Filed under: Confession & Absolution-The Office of the Keys, Devotions, Justification & Sanctification-The Christian Faith & Good Works, The Theology of the Cross, Theology & Doctrine, Worship & Liturgy | Tagged: Church year, Cross, Lent, Repentance, Seasons, Suffering | Leave a comment »
“Therefore, having been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
There is much talk about faith these days. Recently, I heard one numerous times in discussion say, “I have my faith.” Yet, such talk about faith is quite vague. It seems to emphasize the “me,” of faith, and doesn’t really get to the object of the Christian faith, which is Christ.
Remember the words of Jesus. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
Remember the words of St. Paul, too. “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
These words also apply to Christian faith, even our own faith, which is neither self-derived or self-chosen, a personal decision or a choice. Rather, the Christian faith is the God-given faith.
The Bible teaches such truth, for as Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Speaking of the flesh, St. Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
According to God’s Holy Word, which is what the Bible is, “those who are in the flesh” are not of faith. This applies to all people, as all people are born through the womb. Naturally, such people are in need of a Savior since the Fall of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). Dead in sin, from conception to physical death, a spiritual birth is needed. One must be reborn.
Such rebirth cannot and does not happen by choice or personal decision. That which is dead cannot do anything of itself. It is God, through His Holy Word, which gives life, new life, abundant life (John 6:63, 10:10). Thus do we have Christ, who speaks life, that we be born anew, even through water and word (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).
Similar to the account of Jesus calling dead Lazarus from the tomb (John 11:38-44), so Jesus calls us from death to life by means of His Word, even His Word preached today (John 6:63). Where His Holy Word continues to be preached today, He continues to bring forth the hearers from death to life.
The preaching of Christ’s cross does not make Christians either lazy or unproductive (Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 5:6). Instead, the preaching of Christ’s cross, of His death and resurrection, enlivens true faith. Evangelicalism here gets it wrong where they empty their preaching of the Gospel and instead preach only what you must do of yourself and how to live, yet apart from faith in Christ. They also get it wrong where they emphasis personal faith over and against objective faith, which is the faith given by God through the hearing of Christ and His holy Word (Romans 10:17).
This faith, and this faith alone, that which is of God and His Son Jesus Christ, wrought by the Holy Spirit, is that faith which does not seek its own, but glories in Christ, clearly confessing Him to be Savior.
The Christian faith does just this, and unashamedly (Romans 1:16). This faith confesses Christ, giving Him and Him alone all the glory. So, more than speaking of “my faith” and taking comfort in what “I personally believe” (subjectively, as in “I have my faith”), the Christian faith speaks of Christ and what He has done for me, according to Holy Scripture. Instead of confessing, “I have my faith,” the Christian boastfully confesses in who that faith is—Christ.
“My faith” does not save me. Christ does! Thanks be to God! Amen.
“For the faith that takes hold of Christ, the Son of God, and is adorned by Him is the faith that justifies, not a faith that includes love. For if faith is to be sure and firm, it must take hold of nothing but Christ alone; and in the agony and terror of conscience it has nothing else to lean on than this pearl of great value (Matt. 13:45–46). Therefore whoever takes hold of Christ by faith, no matter how terrified by the Law and oppressed by the burden of his sins he may be, has the right to boast that he is righteous. How has he this right? By that jewel, Christ, whom he possesses by faith. Our opponents fail to understand this. Therefore they reject Christ, this jewel; and in His place they put their love, which they say is a jewel. But if they do not know what faith is, it is impossible for them to have faith, much less to teach it to others. And as for what they claim to have, this is nothing but a dream, an opinion, and natural reason, but not faith.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p88-89)
Prayer: Father in heaven, give us faith which takes hold of Christ and no other. Preserve us in this faith by the means which You freely give and deliver, and keep us from despising Your free gifts of Baptism, Word, and Supper, that we remain yours, and, denying ourselves, follow you. Amen.
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“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Such words of our Lord as the words above have a specific context which Jesus speaks them. Here, Jesus is not talking about overcoming every obstacle, climbing every mountain, or prospering in life. The context in which our Lord speaks is quite different.
Jesus had just relayed to the disciples how difficult it is for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23-25), to which the disciples responded, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26). It is at this point that Jesus then says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
Note the it that Jesus references. That it references the salvation that the disciples ask of. This means that salvation is impossible with men, but not with God. Thus, the all things that Jesus speaks here, contextually, is that of salvation.
I know of only one other place in the New Testament where similar words are spoken. However, these words are given in a very different context than that of salvation. The context is that of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that Elizabeth, who is beyond the age of child bearing, had conceived a son (Luke 1:36). The angel then concludes the announcement, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
The pair of phrases addressed here each has its own context in which it is spoken. However, each is often used apart from its context, and often for personal, self-help, motivational encouragement. Doing this, however, is a misuse use of the text, applying it in ways not intended, and doing so also demonstrates a use of the text according to one’s own circumstances and inclinations rather than that of the Holy Scripture.
Divorced from context, the content of the passage becomes divorced from its biblical meaning. And though this not be the concern of many a people, it is a concern for all who seek to be faithful to the Biblical text itself and its intended meaning.
Confining oneself to the words, context, and meaning of the sacred text of the Holy Bible is not only faithful practice, but is the very means by which the Lord draws us to Himself, even to Jesus, through whom salvation is certain (i.e. John 20:31). The Lord doesn’t give us His Word that we determine its application. Rather, He gives us His Word that we might believe it, and believing it, that we abide by it, and so live through faith in Him who died and rose again.
Additionally, if one passage, like Mark 10:27 (or Luke 1:37), doesn’t do for us what we would like it to do, that’s okay, because the Lord directs us with His Word where He wants us to be and where He wants us to go, that is, in and to His Kingdom. Amen.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to deny ourselves and to entrust ourselves into your keeping, that we not misuse Your Hold Word or try to make it say what we want it to say for our own ends. Move us to believe what you say, that we grow in grace and true knowledge of You. Amen.
“The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”
In the Holy Name of the risen Christ. Amen.
According to the National Day of Prayer task force, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.”
This encouragement to pray is a good thing. In fact, God commands prayer (the Second Commandment). Not praying, therefore, is a sin. Praying for the nation in which we live is also a good thing (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Prayer for ourselves and for others, as well as for our nation, is indeed “good” and “pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” God promises to hear prayer, as revealed through the Psalmist, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me (Psalm 50:15).
Thus, not only does God command prayer. He also promises to hear prayer (Read the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Large Catechism). The command and the promise of prayer move the Christian to pray, and so His people do pray, even “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Yet, the National Day of Prayer task force and the annual observance do not make the distinctions that God does. They lump people of all faiths together, as if all prayer of all people are acceptable to God, and therefore, heard by Him.
Nevertheless, God does not hear the prayers of all people, as recorded in the Proverb text above. The Psalmist, too, exalts this truth by saying, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).
The righteous are they who look to God for mercy in Christ, who repent of their sin, who seek salvation from Christ alone, recognizing their dependency on the Lord for help and deliverance from sin and death. These are they who have faith, and only these have the certainty of God’s hearing and help (Hebrews 11:6; Luke 17:5-10; 1 John 5:14-15).
The wicked, however, are they who reject God’s salvation in Christ and have a different confession of faith than the faith revealed in Holy Scripture (John 8:31-32, 47; 14:23-24; 1 John 5:9-13; 2 John 1:9) . God does not hear the prayers of the unbeliever because they do not pray in faith (Romans 14:3; James 1:6).
We make such distinctions because God Himself makes such distinctions. Thus, instead of lumping all people together as having the same God, and praying to Him, we believe God’s Word and therefore, seek to speak the truth of that Word which alone converts souls from death to life. We also humbly pray that the Lord would keep us from arrogance and pride, even as we pray for all people, our nation and ourselves, even concerning the more significant and eternal matters of God’s mercy and forgiveness through His Son, in whose Name God’s people with confidence pray.
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The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.
In the Name of Jesus! Amen.
How difficult it is to wait! Our society and culture is partly, but not fully, to blame for this. We’ve been taught and trained to expect everything right away, and when we don’t get service immediately, or if we have to wait a little bit, we become impatient. Even as our computer connection slows down, we might become agitated.
But as much as society and culture contribute to the desire for speediness, we, too, are to blame for not waiting as we ought. We easily become frustrated, and even down right angry, if the Lord doesn’t answer us right away, let alone, our own way. We readily forget that the Lord’s timing is not according to our schedule, that He is God and that we are most certainly not.
