God’s Love for you is not contingent or conditional on anything in you, nor on anything that you have done. It is rather because of who He is, the God who is Love, that He created you, and that He has redeemed you from your sin and death for life with Himself in Christ Jesus.
It is for the sake of that divine Love that God the Son from all eternity, God from God and Light from Light, has come in the flesh, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary as true Man, in order to love you with the same Love that God the Father has for Him. His Love is no mere feeling or emotion in His heart. It is what moves Him to act and to save you at the cost of His own life.
The almighty and eternal Son of God has come down from the bosom of His Father in heaven, that He might live and abide with you here on earth in flesh and blood like your own. That He might love and serve you here with His forgiveness of your sins, and with the gift of divine Life in Him.
He is the very Word of God by whom all things are made, and He has come to speak to you in love. Thus does God the Father speak to you by His Son in the Flesh. He reveals and gives Himself to you by that Word, that you might live and abide in Him, both body and soul, both now and forever.
The Lord Jesus speaks to you in love, that His Joy may be completed in you, and that you also may find the fullness of joy in Him, and true gladness of heart, and peace with God, and Sabbath Rest.
Everything that Christ Jesus knows and receives from God the Father, He makes known to you and bestows upon you by the Word that He speaks to you. By and with His Word of forgiveness, by and with the waters of Holy Baptism, and by and with His own Body and Blood, He pours out the Holy Spirit generously upon you. And by the Holy Spirit He gives you life with God in Himself.
The same Lord Jesus Christ has called you His friend, and has thereby made you a friend of God, no less so than Father Abraham was. Indeed, He has befriended you in a way that exceeds even His friendship with Abraham, for He has come in the flesh and made Himself like you in every way, save only without sin, that you might be like Him in perfect life and love and holiness. Thus does He share with you all that He is doing, and all that belongs to Him He gives to you by grace.
He gives to you the Spirit from the Father, and He brings you in the Spirit to the Father in peace. To that end, He laid down His life for you in love, and He took it up again by the Word and Spirit of His Father, that you might have life in Him forever and ever. He did not choose the easy part, but He chose to sacrifice Himself for you and your salvation. As He has said, no one took His life from Him, but He laid it down willingly — in the perfect holiness and freedom of His divine Love — that He should atone for your sins by His Blood, and raise you from death to life by His Spirit, and reconcile you to His God and Father in the righteousness of His crucified and risen Body.
By His Cross and in His Resurrection from the dead, He has become a new and great Passover, and He has accomplished a new and greater Exodus. He has shed His Blood for you, and He seals you with His Blood, in order to preserve your body and soul from sin and death. And He has passed through the waters of His Baptism, even through death and the grave, that He should also bring you through the waters out of Egypt into Canaan, into the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.
So has He come to you, not only by His Word and with His Flesh, but by the water and the blood — just as He was pierced through His side into His great heart of love upon the Cross, and from His Body flowed the water and the blood. So has St. John testified, and his testimony is true.
By the waters of Creation, of the Flood, and of the Exodus, and by the waters of His own Baptism in the Jordan River, the Lord has come to pour out the waters of Redemption upon you, that you might be cleansed and refreshed within and without, raised up, recreated, and renewed in Him.
And by the Blood of the true Lamb of God, by the New Testament in His Blood, shed upon the Cross and poured out for you and for the many in His Supper, He seals you for life and salvation. He binds Himself to you, and He binds you to Himself and to His God and Father, by His Blood.
Not only by His Cross but also in His Resurrection, He comes by the water and the blood, by the waters of Holy Baptism (both His and yours), and by the Blood of the Holy Communion. He comes and gives Himself to you in these ways, as He gives the Spirit to you through His Word of Absolution, the forgiveness of your sins. And these Three testify, together as one, to the Love of God in Christ, which is the fountain and source of your Life and Salvation with the Holy Trinity.
So does the Lord your God love you and call you to Himself in Christ. By the Fruits of His Cross and Passion, He comes to you and pours out the Holy Spirit upon you, that He should draw you to Himself and bring you to the Father in love. It is not that you have chosen Him, but He has chosen you. Indeed, while you were yet His sinful enemy, when you hated Him and did your best to run away from Him, even then He loved you. He chose you, and He called you to be His own.
He has befriended you and bound Himself to you forever. He has anointed you with His Spirit, and He has appointed you to bear good fruits that will remain. Indeed, He bears good fruits in you, by giving you life in Himself with the Fruits of His Cross, by the Spirit, the water, and the Blood. The fruits that you now bear do not bring you to life, but your life in Christ does bear good fruit.
It is likewise because He has bound Himself to you, and you to Him, that whatever you ask of the Father in His Name, He will do it for you. The God and Father of Christ is your God and Father in Him, and you are His own dearly beloved child. You are well-pleasing in His sight, because He beholds His own dear Son in you. He does not hold your sins against you. He does not even see them any longer. They are daily and richly forgiven by the Spirit through the Gospel of Christ, as by the waters of His Font, so by the Blood from His Chalice. Instead of your sins and the death that you deserve, there is the righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ, which are yours in Him.
Thus do you now live and abide in His Love, as you live and abide by faith in His Word, by faith in the Spirit, the water, and the Blood. You live and abide in Christ, at peace with God in Him, by living in harmony with the Word that He speaks to you through the Ministry of His Gospel.
