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God desires your salvation

“‘I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord GOD. ‘Therefore turn and live!’”

(Ezekiel 18:32)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Prophet-ReflectingIt may seem as so few hear the call! God sent His prophets in the Old Testament, to preach to them the Law and the Gospel, and yet few heeded. God desires the salvation of all, yet even some who call themselves Christians remain numb to the hearing and studying of God’s Holy Word, partaking of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, and attending God’s house on Sunday morn to receive God’s free and unconditional gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

We are not too far removed from the people of God in the Old Testament, who even claimed that God’s way was unjust. He condemned the righteous and forgave the wicked. According to their faith, so it was. Those who had “done good,” yet remained in their sin were judged. Those who had done evil, yet repented, these stood in God’s favor.

Such ways do not align with sinners. We reason that God should look at the good that we have done (or tried to do), and relent. We also reason that the “bad” of former times cannot be fully amended by a “change” of heart or action (i.e. How naturally we say that we are better than criminals before God and that the worst of “sinners” do not “deserve” God’s forgiveness!).

However, God’s way is not our way, nor is our way His (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is just to forgive and merciful to the undeserving. In fact, none deserve God’s mercy. Rather, we ought to merit His wrath. But for the sake of Christ, you stand in God’s good and divine blessing. In Christ, you have already died to your sin, and do die daily as you remember your Holy Baptism, drowning the old man on putting on the new (Romans 6:1-14). You now live by faith in Christ your Savior. And so living, you now also desire to live according to Christ’s Word, abiding by the will of God, hearing and studying the sacred Text, and partaking of Christ’s body and blood given for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

In Christ, you live a new life, daily. You continue to struggle, but in your struggle, you are not solo. God provides the means by which to sustain you—Word and Sacrament. Only do not forsake, ignore, or despise these means as is the manner of some, even of those who considered themselves to be the people of God in the Old Testament and today, who think that they can manage by themselves and continue to live as they please. They were chastened for their unbelief, for that’s what their actions demonstrated. This is why the Lord sent His prophets. And those who did heed the call, these sought to change their ways and turned to the Lord in repentance, looking to the heavenly Father for mercy, and in the promise of God in Christ, had it with certainty. Amen.

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Words out of place for today’s church?

False Prophets“Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ “Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the LORD, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:31-32

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.  To many, even in the church today, these words from Jeremiah the prophet seem out of place.  “They are too rigid, too condemnatory, too judgmental.  They are words from an historical narrative, an unenlightened past, and don’t deserve our hearing.”

Though many in the church in today’s Christendom would immediately dismiss these words of our Lord through the prophet as irrelevant, irrelevant these words certainly are not!  To say that they are irrelevant to our day is essentially to declare that God’s Word for God’s people is only applicable for a certain time, place, and locale.  But a closer look at what God says reveals the truth far differently than that of today’s “enlightened” and “advanced” “Christianity.”

A closer look at Holy Scripture reveals that God’s people today face the similar temptations of those who have come before us in the faith, to deny the truth and to go after their own gods, even while claiming faith in the true God.  Today’s church faces the same struggles as the people of God in the Old and New Testaments and throughout the history of the Church, to compromise the faith, to follow the popular and “acceptable” way, and to live by sight (and experience) and not by faith in what the Lord says.

In Jeremiah’s day, prophets preached, not according to the Word that God had given them to preach, but according to the content of their own heart and that which the people wanted to hear. This was the easier way to go.  Just look at Jeremiah!  Look what his preaching got him—thrown into a pit, ridiculed, despised, rejected by the people.  Who wants that?  I know that I don’t.

Jeremiah didn’t have an easy time with the people, for they didn’t listen.  Yet his calling was not to please people or to say what they wanted to hear (Ephesians 6:6).  His calling was to speak the truth, the very words that God gave him to speak:  “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the LORD said to me: ‘Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,’ says the LORD. Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant’” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).

Jeremiah’s words were not to be his own, but God’s.  The same applies to those who preach with the name clergy today.  However, as in JerNo Compromiseemiah’s day, so today, there are those who say that the Lord says where the Lord has not said.  Today, there are those who say what people want to hear, who compromise the truth for acceptance by the world, and who condemn those who speak the truth as unloving, intolerant, and hate-mongers, even though they are simply making the same distinctions that God Himself makes in Holy Scripture.

Most certainly, there are those who do say what they say in spite or in anger.  There are those, too, who speak uncharitably and not out of love for neighbor.  Yet how something is said should not take precedence over what is said.

