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“Surety in Christ according to His Word”

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  For what can a man give in return for his life?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

bible-cross1It is not of the Gospel to be unsure or uncertain of God’s grace and favor in Jesus Christ.  The grace of God in Christ, without a doubt, is of faith, according to the Lord’s Word.  In this, such faith is sure and will die a thousand deaths.

In a 1992 interview of Diane Sawyer with Billy Graham, speaking about his death, Graham had commented, “I don’t want them (people) to say big things about me because I don’t deserve them.”

He’s right, and such humility is encouraging, and true.

Graham continued and said, “I want to hear one person say something nice about me, and that’s the Lord. When I face Him, I want Him to say to me, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

These latter words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” are words from Holy Scripture (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17), and in Christ, because of Christ, the Christian has the certainty that these words will certainly be said of him.

Yet, keeping this in mind, Graham continued by saying, “But I’m not sure I’m going to hear it, but that’s what I would like to hear.”(http://newsvideo.su/video/8349827)

I pray that his answer had changed since that 1992 interview.

Graham’s statement, “I’m not sure I’m going to hear” those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” convey, not sure faith in the Lord’s promiseGraham,  Billy.jpgs, but rather, wavering confidence and doubt, which is not of faith.

 

Certainty of faith does not come from what “we” think or what we “want,” but alone from God’s grace in Christ according to God’s revealed Word.  By this, Christians know God’s love in Christ, are sure of heaven, and are certain of God’s favor.

In the Formula of Concord, it is stated, “6. We believe, teach, and confess that many weaknesses and defects cling to the true believers and truly regenerate, even up to the day they are buried [1 John 1:8]. Still, they must not on that account doubt either their righteousness, which has been credited to them through faith, or the salvation of their souls. They must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, according to the promise and ‹immovable› Word of the Holy Gospel, they have a gracious God. (McCain, The Lutheran Confessions, Formula of Concord, Epitome, III. The Righteousness of Faith, 481).

Why had Graham voiced uncertainty with regard to what God would say of him in that interview when such a promise of God is made in Christ?

Graham seemed to be sure of being unsure.

A theology like this centers on something other than Christ and His Word, despite their uses and references.  Because of this, the conclusion is not the hope that the Bible gives, but whatever the person engenders, which can and will not be assertive before God of God’s undeserved forgiveness and His unmerited kindness.

Yet, God gives certainty.  This is the fruit of God-given faith.

It is therefore necessary to make distinctions between that which is, and that which is not, of God.

Not all get Jesus right and have full confidence in Him, because not all abide by the Word alone concerning Christ the Savior and His salvation.

When Peter said of Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he was of course stating the truth, the truth that he hadn’t come up with himself, but the truth that had been revealed to Him by the heavenly Father.  Not one of disciples could come to this confession of the Christ on his own.  And no one can come to faith in Christ on his own.

It is for this reason that Jesus had said in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Flesh and blood cannot make out who Jesus is on its own, for “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Man, by himself, cannot know God as He is.  He knows that there is a God, but he does not know, nor can he know, who that God is unless God reveal Himself.

This is why St. Paul can say in another place that “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

It was by means of Jesus’ Word that Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, because the Word of Jesus is the Word of the Father in Heaven.  To hear Jesus is to hear the Father.

To dismiss Jesus’ Word is to reject God’s Word.

To want a Christ apart from the Word is to have a different Jesus.  That’s where Peter went wrong in our text.

Peter wanted a Savior who wouldn’t suffer, who wouldn’t be rejected, who wouldn’t be killed.

Apart from God’s revelation, we, like Peter, want our own kind of god and savior.

first-commandmentApart from the Bible, man makes his own god.  As a result, he makes his own Jesus, not one who suffers and dies, but one who abides by the will of sinful man and follows the dictates of own heart.

The Jesus of one’s own making does not save.  He is an extension of man’s own wickedness.

The Jesus of Scripture is not this way.  The Jesus of the Bible is not He who would be rebuked by Peter for telling the truth.  The Jesus of the Bible is He who would rebuke Peter and who rebukes all who would have their own Jesus and their own god and not the one of the Bible.

There is no other Jesus than the one who was bloodied by the scourging, who wore the crown of thorns, who suffered miserably, and who died so ingloriously.

There is no other Jesus who conquered sin and death by means of His own death.  There is no other Jesus who humbled Himself as man in flesh and blood, though He Himself is One with Father (Philippians 2:8; John 10:30).

There is no other Jesus than He who was sent of God, who was rejected by men and still is rejected by men who don’t want to hear, because they refuse to believe what He says that they may have life and peace with God.

Just as there is no other Jesus than He who gave Himself for you and even He who gives Himself to you by means of His Word and body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for thejesuswomen4 forgiveness of your sins, so there is no other life of the Christian than coming after Jesus, denying self, taking up the cross, and following Him.

All who would go their own way bear the name of Christian in name only.

This is the easier way, for “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NKJ).

The way of the Christian is different.

With Paul, the Christian also confesses, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:7-10).

The way of the Christian is the life of the cross.  It is the way of death, not only of Christ’s death, but of one’s own—dying to sin, crucifying the sinful flesh and desires and lusts which war against the soul, and seeking help and salvation in Christ alone, casting aside lady reason and man pride; having nothing to give but only everything to be given on account of the real Jesus who suffered and died; the real Jesus then, and the real Jesus now, whose Gospel word is life, lasting life.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, aid me in putting to death my sinful flesh, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus according to His Word. Amen.

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Hope in Temptation

“He (Jesus) was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan”

(Mark 1:13)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Words from Luther on temptation…

107] To feel temptation is therefore a far different thing from consenting or yielding to it. luther1We must all feel it, although not all in the same manner, but some in a greater degree and more severely than others; as, the young suffer especially from the flesh, afterwards, they that attain to middle life and old age, from the world, but others who are occupied with spiritual matters, that is, strong Christians, from the devil. 108] But such feeling, as long as it is against our will and we would rather be rid of it, can harm no one. For if we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent thereto is when we give it the reins and do not resist or pray against it. ” (Large Catechism, 6th Petition, 107-108)

Temptations are out there and they are bound to come, but this doesn’t mean you have to give in to them.

Yet, though the spirit be willing, the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).

With the apostle Paul, we too say, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me fromdavid-repents this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).  On your own, you do fail.  And on your own, should you pass the test, you are then tempted to think highly of yourself.

Humility flies out the window, save for the means God uses to once again humble you that you look to Him and boast in Him and not in your own accomplishments and victories.

There is but one hope for sinners who are swayed by temptation and seduced to give in due to the weakness of the flesh.  It is Jesus.  His being tempted in the wilderness gives confidence – not because He is your example, though He is, but more than that – because He is your Savior.

Jesus is Your Savior, who conquered Satan by means of His own death on the cross.  In times of temptation, and at all times, look to Him.  Trust and use His Word and promise, for thjesus-with-word-and-sacramentey are yours, and they are not without power against the attacks of the evil one.

Commend yourselves into the Lord’s hands and keeping.  Entrust yourself to the Lord Jesus, for in Him, God does and God will, deliver you.  He doesn’t lead you into temptation, but He does lead you to Himself, your true and lasting refuge. Amen.

Prayer: Father, lead me not into temptation.  Help me to resist, not by my own strength, but alone in the strength You give me in my weakness. Amen.

“Watch” (Matthew 25:1-13)

1[Jesus said:] “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Lutheran Commentator Kretzmann offers an instructive summary of key points from the Gospel reading before us today, that of the 10 virgins who wait for the Bridegroom.  In his Popular Commentary, Kretzmann writes,

“This parable is connected very closely with the preceding admonitions of the Lord, urging watchfulness and faithfulness, faith and love. The nearer the time of His departure, the more earnestly He strove to impress upon His disciples the need of the Christian virtues which are necessary for a living, active Christianity.”

Continuing, Kretzmann then quotes Luther,

“‘Therefore this parable, to summarize, does not indicate anything else than that we should watch and not be too secure, since we do not know when the day of the Lord is coming…All of it is spoken against our carelessness, the accusation being that we are far too secure, and always think; There is no danger, the last day is not coming for a long time. Against this Christ and the apostles cry out, bidding us take heed for that day, watch, and be in lasting fear, lest it find us unprepared. Therefore those that watch will receive the Lord with His grace, those that are secure will find Him a merciless Judge.’”

Take heed, and remember the Words of our Lord on the night of His betrayal, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41 NKJ).

It is not those who say that they’re Christian and are not that receive the Lord with His grace.  Rather, it is those who continue waiting on the Lord, finding their security in Jesus alone and sure of His mercy and favor, in the present, and until He comes again in all of His glory; these are they who properly watch, having “no confidence” whatsoever, “in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

They who “wait on the Lord,” (Isaiah 40:31), these shall renew their strength, because it is the Lord Himself who strengthens them.

And how does the Lord do this? By the very means that He provides for the certainty of your salvation, that He “strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the truth faith to life everlasting”.

Therefore, believe the Word of the Lord, to you, of sins forgiven, of peace with God, of His favor.  He washed you of your sin by water and Word.  He gives you life through the means of Christ’s very body and blood.  He upholds you by means of the preaching.  He sustains you by His Word, and there, calls you.

“A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9-10 NKJ)

Those who deny the blessed gifts of our Lord show that they are not His, for those who are of the Lord “hear His voice” and “follow” Him (John 10:3).  They demonstrate the carelessness and the false security that Luther spoke about concerning the Gospel.  They really do not expect Jesus to return soon, nor do they heed the warning that the danger is here, now, the danger of impenitence and the Lord’s judgment upon sin, to be fully met upon them on the Day of Judgment.

Continuing with Kretzmann on Matthew 25, he writes what is true and according to the teaching of Holy Scripture.

“When the Kingdom is preached, these are the results: Some receive it with all their heart and are serious about it, believe the Word, make the most strenuous efforts to practice good works, let their lamps shine before the world; for they are well provided with lamps and oil, that is, with faith and love: these are represented by the wise virgins. Then there are some that also accept the Gospel, but are sleepy, are not serious about it, think they can succeed with their works, are secure, and believe it can be paid for with works; those are indicated in the foolish virgins. In Scripture those are called foolish that do not obey the Word of God, but follow their own mind, will not be taught, accept no opinion but their own. But it will happen to them at last as it here happened to the foolish virgins. These two kinds of people are in this Kingdom, namely, where the Gospel and the Word of God is preached and there should be exercise of faith: some follow, some do not follow…”

Jesus gives this warning to all who claim security in themselves and their own faith and not the faith of Christ, “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21 NKJ).

The truth is, we don’t know the timing of our Lord’s return at the “End of days”.

What we do know is that we are to watch, and in the watching, we wait on the Lord, believing His Word.

Therefore watch! Watch what you hear and watch what you do.  Pay close attention to the “doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16).  It is your salvation.

Be ready for the Lord’s coming, having the oil of faith, that you endure to the end.  Only those who are prepared will enter the wedding feast when the bridegroom is to come.  Then the door will be shut where none else can enter.

You are prepared, present and future tense, as you are and continue in the Lord’s doctrine and in the true faith, the faith that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died, and that He rose again, for you.

This is the Gospel, the Gospel which is front and center of all preaching and teaching that is Christian, the very life of the church.

Because of this Gospel, because of Christ, we hold God’s Word to be sacred, we gladly hear and learn it, and we receive the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of our weak souls.

The central teaching of Christ’s church is that the sinner is justified, declared righteous, before God on account of Christ through faith.  If this teaching be weak or nonexistent in the church, the faith of the people will also be weak or nonexistent.

All teaching of the church affects this one saving doctrine, and vice versa.

It is necessary for the church always to be vigilant in her preaching and in her teaching according to the Lord’s Word and not to cower due to oppression by culture, or by persuasion by people.  Rather, she is to be immovable and steadfast to her Head at all times and in all places.

It is also necessary for hearers to hear, and to keep hearing, the good news of sins forgiven, for their eternal well-being, and to distinguish that doctrine which is faithful and true by means of the Holy Word of God, and to avoid that which is false and according to man and the devil.

If one says to you, ‘you are not a sinner in need of forgiveness,’ or another says, ‘your sin is not that bad’, you can boldly say, ‘Christ died to save me from my sin.  Since this is so, I know that I am a sinner, because Christ truly died.  And I still sin.  Therefore do I still need His forgiveness.  And graciously does He give it to me on account of Christ, because of Him and none other.’

Having this confession, you are ready for the Lord’s return, whenever that may be.

Eternal life is not dependent upon you, but upon Christ and Christ alone, even as St. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Christ might seem to be slow in coming, but it is as St. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Though “scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4), Jesus will come in His own time, not ours.

The Lord’s timing is different from our own.   To Him, “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4).  To us, a day is a day, and so we believe that God created the world in six literal days as recorded in the creation account of Genesis.

God sets the time for our sake, not for His, that we abide by what He says and not be led astray by sinners who think they know better than God.

The Bible tells us that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

And, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

When the time has come for the Lord to return, return He will, for all to see.  Though wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes have been going on for years, and will continue to do so until the Lord’s arrival on the Last Day, these in no way indicate that the Lord misspoke His Words of readiness (Matthew 24:6-7).

