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God heals…the brokenhearted

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3, NKJ

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

God helps those who help themselvesGod doesn’t leave the brokenhearted to self-mend. God doesn’t leave the wounded to self-heal. Rather, the Lord God does the healing and the mending. He binds the wounds of the brokenhearted and heals them.

Note, though, that it is the brokenhearted and the wounded that the Lord heals and binds. Those not wounded and those not brokenhearted are whole and well. It is as Jesus had said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

Thus, if you are neither brokenhearted or wounded, you have no need of healing and binding. If you have no sin, you have no need of forgiveness and salvation. If you aren’t sick, you don’t need a doctor or medication. If you don’t need salvation, you don’t need Jesus.

But don’t go by what you perceive or by what you think. Don’t follow your own advice or your own self-diagnosis. If you do, you will be woefully wrong.

Jesus says, “Judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). Determine how things are with you according to the Word of our Lord, who teaches that, “Whatever the law says, 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” (Romans 3:19-20).

TwoTablets
According to the Law of God (The Ten Commandments), you are not as God would have you be (i.e. Matthew 5:21-42; Romans 7; etc.). You are not as God commands you to be. And this is not because you don’t try. It is because you offend the Holy God by your transgressions. Though you may minimize your shortcomings before God, He certainly does not.

It is for this very reason that God the Father sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16), to save you from your sin, which is not little at all, for if it is, then Jesus is only a little Savior.

Thus does St. Paul write, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10).

Even while we were sinners, Paul says, Christ died for us. He also states that even while we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of Jesus. This means that your justification before and your reconciliation with God is in no way dependent upon you (nor your decision or choice, for such you cannot make, Ephesians 2:1-2, 5). Rather, these are founded alone in Christ. Faith simply takes hold of what God has already declared and says, “Amen,” to what God has made known.

3CrossesYou don’t make yourself acceptable to God. So also, you don’t make yourself healthy and you don’t bind your own wounds. God does these, through His Son. He speaks to you His Word, and you stand forgiven. He absolves you of your sins, and you are absolved. He declares you righteous before Him, and so you are. He declares you whole and well, and so you are. All in Christ.

Take hold of Christ, therefore, and believe the Word of the Lord to you. As He calls you a sinner, don’t deny, but confess the Lord to know more than you (Psalm 19:12). As He says, “Believe,” don’t deny or reject as the godless and unbelievers do, but believe, according to His Word, that it is just as He says. As God speaks forgiveness to you in Christ, and justification, and reconciliation through Him who shed His holy blood, entrust yourself to these blessed words and our Lord who, in His mercy, raises you from the dead and gives you everlasting life. Doubt yourself, yes, but not God, who alone is faithful and true!

If you are brokenhearted because of your sin, and fear that the Lord’s kindness is not to you, cast away such thoughts, for it is to you that God speaks and heals with His kind and compassionate words. If you are wounded because of your own transgressions or those of others, and doubt the Lord’s care and keeping, forsake such thoughts and cling to Christ, who through His wounds not only cleanses you, but heals the scars and ensures you everlasting peace with God.

If you neither feel your sin, be brokenhearted, or recognize the extent of your troubles before God, trust what the Lord says. “There is a time for everything under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Times of overcast and clouds, as well as rain and troubles, even if they be minor, will come, as also, by God’s grace, times of sunshine and warmth. Circumstances vary in life, as you know, but God does not change, nor do His promises in Christ. Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to believe your Word and promises, even if I don’t feel my sin and my need for you. Take care of me and keep me from doubting what you say. Give me firm faith in You that in any and all circumstances, I repent of my sin and entrust myself to You, my Great Physician and healer of body and soul. Amen.

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Forgiveness & Love

Apology, IV. Justification

(Tappert)

152 There is a familiar figure of speech, called synecdoche, by which we sometimes combine cause and effect in the same phrase. Christ says in Luke 7:47, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, because she loved much.” But he interprets his own words when he adds: “Your faith has saved you” (v. 50). Now Christ did not want to say that by her works of love the woman had merited the forgiveness of sins. 153 Therefore he clearly says, “Your faith has saved you.” But faith is that which grasps God’s free mercy because TwoDebtorsof God’s Word. If anybody denies that this is faith, he utterly misunderstands the nature of faith. 154 And the account here shows what he calls “love.” The woman came, believing that she should seek the forgiveness of sins from Christ. This is the highest way of worshiping Christ. Nothing greater could she ascribe to him. By looking for the forgiveness of sins from him, she truly acknowledged him as the Messiah. Truly to believe means to think of Christ in this way, and in this way to worship and take hold of him. Moreover, Christ used the word “love” not toward the woman but against the Pharisee, because Christ contrasted the whole act of reverence of the Pharisee with that of the woman. He chides the Pharisee for not acknowledging him as the Messiah, though he did show him the outward courtesies due a guest and a great and holy man. He points to the woman and praises her reverence, her anointing and crying, all of which were a sign and confession of faith that she was looking for the forgiveness of sins from Christ. It was not without reason that this truly powerful example moved Christ to chide the Pharisee, this wise and honest but unbelieving man. He charges him with irreverence and reproves him with the example of the woman. What a disgrace that an uneducated woman should believe God, while a doctor of the law does not believe or accept the Messiah or seek from him the forgiveness of sins and salvation!

155 In this way, therefore, he praises her entire act of worship, as the Scriptures often do when they include many things in one phrase. Later we shall take up similar passages, like Luke 11:41, “Give alms; and behold, everything is clean.” He demands not only alms, but also the righteousness of faith. In the same way he says here, “Her Eph2,8sins, which are many, are forgiven, because she loved much,” that is, because she truly worshiped me with faith and with the acts and signs of faith. He includes the whole act of worship; but meanwhile he teaches that it is faith that properly accepts the forgiveness of sins, though love, confession, and other good fruits ought to follow. He does not mean that these fruits are the price of propitiation which earns the forgiveness of sins that reconciles us to God.

156 We are debating about an important issue, the honor of Christ and the source of sure and firm consolation for pious minds — whether we should put our trust in Christ or in our own works. 157 If we put it in our works, we rob Christ of his honor as mediator and propitiator. And in the judgment of God we shall learn that this trust was vain and our consciences will then plunge into despair. For if the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation do not come freely for Christ’s sake, but for the sake of our love, nobody will have the forgiveness of sins unless he keeps the whole law, because the law does not justify so long as it can accuse us. 158 Justification is reconciliation for Christ’s sake. Therefore it is clear that we are justified by faith, for it is sure that we receive the forgiveness of sins by faith alone.

Scripture Readings for Good Friday, 2013C

3Crosses

Collect of the Day

Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Isaiah 52:13—53:12

        13Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  14As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—15so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.  1Who has believed what they heard from us?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

        2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  3He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

        4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

        7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

        10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.  11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Epistle: Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9

14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. . . .

      5:7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel: John 18:1—19:42

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them,  “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them,  “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them,  “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again,  “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered,  “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken:  “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11So Jesus said to Peter,  “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

      12So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

      15Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

      19The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20Jesus answered him,  “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered him,  “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

      25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

      28Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

      33So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered,  “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered,  “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered,  “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

      After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

      19:1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him,  “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

      12From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

      So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

      23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

      “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,  “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple,  “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

      28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture),  “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said,  “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

      31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

      38After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

The Lord Jesus willingly endured the cross–for you!  Through His death, all of your sins are done away with.  Thus can St. Paul say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  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” (Romans 8:31-34).  In Christ, you’re sins are no more.  Though you still feel them, because of Christ, no longer are they yours.  And because God the Father judged His Son, no longer any judgment do you bear before God.  Thus, are you forgiven, saved, and free, in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Return to the Lord

        12“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13and rend your hearts and not your garments.”  Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?   15Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; 16gather the people.  Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants.  Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.   17Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations.  Why should they say among the peoples,  ‘Where is their God?’”  18Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.    19The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.”  (Joel 2:12-19)

 

The day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

The day of the Lord, the day of Judgment, is come.  It is great and very terrible.  Yes, indeed!  Who can endure it?  Who can persist and continue when the Lord meets out His judgment upon a wayward people, a wayward people even called by His Holy Name.

Joel prophesied to such a people.  He spoke and proclaimed to the people of God.  They had departed from the Lord, following their own ways, heeding their own opinions, holding fast to their own judgments, and not according to the will of the Lord.  They were a way faring people, led by their own desires and hearkening to their own inclinations.

They took for granted all that the Lord had done for them, all that He had provided for them, and how He had kept and preserved them.  And now, judgment was to come, judgment by way of that which would destroy their bounty, diminish their excess, and humble a prideful people.