The litmus test for the truth is not how we sinners view or respond to the message.  Just because we get excited about the preaching because of the dynamism of the preacher, or “get into the service” because of the beat of the music, these don’t immediately translate into “God at work.”  In contrast, just because the preaching is unappealing and the service slow or dull doesn’t mean that God is not at work.

The true litmus test for cross1true preaching and the faithful worship service is not how you feel during or afterwards or what you get out of the sermon, how moving the message was, or how people react.  The true litmus test is simply this, the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments administered according to the Lord’s institution.  The music, hymns, responses, etc. should all point to Christ and what God has done in Him.  Where they do not, be on guard, and closely examine Scripture.  Yet, even where the preaching is right, and the congregation seeks to be faithful, and the worship is Christ-centered, continue to examine Scripture, for those who are of God hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27).  They continue in His Word (John 8:31-32), and they know Him and His ways, not according to what they see, feel, or experience, but according to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Also to remember is this, as St. Peter reminds us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  We remain sober and vigilant as we look to the Lord and His Word (See also Ephesians 6:10ff).

We most certainly have the devil to contend with throughout our earthly lives, as well as the world and our sinful flesh.  Therefore, does our Lord give us His Word, that we remain in the faith.  He gives us prayer, that we call upon Him in every trouble (Psalm 50:15).  He joins us together with others that we encourage one another in the faith (Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:23-25).  In effect, God doesn’t leave us alone, but gives us what He would to keep us in the faith.

The reality is, in Jeremiah’s day, as in ours, not all preachers preach the truth.  False preachers and false preaching continue.  Falsehood, however, is not of the truth.  And false gospels, though appealing and man-centered, do not confess the truth, nor do they lead to heaven.  False gospels, essentially, teach salvation apart from faith in Christ alone.  They teach another way to heaven than the way God has already given (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

It is necessary, therefore, to make distinctions, to clarify, and to avoid that which is false, according to the Word of our Lord.  Not doinWalther's-L&Gg so leads away from Christ and His Word.  It also leads to self-security or despair.  Either direction does not lead to heaven, but to eternal death.

God’s people do make such distinctions between truth and falsehood, and they long to abide where Christ is.  Indeed, where Christ is, there also are they (John 12:26).  They forsake the false, even denying themselves, and follow Christ, carrying their crosses and burdens, and rest only in Christ, where true rest and genuine peace are found (Matthew 11:28; Romans 5:1-5)

Luther

Now when Paul speaks of “the truth of the Gospel,” he shows that there are two uses of the Gospel, a true one and a false one, or a true and a false gospel. It is as though he were saying: “The false apostles proclaim a faith and a gospel too, but their gospel is a false gospel. Hence my stubbornness and refusal to yield. I did this in order that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved among you.” Thus in our day the pope and the sectarians brag that they proclaim the Gospel and faith in Christ. Yes, they do, but with the same results that the false apostles once had, those whom Paul (Gal. 1:7) calls troublers of the churches and perverters of the Gospel of Christ. By contrast he says that he is teaching “the truth of the Gospel,” the pure and true Gospel, as though he were saying: “Everything else is a lie masquerading as the Gospel.” For all the heretics lay claim to the names of God, of Christ, of the church, etc.; and they pretend that they want to teach, not errors but the most certain truth and the purest Gospel.

The truth of the Gospel is this, that our righteousness comes by faith alone, without the works of the Law. The falsification or corruption of the Gospel is this, that we are justified by faith but not without the works of the Law. The false apostles preached the Gospel, but they did so with this condition attached to it. The scholastics do the same thing in our day. They say that we must believe in Christ and that faith is the foundation of salvation, but they say that this faith does not justify unless it is “formed by love.”7 This is not the truth of the Gospel; it is falsehood and pretense. The true Gospel, however, is this: Works or love are not the ornament or perfection of faith; but faith itself is a gift of God, a work of God in our hearts, which justifies us because it takes hold of Christ as the Savior. Human reason has the Law as its object. It says to itself: “This I have done; this I have not done.” But faith in its proper function has no other object than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was put to death for the sins of the world. It does not look at its love and say: “What have I done? Where have I sinned? What have I deserved?” But it says: “What has Christ done? What has He deserved?” And here the truth of the Gospel gives you the answer: “He has redeemed you from sin, from the devil, and from eternal death.” Therefore faith acknowledges that in this one Person, Jesus Christ, it has the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Whoever diverts his gaze from this object does not have true faith; he has a fantasy and a vain opinion. He looks away from the promise and at the Law, which terrifies him and drives him to despair. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p87-88)

Prayer: Gracious Father, forgive us for turning from you to our own way.  Continue to have mercy on us, through Your only Son, Jesus Christ, that we remain steadfast in the true faith, and denying all others, boldly confess Your Holy Name.  In Your Name we pray, Amen.

