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‘I’ and ‘We’

 

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4

 

Increasingly today, we unashamedly pursue our own means for our own ends. It is a temptation for which everyone contends.  ‘We’ do not want to listen to others because ‘we’ are right and ‘they’ are not.  ‘We’ are reasonable, but ‘they’ are unreasonable.  ‘We’ know better than ‘they’ do.

Translate these into the singular and you will see yourself having done and doing the same.  It is the plight of American individualism, and shows its egotistical head at many a corner.

We are conceived into such a state that we define life to be all about ‘me’ and what ‘I’ want (Psalm 51:5).  What someone else says, independent of their position, does not matter.  What matters are ‘my’ wants, ‘my’ needs, ‘me, me, me.’

Yet in Christ, God demonstrates something other than individualism, self-centeredness, and self-absorption.  In Christ, God demonstrates love for another, love for the sinner, love for the selfish, love for the very people who think themselves to be the center of the universe—love for you.

 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

In Christ, God demonstrates a love for you without condition, a love without partiality, a love unmerited and undeserved.

This is how God works, not thinking of Himself, but loving the unloved, the unlovable, and the unloving, because “God IS Love” (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16).

The one who believes that God is this way towards him does not remain selfish and self-absorbed, for such is not the way of Christ.  The way of Christ is to give, and to put others before oneself.  The way of Christ is not to ignore God’s Word because of personal needs and to put oneself above all others, but to “deny oneself,” bear the cross, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  The way of Christ is to repent of selfish idolatry and to live in service of those in need. The way of Christ is to conform to the will of Christ, to cast aside “self-ambition and conceit,” to seek the “interests of others,” and to pursue my neighbor’s well-being.

 

Quote

“The New Testament has a great deal to say about ‘the people of Christ, the ‘we.’  But ‘we’ often overlook what Scripture says because we are thinking ‘I.’ Good old American individualism is alive and well in the Church, and it determines how we read the Bible.  American religiosity is all about ‘me.’”  (Harrison, Christ Have Mercy, 115)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, forgive me for my selfishness, for neglecting the needs of others, and for putting myself first, even before You and Your Holy Word.  Change my heart that I deny my own wants and desires and seek to do what pleases You, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Come Holy Spirit

1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

      5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

      14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

        17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

          19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;   20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.  21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”  Acts 2:1-21 (ESV)

On that blessed day of Pentecost, our Lord Christ brought about what He promised to do.  In the Gospel reading from today, Jesus promised The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in His Name (John 14:26).  This promise Jesus fulfilled.  On that Day of Pentecost, Jesus sent His Spirit upon His disciples.  As a as a result, the disciples, now apostles, spoke and proclaimed the mighty works of God (ta. megalei/a tou/ qeou/).

This they would not have done if it wasn’t for the Spirit.  On that day that the Lord first appeared to the disciples after His glorious resurrection, the disciples’ were behind closed doors For fear of the Jews (John 20:19).  The disciples were too afraid to talk to anyone after the Lord’s death about Jesus.  And even after seeing the Lord, Some doubted (Matthew 28:17).  Neither did they go and tell the good news of Jesus until the Spirit came upon them, for Jesus shad told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had received power from on high (Luke  24:49).

So they waited.  And in their waiting, they were joyous.  They worshiped the Lord.  They blessed God.  The praised Christ.  And the Lord’s promise of the Helper came to fruition.  His sure Word which they had alone to go on came to be.  It came to be because Jesus is the Lord.  And His Word came to pass.  And from that time on, from the Day of Pentecost, the apostles went out preaching the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation in Christ.

From timid, fearful, and weak men, they became bold, fearless, and powerful preachers and servants of the Most High God. This came about not by their own doing, but by means of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent, as St. Peter says, This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh’ (Acts 2:16-17).  And even though the apostles, and later Paul, and now, still, faithful preachers today, appear timid, fearful, and weak in appearance, in their preaching you will find a boldness, a fearlessness, and a power that is not of men, but of God, for they preach not themselves, nor of men, but Christ, Christ who died and rose on the third day.

The world will hear this kind of preaching of Christ as weakness and nonsense.  But in truth, the preaching of Christ is salvation, salvation to those who hear and call on His Name, the Name of the Lord, in faith.  There is salvation in none other; only in Christ (Acts 4:12).  And Him we also preach, for any other content does not lead to eternal life.

