20 March 2016

The Heart, Mind, and Spirit of Christ

Have this attitude in yourself, the heart, mind, and spirit of Christ Jesus, who did not seek His own advantage but the will of God and the salvation of sinners.  To live and to love as He has done on the Way of His Cross is to be like God in the flesh.  It is to bear His Image and Likeness in your body and life, as you were created to do.  It is to live unto righteousness by faith in His Word.

Not that you are righteous of yourself, but that your righteousness is found and received in Christ alone, who loves you and has given Himself for you.  Nor is it simply that you know what a godly, divine, and righteous life is like from His example, but that He has become your righteousness by His divine life, His godly death, and His Resurrection from the dead in human flesh and blood.

Even in the womb of His Mother Mary, in His Body just like yours, He is and remains the true and only God, of one and the same divine nature as the Father and the Holy Spirit.  That does not change when He becomes true Man.  But neither does He take it for granted.  He does not rest on His laurels or presume upon His status and prerogatives.  He does not insist upon His own way, nor enforce His human will upon His neighbors.  He does not live to serve Himself, but to serve others at His own expense to the glory of His God and Father.

He does not humble Himself by becoming Man, for that in itself is the fulfillment of God’s good creation from the beginning, that He should be the Image of God, the living Icon of the Father, the exact representation of His Likeness in the flesh, and all the fullness of the Deity in bodily form.  Yet, with all of that, this God-Man Jesus Christ humbled Himself by taking on the curse of sin and death.  He bore in His Body the Fall into sin and all the consequences of that great and mighty Fall.  He suffered all the frailties and weaknesses of your mortality, your sickness, your sorrow, and not only your death but the judgment of God against your sins and the damnation that you deserve.

All of this He does and suffers in obedience to His Father, in holy faith and confidence, and in holy love for you and all your neighbors in the world.  It is not easy or painless.  He does not enjoy it, but for the joy set before Him He endures the Cross in the hope and promise of the Resurrection, not for His own sake but for your salvation.  He does not consider it beneath Him.  He does not avoid the shame and disgrace of man, but He willingly makes that burden His own in order to raise the children of man from the dust of the earth and glorify them with His Righteousness and Life.

In the Cross and Passion of Christ you behold the great compassion of God and the perfection of His almighty power in mercy.  And in His Resurrection you are called to live by His righteousness, which is to live by faith in His forgiveness of your sins, to bear His Cross in peace and hope, and to glorify God in your body.  This is your calling as a Christian, as a child of God, as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ: to think and speak and act as He has done within your own station in life.

So, are you ready, then, as Simon Peter boasted, to go with your Lord Jesus wherever He goes, whether to prison or even to death on the Cross?  To bear His reproach and share His disgrace in the eyes of the fallen world?  Or do you fear the questions, accusations, and opinions of others?

Own that you are a Christian, not only in the safety of the congregation but in the public square.  Confess the truth, not only when it is popular and politically correct, but especially when it is under attack.  Speak up in defense of the defenseless, and then also put your money where your mouth is by helping to protect and support them in their needs.  Find the courage to admonish the erring according to your proper calling, which is to say, not by yelling at politicians on television from the comfortable anonymity of your couch, nor by passive aggressive Facebook posts, but by teaching your own children to fear the Lord; by disciplining your sons and daughters, not in anger but in love; and by refusing to accommodate evil or compromise your conscience on the job.

And where you have done wrong, where you have fallen short, where you have hurt or neglected to help your neighbor, and where you have failed to do your duty, find the courage to confess your sins, to seek the Holy Absolution of God, and to bear the fruits of repentance in your behavior.  In this, too, you bear the Cross of Christ, who bore your sins in His Body and suffered for them.

Do not kid yourself that you can follow Christ and live rightly as a Christian by any skill or effort of your own.  Nor suppose that, for that reason, it doesn’t matter and you need not worry about it.  On the contrary, pray the more fervently to your Father in heaven, and call on the Name of the Lord, that He would guard you against temptation and deliver you from the evil one, and above all, that He would preserve you in His Word and faith until you die, lest you fall away and perish forever.  And again, where and when you have fallen, for there is no one who does not stumble, be turned back to Christ and strengthened in Him by the preaching and ministry of His Gospel.

In other words, live not by our own ingenuity or personal strengths, but by faith in Christ Jesus.

Consider how very different He is from all the idols in your life to which you sacrifice, all those perishable and temporary things in which you invest so much of yourself, your time and energy, your money to the point of going into debt, your body and your health, and even your own soul.  Those false gods that occupy your heart and mind and dominate your days and nights are not able to help you; they cannot give you life.  They require so much of you, but whatever they may give you in return is fleeting and short-lived, even if it is not inherently wrong.  Enjoy the good gifts of God, but do not worship them.  When you pray to them, they will prey on you until you perish.

Only in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead, do you find the resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and soul.  His Word alone endures forever and ever.

Contrast Him to the rulers of the nations, who lord it over their subjects and call themselves benefactors, even though they get all their wealth and power from the people.  King Jesus did not put on airs or vaunt Himself, but He emptied Himself in humility and laid down His life in love.