Sent of God

1Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. . . .

      10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:1–5, 10)

 

The account of Jonah is a familiar one.  Both to those inside the church and to those outside the church, the account of Jonah is almost immediately recognized.  I use the word ‘account’ because that word ‘story’ is understood by some as referring to something that is not true.  Even here in this place there might be at least one, if not more, who believe that Jonah was never swallowed by a great fish, though the Bible reveals this to be so.  And certainly this is the case outside of these walls.  At schools, colleges, and universities, as well as in our communities, and dare I say, even in many churches, it would be correct to assume that many students and faculty, members and even clergy alike discount Jonah as legend, myth, and a historical, not having much if anything to do with reality.

I say these things to you now, not because you don’t know them, but because you do, in order to remind you what you already know, that not everyone takes the Word of God as God says, and that you may be aware of the unbelief that is out there, and then, with God helping you, to stand firm on what God has made known, not that which is based on fantasy, but that which is founded on God’s work and God’s action in history that we might know and believe in Jesus.

When we read Holy Scripture, we don’t come at it like it’s just any other book.  However, the Bible is, generally speaking, questioned as to its historicity, its literality, its truthfulness, and its application, even within Christendom itself.  Many mainline church bodies, though they may say that the Bible is God’s Word, at the same time declare that what is written in it is not historically accurate.  But if not historically accurate, how can it be God’s Word?  God to be God means that He speaks only the truth.  If the Bible is not true, how are we to trust what’s recorded in it?  Some say that the Bible is not to be taken as it says.  But if that’s the case, is any of it to be taken at face value, and if so, what part is and what part isn’t?  Some say that what’s in the Bible doesn’t have to do so much with real events, people, and times, but more importantly, the meaning behind the stories.  The important thing to many today, with regard to the Bible, is not whether or not the things really happened, but how the Bible makes one feel, what it says to me, how it makes one a better person, or the effect it has on one’s life, not in the sense of recognizing one’s sin, confessing that sin, and then believing in God’s promises through Jesus Christ for eternal life, but in the sense of how one’s life might be improved only in the here and now.  The emphasis has become less on eternity and more on present – one’s personal life – not how one stands before God, but how one sees oneself in relation to self or others.

The pursuit of happiness and contentment with oneself has become the ultimate goal, it might seem.  And many see the Bible only as a means to that end.  But in doing so, however, those who use the Word of the Lord for their own gain not only miss the mark with reference to God’s Word and its application.  They also are placing themselves in God’s shoes and taking His place as Lord rather than hearing the text as God’s, through which He makes His will known – what we are to believe and how we are to live.

When it comes to the Bible and the words therein, even to the text before us of Jonah, it is not for us, or for anyone, to question the revelation, proclamation, declaration, condemnation, or salvation of the Lord God who gives such testimony, not for Himself, but for our sakes, that we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest what He has both said and done for us, even for people like us who want to be first in line ahead of God and the definer of our own destinies.

When it comes to the Bible, the historicity of the event is not to be divorced from the meaning of the text and vice versa.  If it is, you end up with myths like the Greeks and Romans.  If it is, then you have theories like evolution, unbelief in the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land by the Israelites when the Egyptians were chasing them, a virgin-less birth, and ultimately, a God-less Jesus, who was crucified, not to pay the debt for the world’s sins and yours and mine, but who died to be only an example of selflessness and to show us how we ought to be towards others, ‘turning the other cheek and loving our enemies.’  If the Bible is not true in all of its words, then what is recorded in it is not true.  If, as some believe, the Bible is only what we make out of it or get from it, then man has become god and God is no longer God.

Instead of placing ourselves above the Word, we humble ourselves before it.  And instead of deluding ourselves with the notion that it doesn’t apply to us, we yield to it, for not only does God justly condemn sin – He also has removed that judgment from us and has placed it upon His Son.

God makes knows His workings in the world through Scripture, not only His judgment and anger, but especially His mercy and His patience.  Jonah said it this way, I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:2).  Ironically, this is why Jonah ran away from God the first time.

