Christ Equips His Servants

October 2, 2022

Pastor John Hering

Luke 17:1-10

Luke 17:1-10

Jesus said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for that person if a millstone would be hung around his neck and he would be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Watch yourselves.

“If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

The Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Which one of you who has a servant plowing or taking care of sheep will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at the table’? Won’t the master tell him instead, ‘Prepare my supper, and after you are properly dressed, serve me while I eat and drink. After that you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the servant because he did what he was commanded to do, does he? 10 So also you, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have only done what we were supposed to do.’”

What a joy to see you all today! So, how’s your service to the Lord been going as a citizen, employer/employee, spouse, father/mother/child, and especially as a member of Divine Peace?  This sounds like when you come home from work or school and you hear, “How’d it go today?”  This question gives us an opportunity to evaluate your service to the Lord this past week.  How was your service to Jesus?  Some good, some bad and some ugly?  Serving the Lord Jesus is doing what he has called you to do.  So, would you say it’s been going pretty well?  Or would you say you’ve been struggling in this area of your life? 

If you’ve been thinking about the difficult time you’ve had this past week serving the Lord Jesus, did you also think about some of the things that got in the way of serving him?  Was it fear?  Your performance at work wasn’t all that great and maybe you worried about losing your job?  Was it lack of purpose?  You got distracted from what the Lord has called you to do and said, “What’s the use?” and gave up?  Was it bitterness?  You gave it lots of effort, but when things didn’t turn out as you had hoped, then you get bitter and lose your motivation. On the other hand, when you become successful then you can become boastful.  Boastfulness gets in the way of serving Jesus when you start judging others and begin singing our own praises.  Then comes serving self and forgetting how you can serve Jesus by serving others.  I think you can see the picture.  How’d it go this past week in your service to Jesus?

That’s why I’m so glad you’re here today.  For the next couple of Sundays our worship theme revolves about this prayer: Lord, Increase our Faith.   St. Luke points us to Jesus who teaches us about Faith That Delights In Duty. Today we hear how the Lord is concerned about us and wants to guard us from doubt, fear and burnout.  Jesus shows us that our faithful service is connected to him, like a branch to a vine.  Yes, you know Jesus who is the very life and power source for us.  May the Holy Spirit increase our faith as he teaches us that

Christ Equips His Servants

To Do the Impossible  

When I talk about the impossible commands of God to keep, what comes to mind for you?  Like the command God gave to Moses to part the Red Sea?   How about the command for Peter to walk on the water? Or is it this command we heard from Luke a couple weeks ago:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27

The commands of God seem impossible to sinful people.  That was the same conclusion the disciples came to when they heard Jesus speak these words.

“Jesus said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for that person if a millstone would be hung around his neck and he would be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Watch yourselves.” 

Luke 17:1-3

We don’t have to think very hard to come up with the temptations to sin that trap and snatch away believers to doubt God.  Persecution turns people away from bearing witness to the truth of God’s Word. False Teachings are tolerated and even promoted as being the truth and lead people astray.  Then there’s one of Satan’s favorite tricks—make sin look good and acceptable, and even beneficial and then leave the offender with a hangover.  Jesus gives us the command that WE not—cause one of these little ones to sin.”  When we are the cause of someone falling away from Jesus it is like coming between a momma bear and her cub—woe to the one through whom they come.  Jesus’ point is clear.  Temptations and troubles are going to come around.  Then, when God commands us to encourage and strengthen someone who is hurting and we get in the way, it would be better for us to die physically in a watery grave with a mill stone tied around our necks, then to be condemned to suffer eternal death in a fiery grave!

Then comes Jesus’ command! Watch yourselves.  Because I can tell you, you sure are being watched!   Children are observing their Christian parents and grandparents—what example are they learning from them?  Spouses watch each other—you can say, “I love you” but what are they learning from your words and actions?  What do people learn form you in the way you handle the stress of life?  The way you protect someone’s reputation vs gossiping about them?  God has commanded us to obey his 10 Commandments, so how would others say you’ve done?  And when we have broken God’s holy law and hurt another person have you apologized and given a clear reason why you were wrong?

No wonder Jesus had to command us to Watch ourselves!  He wants us to live as if we were living in glass houses and to be blameless.  Sounds Impossible!  So, Jesus gave us instructions to Equip His Servants: If your brother sins, rebuke him. But, Jesus has to know that today if you rebuke someone they’ll say I’m judging them and that I think I’m better than they are.  It will drive a wedge between us.  What if they hate me for it?  Sounds Impossible!  If he repents, forgive him. What about forgiving others? Is that any easier? 

Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you and says, ‘I repent,’”? 

Luke 17:4

I know what I’d think!  You, too?!! “They keep committing the same sin against me!  I know they don’t care about me, they only care about themselves, or they don’t care at all!  They’re not really sorry or they would stop sinning like that!  They’re not really sorry and I’m not interested in really forgiving them!”  Jesus commands us, forgive him.  Sounds impossible!

All of God’s commands are given to us because he loves us and wants us to love our neighbor.  God calls us to be servants of the light: a light that follow his commands, a light that exposes the darkness of sinfulness, a light that shines his forgiveness to all who repent.  Yes, we recognize the dark power of sin in our hearts and we repent before the Lord. Don’t you feel like joining the disciples in praying, “Increase our faith!”?  But, is this how Christ Equips his Servants to do the impossible?  I agree, normally, it would be a fine prayer to ask Jesus for a stronger faith.  But, we learn from Jesus’ answer that they were only focused on themselves and what they could do with a stronger faith.  What Jesus asked them to do Seemed Impossible and they were stuck standing there in their despair, without a solution, until they had stronger faith.

