God doesn’t expect you to offer up your son, or leave Egypt, or cross thru the Red Sea.   But these examples proclaim to us that their faith is our same faith, because we have the same God & promise of His love in His Son.

Just as He spoke His words to them, so He speaks to US thru His Word. /He spoke at creation, /then thru the prophets, /then thru His Son, /and now thru His written Word & Spirit.   But regardless of the changing delivery, it is thru that very same Word that we all came to the faith = the one true faith; which has become our life;   even -sadly- if it divides our own family.

As we confess in our Creed, thru the small catechism, “the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” The Word of God is the Spirit of God, who gives us this faith.

We cannot, by our own strength, know who God is, or believe in His Son, or come to Him. God speaks & the Holy Spirit creates & sustains faith; He brings us out of spiritual death into life with a new birth. It’s important to know how He works, so that we know that nothing we DO can make us worthy to stand before God, get Him to do things for us.

That’s why, after all these examples of our heroes of faith, Heb.12:2 points us to Jesus, who is the object & God of our faith; “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

He is the love of God in-the-flesh; He is our salvation in bodily form. Left on our own, without the Spirit’s converting us, without the death of Jesus, without the drawing work of the Father, we are lost, blind & separated from ever finding this true love.   SO, it is a huge part of our comfort & hope that we look away from ourselves, away from any supreme being of our own making.   And to daily look for love in the one & only place God point us to: to the One on the cross.

With the most stubborn determination to save us, Jesus looked toward that hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha, or skull hill.  There He endured the cross; taking upon Himself the Father’s full anger for our sin, so that God would look upon us with mercy & love. That’s what it means that Jesus made the all-atoning sacrifice for our sin. Looking ahead, Jesus had you in mind; for the giving of His life-blood was the only way that you would be saved.

And true to His promise -on the 3rd day- Jesus’ work was declared acceptable as the Father raised Him from the dead, and received His Son back into heaven, with authority over all things.   All Jesus’ enemies have become His footstool; man’s made-up gods are proven false, and all our works cannot compare to His. This is true love; not that we loved God,

but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the satisfaction for our sin. Jesus & His cross is the right place to look.  By faith, like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, & Rahab before us, we look to Jesus = our Lord & God.

God’s Word establishes this faith by which we see Him; by faith we see Him here among us thru His Word & Sacraments.   Scripture makes a promise; so by faith, we see our joining to the Lord’s death & resurrection in the waters of Holy Baptism. By faith we trust that the forgiveness proclaimed by the pastor really IS for us Christ’s own forgiveness. By faith, we discern Jesus Body & Blood in the bread & the wine, and receive the heavenly fellowship we share, united in Him thru His perfect written Word.

By faith we recognize that the Gospel of Christ proclaimed is the only religion that grants life-eternal.   And, by faith, we give witness to this love of God in all our Bible-guided activities, which is a life of ordinary actions of kindness, charity, patience, modesty, & morality, centered here in Christ’s Church. By faith, our hands serve him in holy living and in useful service to others; for this is what God’s loved & faith-filled people do.

‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love’ = that’s another song. But the world is spiritually blind, and looks for love in all the wrong places. In God’s Word, in Baptism & the Lord’s Supper, right here in Church == when we come here, we’re looking for God’s love, for forgiveness, hope, peace & salvation; it’s the right place.   Here we look to Jesus, the founder and perfected of our faith.

Amen