This is how we are to know whether or not a preacher is of God or not of God, whether he is faithful or not faithful, and whether you should him or not: whether he preaches Christ.  If he does not, him you don’t need to hear.  If he does not preach Christ, Him you are not to hear, regardless of his popularity or following.  The sheep of our Lord do not follow strangers.  They hear His voice, and His voice alone, not another’s.  The voice of another they flee from, not flock to (John 10:5).  The preacher who does not preach Christ is not a Christian preacher, but one who deceives his hearers, robbing them of the Lord’s comforting Gospel, and drawing them away from the Lord who purchased them with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

Him who preaches Christ, on the other hand, is him you are to hear, not because of the preacher, but because of the Word he preaches.  Where Christ is preached, there the Holy Spirit is doing His work, for the Holy Spirit points to Jesus.  Therefore, the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was not for the purpose of drawing attention to the speaking in tongues.  The speaking in tongues by the apostles by means of the Holy Spirit was also not to draw attention to the Holy Spirit.  The speaking in other languages, other languages that the hearers could understand, was for the purpose of declaring the wonderful works of God.

What was before unknown was now heard.  It was heard because the Lord sent the Word to be heard.  That is the Word of Christ, and salvation in His Name.  The content of the apostles’ preaching on that Day of Pentecost was Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23).  The Spirit being poured out on the disciples meant that the message of sins forgiven was then to go out into the world, beginning at Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and into all the world (Acts 1:8).

And this is what was done.  This is what is being done.  This is what will be done.  The Holy Spirit continues to do His work of pointing to Christ, creating faith, and sustaining faith, through the Word of our Lord given to preach, proclaim, and make known.  We need not worry that the Lord will bring to Himself all who believe and call on His Name.  Whether that be through us or through others, it’s not we who are to saved the world, but Christ, who already has accomplished and completed that we which we are not able.

Our concern also is not the conversion of others. Making unbelievers into believers is not our job.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit, when and where He pleases.  Our concern is to remain faithful to Christ and to His Word, for it is they who love Christ who will keep His Word.  It is they who love Christ who will confess His Name and what He has done, and what He continues to do today.  Doing these things will keep us busy enough.  They will also bring trouble and challenge enough, too.  Many there are who do not want to hear the truth, the truth of God’s Word, the truth of how God works through what the unspiritual and the ordinary, even God becoming flesh.  Many there are who scoff at Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as God’s means of grace.  Many there are who don’t want to hear what is despised of man and utter foolishness to human wisdom.

But here our Lord says through the Apostle Paul, The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:25). He also says that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

You need not worry that the way God works and the means through which the Holy Spirit brings about faith and keeps in the faith are despised, rejected, and trampled down by others.  Through them God will accomplish what He will, for according to His Holy Word does He work.  So also you need not worry that not everyone who hears His Word believes the Name of Christ.  God knows those who are His.  He knows them by Name (Isaiah 45:3-4).  He also knows who will be His through the Word preached and proclaimed.

It is the preaching, the proclaiming, the confessing Christ’s Name that we are to be about doing.  It is through these that the Lord converts and brings abut faith.  And this is not our doing.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Whether there be few or many who heed the call to repent of their sin and believe the Gospel, you are given to continually do so, to contend for the faith, to confess Christ, to endure, and to remain in the that which God gives, even in His Word and receiving the blessed body and blood of our Lord.  Through these, God strengthens and preserves you in the one true faith.  Be concerned more about something else and you have misplaced your trust.  But God would have you trust Him, and entrust yourself to Him who is the Church’s Head.  He knows how to take care of His own body, and He knows how to bring others into His fold.

Our Lord gives confidence in the face of trial.  He also gives boldness and direction in the way you should go.  He does not give the Spirit of timidity and fear.  But He does give the spirit of power, and love, and of sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  Sending His Spirit on that Day of Pentecost, the apostles, receiving power from on High, preached boldly the Name of Christ.  They flinched not at what might have been.  The did not heed the warnings of the naysayers and those who doubted the Lord’s Word.  They pressed on.  In the midst of hardship, they continued.  To threats to keep silent, they spoke all the more, saying, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

These things they did because the strength to do so was not their own.  These things they did because the strength was another’s.  The words that they spoke, the things they declared, were not of men.  They were of God.  This was their confidence and this was their hope.  It is also our own.

The Psalmist writes, that The help of man is useless (Psalm 60:11; 128:12).  He also says, It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man (Psalm 118:8).  Man will fail you.  God will not.  Your confidence is the Lord.  Your confidence is His Word and His promise.  Remain in these, and you will not fret and worry about things you need not worry or be anxious about.  Trust in Christ Jesus, your help and your salvation (Psalm 79:9).  In him you have your Savior, in Him and not you or anyone else.

