Only One Guy Understood—How Ironic
† In the name of Jesus, Son, Savior, King †
May the grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ draw you closer and closer to them! As close as a criminal executed for his bad (crappy) life!
- I Love Good Irony
Pastor Parker knows I like irony, for a few reasons….
But theological Irony? Well, I might need more teaching…to understand that!
Take this cartoon that someone put on the internet (ask Doug to advance slide or use the clicker)
But what most of you don’t know is that Charles Schultz was a devout Christian and used the Peanuts cartoon as a way to tell people about Jesus!
Linus will go from waiting for the Great Pumpkin in that movie to reciting the story of Jesus’ birth in the Christmas special. Hmmm That’s cool! From waiting for Someone to Come and bring ultimate blessings–to seeing that Someone to come at Christmas! Sound familiar?
Anyone make that connection?
Here is where irony comes in… Lucy kills Jes… err the Great Pumpkin and serves Him up for everyone to eat.
HMMMMMMMM… someone mocked the Peanuts characters and unknowingly revealed one of the most blessed mysteries in scripture. That Jesus would provide His body and blood to us, to help us know He loves us and would die for us! And we would share in that Body and Blood as gather here today!
Pastor thinks Schultz would love this cartoon… He certainly does. I think I do too!
So back to the gospel reading, and more irony!
- The Crowds and Experts (and sometimes us)
So, let’s talk about some serious mocking—or, as they say today—trash talking.
This is even more intense than pastor and I comparing Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers!
Hear the gospel again,
The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
That’s pretty nasty to say to a guy tortured and nailed to a cross to pay for your sins, don’t you think?
Other’s picked up on it, saying,
The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
Even Pilate, the governor, got into the act. This is what he had done…
A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
Man, these people are cruel!
I mean—I can’t see myself being that cruel to a guy was guilty and about to be executed!
Never mind doing that to Jesus, we would never ever do that, would we?
Here is the hard part of the law—we have…
Every time we have tried to kick Jesus off of the throne, by choosing our way, rather than His. Every time we have broken the commandments, or failed to love our neighbor, we deny the fact that He died to save us!
This is harsh—and I wish Pastor was preaching this… o wait- then I would sit there and pay attention…. And hear the law. It would sting and rip my sinful heart to pieces… hmmm… maybe it’s better I am up here…
We need to see our sin as…well sin. We need to see it as just as much a betrayal of Jesus as those people who mocked him, and those who laughed. We have to struggle with it, so that we become as desperate as the man on the cross… whose only hope…hanging there next to Jesus… was Jesus.
- Irony Man
Now we get to the criminal on the cross. Not the dude that mocked Jesus, but the one the Holy Spirit worked on, the one whose heart was opened, who saw Jesus as the Messiah, as the savior
The word for criminal is interesting. Kaka-poi-a-oh. It’s actually two words merged into one. The Poi-a-o one is to craft something—to bring artistic level skill to your work. So this guy is an artist when it comes to what he does…
What he does is the Kaka part. Now, that isn’t what it sounds like! It means the worst of the worse, the scummiest kind of bad actions against others. He was convicted of a capital crime—murder, treason; you know the other options.
And while everyone was mocking Jesus, telling him to save himself—this guy was the one to see that Jesus had to die… that Jesus must die, if there was any hope..
It is ironic—that the baddest, scummiest, crappiest sinner in the crowd was the one to see the need for Christ’s sacrifice… and to say… “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
I think it’s only when we put ourselves in his shoes… when we realize how broken and bad we’ve been, that we can see how wonderful Jesus is! How he is our hope—whether we are facing dealing with the consequences of our sin, or the ultimate consequence of sin as death approaches!
He is our King, the one who came to save us.
No matter how bad our kaka-poi-a-o has been…
We can cry out—Jesus, remember us, dear King!
And at Communion, what is called the Great Feast, I almost said pumpkin—as we celebrate, we recall what He said—do this; remembering me… proclaiming my death for you… until He comes again.
Jesus is here, and He could not save Himself, because He was saving you.
But in doing so, He entered His kingdom, and there will be a day when that Kingdom will be as clearly seen.
