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Christ is your strength

JesusOnCross

The cross of Christ is our glory.

Jesus is our crown.

He deserves all boast and honor,

Absolute all around.

Apart from Him we can do nothing,

So says Jesus in the Gospel of St. John.

Therefore, in and through Him,

We have strength and perseverance to continue in the faith,

And the victory over sin and death won.

Context is everything…

Don'tPutAQuestionMarkWhereGodPutAPeriod

This is a decent quote!  It draws attention to the truth that we are not to question God and His ways.  Nor are we in the position to question God and His Holy Word, as the writer to the Proverbs, for example, says, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6, NKJ).

So often, however, contrary to what the Bible says, we, like Zechariah in the temple, question the Word and ways of God (Luke 1:18).  Even though He has made known to us His will by means of the Holy Scriptures, His Word, we doubt, question, and even disbelieve what He has said.  We say, for example, that St. Paul the apostle was speaking only of his day and time and culture when he spoke against the ordination of women (i.e. 1 Corinthians 14:34-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6), or concerning homosexuality (i.e. Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9), or about any number of current societal issues in which we want to usurp what the Bible actually says.

We might say that, “God says,” but then reinterpret such words according to the way that we think they ought to be.  And yet, we continue to speak the mantra that the Bible is God’s Word, though at the same time emptying it of its true meaning.  Rather than letting God speak and mean what He intends by the mere Word alone, we reconstruct the words and implant a foreign meaning to them so that we, essentially, can live at peace with ourselves and the way we want.  But such is not the way of God and His Word.  They who alter and change it will reap the consequences (i.e. Revelation 22:18-19).

Christians more or less might expect nonChristians to distort the Scriptures, for they likely do not believe them.  Yet more and more, it’s not the nonChristians who are changing the meaning (and words) of the sacred text.  Rather, it’s the so-called “Christians” who are doing so.  Many mainline denominations have forsaken the heavenly doctrine and are more in agreement with the world and its ways and not God and His.  The admonition of the Lord Jesus to the Pharisees also applies to them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:7-9, NKJ).

What proof of this might their be?  The phrase above, “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period” was posted on a church billboard, not of a faithful ChristianELCAcross-are they Christian congregation, but by a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  This church body ordains women into the ministry, as well as unrepentant homosexuals, approves of homosexuality, approves of abortion and provides for it in its insurance, calls good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20-21), minimizes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, preaches and teaches that the Biblical account of creation and other revealed accounts of God are myths and neither historical or factual, etc.  Essentially, ELCA (and many other mainline denominational church bodies) have gutted Holy Scripture of its intended meaning (according to the Word written) and replaced it with something devilish (i.e. 2 Timothy 4:3-4).  This is not according to godliness and leads the hearers (if they believe their words) to hell and not to heaven.  And grievously, many who are members in these apostatized church bodies may care little for the truth of God’s Word and repenting of their ways should they remain in them.

The words on that sign, “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period” are true words, but printed on a sign in front of an erring congregation that teaches contrary to the Word of God is not only misleading, it is deceptive.  A congregation which is truly of God (and not of the devil, see John 8:42-47) preaches and teaches God’s Word according to the text, rightly divides Law and Gospel, calls to repent from sin that God calls sin, and points to Jesus Christ as the only “Way, truth, and life” (John 14:6).  They call good what God calls good and call evil what calls evil.  They don’t put a question mark on where God put a period.  Instead, they speak the whole counsel of God, treat the Word of God as God’s Word (and not theirs), and seek to be faithful to the true doctrine, heeding the words of Paul to Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Salvation is only found in Christ (i.e. John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  The faithful congregation and the faithful pastor preach Him and Him alone and none other as the way to eternal life, and they seek to abide by His Word and hear only His voice (1 Corinthians 1:23-31; John 10:16, 27), for by these, the Lord sustains them, and gives certainty of peace with God (i.e. Romans 5:1ff).  These we are to hear.  From the others, we are to flee (John 10:1-5).

In the Word

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”

John 14:23

openBible1In the Name of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Christian life is not lived in a vacuum.  It is not lived to oneself alone, nor is the Christian life the life of self-love.  It is a life lived of sacrificial love.  As our Lord loved us in Christ, so also do we love others (John 13:34; 1 John 4:7-11).  Yet, the love that we have toward others as God’s children does not begin with our love toward others.  We do not in anyway generate this kind of state of being towards our neighbor, nor can we.  Such love for others, freely given and unconditional, can only come from Him who Himself gives freely and unconditionally, “without any merit or worthiness in us.”

