Why would you want to live on Mt. Sinai,

when you’re already living on Mt. Zion?

A  woman went to the police station, accompanied by her neighbor, in order to report  that her husband was missing.  The police officer who interviewed her said, “Now, Ma’am, would you please give me a full description of your husband?”  “Well,” she replied, “he’s 35 years old, has beautiful wavy hair, a deep olive complexion, crystal clear blue eyes, an athletic build, he’s soft- spoken and ever-so-romantic”….. “Wait a minute,” said her neighbor.  “Your husband’s 48 years old, overweight, bald, has a big mouth and doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body!”   “Ok, Ok…..” said the missing man’s wife, “but who wants him back?   I was hoping for something better!”  

         The Christians in Jerusalem which the writer of the book of Hebrews was addressing (from which our Second Lesson and Sermon Text are taken) already had something – not just better, but – that was the very best there was (as we also do).    They had the Gospel of salvation through faith in what Christ alone accomplished for them (and us) – and they did not have to depend on a salvation by their works (nor do we).   However, as perhaps is the case with some among us, there were members of the Jerusalem congregation who simply didn’t appreciate what they had.   Even worse, some of them were actually thinking about making a change…..backward……of giving up the freedom of Christianity’s Gospel (symbolized by Mt. Zion) in order to return to the legalism of their former religion of Judaism (symbolized by Mt. Sinai).  

         Why?   First, because they were afraid of being persecuted for their Christian faith…..a persecution they wouldn’t face if they returned to Judaism.  The author of Hebrews urged them to realize that this wasn’t a “cosmetic” change that they were contemplating.   In fact, they were in danger of jeopardizing their eternal salvation in Christ for the sake of mere earthly comfort and ease.  The “change” they were considering was not only bad…..it was damnably wrong.     But there was another reason beyond persecution why some in that church family were inclining away from the Gospel (and it’s still a problem for people inside Christian congregations today too).  The other reason was that some of them were attracted to the “legalistic tendency” that is found in every heart.   It’s that false spiritual sense that suggests you or I have to do something to insure or to make more secure our salvation – that faith in Christ is fine, but…..there has to be something (large or little) that I must do too to earn God’s favor and make my place in heaven more certain.  Sadly, many modify the Christian Gospel into a message of “faith in Christ, PLUS….(whatever the “plus” might be that I have to contribute).”   What they are offering, as a result, isn’t the Gospel, but “legalism” – and legalism will never save anyone for heaven.  

Before going farther, let’s define what we mean by “legalism.”      Legalism, at least from a Christian perspective, is the use and abuse of God’s Law – often wrongly supplemented with man-made laws and opinions – to such an extent that the Legalist becomes convinced that he/she is good, even godly, because of outward performance of the law’s regulations.   Such a person typically not only looks down condemningly on others who don’t “perform” as well, but – in time – becomes self-confident that his/her salvation is tied to keeping those regulations, and not simply to trusting in Christ as Substitute and Savior.  Ultimately, such a conviction – if held to firmly and permanently – not only is damaging from an earthly point of view, it is eternally damnable as well.

         At the same time we need to keep in mind that, as Christians, you and I are not so free from responsibility to God’s Law that we have the right and freedom to ignore the Lord’s “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots,” thinking we can do whatever we want.     As His redeemed children, we remain accountable to God’s Moral Law as a means of recognizing our sin (the Law as a mirror);  controlling evil behavior (the Law as a curb);  and measuring our faithfulness to the Lord (the Law as a guide).   However, we have been redeemed from the curse of the Law (eternal death for all who fail to flawlessly follow it) and, conversely, its hopeless demand (for every sinner) that our eternal salvation depends on keeping it perfectly.   Instead, we have the assurance of true redemption and salvation from God for the sake of….and through faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior.   He was born under the Law (as Paul writes in Galatians 4:4,5) to live perfectly according to it as our Substitute;   a perfection He now credits to us.   What’s more, in our place Christ also suffered the Law’s death sentence curse that had been put on us when He suffered and died in our place.     Paul put it this way in II Corinthians 5:19: “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”   Consequently, because of Jesus’ redeeming work on our behalf, Christians who no longer HAVE to keep the Law in order to insure our salvation, instead will gladly WANT to keep the Law as an expression of our gratitude to the God of our salvation for redeeming us.

         An Illustration of Legalism.….The sin of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day (an their many “spiritual descendants” in our own day) is the conviction that an outward performance of keeping God’s Law was all that the Lord expected, and that heaven could be assured by being outwardly faithful (even if a faithful spirit was absent in the heart).    Again, bear in mind there is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping the Law because one wants to live a righteous life to the glory of God, as well as for ones own good and joy.   In fact, throughout His Word our Lord encourages godly behavior.  – But on to the illustration:   Imagine two eggs.    One egg is a normal, raw egg that, when placed under the palm of the hand and pressed evenly, does not break because of the overall structure and contents of the egg.   The second egg is exactly the same, in size, as the first.   But the second egg’s insides have been removed..   When it’s placed under the same palm pressure as the first, it breaks easily because it is hollow on the inside.  Even so, when one is wholly overcome by the sin of Pharisaic Legalism, the “heart” of our Christian faith (the Gospel; the love of Christ for us [and, as a result, our love for Christ]) disappears, and only an outward shell of “faith” remains until it shatters beyond repair.


Today’s Scripture Lessons

         We can also see an example of legalism in our Gospel Lesson, where the rich young man foolishly felt that his outward, rigorous keeping of the commandments should have earned him Christ’s praise, plus a place in heaven! …..even though Jesus showed him to be a violator of the 1st commandment (as well as all the rest of the commandments), because he loved himself and his wealth more than he loved God. 

         In today’s Sermon Text, found near the close of the book, the writer of Hebrews again declares that Jesus and  Christianity is better to anything Jewish because the New Covenant of the Gospel (called Mount Zion) is clearly better, more effective and more comforting than the Old Covenant that is the Law (represented by Mount Sinai).    Simply put, as the vehicle through which God takes a person to heaven……there’s no comparison.   Hands-down grace/the Gospel is superior to the Law.  The Law can only condemn to hell, while the Gospel always offers heaven as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus.  

         The “saving superiority” of the Gospel over against the Law is also the emphasis of today’s First Lesson and Epistle Lesson, both readings taken from Galatians.    False teachers (known as Judaizers) had disturbed the congregation in Galatia (mid-to western Turkey) by telling those early Christians that faith in Jesus wasn’t sufficient for salvation – that one also had to “add” to faith the obedient keeping of the Old Covenant Jewish laws regarding circumcision, special religious days, personal cleansing rituals, etc.    Far from delivering souls to heaven, Paul showed that this (or any other) type of legalism damns its followers to hell.  Also, you can see our Epistle Lesson’s thematic connection to the Sermon Text through the writer’s contrasting Mount Sinai/Hagar (legalism) with Jerusalem/Isaac (the freedom and salvation of the Gospel).     

         Finally, as our Children’s Lesson will emphasize, our salvation is certain only because it is a gift of God’s grace, through Holy Spirit-given faith in what Christ’s perfect life and sacrificial death have accomplished for us – and never in our personal goodness.


Pre-Service Music

Time for Silent Prayer and Preparation


The Greeting and Invitation to worship


Then, the Congregation will rise for


The Invocation


Pastor                 We begin this service in the name of the Father

Congregation              Who gave us our lives through His almighty power.


         P:      And of the Son

         C:      Who redeemed our lives with His precious blood.


         P:      And of the Holy Spirit

C:      Who gave us eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.

         P:      Amen.


The Opening Psalm/Prayer                                                      Psalm 119:97-104


Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

         Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.

         I understand more than the aged, for I keep Your precepts.

         I hold back my feet from every evil way in order to keep Your word.

         I do not turn aside from Your rules,   for You have taught me.

         How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Through Your precepts I get understanding;   therefore I hate every false way.    Amen.


After which the Congregation will be seated for


The Opening Hymn                                    “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”


1 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!

O my soul, praise Him, for He is your health and salvation!

Let all who hear now to His temple draw near,

joining in glad adoration!


2 Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things is wondrously reigning

and, as on wings of an eagle, uplifting, sustaining.

Have you not seen all that is needful has been

sent by His gracious ordaining?


3 Praise to the Lord, Who will prosper your work and defend you;

surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do

as with His love He befriends you.


4 Praise to the Lord! Oh, let all that is in me adore Him!

All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him!

Let the amen sound from His people again.

Gladly forever adore Him!



We Make Confession Of Our Sins To God


Pastor                 We have come together in the presence of God, our Heavenly Father, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.    But We have disobeyed Him through our thoughts, words, and actions, and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us now turn to Him, acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking His forgiveness for all our sins.   In the words of Jeremiah, we confess:


Congregation     Although our sins testify against us, O LORD, do something for the sake of Your name.    For our backsliding is great;   we have sinned against You.


Pastor                 In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, we acknowledge how thoroughly sin fills our lives, even our very being:


Congregation     From within, out of our hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.    All these evils come from inside and make us ‘unclean.’

Pastor                 Along with the Apostle John, we recognize:


Congregation     If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.


Pastor                 And in the words of David, before the Lord we plead:


Congregation     I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.   Against You, You only have I sinned     and done what is evil in Your sight,   so that You are proved right when You speak    and justified when You judge.     Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Pastor                 Jesus says to His people:   “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.”   Our Savior’s perfect life and sacrificial death have paid for the guilt and penalty of our sins, and for the sins of the whole world.   Do you believe this?


Congregation     Yes, I believe this.


Pastor                 Then be assured that you are a dear child of God and an heir of everlasting life.   And carrying out my office as a called servant of Christ,  and according to His command and authority,   I forgive you all your sins   in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.     May the peace of God rest upon all of you.    Amen.


Our Grateful Response for God’s Forgiveness

To the tune of “Come You Thankful People, Come”

meter:    7777D


Blessed Holy Trinity,   Glorious in Your majesty,

Father, Spirit and the Son –   Savior-God, the Three-in-One –

From sin’s curse You set me free  Heaven’s mine – eternally.

All I am, to You I owe,  Source from Whom all blessings flow.    Amen.


Following this the Congregation will be seated for


Today’s Scripture Lessons                                                      


The First Lesson                                                                        Galatians 3:15-25


15 Brothers, I am speaking in human terms. When someone has established a last will and testament, no one nullifies it or adds to it. 16 The promises God spoke referred to Abraham and to his seed. It doesn’t say, “And to seeds,” as if it were referring to many, but, as referring to one, “And to your Seed,” Who is Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: The law, which came into being 430 years after the covenant established earlier by God in Christ, does not annul that covenant, with the result that it invalidates the promise. 18 In fact, if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by the promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham by a promise.


19 Then what about the law? It was added for the purpose of revealing transgressions, until the Seed to Whom the promise referred had come. It was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not needed for one party, but God is One.


21 Then is the law against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given that could give life, certainly righteousness would have been derived from the law. 22 But Scripture imprisoned all things under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ would be given to those who believe. 23 But before this faith came, we were held in custody under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. 24 So the law was our chaperone until Christ, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a chaperone


The Epistle Lesson                                                                    Galatians 4:21-31


21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you really listening to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman, and one by the free woman. 23 However, the son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through a promise. 24 These things can be used as an illustration; namely, the women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children into slavery. This is Hagar. 25 You see, this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and she corresponds to present-day Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is in slavery along with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free. She is our mother. 27 For it is written:


Rejoice, barren woman who does not give birth. Break forth and shout for joy, woman who does not suffer birth pains, because the barren woman has more children than does the woman who has a husband.


28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise. 29 But just as back then the one who was born according to the flesh persecuted the one who was born according to the Spirit, so this is also the case now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Throw out the slave woman and her son, because the son of the slave woman will certainly not receive the inheritance with the son of the free woman.” 31 For this same reason, brothers, we are not children of a slave woman, but of the free woman.


The Gospel Lesson                                                                         Luke 18:18-30

18 A certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 Jesus asked him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good, except one—God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. Honor your father and mother.’” 21 “I have kept all these since I was a child,” he said.  22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 23 But when the ruler heard these words, he became very sad, because he was very rich.


24 When Jesus saw that the man became very sad, he said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 Those who heard this said, “Then who can be saved?”   27 He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible for God.”  28 And Peter said, “Look, we have left our possessions and followed You.”   29 He said to them, “Amen I tell you: Anyone who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will most certainly receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come, eternal life.”



The Apostles’ Creed


I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.   And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;  Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost;  Born of the virgin Mary;  Suffered under Pontius Pilate;  Was crucified, dead, and buried;  He descended into hell;  The third day He rose again from the dead;  He ascended into heaven;  And sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost;  The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints;  The forgiveness of sins;  The resurrection of the body;  And the life everlasting.  Amen.



The Children’s Lesson                                                                Ephesians 2:8-9


8 Indeed, it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.


We Are Saved By GRACE:   God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

The Sermon Hymn                           Hymn 295 “If Your Beloved Son, O Lord”


1 If Your beloved Son, O God,  Had not to earth descended

And in our mortal flesh and blood   Had not sin’s power ended,

Then this poor, wretched soul of mine   In hell eternally would pine

Because of my transgression.


2 But now I find sweet peace and rest;   Despair no more reigns o’er me.

No more am I by sin oppressed,   For Christ has borne sin for me.

Upon the cross for me He died   That, reconciled, I might abide

With You, my God, forever.


3 I trust in Him with all my heart;   Now all my sorrow ceases.

His words abiding peace impart;   His blood from guilt releases.

Free grace through Him I now obtain;   He washes me from ev’ry stain,

And pure I stand before Him.


4 All righteousness by works is vain;   The Law brings condemnation.

True righteousness by faith I gain;   Christ’s work is my salvation.

His death, that perfect sacrifice,   Has paid the all-sufficient price;

In Him my hope is anchored.


5 My guilt, O Father, You have laid   On Christ, Your Son, my Savior.

Lord Jesus, You my debt have paid   And gained for me God’s favor.

O Holy Spirit, Fount of grace,   The good in me to You I trace;

In faith and hope preserve me.


after which the Congregation will rise



The Greeting             Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ!   O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise.  Amen.



The Sermon Text                                                      based on Hebrews 12:18-24


18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to burning fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a raging storm, 19 to the sound of a trumpet, and to a voice that spoke. Those who heard the voice asked that not one more word be added, 20 because they could not endure what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that even Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”


22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God; to the heavenly Jerusalem; to tens of thousands of angels in joyful assembly; 23 to the church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven; to God, Who is the judge of all; to the spirits of righteous people who have been made perfect; 24 to Jesus, the Mediator of a new testament; and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than the blood of Abel.  


Don’t Choose the Wrong Mountain

  1. Mt Sinai’s Law Motivation is powerful, but ultimately it can’t save you
  2. Mt. Zion’s Gospel Motivation, alone, saves and properly

motivates the Christian to live for and to serve the Lord


The Post-Message Blessing


Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!   Amen.


We Offer Our Gifts and Prayers to the Lord


The Offering


Because we aren’t able to pass an offering plate today during today’s worship

service those in attendance may leave their offerings in the offering plates

by the exit door at the close of our service today.

For those watching today’s service, we offer you the following suggestions for providing God with Your thank-offerings through our ministry:  

1) You can send a check (no cash) in the mail to the church address

(415 N. 6th Place, Lowell, AR 72745)

2) You can go online to our website (www.gracelutherannwa.com)

and use the giving option there.


Special Prayers for this Day  


Included in our prayer this morning is an intercessory prayer on behalf of our sister,

 Harriet Johnson, who will be having surgery this week.

And also

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Ralph and Debbie Terrian, whose

wedding anniversary is this Friday.


Our Prayer for Today


C:      Our Father Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;  Give us this day our daily bread;   And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom and the power and glory forever and ever.  Amen.



We Leave With The Lord’s Blessing


The Benediction


The LORD bless you and keep you,

    The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you,

The LORD look upon you with favor, and grant you His peace.   Amen.


After which the Congregation will be seated for


The Closing Hymn                                                               “Search Me, O God”

                                                                  sung to the melody of “Savior, Again”


Search me, O God, and know my heart today. 

Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray –

See if there be some wicked way in me.

Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.


Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine.

Fill my poor soul with Thy great love divine.

Take all I am – my passion, self and pride –

Now and forever, Lord with me abide.    Amen.



Last Week at Grace Lutheran Church                          Worship Attendance: 56

Tuesday Bible Class: 15            Budgetary  Offerings: $4020          School Fund:   $11


This Coming Week at Grace Lutheran Church


Today            Morning Worship,  at 9:30 a.m.  

    Tuesday        Morning over-the-phone Bible class, 10:30 to 11:30

                          Church Council Meeting, 6:00 p.m.    Elders’ Meeting afterward

    Sunday          Morning Worship  9:30 a.m.  with the Lord’s Supper


This Week’s Birthdays       July 16 – Amy Bruns;     July17 – Ralph & Debbie Terrian


Serving Us Next Sunday  Elders:   John Johnson, Steve Stone, Tim Pfortmiller

Ushers:   Dale Johannes   Taylor Ashley, Tim Huebner   Pat Quinlan

Altar Guild: Tammy Schwartz