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Context is everything…

Don'tPutAQuestionMarkWhereGodPutAPeriod

This is a decent quote!  It draws attention to the truth that we are not to question God and His ways.  Nor are we in the position to question God and His Holy Word, as the writer to the Proverbs, for example, says, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6, NKJ).

So often, however, contrary to what the Bible says, we, like Zechariah in the temple, question the Word and ways of God (Luke 1:18).  Even though He has made known to us His will by means of the Holy Scriptures, His Word, we doubt, question, and even disbelieve what He has said.  We say, for example, that St. Paul the apostle was speaking only of his day and time and culture when he spoke against the ordination of women (i.e. 1 Corinthians 14:34-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6), or concerning homosexuality (i.e. Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9), or about any number of current societal issues in which we want to usurp what the Bible actually says.

We might say that, “God says,” but then reinterpret such words according to the way that we think they ought to be.  And yet, we continue to speak the mantra that the Bible is God’s Word, though at the same time emptying it of its true meaning.  Rather than letting God speak and mean what He intends by the mere Word alone, we reconstruct the words and implant a foreign meaning to them so that we, essentially, can live at peace with ourselves and the way we want.  But such is not the way of God and His Word.  They who alter and change it will reap the consequences (i.e. Revelation 22:18-19).

Christians more or less might expect nonChristians to distort the Scriptures, for they likely do not believe them.  Yet more and more, it’s not the nonChristians who are changing the meaning (and words) of the sacred text.  Rather, it’s the so-called “Christians” who are doing so.  Many mainline denominations have forsaken the heavenly doctrine and are more in agreement with the world and its ways and not God and His.  The admonition of the Lord Jesus to the Pharisees also applies to them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:7-9, NKJ).

What proof of this might their be?  The phrase above, “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period” was posted on a church billboard, not of a faithful ChristianELCAcross-are they Christian congregation, but by a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  This church body ordains women into the ministry, as well as unrepentant homosexuals, approves of homosexuality, approves of abortion and provides for it in its insurance, calls good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20-21), minimizes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, preaches and teaches that the Biblical account of creation and other revealed accounts of God are myths and neither historical or factual, etc.  Essentially, ELCA (and many other mainline denominational church bodies) have gutted Holy Scripture of its intended meaning (according to the Word written) and replaced it with something devilish (i.e. 2 Timothy 4:3-4).  This is not according to godliness and leads the hearers (if they believe their words) to hell and not to heaven.  And grievously, many who are members in these apostatized church bodies may care little for the truth of God’s Word and repenting of their ways should they remain in them.

The words on that sign, “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period” are true words, but printed on a sign in front of an erring congregation that teaches contrary to the Word of God is not only misleading, it is deceptive.  A congregation which is truly of God (and not of the devil, see John 8:42-47) preaches and teaches God’s Word according to the text, rightly divides Law and Gospel, calls to repent from sin that God calls sin, and points to Jesus Christ as the only “Way, truth, and life” (John 14:6).  They call good what God calls good and call evil what calls evil.  They don’t put a question mark on where God put a period.  Instead, they speak the whole counsel of God, treat the Word of God as God’s Word (and not theirs), and seek to be faithful to the true doctrine, heeding the words of Paul to Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Salvation is only found in Christ (i.e. John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  The faithful congregation and the faithful pastor preach Him and Him alone and none other as the way to eternal life, and they seek to abide by His Word and hear only His voice (1 Corinthians 1:23-31; John 10:16, 27), for by these, the Lord sustains them, and gives certainty of peace with God (i.e. Romans 5:1ff).  These we are to hear.  From the others, we are to flee (John 10:1-5).

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I have sinned against You

I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”

Psalm 41:4

The Psalmist speaks what is true.  David, when confronted with his sin of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12) likewise spoke when he said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13; see also Psalm 51:4).

It is the humble of heart that trembles at the Lord’s word and acknowledges that any goodness and righteousness does not at all belong to self.  This is not an easy word to swallow, as all of us have the innate tendency to justify ourselves, even against God Himself.  To not do so is to go against our human nature.

Yet this is exactly what Christians do.  They struggle with their sinful flesh, with the world, and with Satan himself.  They despair of themselves, however weakly, and look to Another for help.

Again, the Psalmist cries out, “Give us help from trouble, For the help of man is useless” (Psalm 108:12).  There is none other that can deliver but the Lord.

We, however, want the quick fix, the immediate “recovery,” the cessation of struggle, and the trials to end, esp. with ourselves.  We devise ways of helping ourselves to ease the pain.  We try to escape, if even for a bit, from the cold hard reality in which we live (i.e. movies, books, food, etc.).  We deny that we are that bad off or that there is nothing that we can do.  Yet deliverance does not come by avoiding the truth, but facing it—head on.

Yes, it is true, our words and our actions, our silence and our inactions, these demonstrate our disobedience to the God of gods and Lord of Lords (Deuteronomy 10:17).  Out of our own hearts come “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).

