Filed under: Confession & Absolution-The Office of the Keys, Devotions, Justification & Sanctification-The Christian Faith & Good Works, The Theology of the Cross, Theology & Doctrine, Worship & Liturgy | Tagged: Church year, Cross, Lent, Repentance, Seasons, Suffering | Leave a comment »
“Therefore, having been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
There is much talk about faith these days. Recently, I heard one numerous times in discussion say, “I have my faith.” Yet, such talk about faith is quite vague. It seems to emphasize the “me,” of faith, and doesn’t really get to the object of the Christian faith, which is Christ.
Remember the words of Jesus. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
Remember the words of St. Paul, too. “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:31).
These words also apply to Christian faith, even our own faith, which is neither self-derived or self-chosen, a personal decision or a choice. Rather, the Christian faith is the God-given faith.
The Bible teaches such truth, for as Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Speaking of the flesh, St. Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).
According to God’s Holy Word, which is what the Bible is, “those who are in the flesh” are not of faith. This applies to all people, as all people are born through the womb. Naturally, such people are in need of a Savior since the Fall of Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). Dead in sin, from conception to physical death, a spiritual birth is needed. One must be reborn.
Such rebirth cannot and does not happen by choice or personal decision. That which is dead cannot do anything of itself. It is God, through His Holy Word, which gives life, new life, abundant life (John 6:63, 10:10). Thus do we have Christ, who speaks life, that we be born anew, even through water and word (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).
Similar to the account of Jesus calling dead Lazarus from the tomb (John 11:38-44), so Jesus calls us from death to life by means of His Word, even His Word preached today (John 6:63). Where His Holy Word continues to be preached today, He continues to bring forth the hearers from death to life.
The preaching of Christ’s cross does not make Christians either lazy or unproductive (Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 5:6). Instead, the preaching of Christ’s cross, of His death and resurrection, enlivens true faith. Evangelicalism here gets it wrong where they empty their preaching of the Gospel and instead preach only what you must do of yourself and how to live, yet apart from faith in Christ. They also get it wrong where they emphasis personal faith over and against objective faith, which is the faith given by God through the hearing of Christ and His holy Word (Romans 10:17).
This faith, and this faith alone, that which is of God and His Son Jesus Christ, wrought by the Holy Spirit, is that faith which does not seek its own, but glories in Christ, clearly confessing Him to be Savior.
The Christian faith does just this, and unashamedly (Romans 1:16). This faith confesses Christ, giving Him and Him alone all the glory. So, more than speaking of “my faith” and taking comfort in what “I personally believe” (subjectively, as in “I have my faith”), the Christian faith speaks of Christ and what He has done for me, according to Holy Scripture. Instead of confessing, “I have my faith,” the Christian boastfully confesses in who that faith is—Christ.
“My faith” does not save me. Christ does! Thanks be to God! Amen.
“For the faith that takes hold of Christ, the Son of God, and is adorned by Him is the faith that justifies, not a faith that includes love. For if faith is to be sure and firm, it must take hold of nothing but Christ alone; and in the agony and terror of conscience it has nothing else to lean on than this pearl of great value (Matt. 13:45–46). Therefore whoever takes hold of Christ by faith, no matter how terrified by the Law and oppressed by the burden of his sins he may be, has the right to boast that he is righteous. How has he this right? By that jewel, Christ, whom he possesses by faith. Our opponents fail to understand this. Therefore they reject Christ, this jewel; and in His place they put their love, which they say is a jewel. But if they do not know what faith is, it is impossible for them to have faith, much less to teach it to others. And as for what they claim to have, this is nothing but a dream, an opinion, and natural reason, but not faith.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p88-89)
Prayer: Father in heaven, give us faith which takes hold of Christ and no other. Preserve us in this faith by the means which You freely give and deliver, and keep us from despising Your free gifts of Baptism, Word, and Supper, that we remain yours, and, denying ourselves, follow you. Amen.
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The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.
In the Name of Jesus! Amen.
How difficult it is to wait! Our society and culture is partly, but not fully, to blame for this. We’ve been taught and trained to expect everything right away, and when we don’t get service immediately, or if we have to wait a little bit, we become impatient. Even as our computer connection slows down, we might become agitated.
But as much as society and culture contribute to the desire for speediness, we, too, are to blame for not waiting as we ought. We easily become frustrated, and even down right angry, if the Lord doesn’t answer us right away, let alone, our own way. We readily forget that the Lord’s timing is not according to our schedule, that He is God and that we are most certainly not.
The Psalmist says of the Lord that, “A thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). And St. Peter writes similarly, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
Here, of course, both the Psalmist and Peter are not talking about how one day is a thousand years, or that we ought to define a day differently than a 24-hour period of time, unless context reveals otherwise (i.e. Genesis 1-2, Creation). Rather, the Psalmist and Peter are talking about the Lord’s time, and how different God views time than us. We are finite beings. We have a beginning (i.e. conception) and end (physical death). God does not. He always was and always will be (Exodus 3:14).
Time, from God’s perspective, is viewed differently than our own view of time. One day is “nothing” compared to eternity. God is eternal. Therefore, our concept of time is different for us than our Lord. Yet, by His Word He reveals what He does for our benefit and use.
What seems like “forever” for us is only a “moment” in the grand scheme of things. Rather than considering the duration according to our time frame, the Lord calls us to believe and trust in Him, all the while as we wait on Him
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
The Lord’s will be done. This we pray in the “Our Father.” His will is done according to His will, not our own. As we don’t wait, so we also act contrary to the Lord’s will, not believing in Him as the giver of all things. However, as we do wait on Him according to His Word, we will receive the blessing of God’s goodness. This may not be as we expect. Yet, the Lord blesses far more abundantly than we can ever imagine.
Having Jesus as Savior from sin and death means that we now have peace with God. In His favor, we also believe that God’s will is nothing but good toward us. If that means waiting on Him, so we will do gladly, acknowledging that we are in His gracious hands, and to Him we commend our spirit (Psalm 32:1). Since we belong to the Lord, we also know that our God is nothing but good (Psalm 77:1; Lamentations 3:22-24). Amen.
Prayer: Forgive us, Lord, for our impatience, especially our impatience of waiting on you. Help us to endure and persevere, trusting Your blessed promises alone, confident of your abundant goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
This past week, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, legalized same-sex “marriage” throughout the nation for every state. Such unions are contrary to the Word of God and therefore, are not pleasing to Him. They are unnatural and are unions against nature. This truth we must continually speak, even in the midst of growing opposition. Also, as God’s people, we must continually stand against the growing tide of compromise so readily accepted in Christendom today and speak the “whole counsel” of God (Acts 20:27).
God Himself instituted marriage, to be between man and woman, between husband and wife (Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:4-6). There is no other union acceptable to God. Thus, there is no other union acceptable to Christ’s body, the Church.
What does the decision of the Supreme Court mean for us? It shouldn’t surprise us if greater difficulties and challenges arise for the faithful children of God. Despite such animosity from the world (John 15:18-19), God calls us to be faithful to His Word and to boldly confess His Name.
Note these very applicable words of our Lord Jesus. “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).
Confessing Christ has just to do with speaking the truth of Holy Scripture, the truth of sin and judgment, and the truth of God’s grace and forgiveness in Christ. Not all will hear and believe, to be sure, yet the Lord calls His Church to continue to call sinners to repentance.
This does include calling homosexuals to repentance. This also includes preaching the uncomfortable truth that we, with them, and all people, are deserving of God’s wrath, for “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death.” Here, none are excluded, and no sinner is worse than another before God.
It’s easy to point the finger! But God’s Holy Word also applies to you and me. Thus, humbly we speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), acknowledging that we, too, are sinners deserving of everlasting condemnation, but for the grace of God in Jesus Christ, God forgives us our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-4, 8; 8:1; 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2).
God alone, by means of His Word, changes hearts from unbelief to belief (Romans 10:17). Yours, too!
Though the days now and ahead be and become more difficult for the church as evil and sin become more greatly accepted (i.e. Genesis 6:5, 12; 8:21; Isaiah 5:20-21), we need not fear that God will forsake us. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). His mercy for you endures forever (Psalm 118). “Do not be afraid; only believe (Mark 5:36).
We know these words to be true because God sent His Son (John 3:16-21). Our Lord is faithful (2 Timothy 2:11-13. Even as He suffered, so will we, His church and His people. But we do not lose hope. Confidence in Christ is yours, for as He now lives, having conquered death itself through His own death (Romans 6:10), so do you now live unto Him! He is your peace and your confidence, even amid the growing challenges of our day.
The world will go as it will, but God’s people abide in Christ and His Word (John 8:31-32). Do not be anxious about the ways of the world. Continue to trust in God. Fail you, He will not!
“Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”
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On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41, NKJ)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Who is this Jesus? The disciples did not yet fully believe who this Jesus was, He who was able to calm wind and sea. Yet, they had seen Him exorcise demons, heal the sick, and forgive sinners. They knew Him personally, as they were with Him, but they did not fully know Him. Though He had already done before their eyes the works of His heavenly Father, they had not grasped, according to His Word, who He was, who Jesus is.
Apart from Jesus’ Word, Jesus cannot be fully known. Appearances deceive. God’s Word does not. Consider that before the disciples was a flesh and blood man, even One who slept on a boat during the storm. Yet, this Man also commanded wind and sea, and they obeyed.
This Jesus is none other than God in the flesh. Consider the Psalmist, who writes,
Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, Which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, They go down again to the depths; Their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, And are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, And He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders. (Psalm 107:23-32)
As much as the Psalmist is writing here about the Lord God, so is He writing about the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the One who brings out of distresses. Jesus is the One who calms the storm and stills the waves. He is the One who guides.
With a Word, Jesus does these things. However, Jesus doesn’t promise that we will not have distress and trouble in this life (John 16:33). Storms will certainly come. Nevertheless, as St. Mark reveals, this Jesus is He who delivers, when and where He wills, for not even wind or sea resist His authority. They cannot, because Jesus created them (John 1:1; Genesis 1:1ff).
More than delivering you from earthly troubles, according to His good and gracious will, Jesus delivers you from eternal troubles. The kingdom of God is near in Jesus (Mark 1:15), then, and now. His healing of the sick, exorcising demons, and calming the storms all demonstrate this. These works of God also reveal who Jesus is, in the flesh, for you and me.
The kingdom of God, Paul tells us, is not “eating and drinking” (Romans 14:17), nor is it “of this world,” as Jesus Himself says (John 18:36). Distresses, trouble, and tribulation will come, as will the storms and wind and water, yet He who has authority over these is also He who has authority over death itself, and who alone gives life, abundant life, eternal life.
“Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
Prayer: Dearest Jesus, do not forsake us in our troubles, but deliver us from the evil one, that we remain steadfast in the true faith and not despair of our peace with You, who lived, died, and rose again for our salvation. Amen.
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1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight — That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise. 18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar. (NKJ)
King David, confronted by Nathan the prophet, confessed his sin. He did not try to excuse himself, nor did he play the victim “card.” When confronted with God’s righteous judgement, with God’s Holy Word, David confessed that what God declares is true.
And what sin had King David committed, with the consequence that God called him a sinner and one deserving of God’s condemnation? God had blessed King David greatly. God gave victory over his enemies. He made him King of Israel and gave him to rule the kingdom of Israel. But even with God’s blessing upon him, King David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. However, David’s sin didn’t stop there. David also, to cover up his infidelity and Bathsheba’s pregnancy, had Uriah killed in battle by placing him on the front-line, as it were, knowing full-well that Uriah’s life would be taken from him.
David sinned against his neighbor, first by his adulterous affair, the 6th Commandment, then, by committing murder, the 5th Commandment. But his sin encompassed much more than the external acts, a truth to which no less than Jesus Himself testifies:
Matthew 5:27-28 27 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:21-22 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
Jesus declares that the 6th Commandment and the 5th Commandment are not only broken when they are externally transgressed, but also when they are not fulfilled in the heart. This applies to all the Commandments, including the Table of the Law-Love for neighbor. The breaking of this group of Commandments condemns us all, for neither do we love our neighbor as we should outwardly, nor do we love our neighborly as we ought inwardly.
The transgressing of the 2nd Table of the Law alone brings God’s wrath, yet we deceive ourselves into thinking that these kind of wrongs we can make right by our own doing, by adding our own work, simply changing our ways, and doing better. If this was all that’s necessary, perhaps we could at least convince ourselves that nothing more is needed, and that all would be okay with others.
But all would still not be okay before God! If we fail to recognize that sin against neighbor is sin against God, we fail to recognize the extent of our sin and the greatness of our transgression. What King David had done against Bathsheba and against Uriah her husband was not only done against them. These acts were done against God. And more than that, not only were his actions wrong, so was his heart.