Until then, you still dwell in His Kingdom, as surely as the sinner on the cross next to Him, and therefore in His peace that passes all understanding, which He will keep you in…. AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day
12 When he was in distress, he sought the favor of the LORD his God and earnestly humbled himselfe before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and the LORD was receptive to his prayer. He granted his requestf and brought him back to Jerusalem, to his kingdom. So Manasseh came to know that the LORD is God. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 CSB
26 Say this to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says: As for the words that you heard, 27 becausen your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before me, and you tore your clothes and wept before me, I myself have heard’—this is the LORD’s declaration. 28 ‘I will indeed gather you to your ancestors, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace 2 Chron 34:26-28 CSB
Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful. “This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”
Likewise, they teach that this faith is bound to yield good fruits and that it ought to do good works commanded by God on account of God’s will and not so that we may trust in these works to merit justification before God Article VI, Augsburg Confession
Naturalness and simplicity are two marvelous human virtues which enable men to take in the message of Christ. On the other hand, all that is tangled and complicated, the twisting and turning about one’s own problems—all this builds up a barrier which often prevents people from hearing our Lord’s voice.
Reading about the Kings of Judah can be depressing, it can even rob you of hope. For so many of them rejected the God we know, that their ancestor David knew so well. Mannasseh started out like so many of them, in fact, he may have been the one who strayed the furthest from God, leading people into all forms of idolatry.
Then God entered into the picture… and everything changed.
God brought him back to Jerusalem – completely reversing the captivity that has been prophesied to Hezekiah. His grandson would grasp on to that promise as well, and restore the Temple, the place where God would meet His people, care for them and cleanse them.
They both realized their need for God, and that humbled them. And God healed them, and healed the people,
That is the same kind of spirit that Macarius had, One that realized that anything good in him was because of God, and indeed tracable to Jesus. It is the same thing the Lutheran Confessions testify too – that the believer will do good and righteous thigns, as they dwell in Christ. That is the nature of the Bishop, who gave up the treasure of the church, his own treasures, because ValJean was one of God’s people. It would take a lifetime for ValJean to give up the game… but he did.
It is keeping it simple – because the more complicated we make it, the more plans and strategies we lay down, the more it is about our work, and the less it is about Jesus.
Which brings us to the idea of the church, the people the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and makes holy by the Blood of Jesus. That is who we are. a bunch of broken people desperately in need of God’s love, and His touch on our lives.
That is what being a normal Christian is about, our need for God, a God who is always there. A God who can redeem us, and what we’ve done, and even find a way to make that into a blessing. So we don’t have ot hide who we are, we dont’ have to make up stories, or play games that make us our to be more moral or virtuous than we are. We can stop wasting time on trying to convicne ourselves and others that we are worth some.
God alreayd provided for that, by letting us nail Jesus to the cross. Sending Him to be nailed there, so that we could be drawn into Him….die to self… and be resurrected to new life.
That is what it all boils down to…
We are in Jesus…..
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 41.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the New Year
5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone— my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. Psalm 32:5 (MSG)
Brother Lawrence expressed the highest moral wisdom when he testified that if he stumbled and fell he turned at once to God and said, “O Lord, this is what You may expect of me if You leave me to myself.” He then accepted forgiveness, thanked God and gave himself no further concern about the matter.
“Tell the backslider,” says the Lord, “I am married unto him.” Was there ever a tenderer message?
My beloved Jesus, I am not yet perfect; but Thou canst make me perfect. I am not dear to Thee, and it is my own fault, because I have been ungrateful and unfaithful; but Thou canst make me become so, by inebriating me this morning with Thy love.
Gracious and Exalted Savior, we are not worthy to receive the mercy and goodness which Thou dost give us, and on account of our sins are far too unclean and weak rightly to receive this salutary gift. Sanctify us therefore in body and soul by Thy Holy Spirit; prepare us and adorn us with grace to draw near Thy holy Table.
What a way to start a year… with such refreshing prayers of de Ligouri and Loehe, a Catholic Mystic and a Lutheran Pastor. Add in Tozer quoting Brother Lawrence, a protestant quoting Roman Catholic lay monk, and the message is reinforced again. And yet, that is the only way to beging a year….
To realize our imperfection, and our hope!
Such is the way of Christ, who knew our sin, and still died for it. He knew our struggling with it, and sends the Holy Spirit.
It is no wonder deLigouri talks about God causing us to be inebriated to be drunk on the love He pours into us. To be dressed in the very grace of God, to be clothed with jesus.
This has been the way… it has been planned since the beginning, and sinners have become holy by experiencing the giddiness, the feeing lightheaded, that happens as the burdens of guilt, shame and resentment are lifted off of you.
This is how we need to start the new year. This is what you need to experience throughout 2021… It is what I need more than anything as well….forgiveness, pressures and burdens lifted….
God with us…
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 89.
