29 June 2015

Christ Has Built His Church Upon the Rock

The Wise Man has built His House upon the Rock.

The almighty and eternal Son of the living God has come down from heaven in the flesh to give His Life a ransom for many.  He has entered our pagan territory of sin and death, in order to slay and defeat our ancient enemy, that old dragon, the devil or Satan.

By His death upon the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ has atoned for the sins of the whole world, reconciled all of us to God the Father in heaven, and thereby destroyed death, released us from the fear of death, and removed all the power of the devil, namely, sin and guilt and accusation.

He has plundered the grave and Hades of their dead, and in His Resurrection He has opened the gates of heaven to all who believe and are baptized into Him, our Savior and our God.

It is by this precious Gospel of Christ — His forgiveness of sins, and life & salvation by His Cross & Resurrection — that He establishes, builds, and protects His Church unto the life everlasting.

Whoever lives and abides within His Church, even here on earth under His Cross, is safe and secure from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and shall live and abide forever with the same Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  For He is indeed the Wise Man who has built His House upon the Rock.  The winds rage, the rains downpour, the floods rise and pummel that House, but it shall not fall.

Why, then, would you drown and die outside of His House in the midst of the storm?

The problem that confronts the flesh and blood of your old Adam and the whole sinful world in which you live, is that the Wise Man appears to be, not wise, but foolish; and the Rock foundation of His Christian Church appears to be, not solid and secure, but shifting sand.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, the “Son of Man,” appears to be no more nor less than a man like any other.  Extraordinary, yes; a great Prophet, perhaps; a good and righteous man, no doubt, and a powerful preacher; but surely not the Son of God.  No one is able to perceive or to believe who and what He truly is by means of mortal flesh and blood.

And when He is crucified, dead, and buried; executed as a criminal; hung upon a cursed tree in naked shame and humiliation, and laid to rest within a borrowed tomb, where is the divine in that?

Where is the power and might of the glory of God in His Cross & Passion?  Where is the promise of His coming?  And where do you ever see or feel or experience His Resurrection and His Life?

He says that the gates of Hades shall not be able to overpower His Church, but what then shall you say about the fact that you and your loved ones, your family and friends and fellow Christians, are all subject to death and finally buried in the ground?  Whether by disease, old age, or martyrdom.

Where is your hope, your life, and your salvation?  Where is the living God who can help you and save you from death and the grave, who will actually bring you out of Hades into His Heaven?

The Church appears to be a pitiful fortress indeed, little more than a fisherman’s shack upon the seashore.  After all, its so-called “Rock” foundation is nothing but the Ministry of the Gospel, that is, the preaching of repentance, the spoken word of forgiveness, the washing of water with the Word, and the administration of bread and wine in the remembrance of Jesus who was crucified.

And what sort of men are actually called and sent to preach and administer this Gospel?  Sinners, the lot of them!  Men like Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus — the one a wavering denier of Christ, and the other a former diehard Pharisee, a persecutor of Jesus and His followers.

Pastors to this very day and age are likewise quarried from the same Rock.  They, too, are sinners, each and every one of them, in need of forgiveness for their own sins.  They are mortals, just like you, subject to death and the grave.  Finite, flawed, and frail creatures of flesh and blood.

And what keys do they bring, what instruments and means by which they are to help and save you?  With what do they come to set you free from the death-grip of sin and to open the gates of heaven to you?  By what power and authority are they supposed to keep you safe from the devil and hell?

They have nothing but the Gospel, which is the Word of Christ Jesus and His forgiveness of sins.  It is admittedly pathetic and pitiful to all appearances, and impotent in the face of all your needs.  Nor shall you perceive or believe otherwise about any of this, not by your own reason or strength.

The truth is that you cannot recognize the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is, nor can you come to Him, nor are you at all able to love and trust in Him, unless the Father reveals Him to you, and gives Him to you, and lays Him upon your heart by His Word and Holy Spirit.

But all of this the Father surely does for you, in grace and mercy and peace, according to His steadfast loving-kindness, by that very Cross of Christ and that preaching of His Gospel which appear to all the world — and to your own fallen flesh — to be so foolish and miserable and weak.

You could not possibly open your eyes wide enough to see it, but He has opened your eyes in faith by the Light of His Word, that is, by the Gospel of His forgiveness of all yours sins.

You could not even begin to open your heart or your head to accept it, but He has opened your ears to hear, your mind to understand, your heart to believe, and your lips to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, who has also become your Savior, your Strength, and your Song.

The Word of Christ that His servants speak to you in His Name, is His Word upon their lips.  The Sacraments they administer in His stead, in remembrance of Him, are His own works of life and salvation for you.  Their forgiveness of your sins is His forgiveness, as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ your dear Lord dealt with you Himself.  Truly, this is how He cares for you.

And this Word of forgiveness, this Holy Absolution, this free and full forgiveness of all your sins — although it seems like such a still small voice against the rage and roaring of the devil — it is a most solid foundation of a truly mighty fortress, which shall not fall nor fail to preserve your life.

Where sin is forgiven, the devil cannot accuse you, and even God’s own Law does not condemn you anymore forever.  There is therefore no condemnation for you in Christ Jesus.

Where sin is forgiven, death no longer has any rightful claim on you, but it must relinquish you, body and soul, unto Christ your Redeemer, who has purchased you with His very own lifeblood.

Where sin is forgiven — and your sin is forgiven by the Word of Christ — there is only life and salvation.  Come hell or high water against you, they cannot touch you, nor shall they reach you.

You shall not die but live.  The gates of Hades shall not prevail against you.  For you belong to the Body of Christ, His Church, and just as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever in His own Body, so are you raised up by His Ministry of the Gospel to live with Him.

His death has been the death of death, the devil’s defeat, and hell’s destruction, and all of this on your behalf.  Therefore, His Resurrection from the dead is your resurrection, and His own life is yours eternally.  So has He spoken, and so shall it be.  His Word abides and stands fast forever.

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

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