Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Bang Bang Bang 10/5/2104
Bang, Bang, Bang....went the sound of a hammer on the eve of October 31, 1517, some 497 years ago as Reformer Martin Luther in his attempt to reform the Universal Church nailed points for discussion onto the door of the Wittenburg, Germany church. Even though it took some time for the Protestant Reformation to take hold after this event, soon an uproar resulted in which eventually was the beginning of the Lutheran Church and consequently many other denominations came into being. 

During the month of October, Reformation month, we will be spending our time in Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans which reveal and explain the meaning and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of how our salvation is by grace through faith. As we retrace the struggles of Dr. Martin Luther to come to understand the meaning and the power of the Gospel himself, may we be given a clearer understanding of this wonderful Gospel, the essence of which is the forgiveness of our sins.

In every generation there must be a renewal in the knowledge and understanding of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. It is that which God has done through His Son Christ Jesus, for through Christ, God has done for us that which we could never do for ourselves: Redeem our souls....

May our studies be blessed and in preparation for these upcoming studies, please read through the letter that was written by Apostle Paul to the Roman congregation. This week we will consider the first 17 verses of chapter 1, with the message entitled "The Gospel"

At this point, it is my general plan to preach these six different sections of the book, but being careful to bring them forth in a cumulative manner. What is meant by that is that each section will be built upon the other so that as the teaching progresses, what has been said before will be referred to in order to keep the letter in context within itself. We must remember that when these letters were read, they were read in their entirety at one hearing. Very few people could hear in those days, so it was necessary for them to be read.

As we approach this letter which most agree that it was written in the late 50's AD, let us take an overview of the letter by pointing out the major themes.

Major Themes of Romans
The Cross Romans 1:1-17: God's righteousness is shown through the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Ditch Romans 1:18-3:20 Mankind's sin is shown through its presence and through judgment.
The Road Romans 3:21-5:21 We are righteous (right) before God through faith.
The Plan Romans 6-8 In union with Christ in death and in life, we live accordingly
The World Romans 9-11 God extends his mercy to all.
The Kingdom Romans 12-16 How then should we live in this world, having received mercy?

So then let us begin a journey through this letter, praying that we would be given eyes of understanding to see in a greater way the meaning of the Gospel, and therefore experience more of the power of the Gospel in our lives. I invite input to these messages, I encourage you to read this letter (Romans) in its entirety so that you will hear the voice of God speaking to you.

How well do we know the Apostle Paul? What do you know about Him? What words would you use to describe him?

For we must remember that when we read a letter by someone, we hear their heart, their longings and their voice speak through the letter that they write. For example, when I read any of our congregational member's emails that they write, I can hear their heart, their longings and their voice speaking through the words that are written?
As we hear the voice of Paul, may we hear the voice of Christ and in hearing His voice, may we hear the voice of our Father in heaven, our Great God!

KJV Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

In his brief but comprehensive introduction, the apostle declares his authority for writing such a letter, in that he has been called (apostle) to preach the gospel, for which he was apprehended by Christ. (Philippians 3:12) The gospel he is preaching has historical roots from the Promise which the prophets spoke from the Old Testament. He points to the humanity and divinity of the Messiah in verses 3 and 4 and then states that it is by this Jesus Christ that he has received grace and apostleship to live his life in faith for His name'sake among all peoples. Lastly he includes them along with himself as some of those who have been called of Jesus Christ.

7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

As noted above, Paul had experienced grace and the fruit of it was that he had an overwhelming desire to distribute that same grace unto all to whom he had opportunity, including those in Rome.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

Paul had an overwhelming desire to fellowship in a mutual manner with those in Rome. What more can we say, for when we have been grasped by the grace of God, we desire fellowship with others who have experienced the same. We see his humility in that he after stating that he wants to bring them encouragement he acknowledges his need of comfort also throug mutual fellowship. In order words, he came there on the same level as they were. Wow, that is inspiring to hear him say that.....

They are on his heart and mind in prayer, he wants to come to them in accordance with the will of God, for he longs.........to see them

13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but hindered until now,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Can one not feel the intensity growing in the heart of Paul as he begins to speak to those whom he loves? It is like a campfire that has been smoldering and upon getting a bit of wind begins to burn, slowly at first but then bursting into flames. Paul lovingly lets them know that he would have come sooner, but was hindered from doing so. He longs to see them growing in maturity in Christ even as among other Gentiles. He then states, he owes a debt to the Greeks, to the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, well to everyone. He is going to pay them by preaching the Good news of the Gospel to them in Rome. Is he afraid of what might happen in Rome?

The power of the Gospel is greater than the power of Rome. Paul knows the power of the Gospel because he had experienced it himself on the road to Damascus when Jesus met him there even as Paul was heading out to kill Christians. God overlooked all Paul's murders in order to show the world His power of forgiveness. Paul testifies to this towards the end of his life when he wrote to his beloved co-worker, Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Martin Luther, about whom more books have been written than any other person with the exception of Jesus Christ, wrote concerning his struggle to understand the meaning of the Gospel, finally coming to see it in its truth through verses 16 and 17. We will read some of his words which perhaps will help us as we seek to better understand that which God has done for us in Christ Jesus.

"Meanwhile, I had already during that year returned to interpret the Psalter anew. I had confidence in the fact that I was more skilful, after I had lectured in the university on St. Paul’s epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and the one to the Hebrews. I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart,but a single word in Chapter 1[:17], “In it the righteousness of God is revealed,” that had stood in my way. For I hated that word “righteousness of God,” which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!” Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted. (Luther's Works, Volume 34, P336-337).
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ ”

There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”

Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. (Luther's Works, Volume 34, P336-337).

And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word “righteousness of God.” Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. Later I read Augustine’s The Spirit and the Letter, where contrary to hope I found that he, too, interpreted God’s righteousness in a similar way, as the righteousness with which God clothes us when he justifies us. Although this was heretofore said imperfectly and he did not explain all things concerning imputation clearly, it nevertheless was pleasing that God’s righteousness with which we are justified was taught."

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. {reproved: or, discovered}
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

2 Cor 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

2 Cor 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. {committed...: Gr. put in us}
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Martin Luther came to understand that the gift righteousness from God was just that: It was not deserved and it could not be earned. The obedience of Christ to the will of His Father in everything relating to the salvation of mankind was what was required by God. Upon coming to see this reality, Martin felt as if he had entered heaven itself.

The three scripture verses above show the efficacy of Christ's atonement in that "It is Finished!"
God did for us what we could never do for ourselves and He calls upon us to believe in that which He has done for us. Let us pray for ourselves and for others this prayer that Paul wrote to the congregation at Ephesus so that this reality could come more meaningful and powerful in our lives and ministry.

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

May His boundless grace be upon us, in us and flow out of us today and always!

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 05 Oct 2014 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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The Temptation of Jesus
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala

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2/28 7:00 pm:Lent Service
3/7 7:00 pm:Lent Service
3/14 7:00 pm:Lent Service
3/21 7:00 pm:Lent service
3/23 11:30 a.m.:Senior Luncheon
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The Lawry Kilpela family as they grieve but yet rejoice in Lawry's being called home.