25 June 2017

That You May Be His Own

If you believe in your heart that Jesus is the Son of God, that He bore your sins in His Body to the Cross, and that He was put to death for your transgressions; and if you believe that God the Father raised Him from the dead for your justification, then confess with your mouth and with your life that this same Jesus is your Savior and your God.

In all that you say and all that you do, let it be known before men that you belong to Him who paid for you with His holy and precious blood.  Hear and heed His holy Word, and live by that Word.

For you are called to be and to live as His disciple.  Which means that you follow Him and listen to His teaching, and that you also learn from His example and His life.  You are His apprentice, and from Him you learn how to live, and how to die, to the glory of His holy Name.

So also, find your true home and your true family in His Church.  Understand that your identity, and your entire place and purpose in life, are found within the Body of Christ, His holy Church.

When Jesus speaks of the divisions that will come within families, He certainly does not advocate animosity for its own sake.  You should not seek to be at odds with your spouse, your children, or your parents.  But neither should you serve and accommodate any of them at the cost of your faith, at the expense of your confession, or in any way that would compromise the Word of Christ.

Your allegiance belongs to Him.  And anyone who loves father, mother, son, or daughter more than Christ, is not worthy to be His disciple, and will not enter the Kingdom of God.  You are to love and serve your family, of course, in accordance with the Word of God, and so also in the fear of the Lord, in the faith and worship of Christ above everything else.  But it is blasphemous idolatry to put your parents, spouse, or children ahead of Him.  Wherever you are doing so, repent.

Do not love anyone more than you love Jesus.  I’m not talking about your feelings and emotions, but about your words and actions, your commitments and priorities.  Do not be afraid to count the cost and bear the consequences of following the Lord.  Do not be afraid of what others may think or say or do to you.  And do not fear what may become of you.  But fear, love, and trust in God.  And finding your life in Christ Jesus, so live as a slave unto righteousness in Him.

Now, St. Paul carefully explains that, when he speaks of this slavery to righteousness, this slavery to Christ, he is speaking with human terms.  It means that you belong to Jesus, who has redeemed you, purchased and won you for Himself.  Not with gold or silver, as you know, but with His own Body and Life, with His own Flesh and Blood; that you should be His own, and live under Him in His Kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  Thus it is that your true value and worth are indicated by what the Lord Jesus Christ has paid for you.

But, in fact, you are a slave to whatever you obey.  You are a slave to whatever master you follow, whether the Lord or your own fallen flesh.  And if you are a slave to sin, then you do the works of unrighteousness, which lead to death.  But if you are a slave to Christ, that is to say, by His grace, through faith in Him, you do the works of righteousness and life to the glory of His Name.

So, then, do not live as a slave to sin and death.  Nor suppose that your sins are harmless or okay.  If you live as a slave to sin, then you belong to sin, and you are subject to death, both now and forever.  For the wages of sin is death, as Holy Scripture plainly says.

Live instead as one who has died and risen with Christ, as dead to the world and alive to God.  For if you are a Christian, that is precisely who and what you are.  That is what God has accomplished in you by His Word and in your Holy Baptism.  You have been crucified, dead, and buried with Christ Jesus.  So are you also raised to newness of life in and with Him.  Live, therefore, according to His Word, in the confidence and courage of His Resurrection, as a member of His Body.

It is a matter of confessing what you have heard and received from the Lord Jesus Christ.  As you have been called and brought to faith and life by His Word of the Gospel, so confess that Word of His Gospel with your words and actions.  In that way you glorify God and serve your neighbor.

As it is not only your soul but also your body that has been redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ, and cleansed in the waters of His Holy Baptism, and sanctified by His Holy Spirit, and saved for the Resurrection and the Life everlasting, confess your Lord in and with your body.

Day in and day out — week by week throughout the year, throughout your life, from childhood into old age — work not for your own benefit, but work to serve your neighbor within the office and station in life to which the Lord has called you.  That is where He wills you to work in love for your neighbor, to live and serve according to His Word, as Christ also lives in love for you.

You need not wonder where or how you are to live.  Your job and duties may be tedious and boring.  They may be difficult and thankless.  They may get no attention or acknowledgment, even from those whom you serve.  Nevertheless, it is to such work that your own dear Father in heaven has called you in His Son.  He is well aware of you and your labor.  He sees and knows what you are about.  And He is pleased by your faithfulness.  Your faith and love in Christ are not in vain.

It is certain that you will not atone for your sins or justify yourself before God by your good works.  That is not the point or purpose of His Commandments or the duties He has given you to do.  But by your labors of faith and love, according to the Word of the Lord, within your office and station in life, you do confess your Lord Jesus Christ and glorify your Father in heaven.  That is the point.

Therefore, do not be lazy, slack, or cavalier in regards to the life that you are called to live as a Christian in the righteousness which is by faith in Christ.  Take that calling as seriously as the Cross and Passion of your Lord, and live it boldly in the hope and promise of His Resurrection.

