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“She will be saved”

“While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” But when Jesus heard it, Jesus&Jairus'Daughter3He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.” When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat. And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened” (Lk. 8:49-56 NKJ)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jairus’ daughter was determined to be dead. So, the announcement came to the father.  Jesus had heard this news, too.

He was on his way with them to see the girl.

Before, she was dying.

Now, the news of her death must have struck a chord with the father.

Jesus was coming to help a dying girl.  Now that she was dead, there was no need, so that “someone from the ruler’s house” had thought, and the father, too, may have been encouraged by that thought, not to trouble “the Teacher anymore.”

If one calls for help and that help would seem to be useless due to circumstance, why continue to request that which is doubtful, uncertain, or considered not to be of consequence in providing the help that was first sought? Such would be a waste of time and energy.

The girl was dead.

The belief was that Jesus could no longer help, that death could not be undone, that hope of the girl’s recovery was now gone.

Jesus had something different to say.

Death does have its day. Suffering, grief, and sorrow do have their time.

Man’s unbelief and loss of hope, however, does not mean that there is none.

Going by what we see and feel is not all that there is to go on. These are weighty, to be sure. But the last word is not what we see before us, think, or determine to be so, even in the face of death.

To the truth of the girl’s death, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be saved” (Luke 8:50).

Such words call for faith, not faith that is either blind, unsure, doubtful, or self-derived, but faith in what Jesus literally says.

We might hear these words of our Lord and then immediately ask, “Believe in what?”, even as other places in Holy Scripture are deemed to call for faith without an object, or so many would say.

Yet, what the Lord says, the Lord Jesus Himself, is the object of faith, not what we determine to be so.

When Jesus says what He says, He’s calling for faith in what He Himself is saying.

As to the word “be well,” the translation given by the ESV and any number of other translations, Jesus literally says, “be saved.”

“Be saved” has a greater meaning than “be well.”

“Be well” has more the temporal, physical sense attached to it.

“Be saved” has the more lasting, eternal sense attached to it.

Not only would the girl be “saved” from physical death and be brought back to life. The girl would be saved unto eternity through the One who raised her from the dead, as would the father, believing Jesus’ words.

The father did believe. The group continued to the house. Jesus spoke to the child, “Arise” (Luke 8:54), and “she arose immediately” (Luke 8:55).

Such is the authority, the power, not of faith, but of Jesus, to even raise the dead from death.

According to His Word is this so, not because of our believing or our not believing, but due to His Word, which faith believes.

Thus, did Jesus rise from the dead, just as He said He would, whether there is belief in it or not.

Faith doesn’t make a thing so.

Jesus’ Word, work, death, resurrection, these do.

This is what faith believes.

According to the Word, such faith is sound and true, and leaves nothing unsure, for it is founded only on what God has given and not on human hopes and dreams. Amen.

PrayingHands&Cross1Dearest Jesus, help us hold fast to Your Word and only to Your Word. Keep us from being tempted away from You to trust something other than what you say. Give us courage during uncertainty and joy amid trouble, that we look to You for our comfort and our stay. Amen.

 

“Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” John 14:1-14

Audio

1[Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare Jn14,6a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

      8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

      12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (ESV)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Christian faith is one of particularity, distinctiveness, and exclusivity.

We make clear distinction between truth and error.

Only the very Son of God, Jesus the Christ, is the head of His body, the Church (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22).

This is He of whom Scripture says, “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Colossians 1:14-23).

This Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head, is the Only Way to eternal life.

None other has right to this claim.

“There is salvation in none other” confesses Peter,” for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

This has been the proclamation of the Christian Church throughout the ages from the beginning, and it will continue to be so.

The Church’s message is Christ crucified and this is the content of her preaching.

He receives all glory, honor, and praise.

All these go to, and belong to, Him alone.

His is the Name that is “above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

God’s people confess Christ and declare Him as the only Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

In both love toward God and love toward neighbor, the Christian shows forth the unique claim of Christ, that He Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

God’s love is not conditional.  It is unconditional.

God’s love in Christ is given to all, and though few believe according to Christ’s Word alone, such does not change God’s love towards the world.

“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” (Rom. 5:8-10 NKJ)

“In this is love,” St. John writes, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10 NKJ).

“God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7).

Therefore, God sent Jesus into the world, why God gives His Word, why life is still going on today, even as it is.

The end is not yet.

