120916 James 1:17-18

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sermon Text: James 1:17 – 18

Sermon Theme: "Every Good and Perfect Gift is from Above"

I'm sure that all of us enjoy receiving gifts. We look forward to our birthday, or Christmas, because we knew that at those times we will most likely receive some gifts. For some people, giving gifts is just as enjoyable as receiving gifts. This morning, based on God's Word before us, we have an opportunity to talk about some very precious gifts. These are the good and perfect gifts that have been given to you and me and are ours to enjoy. Listen now as I read from James chapter one, verses 17 and 18. If you would like to follow along as I read, you may follow on the screen or turn to the second page of the bulletin:

1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

This is the Word of the Lord.

First, God's Word reminds us who it is that gives the good and perfect gifts we want to talk about this morning. They are not from a loved one or a close friend, rather we read that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights." It is our gracious Father in heaven who is the source of these special gifts we want to talk about this morning. They are not some-thing that a human being is able to give to us. They are not gifts that we are able to earn on our own. Rather, the gifts we are talking about today are from the loving hand of our Father in heaven, who "does not change like shifting shadows." The one and only Savior-God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, is the one who graciously opens his hands and blesses his children, who blesses you and me, with many gifts.

The first of these good and perfect gifts that our Savior – God gives to us is faith; faith, not in ourselves, not in our efforts, but rather faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior from sin. We read, "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth. . ." Through the Almighty power of our God's Word alone, faith is created in the hearts of believ¬ers. It is through God's Word alone that we are brought to faith in Jesus Christ as our one and only Savior from sin. At the time of our Baptism, through the working of God's powerful word, it was not us who came to our Lord, but the Lord who graciously came to us. Some have asked why we have the Baptismal font placed where we do here in our sanctuary. Each time we look toward the Lord's altar, we are reminded of our Baptism. Each time we come to the Lord's Table to receive the Lord's Supper at the railing, we pass by the Baptismal font, where by God's grace, we became a member of the family of all believers. As we read in Titus chapter three, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (a reference to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism), whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

This passage from Titus chapter three brings to mind another one of the good and perfect gifts we receive from our gracious Lord - the for¬giveness of all of our sins. As Paul was led to write to Titus, it is by the grace of God that you and I are justified, that is, declared not guilty of our sins. We know from God's Word that all of us are born into this world with a need to be saved. Psalm 51 states it so clearly, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Because of the sin which lives inside all people (including you and me), because of the sins which all people commit (including you and me), you and I deserved nothing from our God but punishment and eternal life in hell. Yet through his grace, our God offers as the free gift the forgiveness of all of our sins. It is not that God chose to "look the other way". Sin still needed to be punished. God's justice still demanded a payment price for our sins and the sins of all people. But the Good News for you and me is that our gracious, loving God does not make us pay the price by punishing us for our sins. Rather, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, paid in full the payment price demanded for all sins. Through his per¬fect life and his innocent suffering and death, your sins and my sins are completely forgiven. As we read from Psalm 103, "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

Since we have the gift of faith given to us by our gracious God, and since through Jesus Christ we also enjoy the gift of forgiveness of all of our sins, there is a third "good and perfect gift" that our God in heaven graciously gives to us; the gift of eternal life with him in heaven. From God's Word in James chapter 1 before us we read, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trail, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." The Greek word which we translate as "crown" was the usual term for the wreath placed on the head of a victorious athlete or military leader. Through Jesus Christ alone, all believers are victorious. Through Jesus Christ alone, you and I are victorious. Because of Jesus Christ alone we are able to re-worded this passage in just a few spots so that it sounds like this: "Blessed [are you] who persevere under trail, because when [you have] stood the test, [you will receive] the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." Our death, and the death of any believer in Christ, is not a time of defeat or despair. Rather it is a time of a victory celebration! As we read in the Great Resurrection Chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? " The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

One of the reasons why we gather together for our worship services is to take time to say thank-you. To offer our loving Savior-God the thanks and praise he alone deserves for his many, undeserved gifts. Today we especially offer our Lord thanks for the gift of our faith, which he alone has placed in our hearts through his powerful Word; for the gift of the forgiveness of all of our sins, which Jesus Christ alone won for us; and for the gift of eternal life at our Savior's side in heaven. With hearts filled with joy for all these gifts that we enjoy from the loving hand of our Savior-God, together we give thanks along with James that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . ." Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


Worship Schedule

8:00 A.M. & 10:30 A.M.

9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

Monday at 7:00 P.M.

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St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066




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