Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Release to the Captives!

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives.
Luke 4:18b

To set free the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die.
Psalm 102:20

What would it be like, to be confined in a Death Row Prison cell knowing that at any moment, you could die? Then, suddenly, the guard comes and proclaims, "You have been released!" and opens the prison door to your complete freedom.

This is the proclamation of Christianity. Jesus in last weekend's Gospel from Luke 4 proclaimed that He had come to proclaim "release to the captives." The Introit was from Psalm 102 and fit so well: "set free those who were doomed to die."

As we confess in church: "I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved your temporal and eternal punishment." Such is the punishment of our sins: "For the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23a
But Jesus was sent to obtain full pardon and forgiveness of our sins by His Holy life, death and resurrection. He releases creation from its bondage to sin, death and Satan and restores it to its proper state of peace with the Creator.

What magnificent, freeing words it must be for a prisoner on Death Row to hear that he is released! What even more magnificent words to hear our Lord Jesus continue to proclaim: I have come to proclaim release to the captives! And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed! John 8:36

Hear His proclamation of freedom for your sins! Believe it above all things! Live in its freedom!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wrong Way! Turn Around!

There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me." John 14:6

Humans have an endless number of paths, ways that appear to their thinking leading to a good conclusion for them and others, but God disagrees with each and all of them that exclude is salvation in Jesus Christ, His Son.

Here we are talking about the significant difference between humans flawed idea of right and wrong, truth and lie, and divine wisdom and God's. Humans judgment of moral and eternal matters is many times used in a magisterial manner rather than a proper ministerial fashion. Way or path is a much used biblical word to indicate one's belief, trust or faith and the consequences that such faith result in.

God consistently emphasizes and implores all of us to turn from our wrong ways, our wrong thinking and return back to Him in Jesus as the true path, the only path to correct thinking, living and eternal life. This is the constant emphasis of the Bible: repent (turn around, go back) and believe in the Good News, the Gospel that Jesus is the only Savior of your sins and the only way/path to eternal life!

There are many people who try all kinds of ways to peace of mind and confidence in their lifestyles, but all these without proper faith in Christ lead to eternal death, Proverbs 14:12 declares. An acquaintance just said this human false thinking that all religious paths lead to the same end and God. I expressed my intense disagreement by saying if eternal life is equated with going to the Detroit Metro Airport this evening and arriving in Baltimore and there is only one flight going to Baltimore tonight, will getting on any flight get you to Baltimore tonight? Jesus is the only path/way that is going to heaven, all others end up in death. The Hebrew word here used for "death" refers not just to physical death, but also to everlasting death as well.

We have amazing GPS systems now to guide us to our destinations. Thanks be to God that He has provided us with an eternal GPS system, His Holy Bible, which leads us to repent (turn back) from our sin and turn in faith to Jesus, the way to forgiveness of our sin and eternal life.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who to Offend?

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:33

Take your choice, because you're going to offend someone. Either Jesus and the Father, or your friends or family or acquaintances who refuse to believe in Jesus' reconciliation He won for them. For Jesus says that in many places in many ways. He goes on to say in Matthew 10 that He didn't come to bring peace, but offense. His whole emphasis here in Matthew 10 is sending the disciples out and the two responses they will receive: those who receive His words are not offended (verse 13) but those who are offended by Jesus' words will receive unbearable judgment at the end. (verse 14)

It's as clear cut as Jesus puts it in Luke 11: "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." Neutrality is not possible spiritually! You're either with Jesus or against Him.

What is offensive about the words of Jesus? The cross and the scandal of particularity that is necessitated by it. It is offensive to normal human, flawed thinking. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31) There is no way to natural human intelligence that salvation can come through a God-man dying for us humans on a cross! That is scandalous, that is offensive! It is folly to those who are perishing!

But, to those who are being saved, it is the power of God! So, let us be about saving all that the Father chooses by speaking to them the truth of His words, the powerful gospel. Though some be snatched from the fires of hell and this Good News becomes the prized possession in their lives, yet others will continue to be greatly offended by it. Ours is not to resolve this great mystery, but to continue to witness to the truth and let those who are offended be offended, hoping that someday they are brought to the saving Light and Truth, Jesus Christ crucified for their sins. Let us make sure that God is not the offended party by our witness, but His Holy name is hallowed among us.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year Resolve: Stay Alert!

Blessed are those slaves whom, when the Lord comes, he will find them on the alert."
Luke 12:37a

Jesus here is warning each of us to be "spiritually alert" always, for we never know when He will come to take us, whether individually (Luke 12:16-21) or at the end of time. For Jesus states that "no one" can predict when this will happen (Luke 12:39-40), it will be comparable to when a thief robs a house. Thus, the warning to be "awake."

This spiritual alertness can be understood in several Biblical images which Jesus plays on here: "Gird your loins for action" which means to cast off all entanglements which wrap around our spiritual legs and cause a believer to stop, go off course and fall off the path; and secondly to "let your lamps be burning" which refers to the light of one's faith, that magnificent reflective light of the Gospel radiate from one's living for the Lord. We must and can have this spiritual alertness not by what we do, but what Christ does for us in His holy means of grace (Word and Sacraments) He serves us, He pours His light into us and lives in and through us. Jesus speaks of this is this text, Luke 12:37 with "he will serve them." Being a believer is about Christ serving us, not we serving Him emphasis. As my good friends at Issues Etc. put it: "It's not about You, it's about Jesus For You!"

People make all kinds of resolves this time of year, but most of them are not even remotely close to taking on spiritual change. So, if we are to make any New Year's resolves this year, let us begin by admitting that we have had epics of spiritual sleep, and thus praying for the Lord's blessings in 2010, we resolve to be "spiritually alert" through habitually letting Him serve us with His Law and Gospel at the place we assemble together to hear His Gospel purely preached and His Sacraments rightly administered.

Blessed 2010: Keep Alert!