In our text it says, Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time (Jonah 3:1).  For the word of the Lord to come to Jonah the second time implies that it came to him a first time.  And a first time it did.  And that word to Jonah the first time was this, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me (Jonah 1:2).

God was calling Jonah, one of his prophets, to go to a specific place, to a specific people, and to proclaim a specific message.  God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh, and to preach repentance to her citizens, because destruction was soon to come upon them because of their wickedness.  But instead of going in the direction God had told him to go, he went the other way.  He tried to avoid God’s calling, and that’s why Jonah ended up in the water.

But even though Jonah fled from God, God had other plans for him.  God would use Jonah as His instrument to declare judgment upon the people of Nineveh, whether Jonah wanted to or not.  [God uses us for His purposes even if we don’t know them (i.e. doctors, judges, teachers, parents, etc.).]  And so God did use Jonah for His purpose.  Jonah did go to Nineveh after being in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.  And Jonah did preach the message that God told him to preach.  And the people did turn from their sinful ways.  And the Lord did relent from destroying wicked Nineveh, for they confessed that they were sinners, and they believed in God for deliverance.

What Jonah said of God was true, He is the gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:2).  It was because of this that Jonah tried to avoid going to Nineveh as God’s prophet.  Jonah desired God’s grace and His mercy, but only for the people of Israel.  The unbelieving nations, such as the wicked Ninevites, did not deserve God’s kindness.  They deserved His wrath.  Jonah wished God’s goodness only for himself and his people and no one else.

This was a commonly held position in Israel.  And it is also one found among us.  We too, like Jonah, know God to be gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and One who relents from doing harm.  We have come to know this through the One who himself said of Jonah, As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).  Through the One who himself was three days and nights in the tomb after being hung on the cross, we ourselves have come to know that God is Good (Psalm 73:1), that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and that God forgives the sinner (Luke 5:21; Acts 5:31).

Though we don’t deserve God’s favor or kindness, even because of our confessing our sins to Him, and though we ourselves deserve instead to be overthrown than be delivered, the Son of God substituted His holy life for our wickedness.  Jesus gave His life for ours in death. And the Father has accepted His life and His death in our stead.

But this Good News is not just for us.  The Good News of God is not just for God’s people.  It’s for all and everyone.  For God so loved the World (John 3:16).  God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).  ‘The world,’ says St. Paul.  ‘The world,’ says Jesus.  God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

And how does God go about saving people and bringing them to the knowledge of the truth?  How did people in the days of the Apostles hear about Jesus?  How did the Ninevites in Jonah’s day hear about the coming destruction because of their wickedness?  God made it known to them.  There were those sent of God to proclaim such news.  There were those sent of God to declare God’s judgment and God’s peace.  And still today does God still send.  Still today there are those sent of God to speak His unadulterated and true Word.  And still today do God’s people confess His Name and Proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10).

How did you come to know of Christ and His love?  How did you come to believe in Him as your Savior?  It was through the Word of the Lord that you came to faith. It was through the Word preached and spoken to you that you believed.  And it is through that same Word by which you remain and continue in true faith.  And it is through that same word by which others hear, repent, and believe.

Give thanks, then, that God has so opened your eyes to see your sin and opened them that you see clearly your Savior Jesus Christ.  Give thanks for those whom God has sent and for those God does send.  Give thanks that the Good News of sins forgiven is not just for you, but for all people.  For just as others don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, neither do you.  But neither they nor you are forgiven because of deserving it. Rather it is because of Christ, and Christ alone.

Rather than run away from God and His call to serve Him and serve others, because of Christ, wherever you are, whether near or far, here or there, be faithful to our Lord.  Hear His Word.  Know that you are not your own, but were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 7:23).  You were washed with water and Word in Holy Baptism.  Also know that God’s goodness to you in Christ extends also to your neighbor.  On that account, as God is towards you in Christ, forgiving you your sins freely and showing you His kindness, so ought you to show that same kindness to others.  As God loves you, so ought you to love one another – freely, unconditionally, unreservedly, and continually (1 John 4:11).  Amen.

The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord

1In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

      4And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

      6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11)

 

On the day of His ascension, Jesus, the Lord of lords and King of kings, ascended on high.  Of this day, St. Paul says in today’s epistle, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory…seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:20-23).