The ‘not natural’ disasters of our day point ever to the final judgment.  A ‘Mother nature’ does not exist.  God the Father Almighty is maker of heaven and earth.  Not one sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing of its falling (Matthew 10:29).

“Thy will be done, O Lord.”

His will is your salvation.

This “world is passing away, and the lust of it; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

The will of God is this, that you believe in Him whom He sent (John 6:29).

For this reason God has His Word declared to you in your hearing, proclaims to you your Savior Christ, and feeds you with the heavenly bread and drink of His body and blood.  By these, receiving and believing, what your Lord gives, as He gives, you are truly ready for Christ’s return.

Thus do you watch, standing in the faith of those who were before you, and waiting for your Savior to descend in the clouds, just as He has promised.

Look to no other.  “Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8 NKJ).

“Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14 NKJ). Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep our eyes on Jesus, that we not be distracted, but be ready and prepared, always, believing your Word.  Amen.

 

Jesus, Remember Me

27There followed [Jesus] a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

32Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:27-43)

Introduction

Today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke seems far removed from ‘The Last Day of the Church Year’. Where we would expect to hear of God’s Coming Judgment, of signs in heaven and growing tribulation on earth, and of Christ’s return in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11), instead we hear jesus-remembermeof Christ on Calvary’s cross, of women weeping after Him, of people mocking Him as He’s dying, and one of the two criminals crucified with Him saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

An account such as Jesus’ crucifixion does not seem to ‘fit in’ to this time of the church year. It seems like it would be better suited for Lent and Good Friday than today. However, taking a closer look at the text, we find that it is indeed fitting: first, with regard to Jesus’ words to the women who were mourning and lamenting after Him as He is on His way to the cross and death. Second, concerning the proper way to be prepared for our Lord’s return. And third, with reference to Jesus’ words to the criminal on the cross, to whom He said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

First: Jesus’ words to the women

First, Jesus’ Words to the women who had followed Jesus. They were mourning and lamenting because of what was happening. Jesus was going to His crucifixion and death. But to them He says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for jesuswomen4your children” (Luke 23:28). Then He proceeds to tell them what is to come, “29For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:29-31).

Here our Lord is not talking specifically about the Day when He will return. Rather, He is talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, of which Jesus spoke of earlier when He wept over it and said,If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).

The destruction of Jerusalem was in 70 A.D.. It was a foreshadowing of the destruction of the world to come.

The words of Jesus, “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves,” are words also for our years.

We comfort in the ways of the world than in the ways of God. We seek help and remedy from men and not exclusively from God. We look to the here and now and neglect that which is to come according to the very promises of God in Christ. We sorrow over what could be and rejoice little in what is. Yes—indeed—we are sinners.

On these words of our Lord, Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves,” Luther writes…

confession-cross1Such admonition we should accept as addressed to us. For we must all confess that we, on account of sin, are like an unfruitful, dry tree, in which there is nothing good, nor can any good come out therefrom. What will it, then, behoove us to do? Nothing but to weep and to cry to God for forgiveness, and to resist the evil, sinful nature earnestly, and not to give it free reign. For there the sentence stands: Since the fruitful tree is thus treated and God permits such severe sufferings to come upon His dear Son, we should certainly not feel secure, but acknowledge our sin, fear the wrath of God, and pray for forgiveness.1

When it comes to Christ’s death on the cross, many pity the Lord and His suffering, but go no further. They only hear of a man in pain and dying a slow death. But if that’s all that Christ is, Jesus is not Savior.

To pity and to be sorry for Jesus on the cross is not yet to recognize the why of His suffering and of His dying. Jesus willingly chose to go to death on Calvary for you…to pay the penalty for your sins…to suffer in your stead…and to die your death. You deserved all that He received. Willingly He suffered His passion and death, in order to save you from you sins.

Second, The Cross

Second, the cross. St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Later, he wrote, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

It is through Christ and Him crucified by which your sin is no more held against you, Jesus having put to death that which is rightfully yours, that is, death and hell. Because of Christ, you no longer bear the curse of the Law. Christ did that for you.

3crossesThe curse of the law is that curse which says that unless you keep the law’s demands entirely and perfectly, you are judged a sinner and deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment.

Paul says again, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10).

On account of God’s law, you all fall short, for “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). None is righteous, perfect, or holy (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; 143:2; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10).

This none, the all who have sinned, includes you. You have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. You are not righteous. You are not perfect. You are not holy.

