Christ the King Sunday
(The Last Sunday after Pentecost) November 24, 2013
611(1-6), 17(1-3,5), 132, 611(7)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
As we end another church year, filled again with God’s grace, may that same Giver of all good gifts fill each of us with a deep and abiding appreciation for all that He has done and continues to do for us every day of our earthly existence. All praise and honor be to our Lord who does this so that we also might spend eternity with Him in Heaven—an unending existence won for us by our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear fellow Christians:
The more you look into the problem, the more alarming it is that we have grown so accustomed to “make-believe” in so many different areas of our lives—critical areas where we cannot afford to pretend. It all starts when mom and dad tell their youngsters “Great job, buddy” for that which was anything but “great.” The pretense continues throughout the developing years and on into adulthood. We are told that girls and boys are just the same, when in countless areas they obviously are not. We are told that there is no difference between black and white, rather than the truth that there are differences, but that those differences don’t in themselves mean that one is better than the other. We are told that guns kill people, that women are as naturally suited to things like combat as are men, and that homosexual relationships are as good and natural as heterosexual.
That’s the sort of false reality we live with day-by-day, and the inevitable result is that the clear lines between true and false become ever more fuzzy. The list of such things is endless: Home-schooled children are all social introverts. All religions are equally good. Mothers who stay at home are somehow less valuable to our society than those who seek outside employment. Spanking a child for rebellion does irreparable harm to that child. Again, the list is endless to the point that we may need to actually struggle to recognize and accept reality as it truly exists.
With this as our background, let me ask you what is your opinion of prayer? I don’t mean what is the opinion you know that you are supposed to have since you are a Christian. I mean, what truly is your own personal opinion of prayer? Do you believe that it is effective, not only in a general way, but also in a personal and specific way? In other words, if you pray for a specific thing in your life, do you really believe that prayer has any real and tangible effect; or do you believe that what was going to happen is pretty much what will happen no matter what you ask for in your prayers?
Many will find the honest answers to these questions to be disquieting and unsettling. For most of us to answer honestly it will take some time and introspective meditation. Today’s text will aid us greatly in improving our attitude toward prayer and our understanding of it.
In these words from God, the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, places a high value on the prayers of God’s children. We will also be taught something about our attitude toward worship and the connection between prayer and worship. The text that will guide us is found in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, the first chapter:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
These are the precious words of our God. Acknowledging them to be not only true but effective in our lives day by day, we pray, “Sanctify us by your truth, O Lord. Your word is truth.” Amen.
When you think of prayer, or when you hear the word “prayer” mentioned, what are the circumstances that come to mind? Most of us think immediately in terms of gaining something that we need from our God. To most of us, “prayers” and “petitions” are essentially the same thing. In other words, when we pray, we do so because we need something from God.
Is that all that God had in mind when He invited and encouraged us to pray? Is there no more to prayer than man continually and only asking favors of God? Clearly there is more. Paul encouraged the following in 1 Timothy 2:1: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” [ESV]. Again we hear in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Most, if not all of us, have a blind spot in connection with the worship of our God. The problem is that we tend to do very little worship, but a great deal of asking—and even the asking is most often tainted by a great deal of doubt and skepticism. Prayer is just another example of the problem we address today—the poverty and scarcity of true worship.
Most often in Confirmation instruction we define prayer as “a heart to heart visit with God.” This definition rightly implies that prayer is supposed to involve much more than just asking things from our God.
You may have heard of the acronym “Prayer ACTS.” The acronym is intended to remind us that prayer is active and rightly includes: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. How good and right it is, in other words, to approach our God first with songs of praise or adoration in our hearts, acknowledging His wonder, grace, and power—all of which are well beyond our ability to fully comprehend. How right as we recognize that we stand in the presence of our Savior God, to confess our sins, and to follow with songs of thanksgiving for the forgiveness of our sins and for the right to address Him as our reconciled Father. Only then should we be ready to bring our requests or supplications to His holy throne.
