• The Holy Bible is God’s Holy Word

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“Loving the Lord Jesus, Keeping His Commandments, and the Spirit,” John 14:15-21

Audio

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the cropped-bible-cross1.jpgworld cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (ESV)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Approaching Holy Scripture, we do so in a way that differs from that of others.

We believe the Bible to be God’s Word.

The Bible is God’s Word, not because I make it so, not because I believe it to be so, not because the church says it is so, and certainly not because anyone has determined the Bible to be God’s Word, God’s revelation, on the basis of investigation, explanation, or analysis, thus make the Bible God’s Word based on man’s finding and declaration.

It is the Word of God itself that reveals Holy Scripture to be of God, not the work or idea of man.

It is the Word of God itself that reveals Jesus Christ to be God enfleshed for the salvation of sinners.

We do not make the Bible any truer than it already is because we believe it.

Nor does one make the Bible any less true by not believing it.

Contrary to popular belief, truth is not relative.

Many are learning today that we don’t get want we want the way we want it or when we want it.

We are learning that we are not the one’s who decide how everything is in life.

We are at the mercy of Another.

Because the Bible is God’s Word, it is true, whether believed or not.

We believe the Bible to center on Christ.

As the Bible is God’s Word, it reveals, not what we want it to, but what God wants to make known to us.

Many view the Bible as primarily a book of do’s and don’ts.

Some even refer to the Bible with the acronym B-I-B-L-E, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

That the Scriptures contain do’s and don’ts throughout is readily observable.

The Commandments may immediately come to mind, as given in Exodus chapter 20.

The words of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5-7 also might draw out attention, where Jesus speaks of love to neighbor and enemy alike and how His people are to be towards one another, whether friend or foe.

It is in chapter 7 that our Lord says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 NKJ).

The position that the Bible is merely a manual for how to get right with God, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” a book of do’s and don’ts—such views are not only insufficient, but express the Bible, not as God’s revelation making known Christ as Savior, but as means for the sinner to obtain God’s favor; not as gift, but as compensation.

The Bible would then be like any other text from a nonChristian religion, deceiving people to believe that they can somehow appease God by what they do or don’t do, even if they need a little bit of Jesus to help.

The Bible doesn’t teach this.

The Bible teaches that sinners cannot keep God’s commandments unto eternal life, not because the Law itself is insufficient or lacking, but because we are.

“Whatever the law says,” St. Paul writes, “it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:19-24 NKJ).

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23 NKJ).

“Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. ” (Jas. 2:10 NKJ).

The list goes on.

The Law cannot save the sinner.

The Law demands.

The Law’s demands what we are not able to do.

Since the Fall, all is not well between us and God.

We cannot make things right.

Only God provides the means of forgiveness and peace: through His Son—through Jesus alone—Who was conceived of the Spirit, born of the Virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried, on the third day rose again, and ascended into heaven.

Jesus did these things and reigns even now, bodily, for you and for your salvation.

Jesus was born, lived, died, rose, ascended, and reigns, not merely as Example, that you follow in His every footstep, but as your Redeemer and Savior.

What you could not do in keeping the Law, Jesus did for you.

The judgment you deserve for your sin against God and against your neighbor Jesus received on your behalf.

All the demands of the Law and all of sin’s judgment were fulfilled and met on Jesus.

This is the Gospel.

Your salvation is won.

It is certain.

It is gift.

This is what the Bible is all about, not about you doing that eternal life and its certainty be yours.

The Bible is about Jesus for you, giving what you don’t deserve, creating that which was not; giving life to that which is dead; giving salvation to those deserving condemnation; forgiving sinners; cleansing the unrighteous; God remaining faithful to His promises, His mercy, His favor, through the very means the Lord Himself provides—not dependent on you—fully resting upon Him.

As God’s people, we believe the Bible to be God’s Word.

As God’s Word—the Bible is true.

We believe Jesus to be the center of all Scripture.

The Bible is about Jesus—God’s salvation—Christ’s redemptive work—God’s promise of a Savior to come and the fulfillment of that promise, recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and the continual and ongoing work of Christ in His office of Prophet, Priest, and King, post-Gospels, including today, as testified in the writings of the New Testament and until the Lord’s return in glory.

We also believe, because the Bible is God’s Word and that the Bible is all about Jesus from cover to cover—that the Bible is not about us doing for salvation, us retaining God’s good will by what we do, or us remaining in God’s good graces by how we now live.

This the temptation of the sinner, of Christian and nonChristian alike—to believe that we ourselves can somehow choose to or improve our situation before God, and for the Christian, even after conversion.

We can’t.

Though many in Christendom explicitly or implicitly teach this, that the choice is ours to make concerning our salvation or bettering ourselves before God—and then use the Bible to support this false view—the Bible teaches differently.

“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10 NKJ).

“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1 NKJ).

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:31-34 NKJ).

Even today’s Gospel reading from St. John does not at all teach salvation, redemption, or God’s good graces conditioned on man.

Salvation is of Christ, not by your works.

“To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;  Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin’” (Rom. 4:4-8 NKJ).

Jesus, in today’s text, does clearly speak of keeping His commandments; Later, of keeping His Word.

Jesus does speak of “loving Him.”

If these words be understood apart from the truth the Bible is God’s Word, apart from the truth that Jesus is the center of all of Scripture, apart from the truth that God’s love in Christ is unconditioned by us and solely dependent on God and His Word—His grace and favor won for us by Christ’s life and death and resurrection—then here and in other places of the Bible will be read and understood as conditional upon us and our doing, and not upon God’s enlivening work of the Gospel, even as we confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or senses believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel” (Creed, Article 3).

As “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), so we learn to see that Christ, His Word, and the meanings that He gives to words are their meaning and not what we impose upon the text.

For anyone to truly love the Lord, as the Lord would have Himself be loved, one must first know that He has a gracious God in Christ.

One who doesn’t believe that God is gracious in Jesus Christ will believe that God’s love is conditioned upon them, not unconditionally upon God.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9-10 NKJ).

To love the Lord, there must first be faith in the heart, gratitude for God’s salvation, surety that God is merciful and kind.

Apart from Christ, without faith, none can rightly love God.

Apart from Christ, all that one does will be for the purpose of earning God’s favor, appeasing His wrath, lessening God’s judgment, not in gladly receiving what God freely gives, which is faith.

Any who think that they can or do love God without loving Christ and His Word only deceive themselves.

“God knows” the “hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk. 16:15 NKJ).

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…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” (1 Cor. 1:25, 27-29 NKJ)

God says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” and that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus Himself says, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

It is revealed in Scripture that all lack what God demands.

Thus, is Christ necessary.

Without Jesus, sinners remain in their sin.

To truly fear, love, and trust in God above all things is to have Christ as Savior.

Not attributed to me is true fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Only in Jesus—my Savior—Who is for Me—my Savior.

As the hymn has it, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name” (TLH 370, v1).

With Paul, we also confess with confidence, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14 NKJ).

Christ is our boast before the Father.

Because He is, so do we love Him.

Because we love Him, so is He our boast.

Jesus is our salvation.

God’s people do keep the commandments, the Word of Jesus, for they know, they believe, that Jesus’ Word is life and salvation.

It is not that God’s people recognize themselves of themselves to be good and right before God.

Just the opposite.  They acknowledge that they are indeed deserving of God’s judgment.

They do not do as they ought.  They do not believe as they ought.

God’s people confess that they do not do what God demands; that they do what God forbids; that they are not upright and holy as God would have them be.

They also confess that such sin does not lesson God’s favor, God’s grace in Christ Jesus, His mercy—for God’s mercy, His grace, His favor—these are not at all dependent on the sin of the sinner or upon the sinner, but on Christ alone.

Repenting of their sin, confessing Christ to be their salvation, God’s people seek to live and love God and others, not to earn or merit that which is already gift, but because they have come to know and believe Jesus to be God’s Son, whose Word is Spirit and life, and by that Word—alone—they live—and seek to be according to God’s will. Amen.

Praying HandsO God, the giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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“Eyes Opened,” John 9:1-41

 

John 9:1-41

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus-healing manIn today’s text from the ninth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, there was a man born blind to whom our Lord Jesus gave sight.

There was a common belief, then, as now, that if one was born blind, lame, deaf, mute, with a birth defect, or had another noticeable mark, there was a reason for it.

That reason was either that one or both of parents had sinned, or that somehow the child born with the condition had done something to deserve such a condition.

When the disciples of our Lord asked Jesus who had sinned, the blind man or his parents, that he was born blind, they assumed that the blindness was some kind of punishment.

It is true in general that we receive the consequences for the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden and for our own sin, including sickness, pandemics, and death.

Also, for the things that we do or don’t do in caring for the bod, there can be consequences.

But to say that a sin committed by the parents or a sin committed by the son resulted in the punishment of blindness is something that we cannot say.

To the disciples who had asked the question, Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

Jesus didn’t mean by this that neither the man who was born blind nor his parents were sinless.

What Jesus meant was that the blindness was not a punishment for a specific sin, the very thing that the disciples were thinking.

The man’s blindness, Jesus says, was not because he or his parents committed anything to bring it about, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

And revealed in him they indeed were.

Jesus healed the man of His blindness.

But even more than that, the Lord Jesus opened the man’s eyes to see Him for who He really was, the Son of Man, God’s Son and Savior of the world.

First, Jesus worked the work of God in giving the blind man the ability to physically see, then He worked the work of God in giving the blind man the “eyes” of faith to believe in Jesus.

Jesus had done, and does similarly, for you.

The works of God are revealed today in you.

You still bear the effects and consequences of sin in your bodies and in the world.

This we can see clearly today, also as we see the spread of that for which we have little control.

It is only by God’s abounding grace that the Lord continues to provide for all our bodily needs, even through medical advances, doctors, nurses, hospitals, medications, treatments, and vaccines, as He wills.

Of greater value than these things, your Lord gives you the gift of sight that you see His promises.

Our Lord, by means of His Word, works the miracle of faith in your hearts by which He gives you faith to believe Jesus to be your Savior, your Savior from that same sin which brings forth physical, spiritual, and eternal death, your Savior from that same sin which Adam and Eve brought into the world.

Because Jesus died on the cross and was raised on the third day, you have no need to fear physical death.

You have no need to fear physical death because you know, on account of Christ’s resurrection, that you too will not remain in the grave.

Jesus Himself said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

He also said, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

Because it is Jesus who said these words, you have no reason to doubt them.

You have no reason to doubt them because Jesus is who He claimed to be.

Jesus is He through whom you have the precious forgiveness of sins; He through whom you have no need to fear eternal death.

The things of this life are only temporary.  And though they certainly are real, they will not last.  Nor do they define who you are as baptized children of God.  God does.

By His Word, our Lord gives you faith to continue believing what He says to be so, that you not think of yourselves higher than you ought to think, but that you humbly look to Him for help and hope (Romans 12:3).

In Him is where you find such things, for such is His promise, now, and when He returns.

All that you rightfully deserved because of your sin Christ Jesus suffered and bore on the cross.

St. Paul says it this way, that “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). There too does he also say that “Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation” (Romans 5:18).

As that man born blind from birth could not bring about his own sight, so you too are helpless in your own condition to get yourselves out of it.

The Bible says that “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).

By nature, our fallen condition, we don’t believe in the Lord Jesus because we are spiritually dead.

Unless God breathes into us the breath of life, His Spirit, in our sin we will remain.

Natural man can give himself life as much as a baby in or outside of the womb can give itself life.

The baby doesn’t give itself life.  Its mother does.

Natural man doesn’t give himself life.  God does.

So also, with the new birth of water and word in Holy Baptism.

One doesn’t choose or decide to be born again.  It is a gift of God.

Because of this new life given to us, we desire this new life to also be given to others.

We thus desire to speak the truth in love and pray our Lord to give boldness that we not compromise our witness by what we say or don’t say or do or don’t do.

We pray that we not be ashamed of our Lord, even as that man born blind in our text who was given to see did not back down when questioned about how he came to see.

He stood his ground and gave testimony to what had happened to him and how Jesus had healed him.

How much greater it is that Jesus brought that same man to faith!

Not only did Jesus give him the sight to see worldly things.  Jesus gave Him eternal life, and the faith to believe it.

So, to you, too, does our Lord reveal your salvation.

On you, God shows mercy.

“Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

 “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).

Through the preaching of this Good News, God gives faith.

God gives faith to take hold of what God has done for you, that you know and believe that what Jesus has done He has done for you.

God gives faith that you know and believe that what Jesus still does He does for you.

God gives faith that you continue to have life in His Name, that you see His goodness to you, and rejoice, give thanks, and follow Him, praising is Name.

God gives faith that your eyes be opened to His mercy and His grace, given and declared to you in Jesus, now and always.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, give me eyes to believe Your Son, always, and to confess Him alone to be my Savior. Amen.

 

 

Be still, and know that I am God…

10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

(Ps. 46:10-11 NKJ)

 

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Such words of our Lord bespeak what we of ourselves are unable to do.

Our Lord says, “Do no be anxious.” We worry.

He says, “Do not worry.” We are anxious.

Over what we cannot see, we trouble and fret.

We want to have control, have a hand in the outcome, consequences we consider to be of benefit to us.

Our Lord calls us to a different way, one of faith, trust in the Lord’s Word, confidence in the Lord’s doing and in His ways.

Only the Lord Himself can bring such a change, that we begin to see things His way, not our own.

This the Lord does, by means of His own Word, through which He gives faith and confidence and trust in the Lord’s gracious and kind acts, on account of Him of Whom the Father sent “when the fullness of time had come,” Who was born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem” us from our sins.

Therefore, we, as God’s people, rest in the Lord, believing that He is God of gods, King of kings, Lord of lords.

So resting, we wait upon the Lord, are confident in His promises, trust His mercies, live by faith, seeking all the more to please God by what we say, do, and believe, according to His Word, through which He reveals Christ. Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead us to rest fully in You, trusting in Your Word alone, believing Your Son, our Savior, for the forgiveness of sins and life eternal.  Keep us from pride and arrogance in our own ways.  Bring us to humbly approach Your throne of grace, calling to You in every need, ready to receive Your undeserved kindnesses, for which we give You praise and thanks. Amen.

 

“We Confess the Birth of our Lord,” John 1:1-18

 

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

      9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

      14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

There is reason this day to ‘Come All Ye Faithful’.  There is reason this day to come and ‘Let Us Adore Him’.  We proclaim God’s salvation today and day after day because to us, salvation has come, to us salvation is given.

In that lowly manger of time ago lay a child.

Not just any child.

There in that manger lay He of whom the angels sing, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), ‘Glory to the Newborn King’.

The child born of Mary in that ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’, though infant lowly, is God, God in the flesh.

Let not the consideration of appearances fool you.

As with all of God’s works, go not by sight, but according to the Word.

If all you see in Jesus is a child, a baby boy and nothing more, you remain lost and condemned before God, as sinners apart from Christ are.

A mere child or baby saves no one.

Flesh and blood alone cannot make full payment for your sin.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6) (says the Lord).

Jesus, that child born to that virgin Mary, was not merely flesh and blood.  He is also God, God incarnate, God in the flesh, born for you and for me, born to deliver you from sin and death by Himself being nailed to a tree, first having lain in a manger.

This is an article of faith, an article of faith given by God through His Holy Word.

