14 February 2016

Christ Jesus Is Your Champion

The life of the baptized in this world is one of constant warfare and of daily trials and temptation.  For Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour you.  That wicked foe of God and man calls into question the divine Name with which you are named and the gracious adoption of your God and Father in heaven.  The evil one entices and deceives you with his lies.  With vicious hatred and great wrath he attacks and accuses in order to undermine your faith and life in Christ.

Such is the desert warfare into which you have been driven and are led by the Holy Spirit from the waters of your Baptism, as Israel was led by the Cloud and Fire of the Lord into the wilderness, into conflict with Amalek, the Amorites, Midian, and Bashan.  And despite the devil’s purposes, the Lord your God uses this battleground to accomplish His good and gracious will for your life and salvation.  It is the time and place of repentance, so that you should be strengthened in Christ.

Left to yourself, relying on your own powers, you would never be able to cope or survive with all that is set against you.  But now — as you have heard, so also believe — the Lord Jesus Christ has entered the fray as your Champion.  He is with you on the battlefield, on the front lines, actually.

In the waters of the Jordan River, and from His Baptism into the wilderness, led by the Spirit of His God and Father, He has set Himself against all your enemies of sin, death, the devil, and hell.  He has been subjected to every temptation that you are faced with, and yet, He commits no sin of heart, mind, body, or soul.  Rather, in taking your predicament upon Himself, in bearing your sin and death in His own flesh, in taking on your trials and tribulations, He perseveres in holy faith and perfect love, even unto death.  Thus has He opened the way and blazed the trail of repentance for you and for all the fallen children of man.  Not for destruction, but for life in His Resurrection.

By steadfast faith and unswerving faithfulness, He has become the Author and Perfecter of your faith and life.  Everything to which you are called, He has accomplished and established for you.

The most basic temptation with which you are faced, therefore, is to put your faith in any other lord or any other god than this one Man, Jesus Christ, who is alone your Savior.  To fear, love, and trust in anyone else or anything else, no matter who or what that might be, is to pursue death and hell; it is to worship the devil instead of the one true God, to your own eternal hurt and destruction.

That deadly temptation takes many and various forms, so be on your guard and armor yourself against it by the Word of God.  Do not attempt to feed yourself with what the Lord has not given you, but look to Him and wait upon Him in patient hope, to be fed by Him from His open hand.  Hunger not for the food that perishes, but rather for the living and life-giving Bread from heaven.  Likewise, seek not the kingdoms of this world, nor put your trust in mortal princes, but pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God, and recognize that His Kingdom is at hand in Christ Jesus.

Cling to the Cross of Christ in the confidence of His Resurrection, instead of chasing after the power and glory of sinful man.  Do not bow down and pray to the gods of popularity and success, of pleasure and prosperity, of comfort, ease, and entertainment.  But call upon the Name of the Lord, who was crucified for your transgressions and raised from the dead for your justification.

Beware that the most pernicious temptation of all is to regard and treat the Temple of God as a license to live unto yourself — to live recklessly, foolishly, and dangerously in pursuit of your own ambitions — instead of living unto God by faith in Christ.  That is to cast yourself down from the heights of the Temple in daring defiance of God.  It is a damnable misuse and abuse of His Holy Word and Sacraments, as though such gracious gifts of God were really grounds for continuing in your sins.  So would covetous idolatry and self-serving greed hide behind a mask of piety and a pretense of faith.  But the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain.

There is all the difference in the world — as different as heaven is from hell — between trusting God as you proceed on the way that He has set before you, on the one hand, confident that He will raise you up from death to life in Christ Jesus — and on the other hand, tempting God, testing Him, and even daring Him to protect you from all consequence and danger and to provide you with all that you want on your own self-chosen path and in your own selfish pursuits of fortune and fame.

The Lord your God is to be worshiped and adored by faith in His Word; by the presentation of your best gifts and the first fruits of your labor in thanksgiving for His gracious providence in Christ; and by the living sacrifice of your whole body and life to the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  For He alone is God, your Creator and Redeemer.  He is not your gopher or your go-to guy, at your beck and call to do your bidding while you serve yourself and worship your own desires.

Repent of your idolatry and false belief, while there is still time and opportunity to do so.  Put to death your covetous lust and selfish greed.  Resist and deny your ravenous appetites for that which God has not given you.  Stop living for that which is not the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is in Christ alone that you have true and everlasting life with the true and only God.  It is in Him alone, in His crucified and risen Body, that you have health and strength and every good.  For He alone has hungered for God above all things, and thirsted for the righteousness of God, and lived by every Word that proceeds from the Mouth of God.  Indeed, He is that very Word, who has become Flesh, by whom His God and Father speaks to you in the Ministry of His Holy Gospel.

