August 2, 2020

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Joel 3:12-16

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 13:24-30

                          Matthew 13:36-43                            

Sermon Text; Romans 8:26-27


Today's text is taken from Romans, chapter eight, verses 26 through 27.  Here is what it says.


In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we should pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that are not expressed in words.  And He who searches our hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints, according to God's Will.


These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



There was a young man, who was brought up by a very, very devout Christian mother.  His father was an unbeliever.  He was a kind, generous unbeliever, but he was an unbeliever.  The father allowed the mom to bring this boy up in the Christian faith.  And so, the little boy was a Christian, until he got to his adolescence.  Then, he fell in with a group of guys he called The Wreckers.  These Wreckers introduced him to a bunch of really bad stuff.  He got involved in some pretty bad stuff, and fell away from his faith.  His mother, a devout, Christian mother, had some pretty tense, but loving conversations with him about coming back to the faith, and told him that she was praying he would come back to the faith.

He went off to college, and in college he fell even deeper away from the faith.  He got involved in a world view that was totally opposed to Christianity.  His mom was very, very concerned about him.  Again, they had some pretty tense conversations throughout the years, and she kept telling him, “I am praying, praying you will come back to faith, someday.”

He kind of belittled it all. 

He was very intelligent.  After he graduated from college, he was offered a job as a professor in Italy.  His mother began to beg him, “Please, please do not take that job.  Please do not go to Italy.”.  In her heart she thought, “If he goes to Italy, I am afraid he will fall so far away from the faith that he will never come back to the faith.”  So she told him, “I am begging the Lord that He moves you not to go to Italy.”

Well, this young man deceived his mother, and told her, “I am not going to take the job, and I am not going to go to Italy.”  But, he did take the job, and he went to Italy.

There, he became a professor of something called 'Rhetoric'.  'Rhetoric'' is 'the art of persuasive speaking, or the art of persuasive writing'.  He knew the mechanics of it, so he would teach young men how to be persuasive speakers, and persuasive writers. 

But then, he heard there was a guy who lived in a town nearby, a town called Milan, Italy who was a really, really, really good rhetorician.  In other words, he was a great speaker.  He knew how to put words together, and make a great argument.  And so, this professor of rhetoric thought, “I am going to go hear this guy speak.  I want to see how he does it.” 

(This happened about back in the year 370 A.D.)
When he walked into the building, this guy was speaking.  (He happened to be a preacher by the name of Ambrose.  And, the young professor was a young man by the name of Augustine.)  Augustine was just there to hear a great speech.  But, as Ambrose began to preach, the Holy Spirit began to work through those words.  And Augustine began to realize he was a sinner, that he needed a Savior, and that Jesus was his Savior. 

Eventually, Augustine started taking (what we would call) Adult Information Class, Catechism classes.  And, he became a member at that church. 

Years later, about ten, or fifteen years later, Augustine wrote a book, and you can still buy it today.  If you want to buy an interesting book, it is called Augustine's Confessions.  In this book he gets very detailed about his sinful life.  In his confessions, he focuses on his mother's prayer, (I want to focus on his mother's prayer for him) where she begged the Lord not to let him go to Italy.  In this section of Augustine's Confessions, he is actually praying to God.  Look at, what he says. 

“I lied to my mother, to such a mother, and I gave her the slip.  By her flood of tears, what was she begging of you, my God, but that you would not allow me to sail to Italy.  Yet, in your deepest council you heard the central point of her longing.”
That is what I want to focus on today.  She prayed for one thing, but the Lord heard something different.  He heard the central point of her longing.  That is what our scripture reading for today really focuses on.  It says,

“In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. 

We don't know what we should pray for,

but the Spirit, Himself intercedes for us

with groans that are not expressed in words.”

Just like Augustine's mother, (Her name was Monica.)  Monica, in her heart, had this longing.  Her longing was that her son not go to Italy.  And so, she pleaded with the Lord that it would not happen.  She thought that would be the best thing.

You probably have prayed for things that you longed for.  You thought that would be the best thing. 

-Maybe you pleaded with the Lord.  “Lord, please, please, please help me get that promotion, because I think that would be the best thing for my family, and me.”

-Maybe you have pleaded with the Lord, “Lord, please help this person fall in love with me, because this would be the best person I could ever have for a husband/wife.”  You begged the Lord to have that happen.

-Maybe you have begged the Lord for something regarding your children.  Maybe you have said, “Lord, please help my child not having to struggle so much with understanding school work.  Please help it come easier to him/her, because I am worried about his/her future.”

Maybe you have pleaded with the Lord about some health issue in your family.  You have begged the Lord, “Please, please Lord, please relieve this health issue from our family.”
The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  Now, what is our weakness?  What is the weakness it is talking about?  It is not talking about our sinful weakness.  It is talking about a different weakness we have. 

“I don't know what the future is going to bring.”

I don't know.  I don't know what would happen, if my son sailed to Italy.  I don't know what would happen, if my child started doing better at school.  Nor do I ultimately know what is the wisest thing to happen here.  That is a weakness I have. 

And so, it tells us the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  It is kind of like the Holy Spirit comes along side us, and He helps us in our prayer life. 

It is kind of like a little boy who wants to shoot a bow.  So, the dad is standing there with him.  He says, “You hold the bow like this”.  He puts it in the little boy's hand, and the little boy is holding the bow. 

Then, the dad puts his hand over the little boy's hand.  He says, “Son, put your fingers here on the string”.  The son does, and then the father puts his fingers over the son's fingers. 

He says, “Son, pull the string back”.  They pull it back together. 

He says, “Now, aim at the target”, and they aim at the target together, the two of them. 

Then, the father says, “Let go”, and they let go. 

The arrow flies, and hits the target exactly where they want it.  It is because the father was along side the boy, helping him shoot.

That is what happened with Monica, when she prayed for her son, Augustine.  She was praying, begging the Lord, to not let her son go to Italy.  The Holy Spirit was there with her.  He 'put His hand on the bow', with her prayer, 'pulled the string back' with her, and He prayed along with her.  He said, “Father, if she knew, if she knew what would happen, when her son goes to Italy, she would beg you to send her son to Italy.”  He interceded for her.  He prayed along side of her.  They let that prayer go, and the Father answered that mother's deepest longing, her heart's deepest longing.

Now, this passage tells us ultimately this all comes down to the deepest matters of your heart, and the deepest matters of God's heart, when it comes to how He hears, and answers our prayers.  It tells us here in verse twenty seven,

“...He who searches our hearts...” 

So, God searches to the very depths of your heart, and He knows the deepest, deepest longing of your heart. 

It also says,

“He...knows what the mind of the Spirit is,

because the Spirit intercedes for the saints,

according to God's Will.” 

What is God's deepest heart, His deepest desire, His deepest Will for you?
Let's look at those two things. 

-Number one, what is your heart's deepest longing that the Lord searches into, and sees?  If I were to give you a choice, and said, “Here is your choice.  You can either fall in love with that person, and get married to that person who you absolutely think would be the right person for you, but in the end that person is going to lead you away from your faith, or you could have a broken heart, a really broken heart.  But, in the end you are going to stay in your faith, and end up going to Heaven.  Which would you choose?  What is your heart's deepest longing?”
If I said, “You have a choice.  You can either get the job you are begging for, that you think would be the best one, but in the end you are going to meet somebody who is going to lead you away from your faith, or you could get crushed, and not ever make it higher in your position at work than you are today, but in the end, in the end you will be saved.  What will you chose?”
Our heart's deepest longing, our heart's deepest longing is that we get to Heaven, someday.  

-Now, what is the Lord's deepest longing?  His deepest longing is the exact same thing. 

His deepest longing is that you get to Heaven someday. 

