Dear brothers and sisters, we have gathered once again in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour under His fatherly protection. God the Father has, in pure grace and mercy, left us His divine and holy Word. He has entrusted it to us from the beginning, so that knowing how we should live here and now, we may be able to share in the heavenly calling.
But, there are very many, even among us, who give this little heed. They act completely against sound teaching. This has happened since the beginning of the world. Although God himself instructed and taught men, they nevertheless remained in their evil ways, allowing themselves to be ruled either by His Spirit or His Word.
No matter how great the sin and unrighteousness of the first world was when they rejected the teaching of God and His holy prophets, God did not stop offering His salvation to them. He kept trying to arouse them from their sinful sleep.
Christ said: (Mt 7:7) "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you." This is why the devout and the believing should pay careful attention when we come together to praise God. For the sake of our salvation we should not have our minds full of material, worldly things. And if it should happen during the meeting that we are offended by a word or two because it witnesses against us and our way of life, then we should diligently consider whether it simply opposes our human nature, the old Adam. Perhaps what we heard is actually to the great advantage and salvation of our inner man.
The Word of God always opposes evil, confronting, rebuking, and punishing it. Those who wholeheartedly believe and meekly accept the Word of God are led to their own good and blessedness. Those who have a true hunger for the Word will pay attention to each detail and can say with David:
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as if with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night."
Whoever acknowledges this, dear brothers and sisters, prospers greatly. Yes, if they really experience this, they have already taken leave of the flesh and its demands. They hold to heaven with heart, soul, and mind, accepting everything that comes their way, peacefully and joyfully whether this be punishment, reproach, warning or comfort. Everything that God allows serves towards their good because they want to follow Godís will and His word and let themselves be led, guided and ruled by it. They seriously consider where each word leads and what it really means. They are people whom God has made truly wise.
But he who does not recognize his own defects or his corrupt behaviour, even thinking that he stands well before God, is worse than bad. Such a person considers only worldly things. If a word strikes home, he becomes bitter and angry because it is against his flesh which wants to maintain its wantonness. He will not lift his eyes to God because he does not acknowledge His goodness and blessing, by which He wants to lead him to repentance.
But those who have a real recognition of Jesus Christ in their hearts have been given understanding from God. To them the Word of God is a true mirror in which they see how they stand before God, and whether they have already been rejected by God.
The devout must take heed that no one willfully stumbles on the stoneóthe cornerstone, Jesus Christ. For it will be the downfall of some as Simeon has witnessed: (Luke 2:34) "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against."
There are many such people in the world. Beccause they are bound up with unrighteousness and are full of bitter gall, good has to be changed into the most evil for them, as Christ said so clearly to the Jews (Mt 21:42) "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lordís doing and it is marvelous in our eyes." Peter spoke of this before the High Priest: (Acts 4:11) "This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone."
Such people often do not know where or how they stand. They are like spiders in whom all sweetness is turned to poison; a people condemned to Hell. May God protect all His faithful people from such evil.
If we wish to become blessed through Christ, and if He would serve towards our salvation, we must give ourselves to Him obediently without reservation, following Him faithfully. (Mt 11:6) "Blessed is he who takes no offence at me."
There are enough people in the world who abuse and slander the truth. Solomon says: (Prov. 13:3) "When the wicked comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes disgrace."
Whoever is inclined to sow the seeds of discord will find fault and grumble about anything, even the best things of all. Christ knew all this and experienced it in full measure.
Whoever has conferred more benefit on men, both in body and in soul, than Christ? Who was ever rebuked because of His goodness as He was? With ample reason Christ says to His disciples and followers: (Jn.15:20-21) "No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me."
That happens dear brothers and sisters, as Christ says here, because they lack divine discernment, without which people are quite blind in spiritual matters. Had the enemies of Christ and His disciples perceived this, they would have come to the truth and obeyed. But no! As Jeremiah laments: (Jer.4:22) "They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good."
Certainly if Christ had foretold good days, when one could live for a long time and pass many years in wealth, sensual pleasure, splendour, and worldly honour, He would have been highly regarded. He could have gained many disciples, a whole flock of followers. Every one would soon want to get to know Him.
Already in his day the prophet Micah lamented: (Mic.2:11) "If a liar and deceiver comes and says, ĎI will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,í he would be just the prophet for this people!"
Where it is taught that our human nature can have her way, all is well. But when our human nature is opposed, then one sees amazing things! People would rather eat fire than submit to God. They say by their actions, if not with their words: (Mal.3:14) "It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?"
(Job 21:14-15) "Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?" Such people who act this way can rightly be counted among those who kick the grace of God away and throw it to the winds.
Although Christ knocks at the door with His Word, there are many who have no ear to hear this. They do not want to renounce worldly pleasures to live in a modest, godly, and upright way in this world. They do not believe that the world and its pleasures will pass away and that only those who do the Will of God remain in eternity.
Such people are regarded as foolish by Christ. Who is a greater fool than a kingís son who changes places with a beggar, or he who exchanges a garment decorated with gold, for an old rag? The devil in hell, together with all his legions, would laugh at this.
There is certainly no one amongst us here who would not say that Esau acted foolishly in selling his birthright. Those who do not accept the grace of God are a thousand times more foolish. They reject it only because this grace from God says: Acknowledge God the Lord, Jesus Christ. Deny yourself and become poor like the Saviour, His apostles, and all His disciples. Live in obedience. Serve your neighbour with your spiritual and temporal gifts as Christ did, leaving us an example that we should act as He did. For He said: (Jn.13:17) "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."
Where Godís grace teaches and instructs those who nevertheless do not accept it, one can justifiably say to them: (Mt.21:31) "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."
The way of God was taught to you rightly but you did not believe it. Tax collectors and harlots believed the preaching of John.
Shocked by the sharp words of this stern teaching they asked: (Lk.3:11) "What should we do then?" John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." To the tax collectors He said: (Lk.3:13) "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."
They did this because they were not satisfied with hearing only with their outward ears. And when all the people heard him, even the tax collectors acknowledged that Godís way was right and were baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected Godís purpose for themselves and were not baptized by John.
Why did they behave so foolishly? That is not a hard question for they believed themselves to be devout and righteous. Their pride did not allow them to let themselves be baptized by John. They regarded it shameful to be taught by Christ whose teaching they did not like.
Why not? Because it was against their greed and hypocrisy that He preached. He sought always to lead man toward salvation because He does not want anyone to be lost. He goes out at the third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hour, calling and pleading to men everywhere: "Repent! Repent! Now in the time of grace, while it is still day!" Do not let us grow stubborn through the deception of sin.
Psalm 133: "For there [in brotherly community] the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore."
Hutterite Sermon Prefaces:
Concerning the Great Profit and Blessing of the Word of
(This page was last updated on 06/20/2008.)