If it looks like a baby, is born as a baby, cries like a baby, good chances are, it’s a baby.

So did Jesus look like a baby, having been born through His mother’s womb, and having cried like a baby.

Jesus was, in fact, a baby.

Yet this baby, God reveals, is the Savior come into the world.

The shepherds watching their flocks by night would not have thought anything of it concerning the baby Jesus, unless the angel had announced to them the Good News, “Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

They would have not known where to find Him, unless the angel had also told them, “This shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).

The magi, or wise men, from the east would also not have known the child’s whereabouts, but for the star by which God directed them to the place where Jesus lay.

Mary would not have conceived in her womb, for she was truly a virgin and had not been with a man, but to her the angel Gabriel had announced, “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His Name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

To this announcement, Mary responded with a “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34).

By the natural order of things, virgins, of course, do not become pregnant.  But to her the Angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

At that Word, Mary conceived in her womb, becoming pregnant.

Joseph, engaged to this woman Mary, after finding out that she was pregnant, “was minded to put her away secretly” (Matthew 1:19).

But as he thought about these things, “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Whether it be Joseph who was engaged to Mary or the virgin conceiving by the Holy Spirit in her virgin womb and giving birth to a Son, neither were kept in the dark regarding who Jesus was.

The shepherds were not clueless as to the signs by which they would find the child of whom the Angel spoke and of whom the angels sang.

The Magi, late, also were not lost with reference to the King’s birth place in Bethlehem.

The Lord had revealed to the Magi, the Shepherds, Joseph, and Mary herself who Jesus was and where He was to be found—through Word and sign.  This was not just any baby.  This was Jesus the Christ, God in the flesh.

So also does the Lord God reveal this truth to you, today, where Jesus is, also by means of Word and sign.  Though none of you were there, God’s Word reveals it to be so, that you firmly believe it, though the world and your reason say otherwise.

Where God’s Word is spoken, where Christ is preached, there God would have you know that Jesus is your Savior, your Savior from all your sin.

Through the darkness of the womb He was born.  In the darkness of the tomb was He laid.  Yet three days later, He burst forth from the darkness of death into the light of life, giving you life through His life.

What God has revealed, that the child born of Mary is God in the flesh, He who created the world and was at the beginning with God and was God (John 1:1), so we also believe.  ‘From Heaven Above to Earth’ did God come.  Him you see in His Son.

This is your confession, because God has so made it known through Word and sign to you.  God reveals His grace and mercy to sinners through what is preached, through the preaching of Jesus, who was “born of a woman and born under the law, who came to redeem us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Through the Word proclaimed, the Lord reveals not only your need for a Savior, but also the Savior who has come, who brings life eternal through His suffering and death.

God saw fit to become man.

God is high and mighty, but for you, because of His great and abundant love for you, He was laid “Away in a Manger.”

God humbled Himself, in order that you be exalted and receive the adoption of Sons (Galatians 4:5), becoming children of the God of heaven, not born of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God (John 1:13).

God came for you, and God comes to you now, in Word and Bread and Wine, that you believe His Word and believe Him to be your Savior and your help, your refuge and your strength.

No longer is Jesus ‘Away in a Manger’ with ‘no crib for a bed’.

Once He was, but no more.

Now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father, having ascended on high.

Through Word and sign, Jesus points you to where to go to receive Him and God’s blessed and undeserved gifts, His Holy Word and Sacrament.

God’s Word reveals what is, that you have a Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.

God reveals His grace and blessing through Word and Sign, where He placed His Holy Name upon you through the washing of new birth in Baptism; and where He says, ‘Take eat, Take drink.’

We call these signs because by these, God directs you to where He says that He will be for you:  no longer in the manger, but in His Word; no longer wrapped in swaddling clothes, but wrapped in preaching and sacrament

Here, Christ gives you life.

Here, you behold His grace and His favor.

Here, He comes to you lowly, still. But on the last triumphant day, then all will see, and all will bow the knee before the Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 1:7; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11).

As the shepherds went and found the child just as it was told them, so do you.  Christ is right where He promises to be.

Seek Him where He is to be found, not in the manger, not on the cross, not in Your heart, but where His Word is preached and where His body and blood are given under bread and wine, for you.  There, God gives certainty of His grace, the certainty of God’s love, for you.

Skeptics, naysayers, and others will say otherwise.  They will seek their own way, their own peace, and deny or ignore the very truth laid out right in front of them, even as it is revealed to them.  But God does not lie, nor does He mislead.

Rejoice, therefore, for Christ your Savior has been born.  He has died and is raised from the dead and now sits on the throne of His Father, for you.

Jesus is the King of kings.  Salvation He brings.  No longer is He a child, but still is He the Christ, the One of whom the angels sing and unto whom the glorious songs of old still sound forth.  Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see, my heart to believe, and my mouth to boldly confess Jesus to be the Christ, my Redeemer from sin, death, and hell. Amen.

 

 

Faith is God’s Work

 

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (Jn. 6:29 NKJ).