Joel speaks of locusts, which would devour the land (Joel 1:4; 2:25).  They would leave nothing behind.  Crops would be leveled.  No grain would be in sight.  Harvest would be absent.

The prophet Joel speaks of the destruction caused by the locusts as “The day of the Lord.”  We in our day, on this side of the hemisphere and in this nation have a hard time understanding such devastation caused by such things.  But the people in Joel’s day lived off the land.  They depended on the crops and their bounty for their livelihood.  They couldn’t go to another grocery store if one was empty.  If the crops failed, that meant dire straits.

Farmers today know this.  Yet, for most of us, we know little about true hunger and true devastation.  We know little of what it means to be truly in want, to have little or nothing.  We do not really know what it is like to be in a famine, to suffer the consequences of a deadly plague, to be in the state of starvation, or to be literally dying of thirst.

We have it fairly easy today.  Food is abundant.  We have clean water, clothes on our back, a roof over our heads.  We have all that we need, and more.

Like the Israelites of Joel’s day, we take for granted all that the Lord has provided for us.  We take for granted all that He abundantly gives us of His mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us.  We, like the people in Joel’s day, fail to even see the means by which God would call us back to Himself.

By means of the prophet Joel, God called His people to repentance, to Return to Him with all their heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13and to rend their hearts and not their garments.  God called His people to repent of their idolatrous hearts and their false assumptions that God would always be with them, even should they forsake Him and His ways and not trust in His promises.

They simply went through the motions of God’s people, but their hearts were far from their Lord and their God (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).  They went to church.  They gave offering.  They did what they thought God required of them.  But they did not believe.  They forsook the Word and trusted in themselves.

Do you see the events in the world enfolding before your eyes as a call to repentance?  The downward spiral of our economy and the increasing debt?  The revolutions and rebellions across the globe?  Troubles in the Mideast and elsewhere?  The hypocrisy and the apostasy of church after church which claims to bear Christ’s Name?  Accidents (as we call them), and death after death because of this or that?

Do you see these things as reminder of sin and a call to turn to the Lord with repentant hearts, turning away from your own sinful hearts and to the welcoming arms of the Lord?

May it be that even the smallest and most insignificant thing would move you to turn away from yourself and worldly things to the Lord Himself!

The Lord does not want your false repentance, or your hypocritical and meaningless confession.  He does not want your empty words of regret or hollow mourns of sorrow.

The Psalmist says that, The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all (Psalm 34:15-19).

The righteous are they who see themselves as God sees them—as unrighteous, who say, We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away (Isaiah 64:5).

The righteous claim no righteousness, or goodness, of their own.  They take God at His Word, and believe Him, come what may.  They do not argue and deny that God is true, but submit to His Word, and believe in the only Savior–Jesus.  In this they are righteous, not because of their own righteousness, but because of the righteousness of another.

Therefore, at the hearing of the Lord’s Word, even through the prophet Joel, God’s people turn to the Lord with all their heart.  They rend their hearts, not their garments.  They acknowledge that they have not been as God would have them be, and seek God’s favor, His pardon, and His peace.  They seek God’s forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and there, in Him, they have it.

There, in Him, in Christ Jesus, you have God’s full pardon and peace.  There, you know that you have God’s favor upon you.  In Christ, with nail prints in His hands and feet, and with the mark of the spear in His side, you know that God’s judgment has been removed from you.  God laid the punishment of your sin on Him.

God is indeed Gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  This you know and believe because of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Turn to God with all your heart!  Return to the Lord your God!  Repent!  Forsake your sinful ways, your trust in yourselves, and your dependency on the things of this world.  These things cannot help you or save you.  But God can!  And God does!  He gives you life in the midst of death, joy in the midst of sorrow, and peace in the midst of strife.  He feeds the hungry and gives drink to the thirsty.  He gives aid to the poor and bounty to the needy.

Therefore, hold fast to the Lord.  He does not forget you.  He remembers His promises.  He holds you in His hands and bears you up (Psalm 91:12).  Sorrow over your sin, but rejoice in the Lord, for He is good and gracious, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me my sin against you.  I am a poor miserable sinner.  Give me faith to firmly believe in Your salvation, and help me to amend my sinful ways before You.  Amen.

Christ is No New Lawgiver

The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19:10

Christ is no new lawgiver.  The Bible is more than just a book of do’s and don’ts.  It is the precious book of salvation, as is Christ the precious Savior of the sinner.