This was David’s problem. David did not truly fear God, fully love God, and completely trust God. This was his sin. He failed to keep God’s Word and instead, did his own thing. But he not only acted apart from God’s Word, clearly disobeying it, He disbelieved it. This David did because his heart was not right. It was corrupt, as he himself confesses, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).
Because David’s heart was corrupt, having inherited sin, this original sin led him to actually, externally, commit sin. This was David’s problem, not only that he committed actual sin, but, first and foremost, that, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, his heart, too, was corrupt and not holy, righteous, and sinless before God.
This, sadly, is our condition, too. Our Lord says that out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:19-20).
You are not unlike King David, whether before or after his adulterous and murderous act. Though you may not have done either of these outwardly, as David did, your heart is not right as it should it be. You, too, were brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin. You, too, sin against your neighbor in word and deed, in thought and mind. But even more than these, you sin against the God who created you, who gives you all that you need for this body and life. Whether you sin against God in word or deed, or in thought or mind, these are signs that, just as David, so also you are not as you should be before God.
Try as you might, and wish as you will, you cannot change your condition before the Almighty Holy God. You are not able. This was David’s lot, too.
Confronted by Nathan the prophet, King David could do no other as a repentant sinner that say, I have sinned against the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13). David did not try to excuse himself, nor did he play the victim “card.” When confronted with God’s righteous judgement, with God’s Holy Word, David confessed that what God declares is true.
Repentant sinners, sinners who know themselves to be sinners, who know how lost their condition is and that they are not as God would have them be say, “Amen” to God’s righteous judgement. They don’t try to come up with ways to appease God with their works, by amending their sinful ways, or by changing their lives. These things won’t work, because what we do or our actions won’t change our problem—because our problem is our condition, our heart.
Like Adam and Eve, before God we are naked in our sin. He who sees all also knows all. Left to ourselves, we are lost and under the full wrath of God’s condemnation. This is what David felt and experienced, and this is also what we feel and experience. We are caught, as David was, with no recourse, and no hope…except One…God Himself.
God, who rightly condemns us because of our sin, is also the one who shows mercy and compassion to the sinner. Thus, David pleads with God for mercy saying, Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions (Psalm 51:1).
According to God’s lovingkindness and the multitude of God’s tender mercies does David say, Blot out my transgressions. And God did, and does! God’s word of condemnation upon the sinner is right and true. We are not as God would have us be, just like David. Yet, God’s word of condemnation is not His last word for the sinner who repents and seeks God’s mercy and compassion.
God had sent Nathan the prophet to confront David, and he Nathan did confront David. David confessed Nathan’s words, God’s word, to be true. He repented of his sin, recognizing what he had done and the condition of his heart, thus he called to God, and held to God’s Word of promise, pardon, and peace, and testified of God’s mercy in this blessed Psalm 51.
At the Word of our Lord, repentant sinners repent, as David did. His confession becomes their confession. Thus, Psalm 51 we, too, make our own, for by it, we testify with the Psalmist of our condition before God, and God’s gracious favor and compassion towards us sinners. We trust not at all in ourselves or in things of this world for comfort or consolation of things eternal, but rest solely on our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Our Lord does give you rest from your labor! Jesus does bestow peace with God, for He has blotted out your transgressions by means of His death. He has washed you thoroughly from your iniquity by the shedding of His own precious blood on the cross. Because of Jesus, therefore, do not fear God’s righteous wrath and condemnation for your sin, for these Jesus suffered for you that they not be yours. And now, they are not. They are His, and because they are, no longer can even Satan accuse you before, nor can your sin:
Romans 8:31-34 31 …If God is for us, who can be against us? 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? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 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.
God hears your pleas for mercy. He hears your cries for help. He hears your prayers for salvation. And these He answers in His Son, whose Name we confess, in whom we believe, and by whom we live. Thus, with the Psalmist do we continually cry, Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12). (Offertory)
With King David had, we also believe the Word of our Lord, God’s Word of Law and His precious Word of Gospel, sins forgiven. And because we do, we also pray with the Psalmist, O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise (Psalm 51:15).
We also acknowledge, particularly in this penitential season of Lent, that The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
With broken and a contrite hearts, we come before the Lord, and He says, and you, He does not despise. Amen.
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