Jesus disagrees with that solution.  He said, If you had faith like a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  Jesus’ point?  Even the smallest faith, any faith, can do the impossible. Really?  Can you transplant a mulberry tree into the ocean?  Why? Because serving God is not about what you can do, but about what GOD can do!  Jesus explained this:

“With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

Matthew 19:26

It’s not the faith that gets it done, but the object of that faith that gets it done.  Faith simply receives what God has to offer.  God calls us his servants for a reason.  Normally, servants are left to themselves to get the job done.  But, that’s not the case with servants of God.  Rather we learn these two great truths as a servant of God from Jesus.

  1. Jesus has conquered where you’ve crumbled.  For us Jesus came to be the blameless, perfect servant of God.  He lived a perfect life of faith.  Then he took our weakness and sins upon himself when he died on the cross.  There Jesus assures us, “I redeemed you!  Everything is going to be okay!”  God was pleased with Jesus and his sacrifice for you.  God showed his approval by raising Jesus from the dead.  Jesus has conquered where you’ve crumbled.  The cross and the empty tomb are your proof.  Now, as you serve God, you serve knowing that you are already dressed in the robe of righteousness earned for you by Christ.  This is your powerful weapon when Satan tempts you to despair and give up.  We do what God commands, yes what is Impossible To Do on our own, but covered in the robe of Jesus’ righteousness we strive to obey God’s commands for Jesus’ sake.
  2. Jesus is your strength.   Our favorite passage for his comes from Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  Here is the reason why. 19 And my God will fully supply your every need, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (4:19).  Whatever the sin you struggle with—the addictions you face, the sinful cravings and desires you have, the forgiveness that seems impossible to give—God supplies our every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  We don’t put confidence in our strength, but our strength gains confidence, our love is put into action, our joy as a servant of God is in Jesus Christ who overcame for us, who defeated Satan’s power for us, and who gave us the gift of eternal life in heaven. Jesus is our strength!  Stand up against your Goliath and remember the power of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Christ Equips His Servants to Do The Impossible and 

To Serve Selflessly

Are you excited to be here in God’s House today? You’re not here to learn one more thing to become a servant that can do the impossible! It’s already happening. To be sure there are plenty of reminders that we are still being attacked by our sinful nature, Satan and the sinful world around us, but we already have God’s strength.  Think of the love you show to others because Jesus loves you so much!  Think of the struggles against sin you fight because Jesus loves you so much!  Think of the prayers you offer, the genuine concern you have for each other’s spiritual welfare, the kindness, generosity and forgiveness your share to the glory of God because Jesus loves you so much.  You get To Serve Selflessly because Christ Has Already Equipped You To Be His Servants.

Can you see it?  The strength comes from God and happens through you. You are a branch connected to Christ bearing fruit. The day will come when we are in heaven enjoying that perfect relationship with God and bearing fruit of praise, thanks and praise.  But, we’re not there yet and Jesus addresses one more trap: when we are tempted to thank ourselves for this “great service” we have done.  The temptation is to claim our good service to the Lord as if a branch made its fruit all on its own.  Jesus noticed this temptation in the hearts of the disciples and that lurks in our hearts, too.  In their hearts, these servants of God were thinking they were their own masters taking credit for the power and work in their lives.  I get it.  I can so easily see the work my hands do and then I can praise myself for my good deeds. And before I know it, I’m tempted to think that God owes me for my service, just like Job was complaining to God that he lived such a holy life and deserved better from God.  Jesus addresses this:

Which one of you who has a servant plowing or taking care of sheep will say to him when he comes in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at the table’? Won’t the master tell him instead, ‘Prepare my supper, and after you are properly dressed, serve me while I eat and drink. After that you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the servant because he did what he was commanded to do, does he?” 

Luke 17:7-9

Some day we will hear by the grace of God, Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21).  But, while I’m living on this earth God says to us,

10 So also you, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have only done what we were supposed to do.”

Luke 17:10

The Bible gives us a great example of faith doing its duty from which to learn—St. Paul.  Remember when he was Saul and persecuting Christians?  Talk about an unworthy servant! But then, only because of Jesus, Saul was called by Jesus to be Paul the great apostle to the Gentiles.  He only did his duty of proclaiming Jesus’ love to all people and for that he was beaten, stoned, whipped, imprisoned and left for dead.  But, in all of these times he did his duty of faithfully proclaiming the Good News about Jesus.  He went to a place like Lystra and told a man crippled from birth, “Get up and walk.”  And the man was healed. Paul did the impossible by faith in Jesus.  Do you remember the temptation that followed that came from the crowd?

11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form.”

Acts 14:11

But, Paul replied,

“Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men with the same nature as you. We are preaching the good news to you so that you turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.”

Acts 14:15

The unworthy servant Paul Served Selflessly and Did What He Was Supposed To Do—His Duty!  Paul remembered that he was just a Selfless Branch Serving the Vine—Jesus Christ.

I’m so happy you’re here in God’s house today so I can ask you, “How did it go this week?  How was your service to the Lord as a citizen, employers/employee, spouse, father/mother/child, and as a servant of Christ?  If it didn’t go so well, rejoice that you’re still alive and God has given us another start to another week to have our faith strengthened through Word and Sacrament and be Servants of Christ Equipped To Do the Impossible and Selflessly Serve our Lord. Let’s be about his business: Proclaiming the Good News about Jesus, thanking God for the strength we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, and rejoicing that our names are already written in heaven.  Now, dear servants equipped by Christ, let’s go do our duty! Amen.

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