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“1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” Luke 5:1-11

I remember when I was a young man and contemplating studying for the ministry, an uncle of mine jokingly told me that being a pastor was a great job because “you only have to work a half-day a week and you can go fishing the rest of the time.” And, to be honest with you, it’s even better than that. A pastor’s job allows him to go fishing every day of the week. Of course, the same is true for every Christian.

All of us, like Peter, are unworthy to serve the almighty Son of God or even be in His presence (v. 8), yet Jesus called Peter and He called His apostles and He calls His Church — every true believer — to be fishers of men, to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (cf. Luke 5:10; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4). Even though we may have tried our best and “toiled all the night,” Jesus commands us to let down our nets again and again, trusting that He will accomplish His purposes.

And so we do. We continue to preach and share God’s Word, knowing and trusting God’s promise that His Word will not return to Him void, without accomplishing His purpose.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 55:10-11: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Perhaps we can take the analogy of this Scripture text even further. Jesus commanded His disciples to launch out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch. He didn’t tell them to stand on the safety of the shore and try to bait the fish in. He sent them out to where the fish were — in the deep — and it is there where they were to let down their nets.

So also, Jesus would have us go out into the world where the people are — maybe even into places we would rather not go — and there let down our nets.

It doesn’t usually work to call the fish to come onto the shore or to jump into our boats. Nor is it sufficient to simply invite people to come within the walls of our church building that they might hear the Word of God and believe. We need to go to them and find ways to reach them with the Word of God where they are. It’s only when they are caught in the net out there that they can be brought into the boat and in here!

The Bible tells us that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But it also says: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:13-16).

Though I have read these articles of faith to you before, I again remind you of Articles IV and V of the Augsburg Confession, to which we all subscribe:

Article IV. Of Justification.
Also they teach, that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, hath made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Article V. Of the Ministry of the Church.
That we may obtain this faith, the Office of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who worketh faith where and when it pleaseth God in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justified those who believe that they are received into favor for Christ’s sake.

So, how do we launch out into the deep that we might catch men for Jesus? First of all, we need to go out where the people are and not expect them to come to us where we are.

Secondly, we need to let down our nets, and they may need to be let down deep to where the fish are. That means finding ways to touch people’s lives with God’s Word where they are and in ways they will hear.

Thirdly, we need to remember who it is that fills the nets and follow His fishing instructions. We won’t catch souls for Jesus unless the nets we let down are His words of Law and Gospel — His words warning people concerning their sin and its eternal consequences and His words telling them of God’s mercy and forgiveness and of life eternal in Christ Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness for us and then suffered and died on the cross for our sins and the sins of all, and rose again in victory!

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” And to the Romans, Paul wrote (Rom. 4:23-25: “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Jesus was delivered up to die and pay the price for our sins and the sins of the world, and Jesus was raised up again on the third day in victory, proving that atonement has been made. Why? That we might believe on Him and trust that in Him we have a Savior, that through faith in Him and His cross, we have pardon and forgiveness and are justified and counted righteous in God’s eyes.

And, what a great job God has given to us as believers! We get to go fishing every day by taking the message of His Word out into the deep, where the lost are, and catching them with the good news of forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus, who is God’s Son and our Savior, who died for the sins of the world and rose again in victory!

God grant that we hear His Word and trust in Christ Jesus, our Savior! And God grant that we hear His call and let down our nets in the deep and become fishers of men! Amen.

Dear Lord Jesus, You have called us to be fishers of men, to launch out into the deep and let down the net of Your Word for a catch. Grant us the faith to heed Your call and to go out into the world and proclaim Your Word to people where they are that You might fill the nets and bring people from the depths of their sin to faith in You as their Savior. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Psalm 130:3-4

Our days in this world are numbered, and we have come short of what God requires of us as His creatures. Hence, the words of Psalm 130:3: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”

The answer, of course, is that none of us would stand. We have been weighed in the scales of God’s righteous judgment and are found wanting. Our lives are filled with sin in our thoughts, desires, words and actions.

If the LORD were to mark our every iniquity in His books and keep a record of our every failure, who could stand in His judgment? Who is innocent of all sin? Who can stand before God and proclaim his own righteousness under the law?

Yet, that is what many plan to do — to seek acceptance with God on the basis of their own lives and works. But God demands more — He demands perfect obedience in thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

Even Christians cannot stand. Our hearts are divided. As believers, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we may have the desire to love the LORD with all our heart, mind and soul, but we don’t because we also still have our old sinful nature within us. We may desire to obey all God’s commandments, but we fail. Knowing that God demands that we be holy as He is holy (cf. Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48), we can also easily become discouraged and even angry with God for demanding of us what we are not able to do.

God’s law condemns us all. God’s Word, however, also gives us comfort when it says in verse 4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

The LORD God forgives sins! As the psalm promises, God sent His only-begotten Son to die for our sins and provide for us “plenteous redemption” (v. 7). Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died not only for the sins of Israel; He made atonement for the sins of the whole world and then rose again from the dead (cf. Matt. 1:21; 1 John 2:1-2). We, therefore, hope in the LORD and trust in His mercy.

As believers, we have confidence that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). When we trust in Christ and His cross, we can rest assured that our God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6-7).

Have we come short? Are we found wanting in God’s judgment? Yes, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But, when we despair of our own righteousness and place our faith in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for our sins, we also are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Dear LORD God, we give You thanks that You have redeemed us in the Son and forgive us all our sins when we place our faith in Him. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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While many may not agree with me, I’d like to point out a denial of Biblical truth that has permeated modern thinking and leads to flawed approaches to dealing with what psychologists and sociologists would call deviant or pathological behavior — deviant being contrary to socially accepted norms, and pathological often being associated with mental deficiencies and mental illness.

Modern thinking views man as basically good. And, where deviant or socially unacceptable behavior occurs, the cause is not sought in the person but in the environment in which he or she lives or was raised or in some sort of mental disease or disorder. That is why, when evils like senseless shootings occur, people immediately begin looking at mental illness or the accessibility to guns as the cause and think that a more healthful and weapon-free environment would prevent such acts of violence and mayhem.

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that all mankind is fallen. It teaches that we are by birth self-centered and incapable of pure selfless love and good toward God or toward our fellow man and are capable of — and even inclined toward — evil. This does not mean that people cannot do what society considers good and right or live what society considers an upright life. It does mean that the reasons and motivation for doing so are not so selfless and pure as we may wish people would believe. People do good for a reason, whether it be financial gain, public acclaim or just to feel good or better about themselves. And, yes, people sometimes do deeds almost all would agree are terribly evil — sometimes for the same or similar reasons.

The Bible teaches that the fall of Genesis 3 affects us all. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). God’s Word teaches: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21; cf. 6:5). And David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5).

I might add that one of the reasons I find the Bible so believable is that it tells the truth about mankind and about me. Nothing is whitewashed or covered over; even some of the greatest personages in the Bible fell into terrible transgressions and sins.

While the philosophy of the modern world teaches that we are all basically good, the Word of God says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

We may not like to think it of ourselves, but we all have a propensity to do great evil. While we may not have carried out crimes against others, whether it be because of our fear of God or because we fear human disapproval or punishments, we’ve all at times had thoughts of evil too shameful to tell.

While modern philosophical thinking looks to prevent deviant behavior by controlling the environment and rewarding socially accepted behavior, those who hold to the Biblical view of fallen man recognize that evil does and will exist in this world no matter how stringently the environment is controlled. Rather than pretending all can be well, those who believe the Bible face man’s evil propensity with deterrents — the teaching of God’s authority and of His judgment, upholding Biblical moral absolutes, and enacting laws and punishments based on Biblical principles.

If all of this sounds foreign to you, consider that America’s founders recognized man’s propensity to evil and, to limit evil’s effect, divided power between the states and the federal government and even further divided powers within the federal government to limit the powers of any one man or any group of men.
Along with the Bible’s teaching in regard to the fall and sinfulness of man is also a Biblical remedy: forgiveness and a new birth and life from God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Biblical doctrine of the fall doesn’t leave man wallowing hopelessly in his fallenness. It calls upon sinners to repent and offers God’s pardon and a new life for the sake of Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, who paid the just penalty for all sins and gives new life to believers here in this world and a life free of all evil and sin in the age to come.

What’s my point? If the Biblical view of man is true — and I am convinced it is — the attempts of sociologists, psychologists, politicians, teachers and society to rid the world of evil and prevent acts of violence and mayhem by cleansing the environment of poverty, inequality, bullying, intolerance, guns, drugs, etc. will be of no avail. Evil and violence will still be with us because it is within us.

On the other hand, if we wish to minimize its impact and devastation, we need to teach the truth about sin and God’s remedy in Jesus Christ, return to Biblical moral absolutes, truly punish criminals, and allow people to defend themselves against coarse outbursts of evil.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” Luke 15:1-10

When publicans (tax collectors for the Roman government) and other sinners came to Jesus to hear Him and learn of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life which He offered to all, the Pharisees and scribes were critical of Jesus for associating with such sinners. As a result, Jesus told two parables to point out that anyone who loses an item of value will seek it until he finds it.

A shepherd with one hundred sheep who loses one does not say, “I still have ninety-nine,” and then forget about the one that is lost. Even the scribes and Pharisees would not do such a thing! Nor would a woman with ten silver coins who lost one of them just forget about the one lost coin and be content with the nine. Both the shepherd and the woman in these two parables would seek out and find that which was lost. Then they would rejoice because they had found that lost sheep or that lost coin. And, wouldn’t we also act in the same way if we were to lose something of ours?