As surely as He has come down from the Father in heaven, into the depths of the Jordan, and into the desert wilderness, in order to be with you in the trenches, so surely has He given Himself up entirely to God in holy fear and holy faith.  And so surely has He given Himself entirely for you, His neighbor, in self-sacrificing love — in order to atone for all your sins, to conquer all your enemies, to reconcile you to His God and Father, and to give you life in place of death.

Though He is Himself true God from all eternity, and the only-begotten Son of God by nature, He learned obedience in your stead by suffering on your behalf, in order to bestow His own Sonship and His divine, eternal inheritance upon you, by grace through faith in His Word of the Gospel.

He did not presume upon His status, nor upon the promises of God, but in humble obedience He went the way His Father set before Him — the way of sacrifice, suffering, and death — in the confidence that His Father would also raise Him from death and the grave, in keeping with the Word and promise of His Baptism.  He knew that He was loved and pleasing to His Father, and so He trusted that His Father would deal with Him in steadfast loving-kindness and deep mercy.

So it is that, by His Cross and Passion — and in His Resurrection from the dead — His God and Father has established the Body of Christ Jesus as the true and everlasting Temple of God among men, in heaven and on earth.  And so it is that His Body is your Refuge and Strength, your Hiding Place in the day of trouble, your Peace and Rest, already here and now, and hereafter in eternity.

This Temple of the Lord, the Body of Christ, is not a robber’s den where you might hide while continuing to sin; nor is it a marketplace, where you might pick and choose and purchase what you want.  It is rather the place where the Lord your God has chosen to establish His Name and Glory, where you now find Him and abide with Him by faith in His forgiveness and His righteousness.

This Gospel of Christ Jesus is the Word of faith that He preaches into your ears and into your heart, by which He also opens your lips in confession and prayer, that you should call upon His Name, receive His good gifts, and be saved from every evil of body and soul, both now and forever.

By this Ministry of His Gospel — by the Word and promise of His Baptism, by the preaching of His Word, and by His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for the forgiveness of your sins  — He draws near to you, and He abides with you in the wilderness as your Champion against the devil, death, and hell.  For He is your Righteousness and Holiness; He is your Life and Salvation.

As you have entered by your Baptism into the wilderness of daily repentance, into open conflict and harsh warfare with the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh, so have you entered into the closest possible union with Christ Jesus.  And in Him none of your enemies can harm you.

Though you daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment, there is no condemnation for you in Christ Jesus.  He does not accuse or condemn you; therefore, no one else may do so.

Though the devil rages and storms against you, seeking with all his wily cunning, and by all his might and mane, to devour and destroy you, he cannot harm you while you abide in Christ and Christ abides with you.  Oh, to be sure, Satan may be permitted to cause you pain and sorrow, to hurt your body, to take your possessions, perhaps even to end your mortal life on earth.  But that is all, and nothing more.  Even death will not rob you of your life in Christ, both body and soul.  And all that you suffer in the meantime must serve the purposes of the Lord for your salvation.

Although the world entices you with all of its deceitful pleasures, with all of its false gods and lying vices, the Lord Jesus Christ remains your priceless Treasure.  In Him, the Kingdom of God is yours, and there is nothing else you need.  Your heart and life, body and soul reside in Christ.

Now, let us be honest.  It is true that your faith and your faithfulness are wobbly and uncertain.  But your great Champion is steadfast, sure, and certain; and He remains by your side forever.

Your obedience is frail and faulty, but Christ is your Righteousness — He is your perfect Holiness — who has been obedient unto death, even death upon the Cross.  So there is nothing lacking.  Not only are you are safe and sound in Christ, but you are loved and pleasing to God the Father in Him.

Christ Jesus is the Armor that covers and protects you.  He is the Shield that surrounds you, round about, within and without.  He is the Sword that fights for you forever, and He shall never yield.

The Lord allows you to be tempted, tried, and tested by the devil, so as to break you of your self-reliance, and to strengthen your faith and trust and confidence in Christ alone.  So does the Lord likewise allow you to hunger in the wilderness, so that you might learn to hunger for His Word, to call upon His Name, and to pray for your Daily Bread from His extended arm and open hand.

And so it is that Christ Jesus, your Champion, the incarnate Word of God, the true and living Bread from heaven, feeds you with Himself, His Body and His Blood, unto the life everlasting.  For in Him you have entered the Land of Milk and Honey, and here at His Altar you live by His grace.

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

No comments: