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What is Lent?

“I have my faith”?

Therefore, having been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:1

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

There is much talk about faith these days. Recently, I heard one numerous times in discussion say, “I have my faith.” Yet, such talk about faith is quite vague. It seems to emphasize the “me,” of faith, and doesn’t really get to the object of the Christian faith, which is Christ.

MyFaithChristian faith doesn’t exclusively speak in the way of “me” or “my” kind of faith. Rather, Christian faith confesses Christ, front and center.

Remember the words of Jesus. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

Remember the words of St. Paul, too. “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

These words also apply to Christian faith, even our own faith, which is neither self-derived or self-chosen, a personal decision or a choice. Rather, the Christian faith is the God-given faith.

The Bible teaches such truth, for as Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Speaking of the flesh, St. Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).

According to God’s Holy Word, which is what the Bible is, “those who are in the flesh” are not of faith. This applies to all people, as all people are born through the womb. Naturally, such people are in need of a Savior since the Fall of AdaBorn-of-God1m and Eve (Romans 5:12). Dead in sin, from conception to physical death, a spiritual birth is needed. One must be reborn.

Such rebirth cannot and does not happen by choice or personal decision. That which is dead cannot do anything of itself. It is God, through His Holy Word, which gives life, new life, abundant life (John 6:63, 10:10). Thus do we have Christ, who speaks life, that we be born anew, even through water and word (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).

Similar to the account of Jesus calling dead Lazarus from the tomb (John 11:38-44), so Jesus calls us from death to life by means of His Word, even His Word preached today (John 6:63). Where His Holy Word continues to be preached today, He continues to bring forth the hearers from death to life.

The preaching of Christ’s cross does not make Christians either lazy or unproductive (Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 5:6). Instead, the preaching of Christ’s cross, of His death and resurrection, enlivens true faith. Evangelicalism here gets it wrong where they empty their preaching of the Gospel and instead preach only what you must do of yourself and how to live, yet apart from faith in Christ. They also get it wrong where they emphasis personal faith over and against objective faith, which is the faith given by God through the hearing of Christ and His holy Word (Romans 10:17).

This faith, and this faith alone, that which is of God and His Son Jesus Christ, wrought by the Holy Spirit, is that faith which does not seek its own, but glories in Christ, clearly confessing Him to be Savior.

Rom01.16,4The Christian faith does just this, and unashamedly (Romans 1:16). This faith confesses Christ, giving Him and Him alone all the glory. So, more than speaking of “my faith” and taking comfort in what “I personally believe” (subjectively, as in “I have my faith”), the Christian faith speaks of Christ and what He has done for me, according to Holy Scripture. Instead of confessing, “I have my faith,” the Christian boastfully confesses in who that faith is—Christ.

My faith” does not save me. Christ does! Thanks be to God! Amen.

“For the faith that takes hold of Christ, the Son of God, and is adorned by Him is the faith that justifies, not a faith that includes love. For if faith is to be sure and firm, it must take hold of nothing but Christ alone; and in the agony and terror of conscience it has nothing else to lean on than this pearl of great value (Matt. 13:45–46). Therefore whoever takes hold of Christ by faith, no matter how terrified by the Law and oppressed by the burden of his sins he may be, has the right to boast that he is righteous. How has he this right? By that jewel, Christ, whom he possesses by faith. Our opponents fail to understand this. Therefore they reject Christ, this jewel; and in His place they put their love, which they say is a jewel. But if they do not know what faith is, it is impossible for them to have faith, much less to teach it to others. And as for what they claim to have, this is nothing but a dream, an opinion, and natural reason, but not faith.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p88-89)

Prayer: Father in heaven, give us faith which takes hold of Christ and no other. Preserve us in this faith by the means which You freely give and deliver, and keep us from despising Your free gifts of Baptism, Word, and Supper, that we remain yours, and, denying ourselves, follow you. Amen.

All is well

All is well–In God’s hands are we

And though all–our eyes are not able to see

Such is not necessary to be

For Christ is our strength, vision, and sight

It is sufficient for Him to know our plight,

For He will not leave or forsake His own.

We need not at all fear, salvation has already been won.

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.

Sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive

Heidelberg Disputation

Thesis 28

 

God is loveThe love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it…the love of God which lives in man loves sinners, evil persons, fools, and weaklings in order to make them righteous, good, wise, and strong. Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive…Christ says: “For I came not to can the righteous, but sinners” [Matt. 9:13]. This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35], says the Apostle. (LW 31, Heidelberg Disputation, 1518)

Heidelberg Disputation

When being humbled…

JesusBlessing1Luther: Therefore when you feel that you are being humbled, cast yourself at the feet of your heavenly Father and say: “O Lord, if Thou dealest with me in this manner, I shall bear it patiently, and I confess that I have deserved something more terrible. Therefore be merciful to me. If Thou dost not want me to be an heir, see to it that I remain a servant (Luke 15:19). Indeed, as the Canaanite woman says, I do not refuse to be a dog in Thy house so that I can at least eat the crumbs which chance to fall to the ground and otherwise are wasted (Matt. 15:27). Thou dost not owe me a thing by any right. Therefore I cling to Thy mercy.”

God’s Grace is Sufficient

 

 

The Apology to the Augsburg Confession, Apology XII. Penitence

(Tappert Edition)

[Paragraphs 158-160] 158 Scripture explains that Job’s afflictions were not imposed on him because of his past misdeeds. So afflictions are not always punishments or signs of wrath. When in the midst of troubles terrified consciences see only God’s punishment and wrath, they should not feel that God has rejected them but they should be taught that troubles have other and more important purposes. They should look at these other and more important purposes, that God is doing his alien work in order to do his proper work, as Isaiah teaches in a long sermon in his twenty-eighth chapter.1 159 When the disciples asked who had sinned in the case of the blind man, Christ replied that the reason for his blindness was not sin but “that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). In Jeremiah (49:12) it is said, “Those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it.” Thus the prophets were killed, and John the Baptist, and other saints. 160 Therefore troubles are not always penalties for certain past deeds, but works of God, intended for our profit, that the power of God might be made more manifest in our weakness.

Luther’s Large Catechism

(Tappert Edition)

3rd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done, O Lord”

65  Therefore we who would be Christians must surely count on having the devil with all his angels5 and the world as our enemies and must count on their inflicting every possible misfortune and grief upon us. For where God’s Word is preached, accepted or believed, and bears fruit, there the blessed holy cross will not be far away. Let nobody think that he will have peace; he must sacrifice all (tr-717) he has on earth — possessions, honor, house and home, wife and children, body and life. 66 Now, this grieves our flesh and the old Adam, for it means that we must remain steadfast, suffer patiently whatever befalls us, and let go whatever is taken from us.

67 Therefore, there is just as much need in this case as in every other case to pray without ceasing: “Thy will be done, dear Father, and not the will of the devil or of our enemies, nor of those who would persecute and suppress thy holy Word or prevent thy kingdom from coming; and grant that whatever we must suffer on its account, we may patiently bear and overcome, so that our poor flesh may not yield or fall away through weakness or indolence.”

6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”

As  long as we remain in this vile life in which we are attacked, hunted, and harried on all sides, we are constrained to cry out and pray every hour that God may not allow us to become faint and weary and to fall back into sin, shame, and unbelief. Otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation.

106 This, then, is “leading us not into temptation” when God gives us power and strength to resist, even though the tribulation is not removed or ended. For no one can escape temptations and allurements as long as we live in the flesh and have the devil prowling about us.  We cannot help but suffer tribulations, and even be entangled in them, but we pray here that we may not fall into them and be overwhelmed by them.

Luther

“We should not fear harsh treatment (Gewalt), but prosperity and good days we should fear.  These may harm us more than fear and persecution.  Nor should we fear the wisdom of the world, for it can do us no harm.  In fact, the more the wisdom of the world rises up against the truth, the purer and clearer the truth becomes.  Therefore nothing better can come to the Gospel than the opposition of the world with its might and wisdom.  The more my conscience, sin, and the devil assail me, the stronger my righteousness becomes.  For the sins that oppress me cause me anguish.  So I persist more and more earnestly in prayer and crying to God; and in this way faith and righteousness become constantly stronger and stronger.  This is what St. Paul means when he says (2 Cor. 12:9): Strength becomes stronger in weakness.  Since, then, we have a treasure which becomes stronger through temptation and adversity, we should not fear but be of good courage and rejoice at tribulation, as St. Paul says to the Romans (5:3), and as the apostles did who left the courthouse with great joy and thanked God for having been worthy to suffer shame for the sake of Christ’s name (Acts 5:41).  If the devil were wise enough to be silent and let the Gospel be preached, he would sustain less harm.  For when the Gospel is not attacked, it rusts and has no opportunity to reveal its power and might.”  (W 10 I, 2, 422 – E 14, 300f – SL 11, 1807f)(Plass, What Luther Says, #3304 Ease Is a Greater Danger, Persecution, p1039)

 

 

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