St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
September 4, 2022
Text: Deut. 30:15-20, Philemon 1–21, Luke 14:25–35
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
Both Today’s OT lesson and Gospel lesson seriously challenge our faith. In Deut. 30, Moses said to the People of Israel, “If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.” In Luke 14, Jesus calls us to “renounce all” in order to be His disciple. Do you think that they are contradictory to what we said Last Sunday? Last Sunday, I said that “Striving to enter the narrow door” is Not that people have to try very hard to squeeze into a narrow door. No. The door is narrow because people won’t find it and even if they find it, they don’t want to enter it because they like the wider doors and wider roads of this world. Humbly trusting God in Christ Jesus alone is key to being saved. By the grace of God, we are saved through faith in Jesus and His Blood.
Is this contradictory to today’s lessons? No, the reason is that Faith is Not a one-time thing. You enter the door, and you stay inside. Nor is faith easy. Luther writes about faith in “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.” Luther says, “Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith…” Jesus is not only the narrow door, but also the narrow way as He says in Matt. 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Entering the narrow door is not easy, staying on the narrow path of Jesus is Even harder. So, we have to strive to stay in the course . The reason why faith is not easy is that temptations, deceptions of this world, and our sinful pride in our own good works distract us and pull us away from the Door and the Way. It’s hard to trust in God and Jesus alone, certainly not by our own will and strength. Only by the grace of God do we find the will to enter the Door and have the strength to keep going in the way of Jesus, which leads to life and blessings.
After 40 years of wandering in the wildness, with God’s gracious protection and leading their way, the people of Israel finally arrived in the land of Moab, facing Canaan, the promised land. Moses through God’s revelation knew that the people of Israel would be complacent after entering the land of Canaan, and their “heart would turn away, and will not hear the Word of the Lord, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them” like worshiping Baal and practicing child sacrifice and other heinous and perverted lifestyles. Nowadays, in the United States, there are more and more people turning away from God in Christ Jesus, becoming atheist or humanist, or worshipping other gods, even Satan itself. Perverted and ungodly culture is cultivated and promoted in schools and in public squares. What God through Moses warned the people of Israel about still rings true today, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you, life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life.” It’s not about good works, it’s about a decision, a life and death Decision. Faith is Not Easy. Straying away from the Way to follow other paths is easy. Staying in the course that God has set before us is Not, though it is the only Way.
In today’s Gospel lesson, when Jesus called people to “renounce all” in order to be His disciple, “a great multitude went with him.” As Jesus drew closer and closer to Jerusalem, fewer and fewer people followed him, because Jesus made it more and more clear to them that He had come to Jerusalem to suffer and die, and that he was not going to restore the kingdom of Israel on earth, which was a huge disappointment to many. They thought they would have a better life by following Him. In this context and against their delusional human dream, Jesus says these words, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” So, it’s Not about good works. It’s about a decision, a radical decision. The biggest stumbling block for us to finish the course of the race of faith is our sinful flesh. That is, the biggest distraction pulling us away from the door and the way of Jesus is sinful worldly life. There is a decisive choice you have to make. The earthly soul is attached to the glory, wealth, and material enjoyment of this life and this world. When you are faced with a challenge of faith, will you yield to the opposition, will you rather pursue money, fame, and power? Faith is Not Easy. Today, Jesus asks anyone who would like to be His disciple to first sit down and count the cost. It’s a matter of Life and Death. Don’t be naïve. Any decision has consequences. Unbelief without fearing of God and all the sins that come with it will lead us to death and hell. The door to life is narrow, staying the course of the way is hard. Following Jesus and being his disciple requires a radical decision and a complete determination.
Though faith is not easy, and the way is narrow, it is the only way that leads to eternal life. When Jesus asks us to “renounce all”, He DID it first. He renounced the heavenly prerogatives to be born in a lowly manger, to experience trials and temptations, hunger, thirst, humiliation, pain, and dying on the cross. His request for us to renew the determination and make every effort to stay in His way is not just a command, but also a gracious invitation, an invitation to go where He has gone before, and thus to stay where He is now, which is heaven. Faith is not easy, but it leads to death to sin and to life everlasting in Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit move each one of us. We are saved by grace alone through faith of Jesus Christ and His blood. And He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!