God loves you unconditionally, and gives freely to you all that you need in this life.  But even more than your physical needs, God provides you a Savior from sin, death, and the devil.  This Savior, none other than Jesus Christ, by His death has swallowed up your death, done away with your sin, and frees you from slavery to the devil.

Even though you had not first loved Him, God loved you, demonstrating that love in the death of His Son (Romans 5:8).  Now, because of His love, you love and seek to love others.  As He loves you unconditionally, so you also love others unconditionally.  As God loves you because you are His, so you also love others because God also loves them.

This love which we now have for others, coming as it does from God, first shows itself, however, immediately and continually in the love which we have towards God’s Word and the hearing of that Word.  Jesus Himself says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word” (John 14:23).  Thus will the Christian be in the Word, not only hearing it preached and gathering around Word and Sacrament.  The Christian will also be about studying that Word, for it is not man’s, but God’s, and “is spirit and life” (John 6:63).  Christians will also “test” what they hear, read, and see to ensure that it is according to truth of our Lord.  In this way, God will keep them (and us) a holy people for Himself, for it is through the Word that our Lord sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith.

Luther

(Referring to Galatians 1:15, “When God was pleased…”) “This is as though Paul were saying: ‘It is only the unspeakable kindness of God that He has not only spared me—a good-for-nothing, a criminal, a blasphemer, and a sacrilegious man—but that He has also given me the knowledge of salvation, His Spirit, Christ His Son, the apostolic office, and life eternal.’  Seeing us in similar sins, God has not only pardoned our wickedness and blasphemies out of His sheer mercy for the sake of Christ; but He has also showered us with His great blessings and spiritual gifts.  But many among us not only, as 2 Peter 1:9 says, ‘have forgotten that they were cleansed from their old sins’; but, opening a window to the devil again, they begin to loathe His Word, and many also pervert it and thus become the founders of new sects.  The last sate of such men is worse than the first.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p71)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, do not leave us to ourselves and to our own selfish desires.  Uphold us by Your Holy Word, that we resist the devil and ever more love Your Word and love Your people.  Amen.

The Prayer of the Christian

    [23] And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”  [24] Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:23-24 (ESV)

The life of the Christian is one of prayer, prayer to Him who alone hears, answers, and gives according to His good and gracious will.  This One who hears is none other than the Triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All other so called ‘gods’ are false gods, and not the true God.  And false gods are only idols, the work of men’s hands.  And as the Psalmist says, They have ears, but they do not hear and those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them (Psalm 115:6, 8).  They cannot nor do they deliver in times of trouble.  But the true God, the God who graciously saves, abundantly delivers, and readily hears, this One does, as our Lord declares through the Psalmist, Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me (Psalm 50:15).

To this One do we pray.  And our prayers He hears, for the sake of His Son.  The God who delivers in the day of trouble, this is our God, He who sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  This is He who says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  To He alone do we offer our petitions, ‘praise, and give thanks’ (Small Catechism, Explanation to 3rd Commandment), for by His grace, we have come to know Him for who He is – our Savior who delivers from sin and gives unto us eternal life.  We have come to know that even though He seems to be silent to our prayers and our requests, He yet hears every word.  With confidence does the Christian pray, confidence in the Lord’s promise that He will hear, and that He will answer, in His own time and in His own way.  Thus does the Christian pray to the Lord, Thy will be done, Thy will and not mine.

According to God’s Holy Word, the prayer which is prayed in faith will be heard.  Jesus says, Ask and it will be given to you (Matthew 7:7).  In another place, He says, What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11).

Yes indeed!  How much more does our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.  Much more does He give, because of who He is.  He promises to hear His people because He promises to do so.  And in His promise, His people place their confidence, hope, and trust, and not in their own righteousness, goodness, or piety.

In pride and self-glory we do not come before God.  Those in their arrogance who come before God He does not hear.  They come in their own righteousness.  God’s help they do not truly seek, for if they truly sought help from the Lord, they would not demand from God, but humbly ask of Him, leaving the outcome and the answer to Him.

They who ask of God, dependent on God’s reply and answer, trusting not in themselves or the worthiness of their prayer, but entrusting themselves into God’s care, believing His Holy Word and in Christ His Son, these He certainly does and will hear.  But this kind of faith and commendation into the Lord’s hands and will is not inborn within us or natural to us.  It is God given, not according to our nature, but according to His gift.  By the hearing of His Holy Word, God gives this kind of faith (Romans 10:17).  And by the hearing of His Holy Word do we battle within ourselves against doubt and unbelief in God’s promises, that we not demand of God according to our will, but that He answer according to His.

