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The wages of sin is death

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

St. Paul, writing by inspiration of the Lord, writes first what sounds to our ears as very harsh.  Just a few chapters before, he wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  These words exclude no one.  They include everyone, for that word “all” is wholly inclusive.  Sin is described as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).  Indeed, it is!  Sin is the breaking of God’s commandments.  It is disobedience to God’s Holy Word.  Here there is no discrimination. Everyone is in the same boat as the other.  “No one is righteous,” acceptable in God’s sight (Psalm 14:1-3;’ 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10).  All are therefore deserving of death, even eternal death, because of all that we think, do, and believe contrary to God’s Word and will.

We would like to think that things are not so bad.  We naturally minimize our sin.  “I didn’t mean to do it.”  “That was not my intention.”  “I was only trying to help.”  “I really didn’t know.”  But by these we only try to cover up what God already knows (Psalm 19:12).  Though we try to convince others and ourselves otherwise, we are not able to convince God.  His Word is too strong.  Before Him, there is no way of weaseling ourselves out of our own sinfulness.  We are stuck in the hole and cannot escape.  We are falling and cannot help ourselves or any other out.  We are trapped.

Like the mouse running through the maze trying to get to the cheese, so human reason seeks the goal of easing the conscience that we feel better about ourselves.  The problem is, there is no end to this maze.  We will only keep running.  And though rest might come for a time, the unrest of a guilty conscience and shamefulness for words and actions still will come.

Sinners cannot save themselves.  They cannot minimize their sin.  Nor can they escape what is according to their sinful human nature.  The only true and lasting salvation must come from outside of the sinner and apart from human reason.  Human reason cannot mitigate God’s decrees, nor can it understand God’s promises.  “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Such gift is through faith, not in one’s own works, but in Christ’s works.

Rather than minimize sin, Christians recognize it for what it truly is and what it truly merits, according to God’s Word.  And in doing so, they also recognize the only help that is available for it—Jesus Christ, who through His own death put sin to death and gives forgiveness and  eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Amen.

Luther

“Human reason would like sin to have no greater force and power than it itself dreams of. Although hypocrites, who do not know Christ, may feel sorry for sin, they still suppose that they can get rid of it easily by their works and merits.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p34).

Prayer: Righteous Judge, forgive me for believing that my sin is not as great as You Yourself reveal to me.  Help me to see my sin rightly, that I believe in Your abundant grace more firmly.  Save me only for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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“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

“Your Redemption is Drawing Near”

In the Nicene Creed, Christians everywhere confess that the Jesus Christ “will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” This confession we confess because it is true according to the Holy Scriptures, as heard in today’s Gospel reading. The Lord Jesus will one day return, not in humility as before, being born of the virgin. When He comes again, He will come in glory. Every eye will see Him, the Bible says (Revelation 1:7).

This is good news indeed for all who long to be without sin, for all who desire God’s mercy in Jesus. But for all others, the day of Christ’s return will not be a welcome day. It will be a day of fear and dread. It will be a day of fear and dread because for those who in Christ do not believe, who ignore His calling now to repent and believe the Gospel, they will be called to account. For them, Christ’s return is not for their salvation. It is for their judgment. But for the Christian, for the one who calls upon the Name of the Lord, who seeks God’s favor through the obedience of His Son, Christ comes to bring them to Himself, to take home all who belong to Him…

Lk21.5-36, Pentecost 25, 2010C

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus 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

To the Christians in Thessalonica, St. Paul wrote, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

The Christian Thessalonians, when they heard the Word from Paul and his companions, they accepted it as God’s Word.  How foolish they would have been not to do so!  Paul wasn’t preaching his own Word, but the very Word that the Lord gave him to speak.

So also with preachers today, preachers who do indeed preach only according to the Word!  It is them you are to hear.  They direct you to God and His Word.  They direct you to Christ.  If any preacher direct you elsewhere, then he is not a faithful preacher of Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).

The servant of the Lord preaches God’s Word.  He doesn’t just say that he does; he actually does.  This doesn’t imply perfection.  But it does indeed indicate that he preaches nothing else than Jesus, for only in God’s Son do you have the hope of eternal life.

It would be foolish to listen to another, to another who doesn’t preach God’s Word and Jesus our Savior!

Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

The Lord’s sheep hear His Word.  Thus do they go to hear where the Lord’s Word is truly preached and spoken.  Thus do they rejoice and give thanks for Godly ministers who really do preach the truth.  And that’s where they go—not because of the man, but because of the Word!

Luther

What does Paul intend by this bragging?  I reply: This doctrine has as its purpose that every minister of the Word of God should be sure of his calling.  In the sight of both God and man he should boldly glory that he preaches the Gospel as one who has been called and sent.  Thus the king’s emissary boasts and glories that he does not come as a private person but as the emissary of the king.  Because of this dignity as the king’s emissary he is honored and given the position of highest honor, which he would never receive if he were to come as a private person…When Paul commends his calling so highly, he is not arrogantly seeking his own praise, as some people suppose; he is elevating his ministry with a necessary and a holy pride…He has to do this to maintain his authority, so that those who hear this may be more attentive and more willing to listen to him.  For they are not listening to Paul; but in Paul they are listening to Christ Himself and to God the Father, who sends him forth…Just as men should devoutly honor the authority and majesty of God, so they should reverently receive and listen to His messengers, who bring His Word. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Lead us, heavenly Father, to rejoice and give thanks for Your Holy Word, through which You, according to Your abundant mercy, make known to us our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Help us to uphold and encourage those who preach the truth, that we honor them rightly as Your called and ordained servants.  Amen.

Hear the Scripture

Moses and the Prophets are a reference to the Old Testament. These testify of Jesus, the very same Jesus made known in the New Testament. Him you are to hear. And Him you are to believe. This the rich man did not do. And this is what the rich man was afraid his brothers would not do. That’s why he wanted Lazarus to go warn his brothers. He wanted to warn them of what was to come if they continued in their unbelief.

But to the rich man did Abraham say, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them and If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.

Jesus says the same to the Pharisees and Scribes of this day. Jesus did rise from the dead. And if you don’t believe the Scriptures, God’s very Word, so will you remain in that unbelief, for Jesus is risen, Alleluia! And yet you still don’t believe.

But thanks be to God, it is through those same Scriptures that God makes your salvation known—Jesus the Christ. That’s all we have. That’s all we’ve got. But that’s all that we need. Amen.

[sermon]

Lk 16.19-31, Pentecost 18, 2010C.pdf

Lutheranism 101

This book is worth checking out: Lutheranism 101

Reflections on a Christian Funeral

Just recently, one of the members of the congregation died.  He died.  He didn’t just ‘pass away.’  He died.  He stopped breathing.  His heart ceased.  And during the funeral, the casket being closed, laid the body of a loved one, friend, and saint of God.

Arnie was his name.  He has transferred from the ‘church militant’ to the ‘church triumphant.’  He was an active member, attending regularly unless physically unable.

Just about a week or two prior to his death, he confessed his sins by answering in the affirmative to questions I had asked him while using the ‘commendation of the dying’ section in one of our service books (Pastoral Care  Companion).  He later received the Lord’s Supper.  I reminded him of his baptism.

Arnie had confessed the faith.  He had run the race (Hebrews 12:1).  He had been baptized.  He heard the Word.  He received Christ’s body and blood.

All of the above point to what God had done, what He was doing, what He still does for us who remain living on earth.  All of the above, Word and Sacrament, emphasize God’s work—not man’s—for our salvation.  They point out our sure hope, our certain confidence.  Not by what we do, but by what God does in Christ Jesus, are you called a saint, a holy one of God.

On the day of Arnie’s funeral, there was indeed sorrow.  But there was also that sure confidence of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to His Word does the Lord declare it to be so:

16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. 20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:16-23)

We gave thanks to the Lord for the life and for the faith God had given to His beloved child.  And we give thanks now for the life and for the faith God has given us, that we believe, and so live.

We were reminded of our own mortality that day in a most sublime way.  Arnie was not getting up.  But this didn’t mean that eternal life was not his, or that He was not with the Lord.

We walk by faith, not by sight, St. Paul the apostle says—by faith in the Lord’s abiding and true Word (2 Corinthians 5:7).  He doesn’t lie.  He says how it is.  He says that there is life, even in death.  And this we know to be true, all because of Jesus, the Living One, who conquered sin and death and the devil, and through whom we have life, eternal life.

Prayer:  Dear Father in Heaven, give us sure confidence in Your Word, that even as we sorrow and grieve, seeing the death of others and reflecting on our own mortality, we not lose hope, but look ever to You and Your Son Jesus Christ, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame.  Grant that we too look to our promised inheritance, setting our minds on things above, not on things of the earth; and meditating on what is good and noble and true.  Amen.

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