Welcome

Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Walk As Children of Light - March 30, 2014 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: Ephesians 5:8-14

In the book of Genesis, before God began His work of creation, we are told that everything was darkness and chaos. When God began His work of creation He called the light out of the darkness. In the New Testament, in the Gospel of John this work of creation is described, again, as the light shining in the darkness, but John also uses this imagery to describe the Light of Christ shining on the darkness of sin. Today we talk about things being black and white. Today we talk about some things being in a grey area, meaning they are or may not be wrong or right. In our text for this morning the Apostle Paul continues to use this imagery of darkness and light. Darkness we understand to be wrong and sin and light we understand to be right and good.
 
Interestingly enough, have you ever noticed when most thievery and robbery, when most crimes occur, it is at night. Why at night? Because most people who break the law do not want to get caught and so they do their deeds when they are least likely to be seen, at night. The logic is that the darkness will cover our sins, yet we are reminded that the morning always comes and light shines on the scene and what was done in the dark is exposed for the sin that it is.
 
Turning to our text, Paul writes that we were darkness, in other words we were living in sin. We read verse eight, “8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (v. 8). And here I go again, reminding us that we are conceived and born in sin. We simply cannot get away from the fact of our sin. It is our nature to sin, we simply cannot help but sin. We have talked some about free will in Bible class and we always need to be reminded that because we live on the sin side of the Fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, we really no longer have a freedom of the will. Our will is tainted by sin. Our will is only to sin.
 
And so we do sin and we sin boldly. We sin not only by what we do and not do, remember those are sins of omission and commission, but we also sin by our words, by what we say or do not say. We sin by hurting and harming others. We sin by not helping and defending others. We sin by our very thoughts. To sin is not simply to commit an act, but to sin, in God’s eyes is to think the thought. The progression of sin usually takes the course of thinking, speaking and then doing.
 
Now, please understand, I am not telling you this to make you think that you have a right to sin, after all we might surmise, if I am sinning by thinking it, I might as well do the deed. No, I am telling you this so that you might rejoice even more greatly in what Christ has done for you and in so rejoicing you might be more inclined to, with His help, work to resist temptation and sin.
 
Paul reminds us that we are sinners, but that our sins, that is the price for our sins has been paid. With this in mind He reminds us that we are now light that is we are now to, again, with God’s help, walk in the way our Lord would have us to walk. We read picking up at verses nine, “9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (v. 9-11).
 
What has God done for us? What has Jesus done for us? He has given us faith through the means of grace. He has given us faith through His Word. He has given us faith through Holy Baptism. He strengthens us in faith through His Word, through our remembering our Baptism, through the Lord’s Supper.
 
God has given us faith and He has given to us to know what is good and right and true. How do we know what is good and right and true? We know what is good and right and true through the same means He has given us faith, namely through His Word. It is the Word of God which tells us what is sin, what we should and should not do and it is the Word of God which tells us what is righteousness and what is good and right and true.
 
God has given us faith and He has given us to know what is good and right and true so that we might also be discerning. He gives us discernment. How does He give us discernment? He gives us discernment through the same Word that He uses to give us faith and knowledge of what is good and right and true. He gives us to discern right from wrong. He gives us to discern that there are absolutes.
 
Why does our Lord give to us faith and knowledge of what is good and right and true and discernment? So that He might also give to us to show our faith through our actions. Earlier in this letter Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith and this is a gift of God so that no one can boast and in the next verse he says that this is done so that we might “do the good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should do them.” That He gives us to show our faith through our actions is not something we do in order to earn anything from our Lord, but is a response of faith, a culmination of what our Lord does for us, beginning with giving us faith.
 
A part of living lives of faith is that the Lord also gives to us to demonstrate our faith and through our demonstrating our faith we expose sin. As we refuse to be a part of the unfruitful works of darkness we expose them for what they are, sin. As they are exposed as sin, the goal is to bring those in sin to see their sin so they might repent, be given forgiveness and be brought into the Lord’s Kingdom as well.
 
Paul further warns us to have nothing to do with darkness, that is sin. We pick up at verse twelve, “12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’”(v. 12-14). What is Paul talking about? What are these shameful things that are done in secret. Paul says, do not even speak about things done in secret. Here I should remind you that in God’s eyes all sins are equal, there is no such thing as one sin being greater than another sin. So, Paul is telling us that any sin committed is a shameful sin and should not be spoken about. And here, remember what I said earlier about when dastardly deeds are done? They are done in the dark so as not to be seen, they are simply so bad that we do not even want to mention them. At the same time, God’s Word exposes these sins as His Word is publicly proclaimed. Proclaiming what is right always exposes what is wrong as sin.
 
Yet, the deeds done in darkness to hide them, when exposed by the Light, that is when they are exposed by Jesus, the Light of the world, the Word made flesh, then they are seen for what they are, sin. So we are back to the importance of the Word of God and the fact that the Bible is the Word of God, not merely contains the Word of God. Because the Bible is the Word of God it is authoritative, that is it is the final authority on what is right and wrong and it is efficacious, that is, it does what it says. Because the Bible is the Word of God it tells us what is right and wrong, it helps us discern what is right and wrong, and it helps us in our own fight against temptation and sin.
 
Notice that there is no synergism here, that is there is nothing of our working with God as if we might have some authority on our own or as if we might be able to gain faith and discernment on our own. No, there is no synergism, only grace. It is God who calls us to and gives us faith. It is God who is the One and only Authority and the One who gives discernment and He does this through His Word.
 
What Does This Mean? Again this week, as always and as it should be, we are reminded that we are wholly sinful. There is nothing we can do, nor is there anything we might desire to do to come to our Lord. Any desire to come to the Lord is against our conceived and born in nature. Yet it is our Lord who comes to us and calls us to faith. He calls us to faith through His Word. He gives us faith through His Word. He gives us faith through Holy Baptism. He strengthens and keeps us in faith through that same Word and Baptism and through His Holy Supper.
 
Not only does our Lord call us to faith, He also calls us to works of service. Here again I refer you back to Paul’s words which I talked about earlier, his words in chapter two of this letter, that is that we are saved to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. These good works are not done to earn anything, nor are they done to appease an angry God. These good works are done as a response of faith. They are done only as they are motivated by God, worked in and through us by God and done to His glory.
 
Now we hear Paul tell us that our Lord also calls us to discern what is good and right and true and as we have said, we discern these things through His Word. His Word is the foundation of our faith. His Word is authority. His Word is efficacious, that is His Word does what it says.
 
Notice again as always, it is our Lord who does it all. He gives faith. He strengthens and keeps us in faith. He gives to know what is good and right and true. He gives discerning hearts and minds. He gives to us to do the good works which He has for us to do. He gives a demonstration of what is sin through our actions exposing sin. He gives, He gives, He gives and we are given too.
 
How important are the means of grace? As we see once again, they are the foundation of our faith. Without the means of grace we take away the way our Lord has to come to us to give us His good gifts and blessings. Without the means of grace we would be lost. Thanks be to God that He has given us the means of grace. Thanks be to God that He has given us His Word which is His authority and which works, that is it does what is says. Thanks be to God that He has given us confession and absolution, through which we are constantly being given forgiveness. Thanks be to God that He has given us Holy Baptism and His Holy Supper through which He also gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. Thanks be to God for His great grace and to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lamb of Atonement - Mid Week 4 - March 26, 2014 - Text: Lev. 16:1-10

1The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. 5And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6“Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. 11“Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15“Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. So far we have talked about the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We have talked about God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We watched as God tested Abram in asking him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac. And we watched as the lambs were sacrificed and the blood of the lambs was put on the doorpost and the lintels so the angel of death would pass over the homes of those with the doors marked in Egypt and how Jesus took this Passover Seder and out of it He has given us a new sacrament, His Holy Supper so that as we participate in His life, suffering, death and resurrection through our eating His body and drinking His blood, the angel of eternal spiritual death will pass over us so that we will have eternal life. This evening we have before us the giving of the lamb of the atonement.
 