Concerning wisdom, St. James writes, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.  For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

This word certainly applies for asking in prayer for wisdom.  But also does it apply concerning prayer in general.  The prayer of doubt is not really prayer at all.  Thus do we not pray in such a way that we say, ‘Lord, if you hear’ or ‘Lord, if you help’ or ‘Lord, if you answer.’  This is not prayer.  It’s a wish, a wish that demonstrates little confidence and assurance in God and His Word at all, but is really a sign of unbelief.

God’ Word is not uncertain.  His promises are not a possibility, probability, or accidental.  God’s promises are certain and true because it is God who gives them.  Adding an ‘if’ to what God promises is to disbelieve God.  But the confidence God gives unto us that He hears the prayer of faith is His Holy Word.  Throughout the Holy Scriptures, example after example abounds of God answering prayer, that we believe and have confidence in God, who for Christ’s sake, hears our prayers.

The man in today’s Gospel reading from St. Mark is such an example.  So is the woman who asked the Lord to cast the demon out of her daughter, even when Jesus had replied, It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs (Mark 7:27).  But to Him the woman replied, Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs (Mark 7:28).  In agreement with the Lord, she confessed the same and was willing to take what the Lord would give.  She trusted in His kindness and believed His Word, and her daughter was delivered.

So also did blind men receive their sight; the lame walked, lepers were cleansed (Luke 7:22).  These had asked our Lord in faith for help, to have mercy upon them, and to hear them, and He did.  And so also does our Lord help us in our needs, giving faith to trust in Him and confidence in His Holy Word, leaving the outcome to Him and waiting on Him for answer.

The Bible says that The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).  This is true.  And one is a righteous man who believes in Christ, in Christ whose righteousness covers his own unrighteousness. It is this way with us.  Christ’s righteousness covers our own unrighteousness.  His sinless life covers our sinful life.    Through Christ, therefore, does the Christian pray.  And that prayer is heard.

Therefore are our prayers not in vain.  Nor are they useless.  Prayer is not a worthless activity.  It is the diligent and continual exercise of God’s people, God’s people who live by faith in God’s Son.  Prayer is spoken with the mouth, but is also prayed within the heart that trusts in Christ for help and deliverance and gives Him the glory.

It is on account of Christ that our prayers are heard.  This is because our boldness and confidence to ask of God is not founded on the one who asks, but on Him who is prayed to; on Him who commands us to pray and who promises to hear.  According to His Word do we pray and according to His Word do we believe He hears and answers.

Note how the writer to the Hebrews prefaces these words, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  Just before he speaks of Jesus when he writes, Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:14-15).

Jesus, though tempted as we are, was without sin.  He sympathizes with our weakness and is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).  He is our High Priest who offered Himself once and for all on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 7:27; 10:10).  And because He has, Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  And in Christ is where God’s mercy is found.

In yet another place, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of having a boldness by the blood of Jesus, our High Priest, saying, Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:22-23).

This is how we know that God hears and answers our prayer – on account of Christ.  Believing in Him for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation is faith, a faith not born of man, but the faith born of water and Word, God’s Word, the faith which trusts not in one’s own piety, strength, or worthiness to come to God in prayer for help in time of need, but trusts in Him who, by His grace, for Christ’s sake, promises to hear and answer.

Thus do we see the father in the Gospel text this morning, praying in such a way that even in his own faith he does not trust, but in Him to whom He asks for His son’s deliverance.  Therefore, did the father pray, I believe; help my unbelief!

Oh for such a faith as this, that takes no confidence and assurance in the strength of one’s faith, but even acknowledges its disbelief and doubt before God who alone can help.  This is true despair of oneself, that one throw himself fully upon God’s mercy, resting upon nothing within, but hoping on everything from without, upon Christ.

And to this one, Christ and God hears and answers.  Thus, do we also pray, with Christ’s disciples elsewhere, Increase our faith (Luke 17:5).  And He does.  Forgiveness into our ears does He proclaim.  Christ’s body and blood does the Lord give in bread and wine.  And to our Baptism does our Lord direct us, For as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

This newness of life is one born of water and the spirit (John 3:5-6).  It is the life of faith, faith in God’s Word and trust in His promises.  For Christ’s sake does God our Father hear us.  And increase our faith He does.  Ourselves we do not trust, neither the strength of our faith or the greatness of our prayer

 

 

 

We seek to please God, not men

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men?

