St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

“I” Is For “Instruct”

The next letter that we will look at this evening is the letter “I” for “instruct.” The idea of instructing or teaching is found throughout the Scriptures. For example, after Moses repeated the law that was given to him on Mount Sinai, he said, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 11:19-20) What God had told the people was so important that he wanted to make sure that the generations that followed would know it. Jesus gave this command to the church in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The marching orders for the church are that they go and make disciples by teaching them what God says in his Word. There are many examples of people teaching others the truths of God’s Word. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul speaks about the faith of Timothy: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” Timothy’s grandmother and mother made sure that Timothy grew up knowing all about God. This evening, we have examples of children who have also been blessed in this way. Through the teaching of their parents, grandparents, teachers, and others, they have come to know all about Jesus and what he has done for us. This evening, it is their turn to teach and remind us of the important truths that are found in God’s Word.

We have heard the stern teaching of the law. In the account of the fall into sin, we learn of mankind’s rebellion against God. In spite of the fact that God had only shown Adam and Eve his love, they chose to rebel against him. They reached out and took some of that fruit from the tree that God had told them not to eat from and they ate it. We are reminded of the many times in our lives when we have chosen to rebel against God, as well. How many times did we have the opportunity to speak well of others and to defend them against what others were saying and, instead, chose to run them down? How many times has someone done something that hurt us, whether intentionally or not, and, rather than forgiving them, we did something that hurt them or held onto that feeling of anger against them? These are just a few of the examples of the ways that we have rebelled against God. This is not what God demands of us. God said in his Word, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) This is the standard that God expects from all of us. It doesn’t take too long before we see that we have fallen short of this. The children taught us that God, in his just anger, could have turned away from us and sent us away to an eternity in hell.

However, by God’s grace, we, also, heard about God’s underserved love, his grace. That is why we have come together this evening, namely, to celebrate God’s amazing love for us. This is so beautifully exemplified in the Christmas story. The Son of God took on human flesh and blood to be our Savior. That little baby, who was born on that first Christmas, came on a divine rescue mission. He would do everything that was necessary for us to be saved. First of all, he lived a perfect life in our place. This little child would grow up and, throughout his entire life, he would keep every single one of God’s commands. Jesus did not rebel in any way. He lived for us. Also, we cannot look at the manger without seeing a cross looming in the distance. God said that punishment for sin was death. Jesus came to die that death for us. When he was suffering and dying on the cross, he was being punished for every single sin that you and I have ever committed. Indeed, he suffered the torments of hell in our place. In his dying breath, he announced, “It is finished.” This meant that our debt of sin to God was paid in full. Yet, we cannot stop at the cross. If Jesus had remained dead, he would have been little different than all of the other religious leaders of the world. We go from the cross to a grave and see that it is empty. Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning. This announced to the world that the Father had accepted his payment for our sins. Jesus, also, said, “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) Because Jesus rose from the dead, we know that, if we should die before the end of the world, we will be raised on the Last Day and spend our eternity in heaven. This beautiful gospel message has been summarized in the well-known words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. This is the gospel that we are reminded of this evening.

We do not receive the benefits of Christ’s work through anything that we do. Rather, these blessings come to us through the faith that the Holy Spirit has worked in us. The Holy Spirit does not work in a vacuum. He uses the gospel as it is proclaimed to create this saving faith in our hearts. Again, we were reminded, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) In other words, we had to have someone teach us this saving message, through which the Holy Spirit created the faith in Christ that saves us. So, you can see the importance of instructing. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know what God has done for us.

So, we would like to thank the children for instructing us again about the wondrous truths that are found in God’s Word. It is so very important that we keep these truths in front of us. It is so easy to take them for granted. We become so familiar with them that we forget just how special these truths are. We need to hear the stern proclamation of the law, so that we see our desperate need for a Savior. We rejoice to hear the sweet gospel message, which tells of all that Jesus did to save us. These are truths that we can never hear enough about. We pray that God would continue to instruct us through his Word, so that we remain faithful to him for the rest of our lives.

There is one final aspect of “instruct” that I would like to remind all of us about. It is the fact that God gives us opportunities to instruct others, who do not know about God’s love for them. They know about the excitement of Christmas in the giving and receiving of gifts. We get to tell them about the greatest gift that has ever been given, the gift of God’s Son for the salvation of all who believe in him. Some like the holiday season because it means that the family will be getting together. We have the opportunity to tell them about the fact that Jesus came to the earth to make us his brothers and sisters and we will spend our eternity in our heavenly home. This is the life-giving lesson that God uses us to instruct others. We hear of this special privilege in Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” We thank God for instructing us through those who cared so much for us that they wanted us to know what God has done for us. We pray that God would continue to give us opportunities to instruct others, as well. Amen.

We will sing about this privilege of instructing others as we join in singing the hymn, “Go, Tell It On The Mountain.”