William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F. C. Longaker, Third Edition. (Newport, KY: n.p., 1902), 31–32.
1 Cor. 3:1-9
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus help you see God at work, causing you to depend on the fact God loves you!
Teaching Little Ones ( or Big Ones!)
There are a lot of amazing things in life. The Grand Canyon, the dawn on the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches and the sunset’s you see sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean. Things people do also amaze me, whether it is skilled athlete, or our musicians.
Or our preschool teachers, especially Lisa and Lorena – who work with the tiniest of toddlers. Keeping them focused on a lesson, and sitting still in chapel, well, mostly still
Keeping big kids focused is hard enough, I can’t imagine the faith that results in patience that God gives our teachers!
That’s why Paul will compare the Corinthians (and us) to infants in Christ! For while they should be focused on what is important, they are not. And so in frustration Paul tells them that he has to treat them like toddlers, or people that have absolutely no clue about the love and mercy of God.
Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it?
But all we have to do is look around, and we see the leaders who act as if they are playing out back in the playground. Then we see similar things among our church leaders. I will freely admit to getting distracted from what is important, and acting more than a toddler at times! I want what’s mine! Give it back! That’s not fair!
In the background, Jesus waits, for the Holy Spirit is at work… and will use God’s word, including these words penned by Paul, to correct us, to help us to focus, to get us back into what comes close to a line!
Distracted by what is not important
In the readings from 1 Corinthians, we see what was the distraction of the day. It was who the people followed. It must have been a significant problem, for Paul spends some time on it.
For some reason, they tried to establish a spiritual pedigree. I have seen that – even among pastors! They somewhat jokingly compare whether they were trained at our Ft. Wayne Seminary, or St. Louis Serminary! How ludicrous, especially when they know that the best pastors come from Irvine!
Can you imagine if people here argued about whether the Lord’s supper was better from the hand of Pr. Mazemke, or Pr. Rossow, or Pr. Hsu, or Pr. CHen or from me? The bread and the wine are what is important, not whose hand put it into your hand.
If that is true for the communion we serve, it should be true for the message we give. As long as that message is about Jesus, about His love for you, about His forgiveness, that message that we sum up in a couple of statements…
The Lord is with YOU! ( and also with you)
Alleluia! His is risen! (He is risen indeed!) and therefore (we are risen indeed!)
Everything else, including which pastor brought you to know Jesus, or where you learned about His love, isn’t as important as the fact that God loves YOU!
What is important
You see, the intellect, the charisma of the pastor, that is not what caused you to believe. It was not by your reason or strength nor mine. It is, and always will be the presence of the Holy Spirit that causes the growth.
All of us and everything we do is used by the Holy Spirit, whether it is the music team, or Lisa teaching the kids, or Sandi keeping the books, or Dane, Bob, and Tom as they bring other people the Lord’s Supper. Even our coming to the altar is about one thing – letting God do the work of making a masterpiece of our lives,
Hear the verse again,
What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
To truly being to understand that verse, we need to replace the word seed with the word, us,
What’s important is that God makes me grow!
What’s important is that God makes us grow!
God causes the growth in each one of us, and in us as a while.
We must realize this my friends, this is what is important, the work God does in your life! In our lives together. Seeing that He is working in our midst, through each other, all to the same purpose of helping everyone know God is actively part of their life. That is perfecting them, transforming them as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
“17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
That is the purpose – that God is making us more and more like Jesus… that’s the goal and that is how God will continue to work in us, and through us.
That is what encourages pastors to do what we do, and empowers us to be there… -when we see people grow in their ability to depend on God, to trust in Him, to believe in Him. For the miracle we see occurring is that transformation that only the Holy Spirit can be credited for…
and so we shall… (lead into doxology…)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
5 I trust your love, and I feel like celebrating because you rescued me. 6 You have been good to me, LORD, and I will sing about you.
Psalm 13:5-6 (CEV)
O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it; sing gratefully; shout triumphantly.
548 If you feel the Communion of the Saints—if you live it—you’ll gladly be a man of penance. And you will realize that penance is gaudium etsi laboriosum—“joy in spite of hardship,” and you will feel yourself “allied” to all the penitent souls that have been, that are, and that ever will be.
I grew up among a generation that was told not to focus on experiences, not to trust our feelings. to only focus on a logical, rational presentation of Christianity.
I’ve also seen the other extreme in my youth, where people chased after religious experiences, who wanted to feel the positive vibes that come when experiencing the supernatural, I think those excesses of the late 60’s and 70’s led to the pendulum swing of the 80’s and into the new millenium.
