CHRIST'S INVITATION TO
"NOT BE AFRAID"
12th after Pentecost, C
32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Christian people, who do sincerely believe that Christ's Blood atones for their sin and who want to live keeping focused on God's Bible promises, are nevertheless still troubled and plagued with myriad misgivings and doubts. Some earthly desire remains unfulfilled after years, perhaps, so that one begins to also wonder at times about Christ's promised return. Sudden tragedy takes the life of a loved one, setting in motion the questions of why God would allow it and if His love is still there. Struggle with a personal sin of weakness is accompanied by Satan's vexing suggestions that perhaps you've lost the Kingdom and God is no longer present for you as He promised.
If only we knew Jesus well enough, we would enjoy the blessings bountifully showered on us each day rather than worry or complain about everything that's wrong. We would have the faith to fully focus and trust the promises: "In all things God works for the good of those who love Him." And "Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus."
If only we knew Jesus well enough, we would never be confused about the purpose for us in this life. If we could grasp how vast is the love with which He has loved us, then what else could our lives be other than striving to please Him in everything we do?
If only we knew Jesus well enough, we would have nothing but eager anticipation towards all our tomorrows. We would have faith to trust with absolute certainty Christ's own promise: "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me."
Moments after their sin in the garden, knowing in their hearts that they had transgressed God's command, the world's first parents, Adam and Eve, set the precedent for the condition in which all mankind has found itself ever since: Being afraid of God because of sin, and questioning whether or not God's intentions toward us are peaceable and good! Our hearts know that we deserve punishment and wrath, and we wish we could hide and put off or altogether avoid dealing with it.
We deserve to suffer poverty, pain, and illness, with no access to shelter, light, warmth, bedding, food and clothing. Removing ourselves from God's gracious will and kindly care by our sin, we deserve to be left out in the cold where He is not present and can't hear our grumbling misery. And yet God Himself continues to display the gracious will towards us that takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked," but fervently desires that all would "be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." He comes with encouraging words in the Luke 12 Scripture Lesson, directed at sparking and causing our faith to look to and hold on to Him more strongly still, rather than to seek some nook to hide out away from Him in fear.
The Lesson begins with the soothing invitation: "Do not be afraid!" It's perhaps best understood as meaning something like, "Don't keep on being afraid to come to God and face Him and ask of Him." Just biting or punishing us is not what God ultimately seeks for any of us, but to renew us as recipients of all the good gifts He has in store.
GOD WANTS YOU TO HAVE HIS KINGDOM
Having counseled His followers not to go on being anxious about food and clothing, basic and real needs for our physical lives, Jesus directed their sights to be set rather on God's Kingdom. His very first point that follows is the tender encouragement: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to GIVE you the Kingdom."
WHAT THE "KINGDOM" IS
This is no earthly kingdom vulnerable to attack from other nations. It's the Kingdom we pray about in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy Kingdom come." It's the Kingdom Christ spoke about when He told Pontius Pilate: "My Kingship is not of this world. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the Truth hears My Voice."
It's the Kingdom of Christ's Power and Grace and Glory from which He has reached out to include the likes of you and me, still part of this earthly and fallen creation. He reached out becoming human like us, born in Bethlehem, living in relative poverty, being rejected by His very own people and crucified by Romans who became allies to the cause of silencing and killing Him.
WHAT HAS SECURED THE KINGDOM
His bloody death, however, is the exact means by which He bought all of us back for God, fallen out as subjects of His Kingdom. Three days in death evidence the certainty that He did indeed die, but, rising triumphantly back to life from His cold stone tomb evidences also the certainty that sufficient punishment was exacted for all the world's sin. It makes clear for us that God is fully PLEASED with the payment rendered by His One and Only Son who was without any sin!
God therefore forgives all our sin and proclaims us as now being credited with a state of righteousness, and Christ's Resurrection is our assurance that God IS pleased and appeased through Christ and will not go back on that judgment.
GOD WANTS YOU TO HAVE HIS KINGDOM'S "BEST"
Because He is well-pleased with Christ and His perfect and willing blood-sacrifice, God has likewise been pleased to therefore give you the Kingdom that is unconquerable by any outside force or enemy. In short, stop being afraid of God designing to send only calamities your way and KNOW that HE WANTS YOU to HAVE that Kingdom! It is in fact already the possession of all who through repentant faith and baptism have received Jesus as their personal "Sin Payment" and new Master in their lives. God strengthen your trust in what He really wants for you!