Jesus went to the cross that you not die in your sin, but that you live, no longer bearing the curse of the Law because of Adam’s sin and your own. On the cross, Christ took that curse upon Himself, and there, He did away with it.

Jesus died as a criminal—as a sinner—yet He had no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Indeed, Jesus “Was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12)

As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:19-21).

Christ crucified means that your sins are no more held against you, nor can they remain to be. They cannot condemn you before the Holy God because they were already put to death when Christ died. “By the blood of His cross” you have peace with God (Colossians 1:20; Romans 5:1).

Third: Jesus’ Word to the Criminal

Lastly, in today’s Gospel text, is conversation between the two criminals and Jesus while on the cross. The one mocks and blasphemes our Lord. The other defends Him, and says to Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Then, Jesus says to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

By those words, “Remember me,” that one criminal wasn’t asking Jesus to simply not forget him. He was placing himself into the mercy of the Lord Jesus, whom he had come to recognize as One Who did not deserve to be lifted up on a tree, but Who did have the honor of God’s very Son. The man was confessing His faith in the Lord Jesus, and his desire to be with Him. And to him, Jesus promised eternal life.

kingdom-of-god2As you, too, call upon the Lord to remember you, placing yourselves into the Lord’s hands, trusting in Him for deliverance from this body of death, so too does He promise you paradise. When He comes again, this is where all who believe in His Name will be. This is the certain hope that all Christians possess, because God is faithful in all that He declares through His Son.

This is a present hope, but a future reality. It is not a question of “if” you have eternal life. The question is when. And that question is answered even for you, as it was for that thief on the cross, TODAY.

Kretzmann writes, “For all sinners in the whole world the Lord has opened the doors of paradise by His life, suffering, and death, and whosever believeth on Him has complete salvation as soon as he dies. That is the glorious fruit of the Passion of Christ: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.”2

Said another way, “Do not receive the grace of God in vain. Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1, 2).

Conclusion

Though at first, a Lenten text having to do with Christ’s crucifixion might not seem to ‘fit’ very well as a reading for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, there is plenty there for us to consider with reference to the Lord’s Second Coming.

With His precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death”, Jesus “purchased and won you from all sins, death, and the power of the devil” (Explanation to 2nd Article). Rather than weep and sorrow for He who through suffering and death delivered you from hell, sorrow over your own sin. Find comfort in Christ, who died in your stead. Take Jesus’ words of forgiveness, peace, and eternal life to heart, for in and through Him, these are yours. Amen.

1 Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, New Testament, Vol 1, (St. Louis: CPH), 393.

2 Ibid., 395.

 

Hold Fast…

 

“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13, NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

How easy it is to be distracted from the things of God to the things of men, to neglect the One thing needful, and to take for granted God’s grace and favor!

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, writes the words above (2 Timothy 1:13), because, as he indicates in v15, “all those in Asia have turned away from me.”  In other words, “those in Asia” ceased listening to Paul and stopped following the words that Paul preached.

Though many do the same thing concerning the very Word of our Lord, and though many view such diversion from the truth as of little significance, for the Christian, the Word of God has more than importance.  The Word of God is life (John 6:63, 68; 2 Timothy 3:15-17), and directs towards Christ Jesus.  The Law shows us our sin.  The Gospel shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ.   Only Christ saves from sin and hell.  The believer believes this, and desires, seeks, and strives to remain in this faith.

The text from this past Sunday speaks about the challenges of being a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:25-35).  “Holding fast” is such a challenge, for we, of ourselves, are not strong enough to do so.  We are sinners.  But “holding fast the pattern of sound words” is continuing to believe in the Jesus who saves and not in our strength that falters.

God gives strength to remain “in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” by means of His Word and Sacraments.  God has not forsaken you.  Rather, He continues to call you, preaching His Word of forgiveness and salvation through the death of His Son.  So hear, and hold fast to, Christ, who holds you even more strongly (Philippians 3:12).

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, direct us ever to Your Holy Word which gives life, that we live and not doubt, nor reject Your forgiveness and mercy won for us on the cross.  Keep us fast to you, that we live confidently in and by Your grace alone.  Amen.

What is Lent?

Salvation–Possible with God!

“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

Mark 10:27

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.

EyeOfNeedleJesus 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).

ContextThe 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.

Slippery slope2It’s a “slippery slope” to use the Bible in ways not given. Remaining with the context, however, leads us to rightly believe, and firmly to trust, in Jesus.

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.

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