This was the message of the apostles on that Day of Pentecost, that Day where the Lord gave utterance through the mouths of the apostles.  It is still that message which the Lord gives utterance through those who proclaim His Word today: salvation from sin and death, in Christ alone.  The Lord grant the power of the Spirit to ever have Christ’s Name boldly proclaimed.  And the Lord grant us to believe such Words.  Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

 

 

Notes

  • Day of Pentecost-fulfillment; more important than the experience and the speaking in tongues, the ‘gifts of the Spirit’ is the WHO who is giving them out

Fulfillment of OT; Fulfillment of Jesus’ Word; What does the Holy Spirit Do?  Testifies of Christ!

  • Day of Pentecost-today; God gives without measureà how? Word and Sacrament: the means through which God’s Spirit works; Doing what? Bringing about faith

 

 

The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

 

What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

 

The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

 

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean?
The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

 

How does God’s kingdom come?
God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

 

 

Luther

We desperately need this Pentecost sermon of the Holy Spirit, so that he may give us a courageous heart, so that we, too, may persevere, regardless of who is offended, regardless of how much people may slander us.  And even if cults and sects arise, we will also ignore that.  That’s the kind of courage we need, a courage that remains undisturbed by any of these things and simply continues fearlessly to confess and publicly proclaim Christ, who was so grossly misjudged, condemned, and killed. [Sermons of Martin Luther, The House Postils, Vol 2, p163]

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord

1In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

      4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

      6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11)

 

On the day of His ascension, Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, ascended on high.  Of this day, St. Paul says in today’s epistle, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory…seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23).

This means that the name of the Lord is above every name, even yours and even mine.  Jesus Christ is not just one Name among many.  His Name is above all.  Nor is He Savior to one, but not to another.  He is the Savior of the entire world.

All of us are sinners.  But God, who is rich in mercy, gave His Son for all people, in order that they believe and so be saved (Ephesians 2:4).  This is the glorious truth that Jesus Himself declared.  He says, He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.  And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.  I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak (John 12:44-50).

Christ’s ascension means that Christ is head over all things and over His holy church, His church sanctified and cleansed with the washing of His Word, glorious and not having spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish because of Him who gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5).

Christ over all things means that He sees all and knows all.  Nothing passes by His watchful eye.  He knows your weaknesses and your sins, but He also knows how to save and to deliver.  He knows your needs before you even ask Him.  He gives everlasting hope where you see none.  He gives this promise, that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose  (Romans 8:28).  This does not mean that we always know how ‘all things’ work together for good.  But it does mean that all things do, even if you don’t see how it is to be so.

God’s Word is your trust.  His promises – your confidence.  But God’s way is to work through what is foolish and weak in the eyes of the world…

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Christ’s cross and the preaching of it is utter foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).  The preached Word might seem empty and powerless, but the Lord Christ says that His Words are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63).

The Sacraments instituted by Christ might seem like they are only works of men, but the Lord Jesus says that they give what He offers, even forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  These are works that only God can do.

God works when and how He wills to work (John 3:8).  His way will remain hidden to those who seek Him outside of His Word, but to them who seek Him according to it, He will reveal Himself.

Of that Word, our Lord says, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).  Of Baptism, the Lord says, in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and wherever His Name is, there is He (Matthew 28:19; Numbers 6:27).  Of the Lord’s Supper, Christ says, My body and my blood (Matthew 26:26-28).

Christ is truly in the heavens, but you do not go to the heavens to find Him.  Christ, as God, is everywhere.  He is omnipresent.  There is no place one can go that He is not.  But everywhere is not where you go to find God’ Son, your Savior, speaking life and salvation.  Everywhere and anywhere are not where you go to find God FOR YOU.

It is as St. Paul says, The righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart‘ (that is, the word of faith which we preach) (Romans 10:6-7).

You find the Lord Jesus to be your Savior in His Word, in His Word preached and in His Word attached to elements of water and bread and wine. And in this Christ Jesus, your risen and ascended Lord who comes to you by means of Word and Sacrament, you have peace with God.  Having ascended into heaven, Jesus sits at God’s right hand, not for Himself, but for you.  He intercedes for you on your behalf (Romans 8:34).

Because Jesus “continues forever,” He Has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Jesus is your hope before God and your certainty of life everlasting.  Because of His death, you too have died to sin.  Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under His grace (Romans 6:14).  Because of Christ’s resurrection, you too will rise from the dead.  Because of the Lord’s ascension, you know that you have a God who is favorable toward you, because Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand for you.

As Priest, Christ intercedes for you.  Once He shed His blood.  In Him, you are forgiven.

As Prophet, He continues preaching His Word into your ears that you believe and so be saved.

As King, He rules over land and sea and ushers in His heavenly kingdom, which is Not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), whose kingdom you also are members through faith in Him who came into the world, ascended on high.  Amen.

 

Notes

“Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of our Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe.  Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation.  Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which (Luther correctly taught) is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time.  Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space.  He is with us as true god and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established: His Word and His Sacraments.  We mortals in those means of grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.” [Scott Kinnaman, gen. ed., Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis: CPH, 2008), 302]

  • Where is Christ?  He is in the heaven, but also with us—in a very tangible way! (See Romans 10 above)

John 14:18-19 18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 ” A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

  • Sitting at the right hand of God the Father: “With this expression Scripture teaches that Christ, as true man, is not only present everywhere, but also now fully exercises His divine power over the whole universe.” (SC, 141)

Ephesians 1:20-23 20 [God] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  • Prophet: Christ sends people to proclaim the saving Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 4:10-12 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for a work of service, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Luke 10:16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

  • Priest: Christ pleads and prays for us before the Father

Romans 8:31-34 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

  • King: Christ rules and protects His church and governs over all the world especially for the benefit of His church.

Christ governs the world by means of the ruling authorities (Kingdom of the left)

Christ govern His church by means of His Word (Kingdom of the Right)

Whoever Loves Jesus Keeps His Word

15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

      18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will     manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. John 14:15-24

 

 

Novelty in the Christian faith is something to be wary of.  The Christian faith is historic.  Christians have gone before us and Christians will come after us.  The one common thread is the faith of our Lord Christ, in Him who is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The objective Christian faith is this way.  It does not change as the seasons.  It does not change with the times.  It stays the same and does not because its Author stays the same and never changes.  This is great comfort!  God the Lord does not change His love and mercy towards you.  Independent of the sin and regardless of the trespass, God the Father, through His Son, gives you His entire and complete forgiveness.  It doesn’t matter how big of sinner you are.  Nor does it matter what you’ve done.  God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of your sin, whether large or small.

This is so because of Christ.  Jesus kept all the commandments of the Father ‘to the T’, perfectly obeying them, lacking nothing.  But Jesus had no need of making amends for any of His own sin.  He had none.  The Scripture says that Jesus knew no sin (1 Corinthians 5:21).  The Bible says that, In all points He was tempted as we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus did not keep the commandments for Himself.  He was already completely righteous, without sin, and entirely perfect.  But when the fullness of the time had come, God’s Son was born of a woman, and born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:4-5).

God sent His Son, not for Himself, but for you.  Christ died on the cross, not for His own sinlessness, but to clear you of your sinfulness.  This is the good news of God’s changelessness.  Christ already died on the cross, never to die again.  He already conquered death and the grave.  Because Christ has done these things, sin and death are no longer your lot.  God’s grace and His mercy are.

These do not benefit you if you refuse these gifts of our Lord.  God and His Christ do nothing with partiality.  He either forgives all your sin or none of your sin.  Your works do not add anything to what God has already done.  His forgiveness is all according to His grace, as it is written, To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:5-6).

Because of Christ—this is why you are forgiven.  The promises of God are yours, for Christ’s sake.  Though you change, being confident the one moment and doubting the next, God does not.  He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  His Word is true; His grace, sufficient (John 3:33 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Through ordinary bread and wine, though these are all your eyes see, Jesus is really and truly present, for you, not because you do see, but because He declares it to be so.  For this reason, God’s Word is our confidence in faith and life.  Your understanding of it is not.

The Christian faith finds itself, not in novelty, but in faithfulness; steadfastness to Him who paid the price for our redemption with His own suffering and death. We were bought at a price, therefore, we are to honor and glorify God with our body, even with our heart, mind, and mouth (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

We were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Christ is the means for understanding today’s text from St. John, the 14th chapter.  All that has been said was said for your benefit.  In order for anyone to love the Lord, he must first know that He has a gracious God, in Christ.  It is God who first loved us.  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

To love the Lord, there must first be faith in the heart.  It is the bitter truth that apart from Christ, without faith, no one can rightly love God.  Any who think they can or are only deceive themselves, for God says, Whatever is not from faith is sin and that without faith it is impossible to please Him  (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).  Also, Jesus Himself says, Without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

It is revealed in Scripture that you lack what God demands.  This is why Christ is necessary.  Without Him, you are still in your sins.  Only in Christ does God count you righteous, perfect, and holy, not because you originally possess these qualities (of yourselves you don’t), but because what is Christ’s is counted as your own, for Christ has taken what is rightly yours—your sin, your death, and your hell.  One truly fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things only in Christ.  Because Christ was perfectly obedient to the Father, through faith, Christ’s obedience is considered as yours.