IN THE KINGDOM IS REAL TREASURE
Christ's words in the Lesson next reiterate a familiar saying: "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
So often our minds tend to navigate towards and get themselves set on the negative law-orientation of those words. We certainly should strive to not get caught up in accumulating earthly possessions, solely for our own self-gratification, and making earthly goods our treasure.
Christ's words here, however, actually invite us to train our minds on the positive. He is in effect saying that in Heaven there IS treasure that far out-glitters any prize or good or possession we've seen or known here. In Heaven things do NOT get robbed. In Heaven things don't grow old and wear out. In Heaven things don't deteriorate or get destroyed as by moths, or rust, or decay, or lose their usefulness, or break down, or let you down, simply put.
Stop being so afraid that God wants you to go empty or deprived of some necessary or good thing. In Christ He aims for you to share in His very glory, His authority, in fact in all things that belong to Christ Himself who is Lord and Owner of the universe! God strengthen your trust that this is His will for you.
St. Paul wrote: "Since you ... have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God."
A REWARD IN THE KINGDOM AWAITS THOSE WHO ARE READY
In Bible verses directly following the Lesson, Jesus gives a solemn warning about servants who, neglecting their duties and indulging in sin's consumptions, will be surprised by their Master's unexpected return and given a severe beating. People who stop continuing in Christ's Word, who give up confessing sin, who willfully neglect the Means of Grace, who turn back to a lifestyle of self-pleasing service and indulgence cannot still expect to enter Heaven with all its good things. They have turned away from God's loving will which nothing in all creation could otherwise have taken from them, rather than truly wanting to keep in the security that is assured by faith.
For those whose hearts are brought to continually crave His forgiveness, however, and who really want to be about the works that are vital in the service of His Kingdom, Jesus paints the picture of an encouragement and assurance for faithful servants which seems to almost surpass any other precious promise of what Heaven will be like. For those servants who are "dressed ready for service" and keep their "lamps burning," who are "watching" and "ready" at their Master's return, the Master will reverse the roles and personally become THEIR servant!
The rightful role of Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, to whom is ascribed all power and wealth and wisdom, might and honor and glory and blessing, but His HEART has never changed from the time He stooped to wash the feet of the disciples and Peter, or since He suffered Himself to become obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross!!!
When faith's sights are set on a picture like that, how could one possibly ever want to let go of all that God has prepared in Heaven for us? Your Lord and Master waits to greet YOU as the Friend and Brother He has always been, and He will be prepared to personally see to any needs you may have. Wow!!
Don't permit anyone to come along and steal that away. KEEP watch for Him, and AGAINST any thieves and robbers of the hope He has given.
"Fear not, for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are mine."
"Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows."
"Fear not, He is not here; He is risen!"
Be assured right now that, if you have been baptized in the Name of the Triune God, you were once made a member of His Kingdom. If your heart acknowledges and confesses your condition of sin before God, He is faithful and just in forgiving you for the sake of the atonement Jesus made at the Cross. The forgiveness He earned is personally served to you as, in faith, you receive His Body given and Blood shed for you and for faith's strengthening.
This message assures every follower of Christ of even more, though. Stop being discouraged and fearful and anxious about all the things that may threaten and hurt you here.
"Do NOT be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to GIVE you the Kingdom." It IS His will for you to HAVE it!
In Heaven is real treasure that will never grow old, be stolen, or destroyed. And there, where Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever, our Lord and King is ready and waiting to come and take you to share all things with you, treat you with nobility, and personally tend to any needs.
Carry those uplifting truths along with you in your hearts to encourage your faith! Notice how anywhere in Scripture that it says "Fear Not" or "Don't be afraid," you can be sure a message of promise follows that gives your faith another handle to hang on. That alone is enough reason to attend Sunday School or Bible Class, where your understanding of Christ's love is ever-deepened by His Spirit working through His Word.
Oh, FOR a faith that will not shrink Though pressed by many-a foe; That will NOT tremble on the brink of poverty or woe...