On today’s podcast, Pastors Rob Sauers and Nathanael Mayhew take us through a study of the Advent/Christmas hymn “Savior of the Nations, Come.” This is one of the oldest hymns in the hymnal, written in the fourth century by St. Ambrose. As we review this hymn, we will look at how this hymn is firmly based on the teachings of God’s Word in its brief description of the entire earthly ministry of our Savior. We will see how this hymn beautifully points to the person and work of Jesus for us, and we will see the benefits of continuing to sing this ancient hymn still today.
In our Word of the Week this week, Pastor Mark Tiefel takes us through a study of the date of Christmas. We are so used to celebrating Christmas on December 25th that we may not even think twice about whether or not this was the actual date of the Savior’s birth. And since our calendar is based on the birth of Jesus, we may assume that Jesus was born exactly 2017 years ago. However, there are many who believe that Jesus was born neither on December 25th nor in the year 0. So when was the Savior born? This study will take us through some of the different theories concerning the year and date of Jesus’ birth. We will also consider whether or not one has to know the exact date and year of Jesus’ birth in order to properly celebrate Christmas. May the Lord bless our study.
This week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew offers a review of two devotion books which you may want to consider as we prepare to enter a new year. Both come with high recommendations for family or individual devotions. The first is “To Live is Christ” by Bo Giertz. This is published by Concordia Publishing House. Bishop Giertz was a pastor in the Lutheran Church is Sweeden in the 20th century and brings a very down to earth but eye opening style to the devotions and prayers included in this book. His devotion book follows the church year not the calendar year, so save this one for next year! The second is “Beside Quiet Waters” by Richard Lauersdorf, and is published by Northwestern Publishing House. This devotion book follows the calendar year and has a brief Bible passage, followed by a devotion and finally a short prayer. Pastor Lauersdorf usally begins with an illustration which develops the main point of the Bible passage and applies it to our daily lives. Very well written and insightful as well. Both devotion books would be an excellent choice for you or those on your Christmas lists, and either can be purchased through the CLC bookhouse. May the LORD bless your study and hearing of His Word!
Pastor Sam Rodebaugh takes us into the Christmas word “Nativity” and explains some details and misconceptions of the birth of our Savior. In spite of the pictures that we see or the songs that are sung about the first Christmas, many of those images are not factual. What do you think of when you hear the word nativity? What images do you associate with it? The nativity or birth of Jesus is all about the birth of a Savior for all people. We celebrate the truth proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets which describe how the King of Creation was born in very humble circumstances, and He willingly did this out of His great love for you!
Question: Who was the real Jesus? Couldn’t he have just been a prophet, and not the Son of God?
Answer: This is a very important question, and one that deserves to be discussed. First of all, it is important to understand at the very beginning that we can be confident there was a real Jesus who grew up in the city of Nazareth. In addition to the historical records of the New Testament which tell about Jesus, there are other ancient historians like Josephus, Tacitus and Eusebius who also refer to Jesus as a real person. These secular historical records verify what the New Testament tells us about Jesus: that He was a Jewish leader who gathered a large following, was considered by many to be the Christ, was crucified, and was said to rise from the dead.
Based on actual historical records, both secular and sacred, we can be confident that this Jesus was a real person. But who was this Jesus, really? Was he a prophet? Was he a Jewish rabbi and religious leader? Or was he more than that? If we take an honest look at the evidence, it is clear that Jesus is more than just a man, that He was Son of God.
First, many people proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, and the Son of God. His followers made this claim.
When asked who Jesus was, Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-17).
Other followers made the same confession, and in many cases even allowed themselves to be put to death rather than retract their confession about Jesus.
- Consider the confession of Philip concerning Jesus: “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41).
- Or that of Thomas: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
- The Ethiopian confessed: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37).
- Referring to Jesus Paul declared: “God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
- And John proclaims: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15).
- But there were also others who made the same confession, who were not followers of Jesus. The soldiers who crucified Jesus came to the same conclusion, proclaiming: “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
Secondly, Jesus Himself stated clearly that He was more than just a man.
- On trial before the Jewish leaders, Jesus was asked: “Are You then the Son of God?” His response? “You rightly say that I am” (Luke 22:70).
- When Jesus was on the cross, people accused Him of claiming to be the Son of God: “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” (Matthew 27:43).
