02 April 2016

The Art of the Christian Life

She who is forgiven much, loves much, and she eagerly receives the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  For she has known a hellish, demonic life, but the Lord Jesus set her free.  He rescued her from Satan, sin, and death.  He has become her strength and her new song, because He is her great Salvation.

That is why she has also mourned when He was crucified, truly dead, and buried in the earth, and why she is the first to see and believe and rejoice in His Resurrection from the dead.  For His death was the propitiation for her sins, and His Resurrection is her righteousness and everlasting life.

She has already known the mercy of Christ and His victory over sin, death, the devil, and hell, in His forgiveness of her sins, His casting out of her demons, and His healing of her body and soul.

Therefore, she is now quickly raised up from her misery, pain, and fear, and brought into the genuine joy and gladness of her Lord’s Resurrection.

She is not a pastor, but she is a Christian and a member of the Church, which is the Bride of Christ.  And in the history of the Church, she has been known as “the apostle to the Apostles,” because the Lord Jesus sends this dear Mary to report the news of His Resurrection to the Eleven who remain.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this same good news is also reported to you, because it is for you.

Do not doubt that it is true.  Do not harden your heart against this Gospel, nor refuse to believe it.

To clarify the point, I understand that you do not doubt or deny the historical facts of the Cross and Resurrection.  But, just so, do not question that those solid facts are for you and your salvation.

That is where the real contest is actually fought.  That is where the devil and his demons attack.  They would lead you into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.  First of all by enticing you to sin, sometimes in gross and obvious ways, but more often in ways that are slippery, subtle, and sophisticated, yet no less damnable and deadly.  Then, when they have led you astray, they assault and accuse you, aiming to drag you down, to drive you into the grave.

The art of the Christian life is to shut your eyes and ears to those “facts” of your sin, which seem so irrefutable, and to recognize Jesus, not by sight, but by faith in His Word of the Gospel, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in the Breaking of the Bread as you recline with Him at His Table.

He joins you in the fight, and He joins Himself to you by the speaking and confession of His Word.  But His form and His appearance have been transfigured by His Cross.  That is to say, He is ugly and unrecognizable in the eyes of the world, but beautiful and marvelous to His God and Father.  So, it is only by His Word and Holy Spirit that you see Him as He is and receive Him by faith.

He comes not to argue and debate with you, neither to cajole and coerce you, but to cast out your demons by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins.  He heals you and raises you up by the catechesis of His Word, which not only exposes your sins but forgives them by His grace.  And in mercy He reclines at the table with you here, and He makes Himself known to you in this Holy Communion by giving you His Body and His Blood to eat and to drink at His Word.

And take this to heart, dear child of God: He causes His Gospel to be preached to all of creation even by those very men who refused to believe it at first.  Consider that, and cling to that in hope.

He causes His Gospel to be preached to all of creation, because all of creation has been redeemed by His death and by His blood, and all of creation is sanctified by His bodily resurrection from the dead.  All things are recreated and made brand new in Him.

By no means are you excluded.  By no means are you beyond the reach of His Gospel.

Whatever your sins have been, whatever your losses, whatever your sadness, sickness, or trouble, this Gospel of the crucified and risen Christ is preached to you, because it is for you.  It is yours.

If you are an infant in the womb, a baby at your mother’s breast, a toddler still in diapers, a rowdy little boy or a moody little girl; if you are a teenager, an adult, an old woman or a young man; if you are the chief of sinners, a dirty rotten scoundrel, a loser, a liar, a failure, or a joke — Christ the Lord has died for you, and He is risen for you.  He forgives you all your sins and gives you His life.

Neither sin nor death can harm you; neither Satan nor hell can have their way with you; for Christ Himself is with you to guard you and protect you, to save you by His grace through faith in Him.

See here, there is no poison in this Cup which your Lord pours out for you in peace, but His holy and precious Blood of the New Testament, the Medicine of Immortality.  Here He lays His hands on you in love, and from all that ails you He delivers you and heals you and makes you brand new.

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

No comments: