11 October 2015

Christ Jesus Is the One Good Thing

You know the Commandments of God, and you know what they mean:  Do not murder, nor hate, nor harbor anger in your heart against your neighbor.  Do not commit adultery, nor lust with your eyes and your imagination, but cherish and care for your own spouse.  Do not steal, but help to guard and protect your neighbor’s property.  Do not give false testimony, but speak up in defense of your neighbor, in defense of what is good and right and true.  Do not covet, defraud, entice, or scheme to get what is not yours, but be content with what you have.  Honor your father and your mother, serve and obey them, and submit to the authorities whom God has placed over you.

You know what God commands, what He forbids, and what He requires of you.  And you know what He says concerning your life and salvation in Christ Jesus, for in His mercy He has taught you by His Word.  He has given you parents and pastors to instruct you in the Catechism, which is a simple summary of the Holy Scriptures.  You know who God is, and you know what He has said and done from the creation of the world to this day.  You know how to pray, how to examine yourself and confess your sins, and how to worship the Lord your God by faith in His Gospel.

Live, therefore, according to the Word that He has spoken.  Do what He commands, and flee what He forbids.  Exercise yourself in doing what is good, and refrain from doing evil.  Help in all the ways that you are able, as God provides opportunity, and do no hurt nor harm to your neighbor.

That is how you are to live, as God Himself has taught you by His Son.  Only not as though to save yourself or to get life for yourself by your good works.  You are not called to live and work for your own self-advancement, but for the glory of God and the good of your neighbor.

Do good, and not evil, because of God’s command and your neighbor’s need; simply because it is good and right so to do, and this is how you are to live.  Not to gain life for yourself, but to live the life that you are given by the grace of God.

Keep the Commandments in the fear and faith of God.  Knowing and trusting that all things come from Him and depend on Him, and that you live all your days in His presence, do what He says, delight to please Him as your number one criteria, and be more afraid of disobeying Him than you  are of disappointing the people you work so hard to impress.

From a heart of faith, do not merely go through the outward motions of keeping your nose clean and doing your job, although at least that much is your basic duty and responsibility in any case.  But to live as God has created you and called you to live, go about all your days and your deeds actively trusting in Him, loving Him above all else, and loving your neighbor on account of God’s Word, even at the cost of your whole body and life in this world.  Value God more than your life.

More to the point, find your life and fix your hope for this life and the next in Christ Jesus, even as He goes the way of the Cross.  Do not be frightened or despair in the face of death, but trust that Christ will raise you up, as God the Father raises Him from death and the grave to life everlasting.

Follow Christ Jesus on His Way of the Cross, and learn from Him how to live, for He is your Good Teacher.  He alone is good, holy, and righteous, for He is God in the flesh, the Image of God in Man.  And He alone is your Savior, the Author and Giver of Life by His Word and Holy Spirit, by the paradoxical ways and means of His Cross and Resurrection.

Consider how this dear Lord Jesus Christ has lived, and how He has gone to His death in the faith and confidence of His Father, and in steadfast love for God and man.  It is in Him, in His Body and Life, in His Holy Cross and Passion, that the Law is perfected and fulfilled in the perfect faith and holy love that are at the heart of all the Commandments.

Christ Jesus is the “fear, love, and trust in God” in the flesh.  He has not clung to His possessions, nor to His equality with God.  He has not sought to make and establish a life for Himself.  But in the keeping and fulfilling of His Father’s good and acceptable will, He has liquidated everything and worked and suffered for the salvation of the world, for the benefit of poor, miserable sinners.

He has spent His riches and made Himself poor, not with parties and debauchery, but in order to make you wealthy with His righteousness, to give you His divine, eternal life in the Kingdom of His God and Father.  For this purpose, for the sake of your salvation, He took up the Cross and willingly laid down His life.  He shed His blood to ransom you from death and the devil, to atone for all your sins and failures, and to set you free forevermore.  All of this in the confidence that His Father would receive and accept His Sacrifice in peace and vindicate Him in His righteousness.

Now, then, as He is your Good Teacher, your Catechist, and your Pastor, listen to Him, and learn from Him.  Hear and heed His Word to you.  Forsake all else, and follow Him by faith.

He calls you to let go of all the stuff that you rely upon, including your own self-righteousness.  Not because He would deprive you of life and comfort and happiness, but that you would actually receive life, and be comforted, and find true joy and happiness in the Lord your God by faith in His Word, in His Cross and Resurrection, in His free and full forgiveness of your sins.  For you will not live otherwise.  All the stuff in the world will not save you.  There is life in no one but Christ.

Do not give up and go away sad.  Do not despair of any hope or help or happiness, which are here for you in Christ Jesus; not because you are so good, but He is.

Do not harden your heart against Him in unbelief and wickedness, as those who perished in the wilderness did when they rejected the Word of the Lord.  They, too, were baptized in the water with His Word when He brought them through the Red Sea out of Egypt; and they, too, were fed with spiritual food and drink, with bread from heaven and water from the Rock.  And, yet, with most of them God was not pleased, and they died in the desert, because they did not fear, love, and trust in Him.  Heed that warning, and repent of your own sins, lest you also perish in unbelief.

Do not grow complacent or drift away from the Word of the Lord that you have been taught and which you have confessed with your lips.  Continue to hear and receive it, as He speaks to you.  Cling to it in your heart, and exercise it in your own speaking and living.  Do not entertain the lie that it doesn’t matter, nor throw up your hands in resignation as though it were too hard for you.

Truth be told, it is flat out impossible for you.  You could not believe the Word of God by your own reason, wisdom, or strength; far less could you even begin to keep it by any of your powers.

But Christ alone is good.  There is life in no one else but Him.  So, listen up, and learn from Him.

In love for you, He has called you to Himself, to live with Him in His Kingdom forever and ever, in His own righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  This is the good and gracious will of God for you and your salvation.  And Christ Himself has brought it about by His good works of love.

It is by His mercy and His grace alone, by His Word and Holy Spirit, that you have not been cast away from His presence — you are not sent away — nor are you lost and forsaken.  But you are here because this one Lord, Jesus Christ, has sought you out and found you in love, and He has taught you His Word: Not only His Commandments, which show you how you are to live, but also the charity and forgiveness of His Gospel, by which you have life in Him and live by His Spirit.

He has brought you to repentance, and turned your heart away from sin and false belief, away from your false gods, away from trust in yourself and your possessions, to fear, love, and trust in Him.

Yes, He has put you to death to yourself, but He has made you alive to God, now and forever, in Himself.  He has stripped you of everything with which you have tried to cover yourself, to hide and protect yourself, but He has not left you naked and ashamed.  He has clothed you with His own glorious righteousness and holiness, so that you are now adorned like no rich man on earth ever.

He has brought you here to His Church, to the waters of His Holy Baptism, to the preaching and teaching of His Word, to His Holy Absolution, and to His own Holy Body and precious Blood, the fruits of His Cross, given and poured out for you.  Here is the inheritance of eternal life for you.

Along with all of these most precious and priceless Gifts, I want you to bear in mind that He has also given you to each other — as He has given His Church to you, and you to His Church — to guard and keep each other by His Word.  To encourage and support each other by His Word.  To pray and intercede for each other, but also to seek each other out, to speak the Law and Gospel to each other, and to remind each other of these good things.  Your own catechesis continues in the life of the Church, and so do you catechize your brothers and sisters in Christ by confessing His Word.  So, too, use whatever other means the Lord has placed into your hands to love and serve and care for one another in His Name.  For so does Christ Jesus love and serve and care for you.

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

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