23 March 2016

To Listen and to Live as a Disciple

By the grace of God, the Lord Jesus has chosen you and called you to Himself, to hear His Voice, to learn from Him, and to live by faith in His Word.  You are His own, anointed by His Holy Spirit and adopted by His Father, as your Holy Baptism testifies and His Word of Holy Absolution reaffirms and upholds.  By His Ministry of the Gospel, He washes your feet and cleanses you from sin, within and without, unto the life everlasting.

By His Word and Spirit, you are a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  So, listen to Him, and live as He lives.  And know above all else that He loves you and serves you faithfully, even unto death.

So does He welcome you to recline at His Table with Him, to lean upon Him and rest yourself in Him.  Here from His own hand He feeds you with that Bread which is His holy Body, and He gives you to drink from that Cup of Salvation which is the New Testament in His Blood.

Do not take these most precious Gifts lightly or for granted, but rejoice in them, give thanks for them, and live as one who is washed and fed by the Son of God.

But lest you become puffed up and full of yourself, consider and take to heart that Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter were also washed and fed by the same Lord Jesus Christ.  And be sure of this, that you are no greater, no better, and no stronger than either of those men, who were among the chosen twelve disciples and Apostles of Christ.

Do not suppose that you will be able to guard and keep yourself from harm and danger, that you will be able to survive the assaults and accusations of the devil, or that you will be able to resist the temptations and deceptions of Satan, who hates you and seeks to destroy you.  On earth is not his equal, and no might or power of yours will defeat him.  But, make no mistake, he is out to get you, and as he did with Simon Peter, so would the devil sift you also like wheat.  With vile craft and evil spite he would lead you astray into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.

By yourself, you are prone to sinful pride on the one hand, and to sinful despair on the other hand.  Either way, you are a sitting duck and easy prey for the old evil foe.

Therefore, do not presume to take your life into your own hands, whether to make your own way, to save yourself, or to kill yourself.  You are not God.  Your strategies are misguided, and apart from the Word and Spirit of Christ you are simply mistaken.  You think you know what’s what and what you’re doing, but you do not.  Your only hope and only help are in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Be on your guard against all other answers and alternatives.  Do not betray your Lord and sell Him out, not for cash, and not for any other advantage in this world.  That will not end well for you.  Neither boast nor even suppose that you are able to do and accomplish what only Jesus can do.

In short, do not attempt to make a life for yourself, to go it alone, or to be your own savior.  Rather, receive and rely upon the means of grace by which the Lord Jesus chooses to serve and sustain you with His Gospel.  Hear and heed His Word, and embrace Him in His Holy Sacraments in the humility of repentance and in the joyful confidence of faith.

Repent of your presumptuous pride and sinful self-righteousness.  Despair of yourself, of your own reason and strength.  But do not despair of Christ and His Love.  For such despair is only the other side of pride, in which you place yourself, your works, and your worthiness at the defining center.  That is not right, and it will not work.

Repent of your despair and of your self-conceit.  Do not betray your Lord, nor deny your Savior, by serving and relying on yourself.  But deny yourself and cling to Him, who comes to you in love and saves you by His grace alone.  Be lifted up by Christ as He stoops down in mercy to cleanse your dirty feet and to sanctify you by His Spirit in body and soul.

Now, to be sure, you cannot follow Him at the first, to go where He goes and do what He does.  That is His prerogative and His divine glory as the Son of God, your Savior.  He goes ahead of you to open the Way, to tread Satan, sin, and death beneath His feet by His death upon the Cross.

But so it is that you shall follow Him hereafter.  For you share His Cross and His Resurrection from the dead, by grace through faith in Him, by the washing of the water with His Word and Spirit.  As a disciple, you follow in His footsteps.  You listen to His Voice and live as He lives.

So does He call you and teach you to love your neighbor, as He loves you.  It remains ever and always the case that you love, both Him and others, because He first loves you.  And, oh, how He does love you: faithfully and freely, fully and forever.

He loves you with divine and holy Love.  He loves you by washing your feet and by feeding your body and soul with His flesh and blood.  He loves you by speaking His Word of forgiveness, mercy, and peace.  He loves you by calling you daily to repentance, from death to life in Him.

It is for this very purpose that He has called and sent His servants of the Word to speak and act on His behalf, in His Name and stead.  The Ministry of the Gospel is not simply a message about love, but an active and ongoing exercise of Love itself.

Those whom Jesus sends to love you in this way are sinful, mortal men, no better and no stronger than yourself, and of themselves no better and no stronger than Judas or Peter.

But, thankfully, it is the Lord Jesus who sends them to you, and it is Him that you hear and receive in the Word they speak by His divine command.

“This do,” He says, “in remembrance of Me.”  “As I have done for you, so do unto others.”  And so it goes from generation to generation, also here and now to you.

As He washes and feeds you by His Gospel, so serve and care for your neighbor within your own vocation.  And as He has opened your ears to listen and learn from Him as a disciple, so also speak with the grace of Christ, that you may strengthen the weary and the weak with His Word.

You’re not on your own, nor are you left to your own devices.  The Lord befriended you and reconciled you to Himself when you were His mortal enemy.  And, having done so, how much more does He continue to love you, even now, and even to the close of the age.  He loves you beautifully and boldly, though He knows your weaknesses and your sins.  Your betrayals and denials have not caught Him by surprise, nor trapped Him in circumstances beyond His control.  He loves you anyway, not because you are so lovable, but because He is Love.

He went to the Cross, as the Father sent Him, and He laid down His life willingly for you and for all people.  So has He also taken it up again by the Spirit of His Father, not for His own benefit, but that He might give you abundant Life in and with Himself, here and now and forever after.

Thus, with His great Love, He welcome you to recline here on His bosom, to rest yourself in Him here at His Table, where He feeds you with His Body and gives you to drink of His Blood — yes, even for you, He says — for the forgiveness of all your sins, and for life and salvation in Him.

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

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