Both sides treat the other side with suspicion, both sides blame the other for the death or at least the hospice status of the church. ANd both try to convince me and others that their focus is the best and only hope, relying not on God for the growth of the church, but on man’s wisdom, and man’s ability to create the right… environment… that will bring about revival.
While I think both are wrong, and grow weary of both, I do think think that a sign of revival is an experience, Not one of great passion, not one of great signs and wonders.
Instead a humbling experience, one that touches the depth of our brokenness, and leaves us tired, exhausted, and in awe of what we’ve encountered… the grace of God.
That is what Spurgeon is talking about with the term loving kindness. cHesed in Hebrew, it is that experience of the merciful love of God that comes to us in our brokenness, in the depth our our sin, when we are with hope, and dries our tears and whispers to us that we are forgiven, that we are being healed, and restored.
That is what Escriva is talking about with the joy in the midst of hardship, the experience that causes us, in the future when we sin again, to pray for repentance and restoration with confidence,
It is the quiet celebration of the Psalmist, who though he believed there was no hope, found that hope in the middle of despair.
We aren’t talking about seeing a miracle that leaves everyone applauding like a Superbowl victory, (Well heaven parties like that) but one that leaves us like the feeling, having worked all night, to see the break of dawn…knowing that peace and rest is near… yet struggling to believe it.
We have to experience this healing, we can’t just “know” it happened once. We need to struggle with it, to ask, ‘could God have really loved me this much, and then be assured, by scripture and by the sacraments, yes, He does.
THis experience is contagious, it sweeps communities and nations, it changes individuals and countries, it changes the church, which welcomes sinners home with confidence, expecting to see the miracle again that reminds us of our miracle…. as we share in something that leaves us… awe doesn’t seem strong enough a word.
This experience can’t be manipulated, it is not subject to our feelings or our knowledge. It is the work of the Holy Spirit, drawing us, even dragging us to the foot of the cross, helping us see we belong there, nailed to the cross, sharing in Christ’s death, and wondering why we are even allowed near Him. And then coming to the realization that because we died with Him, we rise from the dead with Him.
That’s not head knowledge, that is life…and that life has to be lived….
Heavenly Father, help us to see the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, drawing us to the cross, uniting us to His death and resurrection. Help us to see this, not as observers, but from actually experiencing the reality of the SPirit’s work. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1322-1325). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, 19 to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, 20 for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! 21 The appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) 22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, 23 to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, 24 to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel. Heb. 12:18-24
I have a dear friend, who owns an antique shop*, which specializes in China and glassware and all the fancy stuff. When I drop in to visit her lovely shop, I tend to get a bit… anxious.
You see, at 6’2, 300+ pounds and with the grace that could only be compared to a drunk giraffe on ice skates, I am paranoid that I will trip and fall and set off her entire shoop like one of those domino exhibits.
Why am I telling you this? I think we occasionally get the idea that God is fragile, that His holiness somehow makes Him brittle. Or perhaps it is His patience with us that is brittle.
Either way, we become stand-offish, trying to find the one safe place that is safe to stand, out of the way, out of the danger, unable to cause a major spiritual catastrophe. We aren’t to stand and gaze on HIs beauty from afar, afraid to touch, afraid to approach, afraid to get personal with God. Worried that we will screw up something, or do something that will His anger, that we will deserve His wrath and punishment for breaking things, including our own lives.
That isn’t the God we have been drawn to, as the author of Hebrews tells us.
Holiness isn’t some kind of proper, reserved, dainty, perfect mannered attitude suitable for tea parties. (though Jesus does care for those who go to such events!**) It is an incredibly emotional overwhelming experience of relief or peace of love. It is like the time when our Soldiers first returned after the post-9-11 invasion of Iraq, as people lined the road out to the Marine Corps base for nearly 20 miles, celebrating the return of their loved ones.
Except holiness is not seen in celebrating the return of heroes coming home, but prodigals, sinners. Or holiness celebrates our being made holy, our being cleansed and set apart for this incredible relationship we have with God. We are reunited with the God who offered Thomas the chance to put his hand in His lance-pierced side, to know Jesus was with Him. We walk with the God who is willing to transform our heart and mind and share with s His in the process.
This is our God, a God who makes contact with us, who just doesn’t sit on a shelf, or look down on us from heaven. He is a God who shows us How much He loves us… by coming and dwelling among us, carefully restoring that which we’ve broken…because…
He loves us!