For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Our Lord Jesus says to his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).

Those who seek to please Christ are those who seek to abide by His Word and remain in it, regardless of the cost involved (John 8:31-32).  Such cost may include the loss of friends, family members, or job.  The hatred of the world may include isolation and persecution.  Collectively, also, for Christ’s Church, for His people gathered around Word and Sacrament, such hatred of the world may present itself in the refusal to hear the Word of God preached by the pastor, the denial of Christ’s absolution, the promotion of schism contrary to the true doctrine, the despising of God’s Means of Grace, and the desire to change the worship service from being that which God works through to deliver His blessed gifts of life and salvation in the hearing of His Word and the distribution of Christ’s body and blood, to what we give to God, without first acknowledging the extent of our sin before Him.

Like the Pharisee, we come to God’s house to tell God what we have done and how we have lived, and thus do we seek His favor based on our work and apart from His mercy in Jesus His beloved Son.  Contrast this pharisaical approach to God based on oneself with the manner that the tax collector approached God.  He could not even look up.  He did not claim any goodness of himself, but simply confessed what was right and true.  He had nothing to give. He had nothing to offer to God-only his sin.  So he says, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14, my translation: the definite article is in use here in the Greek text, v13).

This “poor miserable sinner” claimed no merit of his own.  He did not at all trust in himself.  Nor did he look to himself for any “spark of goodness” whereby he might gain God’s favor.  Instead, He trusted only in the mercy of God for help and salvation.  He came expecting to receive from God, not to give.  And Jesus says receive everything, this sinner did, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).

To be justified before God means nothing less than having peace with God (Romans 5:1ff), having your sins forgiven, being unconditionally in God’s favor, and having nothing but God’s compassion and kindness upon you.  On the other hand, to not be justified before God means nothing less than having God’s wrath and judgment upon you and to not at all have God’s favor towards you.

Only in Christ Jesus do you have such true and lasting peace with God!  This is the Christ who God reveals in His Holy Word.  And this is the Christ which God’s Holy Church proclaims and who God’s people unashamedly confess.  This, too, is the same Christ which the world hates, and for which God’s people joyfully suffer. But God’s people suffer for the sake of Christ and for the sake of His Name because He is their Savior, “for there is no other Name, under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  They know no other God, for there is no other God (1 Corinthians 8:6).  All others are nothing but false God’s, man-made, and of the devil (Revelation 9:20).

This is why the world hates Christ, His Church, and His people—they are of God, not of the devil, the world, or of sinful man.  They teach the way of God aright, neither compromising or weakening God’s message.  They boldly confess and unashamedly proclaim the way of God in truth.

God’s people come before God’s throne of grace, not giving to God, but seeking to receive from Him the mercy that God gives through faith in His Son (Hebrews 4:16).  And by God’s mercy, that have it!

This is indeed not a popular message, for many, even within the church, reject it.  But it is only Christ who gives life (John 6:63).  We are lost and condemned in our sin, with nothing to give to God.  But God covers such sinners with Christ’s righteousness (1 John 1:8-9), and we, now, live unto Him, rejoicing in His bountiful goodness and believing His unmerited and undeserved mercy on account of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.  Amen.

Luther

“We do not seek the favor of men by our teaching either, if we may be permitted to say this without boasting.  For we teach that all men are wicked; we done the free will of man, his natural powers, wisdom, righteousness, all self-invented religion, and whatever is best in the world.  In other words, we say that there is nothing in us that can deserve grace and the forgiveness of sins.  But we proclaim that we receive this grace solely and altogether by the free mercy of God and His works, universally condemning all men for their works (Ps. 19:1).  This is not preaching that gains favor from men and from the world.  For the world finds nothing more irritating and intolerable than hearing its wisdom, righteousness, religion, and power condemned.  To denounce these might and glorious gifts of the world is not to curry the world’s favor but to go out looking for and quickly to find, hatred and misfortune, as it is called.  For if we denounce men and all their efforts, it is inevitable that we quickly encounter bitter hatred, persecution, excommunication, condemnation, and execution” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p.58).

Prayer: Dearest Jesus, preserve us, Your Holy people.  Keep us from compromising Your Holy doctrine or accommodating ourselves to the ways of the world for superficial peace in the world.  Give us strength to endure the temptations that befall us that we not forsake Your Word, but remain steadfastly in it and in the true faith for our salvation.  Amen.