Though Jesus does indeed accuse, convict, and condemn by the Law, so much more does He acquit, forgive, and save by means of the Gospel.  He speaks words of sins forgiven to those who are troubled and laid low by what they have done, what they think, and by their own sinful wants and desires.

Come seeking Christ to be a judge of your sin, and so shall He be.  The Law of God is too firm to be shaken, too fixed to be flexible, and too solid to be moved.  You can’t undo what undoable.  You can’t avoid what is unavoidable.  The only thing you can do before the Law is plead for God to be merciful.

Should you not see yourself as God sees you, then you will fail to see your absolute dependence on God’s mercy in Christ.  Should you not see yourself as God sees you according to His Law (The Ten Commandments), then you will surely not see your dire need for Jesus to be your Savior, and you will reject God’s abundant love towards you.

On the other hand, should you see yourself as God sees you, you will thus see yourself rightly.  And listening to His Word, you will know how utterly lost your situation is of yourself.  Nothing you do can change how God sees you.  Nothing you change can alter your standing before God.  If it were up to you, all would truly be lost!

Yet by God’s mercy, your standing before God is not up to you.  By God’s mercy, how God sees you is not up to you.

Reject Christ and His Word and before God, there is only that accusing, convicting, and condemning Word of Law which will ring in your ears.  But hear Christ and His blessed Word of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and there is only that acquitting, forgiving, and saving Word of the Gospel.

By God’s mercy your standing before God remains upon Christ.  By God’s mercy, how God sees you is how God the Father sees His Son.  Now, the Father’s words of His Son are also the Father’s words on you, “This is my son, in whom I am pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

In Christ, then, the Father finds you and saves you.  In Christ, no longer are you lost, but found.  And in Christ, your salvation is sure.

Luther

“If Christ gave Himself into death for our sins, then undoubtedly He is not a tormentor. He is not One who will cast clown the troubled, but One who will raise up the fallen and bring propitiation and consolation to the terrified. Otherwise Paul would be lying when he says “who gave Himself for our sins.” If I define Christ this way, I define Him correctly, grasp the authentic Christ, and truly make Him my own. I avoid all speculations about the Divine Majesty and take my stand in the humanity of Christ. There is no fear here; there is sheer sweetness, joy, and the like. This kindles a light that shows me the true knowledge of God, of myself, of all creatures, and of all the wickedness of the kingdom of the devil.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p39).

Prayer: Lord, help me to remain ever closer to Jesus, believing His precious promise of forgiveness to me a sinner.  Help me not falter in my faith, but all the more to seek Your abundant help in Christ my Savior.  Amen.

God’s Work in the Church and in the World

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his talk. 16And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15–22)

In the world, but not of the world (John 17:11; 14-16).  This is the reality of the Christian.  The Christian is both physical and spiritual in one person.  We are flesh and blood, but as flesh and blood we also have a soul.  God promises us, right now, eternal life through Jesus Christ.  But right now, we seem Him not except by faith.  His Word gives what it says, but the world says something different.

When the pastor baptizes with water, the naked eye would tell us that water is applied, and that’s it, added is nothing more and nothing less.  Reason would say that the one baptized adds to the meaning or the significance of Baptism by choosing it and that if not, it is meaningless and futile.  Just by ourselves watching and seeing what’s going on in a Baptism, everything would tell us that nothing extraordinary is going on.  But God here speaks differently.  He says that one is to be baptized into the Name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not any ordinary Name.  St. Paul the Apostle, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that, As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Christ Himself says, Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God and Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).  St. Peter, one of the twelve disciples of our Lord, also writes, There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

It is true that because of what God does, because of what He works and gives through Baptism, all who are baptized and believe God’s promise of forgiveness in Baptism have a clear conscience before God.  God’s Word cannot here fail.  His promise is sure and true.  Where God forgives, sin is forgiven.  Where He promises, that promise will be fulfilled.  Our conscience might tell us, even after hearing the words of absolution from the pastor, that our sins remain, that we’re not sorry enough, or that we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness.  But here, we are to heed the Lord’s Word and not our own.  Even the devil, though he continue to plant doubt within the mind, and though He try to condemn, he can judge us none.  God is the One who justifies us.  No one, not even Satan, can be against us if God is for us (Romans 8:33, 31).

God’s promises are as good as done, but heaven, where our true citizenship is, we do not fully enjoy at the present (Philippians 3:20).  In the world we have tribulation.  There is suffering, burden, and enmity, even within one’s household.  We are God’s people and eagerly await our Lord’s return, for He will come again, a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (Hebrews 9:28).  But the Lord, as long as He prolongs His coming, says, “Wait”, that is, believe in me. “While you are here, your flesh will be tried.  You will be tested. Troubles will come, but fear not, I have overcome the world.  Your sin troubles you, but from your sin you are forgiven.  Live not for yourselves, but believe in me and love one another, your neighbor, and help them in their need.

To our eyes, things look as they appear.  But truly the phrase, ‘there is more here than meets the eye,’ is surely valid.  This especially holds true for the church, for it is a man speaking that you hear, words you speak in the liturgies, bread and wine that you eat and drink in the sacrament.  But what does God say?  St. Paul writes, These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13).

In another place He says, And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

In Church, a man does speak and a man does preach, pages from a book are read, and bread and wine are consumed.  But more is going on here than meets the eye.  Though man speak the Word of God, it is God’s Word, no ordinary Word.  Though bread and wine be consumed, given also is the body and the blood of Christ for the remission of sins.  These things then are no ordinary things, nor is church just an ordinary place where ordinary things happen.  God is here, giving life through His Word and Sacraments.  Here is where He forgives sinners and gives eternal life.  Here is where He strengthens and increases faith, that we live out our lives in the world as His Holy people.

In this place is where God works by means of His Word.  He forces none to believe.  His Word goes out and those who believe will hear and believe and those who don’t, don’t.  God in this Kingdom of His, this Right Hand Kingdom, the Church, rules by His Word alone.  Here we have Christ, forgiveness, grace, and mercy.  Faith is the means whereby we apprehend God’s goodness and His gifts as our very own.  The one who disbelieves does not have God’s promise of help and comfort, but God’s judgement and condemnation remain upon Him.  This too may not be seen in the now time, but in the hereafter, it will be his reality.

God rules His Right Hand Kingdom, the Church, according to the Word.  By His Word He forgives sin and by His Word, He retains sin.  But in the world that our Lord rules, He rules not only according to His Word in the Church.  He rules another way, too.  He rules by means of force and with the use of authorities for the keeping of peace and order.  This is called the Left Hand Kingdom.  The Lord works through governments to bring about justice, order, and civility among its citizens.

Evidence for this Biblical teaching is given in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans where He writes, Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7).

St. Peter writes similarly where He says, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:13-17).

So also in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Herodians to the question of taxes do we have evidence for such a thing as paying taxes and giving honor to whom honor is due.  They had asked Jesus the question, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? in order to trap Him with His own words, but it was they who were silenced, not Christ.  Jesus answered their question with neither a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’.  Instead, He said what is right and true, and also the very thing that they themselves were not able to deny, Give the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God.

The taxes that Caesar demanded were Caesar’s due.  Taxes that the American government demands are also their due.  This is because the government is established according to God’s order.  This does not mean that every government will be good.  Nor does this truth mandate that every government will be godly.  What it does mean is that whether good or bad, that their goodness or badness is not the final answer as to how you are to view it.

Parents can be either good or bad.  But being one or the other doesn’t change what God commands in the Fourth Commandment where He says, Honor Father and Mother (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2).  Fathers and mothers bear the responsibility of care, love, and discipline.  That is their lot.  But the one who is in their charge has the command to honor them who have that responsibility, whether they carry it out or not.  God doesn’t judge you based on what another is supposed to do.  He judges you based on what you are to do.  And thus you have Christ, judged for you that you not be condemned eternally.

Concerning the government, you aren’t judged based on what the government does with its God given authority.  Nor are you condemned because of any misuse or abuse of that authority, unless you are the one’s bearing it.  What you are accountable for is what God gives you in His Word.  Is it lawful to pay taxes?  If the government is due taxes, yes.  Not doing so is in direct contrast to what the Lord says.  The only time when it is permissible to not do as the government demands is when the government demands to be done what God forbids to be done.  Should the government try to keep the church from proclaiming Jesus Christ, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  Should the church suffer for being faithful to our Lord, then let it be, for as Christ suffered, so will His church in the world.  But Christ’s church is His blessed Bride.  Though she look unimpressive and ordinary before the world, she is the bride of Christ, washed in His blood, precious and holy, awaiting union with her Christ.

God’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  Your citizenship is in heaven.  But in the meantime, you live in the world.  Christians are not hermits, nor do you live in communes as if to separate ourselves from the world.  You live in the world as God’s people.  It is true that you abide by man’s rules, giving honor here where it is due.  But it is also true that God is the ruler of all things, that He rules in the one kingdom using even physical means to bring about order, working through the established authorities to serve justice and providing help and sustenance to all people.  This is why police officers carry guns, batons, and other means of protection, not only for themselves, but also for others.  This is also why parents discipline, teachers correct, and judges judge.  Through these, our Lord works in His Left Hand Kingdom.

But through the Right Hand Kingdom, God works and rules through different means than force.  He works through words, Words declaring forgiveness to penitent sinners, sinners who are sorry for their sin; and words declaring no forgiveness to impenitent sinners, sinners who are not sorry for their sin.  Here in this Kingdom, God works through preaching and proclamation, through absolution and Sacrament.  Those who deny these deny also our Lord.  But those who hear and believe, these are given the very things that the Lord declares: sins forgiven, eternal life, and peace with God.

Honor is given God through believing His Word and living in the world through your respective callings, your vocations given by God, serving one another in love, and giving to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, as well as giving to God the things of God, hearing His Word, believing His promises, and receiving His blessing in the Sacrament of the Altar.  God’s Word, His promises, and the Lord’s Supper point to Christ, who truly and fully gave to God His Father that which we could not.  Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient and completely kept God’s command to love God and love neighbor for you, not so that you don’t do what God says, but that you do, rightly, through faith in Him who did.  Jesus was obedient, not for the reason that He needed it, but for the reason that you did.  Christ fulfilled the law for your sake.  For your sake He died and rose again, that you live forever with Him, even now, in your bodies, in the world, but through faith in God’s Son.  Amen.

The peace that passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Mt22.15-22, Pentecost 18, 2011A, Sermon Outline & Notes

This is a faithful saying…

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

1 Timothy 1:15

It is an easy thing to see what others do and to lay blame, point the finger, and criticize.  It is also an easy thing to look at another’s faults without also seeing one’s own.  This habit is common to all sinners.  We notice what others do or do not do that is not to our liking, and we immediately make judgments.  We compare ourselves with others, using our own criteria as the measuring stick.

God works differently.  St. Paul the Apostle writes that, “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11).  He judges all the same with the same judgment—guilty as charged, having fault, condemned (Romans 3:23).

This means, that before God, as the Bible says, “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10).  All of us are in the same boat.  One is not better than another.  Nor is one worse than another.  There are only sinners here.

But the Good News is that, because of Christ, God does not hold that damning, condemning, judging sin against you.  Though everyone stands before God a sinner, on account of Christ, that very same sin which condemns no longer condemns.  Christ has born that judgment for you.  He did this on the cross when He was crucified.  There, He took away your sins that they no longer have the last word over you (Romans 6:14).  You still struggle with them, and with judging others as more sinful than yourself, but in light of God’s Law, all are humbled (or will be), either at the present, or in time to come.  Thus do we learn that it is not what we say of others that is final (nor of what others say about us), but what God says.  This and this alone is of lasting significance.

If God calls you a sinner, so you must be.  If God declares you forgiven, so also must you be.

Therefore, instead of denying the truth as God so readily reveals through His Holy Word for your salvation, believe it.  Believe that you are a sinner as God makes known to you through His inescapable Law.  See yourselves as God sees you according to His Word.

Also, and especially, believe yourselves to be as God declares you to be on account of Jesus-forgiven, blessed of God, God’s own child. All this apart from what you have done or have not done.  All this because of Jesus (Romans 4).

Luther

“Do not permit your sins to be merely sins; let them be your very own sins. That is, believe that Christ was given not only for the sins of others but also for yours. Hold to this firmly, and do not let anything deprive you of this sweet definition of Christ, which brings joy even to the angels in heaven: that Christ is, in the strictest of terms, not a Moses, a tormentor, or an executioner but the Mediator for sins and the Donor of grace, who gave Himself, not for our merits, holiness, glory, and holy life but for our sins.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p38).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me faith to believe that your Son’s death covers all of my sins.  Help me not to doubt or despair Your grace in Christ towards me, an undeserving sinner, because of the sin that I know or feel.  Strengthen my confidence in You.  Amen.

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