Relax, and soak in that love, and as you see people afraid of God, share with them the God who knows you! AMEN!
*If you are in Orange, Ca, you can visit my friend’s show at A&P collectibles in the Orange Circle 🙂
** the ladies of our church have an incredible ladies advent tea each year… and I am sure Jesus is present at it… 🙂
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
A good communicator is sensitive to beauty, perceives it and does not confuse what is beautiful with what is fashionable or only “nice” or simply “neat.”
Because it is human, sometimes beauty is tragic, amazing, touching; it sometimes pushes us to think what we do not want or unmasks our errors.
One of the challenges we face, whether we are with friends and family at a meal, or if we are before the church preaching the gospel, is communicating the beauty that is our relationship with God.
We can’t describe heaven, and I think that is intentional, for heaven is not about the location as much as it is the presence. The presence of the people of God in the presence of God. No sorrow, no tears, no pain, rather we will know the purest of joy, the most incredible peace. These are things that cant be described in words, we just will never find ones that significantly portray this beauty.
Not that we understand beauty all that much.
A pretty girl in a bathing suit may be considered beautiful by most, year, does that compare to a picture of a wounded soldier, being greeted and welcomed home by his family? Or a picture of Mother Theresa embracing a poor victim of leprosy in the streets of India? What about a rainbow, coming out on the edge of a storm,
I think the most vivid thing we can communicate, the most beautiful thing we can describe is the scene of redemption, the prodigal being embraced by a father, whose tears of joy wash the young sinner. The face of Peter, as Jesus reminds him, despite the betrayal, to feed the sheep. The face of Moses, a stubborn pessimistic, man hiding from his destiny, in awe at the bush on fire that doesn’t burn. The sinner at the communion rail, who finally understands the words, “for you…” and doesn’t want to leave the only place they have found peace. The old man, who with severe memory problems, looks for meaning in the church, decides to study for the diaconate and preaches an incredible sermon of our need for God, and the fact God was with us. (the amazing tears that flowed from his wife’s face, as she was convinced that he actually could do this… I cry just thinking of them. ) The little six-year-old, who begs and pleads for the body and blood of Christ, and lights up at her first communion
These things are beautiful, and though not perfectly described, give us a hint of the beauty that awaits us, as the redemption, as what is broken in our lives is healed. THere is beauty, a beauty that is found in the incredible transformation as we go from being alone to being in a relationship with God. As we realize that is our existence, our meaning in life.
God with us… nothing more beautiful in this life, or the next…
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 302). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
There is another Way
Romans 4:1-8, 13-17
† In Jesus Name †
As we realize the sin we commit, may we also realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from the sin, even as we come to depend on His presence in our lives!
In the midst of the passage from Romans this morning, our translation puts a few of the words inside of parenthesis. They are no less part of scripture, and I would call your attention to them this morning…
They are these words, “The only way to avoid breaking the law, is to have no law to break!”
That seems simple. No law, no breaking the law.
Even though they are scripture, they present a problem for us. They are a literary device, not what we would call “pure gospel”. A literary device, sort of like sarcasm or irony.
You see, as a literary device, the idea of getting rid of God’s law is predetermined to fail.
For one thing, it’s impossible.
For another… well you will see.
We can’t avoid it – because of Adam
Paul’s literary device fails, simply because we can’t avoid sin. Last week we saw why, sin entered the world through Adam, and it was passed on, as vicious as any virus or genetic anomaly to every person who was a product of human conception.
All we have to do is look at what our lives produce, and we know that the Apostle Paul was right when he said that, “the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.”
That seems like a bit of a challenge, doesn’t it? You try to obey God’s law, and you can’t!
Some will say the law is impossible, that we should just ignore God’s law, and do whatever we want. Others give up, and others pretend that they have never sinned, or that their sin isn’t as evil as the sins of those they complain about.
Sin, we’ve all done it, we’ve all earned the wrath of God that are the wages for that sin. Ignorance of the law doesn’t matter, and we can’t simply make God’s law disappear, or claim that it isn’t for us…
You can’t avoid the law, it exists, which is why we need what Abraham discovered….. the discovery that David says brings great joy.
Rejoice, we were cleared of breaking it.
Hear David’s words again,
7 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. 8 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord as cleared of sin.”
This promise is for all people, without care for their age, their ethnicity, where they lived or even the sin they committed. This wondrous act of God, clearing us of sin, putting the sin out of sight is amazing!
Trusting God, depending on Him to keep a promise that goes back to the garden of Eden is what we are talking about, it is how we have a “right relationship” with God.
