30 March 2018

Today You Are with Christ in Paradise

Beloved of the Lord, do you not fear God?

It is meet and right that you should do so.  For God threatens to punish all those who break His Commandments, visiting the sins of the fathers upon their children to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Him.  Therefore, you should fear His wrath and not disobey Him.

But how does it actually stand with you, with your heart and mind, and in your words and actions?

Do you fear the Lord your God above all things?  Or do you rather fear for your mortal body and your temporal life, without much regard for your soul or with your standing before God?

Are you more concerned about keeping your stuff, your power and position in this world, and about your health and home and family, than you are about keeping the Ten Commandments?

Do you not fear God?  It is only right that you should.  For do not doubt that you are accountable for the wrongs that you have done, and for all the good that you have failed to do.

Maybe you think it doesn’t matter.  Or maybe you don’t even care.

But if you would know what God actually thinks of your sin, and just how seriously He takes it, consider the Cross of your Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified for your transgressions.  For by His Cross He has suffered the condemnation and punishment that you have merited by your sins.

Do not presume to say that, since He is the Christ and He has suffered for you, it is now “okay” or “safe” for you to go about doing whatever you like with impunity and without consequences.  May it never be!  Do not blaspheme the Lord and His Passion with such wicked notions!

The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of the Living God, has not suffered and died so that you might go on sinning, but so that you might be brought to repentance and newness of life in Him.

For such repentance and new life, however, you must be crucified and put to death with Christ.

To begin with, the proclivity of your fallen flesh and sinful heart is to covet and to crave what is not yours, to take what has not been given to you, to rob and to steal.  As a child of old Adam you are selfish and self-serving.  You do not think of what is right or wrong, but of what’s in it for you.

You are like your first parents, who took and ate the forbidden fruit and suffered the consequences for it.  The Lord removed them from the Paradise of Eden and barred them from the Tree of Life.  He did so, not to be petty and vindictive, but to spare them from the living hell of an eternal death.

Despite the deceptions of your heart, mind, and flesh, the truth is that any “life” apart from God is nothing but death and damnation.  To persist in your sins is thus to perish apart from God.

What you need, therefore, is not some miracle drug, nor a fountain of youth, nor a handful of magic beans; but what you need is the forgiveness of your sins, repentance, and reconciliation with God.

It is for this purpose that Christ has come, and in this way that He has saved you.  Not for a “life” of sinning, but to save you from your sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.

He was numbered with transgressors, and He was hung between two criminals, for the same reason that He submitted Himself to St. John’s Baptism of repentance, and for the same reason that He received publicans, prostitutes, and other sinners, and ate with them.  Not as though to condone sin, nor even simply to look the other way with a wink and a nod, but in order to redeem the lost.

In order to accomplish that redemption and salvation of sinners, He has taken sin and death upon Himself.  Indeed, He has taken the sins of the world and all their curse and consequences upon Himself.  He has taken all of your sins and the punishment of all your sins upon Himself.  And He has borne the whole horrible, terrible lot of it in His Body on the Cross.  Thus has He suffered and satisfied the sentence of condemnation that was leveled against you and the entire world.

For you to persist in your sins, therefore, is to make a mockery of His Cross and Passion.

Yet for you, nonetheless, and for all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, He has done this great thing.  He has redeemed you from the curse of the Law, and from the curse of sin and death.

Not only that, but He has also opened up the way of righteousness and life in the Resurrection of His Body from the dead.  All of which is yours, by His grace alone, through faith in His Word.

Not only has He suffered all the punishments of the Law against the sins of the whole world, but He has also fulfilled the entire Law of God in perfect faith and holy love.  Everything the Law requires, He has done it on your behalf, in your stead, and also for your eternal benefit.

It is for this reason that God the Father raised this same Jesus from the dead; and so does He also raise all those who believe and are baptized into Him.  All things are made new in the crucified and risen Body of Christ Jesus.  For by His Cross and Passion the satisfaction and fulfillment of the Law have been accomplished and completed.  Not only as the punishment due, but as the pinnacle of faith and love: Steadfast faith in God, and fervent love for all of His neighbors, including you.

Accordingly, it is precisely by His Cross and through His Passion that Christ Jesus comes into His Kingdom as the Savior of mankind.  And so does He reign in love from the Tree of His Cross.

It is likewise by the way and the means of His Cross that you enter with Him into His Kingdom.  For His Cross is the shape and power of Holy Baptism, and His Cross is the way of repentance unto life.  It is by the Cross that your old Adam is crucified, put to death, and buried with Christ Jesus, together with all your sinful lusts and wicked desires.  But so is it also the case that you are raised up as a brand new man or woman in Christ through the forgiveness of His Cross.

The Cross does lay bare your sins and nails you for them.  But it does so for the sake of calling you to repentance, to confession, and to the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  For the Cross is also the proclamation of the Gospel to all who believe.  It is the very power of God unto salvation.

Indeed, the Tree of His Cross is the true Tree of Life, which stands in the midst of Paradise.

And because the Lord Jesus has atoned for all of your sins and accomplished your redemption by that Tree, its life-giving Fruits are not forbidden to you; they are rather given and poured out for your salvation, that you should eat and drink at His Word in faith and with thanksgiving.

That is how Jesus remembers you.  He acts in love to feed you with Himself, with His Body and His Blood, in order to forgive your sins, to strengthen your faith, and to give you life with God, in and with Himself, in both your body and your soul, both here and now and hereafter forever.

As often as you eat those blessed Fruits of His Holy Cross and Passion, you truly are with Him in the Paradise of God.  For He is surely with you in His Holy Supper.  He is with you always at His Altar, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.  He lives and dies with you here, He bears the Cross and suffers with you here, so that you might be with Him where He is and live with Him.

No longer are you a robber or a thief, no matter what your past has held.  You are a beloved child and a welcome guest at your own dear Father’s Table.  You need not steal to get what you want, not when you are so richly fed and given every good and perfect gift in the Lord Jesus Christ.

To be sure, you certainly should  fear God, for the plain and simple fact that He is God and you are not.  But so are you also called to love and trust in Him, because He is the Author and Giver of Life who loves you and preserves your life in body and soul with His Medicine of Immortality.  Indeed, it is with tender mercy and compassion that He cares for you and well provides for you.

Do not go on sinning for your supper, but receive the good things that Christ has obtained for you.  For His Cross is the Tree of Life for you, and so has He saved you from sin, death, the devil, and hell, that you might live with Him in the presence of God, not only today, but forever and always.

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

No comments: