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“God’s Timing,” Galatians 4:4-7

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The confidence and the hope that God gives is not uncertain.

It is not doubtful.

It is just the opposite.

God always keeps His promises.

Because God does not change, neither does His Word.

His is the greatest comfort and the only true sure thing you have in life.  People fail you.

God’s promises do not.

God’s promises are as sure as Christ’s birth, His death, and His resurrection.

The confession of our faith is nothing but certainty.

God Himself gives what to believe.

You don’t make up your doctrines, and God does not promise continuing revelations or new doctrines.

God has given you the sure foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:6, 7).

What God has given in Holy Scripture is sufficient, even as Christ’s death for your sin is sufficient for your salvation.  There is nothing to add. There is nothing to take.

True certainty comes from the Biblical text itself.

The Words are of God, not of man.

They speak of the One who was sent by the Father, born of woman and born under the law.

It was of that birth that Paul says, “When the fullness of time had come.”

No one could have guessed when that time would be, just as no one can figure out when Christ will return.

We aren’t given that info. It is not our concern.

What is our concern is that He who came did come, and that He will come again, and that we be ready for His return to judge between the living and the dead.

And how are we to be ready?

By believing in Him who was born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.

This indicates two parts: One, that we are under the law, and two, that Christ redeems us from that law.

As to the first, that we are under the law, by nature we know this.

When we do something wrong, our conscience is awakened.

From what we see in the world, know in our families, and perceive in ourselves, we know that things are not as they should be.

Most everyone will agree that things in the world could be better.  But what many will deny is how bad things, and we, really are.

There is a spark of good in each of us, they say.

If God demands perfection, that must mean that we can be perfect.

If we only try hard enough, God will overlook our faults and shortcomings.

But no matter how hard we try, enough is never enough.

God demands of us what we are not able to do.  The Psalmist writes, “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3; 53:3).

The Law of God says, ‘do’, and we do not.

God commands, ‘don’t do this’, and that we do.

He calls hating murder and lusting adultery (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:28).

Jesus says that it’s not what goes into a man but what comes out of him that makes him unclean (Matthew 15:19-20).

The Psalmist says, and we pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

By nature, we know that something is wrong, but only God reveals how wrong things are.

He declares through Paul, “Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:19-20).

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.”

God sent His Son to save you from eternal death, to redeem you from the curse of the law, for all who are under the law are under a curse, deserving not only physical death, but eternal death.

This is really how bad things are!

Because of your sin, even yours, you are under God’s law.

But thanks be to God!

God did send His Son, that One who was laid in the lowly manger, that One who moved around at such a young age from those who desired His death, that One who was wrapped in swaddling cloths and visited by the shepherds.

The Lord had a different death in mind for His Son than death by a King Herod or death by the hand of others, until another time had come for Jesus to be put to death, even put to death on the cross.

That’s where Jesus took care of all your wrongs and all your should haves.

On Mt. Calvary, Christ placed Himself under the curse of the law for you, though He Himself knew no sin, nor was any sin found in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

He was the One bearing the full load of your sin.

You are no longer under God’s wrath but have His favor.

That One really born of a woman and really born under the law has indeed really redeemed you, Jesus Himself becoming a curse for you (Galatians 3:13).

The law is no longer your burden.  That burden was already carried by another.  The weight has been removed.

Instead of slaves to sin, you are free in Christ, children of the Heavenly Father—heirs of the promise.

As children of our gracious God, yours is the inheritance of eternal life.

You are under God’s grace, having been purchased with Christ’s own precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death.

You are now His own and will live under Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  This is most certainly true.

God’s Spirit testifies to this, and “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!’” Galatians 4:6 (ESV).

All who desire the Christ of Scripture also love God’s Word and have this Spirit.

These will not be fruitless in their labors.

These continue in Christ and in His Word and have the confidence of a gracious God, “not having” their “own righteousness, which is from the law, but that” righteousness “which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

These recognize that He who was born of a woman, the Christ child, born on that day of Christmas, whom we celebrate and confess, this same One, is also God in the flesh.

God in the flesh for you and for me, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us from under the law, when the fullness of time had come.

God’s timing is not your own.

Yet, that should not worry you.

What does draw your attention, because you are the Lord’s, is His Word—what He speaks—what He has said.

There, you find reason to rejoice, and reason to joyfully enter the New Year, in confidence.

