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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, October 19, 2014

You Are Chosen By God - October 19, 2014 - Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) - Text: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

This morning we continue to listen to, be instructed by and to be encouraged by Paul. I would suggest that Paul was the first and best Lutheran theologian recorded in Holy Scripture. I say this because as we discerningly read through Paul’s letter we get a clearer understanding of the message of salvation. Paul constantly encourages us to know that we get it right when God is doing the doing and we are being done to and this morning’s words are no exception, as this morning he is especially writing words of encouragement, and even these words of encouragement focus our attention on God’s doing the doing and our being do to.
 
This morning we move to listen to a part of Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. He begins, “1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” (v. 1). This is the only letter we have from Paul which is written strictly for Christian edification. There are really no spiritual problems at the Thessalonian church so Paul uses this letter to encourage them in their Christian faith and life. Paul is also writing to us here at St. Matthew Lutheran church this morning so that we might be strengthened in our faith. Paul uses two familiar words in which he packs a “ton” of Christian teaching. He says, “Grace and peace to you.”
 
When Paul says grace he is thinking of the grace of God, the undeserved mercy God has for us. And notice, contrary to how some people would define grace in our world today, such as suggesting that grace is God giving us the power to do something, Paul takes us completely out of the equation and points only to God. Grace is God’s doing, God’s giving, and our being done to and given to. The grace God has for us is that He loves us so much that He sent His one and only son Jesus to live the perfect life for us, take our sins upon Himself, suffer and die on the cross for those sins, and rise again so that through faith in Him we might have the gift of eternal life in heaven. It is grace which brings peace to us. And as we talked about last week, this is a peace which is not like any peace we have here on earth. Sure we may have some peace and quiet from time to time, but Paul is talking about the kind of peace which only God can give. The kind of peace which comes from Him. The peace which He gives us through faith in Jesus. The kind of peace which comes from the forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness we remain in our sin and our guilt haunts us, but with forgiveness the sin is gone and the guilt is removed and we do have peace. This peace then is the peace of heart, mind, soul, and body which come from faith in Jesus, being forgiven and the promise of eternal life.
 
Paul goes on to tell the Thessalonians that he prays for them. This is not something that is unusual because in almost all of his letters Paul reminds his readers that he prays for them. In his letter to the Christians at Rome he says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world,” (Rom. 1:8). In his letter to the Philippians he says, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,” (Phil. 1:3-5). And here in our text Paul is praying for the people because of their response of faith. He says, “2We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (v. 2). I want to talk about their response of faith as compared to our response of faith, but first I want to skip to verse four where Paul talks about their faith.
 
Paul knows that the Thessalonians and we are God’s elect. Paul says, “4For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” (v. 4,5). As we talk about verse four and five, I want to remind you again, that as Paul is writing to the Christians at Thessalonica, he is writing to us also. So whenever I say that Paul is writing or speaking to the Thessalonians, know that he is speaking and writing to us. Paul says, “He, that is God, has chosen you.” I am sure that you have heard people say, “on such and such a date I chose Jesus as my personal Savior,” or “I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.” I hope that what they mean by this is that through the Gospel, that is God’s Word, through the message of Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection, that by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God they have been brought to faith, literally been given faith in Jesus. We know that as sinful human beings we cannot come to Jesus, we cannot chose Him, as sinful human beings we can only reject Him.  Noone can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Notice again, Paul says, that God has chosen you.
 
And Paul goes on to say that this Gospel, God’s Word, has power. God’s Word is not a stagnant word, but is alive coming to us through our reading the Bible, through someone telling us of Jesus, and from our hearing the Word preached to us. God’s Word has power, power to show us our sins, and power to show us forgiveness and our Savior. Power to do what it says and to give the gifts God has to give.
 
Add to the power of the Word the fact that the Holy Spirit is working through that Word. Through the power of the Word the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts. That is why the Word is called a Means of Grace, because through the Word and the Sacraments as a means the Holy Spirit gives us faith and keeps us in that faith. The Word and the Sacraments are a means whereby we are given faith, are kept in faith and through which we are given God’s grace.
 
Paul adds to this string the words, “and with full conviction.” The Holy Spirit working through the power of the Gospel convinces us that we are a part of God’s kingdom. We are certain, we are convinced of Christ’s work for us. Some people think that we cannot know if we are saved or not, but Paul tells us that we can know. We can know for certain that we are saved because that is what God’s Word tells us. Thus we can say, “on such and such a date,” and for most of us that is our baptism date, “God chose me.” Actually we can all say “before He began creation, God chose me.”
 
