“The God Who” Series
March 6-7, 2021
“The God Who Corrects Us”
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
You know about prodigal children, right? They get lost. They mess up life. They make all the wrong choices. Maybe it is by abusing drugs, dropping out of school, can’t hold a job, drink too much, party too much, or they won’t listen to anyone.
But did you know there is a worse problem than kids who go the wrong way? It’s parents who don’t care. It’s parents that give up. They have had it. They say to their hard-to-raise kid – “Do it your own way, I’ve had it with you – you’re not worth the effort.”
Parenting is hard. It takes everything you got…and more. Energy. Patience. Patience. And did I say patience? You offer wisdom and they look at you and think you’re the dumbest person in the world. You reach out and you get your hands slapped. And some parents or grandparents stop trying.
Some of you haven’t had that problem. Your kids were compliant and listened and didn’t cause you too many sleepless nights. Good job. You should write a book. But we have a problem in this world. Sometimes it is with the kids. And sometimes it is with the parents. Some kids, from early on, are strong willed. And some parents, don’t know what to do. And so they leave – either physically or emotionally.
Some who are responsible for others wash their hands, step away and write that person off. How awful!! But some, in fact, most, know that that kid needs the love that doesn’t give up on them. It is that kind of persistent love that I want to speak about today.
This is not a parenting sermon. This sermon is about a heavenly Father who loves us enough to correct us. I believe that a parent who won’t step in when their own kid is heading on a highway to hell doesn’t really love them. This sermon tells us that God loves us so much He will interrupt our own self destruction.
When I was a kid I got into trouble from time to time – usually it was my older brother’s fault – we got into a fight. When my mom had had it with me, I was sent to my room and then those dreaded words were spoken, “Wait there till your father comes home.” I’d listen for his car to come home, the door to open and I knew he’d be up soon. He wasn’t mean or abusive, but there are times when I would get a swat on my bottom. You ever get a swat and before it all began you heard the words, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”? I always wondered what that meant.
Our Father corrects us. He does this because He has not given up on us. In Hebrews 12 we read of this, “Endure hardship as discipline: God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone goes through discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:7-10)
Ephesians 4 begins, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Verse 1) A worthy life is a different life. There is be a difference between a baptized child of God and those who are not among the redeemed. The words in our reading began, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18) When God corrects us it has to do with what He insists and demands. God has something greater in mind for His children. We cannot live in the old way but He calls us to live in the new way. That is love. That is calling us to a better life.
When He begins this correction He starts with our heart and moves to our life and how we live. In this section Paul addresses the two most difficult problems that we can have:
- “The hardening of our hearts.”
- “Given themselves over to sensuality and every kind of impurity.”
That term “hardening of their hearts” is a classical term which meant that one’s skin became callous and no longer feels anything. What a terrible thing to develop – a hard heart, one that is indifferent to what is right and wrong, what is moral or immoral. The heart no longer has a conscience. One writer said, “The hardening of their hearts is the progressive inability of conscience to convict them of wrongdoing.” (F.F. Bruce, Epistles to Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Pg. 355) Hardening of our hearts is progressive. It doesn’t happen in a single moment but it can be achieved by repeated sinfulness and wrong choices.
And what is just as scary as the hardening of the heart is the choice that is made to “give oneself over” to all types of sins. Sin becomes the master. We simply throw our hands up and cry, “Uncle” – You win, I give up.” This God who loves us dearly doesn’t wash His hands of us, His children, but He corrects us. Paul says this is what God is at work doing, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Where does God correct you? Where does He discipline you? Where does He step in, and in love, say “Enough!!”? In these verses from Ephesians 4 God corrects our mouth, our emotions and our hands. But God just doesn’t correct; He transforms. F.F. Bruce, in that same commentary says, “This paragraph counterbalances each vice that is mentioned with a virtue: falsehood is to be replaced by truth, unrestrained anger by timely reconciliation, stealing of others’ property by the generous sharing of one’s own, foul language by helpful speech, animosity by kindness.” (Page 360)
He corrects our words, our mouth, our tongue. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Verse 25) “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Verse 29) Isn’t God good? He cares how we are. He cares what comes from our lips. He cares that others are not harmed by what we say but their lives are made better. He corrects us and transforms us.
He corrects our emotions and attitudes. “In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Verses 26-27) “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Verses 31-32)
Angry, bitter people do not honor God. They destroy their witness and they harm themselves as well as others. Have you ever gone to bed furious with another person? Me, too. I sure didn’t sleep well!! God corrects us because He loves us and He loves them.
It is God who also corrects our hands. Remember – they can do good or they can do evil. “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” (Ephesians 4:28) God steps in, stops us from doing evil and transforms us to a new way of living.
If our God didn’t care about us He would let us fall to our weaknesses, He wouldn’t intervene, He wouldn’t say a word, He wouldn’t give us a conscience, He wouldn’t care.
But His love is seen in His correction of the old man and the transformation into the new man. Paul says it clearly in Romans 12, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Verses 1-2)
But I hope you know that God’s greatest love is not found in His correction of our lives but in His free gift of forgiveness. We are saved by His acceptance of us. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the turning point is when the Father receives the lost son. “’This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Verse 24)
We become new by the work of Jesus. He washed us in Baptism. He feeds us His own body and blood. He suffered for our sins and shouted in victory at the cross, “It is finished.”
Our God really loves us. He corrects us. He transforms us. He welcomes us home. Amen!!