God’s timing is always where He would have it be. Amen.

 

Prayer: Gracious God, Your will be done, when and where You please.  Keep me from pride, arrogance, and stubborness toward You and Your Holy Word. 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.

 

 

“Christ is the One,” Matthew 11:2-15

 

2Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  4And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

      7As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?  A reed shaken by the wind?  8What then did you go out to see?  A man dressed in soft clothing?  Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  9What then did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10This is he of whom it is written,

       “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

11Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.  13For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.  15He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Here we have John the Baptist, the one who Jesus calls “more than a prophet” and the one of whom Jesus says, “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:9, 11).

Jesus also says of John that he is Elijah who is to come, that same Elijah of the Old Testament who was said to come before the “coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” who would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6).

John is the one of whom it was written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You” (Matthew 11:10; Malachi 3:1).

It was this John of whom Jesus spoke so highly – who pointed to Christ.

He had not worn the soft clothes of king’s houses.

He was not a reed shaken by the wind.

He stood his ground.

Yet, it was this John who asked a question of Jesus that was plain and quite to the point, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John’s question is the question worth asking.

Everlasting life and the Kingdom of Heaven are worth being sure of.

The Coming One would save His people from death, forgive their sins, and establish His kingdom forever.

This was the One promised to Adam and Eve, the One who would crush the serpent’ head (Genesis 3:15), the Prophet like Moses whom God would raise, who would speak to the people all that God the Father commanded Him, and whoever would not hear His words which He speaks in the Father’s Name, it would be required of Him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).

The Coming One to which John referred was the One who would rule on King David’s throne forever.  He was the One who would build a house for the Lord’s Name whose kingdom would have no end.  This was He of whom the prophets prophesied and all the people had hoped to come.

Isaiah said of Him, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.’  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.  For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:4-6).

In another place, of Him who would come, Isaiah writes, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1).

John was asking the question about this One.

This One is none other than Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world, the One foretold by the prophets, He who fulfilled all righteousness, and He who gives eternal rest and peace to all that trust in Him.

This One is God in the flesh, born as one of us, yet without sin.

John the Baptist also looked to this One.  He declared Him to be THE ONE, and John’s ministry ended.  But the ministry of Jesus goes on.

After John had heard in prison the works of Christ, he sent to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

This question and its answer are not without significance, nor are they without import to us in the 21st century.

John had heard.  And Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John what they had heard and seen.

John first heard correctly the things about Jesus.

Those things that John heard about Jesus were true.

Jesus’ Word and work testify to His identity.

His works and His Words bear witness to who He is.

These reveal to you that Christ is the Coming One, the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

He is the expectation of all Israel.

He is the One who delivers from sin and death.

He is the resurrection and life and no one comes to Father except through Him, the Son of living God.

The Coming One is the One that all will seek who hope to be saved.

Only an unbeliever would turn away from Him who declares God’s grace and hope to save himself.

That you not look to yourselves, or to another, or to false hopes of peace and prosperity in the world, the Lord directs you, as He directed John and His disciples, to His Word and Work.

Jesus had indeed given sight to the blind.

On one occasion, two blind men had followed Him, crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!  And when” Jesus “had come into the house, the blind men came to Him.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’  They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’  Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you’” (Matthew 9:27-29).

These two men received their sight from the only one who with a Word is able to do so.

On account of Christ, the lame walked.

A man who was lying on a bed was brought to Jesus.  Seeing the faith of the men who brought the one on the bed, Jesus said to the one lying down, “Your sins are forgiven.”

To demonstrate that the Son of Man, for so Jesus was, has power to forgive sins, He said to the man lying on the bed and who couldn’t walk, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house” (Matthew 9:6).

The man walked.

Christ not only forgives with the word, but has of Himself the power to heal with the word.

At the word of Jesus, lepers were cleansed.

In the 8th chapter of Matthew, we have this account.

“A leper came and worshiped Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’  Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’  Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3).

Jesus raises the dead.  Jairus’ daughter, who had died before Jesus came, was said to have been sleeping and not dead.  And the mourners and the wailing ones laughed Jesus to scorn when He said this.  “But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.  And the report of this went out into all that land” (Matthew 9:18-26).

Jesus did all of these things, and more.

Through Him, the blind received their sight.

The lame walked. Lepers were cleansed.

Deaf ears were opened.

Dead were raised.

Poor had the gospel preached to them.