Going back to verse three Paul says that he is thankful for the response of the Thessalonians and for our response. Paul says, “3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 3). Paul’s three fold response here might remind you of the ending verse of 1 Corinthians 13, what we call the love chapter. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Here in his letter to the Thessalonians he says that he is thankful for their threefold response of faith, love, and hope. Now, how does their response of faith compare to our response?
 
Paul says that he is thankful for their response of work which was produced by faith. He says, “6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (v. 6-10). Their faith stirred in them the desire to work, spreading the Good News of Jesus. This was truly a good work coming through faith and through Jesus working that good work in them. We respond to the faith worked in us by bearing witness of our faith to others, either verbally, or non-verbally. As we “wear” the name Christian, others look at us, hear our words and see our actions and judge Christianity according to our example. As the Lord grants us opportunity and the courage to speak of our faith and our church to others we are responding with a work produced by faith. Our natural response to faith is worked in us through the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do and which are pleasing in God’s eyes and give glory to His Name. We show our faith through our good works of using our time, our talents, and our treasure to God’s glory. We give of our time and talents working on committees and boards, attending Bible studies and Adult Bible class. We give of our treasure by returning to Him a portion of His many gifts to us.
 
Paul goes on to say that he is thankful for their labor prompted by love. The type of love Paul is talking about here is the Greek love agape. Agape is better translated as “a selfless concern for another person.” The Thessalonians responded to their faith by putting off thoughts of themselves and thought only of others in order to spread the Good News of Jesus. We respond to our faith by our acts of selfless concern for others. Through our giving of ourselves to help others in need we show our labor prompted by love. 
 
Finally, Paul says that he is thankful for their endurance which is inspired by hope. Paul is here specifically speaking of their endurance through persecution which is something we might not experience, at least not to the extent of the Thessalonians. But we do suffer persecution to some extent in our day and age. Our persecution may be that some of our fellow workers laugh at us behind our backs because we spend our Sunday morning in worship and Bible class. But we endure through our persecution because of our hope in Jesus.
 
If Paul were writing to us here at St. Matthew today his introduction might read something like this: To the church at Westfield in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith of spreading the Gospel through the witness of your members, tracts, your Mother’s Day Out Program, your Vacation Bible School, your Bible study classes, the preaching of the Word and administering of the sacraments. We remember before our God and Father your labor inspired by love, your labor of visiting the sick, the shut-in, and those in the nursing homes, your labor of preparing food for bereaved families, and your labor of making people feel welcome in your midst. We remember before our God and Father your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Your endurance through good times and bad and your willingness to support your church through all times.
 
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because the Gospel came to you not simply with words preached from the pulpit, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament to bring each of you to a deep conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of His name. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Practice Contentment - October 12, 2014 - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23) - Text: Philippians 4:4-13

I believe that one of our biggest struggles in life is to understand and admit the difference between a want and a need. If you ever were a child and if you have ever had children, you know how it is, “I need that particular brand of cereal because if you collect the box tops you can get a free toy.” “I need that particular dress, or pair of pants so I look good, and different, like everyone else.” “I need to new set of wheels.” “I need a new computer, the latest and greatest.” “I need the newest phone to be able to keep up.” I am told that when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone he thought every city should have a phone, one phone. Boy would he be surprised today? Do we really need to have a television in every room of the house? Does everyone really need their own phone? Of course, all these things are physical things, but I think we could agree that when it comes to the physical blessings of life all we really need is food, shelter, shoes and clothing.
 
But what about our spiritual needs? Or do we even think about our spiritual needs? What do we need spiritually? Unfortunately, when it comes to our spiritual needs, verses our spiritual wants, we tend to have an opposite view of our wants and needs than that of our wants and needs according to our physical perspective. What I mean is that when it comes to the physical blessings of life we tend to think our wants are actually needs and our needs are actually wants, but when it comes to spiritual blessings, we tend to think we do not necessarily need forgiveness of sins, to be in divine service and Bible class every Sunday because we think we are pretty holy and knowledgeable already. We tend to not think about our Baptism nor our need to come to the Lord’s Table to be strengthened in our faith. Indeed, when it comes to our spiritual needs, we tend to think our wants are needs and our needs are wants.
 
I mention this difference of wants and needs because in our text Paul calls us to rejoice in all things and to be content. We begin with Paul’s encouragement to rejoice in the Lord always, verse four, “4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (v. 4-7). Although we may not always see it at the time, we can know for certain that God’s will for us is always good and right. Certainly when we are having difficulties and struggles in our lives it may not appear as if God’s will is right or good, but God is love and He knows more about what is best for us than we actually do.
 
Paul encourages us to lay all our concerns on God in prayer. Of course, as we have mentioned in Bible Class and I am sure here before as well, God already knows what we need even before we ask. The reason we ask is because of our own need to acknowledge and verbalize our need, to admit before God our need. And so Paul encourages us to take it to the Lord in prayer.
 
Paul reminds us of the phrase we very often hear at the end of a sermon, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7). The peace of God is that peace of forgiveness and removal of the guilt of sin. True peace can only come from forgiveness of sins. And that true peace of forgiveness does surpass all understanding, because no one can truly understand the love that God has for us so much that He gave His life for ours and for our forgiveness.
 
With forgiveness of sins, with peace, then we can rejoice in the Lord always. What else is there to do, but rejoice, with sins forgiven?
 
Perhaps you have heard it said, that a change of behavior is one thing, but unless there is a change of heart, a change of behavior will only last so long. Paul encourages a change of heart in us and he does so by encouraging us to think good thoughts. Picking up at vers eight, “8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (v. 8-9). We are not simply to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, but what Paul is saying is that we are to live such things. Paul’s words are a call to action.
 
One of our first thoughts after hearing Paul might be the eighth commandment where we are reminded that we are to put the best construction on everything, which truly is contrary to our normal human nature. As sinful human beings, we always like to hear the dirt, the bad stuff. Why do you think the news media does so well. I wonder what would happen to television stations if they only ran good news and tried to explain everything in the best way. They would probably go out of business. But this is exactly what Paul is calling us to do, to put the best construction on all things, to put into practice living a life of true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy living.
 
And again, God will give us peace. True peace is not simply a few minutes of calm and serenity, but is knowing that our sins are forgiven. With sins forgiven we know we have eternal life in heaven and thus we truly have peace.
 
Finally, Paul encourages us to be content. Picking up at verse ten, “10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (v. 10-13). Paul reminds us that in times of plenty we are to be content. Of course, in times of plenty we usually are content, or are we? Perhaps we might actually be less content in times of plenty, because when we have plenty we begin to realize that there is plenty more to be had that we do not have and so very often we are discontent and want even more.
 
Paul reminds us that in times of want we are to be content. Certainly we might surmise that those who have less might be less content, however the less we have means we may not realize there is more to have and so we might simply rejoice in what we have thinking it could be worse. Indeed, there are dangers in having too much and there are dangers in having to little. What we have may be the best of how much we have and so we are to be content.
 
Paul says that the secret of contentment is that God gives the strength to be content. My sinful nature is to desire, to covet, to lust, to want more and more. Only as the Lord has His way with me, only as I recognize that all that I do have is first and foremost a gift from God, only then can I begin to get a handle on being content, knowing and realizing that God has given me all that I truly need and in most cases for most of us more than we need and much of what we might want, although I am sure we can always want more.
 
So, what does all this mean and what does it mean for us today? First, as usual, Paul’s words remind us that when it comes to being content, we fail. We fail in that we fail to recognize that God is the one who gives all and we are the ones who are given to. Instead we tend to think that what we have we have earned or deserved and the same then tends to be true when it comes to our spiritual well being, that is that we think we have earned or deserve some of heaven.
 
Second, Paul’s words remind us that although we fail, Jesus succeeded. Jesus came to this earth, true God who gave up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, to be born as a human being. Jesus never owned a house, property, livestock, a car, a phone, a computer. All Jesus had was the clothes on His back and yet He was never concerned for what He might be lacking and He was content. Jesus faced the struggles, the trials and tribulations of this life, the same struggles, trials and tribulations that we face and even greater. In His poverty He had all that He needed. Through His struggles, trials and tribulations He was content. Indeed, the very reason He came to this earth, God in human flesh, God intervening in time and history, was to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus came to live perfectly for us in our place, obey all the laws and commands of God perfectly for us in our place. And then after fulfilling what we are unable to do, after living in contentment, He took our sins upon Himself, our sins of discontent as well as all our sins He took upon Himself in order to suffer and die to pay the price for our sins, because of His great love for us.
 
And now, God gives us strength. What Jesus has done for us is a completed action. Jesus has taken care of our sins. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to give us faith. God works through the means of grace to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. Justification has been accomplished and we will never add anything to what God as done for us, what He does for us and what He continues to do for us. Now that we have been given to by God, the Holy Spirit works in and through us through the means of grace to be the people God would have us to be, to be content.
 
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice!” How can we not rejoice when we come to see with eyes open wide that God loves us, that God gives us His all and that God has so much more He wants to give to us? How can we not rejoice when we know that God gives us what He knows is best for us and He always gives us His best, including Himself for us and for our forgiveness? How can we do anything less than live a life of faith as our Lord strengthens us through the gifts and blessings He has to give through His means of grace? And as our Lord has so blessed us while we are in this world, indeed, we continue to look forward to more gifts and blessings as we look forward to spending eternity with Him in heaven feasting on the richest of food and the best well-aged wine. Indeed, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Confidence in Christ Alone - October 5, 2014 - Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) - Text: Philippians 3:4b-14

When we are little, we like to think of ourselves as being big. Perhaps none of us remembers or would like to remember, going through potty training, but when we take our children through this ritual, we make a big deal of no longer having to be in diapers. What a big boy or what a big girl we are when we can manage our own toilet skills. As we grow older we continue to like to think of ourselves as being big. It is not until we get a little older and wiser that we realize it was all a trick. You know how it is. When you learn to make your own bed and you announce that you are big enough to make your own bed, then that chore becomes your responsibility. Now you have to make your own bed. The same with mowing the grass, carrying out the trash, washing the dishes. When we get big enough to do these things, they become our responsibility, our chore, and then, very often, we no longer want to be big nor have that responsibility. This morning Paul gives us some good advice concerning our being “big,” at least when it comes to thinking we are “big” in our own Christian faith and faith life.
 
When it comes to having self-confidence about one’s faith life, really no one could out do Paul. We begin by listening to him outline what might be his reasons for his own self-confidence in his faith life. We read beginning at verse four,  “4bIf anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless” (v. 4-6). Paul begins by outlining why he could be confident in his own faith life, if works of the law saved. Paul was, after all, a Hebrew of Hebrews, even a Pharisee of Pharisees, a real son of the covenant. He was even out persecuting that new sect, the followers of the Way or Christians as we are known as today. If following the letter of the law brought salvation, Paul’s salvation was a shoe-in.
 
Of course, when we attempt to outline our good works, in order to show how good we are, what good Christians we are and how we are deserving of our own salvation, it just does not come out quite like Paul’s. Our self justification might include how we are not as bad as the next person. Our neighbor, our friend, our family member is so much worse than we are. We go to church on Sunday, well maybe not every Sunday, but at least every other Sunday. We give of some of our time to church, at least once in a while. We put some of our earnings into the offering basket, at least when we are in church. We really are pretty good people. We do not have any spiritual problems. We might even surmise that Jesus only had to die a little for me, but He had to die a lot for my neighbor. Really, we are, after all, pretty good people and does not pretty good account for something? Or so we tend to think.
 
Yet, for Paul, even though he might be able to justify himself, he goes on to tell us that all of this he counts as a loss. We pick up at verse seven, “7But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (v. 7-11). All these good works Paul outlines, all his education, his being a Pharisee of Pharisees, his being trained in the best schools, he counts as loss, as nothing, even as rubbish or literally as dung. It is kind of like we heard last week, when we get to heaven no will be interested in what car we drove, what kind of house we lived in, what school we attended, what team we rooted for or whether they won or lost, how smart we were, all that will be nothing and mean nothing.
 
When it comes to attempting to justify ourselves before God, we all try. We compare ourselves to those people we know are, at least as we view them to be beneath us. We are not as bad as people who have been jailed for their crimes. We are not as bad as our neighbor who has loud parties until all hours of the night. We are not as bad as other members of our family who constantly have family problems. We are even not as bad as some members of our own congregation who are not nearly as spiritual, or religious or as holy as we think ourselves to be. And yet, Paul reminds us that all our good works count as nothing before Christ. What Paul wants us to see is that if we are going to compare ourselves to anyone in order to justify ourselves before God, then the only one person to whom we must compare ourselves is to Jesus. And of course, when we compare ourselves to Jesus, who is just and perfect and holy, then we see we always come up lacking.
 
Our right standing before God does not come from our being able to keep the law of God. For we know that we are unable to keep God’s law. If we were to attempt to justify ourselves before God by keeping the law, then we would have to keep the law perfectly. We would have to keep the law in thought, word and deed. We would have to not sin sins of commission, doing the things we should not be doing, nor sin sins of omission, that is we would be doing the things we should be doing. And so we see we fail. Time and again we fail. We cannot keep the law perfectly and so we cannot justify ourselves before God. We are sinners. Our greatest problem is spiritual and our need for forgiveness of sins. Even so Paul brings us good news. He reminds us that Christ gives us faith which means His work becomes our work, His life becomes our life. By faith in Jesus, faith given through the means of grace, Jesus’ life, all He did, His perfect living, His perfect life in thought, word, and deed, His never sinning sins of commission, His never sinning sins of omission, His life is counted, is credited to us. When we stand before God, by faith in Jesus, when God looks at us, He sees, not our unworthiness, but Christ’s perfection as if it were our perfection.
 
What this means that Christ gives faith, is that His righteousness becomes our righteousness. We are able to stand in right standing before God, by His grace, through faith in Jesus alone. What Christ did He did for us, and this is an accomplished act, it has already been done and completed so that nothing else needs to be done. So, there is nothing we have to do because everything has already been done for us and given to us.
 
But Paul is not finished. He reminds us that we still have a life to live, while we are alive in this world. We have a goal to press on to. We pick up at verse twelve, “12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (v. 12-14). Our goal is eternal life. This goal has been accomplished, not by us, but by Christ. Eternal life is ours, now, right at this moment. Certainly we will not move into heaven until we pass on from this world, but heaven is ours now.
 
And yet, we do not simply sit around in this world on our grace and do nothing. While we continue to live in this world we continue to press on toward our prize of heaven. Although our good works mean nothing, at least as far as earning heaven, yet while we live in this world our sin stands glaring us in the eyes. As Paul reminds us elsewhere, although we may want to do what is good and right and salutary, our nature is to go on sinning and that is what we do.
 
And so, we even more depend on Christ. He gives us faith. Faith gives us forgiveness. And the Holy Spirit moves us to look forward, doing the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. And we do them, not in any attempt to pay for or earn the gifts that are given, but as a response of the gifts that have been given.
 
What does this mean? First and foremost, contrary to the messages of our culture and our society, contrary to the messages of the media in movies, sitcoms, books and the like, our good works avail nothing for salvation. Let me say that again just in case we miss it. Our good works mean nothing when it comes to our eternal salvation. As a matter of fact, in God’s eyes, our good works are as filthy rags. We can list all the “good” things we think we have done while here on this earth and yet none of these count as anything before God when it comes to securing our eternal salvation in heaven. As a matter of fact, if we should attempt to depend on our good works for our own eternal salvation, then they become a detriment, not that doing good works is a detriment, but our depending on them would be such.
 
It was Christ who paid the price for our sins, including our trying to use our good works as collateral. Yes, every time we have thoughts of being good enough or not being as bad as someone else, every time we think we may not need Jesus to die too much for us because we are, after all, pretty good people, every time we have such thoughts, and yes, every time we refuse and reject the gifts God gives through absenting ourselves from where the gifts are given out, Jesus paid the price for those sins as well. He paid the complete price for all sins for all people of all places of all times. His payment was so complete that nothing more needs to be done for the salvation of all those who believe in Him.
 
And even more, Christ stirs in us to be the people He would have us to be so that we do live lives to His glory. Paul points us in the right direction. Paul reminds us that we get it right when Jesus is the one doing the doing and we are the ones being done to. Which is why our desire is to be where the gifts of God are being given out whenever (always when) they are being given.
 
If anyone could boast, it would be Paul. We simply cannot ignore this fact, that if anyone, other than Jesus, could put his life up for earning eternal life it would have to be Paul. And yet, even Paul knows that this is not the case. He knows that his good works, his birthright, his persecution and affliction are nothing and mean nothing when it comes to his salvation and he even counts them as nothing. He knows and he reminds us and encourages us that it is Christ who has done all and who gives all to us. And it is Christ who motivates us in our striving in our pressing on toward the goal of eternal life. And so, I too encourage you in your own faith life and faith walk. Do not depend on yourself, but depend on Christ. Make regular and diligent use of the means of grace. Remember your baptism. Read and come and hear the Word proclaimed. Be in divine service and Bible Class. Have personal and family devotions. Come to confession and hear those most beautify words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” Come to the Lord’s Table and eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins and for strengthening in faith. And have confidence in your salvation because your salvation is secure in Christ. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.