Woe to you who live on earth, in the midst of sin and death and the devil’s great wrath. Be on your guard, vigilant, sober and watchful.
Satan is a fierce foe, and he hates you with a vengeance. He does not rest in his attacks against you, but day and night he is plotting to entice and deceive you, and at the same time accuses you of your sin. He mocks you with guilt and shame, whether real or imagined; and he threatens you with death and damnation, even with the condemnation of God’s Law.
Pray, therefore, at all times and without ceasing. Do not rely upon your own wisdom, reason or strength, but humble yourself before God; repent of your sins, and seek the Lord by His grace and mercy.
Even now, take courage and stand upright.
For here there is One who helps you, who is mightier than sin, death, the devil and hell.
Here there is Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, who has become true Man, conceived and born of Mary, your brother in the flesh. He is your Savior.
This Lord, Jesus Christ, has conquered in the fight; not by the raw power of His Law, which would also destroy you along with your enemies, but by the Holy Spirit of God, by perfect faith and love, by His own Cross and Resurrection.
He has robbed the devil of his threatening might and fearsome power. He has stripped the devil of his teeth, and removed all the bars and doors of his prison house.
Because the Cross of Christ has satisfied the Law and completely fulfilled it, meeting all its demands and removing all its threats. The Lord, Himself, has made propitiation and atonement for all sins, including yours; He has reconciled you and all the world to God the Father.
With what, then, shall Satan accuse or condemn you? And what threat or fear of death shall the devil hold over your head, since Christ Jesus has trodden death and hell under foot, and has opened the grave and opened heaven in His Resurrection.
He has accomplished this victory for all men and women, all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. And He has rescued you, in this same victory, by and with His Spirit, as He has given you His Name and Himself with His whole life and salvation, in Holy Baptism and through the whole Ministry of the Gospel.
Even more relentless than Satan accuses, the Lord Jesus never ceases to speak forgiveness and peace. So long as the heavens and the earth remain, from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down, He preaches His Gospel and removes the sins of the world — and Satan is cast out and thrown down.
It is for this purpose that the Lord has so ordained and constituted the ministry of men and angels, unto the life and salvation of all who are called by His Name.
Thus are you, dear child of God, dear "little one" of Jesus, guarded and guided by the Word of the Lord.
His Word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path, so that you know the way of faith and love, by which you live.
The Law curbs you from wickedness, to spare you the devil’s fiercest wrath and treachery; and even in exposing your sin and calling you to account, it is directing you to the Cross of Christ, and to His sweeter Word of the Gospel.
As often as you stumble and fall, that Gospel lays the gentle hand of Christ upon you and raises you up in His Resurrection by forgiving you all of your sins.
As surely as you are baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ, so does He nurture and preserve your faith and life in Him, by nourishing you in the wilderness with the spiritual Food and Drink of His own Body and Blood.
That is the authority with which He has called and sent your pastors, to preach repentance to you, for the forgiveness of all your sins, in His Name.
By that Word of the Gospel, just as surely as He has named you with His Name in Holy Baptism, so has He written your name with His own in the Book of Life. For with His Baptism and His forgiveness, His Resurrection is also your resurrection from the dead, and He Himself is your life and your salvation.
That is why His holy angels surround you, to guard you and protect you, in both body and soul, unto life everlasting. For they see in you — what you often fail to see in yourself and in your neighbor — they behold Jesus Christ, His Name, His flesh and blood, the members of His own Body and Bride. And so they serve you.
The angels are not given the highest honor of preaching the Gospel to you; for that is done by men of flesh and blood, like that of Christ Himself, who is not an angel but is both God and man. But the angels do guard and protect you for the sake of the Gospel.
The angels preserve your life, in order that you may hear and confess the Holy Gospel, so that both you and your neighbor may live, in both body and soul, both now and forever.
Of course the devil doesn’t fight fair. He is a liar and a murderer. And he is crafty, with a serpent’s body that slithers this way and that and strikes in the blink of an eye. By hook and by crook he attacks on the left and on the right. He lures you into sin, and then he quickly points the finger at you and vehemently accuses you. He assaults your heart and mind with distractions and enticements; with fears and trepidations; with pride at one moment, despair at the next; with envy and jealousy; with guilt and shame.
And when he cannot shake your hope and confidence within, the devil levels all his wrath and hatred against your frail flesh, your household and family and friends.
With lying and murdering, day and night, the devil lets you have no peace within or without.
But do not be afraid.
The armies of the Lord who loves you surround you. And because they always behold the face of your Father in heaven, they are more fierce and determined in their protection than even Satan in his wrath.
Nothing will injure you. That is the Lord’s promise.
But how so? Given that you bear the Cross, how shall you not be injured, even to the point of death? For you are frail flesh and blood. You are but mortal. You get sick, you suffer and die. You get hurt.
And you are a poor, miserable sinner. You surely deserve nothing but punishment. Does the devil not have a point in accusing and condemning you?
But, no, you are in Christ, and He in you, and there is no condemnation that shall stand against you. There is no punishment or death that shall injure you.
The One with all authority in heaven and on earth, who could destroy your soul and body in hell, has named you with the Name of Christ, the beloved Son, and He has declared you to be well-pleasing in His sight. He judges you righteous, and He gives to you all good things.
If you are crucified and put to death by the Cross, it is the same Cross that forgives you, daily, all your sins. It is the Cross from which you are fed by God with the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the Cross by which you are brought through death into life with God in the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ Jesus.
It is the Cross by which that old serpent, the devil, is conquered and crushed under the heal of Christ, the Son of Man, your Savior.
If you and your body and life are marked by the Sign of that Cross, so do you also bear the Name of Christ, and His Spirit, and His Body and His Blood. By these means you overcome.
The same Lord sees to it that none of these treasures of His Kingdom shall be taken from you; nor shall you be snatched out of His hand.
The same Lord sends men to preach and administer His Gospel to you, and holy angels to guard you round about.
Rejoice, therefore, and bless the Lord. All that is within you, give thanks and bless His holy Name. For as He feeds you here and now, with His own Body, so shall He awaken your body from the dust of the earth and raise you unto everlasting life in the never-ending Feast of His Kingdom. And as you worship Him and sing with saints and angels here at His Altar on earth, so shall you worship and sing with all the company of the blessed in heaven forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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