This means that the name of the Lord is above every name, even yours and even mine.  Jesus Christ is not just one Name among many.  His Name is above all.  Nor is He Savior to one, but not to another.  He is the Savior of the entire world.

All of us are sinners.  But God, who is rich in mercy, gave His Son for all people, in order that they believe and so be saved (Ephesians 2:4).  This is the glorious truth that Jesus Himself declared.  He says, He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.  And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.  I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak (John 12:44-50).

Christ’s ascension means that Christ is head over all things and over His holy church, His church sanctified and cleansed with the washing of His Word, glorious and not having spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish because of Him who gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5).

Christ over all things means that He sees all and knows all.  Nothing passes by His watchful eye.  He knows your weaknesses and your sins, but He also knows how to save and to deliver.  He knows your needs before you even ask Him.  He gives everlasting hope where you see none.  He gives this promise, that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose  (Romans 8:28).  This does not mean that we always know how ‘all things’ work together for good.  But it does mean that all things do, even if you don’t see how it is to be so.

God’s Word is your trust.  His promises – your confidence.  But God’s way is to work through what is foolish and weak in the eyes of the world…

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Christ’s cross and the preaching of it is utter foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).  The preached Word might seem empty and powerless, but the Lord Christ says that His Words are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63).

The Sacraments instituted by Christ might seem like they are only works of men, but the Lord Jesus says that they give what He offers, even forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  These are works that only God can do.

God works when and how He wills to work (John 3:8).  His way will remain hidden to those who seek Him outside of His Word, but to them who seek Him according to it, He will reveal Himself.

Of that Word, our Lord says, You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me (John 5:39).  Of Baptism, the Lord says, in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and wherever His Name is, there is He (Matthew 28:19; Numbers 6:27).  Of the Lord’s Supper, Christ says, My body and my blood (Matthew 26:26-28).

Christ is truly in the heavens, but you do not go to the heavens to find Him.  Christ, as God, is everywhere.  He is omnipresent.  There is no place one can go that He is not.  But everywhere is not where you go to find God’ Son, your Savior, speaking life and salvation.  Everywhere and anywhere are not where you go to find God FOR YOU.

It is as St. Paul says, The righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart‘ (that is, the word of faith which we preach) (Romans 10:6-7).

You find the Lord Jesus to be your Savior in His Word, in His Word preached and in His Word attached to elements of water and bread and wine. And in this Christ Jesus, your risen and ascended Lord who comes to you by means of Word and Sacrament, you have peace with God.  Having ascended into heaven, Jesus sits at God’s right hand, not for Himself, but for you.  He intercedes for you on your behalf (Romans 8:34).

Because Jesus “continues forever,” He Has an unchangeable priesthood.  Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Jesus is your hope before God and your certainty of life everlasting.  Because of His death, you too have died to sin.  Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under His grace (Romans 6:14).  Because of Christ’s resurrection, you too will rise from the dead.  Because of the Lord’s ascension, you know that you have a God who is favorable toward you, because Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand for you.

As Priest, Christ intercedes for you.  Once He shed His blood.  In Him, you are forgiven.

As Prophet, He continues preaching His Word into your ears that you believe and so be saved.

As King, He rules over land and sea and ushers in His heavenly kingdom, which is Not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), whose kingdom you also are members through faith in Him who came into the world, ascended on high.  Amen.

 

Notes

“Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of our Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe.  Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation.  Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which (Luther correctly taught) is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time.  Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space.  He is with us as true god and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the means of grace which He established: His Word and His Sacraments.  We mortals in those means of grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.” [Scott Kinnaman, gen. ed., Treasury of Daily Prayer (St. Louis: CPH, 2008), 302]

  • Where is Christ?  He is in the heaven, but also with us—in a very tangible way! (See Romans 10 above)

John 14:18-19 18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 ” A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

  • Sitting at the right hand of God the Father: “With this expression Scripture teaches that Christ, as true man, is not only present everywhere, but also now fully exercises His divine power over the whole universe.” (SC, 141)

Ephesians 1:20-23 20 [God] worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  • Prophet: Christ sends people to proclaim the saving Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 4:10-12 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for a work of service, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Luke 10:16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

  • Priest: Christ pleads and prays for us before the Father

Romans 8:31-34 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 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? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 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.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time

  • King: Christ rules and protects His church and governs over all the world especially for the benefit of His church.

Christ governs the world by means of the ruling authorities (Kingdom of the left)

Christ govern His church by means of His Word (Kingdom of the Right)

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