The Gift of Pentecost:
I Can Depend on the Holy Spirit,
the Lord and Giver of Life
† In Jesus Name †
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!
The gifts of Pentecost
Advocate, Paraclete, Helper, Counselor, Comforter, these are words that describe the incredible gift gibe by God to us in the Holy Spirit.
The gift was given to the church at Pentecost and given to every member of the church ever since when God cleansed them with water and His word.
That is the great gift of Pentecost, that we can count on, that we can depend on the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord, who gives us life, and life that is full, for our brokenness is healed.
25 I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. 26 I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. 27 I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. Ezekiel 36:25-27 (MSG)
This is the Advocate, the Spirit who will testify to us all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts, transforming us, this is the Spirit that came because Jesus went to the Father until the day He returns.
The World’s Sin
One of the things that Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will do is convict the world of its sin.
But Jesus is very clear about what sin is, and what the Holy Spirit will convict us of, which is not trusting and depending on Jesus. That is the bottom line, sin is not having faith in the promises Jesus has made us. To lack faith is to not believe in Jesus’s words, His promises of love, His promises to guide and shepherd us.
That is where sin begins, in the attitude or action that proclaims, “I know which way to go, God,!” or “I know what is right FOR me” rather than hearing, “this is the body broken FOR you”, “this is the blood shed FOR you – for the forgiveness of sin!!”
That is what the Holy Spirit is going to remind us of, that the Spirit, our Advocate/Comforter/helper who will convict the world of its sin, of it’s not trusting God and depending upon Him…
I want to go back to verse 8 for a moment,
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.
Between Conviction and Judgment
I asked a bunch of people this week this question:
When you hear “judgment” is your first reaction negative or positive?
It was not surprising that most said negative, even one lawyer who said “always negative”. (do I want him defending me?) Note in the quote in scripture, there is something between convicting us of sin, and the coming final judgment.
The righteousness of God.
There is what the Spirit reminds us of, most of all. That God is just and righteous, but that righteousness includes fulfilling in us what is lacking, healing what is broken, forgiving that which is marred by sin.
The Spirit picks us help, helps us, comforts us, acts as our counselor, our advocate in these situations. The Spirit’s role is to bring us to Christ, to help us to cry out to God for mercy, even using the term of endearment, ABBA!
You see, putting the righteousness of God in between our realizing we are sinners and the final judgment turns that judgment from something negative into something positive.
For those who come, by the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, that judgment of God is this.
“You are righteous, innocent, holy, and mine!
That is what the insertion of God’s righteousness does, it makes sinners who trust in God holy. That is why the Holy Spirit is called the Lord and giver of life.
And this is what Jesus is talking about when He promises that the Holy Spirit will testify all about Jesus. Everything that Jesus has been, and done, and will continue to do.
That the Holy Spirit would comfort us, counsel us, help us, come alongside, be our advocate, and testify to us of the love of Christ, which draws us to the Father so we can live in peace. AMEN!
Devotional THought of the Day:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17 so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (TEV)
18 Lay the greatest weight on those commandments or other parts which seem to require special attention among the people where you are. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which treats of stealing, must be emphasized when instructing laborers and shopkeepers, and even farmers and servants, for many of these are guilty of dishonesty and thievery.8 So, too, the Fourth Commandment must be stressed when instructing children and the common people in order that they may be encouraged to be orderly, faithful, obedient, and peaceful. Always adduce ma.ny examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished and blessed.
531 “Treat him well for me, treat him well,” said a certain elderly bishop with tears in his eyes to the priests he had just ordained. Lord, I wish I had the voice and the authority to cry out in the same way to the ears and the hearts of many, many Christians!
The “S” word, sorry to tell you, isn’t “sex”
It’s the other “s” word that is difficult to talk about and for the same reason. It is just as awkward, embarrassing, and produces as much anxiety as talking about sex with your 11-13-year-old child.
And the consequences of not having conversations about sin are worse than letting the world teach your kids about sex. For lacking understanding about either sex or sin can lead to incredible pain, sorrow, and even death.
Not just physical death, the death of the spirit, death one’s soul.
So it is one we need to have. Not just pastor and parishioner, but parents and kids, those who teach and govern with those whose lives they are entrusted with, those whom God has put in their lives to love and care for beyond the point of sacrificing convenience, to the point of complete sacrifice.