A Christian does not boast in his own work.  But he does boast in Christ’s work, acknowledging the truth that apart from Christ, he bears no goodness of his own before God, as the hymn has it, ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name’ (TLH 370, v1)..  Like Paul, the Christian too learns to say, with confidence, God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

Having said this, that Christ is your boast, He your Salvation, your Hope, and your life, the words of Christ from St. John’s Gospel are all the more relevant, for in Him do they find their proper place.  The Lord’s commandments you don’t fail to keep, because everything of Christ’s is already yours.  Just the opposite takes place.  Because in Christ everything of His has become yours, you can’t help but keep what the Lord says, both with regard to the true doctrine, for there is Christ, and with regard to life, loving neighbor.

This is so because Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).  No longer are you under this curse.  You already have God’s favor, through faith in God’s Son.  Therefore, because of Christ, you freely keep and do what God says, cheerfully from the heart, according to the new man within you.  You still contend and struggle with your sinful nature, and your flesh is still weak, but the spirit is indeed willing (Matthew 26:41).

Therefore does Jesus speak of having and keeping His commandments.  To say that you have them, but not to keep them is nothing but hypocrisy.  I’m here speaking of God’s commandments, not man’s.  Man and the world invent their own works to please God.  But these only anger Him, for they do not have His approval, for they neither come from faith or belong to His Word.

Here is where we must be careful.  Our Lord clearly says, The one having my commandments and keeping them, it is he who loves me.  By commandments, He means HIS Word. Just a little later, He says, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me (John 14:23-24).

This is how you love God, by believing the Word which He has given and remaining in it.  All who do not do this, following the dictates of their own heart and not what the written Word says, show who they truly love and who they truly don’t.  Not keeping God’s Word is sin.  This is why we take issue with wrong uses of Scripture and declare the truth of God and not the thoughts of men.

This is what Christ is talking about with regard to loving Him and keeping His Word. This is what makes it so necessary not just to believe anything that is said everywhere and anywhere, whether verbally or in print, whether in Christian bookstores or on Christian TV, or anywhere else, but to discern whether it is of God or of man.  Loving Christ means no less than paying close attention to preaching and teaching, distinguishing between what is true and right from what is false and wrong, only according to the Word, for not everything that sounds Christian is Christian.

This is how we love Christ, by keeping His Word.  This means, believing it, trusting in Christ for mercy, and not doubting His work, but placing full confidence in Him who loves us so.  Believing it, we will also live accordingly.  Though we be weak in the flesh, Christ remains our life and our peace with God.  Therefore will we ever be vigilant in good works that are according to God’s commands and doing in faith, even pointing out truth from error and suffering for it on account of Christ.  We won’t have the love of the world for doing this, but we will indeed have the love of the Father, the love of Christ, and Jesus making Himself known to us.  Amen.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 (ESV)

The Christian faith is one of particularity, distinctiveness, and exclusivity.  Though we welcome all people, we also make clear distinction between truth and error.  This is so because of her Lord, the Head of the Church.  Jesus Christ is this Head, the only one.  Neither the pope nor a bishop, neither a pastor or even a President, is the Head of Christ’s  Bride.  Only the very Son of God has this position, the same one who now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22).

This is He of whom Scripture says, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard (Colossians 1:14-23).

This Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head, is the Only Way to eternal life.  None other has right to this claim.  There is salvation in none other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  This has been the proclamation of the Christian Church throughout the ages, and it will continue to be so.  Her message is Christ crucified and this is the content of her preaching.  In both her speaking and in her doing, Christ receives all glory, honor, and praise.

 This is because all these go to Him. His is the Name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9).  And though all do not now acknowledge Jesus for who He is, there will come a time when every knee will bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

 In the meantime, God’s people witness of Christ and delcar Him as the only Savior from sin, death, and the plwer of the devil.  In both love toward God and love toward neighbor, the Christian shows forth the unique claim of Christ, that He Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 God’s command to love neighbor means to love both friend and foe, ally and enemy, Christian and nonChristian.  Here, there is no distinction.  As Christ loved us and all people, whether they be Pharisee or tax collector, Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, so are we to love all others.  Whoever it be that needs our help, we help as we are able.

 This our Lord would have us do.  In truth, He has done the same for us.  He loved us before we ever loved Him (1 John 4:10).  He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.  Even those who reject God and His love in Christ, for them too did God send His Son to suffer and die.