As always, it is good to begin at the beginning. If we do not know or understand Genesis and the need for a Savior then how can we understand the Gospels and Jesus as our Savior? So, we need this continual reminder that in the beginning God created a perfect world. He created a perfect man and a perfect woman and He placed them into the perfect garden which He created. And He gave them only one command, perhaps as a way for them to give something back to Him, that is they were to obey Him by not eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The threat was that the day they would eat of that fruit they would begin to dye a physical death and apart from the Savior the Lord would send, they would die an eternal spiritual death.
 
Satan, a fallen angel, took on the flesh of a serpent, tempted Eve and Adam who subsequently disobeyed God, ate for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and with that disobedience sin entered into the world. And with sin, came punishment in particular the world became cursed. And yet, the price for sin had to be paid.
 
Because God knew that Adam and Eve would not be able to pay the price for their sin of disobedience, because they could no longer be perfect as He is perfect, He immediately stepped in and promised to take care of their sin and He would do that by sending a Savior, a Redeemer, a substitute who would take their sin upon Himself and pay the price for sin, death.
 
Throughout history the problem of humankind is the problem of imperfection which is sin. From the very beginning God’s demand is perfection. We are to be perfect as God the Father is perfect. Yet, as we know and have just reviewed from our history, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought sin and imperfection into the world.
 
Not only is the world cursed, but because of their sin, Adam and Eve were punished and cursed as well. Adam and Eve were no longer perfect as they were originally created by God. So now, at the moment of conception, all humanity is conceived and born in sin, in imperfection. Imperfection cannot beget perfection. Our nature, now post fall into sin, is that we are conceived and born in sin. What free will Adam and Eve had at the beginning has now been tainted so our free will is truly a bound will, bound to sin and evil. Certainly within the civil realm we have some free will, but in the spiritual realm our every inclination is to sin. Our problem continues to be that man is not right with God, we are not at one with God.
 
Which brings us to this thing we call atonement. In our text we read God telling Moses, “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house” (v. 11). Aaron was a sinner and his sin separated him from God. In his sinful state he could not serve before the Lord in His house. Aaron had to be brought back into a right relationship with God before he could serve before the Lord in His house. And Aaron could not make himself right before God. It is God who had to make Aaron right. God’s solution was for Aaron to offer a sacrifice as a sin offering in order to make atonement, in order to be made at one with God again so that he might continue in service in the Lord’s house. Now, please understand, this sacrifice truly did not bring forgiveness in and of itself, but pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice that was promised in the Garden of Eden and reiterated continually through Israelite history.
 
In the same way, humanity cannot make itself right with God. We cannot make ourselves right with God. No amount of any sacrifice, be it a bloody or unbloody sacrifice can make us right with God. It is God who makes man right with Himself. Just as when we owe someone and have no way of paying what we owe, even more is this the way it is with God. We owe everything. We owe our very lives. We owe our blood. We owe our eternal well-being. And there is nothing we have or could do to ever earn or repay what we owe. It has to come from outside of us. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. Out of our heart proceeds all kinds of evil. Our atonement must come from outside of us. In accounting terms, our account is that man owes blood and life. The price for sin is death. The wages of sin is death. What sin costs is death and blood.
 
The price for sin is death and the price for sin had to be paid. In the Old Testament, during the days of the Children of Israel, as the Lord chose the nation of Israel to be His people through which He would send the Savior of the world, in order for them, and us, to understand our sin and the seriousness of our sin, God instituted the sacrificial system which was meant to show the seriousness of sin, the price for sin, and ultimately to point to Jesus who would take care of our sin.
 
The sacrificial system was set up so that animals were slaughter, on a daily basis. Daily blood was shed as a reminder that the price for sin was death. Blood was shed in order to remind the people and us that God is serious about sin and that sin is a serious breach between God and humanity. We are separate from God and we cannot draw ourselves to Him. We are not at one with Him and we cannot make ourselves one with Him. We cannot atone for ourselves.
 
The sacrificial system include the sacrifice of animals including and especially lambs. Lambs were chosen to be sacrificed because of their mild nature, that is because, as Jesus tells us, they are like weak, needy human beings. All we like sheep have gone astray. We need a shepherd. We need someone to care for us. Just as sheep cannot care for themselves, neither can we care for ourselves and especially neither can we spiritually care for ourselves. Lambs were chosen for slaughter pointing to Jesus the Lamb of God.
 
Jesus was born as one of us, except that He was born without sin. He was not born separate from God but as one with God, being God Himself in human flesh. Jesus was able to shed His blood as a payment, a once and for all payment for our sins and for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. Jesus sacrifice was enough. To declare that we need to add anything to Jesus sacrifice of Himself is to deny His atonement sacrifice for us.
 
We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our hearts is evil all the time. Sin separates us from God and we cannot gap that separation. In order to be brought back into an at one with God relationship, in order to be atoned with God we look outside ourselves. We look to Jesus who is the One who gave His life as a substitute for our life to bring us back into that right relationship with Himself and God the Father. We rejoice in His sacrifice for us because we know that His sacrifice was and is enough and we say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Justified for Hope - March 23, 2014 - Third Sunday in Lent - Text: Romans 5:1-8

Two weeks ago we were reminded of the reason that Jesus came into this world, true God born in human flesh, true man. It was because of the sin of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, sin that has now infected our whole world. Jesus, who is true God and who had to be true God so that He would be holy, sinless, and perfect, humbled Himself, giving up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to be born as a true human and He had to be born as a human in order to be our substitute. Jesus came to fulfill the promise God made to Eve and Adam, and to all people, in the Garden of Eden, He came to be our Savior. Last week we moved forward to hear God’s promise reiterated to Abraham and his part in God’s plan of Salvation. This morning we see and hear how Jesus is the Savior for all people. We see and hear how Jesus came so that we, you and I, and all people might have forgiveness of sins, faith, life and salvation.
 
Paul begins by helping us to understand how we are made right with God, in other words, how our sins are taken care of so that we are brought back into a right relationship with God, a relationship that was broken in the Garden of Eden and is constantly broken as we daily sin much. We begin with verse one: “1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (v. 1-5).
 
By nature, we are conceived and born in sin. We daily sin much and add to our sinfulness. As sinners, we cannot stand in the presence of our God who demands perfection from us. Thus, in our sin we would live in fear and terror of our just and righteous God. Paul comforts us by telling us that we can have peace with God. We have peace with God as he gives us peace. Yes, in and of ourselves we are at odds with God, we are His enemies and there is nothing we can do to build bridges or to get Him to like us, that is why He takes the initiative. Paul says, “since we have been justified,” this is a past action, it has already happened. We have already been made just and right in God’s eyes, not by something we have done, but by something God has done. Or actually, because of what Jesus has done. Being made just and right before God, by (or through) forgiveness brings us peace, true Godly peace. Because we are forgiven we no longer need to be afraid of God because He has taken care of that which terrorizes us, our sins.
 
This justification brings us hope. And here I would remind you that our definition of hope, as Christians, is different from that of the rest of the world. When the world speaks of hope it is speaking of something that is an uncertainty, something that is a maybe, something that might happen. When we Christians speak of hope and use the word hope in the context of faith and forgiveness, it means a certainty, it is something we can count on. Justification brings us hope that is a certainty of heaven.
 
And so, we have forgiveness, we are made just and right and brought back into a right relationship with God the Father through Jesus’ work on the cross, yet, we remain in this sin filled world and as we remain in this sin filled world sin abounds, thus suffering continues. And here we see that suffering is a result of sin. Some suffering is a direct result of sin, that is when someone disobeys the law and gets hurt, that is a direct result of sin. However, some suffering is not necessarily a direct result of sin, but is a result of the sins of our society as a whole. When a baby contracts AIDS because of a blood transfusion, that is not a direct result of the baby’s sin, but a result of the sin of our society in which sexual promiscuity runs rampant and sexual disease is a result.
 
Paul exhorts us to rejoice in our suffering, not for the sake of suffering, but because, as he tells us, suffering produces endurance. Endurance is an attitude of perseverance. As a Christian our attitude toward suffering is to understand that suffering draws us closer to our Lord who is always with us to take care of us. And to be closer to the Lord is indeed a good thing.
 
But even more, as Paul progresses, this endurance produces character, which is a genuineness in one’s life. Our character is who we are and certainly we know some people who are more of a character than others. Today we may be more familiar with the word reputation instead of the word character. Our character is our reputation, that is, how others know us. Are we known for our patience and longsuffering? Or for our short temper? Are we known for being gentle and kindhearted or for being rude and mean tempered? Are we known for our humor and joyous spirit or for being serious and sullen? Are we known for our faith in Jesus or for our religious struggles, not knowing where to turn? We know and understand that our Lord never tempts us to sin, but He does allow us to be tested so that we might be the people, the characters He would have us to be.
 
But Paul is not done yet, he goes on to add that character produces hope and here again this is the hope we just mention, the certainty we Christians have, the certainty of eternal life in heaven. And that certainty does not disappoint us.
 
Paul then goes on to tell us why we can have such confidence. We pick up at verse six: “6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 6-8). While we were in the middle of our sinning, Christ died for us. Yet, even after justification, that is even after we have been given forgiveness because of Jesus death on the cross for us, sin continues to abound. In the Old Testament Lesson for today we see the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, the people He did so much for, including deliver from bondage of slavery, continue to rebel against Him and we are no different as Christians in our world today.
 
Paul lays out the usual conditions we may give for giving one’s life for another and that is that perhaps for a good person one might possibly dare to die, but for someone who is not a good person, forget it. Certainly we have our standards as to who is worthy and who is unworthy to have us put ourselves on the line.
 
But not so with God. God’s love is seen in the giving of His life, while we were sinning against Him. Remember, our nature is to sin. Our nature is to do everything we can against God and this we do, well, every day, without thinking, without practice. And yet, it was us, you and me that Jesus had in mind when He went to the cross to give His life for ours. What great love our God has for us and greater love can no one have than this.
 
What does this mean? Each week, and especially during the season of Lent we are reminded that sin entered the world through Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. We are reminded that immediately after Eve and Adam sinned, separating God from His creation, His creatures, He, God stepped in so that He might bring us, His creation back into a right relationship with Himself, by promising to send a Savior to take care of the penalty which was due for the sin of the man and the woman, the eternal spiritual death penalty.
 
Jesus is true God and true man, who was sent into the world and who came into the world to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and our sin by paying the price for their sin and for our sins. Jesus came not just to save some people, but to save all people. In our Gospel reading for today we are reminded that Jesus came to save all people as we see Him in Sychar speaking to and giving faith to the Samaritan woman and then to many other Samaritans in the village. Jesus came to save us, you and me as well.
 
Following His resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who comes to us to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. The Holy Spirit works through means, namely through the means of grace, the Word, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, and Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps you may wonder why I always harp on these means of grace. It is because we need to be reminded, again and again, that this is how our Lord usually works with us, namely through these means, reminding us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of these means. Most of us make regular visits to the grocery store, understanding that if we do not make regular visits we will not have any food and we may starve. Likewise, if we fail to make regular visits to these means of grace we may starve spiritually, they are that important and so I continually stress their importance lest we forget or take them and our faith for granted.
 
And yet, even though our Lord created us, our Savior redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit brings us to, strengthens and keeps us in faith, sin still abounds in our world. Thanks be to God that we still have God’s continued promise that our sins have been forgiven and He helps us to be the people He would have us to be.
 
Which brings us back to Paul’s opening words, that our suffering produces endurance, which produces character which produces hope which does not disappoint us.
 
As we continue through this Lenten Season, my prayer for you is that the Lord will continue to help you to see your own sin and your part in Jesus’ death on the cross, even to the point of understanding just how big your part and my part was in putting Jesus on the cross. My prayer is that we do not try to justify ourselves and belittle our part, because that could in our own minds make Jesus’ work less necessary for us, meaning we would not fully comprehend His love for us. But, the  greater we see our part in Jesus death, the greater we will come to understand how great His love is for us and how all sufficient His sacrifice of Himself was for us, for you and for me. So that we might rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Passover Lamb - Mid Week 3 - March 19, 2014 - Text: Exodus 12:5-7 (1-28)

Our text is Exodus 12:5-7 but I will read the whole in context, verses 1-28: 1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2“This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. 7“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 14“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. 18In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.” 21Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. 22Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 24You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. 25And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. 26And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. We began two weeks ago talking about the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. Last week we followed along as the Lord tested Abram and told him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac and how God provided a substitute in the ram caught in the thicket. We were reminded that this sacrifice as was the case with all the Old Testament sacrifices did nothing except point to the one ultimate sacrifice of Jesus as our substitute on the cross. This evening we continue seeing this pointing as we recount the first Passover and connect that Passover with Jesus celebration of the Passover with His disciples and the giving of the Lord’s Supper from that Passover celebration.
 
Abraham had a son, Isaac. Isaac had a son Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons. One son, Joseph was hated by his brothers because of their jealousy that he was their father’s favorite. The brothers sold their brother who eventually ended up in Egypt as second in command only to Pharaoh. During the famine, the sons of Jacob discovered their brother Joseph and afterward, in order to take care of his family, Jacob took his family to Egypt where there was food. The children of Israel spent almost five hundred years in Egypt. Toward the end of their time in Egypt one of the new Pharaoh’s came into power who did not know the history of the Israelites and because of the fear of the children of Israel, the Egyptians began to place the Israelites into bondage, into slavery.
 
After a number of years, the Lord heard the cry of His people Israel and so the Lord called Moses to lead the people out of their slavery in Egypt. Now the life of Moses was such that as a baby, because of the command of Pharaoh to kill the infant boys, he was hidden until he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter who gave him to his biological mother to be raise until weaned. Moses was raised and educated in the schools of Egypt until he was forty years old. After he discovered his Israelite heritage and after defending a fellow Israelite and killing an Egyptian, Moses fled into the desert. Moses married a daughter of a priest of Midian, Jethro and lived and learned in the wilderness for forty years. After forty years the Lord came to Moses and spoke to him and called to him from a burning bush. The Lord called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt.
 
The Lord’s plan was the annihilation and pillaging of Egypt by His people. In order to accomplish His plan and purpose, the Lord first sent nine plagues each plague attacking and defeating one of the false gods of the Egyptians, indeed showing that the Lord God of Israel is the one and only true God. After the first nine plagues had already happened the Lord sent one final plague which brings us to the Passover celebration.
 
The tenth and last plague on Egypt was the sending of the Angel of Death who would pass over all of Egypt, killing the firstborn sons of all the families as well as all livestock. However, the angel of death would pass over those houses that were marked with the blood of a lamb, thus important and specific instructions were given to the children of Israel in order to protect and redeem the firstborn in every house in Israel. And these instructions not only saved the firstborn in Israel, but also pointed to the one ultimate lamb that would be sacrificed for the sins of all people, of all nations, of all times.
 
First the lamb that was chosen for the sacrifice, in order to have its blood put on the door post and lintel of the house had to be a spotless lamb. The lamb had to be without defect. The lamb had to be a year old and after it was selected on the tenth day, it was not slaughtered until the fourteenth day. The lamb needed to be of such a size that it could all be consumed by the family or by more than one family sharing a lamb.
 
When the lamb was slaughtered its blood was caught in a bowl. Using a bunch of hyssop, the blood put on the doorpost and lintel, the sides and tops of the doors making the sign of the cross. It was this blood that the angel of death would see and thus pass over that house.
 
The lamb was cooked, roasted on the fire and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The lamb was to be complete consumed. Any left over lamb was to be burned in the fire in the morning. The lamb was eaten with unleavened bread and they were eaten in haste. They were eaten with their belts fastened, their sandals on their feet and their staff in their hand. They were to eat and be ready to flee from Egypt.
 
The Lord sent the angel of death to strike all the firstborn in Egypt from both man and animal, from the lowest servant to the highest even Pharaoh. In so sending the angel of death the Lord executed His judgment on the Egyptians. However, the angel of death passed over those houses marked with the blood. It was the blood of the lamb that was a substitute for the firstborn in Israel.
 
After this first Passover and when the children of Israel went into the desert and even the promised land, this meal was to be a memorial meal, a meal to remind Israel of all that God had done for them and continued to do for them.
 
What does this mean and what is the significance of this Passover meal? When we remember that the first Passover was a foreshadowing of the things to come, we get a better understanding of the things to come. It was the Passover lamb that pointed to the Lamb of God, Jesus.
 
The Passover lamb was to be a spotless lamb. The lamb had to be spotless otherwise it would not be worthy of giving its life, of shedding its blood for those for whom it was to be sacrificed. Jesus is the lamb of God. Jesus is spotless, sinless, perfect and holy. Jesus had to be spotless, perfect and holy because God’s demand is holiness, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Jesus had to be perfect in order to be able to trade our imperfect life for His perfect life.
 
The Passover lamb was selected and slaughtered. Its blood was collected and with a hyssop branch it was painted on the doorpost and the lentil of the house, that is the sides of the door, and up and down motion, and the lintel, the top of the door, a sideways motion, thus indeed making the sign of the cross. Jesus shed His blood for us for us on the cross. At the Lord’s Supper we drink His blood, in, with, and under the wine, thus participating in His death on the cross. The Passover lamb was roasted and the people ate of the meat of the lamb. Jesus died on the cross as the sacrifice, the once and for all sacrifice for our sins. At the Lord’s Supper, in, with and under the bread we eat of the Lord’s body, thus participating in His sacrifice.
 
When the angel of death came through Egypt, it passed over the houses that were marked with the blood of the sacrificed lamb. When the angel of eternal spiritual death passes through this world and even more so on the day of judgement, he will pass over us who have been marked with the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
 
When Jesus celebrated the Passover Seder with His disciples, at the point of the finding and redeeming of the middle matzah, the matzah that had been broken and hidden, He blessed this matzah, broke it and gave it to His disciples saying, Take and eat this is my body. Then, at the point of drinking the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to His disciples saying, Drink of it all of you this cup is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you show the Lord’s death until He comes. In other words, for us to do this in remembrance of our Lord is to do this in participation of His Sacrifice so that His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death, His resurrection becomes our resurrection and His eternal life becomes our eternal life.
 
The Lord’s Supper is His Supper in which He gives to us His very body and blood to eat and drink and through which He gives us all the gifts and blessings He has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. And we respond and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Children of Abraham - March 16, 2014 - Second Sunday in Lent - Text: Romans 4:1-8, 13-17

Last week we were reminded of the reason that Jesus came into this world, that is that God was born in human flesh. It was because of the sin of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, that sin that has now infected our whole world. Jesus, who is and had to be true God, so that He is holy, sinless, and perfect, humbled Himself, giving up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to be born as a true human, being born of the woman Mary so that He might be our substitute. He did everything we could not do, namely live perfectly. He even resisted the temptations of the devil and did not sin. Jesus came to fulfill all the promises God made to Eve and Adam, and to all people, in the Garden of Eden, He came to be our Savior.
 
Today we move forward to hear God’s promise reiterated to Abraham and his part in God’s plan of Salvation. First, we hear Paul’s words beginning in verse one (v. 1-8), “1What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’” Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden God promised to take care of their sin by sending a Savior. In our Old Testament reading for this morning we hear God reiterate the promise He first made to Adam and Eve. God reiterated this same promise to Abraham to send a Savior. Notice that this is a promise made to Abraham, not a deal struck with him.
 
To help us understand the difference between what is earned and what is a gift, Paul explains that our wages are earned, they are not a gift that is given to us. A gift is something that is not earned but is a gift that is given to us. Wages are what we are paid for performing services. A wage is expected and is due. A gift is given without cost or expectation, especially without any expectation of something given in return. If something is expected in return, then it is truly not a gift.
 
Paul also uses the analogy of an inheritance. An inheritance is usually given to the physical heirs of one who has passed away. Yet, Paul tells us that not everyone who is a physical descendant is counted as an heir before God. Let me say that again so that we understand, Paul tells us that not everyone who is a physical descendant is counted as an heir before God. In other words, just because someone is a descendant of Abraham by genetics, by their DNA, does not mean they are an heir before God. In the Gospel reading we hear Jesus point this out to Nicodemus, who is a teacher in Israel. Jesus’ words to Nicodemus and Paul’s words to us remind us that no one is saved by being born of a certain family, even the family of Abraham, rather salvation comes to those to whom it is given, that is to those who believe in Jesus, even to those who have been given faith in Jesus.
 
Salvation we understand to mean eternal life in heaven. Eternal life in heaven is not a wage earned, but is a gift given. It is given, not according to physical descent, but according to faith, which is also given.
 
And we know that forgiveness is also a gift that is given. We cannot pay for our sins, nor can we earn any less cost for our sins. The price, the cost for sin Paul talks about is death, eternal spiritual death. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, the day Eve and Adam partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they died. They began dying a physical death and they were subject to eternal spiritual death.
 
Yet, we know that Eve and Adam did not die an eternal spiritual death, because God granted them forgiveness. And forgiveness is not something that costs nothing. Yes, for the recipients of forgiveness, it costs nothing, but the price for our sins had to be paid and it was paid. Thus the price for our sins was paid, by Jesus blood, by His innocent blood and His innocent suffering and death, giving us forgiveness as a gift.
 
The promise was reiterated to Abraham with the reminder that the promise is given to us through faith. We read the last part of our text, picking up at verse thirteen (v. 13-17), “13For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” Paul now lays out the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. The purpose of the law is simply to show our sin. The law reminds us of what we have done that is sinful, that is what we should not have been doing. Here I would have us look at the Ten Commandments to see just how sinful we truly are. But the law also reminds us of what we have not been doing, our sins of omission, and again, I would refer you to the Ten Commandments to see how we have not been the people that God would have us to be. Thus, the law shows us our sin and how sinful we really are.
 
The difficulty of the law, is that it cannot save. If we think we can be saved by keeping the law, we are only fooling ourselves. If we could be saved by keeping the law then that would make the promise of God null and void. And here I would refer you back to Paul’s earlier words that there is a distinct difference between wage and gift.
 
Again, referring back to the Garden of Eden, God created everything and it was very good. God gave the perfect man and his perfect wife a perfect Garden to keep and yet, even in their perfection they could not obey God’s commands and so sin entered the world. To take care of sin, God promised to send a Savior. Notice that the promise comes from one who is able to keep the promise. It was not a promise from Eve and Adam to do better. It was not a promise from the man and his wife to be more like God (remember the temptation was to be like God knowing good and evil - and before they only knew good, so now they know evil). It was God who made the promise and God who keeps the promise.
 
Notice also that the promise does not depend on the one to whom it is made. Nothing depends on Adam and Eve, nothing depends on us. When God makes a promise, He keeps His promise. How well we know that what God commands and what God demands, God also provides.
 
