30 June 2007

Not to Destroy, But to Save

The Son of Man has come not to destroy you, but to save you. By the "ascension" of His Cross, He has borne your sin and atoned for it. He has redeemed you from sin, from death and the devil. He has reconciled you to God the Father in heaven. And He has opened up heaven to you in His Resurrection, which is your resurrection, also, by grace through faith in Him.

All of this is given to you and becomes yours, as the Lord Jesus sends His messengers to you "to make arrangements for Him." They preach His Word and work His works in His Name. They proclaim the Gospel of peace and life and salvation, which are yours through the forgiveness of all your sins.

By this preaching and Ministry of the Gospel, Christ Jesus comes to you and gives Himself to you (with all His benefits). So is the Kingdom of God among you, and so are you called to follow Jesus, by faith, to live with Him in His Kingdom (in His righteousness, innocence and blessedness forever). This indeed you do, as you give attention to His Word and the preaching of it. For thus are you returned to the grace and waters of your Holy Baptism, by the Law and the Gospel, through contrition, repentance, confession and forgiveness. And being led from the font to the altar, from the Word to the Word-made-Flesh, you receive the life-giving Body and Blood of your dear Savior, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise God for His grace and mercy toward you, for His Word and Holy Spirit, which have made you a disciple of Jesus and continue to keep you steadfast in this faith and life.

But given all of that, why is it that you so often (daily!) fail to follow Jesus?

You refuse to receive Him according to His Word, that is, in His means of grace, because you would have Him only on your own terms, or not at all. You refuse to receive Him as the crucified God and as the blessed Savior that He is, because you insist upon a god and a savior of your own making and image.

Or, you refuse His grace and mercy and the peace of His forgiveness unto others. Supposing yourself to live by a merit and righteousness of your own choices and decisions, of your own works and efforts, you insist upon such a righteousness of works in others and seek to impose it upon them. In short, you demand that life be lived according to the Law, apart from and instead of the Gospel. You seek retaliation and revenge against your neighbor, instead of repentance and reconciliation with him.

All of this (and more) belongs to your refusal to let go and leave behind the things of the flesh, the things of this world. You keep looking back over your shoulder at what you are afraid to leave behind (like Lot’s wife!), instead of eyes forward to follow after Christ Jesus. Instead of letting go your idols and the false gods of your sinful flesh, you let go of and turn away from the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of yourself, therefore, you are not worthy of God’s Kingdom, which is founded upon and centered in the Cross of Christ the Crucified.

Repent of your idolatrous unbelief, of your selfishness, self-centeredness and self-righteousness. Leave the dead to bury the dead. Put your hand, instead, upon the plow to which the Lord has called you (no matter how onerous it may be), and do not look back any longer. But wherever you are, wherever you go, confess and proclaim the good things of God in Christ (good things both for you and for your neighbor).

Plow the field God has given you in the confidence that Christ has not come to destroy you — His Cross is not laid upon you to destroy you — but to save you. His messengers are sent before His face, not to call down fire and brimstone upon you, but to bring the Kingdom of God to you. They speak and bestow His peace upon you, by speaking His forgiveness of all your sins.

You are not worthy of the Kingdom, that is true. But the Lord bestows His worthiness upon you — that is the righteousness of Christ, your Savior — by His fatherly, divine grace and mercy, in His Love. Even when He speaks and applies His Law to you, He does so in love, in order to recall you from your sin and death back to Himself and His Life. He does all things for you for the sake of His Gospel, for the sake of forgiving your sins and giving you life.

See what love the Father has for you, that He has given His only Son to die for you. And see what love the Son of God has for you, that He has willingly borne your sin, the Cross and death, for you, so that you inherit His Kingdom as a beloved son of God in Him.

Dear friend in Christ, there is no other treasure in heaven or on earth to compare with this dear Savior, Jesus Christ, who loves you and has freely given Himself for you, who graciously gives Himself to you. Receive Him in this blessed faith and confidence, that no greater love exists than His Love for you: the Love of God in Christ, which is for you. Nothing shall ever be able to separate you from that Love, nor from Him who loves you. No matter how much you may waver and falter, fail and fall, He remains faithful, steadfast, sure and certain, for you. And He has not come to destroy you, but to save you.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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