So also, every soul is extremely important to the LORD God. He created mankind — each and every one of us — to live for Him and serve Him in eternal righteousness. Because we fell into sin, He sent His only-begotten Son into this world a true man, that He might fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law for us and then suffer and die for our sins that we might look to Him in faith and receive God’s pardon and forgiveness. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, and, during His earthly ministry, He sought out all sinners and turned away none who came to hear His saving Gospel.

Since He had come into this world to redeem fallen mankind by His innocent sufferings and death, it gave our Savior great joy, along with the angels of God in heaven, when a lost sinner repented and turned to Him in faith for forgiveness and life everlasting. Our Lord Jesus was not afraid to associate with sinners; He shed His blood to redeem them!

Those who trust in Christ live in daily repentance, being truly sorry for their sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal salvation. And it gives our risen Savior, as well as the angels in heaven, great joy when we hear His Word, repent of our sins and place our faith in Christ and His perfect sacrifice on the cross. We certainly should not, as did the scribes and the Pharisees, consider ourselves righteous and in no need of repentance.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” In 1 John, we read: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2).

Christ Jesus appointed apostles and sent them out to preach the Gospel that others, too, might hear the truth, repent of their sins and look in faith to Him for pardon and life eternal. He commanded His disciples to “Go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). He gives to His church pastors and missionaries yet today to carry on this work (cf. Eph. 4:12).

Like our Savior, should it not be our desire to seek out lost souls and rejoice when they are brought to repentance. We should not be satisfied if 99 percent of our members are continuing in the truth and only one percent is going astray; we should seek the lost until they are found and returned to the fold. The same is true of the lost souls who are not under the care of a congregation. We should, in the love of our Savior, seek out the lost and seek to bring them to the Good Shepherd by sharing with them the saving truths of God’s Word.

Christ Jesus shed His holy, precious blood to redeem them. We also ought to care enough for their souls to share with them the good news of forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in the Savior. Never should we be satisfied with the 99 who are in the fold, nor should we ever be ashamed to be seen sharing the Gospel with lost sinners, no matter how bad their past reputations! We remember that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

O gracious Father, grant that we repent of our sins and trust in Christ Jesus for pardon and forgiveness, and give us a love for the lost that we also reach out to them with the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

“God Loved the World so that He Gave”

1 God loved the world so that He gave
His only Son the lost to save
That all who would in Him believe
Should everlasting life receive.

2 Christ Jesus is the Ground of faith,
Who was made flesh and suffered death;
All that confide in Him alone
Are built on this chief Cornerstone.

3 God would not have the sinner die,
His Son with saving grace is nigh,
His Spirit in the Word doth teach
How man the blessed goal may reach.

4 Be of good cheer, for God’s own Son
Forgives all sins which thou hast done,
And, justified by Jesus’ blood,
Thy Baptism grants the highest good.

5 If thou be sick, if death draw near,
This truth thy troubled heart can cheer:
Christ Jesus saves my soul from death;
That is the firmest ground of faith.

6 Glory to God the Father, Son,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One!
To Thee, O blessed Trinity,
Be praise now and eternally! Amen.

Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
Translator: August Crull, d. 1923 (alt.)
Author: Unknown (1791, cento)
The Lutheran Hymnal #245

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What is the heart and soul of Lutheran worship? Is it a beautiful church building? an instrument? a liturgy? vestments? hymnody? No, because these alone would be nothing more than an empty shell, void of true worship.

The heart and soul of Lutheran worship is Christ and the blessings He won for us when He was offered up on the cross a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.

We are miserable sinners and begin our worship confessing our utter sinfulness and looking to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And through the absolution spoken to us by Christ’s called ministers, Christ Himself forgives our sins and promises us the eternal joys of heaven.

We bring to God our prayers and praises. And then, as Christ taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, He teaches us and speaks to us through His Word which is read to us and explained by Christ’s ministers.

We remember Jesus’ words in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We know that faith is the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word and His Sacraments and that Christ is at work in us as we hear His Word, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

We offer up to Christ our prayers for the church and its ministers and for those around us in the world. We pray for our leaders that we may freely preach and teach God’s Word and live according to it. We pray also for the lost that they too might hear the preaching of the Gospel and be brought to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

And, if that were not enough, Christ further consoles us poor sinners by giving us to eat and to drink of His very body and blood which was given and shed for us on the cross. We partake of the Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and so receive the blessings of forgiveness and life He won for us.

Before we leave, Christ dismisses us and sends us out into the world to bear witness to Him with God’s name and blessing upon us. We are to “go … and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things” that Jesus has commanded us, and He promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:19-20).

He blesses and keeps us; He looks upon us with grace and favor; He grants us the peace of sins forgiven and the promise of everlasting life with Him in heaven.

So, Lutheran worship is not really about us and what we do for God; it’s all about God and what He offers and gives to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior!

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