These works of God testify that Jesus is the Coming One.

In Christ, the words of Isaiah the prophet find fulfillment, and in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself reads them and then says, “Today, these Scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing.”

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Jesus preaches the Gospel that you believe it.

He heals you with His Holy Word.

He proclaims you free from the fear of death.

What Jesus does and what He says give witness to His identity.

Jesus’ word and work point to His work of redemption for all people, not just of the body, but also of the soul.

On the cross, His work for that redemption came to its culmination, for there on that tree, Christ gave His life – that you be at peace with the Father and so live.

In Christ, you are.

John’s question whether Jesus was the Coming One or not is given answer for all to hear and see.

The Word and work of Christ reveal Christ to be your Savior and the Savior of all who call out to Him.

The proclamation of His gospel reveals that He continues His work today.

Poor miserable sinners though you are, God declares you wealthy saints in Christ, having the riches of heaven and God’s favor.

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Jesus Christ came, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those that are sick (Matthew 9:12-13).

Jesus, and Jesus alone, gives true healing, not only partially, but completely.

He gives eyes of faith that you see His Works of grace and mercy.

He gives you to walk according to His Word, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He cleanses you of your sin and declares you clean before Him.

He opens your ears that you hear and believe His promises, for they faileth not (Lamentations 3:22).

He raises you from the deadness of your sin to new and abundant life in Him.

He proclaims His Gospel through Word, Water, and Holy Supper.

Christ is the Great Physician of both body and soul.

Christ’s work identifies Him as the Coming One, for so He is—for John, for his disciples, for you!

His Word and work point to His work on the cross, through which He declares you reconciled to God.

By His Work and by His Word Jesus, proclaims to you that you need not look for another.

Jesus is the One and there is no other.  Amen.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see Jesus and believe only in Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the salvation of my soul. Amen.

 

 

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” Matthew 3:1-12

1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

     “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

     7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

     11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

John the Baptist came preaching.

He preached a message of repentance.

He called his hearers to turn from their sin and to look for another who was coming.

In fulfillment of the prophecy made by Isaiah the prophet, John was that voice of one crying in the wilderness, crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3 || Isaiah 40:3).

God sent John to prepare the way of the Lord, for the Lord was indeed coming.

The Apostles, too, preached a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, after His resurrection and before ascending into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

Jesus Himself preached repentance, as did John the Baptist.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, shortly after the account before us concerning the content of John’s message, and after John was put in prison by King Herod, Jesus “Began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 3:17).

Jesus preached what is right and true.  He preached what His Father in heaven had given Him to preach (John 14:24).

Not everyone appreciated His words, either because of what He said or even how He said them, but His words were true just the same.

Jesus spoke the truth concerning the human condition, concerning man’s corruption, even saying, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20a).

Jesus was bold to say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

In another place, Jesus says to Martha, distracted in doing and failing to be about the one thing needful “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Yes, Jesus spoke the truth, as did John the Baptist who prepared His way, and as did the Apostles after them, as we have recorded in the Gospels and in their Epistles.

They were carrying on the words spoken by the prophets, Jesus fulfilling them, Jesus who came, just as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

The prophets of the Old Testament pointed to the One who was coming, Jesus the Christ, to save sinners from their sins.

They, too, preached repentance, a turning from their sin to the Lord, who does indeed have mercy and compassion upon those who call upon Him in truth.

Like them, and like those who have gone before, the servants of the Lord today still preach that same message of repentance, that hearers not die in their sin, but turn from their sinful ways and find in the Lord Jesus their comfort and their hope.

But pastor, does this include us, too?

As God’s people, you know that you are forgiven.

You know of God’s love toward you on account of Christ.

You believe and know, by God’s grace, that the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to die your death and to pay the penalty for your sin.

Certainly there is more for you, there is more for you than just repenting of your sin.

You have heard the message of repentance before.

You have heard the Law.

You know your sin.

Can’t we just hear something different?  Can’t we hear instead only of how good things are between God and us, and how much better we’re becoming?

Why all this ‘negative’ talk?  Why such a ‘downer’ about sin and our condition and how we are by nature?

The reason is this…never in this life on earth will we be able to say that we are without sin and have no need for forgiveness.

To say such is really to say, according to what is believed, that Christ is no longer necessary.

If we are holy and upright of ourselves, we don’t need a Savior.

Additionally, if left to ourselves, we try to find in ourselves our own ways and means to please God, not according to what God has revealed, but according to our own tendencies.

As long as we live in this corrupt flesh, we will always have the pull and the temptation to go against God, small as it might to us seem to be.

So St. Paul, even after being called by God to be an Apostle while on his way to Damascus, says in his letter to the Christians in Rome, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18).

In another place, he writes, “All have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God” (Romans 3:23).

Here, St. Paul includes himself.

Quoting the Psalmist, he says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 || Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

And again does he say, even after his conversion, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Alone and unto ourselves, we would believe, even as some do, that as Christians we have no need to repent, no need to change our ways, because, well, we’re Christians, saints of God.

Some even go so far as to say that as Christians, we no longer need to confess our sins, that we longer sin, that we, because we have a new nature and the Spirit within us, can easily and readily resist all temptation.

It is true, as St. Paul says, that “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

And it is also true, as he writes in another place, that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

With clarity God reveals that, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”  (Romans 5:1-2).

But the truth that God no longer counts your sin against you and that you stand forgiven before Him on account of Christ Jesus dying in your stead and paying the price for your redemption does not mean that you no longer need to repent.

All the more does this mean that you long to be free from your sinful flesh and to serve the Lord without hindrance.

But as St. John writes in his first epistle and as we confessed earlier in today’s service “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

John is not saying this as a heathen, a Gentile, or a nonChristian.

John is saying this as one who believes and trusts in the Lord alone for salvation.

If that was the case with him, with one of the Lord’s closest disciples whom Jesus loved, that he, John, still confessed his sin to God, how much also with us?

If Paul, miraculously called by God to preach and to serve Him unto death, if he acknowledged his unrighteousness and wickedness before his righteous heavenly Father, how also with us?

According to Holy Scripture, that message, that true and godly message, of repentance, calling the sinner to turn from his or her sinful ways, namely, unbelief in God’s Word and Promise, that message still sounds forth.

God’s people will hear.

They will hear because they know the words to be true.

They know the words to be true because God so reveals them to be true in His Holy Word.

“Through the law we is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

With the message of repentance is not only the call to turn from sin, but to believe in another, to believe in Him who alone saves from sin, Jesus the Christ.

Living the Christian life, living as a child of God, is not about being converted one day and that’s it, once saved always saved.

Living the Christian life, living as a child of God, is living daily in repentance, daily turning away from sin, and daily trusting in Jesus for salvation.

It consists of this, “drowning the old man and putting on the new,” as Dr. Luther notes in the Small Catechism.

The Christian life is that life where one’s Baptism, God’s work, is remembered, reflected upon, and not at all forgotten.

“When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7)

“By daily contrition and repentance the Old Adam, our sinful nature, should be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” as it is written,  ‘We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’” (Romans 6:4) (Holy Baptism, 4th Part, Small Catechism)

The life of repentance, this is the life of the Christian, confessing our sins to God and trusting His mercy in Christ for forgiveness and life and salvation.

Therefore do we confess our sins to God, all of them, believing that in Christ, all are forgiven.

We do this because we are God’s people, who follow, not what we feel, or what we think we know, but because we believe wholeheartedly what God says, whether we agree with it or not, whether it makes sense or not, and whether the majority accept it or not.

If we confessed our sins before God with dependence on the sincerity or the intensity of our confession, comparing ourselves with others, or on how we feel at any given moment, we would be unsure that such confession was ‘enough’ and would therefore be unsure of God’s mercy.

As it is, God’s forgiveness is not determined on the merit of our confession, but only upon His grace in Christ Jesus.

If it were otherwise, we would always be wondering, was I sincere enough?  Did I confess all my sins?  Was I in the right state of mind?  Was I wholeheartedly serious?

Yet, the Psalmist comprehensively states, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults” (Psalm 19:12).

Instead of forgiveness being based upon our confession, forgiveness is of God, and has His Word and promise as the foundation, and not anything we contribute.

What’s left for you is to only believe His Word declared and announced, His forgiveness preached, and His mercy given.

It is yours.

God forgives your sins in Christ. In His Word, God’s kingdom comes to you. In Word and Sacrament, God’s very Means of Grace, your Lord gives to you what you cannot obtain for yourself, life and salvation, in Christ alone.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I repent of my sin against you.  Forgive me, and help me to live the life you have called me to live, by faith in Your Holy Word.  Amen.

 

 

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