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Minimizing Sin…

“…if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

John 2:1-2

The minimization of sin is the tendency of our mortal nature.  “It can’t be that bad.”  “All I did was… “

In the history of the church, different categorizations of sins came about.  Some may even recall hearing about some of these, for example, mortal sins and venial sins.

Mortal sins were understood to be “larger” or “more damning” sins than venial, which came to be understood as less so.

However, in making any such distinctions of sin, it must be remembered that sin before God is sin, regardless of how you define it.  St. Paul makes no fine distinction between greater or less sins when he writes, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Sin before God is not of a greater or lesser degree.  It is sin, transgression and disobedience against the most Holy God (Romans 3:20; James 1:15; 1 John 3:4).  And its wages (reward) is eternal death.

Such reward is what we all deserve, for any sin is really sin against the Holy God Himself (see 2 Samuel 12:13).  Therefore, it is not “the size” of the sin in our eyes by which we are condemned, but because of “the Who” whom we sin against.

Should we minimize or lessen our sin, we at the same time minimize or lessen our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Yet, we do “have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  Jesus did not pay the penalty of a “little” sin, or one or two.  He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world, even for all of your sins (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28).

Jesus is not a partial Savior.  He is a complete Savior, whose blood covers all of your sin.  The Savior you have in Jesus is sufficient to cover all that you have done, do, and will do, for Jesus is greater than your sin.  As great as your sin is, Jesus is all the more your Savior.

Consider this statement of Luther “In the sight of God sins are truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.” (Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Thesis 12). [1]

Should you see your sins as they are before God, so will you repent and look to Christ.  Then your sins will not hurt you.

However, should you see your sins only as little, as defined by you or by the world, so you do not see Christ aright, and your sin will be held against you.

Luther

“Our sins are so great, so infinite and invincible, that the whole world could not make satisfaction for even one of them. Certainly the greatness of the ransom—namely, the blood of the Son of God—makes it sufficiently clear that we can neither make satisfaction for our sin nor prevail over it. The force and power of sin is amplified by these words: “Who gave Himself for our sins.” We are indifferent, and we regard sin as something trivial, a mere nothing. Although it brings with it the sting and remorse of conscience, still we suppose that it has so little weight and force that some little work or merit of ours will remove it. But we should note here the infinite greatness of the price paid for it. Then it will be evident that its power is so great that it could not be removed by any means except that the Son of God be given for it. Anyone who considers this carefully will understand that this one word “sin” includes the eternal wrath of God and the entire kingdom of Satan, and that sin is no trifle.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p33).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, look not upon my indifference to your law and my sin before You.  Incline Your ear to me for the sake of Your only begotten Son.  Forgive me for my disregard and my little concern for offending Your Holy majesty.  Bring me to right repentance and firm trust in Your compassionate mercy, that I believe Christ rightly and abide in Your presence for all eternity.  Amen.


[1]Martin Luther, vol. 31, Luther’s Works, Vol. 31 : Career of the Reformer I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1957).

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“God’s Timing”

The confidence and the hope that God gives is not uncertain. It is not doubtful. It is just the opposite, for God always keeps His promises. Because God does not change, neither does His Word. His is the greatest comfort and the only true sure thing we have in life. People fail us. The world shorts us. Words of man become empty and meaningless.

But God’s promises do not fail. God never shorts us. What He says fills and gives meaning. His promises are as sure as Christ’s birth, His death, and His resurrection. The confession of our faith is nothing but certainty, for God Himself has given us what to believe. We don’t make our doctrines up, nor does God promise continuing revelations or new doctrines. God has given us the sure foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:6, 7)…

Gal04.4-7, Christmas 1, 2010A.pdf

Devotion

…and through God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.

Galatians 1:1

Does the Christian need to be afraid, trepid, fearful, or anxious about anything? Not really!

God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. What does this mean? It means that your faith in Christ is not futile. Christ has, indeed, been raised from the dead.

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:14-22).

Your faith not being futile means that your hope is not a ‘what if’ or ‘possibility,’ but a certainty, for it’s grounded in none other than the risen Christ.

All who here speak in uncertain terms, saying that you can’t be sure of God’s favor and forgiveness (or going to heaven) or despise such hope in Christ alone are showing themselves for who they really are—false teachers and not of God.

Christ Jesus is your certainty, in life—and in death. He is your peace with God.

“Of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Jesus, too, is your confidence, before God—Yes! And also before one another!