- It was because of who Jesus claimed to be that the Jews wanted to kill him (see Luke 4:16-30; John 8).
Third, Jesus fulfills hundreds of Old Testament prophecies which speak of the coming Messiah. These prophecies which were written hundreds and even thousands of years before Jesus was born foretell specific details about the life and work which only Jesus would fulfill. They describe:
- Where He would be born: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
- How He would suffer and die: “they pierce my hands and feet” (Psalm 22:16 – see the whole Psalm); “He was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 – see the entire chapter).
- That He would rise again: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10 – see also Job 19:25).
These prophecies include specific details that could not have been known hundreds of years earlier when they were written.
All of this points to the truth that Jesus was more than just a man. It shows that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God!
So what does that mean for us? If Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ who He claimed to be, if He died for us as He said He did, and rose again as the Scriptures foretold, then He is also the one and ONLY Savior from sin and death for sinners.
And that deserves your thoughtful attention.
The artist Norman Rockwell, famous for his paintings that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, created art depicting everyday life. Four of his most famous paintings somewhat capture the American Dream. These four paintings, “Freedom of Speech”, “Freedom of Worship”, “Freedom from Want”, and “Freedom from Fear”, encapsulate what it means to live in the United States. We have freedom. There are many countries in the Western World that are free, just like us. But it was not always so. What attracted many people to the United States in the first place was the freedom our country offered. Today, many people fear our freedoms are under attack. You can’t read the news these days without hearing something about gun control. Religion and our own God-given consciences are thrust under the microscope of social media message boards. Conversely, many individuals hail the movement to grant women freedom to murder unborn children as progress.
What will happen to our great country? What will happen to our right to express our opinions? What will happen to our right to worship God? What will happen to our right to defend ourselves? What will happen to Christians in this sin saturated world? I think the response we’d like to say is “Let them try and take our freedoms.” After all, we are Americans! We live in the land of the free and the home of the brave! But this response is not one centered on God’s Word but rather on our own sinful hearts. Because when it comes down to it, guns won’t save our souls, freedom of speech won’t save our souls, and even freedom of religion won’t save our souls. It is God alone who saves. For Christians it really doesn’t matter what freedoms we have or don’t have. We are God’s children before anything else.
Let’s look at some Biblical examples of individuals who lost their freedoms. In Acts 5 we read about Peter and the apostles preaching the Word of God. The high priest did not like this, and he threw them in jail. The freedom to preach God’s Word was taken away from these men. Most likely they knew what there were doing was going to ruffle feathers. And if they didn’t, they certainly knew after “an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’” (Acts 5:19-20)
After clearly disobeying the high priest the Apostles obeyed God and continued to preach at personal risk. I myself have never been at risk of serving jail time for telling others about God’s Word. But that’s because I live in the United States where I have the freedom to do this. If, and I pray it never happens, our government decided that it was illegal to preach and worship the one true God of the Bible, what are we to do? It’s simple. Keep on preaching and worshiping.
When the high priest confronted Peter and the apostles about preaching they simply said “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:29-32)
What a powerful response. Peter and the apostles, under attack by those in authority, by the power of the Holy Spirit stood firm in the faith and message of God’s Word. I pray that if I am ever in situation like these men, God would give me the strength to do the same.
Another familiar example from the Bible are the accounts of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These four men were ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar to abandon God and worship a false idol. All four men stood in the face of certain death and said, “No. We will worship God.” Do you think Daniel knew that God would shut the lions’ mouths? Do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego knew that God would preserve them from fire that was seven times hotter than normal?
When ordered by Nebuchadnezzar to bow down to his false god, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
What an astounding response. A powerful king who had just conquered their homeland was ordering them to worship a false god. And yet, the Holy Spirit filled them with the strength they needed to say “No” even though it meant they would most likely die an agonizing death.
Another example of a man preaching God’s Word when those in authority told him to stop is Martin Luther. As we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, I attended a joint service in Mankato. We concluded our special declaration of what we believe with “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” According to tradition, these words are said to be spoken by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms when asked to take back what he had written. Martin Luther refused to renounce his writings and replied, “I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” It is thought that Luther also said, “Here I stand, I can do no other…” before concluding with “God help me. Amen.” I recently read that many believe he did not actually say, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” But regardless of whether he said that or not, it is evident by the actions Luther took during his life that He stood on the Word of God and none other even though authorities in the church and state told him not to.