He gave Himself over to death and shed His precious Blood to atone for all your sins, to rob the devil of his power against you, to raise you up from death, and to give you life with God.  Christ did not save Himself, but He freely died to save you and all others, to forgive the sins of those who trespassed against Him, who betrayed and denied Him, who handed Him over and falsely accused Him, who beat and mocked and spit on Him, who stripped Him of His clothes and nailed Him to the Cross.  Not in desperation or denial, but in perfect faith and faithfulness He entrusted Himself to His God and Father, relying on Him to raise Him from death and the grave and to vindicate Him.

This innocent suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, contrary to all appearances, is actually
the true divine Glory of God.  For His Glory is not found in what the world supposes to be good
and great and powerful, but in what this world considers useless and weak, impotent and foolish.

The Lord your God does not exercise His royal sovereignty by taxing you or taking things from you, but by giving all good things to you by grace.  So He does, not only for you, but for the world.  From princes to paupers, from presidents to peasants, whatever anybody has is by the charity of God.  Yet, all the stuff on earth will not save you, no matter how much you may have, but only Christ and the treasures of His Kingdom, which are yours by faith alone in the Gospel of His Cross and Resurrection.  For by and from His Sacrifice He gives to you His Righteousness and Life, His divine Sonship and His Name, His Body and His Blood, His heart and mind, and His Holy Spirit.

He saves you by the Passion of His great Love for you, which He bears and suffers unto death for the forgiveness of your sins.  He pours Himself out in order to fill you up with a prosperity and peace such as this world and its rulers neither know nor understand and cannot provide.

Because He is your Lord and King, your Savior and your God, He does teach you the fear of God.  He calls you to repentance where you are wrong, and He disciplines you to do what is good and right.  But in this, too, He exercises love for you, that you should learn how to live the divine life that is yours by His grace through faith in His Gospel.  He desires not your hurt but your salvation.

He calls you to weep for yourself and for the legacy of your sins, but to find your joy and gladness in His mercy.  He calls you to take up His Cross and follow Him in the hope of His Resurrection.

When He wounds you, it is to heal you by turning you away from your dead and deadly idols back to Himself, the true and living God who is alone the Author and Giver of Life.  When He puts you to death for your sins, it is to put sin to death in you, to raise you up and give you life by His free forgiveness of your sins.  So does He preserve you in His Word and strengthen your faith in Him.

And bear in mind that, despite how it feels to your flesh, this dying and rising of repentance and faith is a participation in the Image and Likeness of God.  Do not lose sight of this important fact, that everything He works in you for your good — as He deals with you in gentle compassion and according to the divine justice of His Love — He has first of all accomplished for you in Himself, in His own Body of flesh and blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He has borne your sin in His Body.  He has suffered your death in His Body.  And He is risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father in His Body of flesh and blood like your own.

It is for this purpose that He has gone up to Jerusalem, and for this great salvation of sinners like yourself that He was lifted up in death upon the Cross.  It is the Will of God that He achieved and the Kingdom of God that He has established on earth as it is in heaven; for He bore the sins of the world as the Lamb of God, and He sacrificed Himself in the humble obedience of faith and love.  He is the One who was wounded in order to heal you.  He is the One who was put to death in order to give you life.  He is the One who has atoned for your sins and reconciled you to His Father.

He numbered Himself with transgressors.  He took His place with sinners from His Baptism to His Cross; He suffered and died in their stead.  And He humbled Himself in this way in order to cover your shame with His honor, to glorify you in Himself.  For His faithful obedience is reckoned unto you as righteousness, so that in His Resurrection and Ascension you are highly exalted by God.  As in your Holy Baptism, so also by His Holy Absolution and with His gracious Benediction, you are named with His great Name.  By His Ministry of the Gospel you are vindicated of your faults.

The Cross that He has laid upon your heart, mind, and spirit, on your body and your soul, is not only for repentance and discipline, but also for the daily and ongoing forgiveness of your sins, for your protection against Satan, all his works and all his ways, and for your Life and Salvation with Christ in God.  Through the blest baptismal waters you follow the Lord Jesus up to Jerusalem, and you pass through His death and grave into the Most Holy Place, eternal in the heavens, where you eat and drink the Passover Feast of God.  So does that man with the pitcher of water lead you to the Upper Room for that great Supper, the neverending Banquet of the Lamb in His Kingdom.

Here then, at His Altar, bend your knee at the Name of Jesus Christ, and confess to the glory of His God and Father that He who feeds you with His Body and His Blood is your Lord.  Worship Him with all that you are and have, not only in your heart and mind, but also with your body.  Not as though you must appease any wrath in Him or curry His favor, but rather in love, with thanks and praise, in faith, and with deep reverence, because He is the Lord your God in the flesh, your Savior from death, who freely and fully forgives you all of your sins.  He is the One who gives you life.

Offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving, because He gives you all good things by grace, and there is nothing else for you to do but return thanks unto Him.  He does not require that you sacrifice your flesh or pour out your blood.  On the contrary, He who is the one true God in the flesh does this for you.  He gives you His Body to eat, the Fat Portion of His Sacrifice for you.  And He pours out His Blood for you to drink, the Choice Wine of His sacred Libation.  How could He honor you more than He does?  For He is with you as the One who serves here at His Table.  He remembers you here in His Kingdom, and He gives you a place here with Himself in His Paradise on earth.

That is the heart, mind, and spirit of Christ, that you should find peace and rest in Him forever.

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

No comments: