August 30, 2020

Rev. Mark Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 40:9-11

Epistle Lesson; 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 78                         

Sermon Text; 1 Timothy 1:5


The text we will look at today as we install in to office three women in to the public ministry here at Holy Cross, is taken from 1st Timothy, chapter one, verse five.  It is a simple little Bible verse, that is good for every pastor and every teacher to think about.  It just says this:


Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.


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



Today is a really joyous day here at Holy Cross.  We are very shortly, momentarily, going to install in to office, in to the public teaching ministry here at Holy Cross, Nina Koester, (who is our new Early Learning Center Director, at Kids' Crossing), Dyann Nommenson, (who is our new third grade teacher), and Jennifer Boll, (who is our new fourth grade teacher).

They will be walking up here to the front of the church.  They will stand up here, and you will hear them make some pledges.  But, I don't want you to think this is some sort of spectator sport, where you are just going to be observing.  I want you to be very aware you also will be participating in their installation.  You are going to be asked a question.  Everybody here in this congregation, (man, woman, child, young, old), or whether you are at home watching this, I want you to listen to the question you are going to be asked, when these women are installed in to office.  It will say:

“Brothers and sisters in Christ, you have heard the confession, and solemn promise of these three women, called to the teaching ministry in the church.  I ask you now, in the presence of God (now here comes the pledge you are going to make, every one of you) will you (and this is not just talking corporately, this is talking to each individual) will you receive them, show them fitting love and honor, and support them by your gifts, and your fervent prayers?  If so, (and then, you are going to be asked to make this answer) if so, answer:  'We will with the help of God'.” 

I want to get us so we are all ready, with happy hearts, and joyful mouths to say, “We will with the help of God!”

I want you to think about the importance of what is going to happen here today.  I am going to take you back two thousand, six hundred years ago.  Our culture today that our young people are growing up in is very, very similar to a culture of two thousand, six hundred years ago, that four teenage young men were growing up in.  I am going to take you way back to what we call the Babylonian culture.  The Babylonian culture at that time was the world super power.  They had a genius plan on how to take over the world.  Their genius plan was this.  Number one, their military was so powerful that they would go in to a country, and conquer that country by force.  However, how do you keep a group of people under your hands so that they don't eventually rebel against you?  Here was the genius plan.  The genius plan was, “We go in, conquer them by force, and then we change their hearts.  We get them to give up their culture in their hearts, and take on our culture.  Then, they will never rebel against us.”  

So, that is what the book of Daniel is about.  In the book of Daniel, the Babylonians had gone in to Jerusalem, and they had conquered, by force, the Jewish people. 

The Jewish people believed in God.  They trusted in God, so then, the Babylonians started their second part of the plan.  That was to change the heart of the people, so the culture would change.  Here is how they were going to change the heart of the people.  They were going to take the brightest, and the best of the people of Judah.  They were the smartest, the most talented, the wisest, the ones with the most ability.

So, they searched for them, and found them.  Amongst them, they found four young teenage men.  We know them as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They took these four teenage men to Babylon.  There they immersed these young men in Babylonian culture.  They probably offered them the best Babylon had to offer.  And, they trained them for three years in Babylonian thinking, Babylonian history, Babylonian literature.  The goal was, “If we can get these young men, in their hearts, to give up their trust in the true God, and take on Babylonian culture, we can send them back to Jerusalem, they will be leaders.  And, they will influence everybody else to take the Babylonian culture in to their hearts.”

Their intent was to get that Babylonian culture into these four boys' hearts in two ways. 

-One was by force.  So, these boys were threatened.  For example, they were threatened, “If you don't pray to the god of the Babylonians, if you don't kneel down, and worship the god of the Babylonians, we are going to kill you.”

That's motivation, isn't it? 

But there was something about these four, teenage boys.  They had the courage of conviction.  This is what Daniel in the Lion's Den, the three men in the fiery furnace had.  They had the courage of conviction to say, “We are not going to give in to the ways of this unbelieving culture.  We believe God can rescue us.  And, even if He doesn't rescue us, we are still not going to give in.  We trust He will take us home to Heaven.”

-The second way the Babylonian culture tried to undermine the faith of these young guys was to give them all of the temptations that were possibly out there.  These boys were the cream of the crop, and you can imagine the temptations that were given their way. 

And yet, here is the miracle.  Instead of the culture changing those four young men, those four young men were able to go out in that world they lived in, and they were able to have a positive influence on that pagan culture. 

If there was ever a time, when our young children are going out in to a culture that is very similar to the one twenty six hundred years ago, it is now.  Our children are growing up in a culture where we all know it is becoming increasingly threatening to just say, “I am a Christian.  Here is what I teach.  Here is what I believe.”  We have a culture who, by force and threats, is trying to silence, and influence the hearts of young people, and change their hearts to a different culture.  Partly by threats, fear, and force, but also partly by offering all of the temptations that are out there.  If there was ever a time, when we need a generation of young Daniels and Danielles to go out in to this world, it’s now.  And, instead of having the world change our hearts as God's people, we go out in to the world, and we need our young people to have a positive influence on their culture, in their homes, at their places of work, and wherever they may be.

We are about to make a pledge.  The pledge is that we understand how critical the work of the Christian ministry is to our young people.  We are not just saying this is going to be the responsibility of the three women who are up here, who are going to be making a promise.  But, every one of us is individually saying, “I take on that responsibility”, because we understand that all of the older people in this room are all going to be gone, someday.  And, all that is going to be left are the young people.  How critical the ministry these three ladies are committing to, and we, as a congregation, who are ready to stand up, and say, “I will support that with my prayers, and whatever way I can.  I support that, personally.”

That is part of what is going to happen here today.  I am ready to say that with a happy heart, and I am sure you are, too.

But, the second thing that is going to happen today is you three women are going to be making a pledge.  In fact, you are going to be  making a series of pledges.  The last pledge you are going to make is this.  You are going to be asked, “Are you ready, and willing to assume the work of this ministry?  If so, answer, 'I am.' Those three ladies, I am sure, are going to say, “I am!”.

Now, what is the work of the ministry?   What happens here at Kids' Crossing, and Holy Cross Lutheran School is we have something at our disposal that the average school or early learning center does not have.  We have the Holy Spirit, because we are entrusting them in to the ministry of The Word.  And, the ministry of The Word is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to work in hearts, to change hearts, to give hearts of courage and conviction, and hearts that want to love and live for their Savior.  In fact, I love 1st Timothy, chapter one, verse five.  It is such a beautiful verse for you three ladies.  This is the goal of what you are doing here.  This is what it says. 

“Now the goal of our instruction is love,

that comes (from three places),

from a pure heart,

a good conscience,

and a sincere faith.”

So, you three ladies, (and this is Pastor Tweit's, anybody who is in the public ministry, and my goal every day), your goal every day, your biggest goal is to create good consciences.  There is nothing like a good conscience to give you the ability to face this world with confidence, to face this world with joy, as you go out in to the world, and face the world.

Well, how do you create a good conscience?  Our culture, (everybody in our culture) has a conscience, everybody.  It is just the way we are created, by God.  If you don't have Jesus, you still have a conscience.  Your conscience doesn't determine what is right, or wrong, it just judges it by the standards that are out there.  It judges whether you have done right, or you have done wrong.  Then, your conscience, if you have done wrong, convicts you, and you have a bad conscience.  Everybody, (and I don't care who they are in this entire world), when they compare themselves to whatever standard they are comparing themselves to, is going to realize, “I have issues with my conscience.  I have a bad conscience.”
Now, what do you do with a bad conscience?  You try to run away from a bad conscience.  You try to get rid of a bad conscience. 

How does our culture try to get rid of a bad conscience?  Our culture is going to try to get rid of a bad conscience in a number of ways.

Number one, by silencing the standards that are out there.  If you say something is wrong, our culture is going to try to make you be quiet, and silence you.  If anybody defends what our culture is doing, they are going to listen to that, and encourage that.  Our culture is into self-protection, and self-justification, all to defend a bad conscience, or a try to get away from a bad conscience. 

Our culture does not have a heart that is going to go out in to this world with love for other people.  It is going to be too busy making enemies out of those who are trying to give it a guilty conscience, and making friends with those who are easing their conscience

Our goal is to create good consciences.  How do we do that?  It is really simple.  It is really simple.  We just look at two standards, because our consciences are informed by two standards. 

        -Our teachers in our school have the first standard which is God's Law.  That tells us what we should, and should not do.  We teach our children to use The Law, to inform your conscience.  We find out very quickly, every one of us, there is a lot wrong with every one of us.  We are sinners, and that troubles our conscience.

Now that gets us to the next thing. 

        -The Bible has a second standard by which we judge our consciences, and inform our consciences.  To anybody who is troubled in their conscience, to anybody who has a bad conscience, God says this in The Bible, in essence:  “You are the one I want to talk to.  You are the one I want to show my mercy to.”  Then, He informs our consciences by The Gospel.  The Gospel is the good news to anybody who has a bad conscience.  It is the good news, where God says to you personally, “I see your bad conscience.  I want to take that away from you.  I spent the highest price I possible could.  I sent my own Son.  He took your sin.  He died for your sins.  Your sins are gone.  I don't see any sin in you at all!  None.  My Son lived a perfect life for you.  I see His perfect life as yours.  You can have a clear, good conscience.”
Those are the hearts we create in this school day, after day, after day - hearts with a good conscience. 

Hearts that have that good conscience before God have every reason to go out in this world with absolute confidence, knowing, “I am loved by God no matter what”.  They can go out, and be shining stars, and examples in this dark world.  They can be hearts of love informed by a good conscience. 

Secondly, it says our goal is love that comes from a sincere faith.  The literal translation would be this.  Love comes from an un-hypocritical faith.  I like that translation a little better.  The word 'hypocrite' is actually a Greek word.  It is a Greek word, and it just means 'to cover up', or 'hide underneath something'.  It was actually the word used for stage actors.  Stage actors in Bible times were called hypocrites, because they wore masks, hid under these masks, and pretended to be somebody that they weren't. 

We are here to create hearts in young people, who don't have to pretend to be something that they are not, don't have to 'wear a mask', when they go out in to the world, but have un-hyocritical faith, a faith that is bold, and courageous like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that is ready to go out in to this world with a loving heart, and speak the truth in love, talk about our faith, and stand up for what scripture says.

Now, how do you get that un-hypocritical heart? 

Faith.  It is only through The Gospel. 

It is only knowing, “There is nothing, nothing that could ever, ever stop Jesus from loving me.”

“I am convinced that neither height, nor depth,

nor angels, nor demons,

the present, nor the future,

nor any powers,

nor anything else in all of creation

will be able to separate us from the love of God

that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Our goal is to create hearts like that, hearts that can go out in to this culture, and be a wonderfully powerful influence to those around us, and share the faith. 

Then, lastly it is our goal of instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a heart that knows Jesus, knows that God sees it as pure for Jesus' sake, but then a heart that wants to be pure.

Last Spring, when our school closed, we had been online for a couple of months.  We could not have chapel here, in the sanctuary, so we had our last chapel service online.  During that last chapel service, all of our teachers shared with the kids their favorite hymn.  There were some great hymns.  Pastor Tweit also shared his favorite hymn.  It is so pertinent to this passage, right here, (and I think he likes it, because it is written by a Scandinavian).  It is a one verse hymn, so it is really simple.  If you don't know this one, go home, and learn it.  It is a great hymn, that is all about the heart.  Here is how it goes.


I pray you, dear Lord Jesus,

My heart to keep and train.

That I, your holy temple,

From youth to age remain.

Oh turn my heart forever,

From worldly wisdom's lore.

If I but learn to know You,

I shall not want for more.


Those are the hearts we create here at Holy Cross, Kids' Crossing, and our school.  It is not by our power.  You three ladies understand it is by the power of the Holy Spirit working through The Word.

We are about to have you come up here, and make your pledges.  Congregation, we are about to make our pledge to them, and God.

To prepare us for those pledges, let's consider six verses of this next hymn.  As you ponder these six verses, you will notice this is a prayer for these three ladies, and it is a prayer for the kids under their care. 


Bless our loved ones, Holy Father;

Hear our anxious prayer;

By your mercy keep them always

In your care.


Jesus, Savior, let your presence

Be their light and guide;

Keep, oh, keep them in their weakness

At your side.


When in sorrow, when in danger,

When in loneliness,

In your love look down and comfort

Their distress.


May the joy of your salvation

Be their strength and stay!

May they love and may they praise you

Day by day!


Holy Spirit, let your teaching

Sanctify their life;

Send your grace that they may conquer

In the strife.


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

God forever true,

Bless them, guide them, save them, keep them

Close to you.