31 March 2016

Repent, Trust Christ, and Live

Simon Peter was called and brought to contrition and repentance, from his sinful doubts and fears to faith in the forgiveness of his sins by Jesus Christ.  His strength was not in himself, but in the weakness of the Cross.  And in his own weakness he glorified God by the grace of the Lord Jesus.

It is by that weakness of the Cross that Simon Peter would strengthen his brethren and shepherd the sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ.  So are you also shepherded by the Ministry of the Gospel, fed and watered, guided and guarded from all harm and danger, by the great Good Shepherd of us all: Who has laid down His life for you — and taken it up again, in order to give you life in Himself.  Who has called you by name, and you are His — and you know His Voice, and you follow Him.

But do you love Him?  Do you value Him and love Him more than your life in this world?  Would you follow Him where you do not wish to go?  Would you follow Him even to prison or to death?

Where you are put to the test, where your security and comfort are threatened, where your safety, health, and very life are in danger and at stake, do you know the Lord Jesus there and then?  Do you love Him, and are you willing to admit it?  Do you boldly confess Him in the face of hostility?

Or do you deny Him, and deny that you know Him, because you really don’t know Him at all?

Do you pray, praise, and give thanks in His Name, in both good times and bad, in confident faith?  Or do you rather curse, swear, lie, and deceive with your words and by your actions, despite the fact that you have been given to bear His Name in your Holy Baptism?

When you are called to account for your sins and your unfaithfulness, for your sinful doubts and anxieties, for your boastful pride and arrogance, for your fears and failures, for your denials and betrayals — when you are deeply grieved on account of your sins, and you weep bitterly under the Law that exposes your sinfulness and shame — it is not that God would mock you and shame you or drive you away, but that you should despair of yourself and every righteousness of your own, and that you would also then be driven to cast yourself on Christ, to fear, love, and trust in Him.

He calls you by His Word and Spirit to repent of your sins, to be turned away from them entirely in heart and mind, in thought, word, and deed; and that you should believe in Christ and live in Him by the way of His Cross, and enter by faith through suffering and death into His Resurrection.

So that, being ashamed of yourself, you would no longer be ashamed of Christ and His Gospel, but that, as often as you have fallen in the past, and as often as you fail and fall short yet again, He would raise you up and restore you by His grace through His forgiveness of your sins.

It is for this reason and for this purpose that He has been crucified and raised again: Not to call the self-righteous but real sinners to repentance.  And thus to heal the sick.  To feed the hungry.  To quench your thirst with living water.  To forgive your sins and give you life by His Gospel.

It is likewise for this reason and this purpose that He calls and sends His servants to shepherd His sheep, to tend and feed His lambs; that you should be guarded and kept safe from the roaring lion and the howling wolf; that you should graze safely upon the green grass of His living Word; that you should dwell within His House, now and forever, and feast with Him at His Banquet Table.

Come then, little lamb of the Lord Jesus, dear sheep of the Good Shepherd.  Do not be afraid, but draw near with confidence, and be at peace in Him who remembers you in love but remembers your sins no more.  Eat from His hand, drink from His Chalice, and live by His grace and mercy.

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

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