17th Sunday After Pentecost September 23, 2012
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
19, 285, 73, 353
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
[Jesus said], “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
In the name of Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed by His blood:
Every hour of every week the Son of God stands before human hearts with His gracious invitation and promise: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” [v.20] But often on Sunday morning and throughout the week whole multitudes of people respond to Christ’s invitation by pointing to a little sign on the door of their hearts which says, “Please, do not disturb.”
These folks have become so preoccupied with a thousand other things that they have no time for Christ. This does not necessarily mean that they have never known Christ. Rather, they have received His invitation at some point in their lives, but now they have hung out a “Do Not Disturb” sign as they have fallen into spiritual sleep!
They may have become like the people in the church at Laodicea described in our text. Their works are “neither cold nor hot.” [v.15] They may tell us that they do not hate the Means of Grace in the Word and Sacrament of Christ, but they show that they do not love to receive Christ’s Word and Sacrament. They may not hate their neighbors, but neither do they love them enough to pray for them, help them, or share the Gospel with them. They are only lukewarm toward others.
They like the idea of belonging to a church, and they will boast that they “pay their dues to keep their pew,” as one person told me years ago, but they don’t want their pastor to disturb their spiritual lethargy. They don’t want to be bothered about their lack of church attendance, or doctrinal questions, and they don’t want to be asked to share in the work of the church when it interferes with their own private interests and pursuits.
What is the real problem with those who say to Christ, “Don’t bother me”? Why are they so lukewarm that Jesus threatens to spit them out? The problem, Jesus says, is that they think they are rich and need nothing. As long as they already have or can get the things of this world which the flesh desires, they allow themselves to be lulled to sleep about their spiritual needs in life. They say to Christ: “Don’t disturb my sleep! Don’t trouble my waters!”
But Christ won’t go away so easily! He is not like the little fish that jump from the surface of a large body of water. How quickly the ripple created by thousands of little fish disappears on a huge lake. They may be easily ignored, but Christ can not be ignored forever. Every human being is faced with the same question Pilate asked: “What then shall I do with Jesus?” (Matthew 27:22).
There have been many religious leaders and false gods who have appeared on the scene of world history. Neither Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha, or any other religious leader, philosopher, or prophet has anything to do with you and me. But Christ came from Heaven to deal with all people!
He created us all. He is the eternal Son of God who became true Man in order to suffer the death of the cross and the punishment of eternal Hell for the sins of all mankind! This One in whom “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9) says to the world: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
With His message of the God-Man on the cross, slain for the world of sinners, Christ did not come to make life smooth and comfortable for sinners. Neither were any of the Old Testament prophets or New Testament apostles considered “smoothies” in the world. Christ works by means of both Law and Gospel to disturb the self-righteous, to stir up the sleepy calm of the human heart.
Forget the terrorists that threaten our country or the turmoil in the Middle East and Afghanistan It is our Christ who is disturbing everything! Forget the trouble in which our economy lies. It is our Christ who is stirring the waters and shaking the world lest we become too comfortable with ourselves in this perishing world! Christ continually admonishes us all to put away our confidence in material wealth and seek from Him the pure and lasting riches of faith.
Christ troubles us with the thought that confidence in our own works and goodness will leave us naked in our sins, while faith dresses us in the white garments of His perfect righteousness.
Why does our Lord make such an exclusive claim to be “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)? It is because He wants to stir the human conscience with the reminder that it is blind to saving wisdom without the “eye-salve” (cf. v.18) which He alone supplies in His Gospel.
Christ disturbs us every day! Whenever someone needs our help, Christ, the lover of all, is facing us with a decision: “Are we going to love and help as we have been loved and helped by Him, or not?” Whenever we awaken on Sunday morning, Christ is there with this stirring reminder: “Will you begin this day in My house and let Me bless you, or do you have something to do that is truly better for you or others?” Whenever we or our loved ones suffer prolonged illness, we are face-to-face with Christ again! He is reminding us of our great need for His help.
Christ will not go away! He alone is the “Alpha and the Omega…the First and the Last” (Revelation 1:8, 11). Everything begins and ends with Him. So He will be stirring up the whole world, shaking all created things, and troubling the hearts of sinners everywhere until the end of time so that they may believe and not perish with the rest of the unbelieving world.
Blessed are those whose lives are always being disturbed by Jesus! Notice what Jesus promises even to the lukewarm Christian: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” [vv.19-21]
In today’s Epistle reading Paul says that our God is the “God who calls” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). That means that God is continually calling us to repentance of sin and renewed faith in Him through the preaching of the Law and Gospel of His Word. You are blessed by the calling God whenever you are convinced that He is disturbing you! For to be indifferent, lukewarm, and asleep spiritually means that one is on his way to becoming stone-cold dead!
I use the washing machine twice a week. I have learned that the agitator in the machine is just as important as the soap. If the washing machine does not agitate, the clothes do not come clean. If you and I are not agitated by the Word of God so that we feel the need to repent of our sins and be washed in the blood of our Savior, we will not be clean before Him.
When we are in danger of becoming spiritually run-down so that we lose ground in our battle against the world, the Devil, and our own flesh, how blessed is the stirring reminder of our Lord Jesus Christ, who promises: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne…”
The happiest people in this perishing world are those who are disturbed by the Bible’s message of sin and judgment and who have been awakened from their spiritual sleep and lukewarmness. These people, greatly disturbed and grieved by their own sins and weaknesses, rejoice to hear and live in the awareness of God’s love for them in Christ, their Lord and Savior! On the door of their hearts is inscribed this standing invitation:
I open wide My heart to Thee;
here, Lord, abide!
Let me Thine inner presence feel,
Thy grace and love in me reveal! [TLH 73:5]
This is what we mean when we say: “HAPPY ARE THE DISTURBED!” May God grant that we always be among them! 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.