How shall you endure to the end, and be saved?
How shall you go to heaven? How shall you draw near to God and live?
There are all manner of impressive possibilities clamoring and competing for your attention and allegiance: the nation, your family, your self, and any number of different "churches"; then there's hard work, money and investments, "love," popularity and fun, entertainment and fashion.
But everything on earth will be torn down, and the earth itself will perish and pass away.
Only Christ and His Word remain, steadfast and forever, risen from the dead and seated at the Right Hand of the Father. Look to Him, and cling to Him, and confess His Name. Listen to Him, trust His Word and live according to it.
And be on your guard. Do not be frightened, but see to it that no one misleads you. For not everyone who claims to come in the Name of Jesus, and not everyone who calls Him, "Lord, Lord," speaks by His Holy Spirit. But, as for you, listen for the preaching of His Cross.
The preaching of the Cross is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name. That is the voice of Christ which saves you. For it is by His Cross and Passion that He has redeemed you from sin and death, and by His Cross that He brings you into heaven, into the presence of God, to live.
But know this: His Cross divides the world. It divides nations and families, kingdoms, and churches, and your own heart and life. It kills, in order to make alive. It wounds, in order to heal. And it must be so.
So it is that, if you belong to the Crucified One, you will be hated and handed over to death; because of the Name of Christ Jesus, which you bear. You will be questioned, accused and put to the test; punished and put to death, because of His Word.
These are the beginnings of the birth pangs, the narrow passage of Crucifixion with Christ, by which you are delivered out of death and damnation and finally raised from the dust of the earth unto the life everlasting in heaven.
If you renounce the Cross of Christ — if you deny His Name, reject His Word and forsake Him — you shall not stand in the judgment or survive.
But how, then, shall you endure to the end, and be saved?
For your sins not only accuse and condemn you, but they weigh you down with guilt and shame; they ensnare you and entangle you in death.
Think about it: Are you strong and courageous like Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, who stood his ground under the glare of church and state, or brave and steadfast like the holy martyrs, who did not love their life on earth but remained faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ even unto death? Or do you betray the Lord for silver and gold, or deny Him out of fear?
Be on your guard! And see to it that no one misleads you.
But do not be frightened.
Hold fast the confession of your hope in Christ Jesus. That hope will not disappoint you, for He is faithful.
His great prince, St. Michael the Archangel, and His legion of holy angels, arise to guard and keep you for His sake and by His Blood of the New Testament.
It is by and through His holy, precious blood, and by the veil He has opened for you, that is, His flesh, that you draw near to God — here and now — and you enter into the holy of holies of the true Temple, which is the Body of Christ.
Draw near with confidence. Do not shrink back or despair. If you have turned away and wandered in the past, turn back now and draw near. Do not be frightened.
By His Cross, with His own blood, by the sacrifice of Himself, once for all, He has atoned for all your sins forever. And not for your sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.
He has washed you with pure water, with His Word and Holy Spirit, and sanctified you in both body and soul, perfected by His humble obedience unto death and by His Resurrection from the dead; perfected by His righteousness and holiness, His innocence and blessedness. He has cleansed your conscience of every stain. There is, therefore, no condemnation.
By the preaching of that Gospel, which is His forgiveness of sins, He calls the nations to Himself, and to God the Father in Him. So does He call you to enter in, to abide with Him, to recline at His bosom (at His Supper) in the bosom of His Father.
For He has endured to the end — even unto death upon the Cross. And He has been saved out of death and the grave, in His Resurrection, for you.
You, therefore, enter into His Passion, His Resurrection and salvation, by eating and drinking His Body and His Blood at His Word.
Here at His Altar are the fruits of His sacrifice, which has ended all sacrifice for sin, because it has atoned for all sin forever.
Here, in His holy body and precious blood, is the Temple of God and the Holy of Holies, which, having risen from the dead, shall never die again; which shall never be torn down, and shall never perish or pass away. This Body and Blood of Christ, which are given and poured out for you, have conquered death and the grave; and these also now conquer death in you.
For, as Jesus clearly says, this Body and Blood of His are given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins; and where there is such free and full forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any death, but everlasting life and eternal salvation.
As you are assembled here, together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, in His Name, to eat and drink His Body and Blood in the Holy Communion, you live and abide in the presence of God, and you reside in His Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.
Do not forsake this assembly, but draw near to God and enter His heaven here, as He draws near to you in the flesh and blood of Christ, the beloved Son.
And so living by His grace, and living in His presence, abiding as a member of His Body, in His Temple, brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends in Christ, love one another; for all of your sins, and all of theirs, are forgiven.
Behold, what beautiful stones you are, built into a holy habitation. Even now the Lord your God is in your midst, dwelling in His Temple with such loving-kindness. Make the circuit of His city, set here on His holy hill; look well, and take it to heart, as you walk round about this place. See the tower of His Cross; consider the bulwark of His Baptism; examine the stronghold of His Sacrament. This is your God forever; and He is your Savior evermore.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.