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“Surety in Christ according to His Word”

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

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Graham seemed to be sure of being unsure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The way of the Christian is different.

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

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

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

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Certainty in Christ!

 

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.

Psalm 119:89

What blessed and eternal comfort the child of God has in God’s own Word!  You see this according to faith, not according to sight, for you live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But what kind of faith? The faith that believes that anything is possible? The faith that believes you can do anything you set your mind to?  The faith which blindly trusts that all things will work out the way we hope them to?

Such description of faith is not that description of faith revealed by God in His Word.  The Christian faith is not “blind.”  It trusts in God’s promises.  Such faith does not trust in worldly expectations or self expectations, but only on the mercies of God in Christ.  Such faith does not believe that anything is possible by oneself or by putting one’s mind to something.  It rests on God’s unchangeable and unconditional grace, revealed in Christ.  Also, such faith does not rest on false or misguided hopes, for its foundation is God’s Holy and faithful Word.

Such faith as the Christian faith rests squarely on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this Gospel is nothing but certain and sure, and not at all because I believe it.  The Christian faith rests upon God and His Son.  He makes it sure.  I do not add anything at all to it, but simply believe it.  This, after all, is what Christians do.  They confess Christ and believe His Word.  And they are sure that God’s Word “abides forever.”

 

Luther

“Christ and His side are weak, and the Gospel is a foolish proclamation.  On the other hand, the kingdom of the world and the devil, its prince, are strong; in addition, the wisdom of the flesh is very impressive.  But this is our consolation, that the devil with his members cannot accomplish what he wishes.  He may trouble many persons, but he cannot destroy the Gospel of Christ.  The truth may be endangered, but it cannot perish.  It is attacked, but it cannot be conquered; for ‘the Word of the Lord abides forever” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p54).

Prayer: Gracious Father, forgive me for doubting Your promises and Your undeserved mercy.  Help me at all times to trust in Your Word and be ever sure of Your abundant grace and mercy in Christ.  Amen.

The Word of God is not Bound!

Here, with these few words, St. Paul encourages his son Timothy to take courage, to endure hardship, to keep doing what God has called him to do.

For even though Paul himself is in chains and bound, God’s Word is not bound.

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4)

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had told Timothy to Remain in Ephesus, that he commandsome that they teach no other doctrine.

2Tim2.1-13, Pentecost 20, 2010C.pdf

Certainty in Christ!

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

Certainty is a blessed thing.  St. John writes, “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21).  Such confidence before God you find in Jesus, not in yourself.  Of course, some exist who try to find surety in themselves or in other things other than God’s Son.  And for a time, that surety may remain, but then it is soon taken away in a blink of eye, a fleeting thought, always temporary and not lasting.

Confidence in self or man-made things, teachings, activities, etc. do not give lasting confidence before God.  But the work and word of Christ do give such confidence, such hope—the hope that cannot be ungiven or undone, for Jesus Christ died and is alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18).  The word and Word of Christ cannot be undone.  It is already.  And it’s for you.

Nothing surpasses the certainty of God’s favor in Christ Jesus.

So St. Paul writes, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

Such certainty Paul had because of Jesus.  Such certainty also do you have—in Jesus.

And such certainty does the Lord give by means of His  faithfully preached Word, that you also continue in such certainty—that you continue in Christ.  Amen.

Luther

Therefore let the preacher of the Gospel be sure that his calling is from God.  It is perfectly proper that he should follow Paul’s example and exalt this calling of his, so that he may gain credence and authority among the people.  To glory this way is not vain but necessary; for he does not glory in himself but in the king who has sent him and whose authority he seeks to have honored and elevated. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Dear Lord, bless our pastor with faithfulness to Your Holy Word, and give us ears to hear, that we, too, would have such confidence as You Yourself give in Your Word, and have such certainty of your favor and kindness toward us on account of Jesus Your Son.  Amen.

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