Since the beginning this is God’s plan, since God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with the skins of animals, since God saw Abraham’s trust, first in the promise of Isaac’s birth, and then as he went to sacrifice Isaac, knowing God’s promise was deeper than he could understand. Hebrew’s tells us that he counted that through Isaac God would provide him more descendants than the sand on the shore, or stars in the sky.
That trust, that dependence on God saw Abraham counted as a friend, just as David, whose sins far outweighed his predecessor King Saul, God describes as a man after his own heart. Paul gets this as well,
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! 21Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God. 1 Cor. 5:20-21
This right relationship we share – another way of describing God’s work in creating it is what Paul told the church in Corinth – His way of changing us from enemies into His friends.
Let that sink in.
Like Abraham, being counted as righteous means you are counted as a friend of God.
That’s what a right relationship with God is, which explains why David uses this word joy to describe our sin being put away.
During Lent, this is what we focus upon, this work of God we need, this love of God that proclaims we are cleansed, healed, forgiven, loved, by the Creator of the universe, who created us to be His friend.
And though sin tried to break that relationship, our God had already prepared for that, even before creation, for His intent has always been the same as it was in the garden,
to walk with us… He as our God, we as His people, his children, His friends.
And the cross, it is our way to avoid the damage of sin. And it works. So be at peace and trust in God who loves you more than anything.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 7:22-25, 8:1-4 (NLT)
4 Don’t say, “That’s the way I am—it’s my character.” It’s your lack of character. Esto vir!—Be a man!
125 Since faith brings the Holy Spirit and produces a new life in our hearts, it must also produce spiritual impulses in our hearts. What these impulses are, the prophet shows when he says (Jer. 31:33), “I will put my law upon their hearts.” After we have been justified and regenerated by faith, therefore, we begin to fear and love God, to pray and expect help from him, to thank and praise him, and to submit to him in our afflictions. Then we also begin to love our neighbor because our hearts have spiritual and holy impulses.
“Pastor, I can’t help it, I am just a poor, poor sinner.”
That response is a conditioned response, it is what pastors and priests have taught people to say. It is the response to sin of a generation where the sacraments have been diminished. Where absolution is not really heard and understood in the heart and the mind.
But what it does pick up on, is the law that convicts it, the passages that say, “no one is good”, “all have sinned”, and a focus that never is taken off of the doctrine of justification. People have heard all about, they know what it is, well as far as we can’t save ourselves, we are dead in sin and God delivers us. But they don’t hear the so what – how this absolution, how this declaration that we are righteous changes our lives.
With on the “what”, people (and I include pastors and priests as people – we are really) will make the what the end of the story. We still sin, God still forgives. We aren’t perfect, we’re just forgiven, and people will turn that into permission to keep on sinning.
We believe that works can’t save us, we know that nothing we do merits salvation, and we stop (and encourage people to stop ) there. That’s enough, trust in God and you will be saved people believe.
When we allow this, o what a great disserve we do! It would be like telling a convict the charges against them are overturned, but not unlocking their cell door, not removing the handcuffs, nor giving them clothes that identified them as something other. We have to share the complete gospel, all of the mercy, reveal to them the wonder of His love.
They’ve been not only declared righteous, but the Holy Spirit dwells in them, making them holy. sanctifying them, empowering them to live the baptized, repentant (transformed ) life. Our people don’t need to live in secret, hiding behind their sin or their propensity to sin. They can be encouraged to live in the freedom that Christ has given them.
That is what the third quote, from the Lutheran Confessions, is telling us. That the Spirit creating life in our hearts, is creating the impulses to do that which isn’t sin, impulses to love God, impulses to love our neighbor, impulses to trust Him more and more, and because we trust Him we are driven to reach our and serve those around us, meeting needs from physical to emotional to spiritual.
This is how Paul, distraught over his sin, finally comes to the realization (and needed to remember it daily) that justified, we can set aside that sin, and follow the Spirit. Does that mean we won’t sin on occasion? No, but it changes what drives us, what impulses we want to follow -and as time goes by, as we explore the depth of God’s love revealed in Christ, those impulses bring us great joy.
This is what St. Josemaria talks about when he challenges us to be men, not those who hide behind the weakness of character, who justify sin by saying that is who they are.
It is a challenge to live life as God intended, walking with Him, focused on Him, but even when we fail, He has, He is the answer. The Christian life is knowing this and living in light of it.
Heavenly Father, have mercy on us, your children!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 177-178). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.Apology of the Augsburg Confession Article IV