It is by God’s grace that we and the world yet remain and that the world continues, not because of what people do, not because we can beat anything together, not because scientists are all that, but because of God’s providence and provision.

To Noah, God reveals this promise.

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22 NKJ).

Jesus declares that the Father in heaven, “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45 NKJ).

Such things of life, its necessities, God Himself provides.  He does so through means, means which can be squandered and misused, to be sure, but the world, and sinners, do not have the final word over what is to be, or over what is to come.

When it comes to the holy things of God, when it comes to God’s Word and His teaching, His doctrine, we recognize the simple profound truth that the things of God are His, not ours to do with as we please.

We are on the receiving end of God’s blessings.

We are at God’s mercy.

Regarding God’s Word, we cannot but press on in the truth of our Lord and declare the mercies of God through Jesus Christ.

Such mercies of God through Jesus Christ are our life and salvation.

It is by means of God’s mercy in Christ that sins are forgiven.

It is by means of God’s mercy in Christ that you are heirs of eternal life.

It is by means of God’s mercy in Christ that you are His and no longer your own.

We thus seek to say what is to be said.

We thus seek to do what is to be done.

We abide in Christ’s Word—alone—seeking not to depart from it but to endure in it, with God’s help, even if friend and foe be against us because of it.

God, in the Second commandment says, “You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God,”

Negatively, His Name we are not to use wrongly, to defend lie and error, in our words or of Who He is.

Positively, God’s Name we are to use rightly, according to His Word, according to that which He has made known, in support of that which is true; in building up, not tearing down; in edifying unto faith, not causing another stumble; in speaking the truth, not advancing a lie.

We thus discriminate between that which is of God from that which is not—because our Lord does.

More than example, Jesus is our Savior from sin and death.

The Lord desires your salvation, not acceptance by the world.

There is no other way to heaven but through Christ.

Muhammad, Buddha, the Pope, and the virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, let alone any other, including ourselves, do nothing for anyone in giving true and genuine peace with God.

All roads do not lead to heaven.

All religions and Christian denominations are not the same.

It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere one is, simply because God’s Word does matter!

Only Christ saves.

There is no other savior.

As man, Jesus died the death of sinners, though He Himself “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Man cannot save Himself from God’s wrath.  Nor can any other than Jesus do anything for you to turn away God’s anger because of your sin.

All religions that teach another way to heaven than through Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising on the third day are false religions.

Some religions do speak about Christ’s work, but then they also add their own works and agenda, not the Lord’s.

These thus cancel Christ’s work of salvation and nullify the true comfort of the Gospel.

There is only one true religion, and it has Christ as beginning, middle, and end—Jesus giving Himself for us, sinners as we are, that we be saved, remain in His Word, and receive the crown of life when we pass from this life to the next (John 8:31-32).

We are insistent on distinguishing between man’s word and God’s Word because the Lord would have us do so, even at the expense of acceptance by the world or the loss of family and friends.

Man’s doctrine and God’s doctrine are the difference between heaven and hell.

Many teachers and preachers bearing the name Christian claim that Christ is their savior, but not all of what they teach is completely in agreement with Scripture.

Whether this refer to church or individual, it is written, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).

And as said in another place, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them” (1 Timothy 4:16).

It is possible for Christians to be misled and deceived.  Following man’s thoughts and ways concerning Godly things is dangerous business.

It is also dangerous, and quite common, to believe that one is doing right or believing rightly because one feels right about what he is doing or believing, even if no Word of God supports it.

If no Word of God supports what is believed, such belief is not of God.

To Christ hold fast, to Him and to His Word.

His Word is truth, truth that leads to life.

We distinguish our words and our thoughts from God’s Word, because God does.

Because He does, we do.

Christ alone is the Savior, your Savior, the world’s Savior.

There is no other.

Godly faith, in distinction from worldly faith, is not founded on sinking sand or uncertain ground.

Godly faith is founded on the solid ground of His holy Word, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Colossians 2:20).

Such foundation is unshakable. It will endure the test of time.

The rain will descend.  The floods will come.  The wind will blow.  But this foundation will remain (Matthew 7:24-26).

The Christian faith is the only true faith because Jesus is its center.

The Christian faith is the only faith founded on God’s Word, revealing Jesus to be God, Who is one with the Father, Savior, Redeemer, Giver of life and all that is good, for Jesus is God.

As you believe God, Jesus says, believe Me. Amen.

PrayingHands&Cross1O God, You make the minds of Your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day for the 5th Sunday of Easter)

 

Audio

“Jesus is the Savior of All,”Matthew 2:9-11

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Epiphany_MG_0764-415x685.jpgThe star directed the Magi to where Jesus was.  But so, too, did the Word accompany such sign.

Sign and Word, together, led the Magi to where the King of the Jews was to be.

Both were for their benefit, not God’s.

Such it is with the way of our Lord.

The Lord does what He does for our Good.

Leading the Magi to the Christ child with such treasures as they brought was foretold in the Old Testament.

Salvation was not only to be exclusively for the House of Israel, narrowly defined as regional in a certain locale.

Rather, salvation was to extend to the House of Israel, broadly speaking of all who believe in the promised Savior, sent of God, born of woman, born under the Law, in Bethlehem of Judah.

Of those who believe, St. Paul says,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28-29 NKJ).

Abraham’s seed includes only those who believe God according to His Word.

These are one in Christ Jesus.

They hold to God’s faithfulness, God’s faithfulness in keeping all of His promises, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Prayer: Grant me to rejoice with exceedingly great joy because of Your mercies to me in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 

“Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,” Matthew 1:18-25

18Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus is the confession of our faith.

Nothing surpasses the grace of our Lord and His Work in Christ.

Jesus is the center of our faith.

Apart from Him, there is no everlasting life.

Jesus is the cornerstone upon which His body, the church builds.

“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Jesus Christ is the sum and substance, the nucleus and the center, of Christianity.

The church calendar revolves around Him and His life.

Our hymns declare His praises.

Our liturgies speak God’s Word and declare God’s work among us.

Our preaching points to Him who freely saves through His cross.

The absolution declares God’s forgiveness.

Our prayers petition the God on High to hear our requests for Jesus’ sake.

And He does.

His promises are everywhere in His Word and there we go to find them.

There does our Lord give them to us.

We need not look far.

The Lord comes to us.

He comes this Advent tide clothed in His Word, wrapped in the elements of the Sacraments, robed in preaching, giving gifts of everlasting life.

Though we give gifts to others this Christmas, our giving only shadows God’s gift to us.

We wrap with paper and bows.

God wraps His most precious gift in flesh and blood, having Mary cover Him with swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, the Christ child.

Him we honor and adore, bringing our gifts of praise and thanksgiving.

Yet these are incomparable to the riches of Christ, for as St. Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

The gifts of God are eternal and life saving.

They give what He says they give—life to those who believe, death to those who don’t.

These are not the temporal gifts that we give one another.

We do nothing to receive what our Lord bestows.  He gives freely.

It’s not like this with the one they call Santa.

Though God does know whether you’ve been naughty or nice, His giving to you is not determined by how good you’ve been.  If it did, none would receive anything good from the Lord.

God’s judgment to give or not to give what is good is not on you ‘watching out, not crying, and not pouting’ as the Santa Claus is coming to town song goes.

You are not the final factor.  God is.  He gives because He is a gracious God who Himself is love Incarnate.

It is the will of God that He forgive you, cleanse you, preserve you, sustain you, and gift you.

God offers these wonderful presents to you because of His abounding mercy and because of His steadfast love.

These never will fail. God never lies.  His promises are always certain.

Unlike we who make promises, even small ones, and fail to keep them, God keeps His Word, and not one Word of His is or will ever be broken.

The Lord God keeps His promises.

He does not change.

He even says, “I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob” (Malachi 3:6).

You are not consumed on account of God’s favor, because of His beloved Son, whose birth we celebrate on the day we call Christmas, not winter break, Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, or Kwanza.

As much as the world may want to tone down or cover up the true meaning of Christmas, they cannot and will not be able to.

God has revealed the Savior of the world in Jesus Christ, the very same One who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, just as it was said of Him, just as we confess.

This good news of great joy will continue to go forth throughout the world.

God continues to proclaim peace on earth and His good will toward men; not a worldly or earthly peace; and not a place of tolerance for anything and everything.

Instead of these things that the sinful world seek after, God promises something else.

God promises a peace which “the world cannot give”; a “peace that surpasses all human understanding”; a peace that is from everlasting to everlasting (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7).