Did you notice these things in our text? Unless we remember to see and hear with the Spirit-tuned eyes and ears of faith and understanding, many of the words of our text remain just words. What is worse, they fail to have their God-intended effect upon our hearts and in our lives.
Look then through these words of Scripture again and you will find Paul singing the praise of our God by giving voice to such things as “His glorious might” and by reminding all who would hear that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” [vv.11,16-17 ESV] That‘s pure praise. Nor does Paul fail to speak of the sin problem that confronts him and all mankind, for in our text he reminds us of the fact that “in [Him] we have redemption through His blood,the forgiveness of sins.” [v.14] There too we hear him “giving thanks to the Father” [v.12] All of these are joined to Paul’s requests of God. Nor are Paul’s requests merely for himself and his own needs and desires, but those of his fellow Christians. “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” [vv.9-11]
Even in the area of prayer we Christians are found wanting. Even when we hold our “heart-to-heart-visits” with God we must hang our heads in great shame and ask our Lord’s forgiveness. There too the poverty of our selfish thoughts and aspirations is revealed. God be merciful to us, sinners all.
What is the answer to such selfishness and poverty of worship on our part? Certainly it has nothing to do with any deficiency on the part of our God or any lack that we have experienced of His grace and blessing. Hear again those magnificent words of praise that the inspired Apostle writes in our text: “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” [vv.16-18 ESV]
Surely this is the description of a being, an entity, a God, that is worthy of continual praise and honor from His creation. How right, how fitting, then to begin each day with the praises of our God filling our hearts and overflowing in all that we say and do. How good and natural to make the adoration of our God a common event in every single day with which that same Lord blesses us.
How is it then that we fail to do so? How can it be possible that we go days, even weeks or months, without once stopping to really express that of which our God is so worthy, so deserving? How could we possibly forget or fail to worship such a God?
Part of the problem is that we live in a world that worships all the wrong things, and it is having its effect also on God’s children. Our society worships the creation, rather than the Creator (cf. Romans 1:25). We in our society quite literally worship created things like physical beauty, talent, charisma, and strength. Those who have been blessed with such things tend to use those gifts for their own selfish purposes, rather than as opportunities and reminders to praise and worship the One who gives such gifts to men.
Opportunities present themselves every single day to reflect praise and glory back to the true Source of all of our gifts, but more often than not we fail miserably to do so. Most of us, in fact, are much more comfortable outwardly downplaying the gifts and talents that God has given, even while we inwardly bask in the glow of praise.
The point is that true worship has to begin in the human heart. To do it right and to do it consistently requires that a change take place in our hearts and in our attitudes. The passage that sums it up so well is 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That is the starting point at which this problem finds its cure—when we come to grips with the fact that everything in life ought to be done to the glory of our God because He alone is worthy.
In Heaven, all creation will finally get this altogether right. Hear again that glorious description in Revelation 5:11-12: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor and glory.’” Indeed, worthy is our Savior God of our worship!
On this last Sunday of the Church year—Christ the King Sunday—we are reminded that our God alone is worthy of our praise and our worship. He is worthy if for no other reason than that which is revealed by these incredible words in our text: “…giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” [v.12] That gift is ours because our Lord Jesus has rescued us by removing the debt of our sins, having taken away the penalty that we owed by the sacrifice of His own life in our behalf, as our text also affirms: “in [Him] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” [v.14]
This is why Paul was willing and able to say things like, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), and “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
It’s not just that these things are important. It is that nothing else truly matters. When all things in this life are swept away, when each human being must stand before his Creator on Judgment Day, one thing alone will matter: faith in Jesus Christ—or lack thereof. God, for Jesus’ sake, has declared our sin-bill to have been paid in full. Our debt has been cancelled. Praise be to God, we are forgiven. Having created saving faith in our hearts, God the Holy Spirit has placed us on the winning team. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Worthy indeed is the Lamb. Let His praise, together with thanksgiving, flow continually from the hearts of his creation. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.