10 March 2011

Where Your Treasure Is, Your Heart Is Home

Home is where the heart is.

So where is your heart at home? Where is it set?

It is really a question of what your treasure is, where you look for it and seek it, and where you would keep it and store it for yourself.

Your treasure is your bliss, your prize, your real wealth. it is what makes you happy — and if it is threatened or taken away, you are at a loss, frightened and sad.

Your treasure is wherever your heart would find its peace and rest, whether it will last for a little while or forever. It is whatever you suppose will satisfy you and make you content; whatever will mark and measure the meaning and purpose of your life, and fulfill your destiny.

As such, your treasure is your god, for good or ill, and whatever your treasure is, so shall you be like it.

So, what is your treasure? Where is your heart?

Perhaps it is your property, your house and home, your souvenirs, collections and investments. Or your family — your spouse and children — or your reputation, your popularity and friends, your respect within the community. Maybe your treasure is power, position, privilege and prestige. Or your possessions and income, your salary and savings. Food and clothing, toys and hobbies, the basics or the best.

What is it that you're proud of? What identifies you? What do you rely upon, and fall back on, and aspire to?

If you treasure and store up stuff, whether coins or castles, clothes or collectibles, know that it will perish — if it is not stolen first. Either way, it does not last, it cannot give you life, and it will not save you.

If you treasure worldly wealth and riches, of whatever currency, paper or plastic, precious metals or digital data, it will come and go in the blink of an eye — or you will die before it has done you any good. Locusts of one sort or another will come and devour it, every penny, every last cent, and there will be nothing left. Neither the biggest bank, nor your mattress, will guard and keep such wealth for you in heaven.

And if you treasure other people as the source and substance of your life and happiness and future well-being, remember that all men die, because all men sin. Even princes are mortal, as are pastors according to their person. Parents and children, spouses and friends also die in their day, and they shall not return to you here.

But not only that: People are fickle and flighty, not only finite but fallible and flawed. Other people are as sinful as you are. If you make of them your god, they will fall far short and fail you. They may lie to you; or break their promises, no matter how sincere; or simply be unable to follow through, no matter how well-intentioned they have been. They may speak with flattering words, while already their thoughts and feelings are turned and moving away from you to elsewhere.

What, though, if everyone thought well of you? What if everyone were impressed with you, and looked up to you, and praised you in every way? What if your reputation among men was sterling silver and unsurpassed in all the world?

Then, dear friend, you would already have your reward.

But not with your Father in heaven.

Enjoy your reputation, your position and prestige, the praise and flattery of the whole world, if you can, for as long as it lasts. But beware that it will not help you in the end, and it will not raise you from the dead. Neither now nor ever will it set you right with God.

If you would have life, and if you would truly live now and forever, repent of your idolatry and return to the Lord, the one true God, your Maker and Redeemer.

Store up treasures for yourself in His heaven, in the secret place of faith, in the hidden place of His Cross, in the inner room of His Church.

That is to fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, and to be reconciled to God in Him. For He is your righteousness and sanctification, your peace with God and Sabbath rest.

He is your true and lasting treasure.

So, how do you store up Jesus for yourself? What could that possibly mean, and what is it going to look like?

You lay hold of Him where He lays hold of you, that is, by His Ministry of the Gospel. For He gives Himself to you by this way and means, as the One who has given Himself to God for you. Thus, He is your sacrifice, whom God does not despise, and He has also become your priestly food and drink. As He was anointed by the Spirit of God in His human body of flesh and blood, so does He anoint you with His Holy Spirit by the Gospel, by and with His forgiveness of your sins.

His flesh and blood are the Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the world, for He who knew no sin became sin and death and the curse, in order to put sin to death in Himself, and to bring forth the blessing of life through the forgiveness of sins in His Resurrection from the dead.

He, then, has entered into heaven for you, where He has established His place for you with His God and Father, and where He ever lives to make intercession for you as your great and merciful High Priest. Thus, by the power of His indestructible life, in and with His own glorious Body —risen from the dead and never to die again, immortal and imperishable — He is your Treasure, now and forever, whom moth and rust and thief cannot touch, and even death cannot destroy.

He is your anchor behind the veil, within the Holy of Holies eternal in the heavens. He is your life and salvation with God.

And yet, see here, He has also left behind the grain offering of His Body and the drink offering of His Blood, that you may eat and drink and be satisfied and rejoice in Him who loves you. With these most holy and precious gifts, He gives Himself to you, and He pledges Himself to you for all time and eternity. So that, whether you have much or little in this life on earth, you have everything in Him.

Whether men speak well of you or curse you, His Word adorns you with holiness and righteousness, with the glory of His grace and the beauty of His Resurrection from the dead.

Whether you live or die, you are the Lord's, and He is yours, and in Him all things are yours: His Father and His Spirit, His Name, His Sonship, His Life and Salvation in body and soul, and all things in heaven and on earth.

You lack no good thing in Him, nor shall you want for anything, who are seated at His Table to eat the flesh of the Lamb and to drink from the overflowing Chalice of your Good Shepherd.

Such righteousness and life, and peace and rest, can only be given by God, and only by His grace, and can only be received by faith in Christ Jesus. No one else in all of creation can bestow such gifts, nor can your works obtain them.

Yet, this righteousness and life, this peace and rest of Christ are yours. They are for you ,and they are here given and poured out for you, preached into your ears, pressed into your hand and placed upon your lips and tongue, and laid upon your heart by the Spirit through the Gospel.

Here, then, your heart has found its home: in Christ Jesus, with His Father, who is now and forever your Father.

It is with such sure and certain hope, in such confidence and faith, that you pray to Him. Not to be seen or heard by men, but to be heard and answered by your true God and Father in heaven. He will reward you, by His grace, with Christ and all His benefits, hidden under the Mystery of His Cross, yet a greater treasure than the heavens and the earth.

Thus do you fast, knowing that God your Father feeds you. You discipline your mortal flesh, depriving it of passing pleasures, that you might hunger for the Body and Blood of Christ, and so for His Kingdom and His righteousness. You train yourself to regard the Creator and Giver of all things above His whole creation and His many gifts. You curb your appetites, in order to prevent your appetites from controlling and consuming you. For thus you set your heart and mind, your body and soul, against the enticements of the devil, and you rest yourself in the refuge of Christ Jesus.

So are you safe, and so are you also free to love and serve your neighbor with genuine works of compassion and generous gifts of mercy. Trusting your God and Father in Christ for all that you need, and receiving what He provides — not only for yourself, for your family and friends, but also for the stranger at your gate, for the orphans and widows in distress, for the poor and needy who are always at hand — you are generous on the right hand and on the left.

You don't keep score, nor maintain a ledger. You simply love.

In this way you let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

And you also glorify Him, and exercise your faith in Him, when you give alms, and when you pray, and when you fast in faith and love.

So does your Father work His good works in you, even in your body of flesh and blood, in your words and actions.

For He washes you through and through, inside and out, with His mercy. He cleanses you from all your sins and iniquities by His Gospel. He repairs what has been broken, as He has raised Christ Jesus from the dead. And He fills up all that is lacking with His Food and Drink and Spirit.

If you do not find or experience such grace and peace and love and hope in yourself, yet, it is given to you, and it is yours in Christ Jesus.

Do not receive this grace of God in vain, but lay hold of Him who loves you, who lays hold of you by His Word of forgiveness, by His Word of the Cross. For now, yet even now, is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.

Where you are disciplined by His Love, where you are broken by His Law, where you are crucified by His Cross, there also does He raise you up by His Gospel in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.

His death is your repentance, and His Resurrection is your life, your righteousness, and your hope in the face of sin and death.

Do not despair, for He does not grow weary of loving you. He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He does not punish you as your sins deserve, but He daily and richly forgives your sins and cleanses you from all unrighteousness. He is patient with you, and as He has pledged Himself to you, He shall not ever forsake you.

He has opened His heart to you in Christ Jesus, your Savior, and He has come to make His home with you, to abide with you in peace. Here, then, is your home, and your heart's true love and greatest treasure. For here is your God.

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

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