01 June 2014

To Go to Your Own Place by Faith in Christ

The temptation is always to go to your own place, to find your niche and flee to your comfort zone.  Like going home, to where your heart is.  But is it the place for which you have been created, the place your Lord Jesus has prepared for you?  Or where is your heart found?  Where does it flee?

At its root, this is the problem with your sin.  It does not know God, but turns and runs away from Him; so that your own place, if you’re left to make it on your own, is not where you belong; nor is it where you want to be, not once you find yourself there, apart from the true and only God.

To go to your own place apart from Jesus Christ is not eternal life but everlasting death.  It’s not a place to call home, but a place of neverending anguish and torment; not peace, but punishment.  You get a taste of that, already, in the accusations of your guilty conscience, in the consequences of your sins and failings, and in the suffocating loneliness and isolation of your shame and regret.

Yet, the temptation remains to go there, whether by conscious and deliberate choices, because you really don’t know any better, or because it’s already so familiar that you feel like it’s where you actually belong; or whether it’s by the momentum and inertia of your mortal flesh, which keeps on running headlong into the dust of death, without any real thought, because that’s what sin does.

Temptation is always enticing, isn’t it?  Else you wouldn’t fall for it.  It promises all sorts of things that sound so good, so reasonable and reliable.  And they usually masquerade as positive things, as angels of light, despite their contradiction and denial of God’s Word.  You may be convinced that, in your case at least, it’s not only “okay,” but even the right thing to do.  It’s only when your heart has been hardened, your conscience seared, that you actively pursue what is obviously evil; which is one of the most fearful dangers of continuing in your sin, that you would reach that point.

The trouble is, that you don’t know how to turn this around, how to get yourself off this path of sin and death, to get yourself home to your God and Father in Christ Jesus.  Because you don’t know the only true God by any ability or resource of your own; nor can you get to Him on your own.  Even aside from your sin, which runs you in the opposite direction, you know the Creator only as He reveals and gives Himself to you.  It is for this that you are created, to live by faith in the Word and Spirit of the Father, as He speaks to you by His Son and breathes His Life into you.

This, indeed, is the Glory of God, that He has created you in His Love, for the sake of loving you with nothing less than Himself, that is to say, with the Love of the Father for His Son in the Spirit.  He has brought you into being out of nothing, in order to give you a place of your own in Himself.

It is for this purpose that the Son has been sent by the Father, that He has come down from heaven and become flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood, in order to give you His own eternal Life, to give you His own Place with the God and Father in heaven; not only for awhile, but for ever.

By His becoming Flesh, He has been given authority over all flesh, in order to reveal the Glory of God to all flesh.  All of humanity now hinges upon the Life of God in the Flesh of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent.  For the Father has given all things to Him, that He might bring them to God; not as property, nor as slaves, but as beloved children who come to their own Father in faith.

It is thus by faith in His Father that Christ Jesus lives, from His conception in the womb of His Mother Mary, unto His Cross and Passion.  He lives and works, He walks the walk and talks the talk, as the true Son of God in the flesh, as the true Son of Man, on behalf of all men and women.

He does so, not under ideal circumstances, but in the same situation that you find yourself and struggle with; under the curse and consequences of your sin and death; up against the clock and all the pressures of this mortal coil; in the face of fierce competition and constant opposition.

In all of this, He humbles Himself under the mighty hand of His Father; not because He is weak, but in the strength of His divine and holy Love, and in perfect steadfast faith.  It looks like futility and weakness, but it is the power and glory of the true and only God to live by such faith and love.  Thus, He voluntarily takes the burdens of your fallen flesh upon Himself, all your sins and griefs and sorrows, and He patiently awaits the rescue and vindication of His Father at the proper time.  Not to prove some point, but to raise you up and bring you to the Father in and with Himself.

He offers Himself up, in and with His Body of flesh and blood, as the culmination and perfection of Sacrifice: for atonement and cleansing from all sins, for reparation of all the damage and harm that sin has done, for reconciliation with God, for peace and communion, thanksgiving and praise.  His Sacrifice upon the Cross is all of this, for you and for all flesh, that you might be received by the Father in the Person of His beloved and well-pleasing Son, and find your own place in Him.

It is in Him that you know the Holy Triune God.  Not simply that you know about Him, that you know what to think or say about Him, but that you are brought into a real relationship with Him, with the Father in His Son and by His Holy Spirit.  In your mind, yes, but also in your heart, and in your body, soul, and spirit.  That you find your place with God in Christ, and that you live your life with Christ in God; already now, by faith, and forever and ever in His crucified and risen Body.

It is this holy faith and divine life that are given to you in the Apostolic Ministry of the Gospel.  Because it is the same Lord Jesus Christ who speaks in the preaching of His Word, who washes you in the waters of your Holy Baptism, and who feeds you with His Body and His Blood in the Holy Communion.  The Place that He has with the Father, He gives to you in these Means of grace.  Not means to some other end, but Means by which He Himself is here with you, to save you.

You don’t have to go looking for your own place, for your true home, for your God and Father, because all of these are yours in Christ Jesus, and are given to you here in His Church on earth.

But what you get is not yet what you see.  Now it is by faith, and not by sight.  And it is, frankly, a learning experience, if one can think of this rightly.  I don’t mean that you need to learn your way into heaven; and I’m not talking about the memorization or mastery of facts and information.  The catechesis of the Holy Scriptures, of the Small Catechism, and of the Service Book and Hymnal, is surely instrumental to your faith and knowledge of the Lord your God.  But the learning that I have in mind is the catechesis of life under the Cross.  And, of course, that life is lived by faith in the Word that you are taught to pray and confess from the Bible, the Catechism, and the Hymnal.

You learn to live by faith, as Jesus lives, and to know and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, by the catechesis of the Cross itself within the particular office and station in life that God has given you.  That place in life participates in your own place with God, although it may seem quite distant and far removed from the Life of God.  Bear in mind that it was exactly that way for the Lord Jesus Christ, as He lived unto the Father by His Cross and Passion.

As the Son of God glorified His Father by doing the work that His Father had given Him to do, and as the Father glorified His Son by receiving the Sacrifice of His Cross and raising Him from death and the grave, so do you glorify your God and Father in Christ by bearing the Cross in faith and love.  Not by self-invented works of grandeur, but by doing what is right in your own place, in the confidence that the God of all grace, who called you to eternal glory in Christ, will raise you up.

The works of your own office and station will differ from those of your neighbor.  Do not worry about that, as though it were some kind of contest.  You are your own dear Father’s beloved child; so, then, live wherever He has placed you within His household and family, within the masterpiece of His Creation.  You are crafted and completed by His Word.  Live by faith in His Word.

What that means for each and all of you, regardless of your age, your education, or your job, is that you give attention to His Word and the preaching of it, and avail yourself of His Means of grace.  Nothing is more fundamental to the Christian faith and life than that; not simply “doing that,” as going through the motions, but living your entire life by and from the Word and Sacraments of Christ.  To be gathered together with His Holy Apostles, with His sainted Mother and His many brothers and sisters, with the whole household and family of God, in order to hear and receive His Gospel as a member of His Body, the Church, and then, also, to be given continually to prayer.

You have heard this morning that Christ Himself prays to His God and Father.  Indeed, He ever lives to make intercession for you before the Throne of God in heaven.  So it is that His Church, in heaven and on earth, is likewise steadfast in prayer: The Body of Christ prays together with the Head of the Body.  The Bride of Christ prays together with her heavenly Bridegroom.  You, also, are given to pray and intercede in the Name of Christ Jesus.  This, too, is to live by faith in Him.

It all comes back to the question of where your heart is: There is your own place, your true home.

It is not where it would have been, had you been left to find your own way.  It is where Christ is, seated at the Right Hand of the Father in the heavenly places.  Which is not some place up there, but where the Body of Jesus is given, His Blood poured out, for His Christians to eat and drink.  Here is the House of God.  Here is the Gate of Heaven.  Here is your own place in Christ Jesus.

If this is not where your heart has been, repent.  If you have set your heart and mind on worldly things, on the pursuits of your flesh with its own passions, or on anything other than the Word and Flesh of Christ, the Son of God, repent.  Admit that you’ve been living in all the wrong places, and come home to the place that Christ has graciously prepared for you and made your own.  Humble yourself, and trust that, not you, but God will raise you up and exalt you at exactly the proper time.  In such faith and confidence, live and work, walk and talk, as a child of your Father in heaven.

It’s not as though your place with God depends on you.  It is precisely to the point that it does not.  But you depend upon the Lord your God, your Maker and Redeemer, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He has named you with His Name, and He glorifies you in Himself.  He does it by way of the Cross of Christ, which turns out to be the way of His Resurrection and Ascension, as well.

Even now, He catechizes you in this dying and rising of Jesus, unto repentance and forgiveness of all your sins.  In point of fact, the dying and rising of Christ Jesus are your faith and life with God, your knowledge of the Father in His Son.  You belong to Him, because the Father has given you to His Son, and the Son brings you to the Father in His own flesh, with His own blood.

So do you know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as your own dear God and Father.

Now and evermore, your relationship with God, and your own place with God, are in Christ Jesus, in His Word and in His Flesh.  Such a Place is sure and certain; it shall not change or disappear.  And such a Savior as you have in this Lord Jesus is worthy of all thanks and praise and adoration.

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

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