These three examples, two from Scripture and one from more recent history provide a solid answer for the Christian faced with losing their freedoms; worship the Lord and preach the Word of God.
Did you notice what was missing from all three of these examples? The freedoms that we are blessed with today are not addressed. Peter, the apostles, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, and Martin Luther may or may not have had those freedoms. But it doesn’t matter. Were Peter and the apostles allowed to carry weapons while they preached in Jerusalem after Jesus rose from the dead? Maybe, but maybe not. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were essentially slaves. And Martin Luther? It doesn’t appear that he was too concerned with a financially rewarding career. The Bible doesn’t label those freedoms a right of Christians and Luther’s thoughts didn’t dwell on them because, in the end, they don’t matter. Jesus instructed in Matthew 22:21, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The freedoms individuals are blessed with in this life are Caesar’s. Eternal life? That is God’s.
What should a Christian do if the government declares that individuals no longer have the freedom to own firearms? What should a Christian do if the freedom to defend themselves is taken away?
Obey the government, worship the Lord, and preach the Word of God.
What should a Christian do if the government takes away our freedom to pursue happiness?
Obey the government, worship the Lord, and preach the Word of God.
What should a Christian do if the government says abortion is a freedom that all have?
Worship the Lord and preach the Word of God.
What should a Christian do if the government limits the things we say?
Obey the government, worship the Lord, and preach the Word of God, even if the government says to do otherwise.
And what should a Christian do if the government takes away the freedom of religion?
Worship the Lord and preach the Word of God.
As Christians we are commanded to obey God (Acts 5:29), worship the Lord (Matthew 22:37), and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28:19)
After considering these examples of men who preached the Gospel in the face of opposition, one begs the question “Why?” Why not just stop preaching or worshiping God when ordered not to? Why stand on the Word of God when it would be easier to be a pacifist and live and let live? And why doesn’t it matter if the government takes away our freedoms? Because we are children of God and citizens of an eternal Kingdom that God is preparing for us. And ultimately, the only freedom that truly matters is the freedom from sin and the Devil. This freedom is ours and can never be taken away. God assures us of this in Romans 8:37-38. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is this promise that we can look to when we worry about what is happening in the world and here in the United States. It is this promise that gives us comfort in this present time with the freedoms we are blessed with. It is this promise that will give us comfort if, someday, we lose our freedoms. It is this promise that declares our freedom from sin is ours, never to be taken away.
If Norman Rockwell had painted The Four Freedoms today, would they look the same? Most likely his paintings would reflect the changes we are seeing in our freedoms. It seems that as Christians, our freedoms are under attack. God’s Word is abandoned in place of human reasoning. Our Biblical beliefs and morals are questioned and criticized. Our freedoms, instead of once uniting our country, seem to now polarize us. But, from a Biblical perspective, this makes sense. Sin is polarizing. There are those who are going to heaven and those who are not. While the freedoms we have in the United States are important and should be defended, our freedom we have as citizens of God’s Kingdom is far more important and needs no defending. It’s ours, and will always be ours. Praise the Lord for the freedom He gives us through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
In today’s Bible Study, Pastors Mark Tiefel and Neal Radichel take up a study of 2 Timothy 2:1-7 with a special focus on preparation during the Advent season. In this section, the Apostle Paul gives Timothy encouragement for carrying out his ministry by giving him three illustrations – a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. As we unpack these illustrations, we’ll see how this instruction also encourages us as we prepare for the coming of our Savior. May the Lord bless our study of His Word.
During the Month of December, our Word of the Week will focus on different words associated with Christmas. This week, Pastor Rob Sauers considers whether or not Christmas is a “Pagan Holiday.” You will occasionally run into Christians who don’t like to celebrate Christmas because they believe the celebration is pagan in origin. We will briefly consider whether or not that claim is true and whether or not that matters at all to our celebration of the Savior’s birth. We pray that this study will help you consider how to respond if you are ever questioned about your celebration of Christmas.
In today’s Bible Study, Pastors Rob Sauers and Nathanael Mayhew take us through an overview of the book of 1 Timothy. 1 Timothy along with 2 Timothy and Titus are referred to as the Pastoral Epistles. These are letters the Apostle Paul wrote to individual pastors to encourage them and instruct them in their ministry. Though the letters are written to pastors, there is plenty of practical application to be found for everyone as we’ll see from our study today. May the Lord bless our study of His Word!