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!
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, May 4, 2014
This Word Is the Good News - May 4, 2014 - Third Sunday of Easter - Text: 1 Peter 1:17-25
Again this morning we continue to revel and rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a great God we have. What a loving God we have. What a gift giving God we have. I often lament for those people who do not know Jesus and for those who have no surety of salvation because they do not understand grace and the gifts God gives and instead cling to some wishy washy human hope that they have been good enough, or done enough good things, or the right things, or have chosen Jesus or dedicated their lives to them. And I lament those who worship some deceased god or leader of some cult or sect. Indeed, as Christians we worship a living God. We worship a God who does it all and gives it all to us and demands nothing from us. Notice the complete difference. Worshiping a god who needs and demands of us to do everything for him, which is truly idolatry, or worshiping the one true God who has done everything and given His all, even His life for us and needs nothing from us, but who has created us for the very purpose of loving us! Indeed, we worship a risen God. He is risen, He is risen, indeed, Alleluia.
In our text we might say that Peter lays out God’s plan, picking up at verse seventeen, “17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (v. 17-21).
Peter explains that according to God’s foreknowledge, that is what God knew before He set the foundation of the world, God knew that Adam and Eve would be disobedient and would sin and He knew that He would send His Son to suffer and die. This is what we call foreknowledge that is that God knew before it would happen. This does not mean that this is something God had predestined, that is that He had predetermined that these events would happen. What God had predestined, or better said, what is God’s will is spoken of elsewhere in His Holy Word and that is that it is God’s will that all people are saved and yet, even in His foreknowledge, even before it happens, God knows there are those who refuse and reject Him. God’s plan was and is to save all people.
According to God’s plan to save all people, He sent His only Son, yes, even God Himself taking on human flesh and blood in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the perfect, spotless Lamb, like the sacrificial lamb which pointed to Him. He was without spot or blemish. He was perfect and holy. And He had to be perfect and holy because God’s demand is that we are perfect and holy.
According to God’s plan, Jesus, being perfect and holy, took our sins upon Himself. He who was without sin became sin for us, in our place. Jesus paid the price for sin, eternal spiritual death in hell for us, not with perishable barter, but with His Holy Innocent suffering and death and with His holy precious blood. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, death, blood had to be shed and Jesus shed His blood, He died for us.
According to God’s plan, this was done so that we might call on God as our Father, that is so that we might pray to Him. God’s desire is to be in communion and fellowship with us. Since we broke that fellowship, He has restored our relationship. And now He carries on a conversation with us through our listening to Him in His Word and our speaking to Him in our prayers.
And, according to God’s plan, we call on Him as Father in fear, that is in respect because He is an impartial judge. Indeed, when we are in our sin, we should fear and tremble before the Lord as He is a just and impartial judge and we are guilty sinners. Yet, because of Jesus, because Jesus took our sins and paid the price for our sins, we fear our Father as we respectfully and joyfully call on Him just as we call on our earthly fathers.
Peter moves from explaining God’s plan to giving us the result, picking up at verse twenty-two, “22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you (v. 22-25).
God has taken care of everything for us. God has taken care of our sins by having Jesus pay the price for our sins. By faith in Jesus, which faith is given to us, Jesus perfect life, His perfect death, His perfect resurrection have become our perfect life, death and resurrection. Indeed, He has purified us so that when we stand before God what our Father sees is that He sees us in purity and perfection, in Jesus purity and perfection made ours.
Peter goes on to remind us that our time on this earth is fast and fading. One look at the obituaries in the paper on any given day bears out the fact that we will die and our hour of death can come at anytime, young or old. Indeed, each day we live moves us one day closer to our final day on this earth and that time will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. With that “warning” if you will, then we are moved to understand the importance of being ready at all times to meet our maker.
And so Peter reminds us that God’s Word yet remains, even forever. Peter reminds us of the certainty of God’s Word because it is through the Word of God that we get ready and are made ready for our final hour on this earth. Perhaps Peter’s words might stir us to understand the futility of investing so much of our time and energies focusing on ourselves and the momentary joys and sorrows of this world and instead focusing our attention on where it needs to be, in our relationship with Him, in our encouraging and building up one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and in our living lives as living sacrifices, always speaking encouraging words, giving an answer for our faith, and sharing God’s love and word with those who do not yet know Him.
What does this mean? For those of us who think we are good people, who think we do not have a spiritual problem, who do not think we need God’s forgiveness each and every day, we need the constant reminder that we are conceived and born in sin. And we daily add to our sinfulness. One quick trip through the Ten Commandments reminds us of our total depravity before God and if we think we are good simply because we have not actually physically broken any of the commandments, then we need the reminder that we break them through our thoughts and words as well as by not doing what is required, that is by sinning sins of omission as well as committing sin. Indeed, by ourselves, in and of ourselves our standing before God, even in our “goodness” is that we are totally lost and condemned creatures.
Thanks be to God that Jesus lived for us, being perfectly obedient to all of God’s laws and commands. Remember, the demand of God is that we are perfect and since we cannot be perfect, although we might think we can be pretty good, thus minimizing God’s gifts to us, the fact is that Jesus was perfect for us. If we want to make any comparison of ourselves because we think we are pretty good, the only comparison we need to make is to compare ourselves with Jesus and we always come up lacking. But, again, thanks be to God that Jesus lived for us.
Thanks be to God that Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for us, to be sacrificed for us in our place. Because we cannot pay the price for our sins, Jesus took our sins and paid the price for us in our place. What we owe, Jesus paid. What Jesus earned, He has given to us. It is all gift and gift given and we are given to.
Thanks be to God that He continues to give us the gifts He has to give and His usual way of giving us the gifts He has to give is through His means of grace. Indeed, we are born again through the Word and through the waters of Holy Baptism. We are given forgiveness and strengthening of faith though Confession and Absolution and through His Holy Supper. These gifts are gifts, neither earned nor deserved, but wholly given to us because of His great love for us.
Sometimes in our catechism we have the second question after “What does this mean?” as “How is this done?” Or we might say, what is our response of faith and that is what it is a response to what God has first done for us and given to us. Our response of faith is to, with the Lord’s help, live lives of faith. I call this living in our vocation, that is that as we live our lives in our various vocations as a son or daughter, father or mother, husband or wife, owner or worker, police officer, lawyer, doctor, teacher, carpenter, welder, engineer, computer programer, salesman, whatever our vocation we serve God by serving others. We live and work for God demonstrating our faith through our labors.
And our response of faith is to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace. We can be most sure of God speaking to us and working in and through us when He does so through His means of grace. It is through the means of His Word, Confession and absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper that our Lord gives to us and moves and stirs in us what we might call our works obedience, and yet, we always point to and give credit to our Lord for His gifts to us.
What a great God we have, the most loving, gift giving, living God. When we come to understand the depth of our depravity and greatness of God’s love for us, how can we not but desire to be given even more of the gifts He has to give? How can we not help but desire to be blessed by Him, being where the gifts are given as often and whenever they are offered? Indeed as Peter so well says this morning, “This Word is the Good News that was (and is now being) preached to you.” Our response is simply to be given to and to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.