 This demonstrates how God’s love works.  It’s not conditional, but unconditional.  This means that it can be rejected and denied.  But only those who believe receive the blessing.  God’s love is given to all, though only few accept it by faith.  But this doesn’t change God’s love towards the world.  This He has shown and demonstrated with Christ’s death for us.  God wants all to repent of their sinful ways and so be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).  God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:7).

 This is why God sent Jesus into the world, why God gives His Word, and why the earth is still going on today.  The end is not yet.  God’s grace is abundant.  It is by His grace that we are alive yet and that the world continues, not because of what people do, but because of God’s providence and provision for everything we need, even through what people do.

 The point here is this, that as God is towards the sinner, whether believer or unbeliever, in providing what is needed for the body for either, so are we to do the same.  We don’t not help someone because they are not Christian or because they’re in error.  God here would use us to be His hands and feet, as it were, that they in need be cared for.

 These things have to do with our life towards one another, love to our neighbor, whether inside or outside the home, and whether to a fellow believer or heathen.  With regard to these, the Christian is is willing to give up even their very life for the sake of another.

 On the other hand, when it comes to the holy things of God, when it comes to God’s Word and His teaching, His doctrine, the Christian can give up nothing, but remains steadfast to Him who is forever faithful.  With regard to physical needs, we give everything we’ve got.  With regard to God’s Word, we cannot but press on in the truth of our Lord and declare the mercies of God through Jesus Christ.

 Because God in the Second commandment says, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain, using God’s Name to defend teaching that is not true is not tolerated in Christ’s Church (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).  The Church follows in the path that her Lord has already given, that of His Holy Word.  This the world does not like or appreciate, but this is the path that leads to life because it directs Christ.

 Though the world see intolerance for just any kind of teaching as a bad thing and would have it so that anything goes, this is not so with the Lord.  This is because the Lord desires salvation, not acceptance by the world.  There is no other way to heaven but through Christ.  Muhammad, Buddha, the Pope, and even Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, let alone any other, including ourselves, do nothing for anyone with reference to status before God.  Any who follow another besides Christ on the way to God the Father are in fact on the way to perdition.  All roads do not lead to heaven.  It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere on is.

 This is so because only Christ saves.  As man, Jesus died the death of sinners, though He Himself knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).  As God, Jesus’ death covered the sins of all people.  Only through Him does one go to the Father.  Man cannot save Himself from God’s wrath.  Nor can any other do anything for us to turn His anger away.

 All religions that are false will teach another way to heaven than through Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising on the third day.  Others will even include Christ’s work, but add also their own.  This is not Christian.  Neither is it acceptable.  There is only one true religion, and it has Christ as beginning, middle, and end, giving Himself for us, sinners as we are, that we be saved, remain in His Word, and receive the crown of  life when we pass from this life to the next (John 8:31-32).

 This is why we are so insistent on distinguishing between man’s word and God’s Word.  Said another way, man’s doctrine and God’s doctrine.  This is the difference between heaven and hell.  Though many in Christendom believe Christ to be their savior, and for this we are thankful, their doctrine is not completely in agreement with Scripture.  Whether this be church or individual, this is something of which to take heed and for which to be careful, for it is written, A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9).  And as said in another place, Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them (1 Timothy 4:16).

 It is possible for even Christians to be misled and deceived.  Following man’s thoughts and ways concerning Godly things is dangerous business.  To Christ, then, we hold fast, to Him and to His Word.  His Word is truth, truth that leads to life.  Our word does not.  We distinguish between ours and His because He does.  And because He does, we do.

 When it comes to Christ and His Word, the very truth itself, we dare not budge.  Nor do we give an inch.  Christ alone is our Savior, and the only One for the world.  Compromising the Word of truth because of personal struggles or for the acceptance of others is something that we cannot do.  God does not lead this way.  He leads through the narrow gate and the difficult way, to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14).

 There are few who remain on this way of our Lord to life because it is not easy.  It is the way of faith, not of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  It means fighting the good fight of faith, daily bearing one’s burdens, denying oneself, and following Christ (1 Timothy 6:12; Galatians 6:5; Luke 9:23). It means, contrary to hope, in hope believing, believing the promises of the living God though everything, including our sinful hearts, and the world, speak against them (Romans 4:18).

 Our faith is not founded, however, on sinking sand.  Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, our foundation is unshakeable (Colossians 2:20).  The rain will descend.  The floods will come.  The winds will blow and beat against us.  But our foundation will remain because our foundation is Christ.  (Matthew 7:24-26). It is as the hymn says, ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.’  God will not leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  He helps us and gives to us the strength to remain in Him by means of His Word and through His blessed body and blood.

