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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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The Christian’s boast is in Christ

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But 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 boasts, let him boast in the LORD.”

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

 

Christians are a peculiar people. They live in the flesh.  They live in the world.  But they are not of the world.  They live by faith in Jesus Christ (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17, etc.).  Jesus is their confidence.  He alone is their boast and their glory.

Whether having little or much, we learn, by God’s grace, that it matters not whether we have abundance or lack (Philippians 4:13).  Having Christ, we have everything we need, for what is more needful than God’s judgment and condemnation for our sin subsiding?  What greater need does the sinner have before God but to have that sin atoned for, taken away, and not counted against the sinner?

Nothing compares to what we have in Christ Jesus.  Nothing!  Nothing in the world at all approaches the grace of God.  And yet, we take it for granted.  We neglect the forgiveness of our sins and consider it an insignificant thing to replace Christ with our own interests, activities, and life.  We neglect the hearing of God’s Word.  We complain and grumble that things are not the way that we think things should be.  We seek our own way out of trouble rather than waiting on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).  In effect, we boast and glory in our own accomplishments, trying to make them our own, and consider God to be our servant, imploring Him to do our bidding instead of we being His servants and seeking to do His bidding according to His Word.  We fret and get all worked up because God does not do things our way and thus, we lose sight of God’s ways for our own and in the process, call our ways good and God’s ways evil.

Through Isaiah the prophet, God speaks of this when He declares, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21)

Instead of putting yourselves before God and His ways, like Peter who wanted nothing of a suffering Christ and who was rightly rebuked (Matthew 16:21-23), be mindful of the things of God, not the things of men (see also Colossians 3:1-4ff).  Consider who you are in the light of God’s Holy Law—a sinner, a sinner in need of God’s salvation in Christ; a sinner for whom Christ died, willingly, that you might live.

Consider now your place as God’s blessed child, having been baptized into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Consider that you are no longer your own, but God’s child, purchased with the price of Christ’s blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Now that you know that God is “for you” in Christ, and that nothing can separate you from God’s love in Christ (Romans 8), so now live.  Live in confidence!  Should even Satan stand against you, he cannot prevail, for Christ is victor!  Since such is the case, what need you fear the things of this life?  “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

You have no reason not to boast and glory in Christ, for God forgives your sins, you have eternal life promised you, and you belong to your Heavenly Father.  God is your God!  Salvation is yours!

Luther

“Now Christians know their boast in Christ, not that we are rich and worth a fortune, nor that we win a kingdom and principality, but that through Christ we become loosed from sins, from death and the devil and are established in hope.  So to this extent, we are brought into the eternal kingdom and we boast that we have a gracious God and Father because we are baptized and believe in the man who can give us eternal life, of whom no Turk, no divisive spirit, no bishop or the pope, no prince, no teacher or false saint and in summary, the whole world, knows nothing.” (Geo. Link, Luther’s Family Devotions, 644)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, forgive us for our pride before you, lamenting that we do not have what we think we ought and for seeking what you do not promise.  Help us to recognize and believe that You only are our everything, and that having You, we need no more, for You will provide and care for us of Your bountiful mercies.  Amen.

Questions about the Christian Church and faith

From November 2010-November 2011, these questions and answers were published in an “Ask the Expert” section of the “The Shopping News”. The 12 questions contained herein include: what to look for in a church, the Holy Bible, Tolerance, Salvation, and the Sacraments. Answers were limited to around 100 words, so they are not at all exhaustive. I hope to expand on these in time.

AskTheExpert-ShoppingNews, 2010-2011.pdf

Confession & Absolution

Large Catechism (Tappert Edition)

A Brief Exhortation to Confession (28-35)

28 Thus we teach what a wonderful, precious, and comforting thing confession is, and we urge that such a precious blessing should not be despised, especially when we consider our great need. If you are a Christian, you need neither my compulsion nor the pope’s command at any point, but you will compel yourself and beg me for the privilege of sharing in it. 29 However, if you despise it and proudly stay away from confession, then we must come to the conclusion that you are no Christian and that you ought not receive the sacrament. For you despise what no Christian ought to despise, and you show thereby that you can have no forgiveness of sin. And this is a sure sign that you also despise the Gospel.

30 In short, we approve of no coercion. However, if anyone refuses to hear and heed the warning of our preaching, we shall have nothing to do with him, nor may he have any share in the Gospel. If you are a Christian, you should be glad to run more than a hundred miles for confession, not under compulsion but rather coming and compelling us to offer it. 31 For here the compulsion must be inverted; we must come under the command and you must come into freedom. We compel no man, but allow ourselves to be compelled, just as we are compelled to preach and administer the sacrament.

32 Therefore, when I urge you to go to confession, I am simply urging you to be a Christian. If I bring you to this point, I have also brought you to confession. Those who really want to be good Christians, free from their sins, and happy in their conscience, already have the true hunger and thirst. They snatch at the bread just like a hunted hart, burning with heat and thirst, 33 as Ps. 42:2 says, “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” That is, as a hart trembles with eagerness for a fresh spring, so I yearn and tremble for God’s Word, absolution, the sacrament, etc. 34 In this way, you see, confession would be rightly taught, and such a desire and love for it would be aroused that people would come running after us to get it, more than we would like. We shall let the papists torment and torture themselves and other people who ignore such a treasure and bar themselves from it. 35 As for ourselves, however, let us lift up our hands in praise and thanks to God that we have attained to this blessed knowledge of confession.

Confession & Absolution

Large Catechism (Tappert Edition)

A Brief Exhortation to Confession (8-14)

8 To begin with, I have said that in addition to the confession which we are discussing here there are two other kinds, which have an even greater right to be called the Christians’ common confession. I refer to the practice of confessing to God alone or to our neighbor alone, begging for forgiveness. These two kinds are expressed in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” etc. 9 Indeed, the whole Lord’s Prayer is nothing else than such a confession. For what is our prayer but a confession that we neither have nor do what we ought and a plea for grace and a happy conscience? This kind of confession should and must take place incessantly as long as we live. For this is the essence of a genuinely Christian life, to acknowledge that we are sinners and to pray for grace.

10 Similarly the second confession, which each Christian makes toward his neighbor, is included in the Lord’s prayer. We are to confess our guilt before one another and forgive one another before we come into God’s presence to beg for forgiveness. Now, all of us are debtors one to another, therefore we should and we may confess publicly in everyone’s presence, no one being afraid of anyone else. 11 For it is true, as the proverb says, “If one man is upright, so are they all”; no one does to God or his neighbor what he ought. However, besides our universal guilt there is also a particular one, when a person has provoked another to anger and needs to beg his pardon. 12 Thus we have in the Lord’s Prayer a twofold absolution: our debts both to God and to our neighbor are forgiven when we forgive our neighbor and become reconciled with him.

13 Besides this public, daily, and necessary confession, there is also the secret confession which takes place privately before a single brother. When some problem or quarrel sets us at one another’s throats and we cannot settle it, and yet we do not find ourselves sufficiently strong in faith, we may at any time and as often as we wish lay our complaint before a brother, seeking his advice, comfort, and strength. 14 This kind of confession is not included in the commandment like the other two but is left to everyone to use whenever he needs it. Thus by divine ordinance Christ himself has entrusted absolution to his Christian church and commanded us to absolve one another from sins.7 So if there is a heart that feels its sin and desires consolation, it has here a sure refuge when it hears in God’s Word that through a man God looses and absolves him from his sins.


7 Matt. 18:15-19.

“Who is Jesus”

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

Who is Jesus?  This is the question of all questions.  Though some will indeed try to ignore the question or not attempt an answer at all, the question of Jesus’ identity, and what you believe about Him, cannot be avoided.  The Bible reveals that a judgment day is drawing nearer.  And though many ignore such a warning, it cannot be avoided, regardless of how anyone disbelieves it.

So who is Jesus?  In Jesus’ day, some professed Him to be John the Baptist (risen from the dead, John 14:1ff).  But Jesus was not John the Baptist.  Some believed Jesus to be “one of the prophets,” as in one of the Old Testament prophets.

Still today, there are those who see Jesus only as a prophet, only one among many.  Such belief is found also in nonChristian religions (i.e. Islam, Buddhism, etc.).  But Jesus as only a prophet saves no one.

Jesus surely did preach and proclaim (compare the messages of St. John the Baptist & Jesus, Matthew 3:2 & 4:17), but He did more than preach and proclaim.  He gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).  He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world, in order to save sinners.

If Jesus were just a prophet, such sacrifice would be for naught.  If Jesus were just a “good” teacher, you are still in your sins.  If Jesus were just an example, further “in the hole” would we be.  Also, if Jesus were just a man, we would still be under God’s wrath and judgment.

Confessing Christ to be a great man, a compassionate leader, a “new Moses,” equal to the Old Testament prophets, or just a “good fellow” is not the Christian faith.  It is the demonstration of unbelief.  Though there be many, even within Christian churches today, who have high regard for Jesus, high regard for Jesus does not yet mean the Christian faith.

Christians confess Christ to be who He claimed to be—the very Son of the Living God.  Christians confess Christ to be who God the Father declared Him to be—His only begotten Son.  Christians, according to Holy Scripture, confess Jesus to be God in the flesh, the Savior of the world.

Only in such a Jesus, who is God and man in one person, who was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead (2nd article of the Apostles’ Creed), only in such a Jesus is your sin done away with, having been put to death by His death.  Only in such a Jesus do you, a sinner, have life, even eternal life.

No man can do anything to make things better between himself and God, let alone for others.  But Jesus is not merely a man.  He is also God, God for you.  See the nail prints and His side!  He is flesh.  Yet this one who died—is risen from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God.

Therefore do we not only confess Jesus to be as He is in truth according to the Bible.  We worship Him, too.

Who is Jesus?  With Peter we confess, “Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Amen.

Luther

“The Arians were truly sharp. They conceded that Christ has a double nature and that He is called “God of true God”—but only in name. Christ, they said, is a most noble and perfect creature, higher than the angels; through Him God then created heaven and earth and everything else. Thus Mohammed also speaks of Christ in a laudatory way. But all this is nothing but fallacious reasoning and words that are pleasant and reasonable, by which the fanatics deceive men unless they are careful. But Paul speaks of Christ differently. You, he says, are rooted and grounded in this knowledge, that Christ is not only a perfect creature but true God, who performs the very same works that God the Father performs. He performs divine works, not those of a creature but of the Creator. For He grants grace and peace; and to give these is to condemn sin, to conquer death, and to trample the devil underfoot. No angel can grant any of this; but since it is ascribed to Christ, it necessarily follows that He is God by nature.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p31-32).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us ever faithful to Your Holy Word, that we not deny You, nor Your Son, but continue in true Christian worship all of our days.  Amen.

“A Firm Confidence,” 2 Timothy 4:3-8

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you through our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

The basis for today’s sermon comes from those few words from St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy, where he writes, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:3-8).

With these words, St. Paul writes to Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith (i.e. 1 Timothy 1:2). St. Paul the Apostle knew that his death was approaching. He recognized that his days were numbered (Psalm 90:12). He knew that he could not escape his own death, but with confidence, he wrote to Timothy of what he was sure.

In confidence, he declared, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

From where had St. Paul the Apostle obtained such confidence? From where had St. Paul, even in the midst of facing his own death, such certainty that he was able to face death head on, positive of the crown of righteousness awaiting him, positive that he had kept the faith, sure that he had finished the race, and in unwavering faith declare, I have fought the good fight?…

11.01.26FuneralSermon.GenevaBennett.pdf

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