Listen, therefore, to the Lord Jesus. Hear and heed His Word to you. Remember that He speaks to you in love, in order to give you life. Even when He speaks to you His Law, it is in love that He speaks, that you might know His good and gracious Will, and that you should repent of your sins and turn away from death to life with God in Christ. So does He also speak His sweet Word of the Gospel, which takes away your sins, raises you from death, and gives you life by His grace.
Listen to the Lord who loves you, and receive what He gives you by His Word. Receive the Lord Jesus Himself, who comes to you with forgiveness and life and salvation. And so live as He lives.
The Life that you have received from the Lord in Holy Baptism is a life that you are given to live, by faith, according to His Commandments, which are not burdensome. That is not to say that they are easy or painless or without cost, for they do involve the bearing of the Cross and the sacrifice of your body and life to the glory of God. But the Commandments of Christ are not burdensome, because your life with God does not depend on your performance or success. It is secure in Christ Jesus, who has given Himself for your salvation. The things that He commands are nothing else but the faith and love which constitute the life that is already yours in Jesus Christ. Live that life.
Consider what He does for you and gives to you in the Holy Communion, when He feeds you with His Body and pours out His Blood for you to drink. Here are the Fruits of His Sacrifice, given and poured out for you, that His Passion might be manifest in you, in your love for Him and others. As He feeds you and forgives you, as He gives you life in place of death, so love as He loves you.
Your love for the Lord Jesus Christ is not a condition upon His Love; it is rather the embracing of His prior Love for you. To love the Lord Jesus is an exercise of faith and trust in Him, in His Word of the Gospel, in His free gifts of mercy and grace. It is the reciprocating of His friendship, but it is more than that. It is to find your life in Him alone, and to fix your hope on Him alone.
You love Him with your whole heart, because He is your Life and your Salvation. So also, then, you love your neighbor as yourself, as Christ commands. Better yet, you love your neighbor as Christ loves you. Such love is the work and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ has poured out into your heart. For the Spirit is the personal Bond of Love and Unity between the Father and the Son. How, then, shall the Spirit of Love dwell in your heart, and you not love your neighbor?
Live as Jesus lives. Love as Jesus loves you. And speak as Jesus speaks. For the first way that you love your neighbor is by speaking the Word that God the Father speaks to you by His Son. Confess that Word of Christ. Say what He says. To be sure, you are to love not only with words, but in deeds and in truth. But the Word of Christ is Spirit and Truth, and deeds of real love are done by active faith in His Word. Confess His Word, therefore, and live according to His Word.
To speak the Word of Christ in love is to speak forgiveness to your neighbor, as Christ forgives you. And again, not only with your words, but gladly doing good to those who sin against you. Not because they are worthy or deserving of forgiveness, but because the Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven you, and the same Lord has likewise given Himself and shed His Blood in love for them.
So, too, serve your neighbor as you are served by Christ, even at the cost of your body and life. Spend your life in love for those whom the Lord has placed alongside of you. Get down on your hands and knees to wash your neighbor’s dirty feet. Welcome your neighbor to recline at your table, that you might feed your neighbor as the Lord Jesus feeds you here at His Table. And in the confidence of His Cross and Resurrection, sacrifice yourself for your neighbor, as opportunity suggests. If you perish, you perish, but not forever. Even though you die, yet shall you live.
Along with all of these works of love, so also pray. Speak, not only to your neighbor, but to your Father in heaven, as He has taught you and invited you to pray. Pray for your family, friends, and neighbors, and for those who continue to sin against you. Pray and intercede for your church, and for your pastors. Pray for the president of the United States, and for all the leaders of this world. Pray that God would bring people from all nations to repentance and faith in His Word. Pray in the confidence that God hears your prayer, and that He answers your prayer with a resounding “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus. Pray because you love the Lord your God, and pray in love for your neighbor. Above all, pray because your Father in heaven loves you for Jesus’ sake.
As you pray and confess the Word of God, and as you work and sacrifice in love for God and your neighbor, know that all of these good fruits which Christ the Lord bears in you, they shall remain. Your fruits shall remain, according to His Word and promise. The works that He has given you to do in faith and love are not meaningless, and your labors in the Lord are not in vain. For He will accomplish His purposes in you, and the fruits that He bears in your body and life by His Word and Spirit shall remain and resound to the glory of His holy Name.
That which you attempt to accomplish and achieve apart from His Word, apart from faith and love, all of that will perish along with the world and everything in it. But the fruits of faith and love that Christ bears in your body and life shall remain, purified by His forgiveness and sanctified by His Holy Spirit, as surely as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns forever, never to die again. His Resurrection and His Life are the surety and permanence of your own body and life in Him.
His Life and His Love do not depend upon you or your works, but you depend on Him, and your life and your love depend on Him. You live and you love because He loves you and lives for you, now and forever. You abide in Him, because He has come to abide with you here, and by and with His Word and Spirit He lives and abides in you. He continues to come by the water and the blood, as your Baptism continues to avail for you, day after day throughout your life, and as you take up the Cup of Salvation which He pours out at His Altar for the forgiveness of all your sins.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.