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“Fear Not,” Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

 

Audio

 

5These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, . . . 21“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

cross      24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

      26“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

In Psalm 91, the Psalmist writes,

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; ” (Ps. 91:1-10 NKJ).

Such confidence radiates from the Psalmist, not because of real or perceived worldly circumstance, but because of God’s promises having taken root—believed—with the result that certainty of God’s promises—His Word—is and exists against the antagonists and enemies of God whose words and deeds cannot undo what God declares, whose words and deeds are not at all above God and His ways, and who do not know the extent of God’s revelation in Christ and cannot therefore account for the things of God.

Such confidence in the Lord proceeding from the lips of the Psalmist are quite a contrast to how things are this side of heaven.

Take for example the last verse from Psalm 91 read, verse 10, where the Psalmist records, “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

Such promises appear null and void with reference to reality.

Abraham, King David, the prophets, the apostles, God’s people of all times and ages have suffered and have struggled with all that is at enmity with God.

What we see today, what Christians worldwide experience, what God’s people encounter—the challenges to the true faith that we ourselves struggle with, lament, and long to end continue to go on and seem to be on the increase.

Calls to repent for sins of those before us; growing unrest and rebelliousness against God and His order; redefining gender; broadening the definition of sex beyond biology and contrary to God’s order of creation to whatever one wants to define it as, according to one’s own self-identification and perception and not according to the truth; calling male female and female male; legitimizing homosexuality and all kinds of sexual deviancies…These are just a few of the struggles we face as God’s people in our increasingly godless society, where not truth and reason guide and rule, but emotion and felt-need reign supreme.

Such things, and the positions promoted by the world, as disturbing and troubling as they are—these are only expressive of the greater contrast between the godless and the godly; between the wicked and the righteous; between the unholy and the holy—that greater distinction between that of unbelief and belief; of the impenitent heart from the repentant one.

The myriad of issues finding greater and more open expression today in the church and in the world have as their solution, not changes in policy, political affiliation, greater rules and regulations, giving into the demands of the masses or bowing down to ideologies.

The only true and lasting solution for these things, that which the world rejects, is something more profound, something only God, not we, can produce—sustain—keep.

That “some-thing” is repentance and faith, repentance unto God—faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Christ—that which is produced by God by means of His Holy Word, effected and continued by God and what He Himself says, apart from any human endeavor.

What God says, this is what God’s people cling to, hope in, adhere to, and live by.

We do so because God so commands, and because God so promises, according to His Word, that forgiveness, life, and salvation are ours through His Son.

The Christian believes this, not because of life’s circumstances or the place(s) we find ourselves in.

Christians believe in God.

Christians believe in God’s grace and forgiveness, His compassion and mercy, indeed, His unconditional love—because of Jesus.

They do not believe in God as dependent on changes in the world, that things will get better, that a greater number than less will convert to His Name.

Christians are realists, realists in the sense that they acknowledge life not to be what we determine it to be, but what God so determines according to His will, whether that will of God be pleasing to us or not.

Christians also acknowledge God’s love in Christ in all of this.

As it was the Father’s will that His Son suffer and die, so it is God’s will that we continually look to Him for refuge and strength, in trying times and always.

The truth that things may not get better in life until the Lord’s return does not at all change what Christians do as God’s people as they live by faith unto Him who is their salvation.

Their call is neither to change people or to be the change in society so that others follow.

Theirs is the call far weightier and far more eternal than the call of the world to make this place better.

The Christian is called to believe and to so live by that faith that no trust, no confidence, no hope be in self or in the world, but in the crucified Christ alone.

The salvation of God is not isolated, nor focused, on cleansing the world of its ills or undoing the evils in the world so that we have a peaceful kind of life.

Such a dream for the utopian society is the hope of some, but it is not the teaching of Christianity.

As Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35 NKJ).

God’s aim is not the purging of society’s uncleanness, making more humane laws, creating equality among peoples, or eradicating societal divisions for a worldly kind of peace.

Jesus, of course, did preach peace.

Jesus did preach the true unity of all people—as sinners before God, equal in their individual and collective enmity to Him.

Jesus did not come to establish new laws or to do away with old ones.

Jesus did not come “to destroy the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

By using the term “Law,” Jesus is not speaking about man-made-laws, but that which God revealed in the Old Testament, specifically, His Word given in the first five books of that Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, including the 10 Commandments.

Jesus did not come, nor does He preach, how to live a better life now or how to get through the upheavals of the day, with the result of peace of mind or peace in our day as the world understands peace.

Jesus does not promise the peace that the world seeks to give.

What Jesus does promise is far greater and without comparison.

To His followers, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33 NKJ).

Our fears and concerns, our doubts and uncertainties—these give way to Christ and His Word.

Jesus has conquered death by means of His own death.

Jesus has overcome the world.

It’s ruler, Satan, the devil, Jesus has defeated.

To Jesus is the title, “Victor.”

The resurrection of our Lord testifies to this.

Jesus continues to reign on His heavenly throne, the throne of Him Who is also our Father, our true Father, “so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father” (Small Catechism, Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer).

It is true that we do not perceive these truths with our eyes, but by faith in the Word of the Lord given.

Nonetheless, hidden does not mean absent.

Nor does hidden mean non-existent.

Our confidence is the Word!

Our hope is Christ!

Our certainty is in that which God has revealed, that which He makes known.

So, it was for the 12.

So, it is also for us.

The disciples, the 12—these Jesus sent out as apostles, “sent ones.”

To them Jesus spoke the words of today’s Gospel.

Jesus commissioned them to go out.

He sent them to do certain things, to speak certain words, to declare the nearness of God’s kingdom.

Their reception by all, then, as well as today, is not all welcome, but even that of spite, ridicule, persecution, and even death.

The refusal of others to hear and believe, the preponderance to deny the truth, the resulting opposition to the Gospel—these would be reason for many to not do what the Lord gives to be done.

Not all will believe, so why put in all the work?

It seems a waste of time to put in the effort without the return.

Add to that the apparent foolishness of saying and doing what God gives to say and do, with the result of rejection and martyrdom.

Jesus is not painting a pretty picture of what His followers will encounter.

To remember is that the disciples, the apostles, God’s people, are not so because of what may be in this world as a result of believing in God through His Son.

Jesus’ disciples, apostles, God’s people are so because of God and His Word, because of God’s Son and His promise of eternal life, because of God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy—not because of what they now see and experience in the world, but because of the sure hope in that which they do not now see but have the certainty of because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

What Jesus gives His apostles to do and say, Jesus gave them to do and say.

What Jesus gives His church to do and say is what He gives His church to do and say.

Independent of the consequences, the Word of the Lord stands—because it is the Word of the Lord.

To not do it, to not keep it, to not say it—this is unbelief—not of God.

As the world rejected Christ, so also will that same world reject those who belong to Christ.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24 NKJ).

As it was for Jesus, so will it be for they who follow Him according to His Word, some more, some less.

The outcome of such following, of such doing and saying as Jesus gives the church to do and say is not ours to determine, manipulate, or control.

As it is Christ’s Word—His Word and not our own—the result also belongs to Him alone.

It has always been the way of the Lord to do what He does apart from the dictates and demands of His creation.

Simply said, “God is God.”

There is only one God.

This means that the consequences of preaching are not our own.

The growth of the church is not our responsibility.

The changed heart of the hearer is not our burden to bear.

What is our burden is to hear and believe what the Lord says to us—that which is according to His Word alone.

Our responsibility, our call, is to continue in the true faith—to trust, not what we see or experience, but the Lord Jesus Christ.

As this has to do with the very nature of faith itself, so also does it have to do with speaking and living.

This is what God’s people do, as God gives them to do.

The hope and confidence of Christ’s Church, the surety of God’s people everywhere, and the motivation to keep going and to press on amid adversity of all kinds, within and without—is not to be found within or dependent on visible outcome or expectation.

The hope and confidence of Christ’s Church, His body, is founded on the promises of God in Christ Jesus, on what He reveals in Jesus the Savior—Jesus our Savior—Jesus your Savior.

Because of Him, you need not fear God’s wrath and against your sin, nor His displeasure of your doubt and uncertainty in His faithful promises.

These are far weightier than the earthly concerns of this life.

But for Jesus, God’s judgement would be upon you for eternity.

Now—in Jesus—you have God’s favor—indeed, His everlasting love.

Jesus says that, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30 NKJ).

“Do not fear,” Jesus says, “…you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31 NKJ).

It is not by circumstance or feeling that you know of God’s love for you, His kindness toward you, or His mercy to you.

It is in Christ Jesus that you know, are certain, and believe God’s good will toward you.

Such confidence moved the disciples to preach and to write, that you, too, also have such confidence before the world, both in believing and in living.

Such confidence in the Lord Jesus also moves you to confess His Name, sure of His mercies, certain of His promises. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1O God, because Your abiding presence always goes with us, keep us aware of Your daily mercies that we may live secure and content in Your eternal love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

Audio

 

 

Concerning a “Virginia Pastor Who Defiantly Held Church Service Dies of New Chinese Coronavirus”

 

via Virginia Pastor Who Defiantly Held Church Service Dies of New Chinese Coronavirus

 

Christians are not immune from the effects of sin, including troubles of this life, both physical and spiritual.

Christians are not immune from sin’s consequence of physical death, either.

This is important to note!

God’s people are defiant of sin’s tyranny and hold—because of Christ—Who Himself died on the cross and “rose again on the third day” (2nd Article of the Apostle’s Creed).

It was St. Paul, inspired of God, who wrote, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14 NKJ).

A little bit later in the same letter of Paul to the Romans, he writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1 NKJ).

This reference to Romans 8 in no way disassociates the Christian from the flesh and spirit reality in which he lives. That “according to the flesh” Paul is speaking of doesn’t have to do with the physical body, but of the way of the flesh, that is, with reference to and concerning the desires of the flesh, which are at odds, even at enmity and war, with the way of the spirit, the things of God.

In Galatians, St. Paul writes, for example, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:17-23 NKJ).

St. John the evangelist also writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life– is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17 NKJ).

All of this is to draw attention to the truth that Christians are simultaneously body and soul.

The physical does not cease being physical because of the spiritual, or vice versa.

This has import concerning not only how Christians live, but also their proclamation.

The Christian Church preaches “Christ crucified” (i.e. 1 Cor. 1:23).

Such a Jesus died bodily, according to His human nature. But this does not at all imply or indicate that the divine nature of our Lord did not at all participate, even as Jesus is both God and man in one person.

What this means regarding the current topic is that, just as preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (i.e. 1 Cor. 2:2) is not to say that only “half” of Jesus died and therefore, insignificant and not worth our attention. So also, when Christians preach of salvation through faith in Christ, overcoming sin and death, this does not at all imply that the effects of sin in the world and crucifying the sinful flesh are somehow now obsolete, as if Christians somehow live only spiritually in the world and not also bodily.

Jesus does say, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For 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?” (Matt. 16:24-26 NKJ).

Said another way, faith in Christ and confidence in the Lord’s salvation does not now mean that we no longer live in the world, suffering due to the consequences of the first sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3).

God disciplines His children, whom He loves.

Referencing Proverbs and commenting, Paul writes, ” ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives’ (Proverbs 3:11-12). If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:5-11 NKJ).

God forgives the sin of sinners. This is true!

The hope of the resurrection of our bodies is certain, just as Christ is risen from the dead (1 Cor. 15).

Nonetheless, Christians do not deny the truth that we live in the fallen world and are at God’s mercy as we live in it.

Christians do not lay claim to being above death or the effects of say, a virus.

At the same time, however, it is important to clearly state that the Bible clearly teaches that God is above these.

Though we suffer, as God wills, suffering does not indicate that God is less than, or not God, because we suffer.

The article referenced above may be advancing the view that Bishop Glenn was wrong to declare that “God is larger than this dreaded virus,” because if God were larger than the virus, then Bishop Glenn would not have died.

Glenn’s death, even after stating what he did, does not disprove God’s authority over sickness, or death.

What Glenn suffered demonstrates the hold of sin and death upon all people.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

We ourselves are not in authority over it. Only God is.

Yet, God in the flesh, Jesus, having authority over it, submitted Himself to His heavenly Father and Himself died (Phil. 2:5-8).

Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.

Could Bishop Glenn not have died as a result of the virus, even as he expressed God’s “largeness” over it? Most certainly!

The account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego may here be directive.

When commanded to bow down to a statue of the king, these three refused.

They were threatened with death.

They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18 NKJ).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego believed that God could save them.

Such salvation, they also believed, was not up to them.

Additionally, they believed in God regardless of a momentary deliverance in the face of trial.

God was God, independent of the outcome.

Such is what true faith does. It believes according to the Word and promise of God. Either way, whether of temporary deliverance or of suffering in faithfulness to the Lord, God remains God.

Such words may seem to be of fantasy by the world.

What God would not save those who claim to be His and claim Him to be God?

The God of the Bible contrasts with the God of our own making and intellect.

“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. 1:27-31 NKJ).

The God of the Bible reveals that through the death of Christ is eternal life; through trial and tribulation—peace; through sorrow and grief—joy; through lack and emptiness—abundance and fullness, in the Lord Jesus.

Also, through humility and humbleness before the Lord, glory and exaltation.

 

 

“He is not here, for He has risen,” Matthew 28:1-10

 

For audio, go here.

 

Readings: Psalm 16; Acts 10:34–43; Colossians 3:1–4; Matthew 28:1–10

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

 

In the Name of the risen Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jesus.VictorJesus is risen, as He said.

These words bring joy to the ear this morning and always.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The great joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and did not see our Lord in the tomb is also our own.

By God’s inspired Word, we know that our Redeemer lives.

Christ is victorious over the grave.

He who had authority to lay down His life also had authority to take it up again (John 10: 15, 17, 18).

This Jesus did on the Third day, the very day that He rose bodily from the dead.

We are not here speaking of some spirit who now lives, as if the body of Christ remained in decay.

Christ in His body is living.

“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Sin is real.

It is doing what God does not command and not doing what He does command.

Death too is real.

It is a real consequence of sin.

Sin brings about physical death, of which all must face, sooner or later.

Sin also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from Another who overcomes sin and death.

This is what Christ did by His resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.

So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren,  who we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

“Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The death of Christ was real.  On the cross Jesus did die.

His resurrection is just as real and true.  This is how you know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.

The Lord’s resurrection also means your resurrection.

Christ being raised from the dead means your rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of your sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.

Christ’s resurrection means your resurrection, your resurrection unto life.

Christ says through the Apostle Paul, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In another place, Paul writes, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Jesus Himself says, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Here, our Lord makes distinction.

Scripture teaches that all will rise from the dead, both believers in Christ and nonbelievers.  But only those who have done good, only those who have faith in Christ’s goodness, forsaking their own, only these will be with the Father unto all eternity.

On the other hand, those who have done evil, those who do evil by not taking Christ’s Word and work as their own, these will rise to eternal death.  Having not believed the promises of the Lord while in the world, these will receive the due reward for their unbelief.

Those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them all fulfilled here and now, these “Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As for Jesus only spiritually rising from the dead and not bodily, which some contend happened, Jesus ate and drank after being raised.

 As it is reported in Luke’s Gospel, “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? ‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” (Luke 24:36-43)

A spirit does not eat. A spirit does not drink.

Jesus did these very things, right in front the disciples.

From the virgin birth to Christ’s bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgment day, do not trust what you think, what reason tells you, or what our current scientific establishment tells you to be true.

Trust in the Lord and what He says.

There will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgment and forgiveness, death and life, hell and heaven:

What God declares to be so in His Word is for your salvation.

It is not just for anyone and everyone.

It is for you.

Believing that the Bible is true is a good thing.

Believing that there is a god is good thing.

But ‘a god’ doesn’t save.

Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world won’t help you.

Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.

But His death and resurrection does not save you unless it is also yours.

By means of His own death, Jesus Christ put your sin to death.

If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection won’t profit you.

You will bear your own load and come to judgment; the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

In Christ alone is your sin fully forgiven.

Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.

Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  These are yours—in Christ.

The Lord does not lie.

Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that He fulfills and will fulfill, and does and will do, all that He says.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.

Before that Good Friday, Jesus had clearly declared to His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).

 A few other times, too, Jesus spoke of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is your surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as you hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.

The joy of Christ’s gifts are yours.

Christ is risen, just as He said.  Your Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect of the Day for The Resurrection of our Lord)

 

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“Meditation on Christ’s Passion,” John 18-19

 

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Psalm 22

Readings: Isaiah 52:13—53:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9; John 18:1—19:42

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Cranach-BloodFromJesusSideFrom the cross, just before our Lord died, Jesus declared, “It is finished!”

With these words, Jesus testified to His completed work for your salvation.

It was not on the day of Easter, the day that our Lord resurrected bodily, that sin and death were put to an end.

It was the day He died that Jesus put sin to death.  There, death lost its eternal hold.

The unforgettable words of our Lord, “It is finished!” thus bring true comfort and consolation to hearts troubled by sin and burdened by its effects.

Through His suffering and death, Christ brought about that peace with God that surpasses all human understanding.

Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36).

The price for that peace, the cost for that sin being taken away, was His blood.

It is as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed: Christ ‘redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, that He purchased and won from sin, death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death’ (Meaning to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

The Jesus of the Bible is not an unbloody Savior, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins (Heb. 9:22 NKJ).

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14 NKJ).

The servant of Isaiah chapter 52 & 53 is truly the servant of the Most High God, but also is He the suffering servant, whom we esteem “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted”.

Instead of the crown of kings, the Christ of God received a crown of thorns.

Instead of the honor due His name, the Son of the Living God was mocked and blasphemed.

Though His Words and works gave witness to His identity, still did they crucify Him.

Jesus endured such hostilities.

He died at the hands of sinful men.

His breath ceased and He “Gave up His Spirit” (John 19:30) just after His last words, those words that still echo in the ears, “It is finished!”

He surrendered Himself unto death, having permitted Himself to be crucified and to die.

Jesus did not say what He said only because His suffering had ended.

Jesus did not do what He did because He was sinful from birth and in need of a savior.

Jesus did not give Himself over to suffer and to die either because He deserved it or to prove Himself to the world.

Jesus said what He said as a clear witness and testimony to all creation that His work of redemption for all people, here and there, near and far, at home and abroad, is now accomplished.

All the work that His Heavenly Father had given Him to do was now done.

There is nothing to add to, and nothing to take away from, what the Lord Christ had completed – for you.

The penalty for your sin and the judgment for your guilt was laid upon Him who knew no sin.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The holy One became the unholy.  The righteous One became the unrighteous.

The sinless became the sinner.

The Passover Lamb, Christ Jesus, was slain in your stead and as your substitute.

Willingly the Savior endured the cross, scorning its shame.

He was wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities, the chastisement of your peace was upon Him, and by His stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

This despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth, this One called King of the Jews, who hung on a cross—He is the only hope for our dying world, for sinful people, for Christ’s church.

Whatever you would add to or subtract from His work, His fulfilling the will of His heavenly Father—in life and in death—is all for nothing—except your sure judgment.

The sacrifice of God’s Son alone is sufficient satisfaction and compensation for sin, whether it be the sin of the most pious saint or the sin of the most wretched sinner.

It makes no difference.

All who sorrow over their sin, all who grieve because of their unrighteousness, all who despair of themselves because of what they’ve done and because of what they haven’t done, all are reconciled to the Father through the Son.

Jesus placated God’s wrath by means of humility, suffering, and His own death (John 14:6).

Christ the Messiah came to fulfill all that was spoken of Him, all that was given Him to do.

He fulfilled it!

Jesus is that suffering servant of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52-53), the One calling out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22), the seed of the woman crushing the serpents head (Genesis).

Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness.  He willingly obeyed His Father in every respect.

Jesus is the Servant of servants, the Slave of slaves, Who frees you and all the world by condemning sin in His flesh by death and doing the work which you could not.   This He has completed.

All is done!

It is finished!

In Christ the crucified, all requirements for your salvation are complete.

Jesus is your perfection before God.

Jesus is your righteousness before the Father.

Jesus is your peace before the Just Judge.

Through His suffering and death, on account of His faithful and perfect obedience to His Father, He fulfilled all the requirements of the Holy Law in your place and died your death, that you would live in Him and with Him for all eternity.

In Christ Jesus, it is truly finished!

All is accounted for.

This is how to see Christ’s death rightly: not to see Him as merely One who died Who should not have; not simply to have pity on Him Who got what He Himself did not deserve; not casting blame only on others, like the Jews, who called for His death, or on the Romans, who put Jesus to death by means of crucifixion.

Christ was there on that cross in death for you.

For your sins He died.

Believing Christ’s death rightly is to believe that Christ died where you were to be, that you deserve all that He suffered, that He took your place, even in death, that you have life, and that you no longer be ruled by sin and its evil desires, that you look to Him for help and salvation.

Having been baptized into the Name of Christ, you have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6).

You are now dead to sin, but alive to God.

“If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

On the way to be crucified, some women had cried out after Jesus.  They were weeping in sorrow for what was coming upon Him.  But to them He said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).

Jesus says the same to you.

Do not weep for Him.

Weep for yourselves and for your own sins.

On the cross you see where you should be, what should come to you.

Only for God’s grace in Christ Jesus are you not.

He Himself was!

St. Peter writes that Christ Jesus, “…suffered for us…,” that He “committed no sin,” that no “deceit” (was) found in His mouth”;  that, “when He was reviled,” He “did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;”  that He “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness– by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:19-21).

View the suffering and death of Jesus, God’s Son, as your own.

In this way, you see the Passion of the Lord Christ aright.

Because of Him, eternal death and sin’s judgment are no more your own. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day for Good Friday)

 

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“The Passion of the Lord,” John 12:20-43

 

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20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; JesusInSynagogue, copybut if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

      27“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered,  “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35So Jesus said to them,  “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

      When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,  40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Today is the day in the Church year called “Palm Sunday,” that day in which the Lord entered Jerusalem on a donkey, that day in which the people, with palm branches, cried out, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13 || Psalm 118:25, 26).

On this day, the people proclaimed acclamation to God.

Here was Jesus, entering Jerusalem, the people declaring what was right and true.

In less than five days, this same One, so gloriously welcomed by the people as He entered Jerusalem, would undergo trial for crimes that He didn’t commit, suffer shame and contempt for preaching the truth, and be crucified for sins not His own.

On this day called Palm Sunday, Jesus, and we, enter the week of the Church year called “Holy,” where our attention turns to the events suffered by our Lord in this last week prior to His glorious resurrection.

This day is also called “Sunday of the Passion.”  Our attention draws to the last hours of Christ in His State of Humiliation.

Our attention also draws to the reality of our own passion, our own suffering, as followers of Christ, as our Lord Jesus Himself testifies.

In short order, today’s second Gospel reading follows the account of our Lord on Palm Sunday after the people met Him on the road with the shouts and praises and acts of worship.

Shortly thereafter, Greeks asked to see Jesus.  It is at this point that Jesus begins His discourse, words to be taken to heart.  Jesus here speaks about His forthcoming death, what it means, and its purpose.

Connecting the later reading of today’s Gospel with the former reading of John’s Gospel at the beginning of the service, a close connection reveals itself.

The last few words of the Palm Sunday reading earlier this morning were these, spoken by the Pharisees among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing.  Look, the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19).

Immediately following these words by the Pharisees, John the evangelist records that certain Greeks then sought Jesus.

Jesus’ word and work were not only for the Jews.

The expectation of the Messiah, the Christ, as recorded in the Old Testament, was not only for the chosen people of national Israel.

Remember Jonah…God sent Him to Nineveh, a Gentile city, to call them to repentance.

It was Isaiah whom God moved to write, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).  These very words Jesus Himself also spoke in the clearing of the temple (as recorded by Mark 11:17).

The “House of prayer for all nations” referred to by Isaiah under inspiration, and then by Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14), was a reference to God’s house where God is worshiped.  All nations include Jews and Gentiles. God’s house is for all people, none excluded.

This is the irony of what those Pharisees had said among themselves about Jesus, that “the world has gone after Him.”

They were right.

This is how it was, and how it was to be, as the Psalmist declares, “Let the peoples praise, You God; Let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:3).

What is ironic here is that the Pharisees despised the very thing that was happening that God had said would happen, and yet they claimed to be teachers of truth.

Far from it!

Those of the truth hear God’s voice (John 18:37).

Greeks, non-Jews were seeking to see and hear Jesus, yet the Pharisees closed their ears to Him.

Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22), but salvation is for all people, not just for the Jews alone.

But how does such salvation come?  Through what means is salvation won?

This is where the words of our Lord Jesus from today’s second Gospel reading come in.  Jesus’ Word in response to those Greeks who sought Him reveal that by His death, there is life.  This is a great paradox: by means of death is life.

Jesus also stated that “Whoever loves his life loses it.” Both verbs, love and lose, are in the present tense.

Jesus also says, “Whoever hates his life in this world” (present tense) “will keep it” (future tense) for eternal life.

These words, too, are paradoxical.

Life through death—loving life and losing it—hating life and keeping it—these statements seem to be contradictory.

One lives by living, not by dying.  You keep your life by loving it, not by hating it.  You lose your life by hating it, not by loving it…

This is what fallen man considers to be true.  He wants to believe that God works the way that the world works—not according to what God the Creator says, but according to what man the creation says and what it wants to say/mean.

If the world had its way, Jesus would not have entered Jerusalem on a donkey.

Jesus would not have been unjustly accused and then, “crucified, died, and buried.”

Jesus would not have suffered as He had.

Blood would not have been shed.

Sinners would bear their own sin (to each his own) but could make amends for their transgressions and iniquities by simply trying harder and convincing themselves that this is how one gets right with God.

If the world had its way, sinners would only be sinners as they much as they saw themselves as sinners.

The problem is that it’s not us—or the world—who determines right and wrong, good and bad, the truth and the lie.

God does.

When it comes to paradoxes, we don’t determine their veracity.  God does.

Things that don’t make sense to us don’t make them untrue.  What makes something true or not true is not dependent on our understanding of it, our belief in it, or our acceptance of it.

What makes something true or not true is not established by us.

Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6).

What He says is true, whether we believe it or not.

What He declares to be is so, because He said it.

This way of “reasoning” might seem like a blind kind of faith, but a truly blind kind of faith is that kind of “faith” which follows a thing that it cannot see or know.

We follow what we know, not blindly, but with certainty.

Christians don’t follow what they don’t know or that which is uncertain.

We follow and believe God’s Word as its been given.

We hear it and we listen to it.

We read it and we study it.  We believe it.

To believe God’s Word is not blindness.

God’s Word is not unsure.

What is blindly following something, “blind faith,” is following where one cannot see where one is going.

We don’t follow the Bible this way.

We are not blind to where we’re going.

We know where we’re going.

We know our eternity is with God in heaven.

We don’t know everything that will be—Only God does.  But we do know that we are known by Him Who knows everything.

Because God knows us as His people, because God is our Savior from sin, death, and hell, we don’t need to know all that He knows.  He is God.  We are not.

What we do know, according to His Word, this is what we are to believe and that which we do believe.

Following Christ’s Word, God’s Word, is not blind faith.  It is faith founded on the sure foundation, on that Word made flesh, on Him who suffered, was crucified, died, buried, and three days later, rose again from the dead.

Such a faith rests in Jesus according to His Word.

That Word reveals to you that through His death, you have life.  His blood conceals, covers, and cleanses you of your sin before the Father.

Loving your life means not resting in Jesus alone, not entrusting yourself fully into His care and keeping.

Hating your life means recognizing your uncleanliness before Him Who is pure, your unholiness before Him Who is Holy (1 Peter 1:15), your sin before Him Who is sinless; lamenting your unrighteousness before Him Who is Righteous.

Hating your life is acknowledging that you deserve only judgment from the just God and despising your own sinfulness.

Hating your life means also not trusting in yourself for salvation, but resting in Jesus alone, trusting in God’s mercy through His beloved Son, “seeing” that Christ’s death means—is—your life.

The Son of Man, Jesus, is He Who is life, He through whom you have life, He who gives you life.

Along with the paradox of your life through His death is the paradox of Christ’s glorification.

The word glorify can have the meaning of “Bestow glory upon”; “Elevate or idealize”; and “Cause to seem more splendid” (The Sage’s English Dictionary and Thesaurus).

These things we associate with the high and the mighty, the majestic and the glorious, the strong and the proud.

Yet Christ’s glorification, as revealed in today’s second Gospel reading, is not associated with the worldly understanding of that word.  Contrasted to our view of glory, the glory of Christ is in His lowliness, weakness, and humility, even as he hangs on a tree, “having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

“Though Jesus was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the week of our Lord’s Passion, the entrance of our Lord into His suffering and then death.

Like our Lord, as we fix our eyes on what is to come, we also are aware of our own suffering and struggles.

Amid these, there is Christ.

The Lord comes to serve, giving His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Lowly He enters Jerusalem.

Lowly, and rejected, He journeys to Calvary, to Golgotha, to His death.

He does so that you live—eternally. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day, Passion Sunday)

 

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The Small Catechism, Part VI: The Sacrament of the Altar

 

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First Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on last-supper2the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (NKJ)

Second Reading: Mark 14:22-25

22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

By way of introduction to this final Chief Part of Luther’s Small Catechism, Part VI: The Sacrament of the Altar, we find a similarity to Part IV of the Catechism concerning Holy Baptism.

As with Holy Baptism, as well as with The Sacrament of the Altar, Luther helpfully raises four questions, four questions that get right to the main thing of The Sacrament, its use and benefit.

Summarized, these four questions are as follows:

  1. What is it?
  2. What is its benefit?
  3. How can this do what it does?
  4. Who receives it worthily?

As we have touched on Holy Baptism previously, our focus here will be on The Sacrament of the Altar, also known as The Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion.

These various ways of referencing the Lord’s Meal draw attention to its significance.  They say something about what it is.

The Sacrament of the Altar, in its most verbal sense, indicates that it is a sacred act of God distributed from the Altar.

That word, “Sacrament,” however, carries with it more than the sacredness of the institution.

Accompanied with this “sacred act” is God’s institution, and the purpose and use of it being given, “for the forgiveness of sins.”

No insignificant thing is at all going on in The Sacrament of the Altar, by any means.

Also, with the reference, “The Lord’s Supper.”

As it is the Supper of the Lord, given by Him to do as He will, it is not ours to do with what we please.

I’ve heard some use this phrase in the sense that, “as the Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s, we should not deny any to partake, because it is the Lord’s Supper, not ours.”

The last part is true.  The Lord’s Supper is not ours.

Yet, the same Supper that is not ours, but the Lord’s, is the same Supper that Christ has given to the Church, not to do with as she pleases, but to be responsible with in its distribution as the Lord has so given.

Just as the doctor is given to aid and help, and not to harm and hurt, so also the church.

She is not given to harm or hurt, but to instruct, teach and lead with the very Word of God.

In doing so, the church will say yes to some and no to others, as recognized by their confession.

Do they agree and confess the Word of God here or do they not?

Are they catechized/instructed in the true faith?

Do they give voice with us in unity of that faith, including also of our corrupt sinful human nature, or do they not do so, believing something different, not only concerning the Holy Supper itself, but also of God’s doctrine as revealed in His Word?

These are questions for which the church expects an answer.

The church of God is not a mere assembly of like-minded people.

The church is an assembly of those who confess unity in doctrine according to the Word of God.

Everyone is thus welcome to join in hearing the Word.

But to receive “Holy Communion,” yet another reference to what we’re talking about, is not something that all should do, because it is Holy, of God, and true fellowship with Him.

The unrepentant, the hardened of heart against God and His Word, the unbelieving—these are not to commune because to do so brings judgment.

It is not a question of faith that determines whether the Lord’s Supper is the Body and Blood of Christ.

Just as in Holy Baptism, Holy Communion is what it is because God says it is.

My belief or unbelief doesn’t change the substance of the thing, just as the person or faith of the pastor doesn’t influence what it is or isn’t.

Your confidence here, as with all else having to do with the things of God, is not your faith, but the Word.

That’s it.

Just as Jesus says, so it is.

The Words of Institution clearly express this, where Jesus, giving bread, says, “This is my body,” and giving wine, says, “This is my blood.”

You get the one, you get the other.

Fallen, corrupt reason will deny this and say that it cannot be:

The bread must symbolize or only represent something else. It cannot be the body of Christ.

The wine must symbolize or only represent something else. It cannot be the blood of Christ.

With the Word of God, here and everywhere, the child of God does not go by fallen, corrupt reason.

To do so would be to go against that which is of God—to go by unbelief—to place oneself above God and His Word.

Being of God, we don’t raise ourselves above God and His ways, telling God what He should have meant or giving a meaning to the Word which God has not given.

Instead, being of God, we humble ourselves before Him, acknowledging God to be God, not disbelieving what we don’t understand, but entrusting ourselves to the very Word He has given, where, and only where, genuine confidence and everlasting surety reside.

So,

[Luther’s Small Catechism, VI. The Sacrament of the Altar]

What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink. (SC, Question 1)

What is the benefit of this eating and drinking? These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” shows us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. (SC, Question 2)

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words   written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.” (SC, Question 3)

Who receives this sacrament worthily? Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe. (SC, Question 4)

SC & LC.jpgIn conclusion, we hear from Luther on Christ’s Testament:

20 …Now we come to its (the Sacrament’s) power and benefit, the purpose for which the sacrament was really instituted, for it is most necessary that we know what we should seek and obtain there.

21 This is plainly evident from the words… “This is my body and blood, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

22 In other words, we go to the sacrament because we receive there a great treasure, through and in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because the words are there through which this is imparted! Christ bids me eat and drink in order that the sacrament may be mine and may be a source of blessing to me as a sure pledge and sign—indeed, as the very gift he has provided for me against my sins, death, and all evils.

23 Therefore, it is appropriately called the food of the soul since it nourishes and strengthens the new man. While it is true that through Baptism we are first born anew, our human flesh and blood have not lost their old skin. There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and the world that we often grow weary and faint, at times even stumble.

24 The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh and strengthen itself and not weaken in the struggle but grow continually stronger.

25 For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses.

26 Meanwhile it must suffer much opposition. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attack the old man, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about everywhere, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or yield hand and foot and become indifferent or impatient.

27 For such times, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.

28 Here again our clever spirits contort themselves with their great learning and wisdom, bellowing and blustering, “How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?” Yet they know that we do not claim this of bread and wine—since in itself bread is bread—but of that bread and wine which are Christ’s body and blood and with which the words are coupled. These and no other, we say, are the treasure through which forgiveness is obtained.

29 This treasure is conveyed and communicated to us in no other way than through the words, “given and poured out for you.” Here you have both truths, that it is Christ’s body and blood and that these are yours as your treasure and gift.

30 Christ’s body can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, impotent and useless. Yet, however great the treasure may be in itself, it must be comprehended in the Word and offered to us through the Word, otherwise we could never know of it or seek it.

31 Therefore it is absurd to say that Christ’s body and blood are not given and poured out for us in the Lord’s Supper and hence that we cannot have forgiveness of sins in the sacrament. Although the work was accomplished and forgiveness of sins was acquired on the cross, yet it cannot come to us in any other way than through the Word. (Tappert, LC ¶ 20-31). Amen.

LSB7

“For Your consoling supper, Lord,

Be praised throughout all ages!

Preserve it, for in ev’ry place

The world against it rages.

Grant that this sacrament may be

 A blessed comfort unto me

When living and when dying.”

(Lutheran Service Book 622, “Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared,” v8)

 

For audio, see here.

 

 

The Small Catechism, Part V: Confession

 

Audio of sermon here on podcast.

 

First Reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-13

1 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 “The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 “But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 “And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to david-repentsNathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 “And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: `I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 `I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 `Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 `Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 “Thus says the LORD: `Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 `For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'” 13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. (NKJ)

Second Reading: John 20:19-23

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Blessing.AbsolutionThe Fifth Chief Part of Luther’s Small Catechism: Confession.

Words of the Psalmist from Psalm 51, expressive of King David’s contrite heart and confidence in God when confronted with the Word of God as recorded in 2 Samuel 12 for his sin against God, and the words of Jesus to His disciples on the night of His resurrection, as recorded in John 20, example, illustrate, and highlight for us what confession is and its centrality in and to the Christian Church.

First, what confession is…

Confession, as a word used in the church and in the world, is often understood in the way of ‘relating one’s sins to a member of the clergy,’ as in, ‘going to confession.’

The phrase, ‘fess up means, ‘admit your wrongdoing.’

This is what many consider confession to mean.

In the church, such a use of the term is not wrong, but it certainly is not the only use of the term.

Biblically, the word ‘confess’ has the basic meaning of “to say the same thing,” “to agree with,” or “to acknowledge.”

Where St. John writes, “If we confess our sins” (1 John 1:9), here we then have to clarify.

To confess, to say the same thing, to agree with, to acknowledge our sins according to Whom—provides the clarification.

A related usage of the word, “confess,” is exampled by John the Baptist, as recorded in John chapter 1, where we read,

“Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ’” (Jn. 1:19-20 NKJ).

Here, John the Baptist “confesses” that he is not the Christ, that he is not the Messiah.

The word, “confess,” used in both examples, is identical, that of John the Baptist confessing that he is not the Christ, and that of “confessing sins.”

The “saying the same thing as,” “agreeing with,” and “acknowledging,” either of sins or of John the Baptist in confessing that he is not the Christ also have this in common—that they are not according to self-determination, designation, or definition.

The confession of sins (and what sin is or what sin is not) and the confession of John about his identity (who he is or who he is not), is according to the determination, designation, and definition of Another.

That Other, for John, and for one confessing sin is not self, but God alone.

For John, the One who sent John the Baptist to preach and to baptize was not John Himself, but the Father.  Thus, John pointed to, he confessed, not himself, but Jesus, to be, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

John the Baptist—same said, agreed with, acknowledged—what God made known to him concerning the Christ, who John was clearly not.

In similar fashion, confession of sins has to do with—same saying, agreeing with, acknowledging as true—what God reveals, what He makes known—about our condition and our doing and our not doing.

To confess sin to God is to say that God is right in all of His judgments and that we are rightly deserving of the consequences that God imposes on that sin, even eternal death—as determined by God—not according to our own definition or our own self-determination of how great or little that sin may be in our own eyes.

God declares,

“There is none righteous, no, no one” (Psalm 14/53: 1Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10).

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23 NKJ).

With Isaiah the prophet, we too confess, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5 NKJ).

With David we also say, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5 NKJ).

These things we acknowledge to be true, and not only broadly, but also narrowly.

The Law of God, stated by the 10 Commandments, shows this.

We can do nothing to escape.  There is no work around. No isolationism can help. There is no home remedy, vaccine, or cure.

We are at God’s mercy!

Concerning the confession of sins, Luther writes,

“Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” (SC, Confession, Which are these?).

Looking into the clear and reflective mirror of God’s Word, we must admit that, yes, we are guilty.

We are not as God would have us be—not only with each other and in our own stations and vocations in life—but also, and especially, before God.

“Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (Jas. 2:10-11 NKJ).

Like David, we say, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13).

The very First Commandment condemns us all.

Writes Luther,

“Let everyone, then, take care to magnify and exalt this commandment above all things and not make light of it. Search and examine your own heart thoroughly and you will find whether or not it clings to God alone. Do you have the kind of heart that expects from him nothing but good, especially in distress and want, and renounces and forsakes all that is not God? Then you have the one true God. On the contrary, does your heart cling to something else, from which it hopes to receive more good and help than from God, and does it flee not to him but from him when things go wrong? Then you have an idol, another god.” (LC, 1st Commandment ¶28)

Luther also says,

“Thus you can easily understand the nature and scope of this commandment. It requires that man’s whole heart and confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. To have God, you see, does not mean to lay hands upon him, or put him into a purse, or shut him up in a chest.

“We lay hold of him when our heart embraces him and clings to him.

“To cling to him with all our heart is nothing else than to entrust ourselves to him completely. He wishes to turn us away from everything else, and draw us to himself, because he is the one eternal good. It is as if he said: “What you formerly sought from the saints, or what you hoped to receive from mammon or anything else, turn to me for all this; look upon me as the one who wishes to help you and to lavish all good upon you richly.” (LC, 1st Commandment ¶13-15)

Lastly, Luther states,

“Behold, here you have the true honor and the true worship which please God and which he commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart should know no other consolation or confidence than that in him, nor let itself be torn from him, but for him should risk and disregard everything else on earth.

“On the other hand, you can easily judge how the world practices nothing but false worship and idolatry. There has never been a people so wicked that it did not establish and maintain some sort of worship. Everyone has set up a god of his own, to which he looked for blessings, help, and comfort.” (LC, 1st Commandment ¶16-17)

Our hope, our confidence, our hope—is not in God as it should be.

The responses to our worldly circumstances show where our trust and confidence is or is not.

Yet, to the sinner, God gives forgiveness (Acts 13:38).

To the fearful, God gives courage (John 14:1, 27; Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 1:7).

To the doubting, God gives faith (John 14:1;2 Corinthians 5:7).

To the uncertain, God gives confidence (Psalm 118:8; 1 John 3:20-21).

To the anxious, God gives peace (John 14:27; Philippians 4:6ff).

To the weak and the weary, God gives Rest (Matthew 11:28).

To the speechless, God gives voice (Psalm 51:15; Ezekiel 33:22; Matthew 12:22; 15:30-31; Mark 7:37).

God gives His Word that we believe, and places that Word on our tongue to say what He Himself makes known.

Confession of sin is acknowledging what God says of our fallen condition, what God says of us in our fallen condition.

We are sinners, sinners in the state of death and dying, hopeless of ourselves before Him.

“To God’s mercy we cling.  Our sins before Him we bring.”

God is right and true in His judgments.

We are not blameless before Him.

Yet, He does not forsake us.

This, too, we confess, agree with, same say, and acknowledge: God is God, the gracious, merciful God, who out of love for sinners, out of love for you, individually and collectively, sent His Son Jesus to be your Savior from sin, death, and hell.

Even as confess God to be true according to His Word in condemning sin, our sin, all of it, so we also confess to be true God’s mercy and forgiveness because of Jesus the Christ.

“God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21 NKJ).

Instead of you suffering the eternal consequences for your sin, Jesus suffered all in your stead on the blessed cross.

Whatever you face today or in days to come in no way and in no sense compares to what the Lord Jesus has delivered you from—to the where of your promised inheritance in Him.

This, too, we confess before Him and before one another.

We acknowledge our sins before God, all of them, even those we don’t know, for against Him have we sinned, as well as against our neighbor, from whom we also ask forgiveness.

We also and especially believe God’s promise in Christ, “Your sin is forgiven.”

The Word of absolution, also spoken by the pastor, is full of import.

That Word delivers to you the very Word of God spoken.

Not only are these words for you publicly, corporately, on Sunday morning–they are also for you privately, too.

Before the pastor you may confess sins for which you are troubled.

We call this private confession, private absolution.

This is different from the Roman Catholic churches, where one is told to do in order to be forgiven, or because of obligations’ sake.

For the Christian, the main thing in the confession of sin privately to the pastor—or corporately as in the Divine Service—is not your part.

It is the absolution, “For you is the forgiveness of sins.”

These words mean something.

They are life.  They are salvation.  They are reason for joy.  They are reason to rejoice.

Thus, do we also confess,

“I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins and want to do better, this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself” (SC, Confession, Office of the Keys, What do you believe according to these words).

The church is just about doing this: proclaiming God’s forgiveness of sins in and through Christ.

This continues to be her message and it is in this that she remains faithful—confessing, same saying, agreeing with, acknowledging to be true—what God says. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty, everlasting God, for my many sins I justly deserve eternal condemnation. In Your mercy You sent Your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, who won for me forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. Grant me a true confession that, dead to sin, I may be raised up by Your life-giving absolution. Grant me Your Holy Spirit that I may be ever watchful and live a true and godly life in Your service; through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen. (Lutheran Service Book, inside front cover, Before confession and absolution).

 

Audio of the sermon here on podcast.

 

 

Luther–Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague

 

In the following letter, here are a few areas Luther addresses:

  • Christians will not all respond in the same manner
  • Vocation and office
  • Prayer
  • Loving neighbor, Caring for the Sick
  • Denouncing the devil
  • Use of God-given reason
  • Hearing God’s Word, Receiving the Sacrament, Confessing one’s sins
  • Contact the pastor for pastoral care

“We here give you our opinion as far as God grants us to understand and perceive. This we would humbly submit to your judgment and to that of all devout Christians for them, as is proper, to come to their own decision and conclusion. Since the rumor of death is to be heard in these and many other parts also, we have permitted these instructions of ours to be printed because others might also want to make use of them…” (Luther)

 

Luther-Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasO God, You desire not the death of sinners, but rather that we turn from our wickedness and live. Graciously behold Your people who plead to You and spare us. Withdraw the scourge of Your wrath and be moved in mercy to turn away this pestilence from us; for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (LCMS, In Time of Pestilence)

 

 

 

“Worship in Spirit and in Truth,” John 4:5-30, 39-42

 

5[Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

      7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jesus & Samaritan Woman at well 2Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

      16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

      27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30They went out of the town and were coming to him. . .

      39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

It is truly extraordinary that our God came in the likeness of sinful man.

He became flesh and blood to take your place under the law in order to redeem you from the curse of the law (Galatians 4:5).

You don’t ascend to Him.

He comes to you.

He comes to you in such a way that you can even approach Him.

It was this way for the woman in our text.

At first, she didn’t recognize the identity of our Lord.

She didn’t recognize Him because He didn’t look like anything spectacular.

He looked like a Jewish man of that time, because that’s what He was.

Jesus is also God, but not God revealed in His glory-God concealed in humanity.

You couldn’t tell that Jesus was God just by looking at Him, even as you can’t tell that Jesus is here present, but by His Word.

The woman thought Jesus was just like any other Jew.

Jesus was indeed a man, with all the physical needs that are also our own.

We need to eat.  We need to drink.  We need sleep.

Jesus too experienced these bodily necessities.  “He humbled Himself…taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus asked the woman for water with the intention of directing her to things eternal, not only to things temporal.

As He spoke to her about “living water,” she didn’t get it.

Like with Nicodemus before (John 3), He had told her earthly things, and because she didn’t get those things, she wouldn’t understand as He told her spiritual things.

She continued seeking earthly kinds of things and not the heavenly, even though Jesus sought to draw her attention to matters of eternal significance and away from things temporal.

Jesus is this way with us, too.

We are yet in the flesh.

How often we set our minds on things of the earth and neglect the heavenly things promised in Christ! (Colossians 3:1-2)

We fret and worry about life’s circumstances.

We not only fail to see God’s Word and promises right before our eyes.  We demonstrate lack of confidence and faith in what our Lord has said, even seeking comfort and help from that which is not of God.

We feel sad, get frustrated, and become depressed because things aren’t going our way or because things are just so hard.

We doubt the very promises of our Lord.

We are tempted to think that God doesn’t care.

We fail to see the blessings of our Lord in the midst of difficult times.

We are distracted by the here and now and we miss the big picture, the big picture of the eternal, that which is, and will be, according to what God says, and that which is our sure hope in Jesus.

Like the woman at the well who heard of living water and sought after only earthly water, we hear about prosperity and blessing and temporary fulfillment.

We might think that God promises earthly wealth and a worldly kind of happiness.

We hear the words of peace and we might think that God promises an earthly utopia.

We hear the words of forgiveness and we might think that God is okay with sin and that sin is really no big deal.

Truly this is how some even perceive the Christian faith, that it has more to do with earthly kind of things than even of heaven itself.

A worldly kind of gospel finds a great following among many today, but it is a gospel that has little to do with the Jesus of the Bible and more to do with feeding the dream of success, earthly contentment, worldly peace, and self-satisfaction.

THE Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with eternity.

It has to do with contentment in Christ, not in what one does or doesn’t have in the world.

It has to do with how you now stand before God because of Jesus—truly forgiven, your sins not being added to your account, not because your sins are in any way minimized, but because Jesus paid the full price, purchasing you with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with the message of eternal life, not earthly wealth, earthly gain, success, popularity, or acceptance.

The things of the world are passing away, the Bible says, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:25).

The circumstances, conditions, and emotions of our lives constantly change, up the one moment and down the next.

We experience uncertainty.

But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

We know God’s disposition towards us from day to day because of Him: for good, and not for evil; for salvation, not for condemnation; for help, not for destruction.

“Salvation is,” as our Lord says, “from the Jews.”

Jesus Himself was a Jew, born of Mary, the very seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 1:2).

Herein is your hope.

You don’t climb a mountain or go to Jerusalem to worship.  Nor do you not know Who you worship.

You do.

You do know who you worship because of Him who reveals Himself to you in the Word as the Christ.

This One reveals to you that He is the Son of the heavenly Father, whose Father is now also your Father.

When Jesus says as He does in our text, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth,” Jesus is NOT saying that you worship our Lord however you want.

Worship in spirit and truth does not mean that.

Spirit and truth kind of worship is that kind of worship that is according to God’s Word and Will.

That kind of worship which is according to God’s Word and Will is that kind of worship which has Christ Jesus as the center.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, he had said, “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” (Matthew 7:21).

It is not the one who only thinks that He is worshiping God who truly is, but the one who actually is worshiping God as God wills Himself to be worshiped, that is, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible doesn’t talk about a generic god.

Nor does it talk about a god that contradicts himself or allows inconsistencies to abound.

Any and all who say that all religions worship the same God don’t worship the true God, for the true God they do not know.

Any and all who say that Jews and Muslims worship the true God don’t know the true God, for the true God is He who does not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11).

The true God reveals Himself as Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; not three gods, but one God; three persons, yet one God.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is indeed a mystery—a mystery that you believe just the same.

You are happy and bold to confess the Trinity.

Also are you glad and bold to confess God’s Son, Jesus.

“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22, 23).

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.   He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.   He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:9-12).

We worship the Lord God in Christ Jesus.

We confess Christ, seek forgiveness of sins from Him, and seek everlasting life from Him.

Because we believe Christ to be the only begotten Son of God, who gives true and living water unto eternal life, we also gather here in this place.

We know that Jesus is here.

God promises that here, Jesus speaks, according to His Holy Word.

Means of Grace-window-round1Here, Jesus gives His own body and blood to eat and to drink, not to condemn, but to forgive and strengthen faith.

Here, Jesus absolves you of your sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness.

Worship in spirit and in truth is not about you doing for God.

Worship in spirit and truth is seeking from God mercy and forgiveness, life and salvation—through His Son.

Worship in spirit and in truth is looking to Jesus.

It is believing Jesus and trusting His Word and promise.

From this, all else follows.  Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasFather, forgive me for worshiping You my own way.  Grant me to worship in spirit and truth, according to Your Holy Word and Holy will, trusting Your Word, believing Your promises, confessing Your Name, and so living. Amen.

 

“God So Loved the World,” John 3:1-17

1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, JesusOnCrossOverWorldunless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

      9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

      16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Perhaps the most “well-known” words of today’s Gospel reading are those of v16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Rightly so.