It matters not if we consider our sins to be small or large.  Before God, sin is sin, regardless of our “interpretation” of them.  “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) the Bible says.  And “The Scripture has confined all under sin…” (Galatians 3:22).  Being confined under sin, whether thought of as large or small, or grand or minute, judgment is our lot before God.

But Scripture has confined all under sin “that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”  In other words, confined under our sin and not able to save ourselves, it is God who does the saving—through faith in Jesus Christ—of those who believe.  Thus is salvation of faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And what does this mean?  This means that yes, your sins are damnable before God.  But Jesus Christ bore your sins and became damnable before God for you.  This is nothing but Gospel.  And it shows God’s abounding love for you.  Because of Jesus, the Father’s condemnation has been placed on Jesus, no longer yours to bear.

Jesus’ death does indeed save you.  It also shows you the enormity of your sin.  But seeing your sin more clearly, as it is in truth, against God Almighty, you also see Christ more clearly.  Because of Jesus, you are no longer in your sin.  Because of Jesus, you have nothing but peace with God (Romans 5:1).  Thus do you, as God’s people, acknowledge the greatness of your sin before the Holy and sinless God, and rejoice in His abiding mercy unto you, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

 Luther

 

“The main knowledge and true wisdom of Christians, then, is this: to regard as very serious and true these words of Paul, that Christ was given over to death, not for our righteousness or holiness but for our sins, which are real sins—great, many, in fact, infinite and invincible. Therefore you must not think of them as minor or suppose that your own works can remove them.  Nor must you despair on account of their gravity if you feel them oppressing you either in life or in death.  But you must learn from Paul here to believe that Christ was given, not for sham or counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two sins but for all sins; not for sins that have been overcome—for neither man nor angel is able to overcome even the tiniest sin—but for invincible sins. And unless you are part of the company of those who say “our sins,” that is, who have this doctrine of faith and who teach, hear, learn, love, and believe it, there is no salvation for you.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p35).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for looking at and interpreting Your Holy Word through my eyes that I justify myself before You.  With the prophet, I also cry, “I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5).  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).  For Christ’s sake, grant me your unmerited forgiveness and help me to  hold on to nothing but Your righteous Word of deliverance.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Christ Opens to Us the Scriptures

    13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

      28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.  [Luke 24:13-35 (ESV)]

Common in the post-resurrection accounts of our Lord is the fact that even His own disciples, those who were with Him during His ministry before His death, believed Him not.   Though they had His word, that very Word through which He revealed to them what would be, not only that Word of His death, but even that of His glorious resurrection, His followers didn’t believe it.  Time after time He told them of what was to come, but they didn’t understand.  And after third day, the words of the women declaring to the 11 that Jesus was alive seemed like an idle tale (Luke 24:11).

Thomas, called Didymus, was not there when the Lord first appeared to the others behind closed door for fear of the Jews.  In unbelief, he declared to the 10, Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger, into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (John 20:25).  Like the others before him, the word others was not enough.

As of yet, they hadn’t put two and two together, that the words of Jesus spoken were as good as done.  Though everything else seemed contrary to what the Lord had said, Jesus was then dead three days, and sadness and sorrow filled the air, it was what the Lord had spoken that would surely come to pass.  Though Jesus truly did die, as He had said, so would He truly rise from the dead on the third day.  It would be no other way.  Otherwise, Jesus is not God and you are still in your sins.

This is not the case, for Jesus has risen, just as He said.  For you He died.  For you He rose, that sin no longer overcome, and that eternal death you not face, all your sin being put on Christ.  You bear that load no more.  Jesus, having taken all that was yours that was against God, has become your Savior.  Those things God knows not any longer, for they are far from Him, as far as the east is from the west, says the Psalmist (Psalm 103:12).  They can harm you none.  We stand completely reconciled and at peace with our God.

This is the joyous Easter message that permeates the Christian church loud and clear.  It cannot remain hidden.  Its sound cannot be muffled.  Though the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ fall on deaf ears, on hearing ears will the good news also fall.  There, the Word will be planted, sprout and grow, bearing fruit and producing, some thirty, some sixty, and some hundredfold (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23).

Where the Word is, there also Christ will be.  Where Christ is, there will also be faith.  That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name, God gives the Holy Scriptures (John 20:31).  He opens to you His Word and there reveals your Savior.  If He not do this, your eyes would remain closed and blind.

To unbelieving Thomas, Jesus appeared.  Our Lord Christ showed Himself to His disciple that Thomas’ disbelief turn to faith…then Thomas cried, My Lord and My God (John 20:28).  It is that you believe in Him that God has His word preached, that you hold fast to Christ, your Savior and your Redeemer.  Only in Him do you have eternal life and only through Him are your sins forgiven.

God in His grace and according to His abundant mercy, doesn’t leave you in the dark.  He sheds light, His true light, upon our darkened world, even upon you.  Though you be helpless, the Lord comes to your aid.  Though you be weak, God gives strength.  Though you be sad and sorrowful, God gives comfort and joy.

Like the two on the road to Emmaus, the Lord Jesus speaks to you His very Word that you believe and continue in the faith.  Those two disciples, not of the then 11, were down and out concerning the events of the Lord’s suffering and death.  They had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth would be the ONE to redeem Israel.  They had heard the news of the women who were at the tomb and came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive.  But they didn’t believe it.  They didn’t recognize the Lord Jesus for who He was.

It is also this way with us.  Jesus becomes obscured and His promises unrecognizable when we go by what we see and not by what our Lord Jesus says.  Like Peter who began to sin when He took His eyes off Jesus as he walked on water, so also our attention on Christ becomes distracted by that which befalls us.

Not everyone has strong faith in the midst of great trial and tribulation.  Though the Lord’s Word be present, it doesn’t always hit home.  God appears to be speaking in the distance, but not right here in front of us.  We can’t make sense of God’s promise on account of what we’re facing.

This is not because what God says is ineffective.  It is because we’re weakened by circumstance and have trouble seeing the radiance of God’s SON for the clouds blocking Him.  Not only this, but our eyes say something different than what God says in His Word.  Though the spirit be willing, our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

Imagine those two walking toward that village Emmaus.  Everything that they knew to be true to their experience testified against the Lord’s resurrection, everything except the Lord’s Word and work.  But in the midst of their sadness, they could not see the light.  They could not remember what was before because of what was then in the present.

The Lord Jesus walks with such as these.  Though the two didn’t recognize Him, Jesus didn’t turn from them in anger or bitterness.  Instead, He walked with them, even asking the reason for their sorrow.  Even though He already knew, He asks for their sake, that He point them to Himself.

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 14:16).

The Lord made known to them that Christ’s suffering and death was foretold in the OT and that Christ was indeed the Messiah, the ONE who would redeem Israel. Indeed, He was, but not with corruptible things, like silver or gold…with His precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19).

What the two had not yet understood was that it was through Jesus’ own death that He Himself would put sin to death and usher in new life by means of His resurrection.  Where sin has ceased, so has death.  There, the hope of life remains.  This is testified by the ONE who Himself rose from the dead and gives life to all who believe in Him.

The hearts burned within the two as they walked to Emmaus as Jesus spoke to them concerning Himself, beginning with Moses and the prophets.  Here, Jesus points the right way to interpret the Old Testament and all of Scripture, through Himself.

Earlier, Jesus had declared to the Jews, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).  Here, Jesus is not talking about the NT, for that had not yet been written.  It is the Old Testament to which He refers.

In another place, it is written concerning the Holy Scriptures, meaning the OT, that they are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).  The reason this is so is because the OT is about Christ, as is the New Testament.  Jesus is the center.

Even if your mind be clouded, even if your eyes not see, even if what you know by this word’s standards would keep you from seeing the Lord’s Christ and believing His promises, the Lord doesn’t leave you alone in unbelief.  He gives you His very Word that you believe against what you see, contrary to what your eyes tell us, and according to what He Himself bestows through your ears and into your mouths.

Significant it is that on the road and talking with Jesus, the two didn’t recognize Him.  But as Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke and gave it to them, then their eyes were opened.

We have seen these words before.  In the upper room with the Lord’s disciples, on the night when He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it (Matthew 26:26).  In the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:16), then in the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:36), Jesus did the same thing.  He took bread, blessed it, and broke it.

At that moment, they recognized Jesus for who He was.  It was Jesus, alive from the dead, just as the others had said.  In the breaking of the bread, there eyes were opened.  With them all along was the risen Lord, preaching His Word, giving comfort, and testifying to the truth of His salvation.  Then He vanished from their sight.

Right then and there, Jesus left them, believing.  His Word and the blessed bread, these were sufficient to bring about the recognition of Christ the Lord, to quicken faith, and to cast away any doubt.

The Lord continues to give you His Word and bestow upon you His grace, that you believe and remain believing in Him who died and rose again, and that you, with the two on the road to Emmaus, recognize Christ for who He is, your Savior from death and the giver of eternal life, indeed, the Messiah.

By means of His Word and then in the sacramental meal, the Lord Jesus strengthens the weak and gladdens the heart.  The Lord does not leave you alone.  Nor does He leave you in despair, sadness, sorrow, or doubt.  He continues to come to you that we hold fast to him, in life and in death.

Only, don’t ignore His Word or His promises, for doing so is a sure sign of unbelief.  Do not despair, but place your confidence in Christ.  Cast all your burdens upon Him, for He does care for you (Psalm 55:22).  Wait on Him and take heed to His Word.  Times of refreshing and joy are sure to come.  Amen.

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