20 May 2014

Every Good and Perfect Gift in the Body of Christ

Brethren, do not be deceived by the lies of the devil, nor by the foolish ignorance of your own fallen and perishing flesh.  Do not be driven about or persuaded by the promises of this world, in which death and destruction, perversity and falsehood reign as presumptuous lords, masquerading as that which they are not, as though they were angels of light.  Do not be deceived by such darkness.

It is the Truth that all good things are found and received in the perfect Gift of God, which is given to you freely by His grace in the flesh and blood of Christ Jesus, in His crucified and risen Body.  He is the Man from above, who has come down from heaven, from the Father of lights, in order to bear your sin and be your Savior.  He is steadfast, faithful, and true, and it is by Him alone, the Word-made-Flesh, that you live and abide with God, both now and forever.

The Incarnation of the Son of God, His death upon the Cross, and His bodily Resurrection from the dead -- His journey from the Father into the utter depths of your depravity and damnation, and His return to the Father in righteousness and peace, in and with the human nature that He shares with you by His conception and birth of the Blessed Virgin -- this is the foundation, the center of gravity, the definitive pattern and perfection of Creation and of Life with God.  Everything pertaining to your life and your salvation is rooted in this Lord Jesus Christ; it all depends upon Him.

It has become yours, and has been worked in you, in your flesh, in your body and soul, by repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.  This is what your Baptism is, and what it does, and what it means and signifies; not only once upon a time, but every day, all the time, and unto the life everlasting.  By the Cross and Resurrection of the incarnate Son of God, you have been converted from the death and damnation of your unbelief to the faith and life of the Holy Trinity; which is the fulfillment of Creation in the Body of Christ Jesus, the perfection of the Image of God in Man.

In the exercise of His Will, which is to say, according to the Grace and Love of His divine and holy Being, He spoke and it was so: He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, by the Father's speaking of His Son in the flesh, and by the Spirit's preaching of His Gospel in the world.  In raising you up from death to life in Christ, He has made of you, also, a kind of first fruits among His creatures, as the Tree of Life now bears such fruit after its own kind, like unto Christ.

This you know, my dear brothers in Christ.  By the grace and wisdom of God, you have been given the knowledge, the teaching and confession, the acknowledgment and affirmation, and even the affection of the Truth.

But now, also, in the exercise of your new will in the Spirit of Christ Jesus -- not constrained by guilt or shame, nor driven by the fear of death, nor pressured by the praises of men, but recreated and renewed in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead -- since He has brought you forth from darkness into His Light, bring forth the fruits of faith and the produce of the divine life that He has planted in you by His Word of grace, by His forgiveness of your sins.

It is not at all the case that you should be self-reliant, a free or independent agent, but that you are humbled and repentant, and yet faithful and confident in the Word of Christ Jesus.  Trust His Word, and so live according to it.  Be patient and compassionate with your beloved brothers, who are beloved of the same Lord and your brothers in Christ.

Be quick to listen, to hear and heed the Word of the Lord, and to consider carefully the wisdom and the need of those whom He has given to be your neighbors in the world.  In faith and love, be slow to speak, until you have first of all heard and received the Word by which you will be able to comfort and encourage the weak and the weary.

By all means, be slow to anger.  Control your temper, and discipline your passions; lest the wrath of God be visited upon your disobedience, and He discipline you.  For the anger of man does not achieve the justice and righteousness of the Lord.  It rather denies Him and the righteousness of His divine mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  It also betrays the poverty and wickedness of your own self-righteousness, the sickness and mortality of your fallen flesh.

Rather than losing your temper and venting your anger, repent of your haughty self-conceit, of your animosity and bitter resentment, of your personal pride and your contempt for others.

What is such repentance, but to put aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness in your words and actions.  To be done with your adultery, your coarse language and the provocative innuendo of your dirty jokes; to quit your gluttony and drunkenness, and to give up your greedy love of riches and the pleasures of the flesh.  But, so also, to stop being so harsh with your own dear wife and children, with your colleagues and your congregation; to cease and desist your self-promotion at the expense of your neighbor; and no longer to delight in the fall of those who hurt you.

Such repentance is not a one-time move, nor is it ever complete in this mortal life on earth.  It is an ongoing effort, which daily returns you to the dying and rising of your Baptism into Christ Jesus: an exercise of the New Man, and the death and destruction of the old man, by the discipline of your body and life.

Which is not to speak of any twelve-step program of self-improvement.  But, no, this good and perfect gift of repentance is also from above, by the outpouring of the Spirit by the Father in the Son.  It is spoken and given to you, and worked in you, by His Word of Truth, which is and remains the fountain and source of your divine life in Christ.

As you are humbled by the knowledge of your sin and by its consequences in your body and life, by the grace and mercies of God, who calls you to repentance and to faith, receive the Word implanted in you by the Spirit of Christ, and so receive and live the righteousness of God in Him.

Remember your Baptism, and submit to its significance, which is the death of your sin and mortality, and the salvation of your body and soul.

Seek out the preaching of the Gospel, the teaching of the Word, the voice of Absolution, and the mutual conversation and consolation of the beloved brethren.  Even as you also apply yourself to the study of the Scriptures, and to the pattern of sound words that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has provided and passed down to you by your fathers in the faith.

And let this water and the Word bring you in peace to the good and perfect Gift of the Word-made-Flesh, to the giving of His Body into your body, the pouring out of His Blood into you, into your body and your soul; that by these Firstfruits of the Cross, you should become what you receive, and be found to be among the good fruits of His New Creation through the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.

Beloved, He is faithful.  His Word is Truth, His promises certain.  There is no variation or shifting shadow in Him.  His good and gracious will remains, that you should be rescued from sin and death and every evil, and raised up in the Body of Christ unto the life everlasting.  Do not be deceived by any lie that would deny it.  For as surely as the Lord speaks, so surely will He do it.

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

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