The Psalmist says of the Lord that, “A thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). And St. Peter writes similarly, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
Here, of course, both the Psalmist and Peter are not talking about how one day is a thousand years, or that we ought to define a day differently than a 24-hour period of time, unless context reveals otherwise (i.e. Genesis 1-2, Creation). Rather, the Psalmist and Peter are talking about the Lord’s time, and how different God views time than us. We are finite beings. We have a beginning (i.e. conception) and end (physical death). God does not. He always was and always will be (Exodus 3:14).
Time, from God’s perspective, is viewed differently than our own view of time. One day is “nothing” compared to eternity. God is eternal. Therefore, our concept of time is different for us than our Lord. Yet, by His Word He reveals what He does for our benefit and use.
What seems like “forever” for us is only a “moment” in the grand scheme of things. Rather than considering the duration according to our time frame, the Lord calls us to believe and trust in Him, all the while as we wait on Him
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
The Lord’s will be done. This we pray in the “Our Father.” His will is done according to His will, not our own. As we don’t wait, so we also act contrary to the Lord’s will, not believing in Him as the giver of all things. However, as we do wait on Him according to His Word, we will receive the blessing of God’s goodness. This may not be as we expect. Yet, the Lord blesses far more abundantly than we can ever imagine.
Having Jesus as Savior from sin and death means that we now have peace with God. In His favor, we also believe that God’s will is nothing but good toward us. If that means waiting on Him, so we will do gladly, acknowledging that we are in His gracious hands, and to Him we commend our spirit (Psalm 32:1). Since we belong to the Lord, we also know that our God is nothing but good (Psalm 77:1; Lamentations 3:22-24). Amen.
Prayer: Forgive us, Lord, for our impatience, especially our impatience of waiting on you. Help us to endure and persevere, trusting Your blessed promises alone, confident of your abundant goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Filed under: Bible-Holy Scripture, Devotions, Law & Gospel-Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, The Theology of the Cross, Theology & Doctrine, Worship & Liturgy | Tagged: Creation, Day, Impatience, Lord, Time, Waiting | Leave a comment »
“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
This past week, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, legalized same-sex “marriage” throughout the nation for every state. Such unions are contrary to the Word of God and therefore, are not pleasing to Him. They are unnatural and are unions against nature. This truth we must continually speak, even in the midst of growing opposition. Also, as God’s people, we must continually stand against the growing tide of compromise so readily accepted in Christendom today and speak the “whole counsel” of God (Acts 20:27).
God Himself instituted marriage, to be between man and woman, between husband and wife (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6). There is no other union acceptable to God. Thus, there is no other union acceptable to Christ’s body, the Church.
What does the decision of the Supreme Court mean for us? It shouldn’t surprise us if greater difficulties and challenges arise for the faithful children of God. Despite such animosity from the world (John 15:18-19), God calls us to be faithful to His Word and to boldly confess His Name.
Note these very applicable words of our Lord Jesus. “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).
Confessing Christ has just to do with speaking the truth of Holy Scripture, the truth of sin and judgment, and the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ. Not all will hear and believe, to be sure, yet the Lord calls His Church to continue to call sinners to repentance.
This does include calling homosexuals to repentance. This also includes preaching the uncomfortable truth that we, with them, and all people, are deserving of God’s wrath, for “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death.” Here, none are excluded, and no sinner is worse than another before God.
It’s easy to point the finger! But God’s Holy Word also applies to you and me. Thus, humbly we speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), acknowledging that we, too, are sinners deserving of everlasting condemnation, but for the grace of God in Jesus Christ, God forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-4, 8; 8:1; 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2).
God alone, by means of His Word, changes hearts from unbelief to belief (Romans 10:17). Yours, too!
Though the days now and ahead be and become more difficult for the church as evil and sin become more greatly accepted (i.e. Genesis 6:5, 12; 8:21; Isaiah 5:20-21), we need not fear that God will forsake us. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). His mercy for you endures forever (Psalm 118). “Do not be afraid; only believe (Mark 5:36).
We know these words to be true because God sent His Son (John 3:16-21). Our Lord is faithful (2 Timothy 2:11-13. Even as He suffered, so will we, His church and His people. But we do not lose hope. Confidence in Christ is yours, for as He now lives, having conquered death itself through His own death (Romans 6:10), so do you now live unto Him! He is your peace and your confidence, even amid the growing challenges of our day.
The world will go as it will, but God’s people abide in Christ and His Word (John 8:31-32). Do not be anxious about the ways of the world. Continue to trust in God. Fail you, He will not!
“Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”
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