 

“Faith is a divine work in us which changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1[:12–13]. It kills the old Adam and makes us altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and it brings with it the Holy Spirit. O it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times. This knowledge of and confidence in God’s grace makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures. And this is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace. Thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers who imagine themselves wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools. Pray God that he may work faith in you. Otherwise you will surely remain forever without faith, regardless of what you may think or do.” (Luther’s Works 35)

 

 

Doing and fulfilling the Law

 

“Accustom yourself, then, to this language, that doing the works of the law and fulfilling the law are two very different things. The work of the law is everything that one does, or can do, toward keeping the law of his own free will or by his own powers. But since in the midst of all these works and along with them there remains in the heart a dislike of the law and compulsion with respect to it, these works are all wasted and have no value. That is what St. Paul means in chapter 3[:20], when he says, “By works of the law will no man be justified in God’s sight.” Hence you see that the wranglers and sophists practice deception when they teach men to prepare themselves for grace by means of works. How can a man prepare himself for good by means of works, if he does good works only with aversion and unwillingness in his heart? How shall a work please God if it proceeds from a reluctant and resisting heart?

To fulfil the law, however, is to do its works with pleasure and love, to live a godly and good life of one’s own accord, without the compulsion of the law. This pleasure and love for the law is put into the heart by the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul says in chapter 5[:5]. But the Holy Spirit is not given except in, with, and by faith in Jesus Christ, as St. Paul says in the introduction. Faith, moreover, comes only through God’s Word or gospel, which preaches Christ, saying that he is God’s Son and a man, and has died and risen again for our sakes, as he says in chapters 3[:25]; 4[:25], and 10[:9].

So it happens that faith alone makes a person righteous and fulfils the law. For out of the merit of Christ it brings forth the Spirit. And the Spirit makes the heart glad and free, as the law requires that it shall be. Thus good works emerge from faith itself. That is what St. Paul means in chapter 3[:31]; after he has rejected the works of the law, it sounds as if he would overthrow the law by this faith. “No,” he says, “we uphold the law by faith”; that is, we fulfil it by faith.” (Luther’s Works 35)

 

 

The Peace of God, John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17 NKJ).

Hear what Dr. Luther writes concerning the Word of God and the Christian…

“One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ, as Christ says, John 11[:25], “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”; and John 8[:36], “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed”; and Matt. 4[:4], “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul. If it has the Word of God it is rich and lacks nothing since it is the Word of life, truth, light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, liberty, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and of every incalculable blessing. This is why the prophet in the entire Psalm [119] and in many other places yearns and sighs for the Word of God and uses so many names to describe it.

On the other hand, there is no more terrible disaster with which the wrath of God can afflict men than a famine of the hearing of his Word, as he says in Amos [8:11]. Likewise there is no greater mercy than when he sends forth his Word, as we read in Psalm 107[:20]: “He sent forth his word, and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.” Nor was Christ sent into the world for any other ministry except that of the Word.” (LW 31, 345–346)

Thus does the Lord say, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.”

Such peace is not the peace that either the world gives and the peace that the world expects, but that peace which alone is God through His Son, that which can never be taken away, that which lasts unto eternity.The peace of the world is that which is highly volatile, dependent on the words and the ways of man, unstable, uncertain, and dependent upon mutual agreements, enforcement, and circumstance.

The peace of the world is also that which strives for what is external.

In contrast, the peace of God is that which is from God and of the heart. None can steal such peace away.

“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:1-5 NKJ).

Because of Christ’s Word and work, you, too, have such peace, peace that surpasses understanding.

In the midst of trouble and tribulation, in the middle of doubt and uncertainty, in the thick of suffering and the feeling of hopelessness, the peace of God is yours in Christ!

God is not angry with you.  He loves you “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

God has not forsaken you.  He abides with you.

God has not left you alone, though you might feel lonely.

“Jesus Christ the righteous” is your Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).

“The Man Christ Jesus” is your Mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5).

“As God is faithful, our word to you” is “not Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who” is “preached among you…” is “not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:18-20 NKJ).

God’s promises are yours in Christ, not because you deserve them, but on account of Him giving them to you.

Such is the way God works.

If you will have Christ’s peace, His mediating, His advocating, His abiding, His love, then by faith in His Word you have them.

Apart from that Word, apart from faith, according to the dictations and notions of your own heart, you will have God’s wrath, His judgment, unrest, and no peace, wanting to go it on your own and not the way of Christ according to His Word.

The good that God gives is that of His grace, grace alone.

By God’s grace alone do you have His abiding and undeserved peace.

“To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin’” (Rom. 4:4-8 NKJ).

The peace that Christ gives is that which He freely gives, not that which you achieve; that which is believed according to His Word, not that which is always and everywhere recognizable that which is of God and sure, not that which is of the sinner and momentary.

To His followers, Jesus promises tribulation in the world, trouble within and trouble without.

Such trouble, however great it might be, has no bearing on the peace given by and given in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God in Christ Jesus is not established by the world or by the things of the world.

The peace of God in Christ Jesus is established on the very Word and work of Christ Himself.

Just as Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will in Word and deed, accomplishing all that the Father had given Him to do in your stead and by His command for your salvation, keeping the entirety of His Word in life, in death, and in resurrection, so you have your Savior, the entirety of your peace with God.

Upon Him, your peace with God hangs.

Upon Him, it is certain.

Upon Him, it is yours. Amen.

 

Prayer: Lord, give me peace, Your peace, always, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

 

“The Separation of the Righteous from the Wicked,” Matthew 25:31-46

 

matthew4.jpg31[Jesus said:] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46, ESV)

 

YouAreForgiven.jpegThe central teaching of the Christian faith is that God alone, in Christ, saves sinful man.  Sinners do not save themselves.  You do not contribute at all to your salvation.  You do not make a choice to be saved.  Your works, nor your neglect, do not add to or subtract anything from God’s promise to you in Christ.

With reference to God’s grace, you are recipients, not the active agents, of eternal life.

This is good news!

God gives full confidence, and the blessed assurance, of complete and total forgiveness on account of Christ Jesus, apart from your works, distinct from what you do.

This is the Gospel, and woe to the one to whom the Gospel is not preached.  No faith is given apart from the hearing.  To the one who hears the good news of sins forgiven but doesn’t believe, the certainty of eternal death remains.  But to him who hears and believes, the hope of everlasting life is the sure promise from the God of all grace.

This is so because of Christ’s cross.  Christ died to save you from your sins.  Jesus fulfilled all that the Heavenly Father gave Him to fulfill.  This means that there is nothing for you to do for your salvation.  Christ has already done it all.

To speak, teach, or believe differently than this is to step outside of the Word of God and to walk by sinful reason, instead of going the Lord’s way of revelation.

Any who teach that what you do earns you heaven teaches falsely and leads away from Christ and is outside the parameters of the Christian faith.

Any who teach that what you do keeps you in the faith misunderstands God’s working. It is most certainly true that you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ your Lord or come to Him.  So we confess by the words of the 3rd Article of the Creed.  It is also most certainly true that it is the Holy Spirit who calls you by the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit who keeps you in the true faith, and not you yourselves (i.e. Galatians 3:3-9).

God keeps and preserves you in the true faith, according to His good and gracious will, by means of His Holy Word.  Here, He directs you to Jesus and away from your own self-righteousness, and away from your sinful pride.

Away from these and to God’s Means of Grace the Lord directs you, where you findMeans of Grace-window-round1.jpg refuge and shelter from the attacks of the world, strength to resist temptation and the evil one, and rest for your weary souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

By means of His Word and Sacrament, God keeps and preserves you a people for Himself, a people who live by faith, yet a people who also live in the world.

What God gives in Word, Baptism, and Supper, are the very means by which you live.  Without these, you would be as the nonbeliever who sees Christianity as only one religion among many.  All religions, except Christianity, teach ways of getting right with God by what one does.

Only the true Christian religion teaches that God saves sinful man through the suffering and death of the God-man Christ, and that God works through visible means of water, bread, and wine, and that in these, according to divine revelation, God gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. This the nonbeliever cannot fathom.  He believes himself to have to do ‘for God,’ rather than say the ‘for me’ of faith.

In truth, God needs nothing from you.  You need everything of Him.  His forgiveness, grace, mercy, kindness, favor, help, provision, and supply you cannot do without, lest you despair of God in your own sinfulness or rest in the false confidence of your wayward flesh.

Either way, whether falling into despair or having a false sense of security before God, you are sinners in need of God’s rescue.  The Lord will come to judge between ‘the living and the dead.’   And when He does, He will come in all of His glory, with all of His angels, and will then sit on His throne.

Sedes-ad-dexteram-Patris.jpgOnly for Christ’s sake, when Jesus does come to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3:12), and the believer from the nonbeliever, will you not be the nonbeliever, nor the hypocrite, the chaff, or the goats, to whom He will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, ESV), but those to whom the Lord will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34, ESV).

In the parable from St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says of the righteous that they had given Christ food and drink, welcomed Him, clothed Him, visited Him when He was sick, and came to Him in prison. Then the righteous answered, “When did we do these things?”

In other words, the righteous were not aware of doing the very things that the Lord had said of them.  From their hearts they did what they did because they didn’t believe in their works, but in Him through whose works they were acceptable to God.

The righteous are called righteous, not because of any self-righteousness, virtuous living, or upright morality, but because of Him who declares them to be righteous, good, and holy, not of themselves, but of the good and gracious God who gave His One and Only Begotten Son, that all would live through Him (John 3:16).

Being righteous has to do with Christ, and having faith alone in Him, whose holiness is counted as your own through faith and not apart from it.  Of yourselves, you are nothing but sinful and unclean, in desperate need of Christ.

Any and all who would deny this truth of Scripture, that you are sinners and remain sinners in need of God’s forgiveness, diminish Christ and throw Him out, regardless of how often and how frequently the name of Christ might be mentioned.

The ‘happy preacher,’ Joel Osteen in Texas, and the popular Joyce Meyer of TV and radio fame are such who give lip service to Christ, but don’t know Him in their teaching.  When they say that you need to stop calling yourselves sinners and move on, they deny John’s First letter which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).

They and others in Christendom have said that churches and congregations that confess their sins ‘every’ Sunday need to stop this needless bringing down of its members and speak of the sanctified life, for we no longer sin.

Such optimistic words of the human condition are far from true.  Being a Christian does not mean that you stop sinning.  Nor does it mean that you need less forgiveness.  The maturing Christian finds just the opposite to be the case.

Instead of being ‘sin-free,’ Christians find themselves fighting all the more withgospelgrid1.jpg themselves because of the sin that still clings to them.  Rather than see himself improving and getting better, the Christian sees his sinfulness ever clearer and wants to rid himself of his sinful inclinations and desires all the more.

The Christian despairs of himself and leans ever the more on Christ, through whom alone is his salvation.  The Christian sees himself decreasing, and Christ all the more increasing (John 3:30).

This is what it is to be growing in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Less and less stock do you place in your own doing.  More and more do you place in the Lord’s doing, to whom is all glory, honor, and praise.

Because the Christian believes that he has no righteousness of his own, and that He is saved completely by another, by Christ Jesus the Lord, all the more good works does He do because of the Lord who works in Him, who creates and strengthens faith by means of His Word.

It is through faith in Christ alone that you are saved, are promised heaven, and have new life.  This new life is not lived unto itself.  Nor is faith ever alone with regard to good works.  Faith is active and busy in love.  Fruits will be born unto it, even as Jesus says in the Gospel according to St. John, the 15th chapter, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5 NKJ).

In Christ, therefore, through faith, you are not fruitless.  You do bear fruit, good fruit, works that are good and acceptable to God, for only with faith is it possible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Such fruits are works which are done in faith and according to His God’s Word.

When in our text the Lord describes that judgment made upon the ‘Blessed of the Father’ and ‘the cursed’ on account of their feeding or not feeding the hungry, giving drink or not giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming or not welcoming the stranger, clothing or not clothing the naked, visiting or not visiting the sick, or coming or not coming to visit the prisoner, He’s looking at the fruits of faith or faith’s outcome.

The one who calls himself a Christian and who claims that doing these things is reason for God’s favor is no Christian.  Such a one instead demonstrates unbelief in Christ because He trusts in his own doing.  This one, therefore, will go into eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).

The one who fails to recognize the good that he’s done because of His sin, places no confidence in what he’s done, yet clings to Christ and Him alone for mercy and pardon, this one is righteous, and will enter eternal life.  This is the Christian; whose confidence and hope is the Lord.  The nonbeliever does not do these things, but trusts another.

Grace not workds.jpgSt. Paul the Apostle writes,  “To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,  just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’”(Romans 4:4-8 NKJ)

The Christian rests on God’s forgiveness for hope and salvation, not on his own works.  The glory goes to God.  He seeks to do what God says because that is what God has given him to do.  He serves others because Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

The Christian is active in good works.  By faith he is righteous.  This faith is active in serving and helping others, especially those who are of the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), the brothers and sisters of Christ, and even the least of these His brethren.

By such good works you are not saved.  But such good works are done by those who have faith in Christ. Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, keep me from believing that I contribute to my salvation.  Give me confidence that before You, because of Christ’s death on the cross, I am Yours, forgiven.  Help me to live in this forgiveness in service to others, that I continue to trust in You and in nothing that I do. Amen.

 

 

 

“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.

“Many Called, Few Chosen”

1Again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

      11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1-14)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Cross-ringsThe joining together of one man and one woman in holy matrimony and the accompanying festivities are a fitting picture of Christ the bridegroom uniting with His holy Bride, the Church, on the last day.  That the groom wear black and the bride wear white on their wedding day is a fitting depiction of Christ and His Church, fitting because Christ takes upon Himself our sins and gives us His righteousness.  He becomes our sin, symbolized by the black, and we, the church, are declared holy, symbolized by the white.

St. Paul describes the relationship between husband and wife a similar way.  In His letter to the Ephesians he writes, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).

The Church does not sanctify or clean herself, nor is she sanctified or cleaned of herself.  She is sanctified and cleansed by another, by her betrothed.  Thus does she not have spot or wrinkle, but is holy and without blemish on account of the bridegroom, Christ Jesus.

This is what Christ does for you.  Joined together with him through faith, He sanctifies and cleanses you of your sin.  You still struggle and bear your burdens while in the flesh, but before God, you are holy and without blemish.  He does not your sins count against you.  Though you see the dirt, the shortcomings, the failings, the spots, and the blemishes, God does not.  His love for you is greater than your sin.  His compassion for you is more abundant than your iniquity.  His mercy far exceeds your transgression.

Christ calls you His beloved.  As He chose Israel, not “because they were more in number than any other people, for they were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loved them, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to their fathers,” so God calls you His very own people, that you know the Lord God to be also your God, the faithful God who keeps His Word and fulfills His promises (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

“You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Through the prophet Hosea, God declares to His people Israel, “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD” (Hosea 2:19-20).

Though they were rebellious, God would take action.  Because of His love for His people, He would not leave them alone.  Though He would discipline them, such was His love for them, that they come to see Him as the God who forgives and bestows mercy.

That same love, forgiveness, and mercy your Lord gives to you.  God does not leWord-Baptism-Communionave you alone.  You He will not abandon.  He gives You His Word, that you be certain that He is with you, even present with you in His Word and in His sacrament.   By these does our Lord assure you of His kindness and strengthen you in the true faith that you continue in Him.

He calls you, not because of what you might be able to do for Him, nor because of how good you are, but because He loves you and desires you to be His.  He baptized you with water and His Word, there washing away your sins and calling you His very own.

Therefore do we say with King Solomon, “I am my beloved’s, And my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3).  I am Christ’s and He is mine.

“For to me live is Christ and if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Philippians 1:21; Romans 14:8).

He gives you every kind of confidence and assurance of His grace and favor for Christ’s sake.  These our Lord plentifully reveals through His Word.  These He abundantly provides, through His Holy Word of absolution and blessing, preaching and proclaiming.

It is just these things that the servants in our Gospel text were doing, preaching and proclaiming that the wedding feast for the king’s Son was all ready.  Everything was prepared.  All that was left was the arrival of the guests.  All was ready.  Preparations were complete.

The first group of servants went out to invite the welcomed guests.  They did just as they were given to do.  They were sent to call those who had been invited.  These received the announcement, but replied in the negative.  They would not come.  They were not willing to come (NKJ).

This group, and the next, those that refused the invitation and mistreated those whom the king had sent, refer specifically to the Jews, but also to all who continue to reject the Lord’s call and invitation.

The refusal to attend the wedding feast was a refusal of the king Himself.  But this was not the only thing that these refusers did.  Our text says that they not only ‘paid no attention and went off’, but others seized the king’s servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.  This is exactly what happened to the servants sent by God to His people Israel.

The rejection of the messenger is also the rejection of the One who sent Him.  One cannot say that they believe in the Sender and yet reject the one whom He sends.  The reception of the one is the reception of the other, and vice versa.

From this, it’s clear as to why the king in the parable acted the way He did.  His gracious invitation went out.  Everything was prepared and ready. He invited the guests, and what do the guests do?  They reject, harm, injure, and kill the servants that the king sent.

GodPulpit’s gracious invitation of forgiveness, life, and salvation continues to go forth today, just as it did when Jesus’ proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven.

There remain those who continue to reject God’s grace and His Son today.  They refuse to believe.

But today is the day of salvation.  Today, Christ forgives you of all of your sins and calls you His own.  Today is the invitation to hear and keep hearing His Word, to take heart His goodness which is yours in Christ, and “to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

There is another table that is prepared, another feast that is offered: the foretaste of THE feast to come, Christ’s body and Christ’s blood, given and shed for you for the remission of your sins.  Through bread and the wine, God strengthens you in the faith, and preserves you steadfast in the true faith.

Do not despise or take for granted this gracious meal.  God calls you to receive it , not for your harm, but for your good.  Because He desires to give you eternal life, He also gives the Supper of our Lord, that you may know God to be a good and gracious God who does not forsake His people, but is really and truly with you throughout your days.

Through faith in Christ, believing the body and the blood of Christ to be truly present, you receive what He offers.  And confessing the faith of this altar, we together proclaim the death of Christ in the unity of faith before the world.

The third group of servants sent out by the king in St. Matthew’s parable were sent out, not to those who were originally invited, but to those who were on the main roads.  These are the Gentiles, and us.  God sent and sends His servants throughout the world, to call all people to believe in Christ as Savior of the world.

Because the Jews rejected, and still reject Christ, God has seen fit to go elsewhere, to those who will believe.

Where Christ’s Word is preached and rejected, that Word will move on, and those who continually reject it will themselves be rejected.

Those who refuse to hear God’s Word and call upon Him may eventually have what they JesusLamentsJerusalemwant–the Lord’s rejection of them.  This is the worst thing that can happen, that God take His Word away and leave you to yourself, in your own sin.

But because God is Love incarnate in Christ, He bears and is longsuffering.  He continues to send out the call to repent, that those who hear believe the Gospel.  He sends servant after servant after servant to preach His Word and faith, calling hearers to come to the wedding feast, that is, to believe in Christ and so be saved.  And all who hear the Lord’s blessed invitation and believe in Christ, receiving what God freely offers, these are given to wear the white robe of Christ’s righteousness.

You don’t go to heaven in your own attire.  You stand before God naked in your sin.  He sees all that you do.  He knows all that you think and all that you desire.  He hears all of your thoughts and all of your words, both good and ill.

But for Christ’s sake alone, God does not condemn.  The thoughts, desires, and actions of Jesus are righteous and holy thoughts, desires, and actions.  On account of Christ, God judges you, not as sinners, but as having no sin, not because you don’t have any, but because Christ didn’t.

At the wedding feast on the last day of Christ and His bride, the consummation of the ages, you will wear the clothes with which He clothes you.  Your clothes of sin and transgression are filthy and unclean.  His are pure and white as snow, without spot and without blemish.

Wearing your own clothes, that is, bringing your own righteousness and not believing Christ to be your perfection, your holiness, and your goodness, is to be bound hand and foot and to be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is another way of saying hell.  It does exist.  This is the destination of all who try to get to heaven by what they do or who they are, and all who try to be good and do better apart from believing in Christ as their only Savior.

You don’t save yourself.  It is another who saves you.  And in His salvation, there is no doubt or uncertainty of His goodness and kindness,  There is no questioning of your own worthiness, because your worthiness is not your own.  It is Christ who is your worthiness.  Because of Him, heaven is yours, and called to heaven you are.

Throw away the old clothes of your sin and your self-righteousness, that you be clothed with Christ’s righteousness.  Put on Christ, and “be found in Him, cross.gifnot having your own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).   Amen.

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