28 February 2018

Living with God in Christ by His Word and Holy Spirit

As a summary of God’s holy and righteous Law, the Ten Commandments expose and condemn your sins, especially your lack of love and, above all, your lack of faith in the only true God.

Because your sin and unbelief cut you off from the Lord your God, they also cut you off and separate you from the life for which He created you.  For there is no true or lasting Life except in and with the Lord.  Apart from Him, you are subject to death, both here and forever hereafter.

If you are to live — if you are really to live, as the Lord God who created you intends — then you need Him to become your Savior.  You need Him to forgive your sins and deliver you from death.  You need God to give Himself to you in peace, and to bring you to Himself in faith.

All of this the Lord your God has done for you in love.  He has accomplished and established your Salvation in the Person of Christ Jesus, the incarnate God, as the Creed proclaims and confesses.

The very God who commands you to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, has created you for life with Himself forever.  He would be your God, that you might be His own forever and ever.  He would be your Father, that you might be His own dear child, that you might hear and receive His life-giving Word and abide with Him in His life-giving Spirit.  And so it is that, in spite of your unfaithfulness, He has acted in love to save you from your sins, from death and the devil.

The same Lord God who forbids you to misuse His holy Name, has given you that very Name — the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  He has named you with that Name above all names in the waters of your Holy Baptism, whereby He adopted you into His own family.  So has He also taught you and invited you to call upon His Name at all times and in all places, to pray, praise, and give thanks.  And He promises that all who call upon His Name shall be saved.

Likewise, the one true God who commands you to remember the Sabbath Day — to sanctify the Holy Day unto yourself by His Word and prayer — He gives you rest from all your works and labors by freely granting you salvation in His grace and mercy for you.  He works on your behalf, and He speaks to you in love, so that you may rest in Him and be at peace with Him in Christ.

It is this great Salvation that you are given to confess in the Creed, which you first received and confessed in your Baptism.  It teaches you to know and love the one true God, the Holy Trinity — to know Him rightly as He is, which is to say, to know Him by faith in Christ Jesus.  To know and love the Father in His incarnate Son.  To know the Holy Spirit in the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed.  To love and trust the Holy Trinity as the Author and Giver of Life, as your Savior and your God.

It is this Word of the Lord — which has its proper heart and center in the Gospel — this Word of Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification, all of which are centered in Christ Jesus, your Savior — it is this Word that creates and sustains in you the one true faith in the one true God.  It is this Word that creates the fear, love, and trust of God in your heart and life, so that you live forever.

This Word of God that you hear and confess in the Creed does not simply convey and rehearse information.  It is more (not less) than real history and true facts.  This Word of God in the Creed, as in the Holy Scriptures and in the preaching of the Holy Gospel — the faith once delivered to the saints and handed over to this day — this Word and faith received and confessed by the Church conveys to you the Lord Jesus Himself, the Word-made-Flesh.  In giving you Jesus, it gives you His free and full forgiveness of sins.  And by that Word of forgiveness the Lord anoints you with the Holy Spirit, by whom you live with God in Christ Jesus, in body and soul, for ever and ever.

This Word of the Gospel — this Word that God the Father speaks to you by His Son, by which He breathes the Spirit into you — this Word of forgiveness and life and salvation is spoken to you in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, in the Ministry of the Gospel, in the Means of Grace.

The Lord God, the Creator of all things, who has Himself became a part of His own good Creation in the Incarnation of the Son, that same Lord God uses the stuff of His Creation to redeem you, and to sanctify you, and to give you life with Him, finally and forever in the resurrection of your body.

So it is by water and the Word that you are born again as a new creation in Christ Jesus, both your body and your soul.  Indeed, one of the early church fathers rightly noted that your soul has no salvation apart from your body.  It is by the Baptism of your body that your soul is cleansed.  And so also the feeding of your body feeds your soul with true Spiritual Life.  For with bread and wine the Word-made-Flesh gives to you His holy Body and His precious Blood to eat and to drink with your mouth, into your body, so that your body also shares His bodily Resurrection from the dead.  That is your hope and your salvation, no matter what plagues and ails your body here and now.

Just so, all of you who eat of this Bread and drink of this Cup are one holy communion in Christ Jesus.  You are fellow members of His Body and His Bride, the Church.  You are members of one another in Him.  You are bodied and blooded together with each other in the one Body of Jesus.

Consider what that means when any one of your brothers or sisters in Christ is hurting, whether in body, mind, or spirit.  As Christ cares for His Church, as a bridegroom cares for his bride, and as fathers and mothers care for their children, so are you given to love and care for one another.

The truth of the matter is that you are given to confess the Word of Christ, not in lonely isolation, but together with the entire Christian Church of all times and places.  You are given to repeat the patterns of sound words, to confess these sure and certain things, especially by way of the Creed, which has been handed over, generation after generation, from the earliest days of the Church.

In the Creed you say what is most certainly true, because you say back to God — and you say and confess before the entire world — what God has first of all spoken to you, especially in the Person of His own dear Son.  With these words you confess Christ Himself, the Word-made-Flesh.

Even as a little child, and regardless of your intelligence or education, you are given not only to hear but also to speak the most profound and precious Words in all of creation.  Presidents and kings are not able to say anything more important or powerful than this confession of the Lord Jesus Christ, which has been placed upon your lips by the grace of God and by the Holy Spirit.

So do you also participate in the living and life-giving work of God, who creates all things by and with His Word; who does all things by and with His Word; who forgives you all your sins and gives you life by and with His Word.  Created in His Image, you also speak His Word.

He speaks to you, and He grants you to speak His Word to Him and to your neighbor, because He loves you, and He desires that you share in His life and His love.  So does He also take care of you.  He daily and richly provides you with all that you need for your body and life on earth.

Rest assured that your Father will not let you go naked.  He will not let you starve.  He will not leave you homeless or alone.  As sure and certain as He provides you with life everlasting in Christ Jesus, so does He also feed and clothe and shelter you in the place where He has stationed you.

Even if your experience seems to deny it, bear this in mind: The same God who did not spare His own dear Son but gave Him up for you, He also gives you all good things and every good and perfect gift in that same Son.  By His Cross He has redeemed you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  And in the Resurrection of that Lord Jesus Christ, He has opened Paradise to you in love.

So has the Holy Spirit called you by this Gospel of Christ Jesus from death to life, from darkness to light, and from unbelief to faith in the free and full forgiveness of all your sins.  There is nothing that is held against you.  There is no accusation that shall be allowed to stand against you.  By faith in His free grace and His forgiveness of sins, already now you live and walk before Him in the righteousness of Christ, in the innocence of Christ, in the blessedness and holiness of Christ.  You are given Christ Himself, and you are given to share His divine Life in the flesh, forever and ever.

So you may be sure and certain, and you may confess with all boldness and confidence, that even though your body grows weaker and is wasting away, returning to the dust a little more each day, and even though you will die — maybe sooner, maybe later — nevertheless, your body will be raised, immortal and imperishable, and it will be glorious, like unto the glorious Body of Christ Himself.  Then, with your own eyes, from your own flesh, you will see Him as He is, your Lord Jesus Christ; for you will be like Him, and so shall you live with Him in His Kingdom forever.

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

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