We have to get by the discomfort and have these talked with each other. talking about the sins which entrap us, the sins which drive us into despair, the sins that isolate us.
but we have to do it with the skill and wisdom that only comes because of the love we have, because of the love we know God has for them. To talk about sin with the deliberate intent of freeing each other from its burdens of guilt and shame, from its curse and the death it causes.
We can’t talk about just to prohibit it, as if we could, by proper persuasion, convince them to never sin again. That will last an hour or two, and then they will hide the sin that entraps them, denying it, or justifying it in some form of logic we twisted them to use. I say “we” because talking about sin improperly leads people to fear talking about it with us. They have to realize that our goal is not to condemn the sinner, but free them.
This has to be made clear in our teaching, not just to proactively work with them to rely on God to overcome temptation, but also to help them run to the comfort and peace that comes with repentance, with absolution, that comes via the Holy Spirit washing and renewing our hearts.
This is our ministry, as pastors, as leaders, as parents, as those entrusted with the lives of others. Yet in order to dohese things, we have to be confident that God is working in our life as well, cleansing and strengthening us, causing us to run to the Father, through Jesus.
This is who we are… and Lord help us talk about sin… in the way you did! AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 340). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1285-1287). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for the day:
28 So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord’s body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. 30 That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. 31 If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment. 32 But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 (TEV)
235 Examination of conscience. A daily task. Bookkeeping—never neglected by anyone in business. And is there any business worth more than that of eternal life?
We don’t allow enough time for it in our church services.
Perhaps because the silent time of reflection is awkward.
Perhaps it is because of the shuffling of papers that occurs, or the sound of people shifting (squirming) in their seats, fifteen or so seconds into the silence.
Perhaps it is because we mistakenly think the things we have to say or sing are more important,
The time of reflection, when we consider that we’ve sinned against God, and against others. When we think back and take inventory of the time since we last confessed our sin since we are brought face to face with those moments where we failed to love, where we failed to care, where we made ourselves and our desires the most important thing in life.
It shouldn’t be just on Sunday morning that we do an examination our of lives or our consciences. But we need to do it before we commune, not out of a sense of duty, but because we need to realize why we commune, why we need Jesus to come to us, why we need to know He loves us.
Because we realize we are broken because we need to realize that it was our sin that Jesus responded to, laying down His life to erase it from our books with the grace found in the body broken and sacrificed, and love found as He offered His blood to cleanse us.
We need to do this, not to dwell in the guilt and shame, not to recount how horrible we are, but to realize how precious God’s forgiveness is, and how much He truly loves us, and how much we need to know He does love us.
That is why Paul warns us to examine ourselves. because as we do, we understand the blessing of God’s forgiveness. If we don’t if we neglect this, look at the warning, God will, and rather than pour out His grace, it will result in HIs judgment, and His punishment or worse, His wrath.
Not because we didn’t cover every sin (who has that big of a memory) but because we didn’t trust Him enough to deal with our failures, and we continued in life not dealing with our sin. Because we neglected the freedom God offered to us, and chose to stay in the dark.
So take your time, let God bring to your heart and mind the sins you need to know are forgiven. Ask Him to help you, so that you are convinced of this, you are clean, hole, healed,
Because He was broken, and His blood was shed, for you….
And knowing that, it is a time for a feast!…
How much time do you need, would you like, to examine your conscience in regards to the last week…?
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 640-642). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
Prayers answer in Christ’s Wounds: Make Me Yours! ( The first sermon in a Lenten series at Concordia)
Prayers answered in Christ’s Wounds
Make Me Yours
† I.H.S. †
The Mark you bear….the passion it represents
A moment ago, you had some palm tree ash put on your forehead. Ash, the dirt that comes from burning something that was once alive, but now is dead and is burnt because the option is to let it take up room while it rots and smells up the place.
Fire leaves behind what’s left, what can’t decay, what can’t be broken down anymore.
As we go through Lent, we are going to look at some of the deepest prayers of our souls, the prayers that we should be aware were answered completely, even if that answer remains partly hidden. We can learn that it is answered, we can begin to see that revelation, and know that in time, we will see it completely answered.
Those prayers are seen, in part, in the hymn, O Sacred Head Now Wounded, and each week we will add a verse, as we see the prayer that is answered in Jesus wounds….
The prayer tonight? It is found in the last line of the first verse, “I joy to call Thee mine.”
An appropriate prayer, considering it is Valentine’s day… a prayer to God, “be mine”, a prayer to God as well, “make me yours!”
An answer that we see in the mark, the brand you are wearing tonight. A mark that symbolizes not only our grief and brokenness but a mark that shows us that God has made us His.
The Mark of Brokenness, of grief and shame of the cross
Ashes, all that is left after all that can rot and stink has been taken away… Little better than carbon-based dust…something that can be blown away, even by a gentle breeze.
Ashes have been used as a sigh of grief for a long time, and though we also see them as a sign of repentance, they are first a sign of grief, a recognition that without Christ, our lives, so dominated by sin, are but the ashes and dust we come from, and the ashes and dust we will return to someday.
We often see them as a sign of repentance, but repentance comes as a gift from God and develops out of a sorrow for our sin, a realization of our brokenness. To realize the effect and impact of our individual sin, of the havoc that sin wracks in our lives.
And so we wear the ash, in sorrow and grief and shame.
The grief and shame that wears down the head of Jesus, wounded for us, to answer our prayers, Be mine, make me yours!
The Mark of Bliss
As we journey through this life with Jesus, as we journey with Him from the cross, we begin to see that the ashes leave the same mark as our baptism.
The sign of the cross, the place where Jesus was bruised and battered, the place Isaiah described so clearly in our reading tonight,
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)
It is tempting to see in this God the Father crushing Jesus, the accomplishment of anguish. The idea that all this required anguish, the anguish of the weight of our sin which He bears. All that is necessary for a time. But it is not where it ends. What we need to see, what will rescue us from the appropriate grief is this,
The Good plan,
The having many descendants,
The accomplishment ( in Greek this would be the same as “it is finished!”
the fact that many, including us, will be counted righteous.
In lent we need a both and, a time to grieve our sin, and a time to dance over the fact we are forgiven, hence the ashes in the sign of the cross…
Make Me thine
And in that cross, we hear those words, that we are found righteous, that it has been accomplished, that we have become His, for He has given us life.
He has made us His own.
We can rejoice, for we know the joy of calling Him ours, and we can say with the bluntest honest the words of the psalm, “I joy to call the mine!”
Devotional Thought of the Day:’
He has watched over your journey through this immense wilderness. The LORD your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing.’ Deut 2:7 HCSB
It has become habit to read through the Old Testament every year, and changing translations each new year. There are times it seems a drudgery, a journey through this guy begat that guy or a recitation of all of the different ways to sin. (as if I needed a detailed list!) What will I find here, I wonder, that will make this habit worth it. Where will I find something that is nourishing in this wilderness?
And then I come to a verse like the one above, Tucked into the history of Israel’s rebellion and sin, a recounting of all the times they did what was right to them, completely disregarding God’s directions, given through Moses.
Go here, they go there. Do this, they do something else. It sounds like a group I would find myself some like-minded companions. People who struggle just the way Paul did, doing what they shouldn’t, and failing to do what they should.
As Moses tells them their own history, there is this incredible verse. He tells them that as they have walked through the Wilderness, their punishment, their discipline for the sin they have committed, where God was.
There. providing for them. For 40 years, He didn’t abandon them as He disciplined them.
That is an incredible thing to realize.
By no means should that continue to wander in sin, we need to confess our sin, trusting in God to forgive those sins, because Jesus came and died to pay for them.
But there is a comfort to know that God doesn’t abandon His rebellious children, that He desires, truly desires that all come to repentance and that this is part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
What an amazing, loving merciful God we have, that allows us to wander, that disciplines us, and yet provides for us during that time, giving us what is truly beneficial!
He is with us, even when we don’t see it, even when we don’t want to see it. When we are faithless, still e is faithful.
So if you are wandering today, you can’t escape Him, so it is time to come home, and confess your sins, and find the incredible love and mercy of God is yours. Come, confess your sins, and find that He is faithful, forgiving you of those sins, and cleansing you of all unrighteousness.
Devotional Thought for our days:
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 JeI’ve Fallen, sus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” John 21:15-19 (NLT)
8 So Esau said, “What do you mean by this whole procession I met?”
“To find favor with you, my lord,” he answered.
9 “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replied. “Keep what you have.”
10 But Jacob said, “No, please! If I have found favor with you, take this gift from my hand. For indeed, I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me. 11 Please take my present that was brought to you, because God has been gracious to me and I have everything I need.” So Jacob urged him until he accepted.
12 Then Esau said, “Let’s move on, and I’ll go ahead of you.” Gen. 33:8-12 HCSB
173 Keep turning this over in your mind and in your soul: Lord, how many times you have lifted me up when I have fallen and once my sins have been forgiven have held me close to your Heart! Keep returning to the thought… and never separate yourself from Him again.
There are times we are like Peter and Jacob, we are so focused on our sin. We want to get past it, but we cannot. It is not just the sin that hinders our relationship, but the inability to do anything about it.
Jacob was afraid, over twenty years later, that Esau still wanted to kill him. Peter was afraid that Jesus would never forgive his betrayal, so afraid, he couldn’t be in awe of the Lord’s resurrection. Perhaps he feared the holiness it required would further alienate Peter from the one he adored.
Sin is more than one or two actions, it is deeper, and it affects us more than we would like to admit. Far too often we simply ignore the pain, and not believing the wounds that separate us can heal, we amputate the relationship. We simply deaden ourselves to the pain and refuse to grieve for what is lost. But without that grieving, we soon become dead to the world and dead to ourselves.
We forget the power of God that is at work in us, was the power that raised Christ from the dead!
That power can heal our brokenness, even restore that which we amputated, the relationships we cut off. This is the power of the resurrection that is Jesus Christ in us, and we in Him. Those sins and the unrighteousness that divides us? It was taken care of in our baptism, as they were washed away by the flood of Christ’s blood shed on the cross.
He lifts us up, as Esau lifted his brother up off the ground, as Peter was embraced by the risen Christ, and once again invited to walk with Jesus.
He holds us close to His heart, so very close! As he longed to do with the people of Jerusalem, when he wanted to embrace them, as a hen covers her chicks with her wings. He desires to clean us up, to make us spotless and pure, a glorious companion, as He shares life with us.
It may take us a while to learn this, we may need to relearn it a time or 20 , or 200.
But He is there, with us.
For He loves and cares for us… even when we struggle to see it.
Lord Jesus, help us to realize your love, help us to trust you and let you pick us up, and cleanse and heal the wounds and damage of sin. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 799-803). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our Days:
6 “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8 I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’” 9 So Moses told the people of Israel what the LORD had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 (NLT)
Now it becomes clear that what took place on Sinai, in the period of rest after the wandering through the wilderness, is what gives meaning to the taking of the land. Sinai is not a halfway house, a kind of stop for refreshment on the road to what really matters. No, Sinai gives Israel, so to speak, its interior land without which the exterior one would be a cheerless prospect. Israel is constituted as a people through the covenant and the divine law it contains. It has received a common rule for righteous living. This and this alone is what makes the land a real gift. Sinai remains present in the Promised Land. When the reality of Sinai is lost, the Land, too, is inwardly lost, until finally the people are thrust into exile.
As I read these two quotes above, as it talks of people who are discouraged and inwardly lost, they resonate with me. A lot of my ministry is helping people who think they are lost realize that they’ve been found, The role of a shepherd/pastor is to bring people home who are broken and lost.
Israel was there in Egypt, it wasn’t where they belonged. They would later confuse the belonging to being attached to real estate, and when they lost that and were taken in captivity again, they had already lost the belonging that made the land special in the first place.
It wasn’t the dirt they lived on that made them special, it was who they lived with, as God shared His glory with them. It was the interior life, as we dwelled with God that made the place special. It was the fact that they were aware that God had claimed them…
Even as He claimed us.
At Sinai, the people couldn’t do anything but dwell in God’s presence. They struggled with the glory, they struggled with depending on God for food (manna again!) and water. They struggled with idolatry, and with obedience.
Yet they lived in His presence, and they had access to the restoration God provided.
There is a lesson here, as we remember how dependable God was at Sinai, how eagerly He would restore those who came for forgiveness. He was there for them, He would rescue them again and again.
He will rescue us, and refresh our shriveled interior life, and help us to again live in His glory. For He has claimed us as His own> We are His people, whom He loves.
Discouraged by the evil you see in this world? The brokenness you feel in your life and the brokenness in the lives of those you love? There is hope, there is the promise. You are His!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, m where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-21 HCSB
165 You must always remember that the spiritual faculties are fed by what they receive from the senses. Guard them well!
“You shall have no other gods.”
1 That is, you shall regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What is to have a god? What is God?
2 Answer: A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
I really don’t like meditating on this passage in scripture, because if I do, then waht follows next is an inventory of what I truly treasure.
Add to it the words of Luther and St. Josemaria, and I begin to realize what I treasure, what I value, have slowly become my idols, and just as gently, they wean me away from my faith, my trust and dependence on God.
For there is no idol we create and feed that knows satisfaction. They desire more and more of our attention, more and more of our devotion, more and more time and money to satisfy them.
These idols may not be things we carve out of wood and stone, they can range from our health to our technology, to our careers, to even our family and their success. it might make more sense to ask what we value, what our priorities are, for it is the same question. What do we invest, not our money, but our time, and our thoughts in, because they are our top priority?
This is hard for me, there are a number of things I invest too much time, too much thought in, that can dominate my day, and often determine whether it is a good day, or it sucks.
So where is my hope, how do I break away from these idols, and see my support systems taken away?
Simply put, to treasure heaven, to treasure the intimacy with God that is ours because of the work of Christ Jesus. To put our focus on what truly matters, His love. His mercy. To take him up on his invitation to walk with Him, to dwell in His glory. To feast at His table, knowing that such is reserved for His people, His children, on those he’s called there.
These things we are drawn into, prayer, meditation on His message, the incredible blessing gives to us in our baptism, strengthened as we are told again, “your sins are forgiven” and nourished at the altar; they are not our work. We are drawn into this glory of God, we are declared to be His beloved, and transformed into that which receives that love, and can love in return.
We need to be drawn into that love, constantly. We need to know we are welcome there, not only that, that God desires us there.
That is the only answer to our idolatry. To hear His voice, to treasure His love…which means we need it revealed.
Heavenly Father, please help us to listen to the Holy Spirit in our lives. Reveal His presence through little children, through elderly saints, through our pastors and priests, so that we can drop our sin, our idolatry and cling to our hope in you. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 774-776). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.
The Reformation Cry of a Broken Soul!
† In Jesus †
As God’s grace for us is revealed, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we find it easier to depend on Him completely, for we are His people and He is with us! AMEN!
Not a Battle cry!
As we’ve approached the 500th anniversary of Luther inviting people to discuss problems in the church, I have become more and more upset by what I’ve seen. I’ve seen some extremism creep in, as some have label Leather not a reformer, but a revolutionary. I’ve seen that said negatively by some, and some say the same thing with great pride as if we were celebrating something akin to the 4th of July.
As if Sola Fide (Faith alone) was a battle cry, a chant to get behind as we took on an evil enemy, and triumphed by the power of our will. For some Protestants, the 500th anniversary has become a chance for our touchdown dance. For some Catholics, we are still the impertinent upstarts who want to destroy the church for whom Christ has died.
But Sola Fide wasn’t a battle cry at first.
It was the cry of a priest named Fr. Martin, who had tried every way possible to be good enough for God, and yet remained broken and in great despair, tormented by the sin which had its talons buried deep into him, and wouldn’t let Him escape,
Until he listened to the words God spoke through the scriptures, the words of the mass, the worship service he led every day since his ordination, and found hope….
as he learned to depend, not on his on work, but on the work of Christ alone.
That is what Sola Fide, the great reformation cry of a broken soul means.
to depend on Christ, no other, to save us from our brokenness, the brokenness caused by sin.
That is why Sola Fide is a cry, a cry of a broken heart that has found hope, and will not let go of it.
The Brokenness of Those Who Trust in Rubbish
A couple of weeks ago, we heard that Paul tossed aside the rubbish he once depended on, what he thought proved he was a good man, what proved he was righteous, godly, holy.
We see that attitude in the people Jesus was talking to today. They claimed they didn’t’ need to be free from the sin, and the rubbish that they counted on to show them good enough for God.
We were never slaves!
They didn’t remember their own history that well, for scripture tells us these children of Abraham were enslaved by Egypt, (see Exodus), by Midian various Philistine groups (see Judges and the Books of Samuel), by Assyria and Babylon (see the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets) and eventually by Greece ( see Maccabees) and then, even in Jesus day, hey were the subjects, the slaves of Rome and Caesar.
But nah, they weren’t slaves.
Can you imagine someone who said they don’t struggle with sin at all? Or worse, that they never sin anymore?
That’s what we are claiming when we say we are good people, or when we say that person or this person is so good, surely they will get to heaven. When we say that – we are exactly like the people Jesus encountered, the people who thought they were okay with God, that their sin was insignificant.
The True Burden
In the Luther movie we watched last week, Luther’s mentor Staupitz confronted Luther, saying that of all the monks, his confessions were the least interesting! They were boring because none of the sins were interesting.
Yet Luther felt all too well the distance those sins led him from God. He despaired of the brokenness. A book I am reading on his life gave a little more detail. One of those times of private confession lasted over 5 hours, as Luther tried to account for every sin he committed in the last week. He walked away from that confession convinced that he wasn’t sorry enough, that he missed sins that wouldn’t be forgiven.
I get that. Part of me doesn’t want to look upon my own sin. I want to excuse it, find justifications for it, dismiss it as not as serious as it is. But when I am thinking seriously about my sin, for example when I am up here, and we have those brief moments of confessing, there are times I wonder why God has me up here, heck why He even let me in this place.
Like Luther, it would be easy to sink into despair, to believe that God wouldn’t accept someone a sinner like us.
How I wish we could take sin that seriously, for only one reason.
If we did, how much more would we be overwhelmed by the knowledge that He comes to us, picks us up, forgives of our sin and cleanses us of our unrighteousness.
Then we would know how much God loves us, as He embraces us, prodigals still smelling like the “rubbish” and pig slop we lived in, as He calls for us to be dressed in the best robes. As he tells everyone, my child is home.
hear again Jesus.
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I’m going to rephrase that a little, for clarity
“You are truly my disciples if you depend on my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus, the Son of God came for one purpose, to free you and I, and every other person from the power of sin. Jesus dying on cross shattered the hold it has on us. His resurrection comforts us, as the promise is clearly seen.
You are free of that sin, you are cleansed of that unrighteousness,
Depend on that as you approach the altar, confidently as the Book of Hebrews tells us to do, knowing we are in the presence of God who loves us.
Depend on Jesus, trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, for He alone is our Savior, our Lord, who brings us home to the Father.
And as you cry out, aware of your need, don’t be surprised that knowing He is God brings you peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Devotional Thought for our days:
5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. Galatians 4:5-7 (NLT)
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)
80 If you are a good son of God, in the same way that a little child needs to be assured of the presence of his parents when he gets up in the morning or goes to bed at night, your first and last thought each day will be for Him.
Luther saw in this the very essence of Christian theology. God reached down not halfway to meet us in our vileness but all the way down, to the foul dregs of our broken humanity. And this holy and loving God dared to touch our lifeless and rotting essence and in doing so underscored that this is the truth about us. In fact, we are not sick and in need of healing. We are dead and in need of resurrecting. We are not dusty and in need of a good dusting; we are fatally befouled with death and fatally toxic filth and require total redemption. If we do not recognize that we need eternal life from the hand of God, we remain in our sins and are eternally dead. So because God respects us, he can reach us only if we are honest about our condition. So it fit well with Luther’s thinking that if God were to bestow upon him— the unworthy sinner Luther— such a divine blessing, it must needs be done as he sat grunting in the “cloaca.”
It is not what we think of as a holy place, yet it was.
A man who suffered incredibly from guilt and shame, whose anxiety nearly paralyzed him, when it wasn’t driving him mad.
And he finally had that aha moment while sitting on a toilet. During a particularly hard bowel movement.
Seriously? Yeah, seriously.
In a way, it is the perfect parallel physically to what needs to happen to us spiritually. We might call it thus, “The Kingdom of God is like a good laxative! We need to get rid of all the crap in our lives, the sin which binds us up! We try to eliminate the sin’s stench by trying to legitimize our behavior, to justify or excuse it. We do all things these, and all they do is cause us pain, and grief, and more foul air. And when God comes to us, all that crap is eliminated.
We need God to meet us there! And that is what Luther realized God would do, a God who loves His children so much that He will meet us even there. A God who would answer the cry of a child in pain, a God who would be there for us, no matter what we are dealing with in life. A God who knows the crap we’ve been messing around in, and loves us enough to set aside the stench and do what needed to be done.
As we realize this, how it changes us! How it reforms us and the way that we look at life! How it draws us to Him, to adore Him,, to love Him, to worship Him, even as we run to Him with confidence, assured that he can take care for the crap we cannot deal with by our own reason or strength.
This is our God, cry out to Him in confidence! Lord have mercy on me!
And assured of His love and grace, know the relief, the peace that His presence brings! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 498-500). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.