Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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Advent Midweek 1 – December 6 – 1 Thess. 3:9-13 – “God’s Gifts Of Faith, Love, And Holiness”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Epistle Lesson just read, from 1 Thessalonians 3.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • Have you ever given thought to what you might be “lacking in your faith”?  Most of us have been fairly attentive in church, Confirmation Class, perhaps even in some Bible Classes – so we might think that we’re pretty close to having a full and complete faith.  However, this is unfortunately part of the deception that our sinful flesh casts over our minds.  Faith and theology is much like all other areas of human knowledge – the more you know the more aware you are of how little you in fact know. 
  • So, I suppose that pastors have a greater sense of our need to be growing in “faith, love, and holiness.”  And that applies first and foremost to ourselves.  However, we also tend to be aware that the members of our congregations are still in need of spiritual growth as well – especially those who think they have little need to grow! 
  • In our text Paul addresses this issue of spiritual growth – and as we approach the Christmas celebration, it is important for us to recognize that all spiritual growth is in fact the gift of God.  In this text he mentions three of these gifts, “GOD’S GIFTS OF FAITH, LOVE, AND HOLINESS.”  As we celebrate Advent and Christmas, we might want to consider our own need to “receive” these gifts from God!  So first let us understand that:


I.  It Is God Who Supplies What Is Lacking In Our Faith – Through The Apostolic Teaching, The Word Of God


Text:  “We pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith.”


Statement:  I suppose that we would all like to get to a point when we are “independent” learners, when we don’t need others to instruct us.  I’m afraid, unless I am the only “dunderhead,” that we are not privileged to get to this point when it comes to faith and spiritual growth – at least not in this life.  Always we are dependent upon the instruction of the prophets and apostles, the authors of God’s Word, Holy Scripture.  And I’m afraid that commentaries from good, sound, biblical scholars, great men of faith, continue to be quite helpful and informative.  Woe to the pastor who thinks that he has learned it all, and no longer needs instruction himself.


Application:  But if this is true for pastors, who spend a lifetime studying God’s Word, how much more is it also true for each of us?  It is certain that none of us have “mastered” the Holy Scriptures – we all remain students of God’s Word, and we continually pray that God would enlighten our hearts and minds with greater understanding and greater faith.  And since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” [Rom. 10:17] as earnestly as we desire this gift of God, so earnest should we be about studying His precious Word, the Bible! 


Transition:  Again, as we think about gifts – both giving and receiving – let us consider receiving more of this gift of God, His gift of faith and knowledge of His Word!  And we see in our text that:


II.  It Is God Who Makes Us To Increase And Abound In Love


Text:  “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.”


Statement:  It is true, that there is never a glut or over-abundance of love, not in the world, and not in our own hearts and minds.  Yet this is the chief fruit of faith in God and knowledge of His love – that we love one another as He has loved us.  “We love because He first loved us.” [1 Jn. 4:19]  You remember what Jesus once said:  “he who has been forgiven little loves little.” [Luke 7:47]  The obverse is also obviously true:  “he who has been forgiven much loves much” – for the woman who loved Jesus greatly had been forgiven much. 


Application:  It is the same for us – as we continue learning about the depth of our sin and the greatness of our spiritual poverty and our need for God’s help and blessing, we continue to grow in the knowledge of how great God’s forgiveness, mercy, and love really are.  It is this experience that makes us love God more and more, and the greater our love for God, the greater our love for one another will be.  There is no greater revelation of our lack of faith and love than our lack of love and care for others around us!  And sadly, this is often seen within the church, among us!  Lord, have mercy! 


But church is all about God’s love – His love extended to us in the absolution, following our confession of sins; His love assured to us in liturgy, Scripture readings, and the sermon; and His love provided for us in the Sacrament of His body and blood, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  So it is here that the Lord makes us to “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.”  This is His gift to us – and surely it is something that we are eager to receive from Him! 


Transition:  And there is great blessedness and satisfaction in this – living humble lives of faith and love, for:


III.  In This Way God Establishes Our Hearts Blameless In Holiness Before Him – Now And At The Coming Of Our Lord Jesus


Text:  “so that He [God] may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” 


Statement:  Those who establish confident hearts apart from humble confession of their sins and joy in God’s gifts and blessings – His forgiveness, mercy, and love – are merely exercising hypocrisy and arrogance.   All of this will be burned and seared away at the coming of Christ – and hopefully there will be at least some vestige of faith found in them on that day!  But for those who have allowed God to “supply what is lacking” in their faith, and to thus to move and motivate them to true and genuine love for others, His gracious love “establishes” their hearts blameless in holiness.  The difference is stark between those who “establish” their own righteousness and those who cling to Lord as their righteousness, by faith in Jesus Christ.


Application:  The instruction of the apostle, in God’s own Word, is clear – as to the blessings God offers and desires to grant to us!  Those willing to receive these gifts cause great joy and rejoicing – within the church, and in the very heart of God!  They also become great blessings to others around them – as witnesses and encouragements to greater faith, and as they succor the members of the church with their great love.  And since God’s Word assures us that “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labors . . . and their works do follow them” – the assurance, confidence, and peace of faith endures forever!


Conclusion:  So perhaps we can grow in our willingness to acknowledge “what is lacking” in our faith and love – so that we are all the more eager to receive these blessed gifts that our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus seek to bestow upon us!  This is why He sent His only-begotten Son into the world – that we might be saved, for all of eternity, and renewed in faith and love through His Word.  May God open our hearts and minds to receive His blessings and gifts!  Amen.


Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.