How Can The “Broken” Be Made “Perfect”

                         6th Sunday after the Epiphany

Text ( Matthew 5: 20-37 )
Subject ( How Can The “Broken” Be Made “Perfect”?)
Theme (1. We have broken God’s laws. 2. Jesus kept them all for us.)

 

      Our text for this morning comes from a portion of the famous “Sermon on the Mount”; spoken to “multitudes” of people. As we look at this part of Holy Scripture we also see that there is absolutely no Gospel in it! None! The “Good News” is alien to this part of the Bible. There is no “Gospel” in our Gospel text this morning. It must be “imported” or brought in. Why? Because everything that Jesus speaks about shows us our sin; how corrupt we are in regard to hate, adultery, divorce and the taking of oaths. 

     Sure, many may look at this text and say, “Well….I have (more or less) kept these laws of God. I am pretty sure I have never broken them too badly. “Yep, (they say, “busting with pride”) I guess I am Heaven-bound.” This is said consciously while sub-consciously their souls are saying, “What!? Are you out of your mind?! You have broken these…and many more of God’s laws! Do NOT try that ‘I am perfect.’ act with me!” ☹

     Let us admit it, brethren, we have broken God’s laws with our thoughts, words and/or deeds. We need to be perfect to get into Heaven so let us rely on Someone Who was perfect for us; Jesus Christ. He will answer for us the question, 

    How can the “broken” be made “perfect”?

     On the mountain Jesus spoke this section to show people Who they were and how to live a godly life. And in our text this morning, no promises are given. Only our flesh, our sinful nature, can read into it “Well, as long as you give it your ‘best shot’ you will be O.K..” Any thoughts, words or deeds that fall short of God’s demands are called what? “Sin”. When we step over the line of God’s will or miss the mark of His demands we transgress and deserve spiritual and eternal death. “The wages of sin is death”, Saint Paul reminds us. “If we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”, Saint John writes. 

     At the time of Jesus, the Jews believed that all one had to do was to outwardly follow the commandments of God to please Him and enter Heaven. They were blissfully ignorant of the fact that the Old Testament had demanded that they were supposed to love God and their neighbor with “all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.” , as Jesus reminded them. 

       Outwardly, the “righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law” looked immaculate; perfect in every way. But since, as Saint Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, even the Pharisees and the teachers of the law fell short of perfection….waaaaay short! And most of the folks in Jesus’ era did not even try to be “righteous” so, in short, everyone was a sinner! 

      Most people, even today, just try to get through the day. Being “righteous” and holy is far from their minds….until somebody mentions it to them! Like the folks in Jesus’ era, we are faaaaar from being even close to being holy and righteous on our own…..

      Jesus says in our text that in spite of what they had “heard”, even being angry with someone (in an unrighteous way) was “murder”! Now this was a “twist” to the 5th commandment they had never heard before. (Basically because they were Biblically stupid!). Jesus said that even if someone were to judgingly call someone else a “fool” (without knowing the circumstances) they were in danger of going to Hell! That is why Saint John says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer.” Relationships to others were so important that Jesus said that we should clear up any misunderstandings or sins even before they, or we, even came to worship! Why? Because hate of others blocks the way to God….

     The Jews also thought they were “righteous” because they had never (physically) committed adultery. But Jesus reminds them, and us, that even looking at another person with lust in the heart is the same as breaking the Sixth Commandment!  It would do absolutely no good to “gouge out” the eyes or cut off the hands because adultery begins in the heart! That is where sin always begins. But, Jesus adds, would it not be better to lose those parts of the body and not sin than to keep them and go to Hell? Certainly! But try as best as we can, we keep breaking God’s laws. Like Saint Paul, “The good I would do, I do not and the evil I do not want to do, I do.” 

     Not only today, in our society, but even back in Jesus’ day many men took their marriage vows very lightly. They even divorced over foolish arguments and aging wives; stigmatizing, or indirectly labeling, their wives as “unfaithful” (in society) when they were not! But the Lord straightened them out, saying that anyone who divorces except for (the act of) adultery becomes an adulterer.  Saint Paul adds, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that those who abandon their spouses are, also, adulterers. Unrepentant adulterers are headed for Hell. Sexual sin is rampant today; even in the visible Church! On-line pornography is now one of the biggest reasons for marital problems today! Most people cannot spell “licentiousness”, much less know that it means sexually lusting for someone outside of marriage.

     But then marriage itself has a tremendous lack of respect, today. The divorce rate is now over 50%! Our society has even made “marriage” legal between homosexuals in several states! God’s laws just keep getting broken!....And no one seems to care!

     Jesus talks about oaths in our text for today. He tells the people on the mountain that it was not true that oaths, given without the formal name “Jehovah” or “Lord”, did not have to be kept. Many tried to seal agreements that they had absolutely no intention of keeping; thinking that it was O.K. to deceive the other person because they did not take the oath in “Jehovah’s” name, or in connection with the Temple in Jerusalem. They were tricking people and being totally selfish; lying and deceiving others. We know what selfishness is, do we not? But we must not deceive others and must strive to make sure they keep what God has given them (and not try to take it from them), as Luther points out in his small catechism (regarding the 7th Commandment).

     Loving others, and God, with a pure heart, in a godly way, is one of the main reasons we are here. But we are not perfect…..

     Well, by now we may feel pretty “beat up”; spiritually speaking. Not all of those demands and commands may have applied but some most definitely did. They leave us “cut and bleeding to death”; spiritually. We are broken by God’s laws and find that we need rescuing; healing. They force us to find Someone Who can help us.

         Fortunately, a foreign, alien righteousness has become ours, through Jesus Christ. Because Jesus kept all of God’s laws (thousands of them!) perfectly for us, we now have a spiritual purity that is divine. And through the blood of Christ we have the righteousness we need. We find in Christ, alone, spiritual perfection imputed; given to us for free through the Savior. As Paul told the Roman Christians, “…even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” It has been poured out into our hearts through the precious Gospel, as Paul reminds us in Romans, “For in (the Gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” By the grace of God alone, our “righteousness (now) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” through Jesus Christ. ☺

     And in Jesus we find One Who never murdered anyone! This was Someone Who never had a murderous thought and never spoke a hateful word. He healed people, forgave them and refused to punish those who crucified Him. His own life was taken viciously by others (or so they thought); actually being offered up for us to not only give us “meaning in this life” but to give us everlasting life in Paradise! Even His Gospel, His main message, offered and gave eternal life. This was His constant theme: self-sacrificing, undeserving love for mankind. His love, proven to us on the Cross, washed all our sins away and embraced our hearts in Holy Baptism. That same love is given to us in the Lord’s Supper as we receive our Savior’s Body and Blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins. God’s love “healed” our souls because Jesus kept the Fifth Commandment perfectly for us. Jesus was “love incarnate”; divine love “made flesh”. His total lack of murderous thoughts, words or deeds saved us….

     As a result of this divine love, we have no fear of Hell in our redeemed souls. “Hell fire” has been quenched by the waters of holy baptism. The “judgment” of God on us has already been decided: “NOT guilty!” The humiliation of Jesus in this life has guaranteed us everlasting life with Him in Heaven. John 3:16 and a host of other passages like “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (from the Gospel of Mark) bring us the comforting truth that Hell has been defeated for us and that Heaven awaits us in Christ. ☺

     Jesus also was morally pure for us. He was in the real world and was tempted, like all men, but Jesus was “without sin” (the writer of Hebrews tells us). He was the “holy, blameless, pure” One we needed to have salvation. He always treated His spiritual sisters with respect and understanding. He cared for them as no other ever could. His whole life was so devoted to the women of this world that He decided, before eternity began, to die for them rather than have them experience pain over their sin and punishment in Hell. He nourishes them even today through His Word of forgiveness and the Sacraments. Christ’s perfect union with His Church through the Gospel made Him the perfect “Head” and made us the perfect “Bride”. The Church is called the “Bride” of Christ numerous times in the Bible. His love and grace will allow us, His “Bride”, to “walk down the aisle” toward Judgment Day in “white”; pure and holy through His suffering, death and resurrection. You see, Jesus kept the sixth commandment perfectly for us as no one ever could so that we could be saved eternally. We are pure and holy in God’s eyes through our Savior.

     Our Lord also never broke an oath. He never transgressed the Second Commandment. He swore oaths in truth but never told “white lies” nor swore needlessly. He never tried to “pull one over” on someone because people trusted Him. No, His Word was truth. It still is. When Jesus promises something, it SHALL be done; no “ifs, ands or buts”. As Isaiah said, “My Word shall not return to Me void but shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

     Solomon wrote, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Isaiah wrote, “Search from the book of the Lord and read: Not one of these shall fail.” David the King proclaimed, “Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.” Even Jeremiah wrote, “Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” All of these truths from the Old Testament are why Saint Paul could say to the Christians at Rome, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and the comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

    One time a Sunday school child asked me, “Pastor, can God do ANYthing?” “No,” I said, “God cannot lie.” She smiled…☺

      “The entrance of (God’s) Word gives light.”, as the Psalmist says. We can go to the Scriptures and know they will be righteous. We can rely absolutely, 100% on them. God’s Word is His oath!

     That same Word, the Bible, has promised us a righteousness in Christ that fulfills God’s laws regarding oaths, divorce, adultery, murder and….everything we need to find holiness and purity before God. Saint Paul wrote, “For He made Him (Jesus) Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 

     By nature we are a spiritually “broken” people; lusting, hating, greedy, hateful and dishonest; deserving Hell. But through Jesus Christ we find a Savior; One Whose righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and that of every other man that ever existed! He lived a perfect life to save us. That same Redeemer died to wash away our sins and to give us everlasting life in His name. It is ours by God’s grace, through faith, in Jesus Who kept all of God’s laws for us. Once “broken”, in Christ our souls are now whole. Like a baby in the eyes of his mother, we are “perfect” (in our heavenly Father’s eyes) through Jesus Christ.  Praise God!….In His holy name, Amen.

     

 

      

     

     

 

      

 

 

 

 

     

Thanksgiving Sermon

                                          Thanksgiving

Text( Luke 17: 11-19) Subject (Why Should We Give Thanks?) Theme (1. Because Jesus shows pity. 2. Because Jesus shows power. 3. Because Jesus gives praise.)

     In our text this morning, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. He would cross the Jordan River in Galilee, go south, cross again at Jericho and head toward Jerusalem along with other Jewish Passover worshippers. This was the customary path for Jews because of the hostility that existed between Samaritans and Jews.

     Samaritans, as you may remember, were a racial “cross” between the Jews and non-Jews; mostly the Jews old enemies, the Babylonians! The religion of the Samaritans was an odd “cross” too; one of the Hebrew faith and pagan Babylonian religion.  Of course, they hated each other!

     One of the ten men in our text is a Samaritan. But all of them were afflicted with the same disease; leprosy. In those days, there was no known cure. It was, eventually, fatal.

     In the Old Testament, over a full chapter (in Leviticus) is devoted to this awful ailment of leprosy. The law of God said that a leper must wear clothes that have been torn, no covering for his head was allowed, he must cover the lower part of his face, and cry out the words, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever he met someone who did not have the disease. They were, also, not permitted to go near others who were healthy. They must live alone; outside of town.

     In our text, Saint Luke writes, “Now it happened as (Jesus) went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” Jesus met ten lepers who, in accordance with Jewish law, “stood at a distance” and “said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Notice that race and religion no longer mattered (socially) to them. They were together because that was the only way they could be heard; Jew or not! Notice, too, that the Bible, in the original language, does not say, “They yelled out”! Why? Because their vocal cords, which normally allowed a person to increase one’s volume when “yelling”, were gone; rotted out by the awful disease of leprosy!  They had to unite in hoarsely saying the words in order to be heard. “Jesus, master have mercy on us!”

     They wanted to be healed, yes, but even more importantly they wanted to be back with their families and friends! For those who had faith, I am sure they wanted to be able to hear the Word of God again! Remember, they were absolutely cut off from the Temple; forbidden to even get close to where the Word of God was read and proclaimed!

     If, God forbid, we were stricken with such a disease that we had to be quarantined, how would we feel? There are deadly viruses about that cause people to be cut-off from their families and friends; for which there are no cures. Think of the loneliness, the pain of being separated from your loved ones and friends forever! As we lay there, imagine not being able to hear the Word of God ever again! No comfort, no assurance and constant pain. Such is the condition of the unbeliever today. They walk this earth as “spiritual lepers”; “unclean” and without God; their consciences constantly convicting them.

     The ten men in our text today begged for mercy. They depended on Jesus for healing and salvation. They trusted Him. We are not sure how they heard of Him, although at this point in history, it is not difficult to imagine the different avenues of “news”. For four years Jesus had traveled that area; hassling the Church leaders, intriguing the Roman leaders, healing the dying, curing the sick and raising the dead! Good news, even back then, got around fast! And somehow....the ten lepers believed.  Jesus “got to them”.

     How did Jesus get to us? We have had, what some may call, “minor healings”; like colds, the flu, chicken pox, etc.. But God also had “mercy” on us in our Baptism and through His Word of forgiveness. Are we, truly, thankful for that, too?

     Most importantly, God cleansed us spiritually; we who were “lepers”(so to speak); making us whole in His eyes through the blood of His Son. Our spiritual hearts were miraculously changed as the water and the Word of grace swept into our souls; making us new creations. “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good. And His mercy endures forever.” Amen, indeed!

     We, too, can identify with the feelings of the lepers in our text! Christ has shown us His pity and mercy.

     But the ten lepers were not healed right away! Our text says, “So when (Jesus) saw them, He said to t hem, ‘God, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Where there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?’”! Something had moved the  hearts and minds of the former lepers to go to the Temple as Jesus had commanded. The question, “Hey, why should we ‘go to the priests at the Temple?’”,never came up! There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to go to the Temple priests but they found themselves going anyway....in faith; trusting the Word of Jesus.

     Why have we been so blessed? The majority of the people in this world have no car, do not own a home and have no idea what it means to have a “bank account”! The majority of the people of this world go to bed in terror; hoping to see the light of the next day for fear of God. But we, praise the Lord, not only are blessed with earthly things, we go to bed knowing that God has forgiven us all our sins. We rest in the wounds of Jesus, Who awaits us in Paradise. Many of us pray just before falling asleep, “....and if I die before I wake, I pray Thee Lord, my soul to take. And this I ask for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” What blessed peace and comfort are ours in Christ. What a joy it is to trust in Jesus’ Word; just like the lepers.

     The lepers found themselves cleansed as they walked and we, too, have found ourselves “cleansed” by the blood of Christ as our parents walked away with us from the Baptismal font. Also, as our hearts heard the message of salvation for the first time, we, too, found ourselves walking as those cleansed; “whiter than snow” through Him Who purified us. Are we thankful? Amen!  J

     But...in our text, only one of the ten who were cleansed came back to thank the Lord. Notice that it does not say that the nine fell away from the Lord. Perhaps they did or maybe their immature faith did not allow them to do what the Spirit of the Lord was prompting them to do; “Give thanks”.

     Whether they had fallen into unbelief or permitted their love for their families and friends to overwhelm their new-found faith, we don’t know. But only one out of ten came back to thank the Lord for cleansing them; physically and spiritually.

     Imagine their hearts now! “I can see my wife and kids again! I can go to the different shops and talk to my friends and smell the good smells of the bakery again! .....I can go to worship and hear God’s great love for me.” Perhaps, eventually, they “came to their senses” and gave thanks. I like to think so.

     The Samaritan came back and, with his new “loud voice glorified God.” The Holy Spirit, working within him, moved him to thanks and praise.

     But Jesus was sad and disappointed. He asks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”  God expects our entire lives to be a thank-offering to Him Who is the source of all good things; whether that be grades at school, a raise, a new car, good health, etc.. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

     How blessed we have been. At work the Lord looks after us; preventing tragedy after tragedy. At school, we are blessed with teachers who bestow upon us needed knowledge. The hands of our physicians and nurses are guided by an unseen Source and, best of all, we have the Word of the Gospel given to us; at home, at worship and wherever we read It. Tremendous blessings!

     In our text, Jesus praises the “foreigner” (the Samaritan) for coming back and giving Him thanks. Jesus said, “’Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”We who were spiritual “foreigners” and who are now God’s children shall hear the Lord’s praise on the Last Day. God Himself shall announce to all people who ever existed, both believers and unbelievers, all the wonderful things He did through us; His children.  You see, every “good work” done, is the action of the Holy Spirit living inside us! As Paul says in Philippians, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God “works” in us who believe.  Isn’t it interesting to note that the word Jesus uses in our text, in saying, “Your faith has made you well.”, can also be translated, “Your faith has made you saved.” !? Using the same word that is used in our text, Saint Paul again says, in Ephesians, “By grace are you SAVED/healed, through faith, not by works. It is the gift of God”. Saint Peter, too, uses the same word, saying, “Baptism now SAVES/heals you.”! You see, God, Who gave us saving faith in our baptism and through His Word, sent the Holy Spirit into our souls, and has “healed” (or “saved”) us eternally; the best kind of healing! J Amen? And the Lord will say, on the Last Day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” So, while multitudes in our country only take one day a year to thank their Creator, let us DAILY give praise and thanks to Him Who provides our tables, our bank accounts, our bodies, etc., with many blessings. And best of all, let us give thanks to Him Who “healed” us from our spiritual “leprosy” of sin; bringing new life and salvation to our souls. “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” As the old hymn says, “It is well with my soul.” Thank God in Heaven! In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Why Is The New Covenant Better?

                         25th Sunday after Pentecost

Text( Hebrews 9: 24-28) Subject (Why Is The New Covenant Better?) Theme (1. It leads to a better Place. 2. Because it brings a better sacrifice.)

     Which is better; something old or something new? It depends, doesn’t it? If we are talking about milk; “new”, is definitely better! But if we are talking about stamps or coins; the older the better! Our text for this morning was written to Jewish Christians who seemed to be having problems with deciding which covenant, or agreement, was better; the Old Covenant or the New Covenant.

     The author tells them that the New Covenant, under Jesus, was the better one because it led to a better Place and it brought a better sacrifice. This is important for us to embrace today, too, because so many people and too many different religions try to confuse us regarding eternal life and the reason for it. So let us turn to our text for this morning and see

      Why the New Covenant is better.

     The author of our text begins by saying, “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…”

The apostle reminds us that Jesus didnot come here to go into the Temple at Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. The stone Temple was built to bring the required blood offerings of doves, goats, sheep, bulls, etc., so as to remind the Jewish people of the coming Messiah; the “true”, genuine sacrifice for mankind which would lead to a better Place.

   “What’s wrong with going to the Temple?”, you might ask. Nothing! But Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of leading you to the Jewish Temple! No! He announced to men that He was the Messiah, He suffered, died and rose again and ascended into Paradise so that we may “enter in (to Heaven)”because He obtained eternal redemption for us. God the Father sent His Son, born of a virgin, so that He would endure the wrath of men. Why? So that you and I could “enter the Most Holy Place”; Heaven. 

     Heaven is an indescribably beautiful Place. As Saint Paul says in First Corinthians, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” From this Place, Jesus now intercedes for us. As Paul says in Romans, “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.” Not only is Paradise filled with angels and believers, it has a reservation…..for you! Jesus said, “Where I am, there you shall be also.”! So, from Heaven itself, Jesus prays for you and has reserved, with His shed blood, a personal place foryou; His elect child. Heaven is a much better Place…..better than any mankind can imagine because of the New Covenant purchased by Jesus Christ. Take comfort in that truth every day, every night and when you pass from this world into the next. He is waiting for you with open arms. It is the promise of the New Covenant.

     The New Covenant brought a better sacrifice, too. Our text for today says, “….Not that (Jesus) should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another- He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”  As you may remember from the Old Testament, the priests constantly were offering up bloody sacrifices for the people. The High Priest, once a year, on the Day of Atonement offered up a sacrifice of a lamb for the sins of all the people; pointing them to the Messiah. If it was the frequency of sacrifices that forgave people, then Jesus would have had to have come right after Adam and Eve’s sin and sacrificed Himself every week! But the sacrifices of the priests, and their frequency, never forgave anyone anything.   They simply were given by God to remind the people of their sin and of the coming of the Anointed One; the Son of God. Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (it says in another place in Hebrews). Why? Because He loved us! As Paul says in Ephesians, “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” The holy blood of the Savior has “cleansed us from all sin”; purchasing us as His own with that divine sacrifice.

     The offering of Jesus on the Cross also brought us justification before the Father, as Paul says in Romans, “Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” God now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, see’s us as righteous.

    What peace, then, is ours because of being redeemed through Christ’s blood. He Who bought us back from certain death and eternal Hell has given us direct access to our Heavenly Father.

     The suffering of Jesus, from His conception to the Tomb, was prophesied in the Old Testament and was proclaimed by Jesus Himself many times before He died. If people seriously were to be given comfort, “it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer”; for us and for the whole world. Saint Peter writes, “Christ suffered once for sins…so that He might bring us to God.”

     God could have spoken from the clouds that He loved us and left it at that, but, instead, He sent His Son. As Paul says in First Timothy, “God was manifested in the flesh”. In Second Timothy he adds, “The appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, Who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” The apostle John says, “The Word of Life was manifested and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”

     The story of Jesus Christ is no “fable” or “myth”! It is divine truth; witnessed to by untold tens of thousands of martyrs and missionaries. The love of God “was manifested toward us….that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.”

    But why did we need a Savior? One word: sin. It was reported recently by one of those agencies that follow such things, that the words, “sin and Hell” are being mentioned at an “all time low” among

evangelical Christians! In this present age, we need to be reminded that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And the “wages of sin is death”; spiritual and eternal death! To ignore it means spiritual suicide! Perhaps that is why the most liberal churches, who are ignoring the “negative words” (like “sin” and “hell”) are in sharp decline in their membership! If you do not “sin” you do not need a Savior!

     But the Bible is clear: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

     Fortunately, Jesus shed His blood to “cleanse us from all sin.” He saved us from our transgressions (as Matthew points out); even giving us His holy Supper, “for the remission of sins”. That divine blood has taken away the sin of the world. His promise in baptism, too, is “Be baptized and wash away your sins.” He has opened our eyes and turned us from spiritual darkness. By His grace alone, we have the forgiveness of our sins. How blessed we are! If only the whole world knew that it has been forgiven…..”Is that true, pastor?” Yes! Saint Paul says, “For as by one man’s disobedience (Adam’s) many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s (Jesus’) obedience many will be made righteous.” (as Paul points out in Romans). In accordance with the Scriptures, Jesus died for our sins; giving Himself  up so that we might be delivered from this present evil age.” Christ “purged us from our sins” to bring us to Himself. He was, and is, the true “Passover lamb”.

     What a blessing to have these truths in our hearts! For one day, we shall leave this earth. It has been appointed when we shall pass away.

The book of Job says, “Man’s days are determined, the number of his months is with (God); You (Lord) have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.” God has drawn a “line of life”; over which we cannot pass. We are allotted a specific number of days; seconds, even, which we cannot “pass”.  Then we meet the Lord; some dying in their sin, others meeting Him with the forgiveness of sins on their souls.

      Like Saint Paul, we take joy in this divine thought, that “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day…” The “hope of the Gospel” is based in the sacrifice of God’s Son; the foundation of the New Covenant.

    So, when it is our time to leave this wretched, sinful earth, we can

Say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (as Paul says in Philipians). The victory we have is ours because of the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. “We know, (by God’s grace) that we have passed from death to life.” The second death (Hell) “shall not hurt” us. “Blessed”, indeed “are the dead which die in the Lord.”

     But as we think of our neighbors and friends who are not Christians, we might ask, “How can they escape condemnation?” Jesus said, “He who hears My Word and believes in Him Who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Tell them to trust in the Savior who “bore their sins in His own body on the tree”. (as Peter writes)

     Our many sins have been forgiven in Christ. He shall come again; He Who sacrificed Himself for us; not to be humiliated but to bring us to Heaven. When He appears in the clouds “with power and great glory” we shall finally see Him “as He is” and the promise is (according to Saint John) that “we shall be like Him”.