Luther

At the very outset Paul explodes with the entire issue he intends to set forth in this epistle. He refers to the resurrection of Christ, who rose again for our justification (Rom. 4:25). His victory is a victory over the Law, sin, our flesh, the world, the devil, death, hell, and all evils; and this victory of His He has given to us. Even though these tyrants, our enemies, accuse us and terrify us, they cannot drive us into despair or condemn us. For Christ, whom God the Father raised from the dead, is the Victor over them, and He is our righteousness. Therefore “thanks be to God, who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Amen (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p22-22).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you raised Your Son from the dead for our justification. Give us confidence in Your promises, that we boldly confess Your Name and rejoice in Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord, amen.

Paul, an apostle…

Paul an apostle—not from men, etc.

Galatians 1:1

From whence such boasting?  Here is Paul, as we have heard, claiming not to be an apostle from men, but from God.

On the one hand, such words sound arrogant, proud, and without foundation.  Cult leaders and others all claim to have God’s calling.

On the other hand, these words from a truly called and truly sent man of God are genuine and true.

The difference between the two, between the one who is not from God and the one who is from God, is determined by their preaching, by their words.

Jesus says, 15 ” Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 ” 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. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:15-23)

The false preacher might sound ‘right’, but he doesn’t preach according to the Word.  The true preacher, however, does preach according to the Word.

Paul’s boasting is right.  He hadn’t chosen himself to preach (Acts 9).  God had called him.  And what did Paul preach—the Good News of sin forgiven in Christ.  He preached that only Christ was Savior.  His boasting was of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14).  His calling was sure.  And this was his confidence, as well as those who heard him.  This is also the confidence of those called today of God, and the confidence of those who hear them.  Amen.

Luther

The reason for our proud boasting is that we are in a divine calling and in God’s own work, and that the people need to be assured of our calling, in order that they may know that our word is in fact the Word of God.  This, then, is not a vain pride; it is a most holy prided against the devil and the world.  And it is a true humility in the sight of God (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p20-21)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending faithful pastors to preach only your Word.  Give us your Holy Spirit that we discern between true and false preachers, hearing the one, but avoiding the other.  Grant to your people everywhere faithfulness, and boldness to say what needs to be said.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Preachers and Preaching…

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

What’s so important about Paul, or the disciples, or preachers who claim that they are “called and ordained servants of the Word?”  Why ought we to hear them and their words as they speak God’s Word to us?  Because they speak their own word?  Are we to listen to them simply because they say that we should, on account of their dynamism, their charisma, their “flare” in the pulpit, because they’re easy to listen to?

In Luke 10, our Lord Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).  Jesus says these words to His disciples.  As they speak His Word, those who hear are hearing God’s Word and not the Word of man.  Not hearing this word, however, is not only rejecting the Word which Christ sent the preachers to preach, but is, in truth, rejecting Christ.

We, however, don’t like to hear these words of our Lord.  If it was the Lord’s Word that the pastor was speaking, and if the Lord had truly sent him, where is the charisma?  Where is the Spirit empowering the preacher to be such a preacher that all eyes are on him, all ears attentive to every word that he speaks, and every word flowing from his mouth seems ‘heaven sent.’

What we often find seems to be just the opposite!  The pastor lacks charisma.  He’s not a Tony Robbins or another motivational speaker.  The sermon might sound unstructured and sometimes seem to have little point.

In essence, the pastor and the words that he preaches appear so ordinary, so ‘ho-hum,’ that for those seeking something else, they become quite dissatisfied, cast stones at the preacher, and question whether God is really and truly present.

The test of a Godly sent preacher, however, is NOT his dynamism, charisma, delivery, or style of sermon.  Those who look for such things will largely not only be disappointed, but are judging things by their own standards and not according to God’s Word.

The test of a Godly preacher is one who preaches the Word—not just one who says that he (not she) does, but one who actually does, distinguishing and preaching Law and Gospel.  Evaluations of performance in the secular world are one thing.  But evaluating a preacher and His words are to be done differently than in the secular world—not according to what or how we want to hear, but according to what God has already revealed in His Word.  And where a preacher preaches faithfully according to the Word, there is where we ought to be when the Word of God (not man) is preached.  Those who keep themselves away are very close to despising “preaching and God’s Word” (Explanation to the Third Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism).

Luther

In these first two chapters (Paul) does almost nothing else but sent forth his calling, his ministry, and his Gospel.  He affirms that it was not from men; that he had not received it from men but from the revelation of Jesus Christ; and that if he or an angel from heaven were to bring any gospel other than that which he had preached, he should be accursed. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, give us faithful preachers who preach nothing but your Holy Word.  Grant us discernment that we might resist the temptation to despise our pastor and his word because of how he preaches, and rather, that we hear him as he rightly is—your messenger and servant who proclaims salvation through Christ Jesus alone.  Amen.

Certainty in Christ!

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

Certainty is a blessed thing.  St. John writes, “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21).  Such confidence before God you find in Jesus, not in yourself.  Of course, some exist who try to find surety in themselves or in other things other than God’s Son.  And for a time, that surety may remain, but then it is soon taken away in a blink of eye, a fleeting thought, always temporary and not lasting.

Confidence in self or man-made things, teachings, activities, etc. do not give lasting confidence before God.  But the work and word of Christ do give such confidence, such hope—the hope that cannot be ungiven or undone, for Jesus Christ died and is alive forevermore (Revelation 1:18).  The word and Word of Christ cannot be undone.  It is already.  And it’s for you.

Nothing surpasses the certainty of God’s favor in Christ Jesus.

So St. Paul writes, “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, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).

Such certainty Paul had because of Jesus.  Such certainty also do you have—in Jesus.

And such certainty does the Lord give by means of His  faithfully preached Word, that you also continue in such certainty—that you continue in Christ.  Amen.

Luther

Therefore let the preacher of the Gospel be sure that his calling is from God.  It is perfectly proper that he should follow Paul’s example and exalt this calling of his, so that he may gain credence and authority among the people.  To glory this way is not vain but necessary; for he does not glory in himself but in the king who has sent him and whose authority he seeks to have honored and elevated. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Dear Lord, bless our pastor with faithfulness to Your Holy Word, and give us ears to hear, that we, too, would have such confidence as You Yourself give in Your Word, and have such certainty of your favor and kindness toward us on account of Jesus Your Son.  Amen.

Preachers and Preaching…

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

What’s so important about Paul, or the disciples, or preachers who claim that they are “called and ordained servants of the Word?”  Why ought we to hear them and their words as they speak God’s Word to us?  Because they speak their own word?  Are we to listen to them simply because they say that we should, on account of their dynamism, their charisma, their “flare” in the pulpit, because they’re easy to listen to?

In Luke 10, our Lord Jesus says, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).  Jesus says these words to His disciples.  As they speak His Word, those who hear are hearing God’s Word and not the Word of man.  Not hearing this word, however, is not only rejecting the Word which Christ sent the preachers to preach, but is, in truth, rejecting Christ.

We, however, don’t like to hear these words of our Lord.  If it was the Lord’s Word that the pastor was speaking, and if the Lord had truly sent him, where is the charisma?  Where is the Spirit empowering the preacher to be such a preacher that all eyes are on him, all ears attentive to every word that he speaks, and every word flowing from his mouth seems ‘heaven sent.’

What we often find seems to be just the opposite!  The pastor lacks charisma.  He’s not a Tony Robbins or another motivational speaker.  The sermon might sound unstructured and sometimes seem to have little point.

In essence, the pastor and the words that he preaches appear so ordinary, so ‘ho-hum,’ that for those seeking something else, they become quite dissatisfied, cast stones at the preacher, and question whether God is really and truly present.

The test of a Godly sent preacher, however, is NOT his dynamism, charisma, delivery, or style of sermon.  Those who look for such things will largely not only be disappointed, but are judging things by their own standards and not according to God’s Word.

The test of a Godly preacher is one who preaches the Word—not just one who says that he (not she) does, but one who actually does, distinguishing and preaching Law and Gospel.  Evaluations of performance in the secular world are one thing.  But evaluating a preacher and His words are to be done differently than in the secular world—not according to what or how we want to hear, but according to what God has already revealed in His Word.  And where a preacher preaches faithfully according to the Word, there is where we ought to be when the Word of God (not man) is preached.  Those who keep themselves away are very close to despising “preaching and God’s Word” (Explanation to the Third Commandment, Luther’s Small Catechism).

Luther

In these first two chapters (Paul) does almost nothing else but sent forth his calling, his ministry, and his Gospel.  He affirms that it was not from men; that he had not received it from men but from the revelation of Jesus Christ; and that if he or an angel from heaven were to bring any gospel other than that which he had preached, he should be accursed. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give us faithful preachers who preach nothing but your Holy Word.  Grant us discernment that we might resist the temptation to despise our pastor and his word because of how he preaches, and rather, that we hear him as he rightly is—your messenger and servant who proclaims salvation through Christ Jesus alone.  Amen.

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