 Christ Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  This we know because this He has revealed in His Word.  There is no other way, no other truth, and no other life than He who journeyed to the cross, put to death our sin, and was raised to life on the third day.  The world would like to think that there is another way to God, but such is not the case.

The Christian faith is the only true faith.  Only Christ is the way that leads to life.  There is none other.  Though the world will pass away, The Word of the Lord will endure forever (1 peter 1:25).  And all who believe in God’s promises through Jesus Christ will receive the crown of life.  The Lord grant us this faith and keep us in this faith, through Jesus, God’s Son, Amen.

Jn14.1-14, Easter 5, 2011A, Notes

Jesus Alone Gives Life

1[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:1-10 (ESV)

Jesus here makes a distinction. It is a distinction worth noting. It is a distinction worth paying attention to. It’s not for little reason that Jesus says of Himself that He came that they have life and have it abundantly, and that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

In context, Jesus is talking about sheep, sheepfolds, doors, and doorkeepers. He here illustrates for us the difference between true preachers and false preachers, and the center of all true preaching, Christ. Jesus and Jesus alone gives life, and abundant life at that. He is the door through whom heaven is opened (John 14:6). It is through Christ, without your works, that you stand righteous before the living God. Though works are indeed necessary, though not for your salvation, your works don’t make you a Christian.

Here is a truth that stands quite forsaken today, but a truth that is true just the same. No one is a Christian because of what he does. You are not a Christian because of what you do. You are a Christian because of what another has done. You are not a Christian because you do this or that, or because you don’t do this or that. You are a Christian because Christ has cleansed you from your sin, because God has made you a Christian through the waters of Holy Baptism. You are holy child of the living God because Christ shed His blood for you. It is God that pronounces you righteous through His beloved Son. You therefore do the right thing because you are a Christian.

But you are not a Christian because you do the right thing. This would make you a Christian based on what you do, not on Him who shows mercy and bestows grace. If it were true that you were Christians because of what you do, you would have to say that if you did good, then you must be a Christian. If you did bad, then you must not be a Christian.

Here, the confidence is placed on you and what you do, not on God and what He done. The truth is, all of you, myself included, have to say that we have not done good enough and that even the ‘good things’ we have done are tainted with wrong motives, improper attitudes, and selfish reasons. We are not t perfect as God demands.

God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 20:7). And we are not. If you were to base Christianity on you, you could not be certain of being in God’s favor. In fact, you would be nothing but uncertain of being in God’s favor.

Doubt is not of faith. Nor is it of God. Surety and confidence before God does not rest on you, but on Christ. And on Him, it is nothing but certain.

Therefore, does St. Paul write, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), a peace, by the way, which no one can take away from you.

Being a Christian is not based on what you do, but on Christ and what He has done for you. Though you are not holy, Jesus is. His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness is counted as yours through faith in Him. Like Abraham whose faith God counted to him as righteousness as Abraham believed the promise of God when God promised him a son to be born of his own body, though he was old and his wife Sarai was past the age of child bearing, so our faith too is counted as righteousness, as we believe in Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Genesis 15:1-7).

You cannot escape the truth of your sinfulness. But God has taken care of our sin with His Son’s death on the cross. And Jesus did not stay dead! “The third day He rose again according the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed).

To be Christian means to have Christ as your own, and to have Christ’s righteousness counted as your own. This doesn’t mean that you now don’t have to do the things that you should, or that you can now neglect the needs of your neighbor. God’s grace and mercy toward you doesn’t mean that now there’s nothing for you to do. With regard to your salvation, yes, this is true. Jesus Christ died your death. And as Paul rightly says, “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Thus, having Christ, you have everything.

And as He has everything and gives to you, so you, having everything, give to others. God doesn’t need your help. Nor does He need your good works. But your neighbor does. As Christ came, “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many,” so you too are not here to be served, but to serve, to serve others in their need and to help as you are able with the gifts that God has given us (Matthew 20:28).

It is not the things that you do or don’t do that make you a Christian, but God who makes you a Christian. Though it is right to say that a Christian lives this way or that way, it is not right to say that those things make one a Christian. They don’t. Your works, as good as they might be, do not make you who you are. It is Christ that sanctifies and cleanses your works that they be pleasing to our heavenly Father, and this through faith.