By the same token, flee immorality.  That’s not just advice.  That, too, is the Word of the Lord.  Do not give your body over to lust of any kind, whether for your neighbor’s wife, or for pictures in a magazine or on your computer, or for money, or food, or position and prestige.  Covetousness is the root of all temptation, which conceives and gives birth to sin, which matures fully into death.

Therefore, do not live according to the lusts of your flesh, but turn around and run the other way.  And pray without ceasing that God would strengthen and sustain you in the faith, to do not what is deadly but what is good and right and acceptable according to His Word.

Do not live as though you were still dead in your trespasses and sin.  Do not continue in your evil deeds as though you still belonged to them, as though sin and death were your lord and master.  Do not go about your days and your deeds in this body and life on earth as though you were nothing more than a mass of decaying flesh, instead of the very temple of the Holy Spirit, a living being of body and soul, in whom Christ Jesus lives and abides by His grace.  Do not deny His Resurrection, nor disavow the Kingdom of your God and Father, as though it were a fantasy.

Remember that you are the Lord’s, His own precious possession, His child and heir.  Not only are you His creature, but all that you are, and all that you have, has been bought and paid for by Christ Himself, at the cost of His own Body and Life, by the shedding of His holy and precious Blood.  You belong to Him in life, in death, and in the Resurrection of your body to the Life everlasting.

For now, your life in Christ is hidden under His Cross.  You cannot see it, except through a glass darkly.  For He lives and dwells in thick darkness, in the midst of sin and death.  So you do not see or feel or experience His Resurrection and His Life with your mortal eyes or in your mortal flesh.  It is revealed to you only in His Word.  But even that can sound like such a soft and subtle whisper in your ear, which the wild world threatens to drown out with all its noisy chaos and confusion.

What, then, do you experience?  Fightings and fears within and without, and the war that rages in your members, in your body of death.  You find yourself returning to the slavery of sin, day after day, over and over again, even when you know better and desire to do better.

You are too easily persuaded by the sinful world around you, by the devil, and by your own sinful flesh.  And you are too sluggish to follow Christ, to live as He lives, to do as He has called you.

But now, do not despair, and do not be afraid.  Rather, repent of your sins each day, and bear the fruits of repentance.  Trust Christ, and live according to His Word, by faith in His forgiveness of your sins.  For you are called to be a lifelong disciple of Jesus, your Teacher.  Which is to say that you must continue to be instructed by Him, to be catechized by His Word and the preaching of it.

To be a disciple, which is to be a Christian, is to be a lifelong student of Christ Jesus.  It is to be a slave of this one Master.  For you are not above Him, but you are called to be like Him.  Listen to what He says.  Let His Word have its way with you, instead of insisting on your own way.

Hear and heed His Word of the Law, which reveals His good and acceptable Will.  For it is neither safe, nor godly, nor okay, to ignore or disobey the Lord’s Commandments.

But together with His Law, hear also His Word of the Gospel.  For what He teaches and reveals in His Law, He has accomplished and fulfilled for you and for all in His own Body and Life, by His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, in holy faith and perfect love.

God’s Law accuses and condemns you because you are a sinner.  But God’s Law also sets before you a picture of Christ, who has lived as the true Man in perfect faith toward His God and Father and in perfect love for His Father and for all of His neighbors, including you.

He does not rob you.  He does not take your life.  He is not unfaithful in His promises to you, nor does He cast you aside for your unfaithfulness.  He does not speak against you.  He testifies on your behalf.  He declares you righteous for His own sake, with His own perfect Righteousness.  He gives you His own life, at His own expense, and with that He gives you all good things.

When He preaches His Law to you, it’s not because He’s already done His part and now it’s your turn to carry the weight for awhile.  He preaches His Law, as He does all things, that He might call you to Himself in peace.  That He might turn you away from sin and death and back to Himself.  That He might gather you to Himself and embrace you with His love, and bring you to the Father.

So it is that His Word of the Gospel does not command you but forgives you.  It rescues you from death.  And it brings you to life with God.  Because Christ has become your Righteousness, and Christ has become your Holiness.  His Cross and  Resurrection have reconciled you to God the Father.  His Word of the Gospel thus lays hold of you in love and brings you into safety forever.

Whatever sins have dwelt in your heart and mind, and whatever sins you have committed with your body, Christ forgives you by and with His Word of the Gospel.  And by this same Word He brings you into the presence of God, cleansed and holy, pleasing and acceptable to your Father in heaven.

Hear also how He confesses you before both God and man.  Hear how Jesus confesses you in the presence of heaven and earth.  He proclaims you to be His own.  He forgives you all of your sins.  And He feeds you with His own Body and Blood, the Ransom with which He has redeemed you.

The Son of Man comes to you here and now.  He comes to you in love, who has given Himself for you on the Cross, and who has been raised for your justification.  He has opened heaven to you and to all who believe and are baptized into Him.  Therefore, do not be afraid.  For Christ endures to the end.  And Lo, He is with you always, even to the close of the age, and unto the life everlasting.

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

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