This kind of peace which the world cannot give is the peace that “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

This is the peace of which the angels spoke in the hearing of the shepherds as they watched their flocks by night (Luke 2:8ff).  It is centered on none other than Jesus the Christ, who was born to Mary, a woman who did not know a man before His birth.

He is the ‘reason for the season’.  But even more than that, Christ is your salvation.

In Him is given you all God’s love, all God’s blessing, and all God’s favor.

This Christmas season is truly about giving.

But it’s first and foremost about God who does the giving, the very giving of our merciful God of a Son for our salvation and that of the world.

True giving doesn’t start with buying presents, wrapping them, and placing them under the tree.  These things we might do, but true giving begins in the heart, only after it has truly opened the gift of everlasting life through faith in God’s Son.

From God to us, true and lasting gifts continue.

We thus confess the birth of Christ, which happened as recorded in the Scriptural text.

True confidence and lasting certainty that God gives is given only through His Holy Word.

There is nothing more sure than the Holy Word of God.

Where doubt is placed in this, uncertainty will only increase and trust in the written inspired Word will only decrease, the very thing happening in Christendom all around us.

In a Time magazine article awhile back titled, ‘Secrets of the Nativity’, so called ‘Christian scholars’ were asked questions and they responded with less than Christian answers, concluding that we may never know how the birth of Christ really happened as a result of Scriptural uncertainty.

But place uncertainty in the Word, and Christ Himself gets the snub as Savior of the world.

Our confession of faith is of Christ, but not just of any Christ—THE Christ of Scripture.

God has declared Jesus to be your Savior, born just the way it is written.

God fulfilled His Word to King Ahaz through the babe born in Bethlehem, as foretold in Isaiah 7.

The virgin really did conceive and bear a son, and call His name, Immanuel, Jesus, God with us, the savior from all people’s sins, even your own.

Thankfully, the holy God has revealed His Word and will in human language so that we too believe and so have everlasting life.  Jesus Christ was truly born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Living God who spoke through the angel Gabriel.

Our Lord Jesus is the very One that God sent at just the right time to save the world from sin and sins consequences.

Just as Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness, so also is your faith counted as righteousness, as that faith is placed in the One who is Himself righteous, born of flesh and blood, who lived, died, and rose again (Genesis 15:6).

Because Christ came into the world, light has pierced through the darkness and shines in our hearts, testifying of our peace with God and of His never ending love towards us sinners.

God’s word is God’s truth and gives boldness to stand on His declarations, pronouncements, and proclamations.

Christ is your confidence and certain hope that all things are well between you and God.

It is as our Lord had spoken through the angel, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The virgin did and Jesus alone saves.  Amen.

Prayer: Increase my faith, O Lord, that I have confidence in Your Word and believe Jesus to be Who You reveal Him to be for me, my Savior, God in the flesh. Amen.

 

 

“Many Called, Few Chosen”

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

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

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Distinguishing Law & Gospel

thelutherandifference

“For Luther, a proper distinction between Law and Gospel opened the door to a right understanding of God’s Word and, therefore, a right understanding of God’s will for humankind and our salvation.  Throughout its history, the Lutheran Church has continued to maintain that rightly distinguishing between Law and Gospel is absolutely necessary in this regard.  The Law shows us God’s will and reveals our sin; the Gospel proclaims our salvation in Christ.  To confuse these two doctrines is to remain confused about ourselves and about our God.  To misunderstand them is to misunderstand the reason for the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  In short, Law and Gospel are the means by which we can rightly understand the whole of the Christian faith.” [Edward Engelbrecht (ed.), The Lutheran Difference (St. Louis: CPH, 2010), p40-41)]

Salvation–Possible with God!

“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

Mark 10:27

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Such words of our Lord as the words above have a specific context which Jesus speaks them. Here, Jesus is not talking about overcoming every obstacle, climbing every mountain, or prospering in life. The context in which our Lord speaks is quite different.

EyeOfNeedleJesus had just relayed to the disciples how difficult it is for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23-25), to which the disciples responded, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26). It is at this point that Jesus then says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

Note the it that Jesus references. That it references the salvation that the disciples ask of. This means that salvation is impossible with men, but not with God. Thus, the all things that Jesus speaks here, contextually, is that of salvation.

I know of only one other place in the New Testament where similar words are spoken. However, these words are given in a very different context than that of salvation. The context is that of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that Elizabeth, who is beyond the age of child bearing, had conceived a son (Luke 1:36). The angel then concludes the announcement, “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

ContextThe pair of phrases addressed here each has its own context in which it is spoken. However, each is often used apart from its context, and often for personal, self-help, motivational encouragement. Doing this, however, is a misuse use of the text, applying it in ways not intended, and doing so also demonstrates a use of the text according to one’s own circumstances and inclinations rather than that of the Holy Scripture.

Divorced from context, the content of the passage becomes divorced from its biblical meaning. And though this not be the concern of many a people, it is a concern for all who seek to be faithful to the Biblical text itself and its intended meaning.

Confining oneself to the words, context, and meaning of the sacred text of the Holy Bible is not only faithful practice, but is the very means by which the Lord draws us to Himself, even to Jesus, through whom salvation is certain (i.e. John 20:31). The Lord doesn’t give us His Word that we determine its application. Rather, He gives us His Word that we might believe it, and believing it, that we abide by it, and so live through faith in Him who died and rose again.

Slippery slope2It’s a “slippery slope” to use the Bible in ways not given. Remaining with the context, however, leads us to rightly believe, and firmly to trust, in Jesus.

Additionally, if one passage, like Mark 10:27 (or Luke 1:37), doesn’t do for us what we would like it to do, that’s okay, because the Lord directs us with His Word where He wants us to be and where He wants us to go, that is, in and to His Kingdom. Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to deny ourselves and to entrust ourselves into your keeping, that we not misuse Your Hold Word or try to make it say what we want it to say for our own ends. Move us to believe what you say, that we grow in grace and true knowledge of You. Amen.

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.

All is well

All is well–In God’s hands are we

And though all–our eyes are not able to see

Such is not necessary to be

For Christ is our strength, vision, and sight

It is sufficient for Him to know our plight,

For He will not leave or forsake His own.

We need not at all fear, salvation has already been won.

The Necessity of True Doctrine

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.

1 Timothy 4:16

 

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, writes what he writes with a purpose in mind—the purpose of encouraging Timothy to remain in the true doctrine.  Contrary to the world, remaining in the true doctrine is not at all of insignificance.  It does matter, for “doctrine is life.”  I am not talking about man’s doctrine (i.e. Mark 7), for man’s doctrine only alienates from God and hardens the sinner against God.  God’s doctrine, in distinction, does give life, just as Jesus says, “My words are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).  Depart or stray from these, and there is nothing but death.  Continue in the very Word of the Lord Christ, and you are truly His disciples and “will know the truth” and will be set free by that truth” (John 8:31-32).

Such does God’s Word, The Truth (John 14:6), do.  It gives life, raises that which was dead, and also preserves one in the truth by that same truth.

To the Galatians, St. Paul writes, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain?  Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Galatians 3:2-6)

Not by man’s doctrine and not by man’s doing were the Galatians being made perfect and complete, but by the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), by hearing the Word of Christ.

The doctrine/teaching is important.  Get this wrong, and you get Christ wrong.  Getting Christ wrong leads to eternal death, not eternal life, for outside of Christ Jesus, there is no forgiveness and no peace with God.  But in Christ Jesus, there is nothing but forgiveness and the peace that surpasses understanding, which the world cannot ever give (Philippians 4:7)

The world and those of the world will go their own way, claiming that you cannot know the truth or that it is not found in the Bible.  But Christians believe differently, for the Christian faith is not of the world, but of God, revealed through the Holy Scriptures, and centered on Christ, and Christ alone!

 

Luther

‘Let every faithful person work and strive with all his might to learn this doctrine (of the Gospel) and keep it, and for this purpose let him employ humble prayer to God with continual study and meditation on the Word.  Even when we have done ever so much, there will still be much to keep us busy.  For we are involved, not with minor enemies but with strong and powerful ones, who battle against us continually, namely, our own flesh, all the dangers of the world, the Law, sin, death, and the wrath and judgment of God, and the devil h9imself, who never stops tempting us inwardly with his flaming darts (Eph. 6:16) and outwardly with his false apostles, so as to overcome some if not all of us” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p65).

 

Prayer:

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your word; Curb those who by deceit or sword

Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son And bring to naught all He has done.

O Comforter of priceless worth, Send peace and unity on earth;

Support us in our final strife And lead us out of death to life.  Amen.

(Lutheran Service Book (2006), “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word” 1, 4)

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