Your true identity is in Christ, the One who makes you whole and acceptable to God. It is what God has done, what He pronounces, that makes you who you are—a saint; forgiven and not condemned; redeemed and not forsaken; a child of the living God, baptized, cleansed, and holy.

Through faith you take hold of these declarations of God and say Amen to what God has said. Though you know yourselves to be prideful, selfish, and corrupt according to the flesh, God speaks His Word. He reveals to you your Savior. He calls you to believe what He says.

“Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

In another place, it is written, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

In still yet another passage, God inspired St. John to write, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

This is all good news. God has not left you in your sin. Nor does He leave the decision to you. If He did, you would all be lost. None who are dead in their sins can rightly choose Christ. Just as Adam was lifeless apart from the breath of God breathed into Him, so are you lifeless when it comes to the things of God unless God first give you life (Genesis 2:7).

It is as St. Paul writes, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). God, in His grace, has revealed His Son, Jesus Christ, to you, not as judge and lawgiver, but as Savior and author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

Therefore do we say that ‘we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and kept us in the true faith.’ (Meaning to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

Jesus comes to you in Word and in His very body and blood. What you receive here are the gracious gifts of a loving God. This is the blessing of the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why He comes, to give you everlasting life. He comes not to destroy, but to save a people for Himself. He comes, not to steal, kill, and destroy, but to protect, to make alive, and to preserve for all eternity.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of is more than anything this world could ever offer. He Himself said it this way, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The answer to both questions is ‘nothing’.

On the one hand, a man might have everything in this life, yet really have nothing at all. All the riches of the world amount to nothing in eternity.

On the other hand, a man might have nothing in this life, yet in reality, have everything, and all the riches of heaven. The difference is not in the quantity of things that you posses. It is a matter of who has you.

If God has you in Christ and you are His, you have everything, though you don’t see the fullness of all that is yours. Your true treasure is in heaven, where both moth and rust cannot ever destroy. If God doesn’t have you, if you don’t believe in Christ according to His Word, you really have nothing, though you might think that you have everything.

Because God gives us His Word, gives us His Son, there is nothing for you to be in doubt about. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, God worked faith within our hearts and continues to grow that faith through His Word preached and the Holy Supper received. Because He is doing the doing, there can be no doubt that God effects what He will for your good and keeps you in the true faith according to and through His Holy Word. As the Psalmist says, “God is my helper. I will trust in Him and not be afraid.” (Psalm 54:4; 56:11; Isaiah 12:2)

But if doubts ever should arise, know that these do not come from God. Though uncertainty raise its head, don’t listen to it. Don’t entertain such thoughts. Fight against them. Turn away from them, and hold tight to God’s sure Word in Christ. You’re not alone. And when you become tired and weary in your struggle, remember that words of Jesus where He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

God would have you trust in Him. He would have you deny yourself, and cling alone to Him in hope. His Word does not and will not fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14). His mercy endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, 29; 136:1-26). This is so because God has revealed it by means of His One and only Son. God gives you His Word, that you hang on to Jesus as for dear life and listen to none other, that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we have life in His Name (John 20:31).

Only Christ gives you abundant life. There is none other that does. Only Christ gives you a conscience free from blame. Go anywhere else and you won’t have a clear conscience. Only Christ gives you the sure confidence of God’s mercy, and the promise of eternity with Him. Trust in something else, and God’s promise to you is not sure.

God gives to you His Word that you distinguish between what is true from that which is not. Only Jesus leads to life and the green pastures of heaven. All others lead to barren land and eternal death. All who are of Jesus’ flock follow Jesus, for they know His voice. Those who are not of Christ’s sheepfold follow another, and not Christ.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. To all that follow Him and hear His voice, He gives life that has no end, not a life that is trouble-free and without challenge, but one where Christ is, preserving, sustaining, and saving, now and forevermore.

True preachers preach Jesus according to what the Bible says. All others preach something different. And those who follow Christ as His beloved sheep hear only those who preach Him aright. They won’t listen to strangers, that is, false teachers, for they don’t know his voice. They will only listen to Christ and to His Word, for they love the Lord. And because they do, they seek to be faithful to Him who gives it.   Amen.

What does the Bible teach about love and tolerance?

 The Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son” (1 John 4:10; see also John 3:16; Romans 4:7-8; 5:8). God’s love extends to everyone, yet God’s love is not to be equated with tolerance as popularly defined today (i.e. acceptance of idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, false doctrine, etc.) God does indeed condemn all sin, but there is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:3-5), for Jesus came to save sinners by means of His death on the cross. Sinners who love the Lord seek to please God and not the world (Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:22; 1 John 2:15; see John 14:21-24).

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