19 February 2016

The Kingdom of God Has Come Upon You

So enthralled are you with sin, death, and the power of the devil, that, apart from Christ, you can neither pray as you should nor confess what is true.  You are helpless and hopeless, and you cannot even cry out or ask for help.  Whatever you might say would be blasphemous and wrong.

But Jesus has come down from heaven to release you from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil.  In fulfillment of the words and promises of God, He has entered into your Egypt in order to set you free; He has gotten glory over Pharaoh by His Cross, and has brought you out of slavery through the Red Sea waters of your Baptism into the glorious liberty of life in the Kingdom of God.

Thus has Christ Jesus, the Stronger Man, overcome and plundered Satan, obtaining victory for you over all the devil’s wily works and wicked ways.  He has gotten forgiveness of all your sins by His atoning sacrifice.  He has made death powerless over you, since He has already suffered it for you and overcome it by His voluntary suffering and death in your stead.  That is why His Resurrection is also your release from death and the grave and your Righteousness in the presence of God.

So, too, by His preaching of the Gospel, by His Word and Holy Spirit, He opens your ears to hear, and He opens your lips to show forth His praise, to confess and call upon His holy Name in faith.

Now, the devil is mad as hell about all of this, and he is restless and out of his mind to undo it all.  In bitter envy and resentment he prowls around, desperately seeking to devour and destroy you.  In particular, he watches and waits with eager desire to catch you in the “waterless places” away from your Baptism, that is, outside of repentance and faith, apart from the Word of Christ Jesus.

This is precisely what happens in far too many cases, especially where parents have their children baptized apart from the ongoing fellowship and life of the Church.  It is the tragic downfall of those who are baptized but then do not continue to be catechized in the Word and works of God, in the Law and the Gospel, in daily contrition, repentance, confession, and faith in Christ Jesus.

For you cannot and do not remain in the waters of your Holy Baptism apart from the faith and life and prayer that are born of all that Jesus has commanded, that is, the preaching and teaching of His Word and the administration of His Supper at His Table in His Holy Christian Church.

Where and when you depart from the waters of your Baptism to the waterless places of the world, you place yourself in grave danger, perhaps without even realizing it.

For the devil is ready and anxious to pounce upon your body and soul, to move right back into your heart and life, and to take over again, setting up house with seven other unclean spirits.

The end result is worse than even it was to begin with!

Thanks be to God, therefore, that He has not left you to fend for yourself, but in His mercy He has blessed you by His Holy Spirit to continue hearing and believing His Holy Word and to live according to it.  For such faith and life are not by your own reason or strength, nor by your own resolve or ingenuity, but by the Lord’s preaching and Ministry of the Gospel.

Take heart, that He has not left you defenseless or in the dark.  No, He who began His good work in you, in the waters of your Holy Baptism, is still at work to continue it, to bring it to completion in the Body of Christ Jesus.  To that end, He calls you daily by His Gospel, enlightens you with the gifts of His Holy Spirit, and strengthens and sustains you in the one true faith, here and now in His Church on earth, even unto the life everlasting in the resurrection of your body.

Blessed are you, therefore, who hear the Word of God and keep it!  For it is by His grace.

By yourself, you would be easy prey for the devil, all his works, and all his ways.  But you are not your own, you are the Lord’s.  And, as we have heard this past Sunday, He fights for you.  Thus are you armored with Christ and sheltered safely within the Mighty Fortress of His Church by His preaching of repentance, by His Word of the Gospel, and by His forgiveness of all your sins.

Blessed are you, who are fed and nourished unto life by the Supper of the Word-made-Flesh, whom St. Mary bore and nursed at her breast.  For His flesh and blood have conquered the devil, and so do they protect you here and now and forevermore from all the devil’s tyranny and spite.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord your God, whose Kingdom is upon you in Christ your Savior.

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

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