So, what does this mean? This morning we are reminded once again, as we always need reminding, that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We are conceived and born in sin. We are accountable for our sins from the moment of our conception. Not only are we conceived and born in sin, we also daily sin much, adding to our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. Not only are we completely sinful and lost and condemned creatures, by ourselves, we know that God demands perfection of us, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Thus, left to ourselves there would be no hope for us.
 
We are also reminded that we are by nature not physical descendants of Abraham. We are not members of the promised Messianic line. Most of us probably do not have any Jewish blood in us. But of course that does not matter. Here I would remind you, again, that when the promise was made to send a Savior, back in the Garden of Eden, at that time there was no Jew or Gentile, only Adam and Eve, thus the first promise was made to the parents of all people, and so was given to all people.
 
With that said, let me also remind you of Paul’s words in our text, that we are Abraham’s children. By faith we are Abraham’s children and heirs of eternal life. By faith, given to us through the means of Grace, we are children of the promised line of Messianic descent. And this faith is given us through the means of grace.
 
So, even though the law reminds us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that we cannot boast about any part in our salvation, but must fully rest our confidence in what God has done for us. The good news is that we are gifted by God. God has gifted us with faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. These are not earned. These are not deserved. All that we have from God, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation are all gifts He graciously gives to us. “For,” as Jesus tells Nicodemus, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
 
Thanks be to God that He does it all and He gives it all to us so we do not have to concern ourselves with the question of whether or not we have done the right thing, whether or not we have done enough good things, whether or not we have anything, but our confidence is in God who knows all, gives all, and does all. Certainly if there is anything in which to be confident it is in God, in His promises, in His keeping His promises, in His giving His Son, even His life for ours, in His giving us all the gifts and blessings He has to give, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. To Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Substitute Lamb Foreshadowed - Mid Week 2 - March 12, 2014 - Text: Gen. 22:1-14

Our text is Genesis 22:1-14: 1After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” This is our text.
 
Our theme for this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, the Lamb. Last week we began by talking about the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. This week we move forward past the birth of the son promised to Abraham, Isaac and to God’s testing of Abraham. Through this testing of Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac we will see a foreshadowing of God the Father and His giving of His only Son.
 
Before we get to Abraham, let us review the first promise. As you recall, at the creation of the world and all things out of nothing, God created the perfect man and the perfect woman and placed them in the perfect garden. God even gave them the ability to respond by obeying His command to not eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God even set the price for the sin of eating the fruit. The price for sin was set at death, physical death and apart from Him, faith in Jesus eternal spiritual death, or hell.
 
Adam and Eve did sin. Satan came to them in the form of a serpent, questioning God’s Words and promises so much that Eve and Adam also questioned God and disobeyed by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Upon eating the fruit not only did they know good, but now they knew evil as well and they knew that they were naked and so they were ashamed. They were indeed naked before God because God knows all things and God knew what they had done, so that no amount of clothing, no amount of fig leaves would be able to hide their nakedness and sin from God. God knew that Adam and Eve sinned and that their sin would cost them their lives, their physical lives in a few short years and their eternal lives if their sin was left unpaid. So God, in His great and unfathomable love stepped in and promised Adam and Eve to send a Savior, a Redeemer, One who would come and pay the price for their sin and trade His life for theirs and for all people.
 
The price for sin was set at death. Blood had to be shed. The Savior, the Redeemer would take care of the price for sin by shedding His own blood. In order for the Redeemer to be a Redeemer to trade His life for theirs, the Redeemer would have to be one of them, a human being, thus the Redeemer would be truly God, born of a human woman making Him truly human and truly divine.
 
After many years, indeed, after the flood and the tower of Babel, after God cleansed the world, or attempted to cleanse the world with a flood and after the nations and cultures of the world were separated through the mixing of the languages, after many years God moved to begin to fulfill His promise to send a Savior, a Redeemer.
 
Of all the people on the earth, God, in His grace, mercy and wisdom, chose a man, Abram. Abram was not a perfect man, nor was he completely righteous in God’s eyes. As a matter of fact we are told that he also worshiped other gods or idols (Joshua 24:2). God chose Abram and promised him that the Savior of the world, of all people, of all nations and cultures would be born through His Seed, his descendants. God promised Abram a son and even though God took some ten years to fulfill his promise, He did give Abram, whose name He changed to Abraham, a son, Isaac. When Isaac was ten to sixteen years old God tested Abraham. God called to Abraham and told him to take his son, his only son, Isaac and to go and sacrifice him on the mountain the Lord would show him.
 
Abraham obeyed God, not knowing until later that this was a test, but simply obeying God’s command. Abraham gathered the wood he would need for the sacrifice, saddled his donkey, took his servants and his son and went to the place the Lord would direct him. His son, Isaac went willingly though probably naively.
 
At one point Abraham left his servants with the animals, placed the wood for the sacrifice on his son Isaac and went off to sacrifice his son. Although he was unaware of his father’s intentions, Isaac willingly carried the wood for his sacrifice, thus foreshadowing how our Savior, Jesus would carry the wood of His own cross to be crucified on the very wood He carried.
 
As for Abraham, he believed God’s promise that the Savior would be born through his descendants. He had no reason to doubt God’s word and even though he did not know nor understand why God would ask him to sacrifice his son, he believed that God would still fulfill His promise, perhaps through giving him another son, or raising Isaac to life after the sacrifice. Abraham did not know, but acted in faith, as God gave him faith and as God moved him in faith.
 
Abraham believed God. He told his servants that he and the boy would go and make sacrifices, even though they had no animal only wood and that they, both of them, would return. Abraham did not know how God would do it, whether He would provide a substitute, as he explained to Isaac along the way, that God would provide, but he believed God’s promises and so he acted in faith.
 
Abraham obeyed God and God provided for Abraham. God provided a ram for the sacrifice. God provide Abraham and Isaac with the faith necessary to obey God’s command. And God continues to provide for us even today.
 
God is the prime mover. God created all things out of nothing. God created a perfect world and when His perfection was tarnished He promised to provide for its recreation. God promised a Redeemer. And it is not that God forgot, but as God remembered His promise, so He chose Abraham and promised that the Redeemer would be born through His line of ancestry. God foreshadowed the fulfillment of His promise as He tested the faith of Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his son, his only son, as God would sacrifice His Son, His only Son. But not only did God call Abraham, promise Abraham and then test Abraham, He also strengthened Abraham to obey Him.
 
God commanded Abraham, gave him faith and strength to obey and at just the right time He provided a substitute. So in our world, at just the right time God the Father sent His Son, His only Son to be born of a woman, to be born under the Law, to fulfill all the Law and the prophets, perfectly for us in our place. The price for sin was set at death, blood had to be shed. Abraham was asked to shed the blood of his only son, and yet God provided a substitute. And yet, the almost sacrifice of Isaac, the sacrifice of that substitute ram and all the sacrifices of the Old Testament truly meant nothing as far as paying any price for sin. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament merely served the purpose of pointing to the one ultimate final sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
 
God’s substitute for us is Jesus. Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. Jesus was not given a substitute, but freely took our sins and freely gave His life for ours. Jesus shed His blood. Jesus died to pay the price for our sin. Jesus was sacrifice for us because of His great love for us.
 
Of course, we will not leave here without being reminded of the rest of the story that is that Jesus did not stay dead, but rose victorious over sin, death and the power of the devil. Jesus ascended to the place from where He descended where He is today continually watching over us, ruling over us, and interceding for us. And He sends His Holy Spirit to give us the gifts He has earned for us and He gives us those gifts as we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, being in Bible class and divine service. And we rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Revisiting the Fallacy of Tolerance

I cannot stand people who are intolerant. Did I read that correctly? Did someone not think before they spoke? Happens all the time. So, are people that claim to be tolerant really tolerant? Or can anyone be truly tolerant? Read on and find out.

I cannot believe our society would put someone in jail for stealing. I cannot believe our society would put someone in jail for killing someone. I cannot believe our society would condemn someone just for having an affair with another man’s wife. It is so hard to imagine the our society is so intolerant.

If it is not clear by now, we do not live in a tolerant society, but there are individuals, and groups in our society that like to practice selective tolerance. Personally, I do not believe in tolerance. I do not believe that we as a society, nor as individuals should be tolerant of immoral, illegal and deviant behavior. How do I determine what is immoral, illegal and deviant? As for immoral and deviant, I refer to what God says is sin. As for illegal, I refer to our legal system. And to be clear, just because something is legal does not necessarily mean that it is moral or normal, indeed some things that are legal are immoral and deviant according to God’s standard, thus according to my standard.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

One for One - March 9, 2014 - First Sunday in Lent - Text: Romans 5:12-19

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Today, this Sunday, we begin our trek to the cross and during our trek to the cross we are reminded of our part in putting Jesus on the cross. Yes, it was because of our sins, your sins and mine, our sins of thought, word and deed, our sins of omission, not doing what we are supposed to be doing and our sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing, it was because of our sins that Jesus had to go to the cross.
 
Today is one of those somewhat rare occasions when all our readings for the day very easily interrelate with one another. We understand that the context of the day is the fall into sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Jesus, also in the wilderness. The Old Testament reading shows the original temptation, the first temptation of the devil who tempted Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was this temptation and the falling into sin of Eve and Adam that brought sin into the world and the need for a Savior.
 
In the Gospel reading we see Jesus as our Savior. We see Jesus as He came, not only to suffer and die for us, but also to live for us. This Gospel reading shows Jesus our Savior taking our place in temptation, except that Jesus does not fall but overcomes the devil and his temptations. Jesus wants us to know that He can and will help us when we are faced with the temptations of this world and as He has overcome, so He can and will help us to overcome.
 
Our text is the Epistle lesson in which Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome and to us here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield. Paul reminds us that sin came into the world through one man. Although, as we read in the Old Testament reading, it was Eve who sinned first and then gave to Adam to sin with her, it was Adam who was responsible for the two of them in the Garden and so it was the sin of Adam which brought sin and death into what was a perfect world. This sin of Eve and Adam brought sin into the whole world, because their sin was passed on from generation to generation and continues to be passed on. We call this original sin and this sin infects all of creation, that is, the Lord cursed the very ground on which Adam and Eve were standing and depending and the punishment includes all of humanity. Because God had put Adam in charge as His first creation, He held Adam accountable. Next Paul tell us how Adam, who was accountable for our inborn sin, was a type of the Savior to come.
 
Paul tells us that there was sin in the world even before the law was given. We might ask, “How can this be that there was sin in the world before the Commandments were given?” God had written His law on the hearts of Adam and Eve. They knew what was right, and that is all they knew, only what was right, remember the fruit of the tree of which they ate was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They only knew what was good, what was right and yet they gave up what was good and right, falling for the lies of Satan, the lies that they could be come like God, the lies concerning what God really said. Interestingly enough, we continue to fall for the same lies as Adam and Eve did in our world today. How often are we tempted to think we can be like God, or we try to be our own God by doing things our way, making our own decisions and the like. How often do we question or at least hear questioned whether or not God spoke about certain sins? Just as we see sin operating in our world today, even so, before the written law was given, there was sin and there was death which showed that there was sin in the world.
 
Just as sin came into the world through one man, so Paul goes on to tell us that justification came into the world through one man. Justification is that word which we define as reminding us that we are seen before God “just as if I’d never sinned.” To be justified is to be made right and just and holy in God’s eyes. Through one man sin entered the world, so justification entered the world through the one man Jesus who was born perfect, holy, sinless.
 
Jesus was born as the embodiment of Israel, that means that Jesus was born to do what all of humanity could not do. Jesus was born to live perfectly, holy, sinlessly, for us in our place. Jesus was born to do what Adam and Eve could not do. Jesus was born to do what the whole nation of Israel could not do. Jesus was born to do what we cannot do. In the Old Testament reading we saw Adam and Eve fail, miserably. In the Gospel reading we see Jesus triumph, gloriously, defeating Satan and temptation and we see Him do this for us, in our place, because we cannot.
 
Because Jesus was born without sin and because He lived perfectly and never sinned, so He was able to take our sins upon Himself and then, having our sins upon Himself, God held Him accountable for our sins. The punishment which was not fully given out in the Garden of Eden was inflicted on Jesus. Yes, there was physical death from the moment of the first sin in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve began to die a physical death, but the eternal, spiritual death penalty was not given until it was given in Jesus.
 
So, Adam is an opposite of Jesus. Through the one man Adam, sin entered the world and with sin came death, physical death and worse, apart from faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. But through the one man Jesus forgiveness entered the world and with forgiveness came life, even eternal life in heaven with Him. So we see that the free gift of grace is greater than the sin of man.
 
What Does this Mean? This means that it is a fact that we are conceived and born in sin. The sin of our first parents has been passed down to us. The premise of Paul Meier’s book A Skeleton in God’s Closet is that archeologist thought they found the bones of Christ, and what would that mean? I suggested that someone write a book with the plot being that scientist believed they found the original sin gene and what would that mean? But as I make such a suggestion I want to make sure that you know that I believe that could never happen because I do not believe that there is one gene that is the original sin gene, rather original sin permeates and affects all the genes and we see this as the sin of Adam and Eve has so corrupted the very fibers of our world that as Paul says elsewhere, the whole of creation is groaning for the last days when it too will be relieved of the pains of sin. Yes, we are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much adding to our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of commission, not doing what we are supposed to be doing and more often, I believe, because we know what we should not being doing, so more often we sin sins of omission, that is we actually sin by not doing what we should be doing. And so, we cannot save ourselves. As a matter of fact, left to ourselves we would be eternally condemned.
 
Thanks be to God that he provided the solution. God provided the solution in His Son, Jesus. Jesus was God and still is. Before He came down to earth, He was in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His and yet, He gave that up in order to take on Himself human flesh and blood. He was born the way we are born, of a human mother. He was not born of rich parents, but humbly and lowly, with His first bed being a manger, a feeding trough for animals. He was circumcised and later as an adult He was baptized. All the things He did He did for us, so that He might be our substitute.
 
Jesus was true God and He had to be true God so that He could be perfect, holy and sinless. He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit,” as we confess in the creed, so that He is truly God.  He was true God and He was true man. He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute. Only as a man could He suffer the punishment inflicted on man. As a man, Jesus did what we were unable to do. He lived perfectly for us in our place. He fulfilled all God’s laws perfectly. He fulfilled all the prophecies, all the promises of God for us, perfectly.
 
The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden. God created Adam and Eve and told them that the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of good and evil they would surely die, that is they would begin dying a physical death, but also, apart from Jesus they would die an eternal, spiritual death. The consequences of their actions was that sin and death entered the world. All things were now subject to death. Paul reminds us earlier in this same letter that the wages, that is the price, what sin earns is death, eternal, spiritual death. The price for sin had to be paid and Jesus came to pay the price and He did pay the price, all of the price, once and for all.
 
Jesus’ life and death was for all people, that is what we call universal atonement, it was for the universe. However, even though Jesus’ life and death brings universal atonement, this atonement needs individual application or what we call vicarious atonement, that means that it must also be for me. And yes, this vicarious atonement is for me and for you. The only exception is this that anyone may refuse this gift of vicarious atonement, that is anyone may refuse the gift of forgiveness, life and salvation and one does this, refuses the gifts by not believing and not confessing.
 
How fitting to begin the Lenten season by being reminded of the reason we have Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning. Certainly we know and believe that God created the world, perfectly in six days, but we also understand that because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, their sin has infected and permeated the whole of creation. At the same time we are reminded that God promised to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve, the sin that separated God’s creation, His creatures, we humans from a right relationship with Him. His promise and solution was to send His Son, whose birth we recently celebrated at Christmas, to do what our first parents and we are unable to do. How fitting even more that we see Jesus doing what we and our first parents were unable to do in our Gospel reading as Jesus overcomes the temptations of the devil. And finally, here in our text, Paul writes putting these two events into perspective for us, just as through Adam sin entered the world, so through Jesus justification and righteousness enter the world. Thanks be to God that He has given us faith through His Word and Sacraments, that He continues to strengthen us in faith and keep us in faith until He comes again. And thanks be to God that His righteousness far exceeds our sin. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The First Promise and The First Sacrificial Lamb - Ash Wednesday - Mar 5, 2014 - Text: Genesis 3:15, 21

Our text is Genesis 1: 15, 21: 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. 21And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. This is our text.
 
Our theme for Lent through Easter this year focuses our attention on the main character of the Passion, even the main character throughout the history of Israel and the Christian Church, indeed, the main character of all Holy Scripture, the Lamb. We will begin with the promise of a Savior and the first sacrifice made to clothe Adam and Eve. We will follow God’s giving of the sacrificial system as a way of reminding people that the price for sin is death, that blood had to be shed. We will see the lamb as the main character pointing us toward the One Lamb of God and His once and for all sacrifice on the cross. We will witness Jesus giving us His Holy Supper wherein He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink, thus participating in His life and His death. And finally we will witness and participate in His resurrection foreshadowing our own resurrection to eternal life where He will welcome us into His heavenly home and robe us with His robes of righteousness. This evening we begin by taking up the theme of the first promise and the first sacrificial lamb.
 
Some of you may have seen the tie I often like to wear that simply states, “In the beginning God created. . .” I like that tie because it states what needs to be stated, especially in a world which is constantly denying the truth of Holy Scripture. In the beginning God. In the beginning God created, all things, our of nothing. Although our world has attempted to get people to believe otherwise, the fact remains that God was there at the beginning and He tells us how He created all things out of nothing. God said it and that settles it.
 
God created all things out of nothing and then God created a perfect man and a perfect woman and placed them in a perfect garden which He also created for them. God gave them work to do, to tend the garden, not as a punishment, but as a joyous living of their lives.
 
Yes, in the beginning God created all things out of nothing and in the beginning, all things were perfect and holy. In the beginning there was no death and dying. In the beginning Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with each other and with God. Of course, we are living after the fall into sin, so we really have no idea of what that might have been like.
 
Sometime after creation, that is after God created the perfect world and after He created the perfect angels, one of the angels, Lucifer by name, which, by the way, his name means light bearer making one wonder what high position he may have had in heaven. Anyway Lucifer thought more highly of himself, rebelled against his creator, even God Himself and was cast out of heaven because of his insubordination.
 
This fallen angel, Satan himself, being cast out of heaven hates everything that is of God. He hates God and all God created. He is a liar and the father of lies. He is deceptive and his whole purpose and goal is to destroy everything that is good and from God. This Satan approached Eve and Adam who was with Eve, in the garden and questioned them concerning their relationship with God. His tempting question to them is very similar to the question he uses to tempt today as well. To Adam and Eve he simply asked, “Did God really say?” Did God really say you could not eat from a certain tree. Is God taking away your freedom? Today we hear this question asked, “Did God really mean . . . what He said?” And I would add, does God really mean what He says in His Word?
 
Eve and Adam listened to Satan, believed Satan, disobeyed God and sinned. Their sin brought imperfection into the perfect world. Their sin brought God’s just judgment and curse on the world.
 
After Eve and Adam sinned God came calling and He came calling the one who was created first, the one who was in charge and responsible, He came calling Adam. Adam made excuses and blamed Eve, and even God Himself. Eve blamed the serpent. And so God meted out His just judgement and punishment. Cursed was the serpent, the instrument Satan used to tempt Eve and Adam. The serpent was cursed to crawl on his belly all the days of his life and was to become a bane for humanity.
 
Next, cursed was Eve. Her curse would include pain in bearing the image of God, in procreation and child bearing and a continual desire for her husband, that is both a desire for a husband as well as a desire to usurp his role as the responsible party for the family.
 
And finally cursed was Adam and the earth. The earth was no long perfect, instead, thrones and thistles and weeds would constantly be a bother as Adam would work and sweat to raise food to eat. And the ultimate curse was the consummation of God’s threat that dying they would die. Adam and Eve began to die a physical death. Rather than live forever in perfection on this earth, now because this earth was cursed as were they, now they were destined to die and their bodies would return to dust. Death and dying were now a part of the imperfection and curse of the world. Adam and Eve also died an eternal spiritual death, or at least they would be doomed to such an eternal spiritual death had not God continued with His promise to send a Savior, a Redeemer to pay the price for their sins.
 
Thanks be to God that He immediately stepped in and made a promise. God’s promise was, I will send a Savior who will have His heal bruised in other words, He will die. Of course, God did not give all the specifics concerning the Savior He would send when He first announced that He would send a Savior, and perhaps it might be better said, He would send a Redeemer, that is He would send someone who would redeem, trade His life for the life of all people. He did say that this Savior, this Redeemer would be the son of a human woman, in other words this Savior would be a Redeemer in that He would be a human being trading His life for the lives of all humanity.
 
He also let us know that in dying, the Savior will defeat Satan, or as He tells it, Satan’s head would be crushed. The price for sin was set in the beginning at death, physical death and apart from God, eternal spiritual death. Satan demands this payment. The price for sin must be paid and God promises right here in the beginning that He will pay the price.
 
The next words we have is that God provided clothes for the man and the woman. God made garments of skins, skins from animals which were killed, meaning that blood was shed. Although this was not spoken of as the first sacrifice, indeed this is what we have witnessed, the sacrifice, the shedding of blood for the sin of Adam and Eve. Yet, this sacrifice did not pay the price for the sin of Adam and Eve. This sacrifice merely provided for a covering of clothes for them to wear to cover their bodies, to cover their sins. This sacrifice, as is true for all sacrifices throughout the Old Testament simply pointed to the cross, the one ultimate sacrifice for all people, once for all.
 
In the beginning God created all things perfect and holy. In the beginning God set the price for disobedience and sin. The price for sin was death. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned. Immediately God stepped in and promised to pay that price for them and for all people. Even to this day, by faith in Jesus, we will not pay that price. In the Garden of Eden it was the sacrifice of the lamb that foreshadowed that Jesus would be the Lamb of God who would pay the price. On Calvary Jesus paid the price for sin, earning forgiveness for all people. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, through the words of confession and absolution, through the very Word of God, and through the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, He distributes and gives out that forgiveness that He earned and we know that with forgiveness is life and salvation. On the last day He will raise up me and all believers and He will give to me and all believers eternal life, robing us with His robes of righteousness and stirring in us to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Bible Is the Word of God - March 2, 2014 - Transfiguration Sunday - Text: 2 Peter 1:16-21

As the saying goes, “Easter is late this year.” Easter is late because of the way in which the celebration of Easter has been defined, but we will not go into that at this time. Anyway, because Easter is late this year that means we seven Sundays in Epiphany, the maximum number of Sundays in Epiphany is eight, and so today we move forward to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany which is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday. Today we celebrate the event described in our Gospel reading, the transfiguration, that is the metamorphasis, of Jesus, His changing into His heavenly glory and the appearing of Moses and Elijah with Jesus before His disciples, Peter, James and John. This Transfiguration Event happened just before Jesus was to go into Jerusalem for the last time. We might say that this event happened as a preparation for the last events of Jesus’ earthly life, the Passion as we call it.
 
Our text is the Epistle lesson which was written by Peter, as he was moved by the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is important that we note, as was stated in the Gospel lesson, that Peter was there on the mountain of Transfiguration, with James and John and Jesus and Moses and Elijah. Peter was an eye  witness of these events about which he is writing and it was because of Jesus’ command that they  not tell anyone until after the Son of Man had been raised from the dead (Matt. 17:9) that Peter did not talk about or not write about these things until this time.
 
What did Peter witness? He witnessed the Majesty of Jesus. He witnessed Jesus in His heavenly glory. Peter says, “16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (v. 16). Peter saw Jesus change, that is, and the word is that Jesus metamorphed, right before his eyes. Interestingly enough Peter does not mention the fact that he did not know what to say so he suggested the building of three booths, but he does relate this incident, this event as it is, something to which he was an eye witness.
 
Peter saw Jesus transformed and he witnessed the voice of God the Father attest to Jesus. Again, Peter says, “17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (v. 17-18). Peter heard the voice of God the Father. We have already heard the voice of God the Father, and that happened at Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River. Certainly this event, this seeing with his own eyes and this hearing with his own ears had a profound effect on Peter.
 
Peter saw and he heard. Peter now witnesses the power of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He writes, “19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (v. 19-21). Although these are the words of Peter, which he writes with his own hand, he acknowledges that these are the Word of God, given to him, to write to us. Peter witnessed God in flesh, Jesus Christ, in His heavenly glory, attested to by the voice of God the Father and now he is compelled to write of these events by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter knows the truth of what many have a difficulty with today.
 
Today we live in a world in which the very Word of God, the Bible is questioned. We live in a world in which the questions of the Garden of Eden persist, questions which tempt us to ask, “Did God really say...?” Questions which tempt us to doubt the Bible and whether it is the Word of God. For many the Bible is not the word of God, rather the Bible merely contains the Word of God. What does it mean if the Bible merely contains the Word of God? If the Bible merely contains the Word of God then we need to be as a detective and figure out what is and what is not His Word. We need to be a detective and determine which of the Bible is bound by time and culture and which part is not. We need to be smarter than the average bear in order to determine what God is actually trying to say, in other words, we are not to simply believe the Word as it is written.
 
Unfortunately, and I say unfortunately, while others would say fortunately as we will attest to in a moment, unfortunately if the Bible merely contains the Word of God then not all of it is applicable. Actually, that would be an understatement. If the Bible merely contains the Word of God, then we have to find out which is that Word, and that which is not then is not applicable to us.
 
   Again, if some of the Bible is God’s Word and some of the Bible is not God’s Word then we have to decipher which is and which is not. And in our deciphering, you might suggest that one part is the Word of God and I might decide a different part is the Word of God, so that ultimately, we will have to throw out the whole of the Bible, because if some is not the Word of God, then truly all is not His Word.
 
So, why all this questioning? As I said, for too many in our world today, they believe it is fortunate to believe that the Bible merely contains the word of God because that leaves the door open to justify any deviant behavior one might wish to practice. As we asked several Sundays ago, why is it that Christian denominations that have the same Bible cannot agree on some doctrines and teachings of that same Bible? Well, think about our nature. We are conceived and born in sin. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We sin freely, we sin boldly, we do not even need practice to sin it comes so easily to us. And we do not like to think about the fact that we sin, so we need to justify our deviant sinful behavior. How can we justify something that the Bible says is wrong? We can justify our deviant behavior by questioning whether or not the Bible is the Word of God, whether or not it is applicable to us today, whether or not God was really talking about certain sins when He spoke His Word. If the Bible merely contains the word of God then that leaves the door wide open for all kinds of deviant sinful behavior which may well be justified by any means of argument, and that is exactly what is happening in much of our world and even in many of our Christian denominations. That is why what has for so long been known to be wrong and sinful is making its way into these Christian denominations even to the point of condemning those Christian churches, like our own, who are not tolerant, open-minded and diverse enough to respect their opinions.
 
We do not believe and we do not teach that the Bible contains the Word of God. We believe and teach that the Bible is the Word of God. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it is all His Word and so it must all be believed. We must believe all His Word even if and especially when it contradicts the words and beliefs of our own society and culture. We must believe all His Word even if and especially when it contradicts the seeming facts of science, physics, arithmetic, archeology, anthropology and so on. Interestingly enough, the seeming facts, of which most are theories, of science, physics, arithmetic, archeology, anthropology and so on are subject to change without notice, yet the Word of God never changes. Thus, when the word of man differs from the Word of God, it is the word of man that needs to change, not the Word of God. And please, do not accuse me of intellectual suicide. I am not advocating that we stop thinking or having intellectual discussions on matters of science, physics, arithmetic, archeology, anthropology and the like, what I am saying is that these disciplines must be subject to the Word of God, not the Word God be subject to them.
 
If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then we cannot pick and choose which parts we want to believe and which parts we do not want to believe. We cannot question whether God spoke or did not speak about certain sins. We must take it as it is given, each word in each sentence with the words meaning what they say.
 
We know and we believe, even as Peter tells us in our text that the Bible is the Word of God, given to us by inspiration. As we have been reading through the Old Testament (and now in particular we are reading through Second Samuel in our Adult class and you are invited to join us) someone noted that these words must be true and must be God’s words because why would anyone write about such sinful and terrible people, showing all the warts and flaws, unless this is God’s Word.
 
We know and we believe as Peter tells us that the Bible is the Word of God as the Holy Spirit moved holy men to write. Certainly God used the personalities of the inspired writers, but the words are God’s Word and we believe them, all of them, whether we like them or not, we believe them because they are the very Words of God Himself.
 
What Does this Mean? This means that we can trust and believe, all of the Bible. We can believe that God indeed did create the world in six twenty-four hour days, out of nothing. We can believe that the reason we have so many problems in our world is because of the fall into sin by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We can believe that God cleansed the world with a world wide flood. We can believe that God dispersed the people throughout the world, giving us the various languages and even culture groups at the tower of Babel. We can believe that the Ten Commandments are from God. We can believe that God promised to send a Savior and that the promise included the fact that the Savior of the world, for all people did come through the line of the Children of Israel. We can believe that Jesus was born of a virgin woman. We can believe that Jesus is who He says He is, the Son of God.
 
We can know for certain that Jesus lived for us, for you and for me. All that we can not do, keep the commandments perfectly, live perfectly, He did for us, in our place. Just as the historical narratives of the Old Testament are true, they are not made up fictitious stories meant to tell us something about ourselves, but just as they are true, so we can believe that the New Testaments historical narratives are true. We can believe that Jesus did what He did and that He did what He did, lived, suffered and died, for us and for our sins.
 
And we can know for certain that we have eternal life. I may shock you by saying this, and I have to admit, this is not something I came up with on my own, but something I heard someone say, but I thought was quite profound in itself, but one of the most profound songs we sing is not “A Mighty Fortress,” but is, “Jesus Loves Me.” It does not get any more profound the fact that “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The Bible, the Word of God, tells me that Jesus loves me and so I have eternal life. If the Bible is not the Word of God then think of the consequences. Because the Bible is the Word of God we can be assured of the reward!
 
This morning marks the end of our Epiphany season. Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and for forty days we will spend time on Wednesday evenings contemplating the fact that it was our sins that put Jesus on the cross and it was His love, God’s love for us His creation that moved Him to take care of our sins, to pay the penalty, the eternal, spiritual death penalty for us in our place that we might have forgiveness, life and salvation, as the Bible tells us so. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.