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”

John 8:31

Enthusiasm, in the sense of excitement, can be a good thing.  It gets us moving.  However, enthusiasm can also be a hindrance, for it is often temporary.  It wanes away.  We begin something full of zeal, but then soon lose interest.  We then might begin to even despise what we were once eager about.

This happened during the Reformation concerning the Gospel in Luther’s day.  People were excited about the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  People paid in earnest to the teachings of God.  But shortly thereafter, the heat waned into lukewarmness and even into indifference on the count of many.  People tired of the truth and wanted something new and different to tickle their fancy.

Long before Luther, St. Paul the apostle encountered a similar situation, for to the Christians in Galatia he writes, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).

The Galatian Christians were turning from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to something else, another teaching, a teaching which was not of God.  They were tired, ironically, of the only truth that truly makes alive new.

Christians today are beset by the same temptations.  How easy it is to consider the glorious resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday, and then go into the “ho-humness” of everyday life, including Sunday morning!  How easy it is for us to distance ourselves further and further from the Lord and His saving doctrine and all the while take for granted the Good News of forgiveness in Christ!

Like the Christians in Galatia or the Christians during of the Reformation, we too currently face such trials as the people of God in the year 2012.  The answer, however, is not to be found in trying to solve this problem, trying harder, or in looking for something to bring about the escaping enthusiasm and excitement that we so long for.  The answer, simply, is turn from selfishness to Christ—to not seek what the world and our sinful nature looks for—but to seek Him who alone forgives and saves the ungodly (Psalm 32:1-2).

Enthusiasm goes up and down for this and for that.  It can be sometimes quite hot.  On the other hand, it can also become quite frigid.

God’s love for sinners, for you, in Christ, does not wax or wane.  It is constant.  And in Christ, God’s love for you is sure and certain (Romans 5:8).  Therefore do His people seek to continue in that sure and certain Word and doctrine of Christ, for it is only there that Christ’s disciples remain (John 12:26).

Luther

“Whatever we do, we are always very ardent at the beginning; but when the ardor of our initial feelings is spent, we soon lose our enthusiasm.  We give up on things and completely reject them as a impetuously as we undertake them.  When the light of the Gospel first began to appear after the great darkness of human traditions, many listened eagerly to sermons.   Now that the teaching of religion has been successfully reformed by the great growth of the Word of God, many are joining the sects, to their destruction.  Many despise not only Sacred Scripture but almost all learning.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p47).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for our lack of enthusiasm for Your Holy and life-giving Word.  Keep us from becoming indifferent to Your heavenly doctrine.  Uphold us by Your Word and grant us diligence in its study, that we continue to be Your faithful servants.  In  Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

We Confess Christ (John 20:19-31)

The confession of Christ is not self-derived.  It is not self-induced, self-revealed, or self-chosen.  Rather, the confession of Christ is God-given, God established, God revealed, God made known.

No one on this earth would know of Christ crucified and resurrected the third day unless had God had made it known to us.  And this, God, in His mercy, has done.  Through the Holy Scriptures, God makes known your salvation through faith in the crucified and risen Lord.  Therefore, does St. John write,  “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Also, St. Paul writes, “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Thus, God gives us His Word, the Bible (and the preaching of that Word), not so you can live a better life or “have a better life now.”  God also does not give you His Word that you might know how to live your life apart from faith in Him.

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) are indeed commands about how God’s people are to live, but the Bible is not a “rule book” or a book of do’s and don’ts.  The Bible is the book of salvation, and speaks of that salvation which is alone by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As such, the preaching of the apostles following Christ’s ascension was not, “live this way” or “do these things” to get right with God.   Christ’s preaching was not this way either.  Christ’s preaching, and the apostles’ preaching after Him, and the Church’s proclamation today, is Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins.

If the preaching of the church becomes anything else than this, her preaching is false and not to be heeded (i.e. Rick Warren and trying to find a purpose, Joel Osteen and self-help rhetoric) [See Galatians 1:6-10].  Should the church preach this way, she leads the hearers away from the Gospel and away from eternal life to eternal death and hell.

Because Holy Scripture testifies of Christ, so do Christ’s people confess and bear witness to Him who purchased them with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  This is their confession.  And this is the confession of Christ’s body, the Church.

Therefore, with Thomas who went from unbelief to faith by God’s gracious word and work, we too confess and say of and to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

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