That is the longing of God, the Father.  In fact,

God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son. 

Talk about a deep longing, a deep desire, and a deep Will that you get to Heaven, that God would sacrifice, give up His dearest treasure so that you could be in Heaven some day.  

God, the Son so loved you.  Look at what He did for His deepest desires that you be in Heaven.  He took all of your sins, whatever they are, (and mine too), no matter how filthy they are.  He suffered everything it took, all that shame, to wash away all of those sins.  His deepest desire is that we be in Heaven, some day. 

And now, we get to the Holy Spirit, because He is the One who is doing the interceding here.  And, what is His deepest Will?  His deepest Will for you is that you will be in Heaven someday. 

God the Father, sent His Son.  Jesus paid for your sins.  But, you don't benefit from that, unless you believe it. 

The job of the Holy Spirit is to bring you to faith. 

Thank God He has done that, by grace.  He has brought you to believe you are a sinner.  He has brought you to believe Jesus died for your sins, and you are saved by grace, alone. 

What a gift it is from God!  He loves you, and His Will for you is that you stay in that faith.  God wants you to be in Heaven someday.

Now, here is what you and I know.  We know that the revealed Will of God is that we stay in our faith.  So, how do I stay in my faith?  I want to stay in my faith.  The Holy Spirit wants me to stay in my faith.  He reveals to me, when I stay close to His Word and Sacraments, that is how He is going to keep me in my faith.

Faith comes from hearing the message.

The message is heard through the Word of God.

That is my intention.  But, here is what I don't know, but the Holy Spirit does.  What are the events in my life that are going to keep me in The Word.  What are the events that are going to cause me to run back to The Word?  What are the events that are going to cause me to dive in to The Word?  That is what the Holy Spirit knows.  That is why it is so comforting to know that when we pray, we should pour out our hearts to the Lord.  We certainly, in our weakness, pray for what we think would be best.  But in the end, it is so comforting to know the Holy Spirit is right there, along side of us.  He knows our deepest longing is that we be in Heaven some day.  And so, when we pray, He may, as it were, 'pull the string back' with us, and say to the Father, “Father, I know Mark is asking for this and that, but don't pay attention to what he is saying.  If he could see the bigger picture, and knew what would ultimately keep his soul safe, and the souls of those he loves, he would pray for this.” 

Then, He 'lets the string go'.  It is so comforting to know that is how God hears, and answers our prayers.  The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. 

It is kind of like an artist who is looking at a big block of marble.  He stands back, looks at the block of marble, sees how the grain goes, and where the flaws are.  In his artist's mind he determines, “I can tell exactly what type of figure I should chisel out of this marble.” 

So, he starts to chisel.  Pretty soon you can see an arm, and next you see a leg.  Then, you see a head taking shape, and the face.  You begin to see this figure in the marble, but it is still locked in the marble.  It is almost like you can see it groaning, longing to get out, and finally be what it is supposed to be, and get out of that.

Right before this section, The Bible says we are groaning, longing for the day when we are finally delivered, and in Heaven.  But, right now, the Lord is shaping us.  We may have a big burden on our shoulder, like a block of marble.  We may say, “Lord, please, please, I think life would be so much better if you would remove that block of marble.” 

But, the Holy Spirit, who is 'the artist', knows 'if that block of marble would come off right now, the whole thing would shatter'.  So, He redirects the prayer.  He 'chips away at some place else', because He ultimately knows, He ultimately knows, and longs for our salvation.

Thank God, as God's people, we have the most powerful prayer partner in the world.  That is the Holy Spirit. 

After our sermon, our soloist is going to sing a verse for us.    In your heart, really ponder the words of that verse.  Here are the words to the verse he will sing and you will ponder on:

Prompt us Lord to come before Him

With a childlike heart to pray.

Sigh for us, O Holy Spirit

When we know not what to say.

Then our prayer is not in vain

And our faith new strength shall gain.