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Posted: March 4, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Scharf: This changes things!

It wasn’t fair.

They had done a good deed. There was a girl who was being taken advantage of and they stopped it. They helped when everyone else just let it keep right on going. But the guys that were taking advantage of her didn’t like it, and so the two good-deed-doers were attacked and beaten and tortured and locked up.

It wasn’t fair for Paul and Silas. But if you read the account of the jailer at Philippi in Acts 16, you’ll find that those two men used that opportunity to sing hymns and praise God’s name. Something made them react differently than the normal human being would have.

And then the jailer went from being a vicious, violent, hateful part of that unjust beating to jumping around with joy and setting a feast before these guys that the whole mob had been hating, himself included.

What happened?

The Word. God’s Word changes things. And so that jailer asked his question: "What must I do to be saved?" And Paul told him, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."

That truth is the difference. In Ezekiel’s mouth, it was the Word that brought life to dead, dry decaying bones (Ezekiel 37).

And in our reading for today, the last words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that God’s Word makes the difference. This changes things. Look at his words: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash" (Matthew 7:24-27).

This is the difference. This changes things. Notice what he said, though. He didn’t say that the difference is in whether or not we hear this word or whether or not we read this word. It’s whether or not we do it, whether or not we put it into practice. This relationship with God is never just a matter of us going through the motions.

Take for example the couple in marriage counseling. They come to see the pastor and they read the applicable passages together. They hear what he tells them. They give the right answers. They understand what God wants them to do. But then they go home and act just like they had been and don’t do the devotions together like he told them to and they don’t pray together like they’re supposed to. How do you think that will work? It won’t.

Then there’s the couple that does listen and gets into God’s Word together and comes to Bible Study together and prays together and gradually learns to love one another more like God loves them and things are going great and they’re enjoying sitting next to one another in worship and are almost falling "in love" again, but then there’s that fight. And it’s hard to pray with the guy who said that, and so they skip the devotions too, and then Bible study falls off the schedule and all of a sudden they look and they are right back where they started, hating each other.

What happened? Did the Word fail?

No, they just stopped putting it into practice.

And that is a story that repeats itself. And it’s not just in marriage. It happens in life. You know God will keep his promises. You know how good it feels to be active in hearing and learning God’s Word, growing closer in your relationship to him. Time spent in worship and Bible study is so valuable. But think of how often you don’t prioritize it.

Even though we know the difference this Word makes, Satan, and all this world’s distractions, and that sinful flesh inside of us get us to despise the Word and forget the difference it makes, at least a little.

And then what happens?

If we are built on this rock and firmly entrenched in it, we weather life’s inevitable storms better. We take less of it personally and realize that those storms are sin in our world trying to separate us. Being in the Word we know that they can’t. God promises it.

Check back next week or see this Sunday’s sermon online and we’ll see how the Word changes every storm, because the Word that became flesh (Jesus) defeated Satan and sin and guilt, even death — for us!

 

Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.

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