But such words, as truly expressive as they are of God’s love in Christ, can be easily misunderstood and misapplied, as if to suggest that man has to do something to keep from perishing, to suggest that man has to believe, and that such believing is within his own power to do so, or else he does not have eternal life.

Other errors applied to this text, though apart from the words of the text, include the idea that believing is only the beginning part or that faith in Christ alone is insufficient for salvation.  Something else is still needed other than simple faith. Something remains dependent upon us—what we do, how we live, for eternal life to be and remain ours.

As an example of this are the words of this “testimony” found in a Thrivent magazine article, without qualification and without correction:

“Even though I had been a Christian for many years, it was on a mission trip…that a friend reminded me that if I was a believer but didn’t include ‘service’ in that belief system, I wasn’t really living the way God wanted me to!…I know that simply believing in God isn’t enough.  We must be His servants…” (Thrivent, March 2017, p3).

Within Christianity, these and similar words are accepted as true, the idea that “believing” is not enough.

But “enough” for what?

That service to others is necessary, we wholeheartedly agree, as does Holy Scripture.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus says (Matthew 19:19||Leviticus 19:18).

St. Paul the apostle writes, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10, NKJ).

Service to neighbor, however, is not the main thing of the Christian faith and life, though it is not excluded from the life of the Christian.

Our Lord directs our attention to His Word, in which He says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NKJ).

If you want to do what God says, hear and believe Word.

But if such belief is in a god, generically, and not in God’s Son, Jesus, who died on the cross, that faith is not at all sufficient, because such a faith is a false faith and not at all that which saves.

If belief in God is such a faith that looks to something other than God’s mercy in Christ alone for help and salvation, even to one’s own service as completing faith, then, again, that faith is not godly faith through which is eternal life.

The faith that saves is that faith which does not at all believe in self or any other, but rests all hope in Jesus alone for forgiveness and only upon God’s mercy.

It is not our service to others that completes faith by which we are then saved, nor is it our love that makes faith sufficient for salvation.

It is God’s love in Christ alone by which you have your sins forgiven, God’s mercy, and heaven itself as your promised inheritance.

Only in God sending His Son and the Son being sent and lifted on the tree of death in crucifixion is your salvation.

God did, and does, so love the world.

God’s love is unconditional.

God’s love is not conditioned by the response to that love with which God so loves the world.

God’s love is not only for the believer and those who will believe.

For the worst of sinners and for the ungodly did God send His Son into the world.

“When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6 NKJ).

“To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5 NKJ).

God’s love extends to all people, none excluded.

Such words, however, don’t make sense to sinful reason. They seem utter nonsense.

Who would give something for nothing in return?

Who would freely give a gift to someone only to have it rejected?

God’s kind of love for us sinners cannot be understood by sinful man.

“O love, how deep, how broad, how high, Beyond all thought and fantasy,

 That God, the Son of God, should take – Our mortal form for mortals’ sake.”

“For us by wickedness betrayed, For us, in crown of thorns arrayed,

He bore the shameful cross and death; For us He gave His dying breath.”

(LSB 544 “O Love, How Deep,” v1)

What is sin before God is not only that which others can see.

Sin before God includes also what others cannot see.

Sin before God includes not only the “big” sins, as we define them, but the “little” sins, too, those sins which perhaps we have little concern about, yet are still condemned by God, regardless of how we think of them.

Sin includes not only that which is known, but also that which remains hidden, even to ourselves.

Sin is not only an action.  It is a condition, which all people since the Fall have inherited.

God shows no partiality (i.e. Acts 10:34).

Before God, one sinner is just as guilty as the next.

The sin might look bigger when compared to another.

But before God, sin is sin. Even eating a forbidden fruit brings about eternal death, not because of the size of the violation (as we see it), but because of who the violation is against.

Adam and Eve were not cast out of Paradise for simply eating fruit.

They were cast out of Paradise for eating fruit that God had forbidden them to eat.

It was not the fruit that got them into trouble.

It was their disobedience God, their disbelief in His Word.

In addition to their being cast out, their disobedience, their unbelief, brought death and destruction into the world.

The consequences of their sin we, too, receive.

“Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12 NKJ).

“All mankind fell in Adam’s fall; One common sin infects us all.

From one to all the curse descends, And over all God’s wrath impends.

(LSB 562 “All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall, v1)

Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and because of our own sin, we are all lumped together before God as sinners.

Some sins might be more obvious than others; other sins are more concealed and hidden (1 Timothy 5:24).

But for this world full of open and secret sinners, God sent His Son, because He so loved the world.

Because He so loved you!

What encouraging words these are!

You are in the world.

Therefore, has God sent His Son for you.

Because of Jesus, you know that the God who made heaven and earth loves you with an enduring love, an unconditional love, an everlasting love.

God’s love is yours, for Christ was lifted in death.

Your belief or unbelief cannot and does not change what Jesus has already done.

Christ already died and lives forevermore.

Lest there be those who hear this as license to sin, St. Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”  “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NKJ)

Rather, it means all the more that you try to resist temptation, are earnest in prayer, and seek all the more to do what pleases the Lord.

For absolute confidence of God’s love, however, look only to Christ, who says, “Whoever believes—Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

It is not in or by your progress, or lack thereof, that is either your encouragement or reason to despair.

Only see Christ, for in Him is your true and only hope and certainty before God.

There are many who say that God is a “God of love,” for so He is (1 John 4:8, 16).

But many of these do not believe in Jesus Christ.

They believe God to be a god who allows everything and anything, a god who is open to all kinds of different lifestyles, a god who allows all kinds of sins to continue, a god who is  tolerant of the worst kinds of sins, a god who does not condemn sin, a god who simply looks the other way, a god who pats on the back and says, “keep trying” and “just do your best, for that is all that I expect” (as you determine what that “best” is and what that “trying” means).

Such a god is a god of one’s own making and not the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible says “no” to sin and condemns it.

The God of the Bible does not tolerate godlessness.

Rather does He promise sure punishment upon all who do not turn from their sinful ways and seek mercy, the mercy that is found only in the One whom the Father sent.

God gives you to believe His Son, His Son who gave Himself freely in sacrifice for the debt of your sin, the punishment for which you are not able to pay but by eternal death.

Jesus has truly paid that debt, by means of His death on the cross.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Such is God’s love.

It is not by what you do or how good you are that have the certainty of God’s love for you in Christ.

True joy and peace does not come from you or from what you do, but from God, from God in and through Jesus Christ.

This Good News is not made known by the work of man.

It is not gotten to by man’s reason.

It is not rational according to human logic.

It is not deserved or merited.

The Good News of sins forgiven in Christ is the gift of God, revealed by Him through His Son.

By nature, we do not know this Good News of Jesus Christ.

We were born of the flesh, and being born of the flesh, we could not know, 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 Cor. 2:14, NKJ).

But thanks be to God! “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

In the waters of Holy Baptism, God birthed you anew in the spirit.  Now, you are born from above, born-again, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13, NKJ).

“When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7, NKJ).

You are heirs of the kingdom—through faith in God’s Son.

You believe this, not because of you or because of your own choice, decision, or work, but because such faith is from the very God who gives it.

“Flesh and blood” neither reveal the wonderful works of God, nor the Savior (Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50).

It is the Giver, the “Father…who is in heaven,” that does (Matthew 16:17). Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, because You so loved the world, because You so loved me, You sent Your 0nly-Begotten Son to die my death and to be my Savior. Give me faith to believe, for I am not able to believe without You creating the faith within me and sustaining that faith so given that I remain Yours. Amen.

 

 

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