     On the Last Day, our bodies shall leave this corrupt earth and we shall go into Paradise; never again “dealing” with the evil world, our sinful flesh or the Devil. They shall be gone forever….because of the sacrifice of God’s Son.

      How wonderful and eternally superior, then, is the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.  May His sacrifice bless you daily and remind you, and me, of the “better Place” awaiting us; by His grace alone, through faith alone, through the Savior alone.

                      In His precious Name, Amen.

    

    

    

    

       

   

 

 

    

      

 

   

 

 

     

The Meaning of Ash Wednesday

      Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Church season we call “Lent”. While many associate Lent simply with “mid-week services and potlucks”, the Lenten theme begins with “Ash” Wednesday for a reason. Historically, many Christian churches took ashes on that day and smeared them on their forehead as a sign of repentance from sin. This was taken from the Old Testament. Numbers 19:9, for example, says, 

“Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes (of a sacrificed heifer) and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.” 

The ashes of cattle did not spiritually cleanse the person but pointed to the One Who would suffer death and purify them; Jesus. Nowhere is the application of ashes called for in the New Testament. Why? Because the actual sacrifice of God’s Son has been carried out. Where? On Mount Calvary….at the Cross.

     Lent, then, is a season of repentance. Even the color, violet, has historically been used to proclaim this theme. This is important today, especially with the recent surge in popularity of “mega-churches” and their emphasis on entertainment. Of course, there is nothing wrong with God-pleasing entertainment but when the message of contrition, repentance and grace-based faith get lost because a church bases its “ministry” on it, severe problems arise; sinful pride swells, the definition of “sin” gets blurred and salvation starts to get based on “man’s works”. 

     So, rather than smear ashes on your forehead, start looking for time (every day) when you can go before the Lord and confess your sins; the ones (at least) you’re aware of. You can simply confess transgressions of “thoughts, words and deeds” or go into more depth. But the most important part is the absolution; the part that brings the soul and heart comfort. Yes…the message of complete and free forgiveness through the sacrifice….not of a bull….but of our Savior, Jesus…for you…..for YOU. His suffering and death assures us that the ultimate sacrifice has been accomplished. God is now pleased with us through Him; by His grace, through faith. Eternally, that is much more satisfying and comforting than even the best-looking ashes on the forehead! May you find abundant blessings this Lenten season. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Valentines Day

 Valentine’s Day is in February. Although not a “church festival”, our entire nation celebrates it with much gusto. Roses, candy and cards are sent and “love” seems to be “in the air”. But how do we know if someone loves us? Is it because someone feeds us, gives us clothes to wear, and a roof over our head? (Like a prison warden.) No. Generally, we “feel” loved. It is an emotion; one that can be triggered by genuine sincerity…. or trickery! We can actually fool a person into thinking we love them!

    We know our Moms loved us (for example) but how about God? Do we know that God actually loves us because (like the prison warden) He feeds us, clothes us and provides us with opportunities to work? No. Why? Because people are starving all over the world! Most are poor; without a roof and have only the clothes on their backs! And if we turn to creation, we only see a God Who is powerful and extremely intelligent;… not loving! Neither can we turn to our “feelings”. The Mormon church, for example, tells its prospects to “read the Book of Mormon and ask God to give you a burning in your ‘bosom’”(chest) for “proof” of the “truth”.  But feelings can come and go at will (or be caused by indigestion!) and even be given by the Devil himself! Needless to say, they should never be used to base one’s faith on! So how can we know, for sure, that God loves us?
    The Bible reveals to us the greatest “Valentine” ever. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Because of God’s unconditional love for us, proven by the sending of His Son to suffer, die and rise again for us, we know He loves us. (Even when we don’t feel it.) “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 5) Not our love for God, for that is imperfect and stained with sin ( Isaiah 64:6),  but God’s love for us! “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:10) “You KNOW that I love you”, Jesus told Peter (John 21:16). We “know”, too, (through the Bible) that God truly loves us because He sent His Son to this earth to guarantee us everlasting life, by His grace alone, through faith alone in Christ. Happy Valentine’s Day, from the one Who gave you a heart and a renewed soul washed in the blood of Jesus. In His Name, Amen.