Religious America

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23).

After the fall there remained only an imperfect  knowledge of God. But even such imperfect knowledge supported by God’s creation of the world, conscience also testifying to His existence, testifies to the unregenerate that there just might be a god somewhere out there– a god to whom they will one day be accountable. However, since they reject the Holy Scriptures, the revealed knowledge of the Triune God and the Savior, they proceed to create idols of wood and stone or of their mind or try to appease their god through works. They create their own form of worship whether it is private or corporate worship of some nameless, faceless god.  “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and change(d) the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things”

May 2, 2019 was National Day of Prayer.  In 1952, Congress set aside a day “for Americans to turn ‘to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.’” Almost 70 years ago this legislative nod to God had at least a tinny ring of religiousity. In congress today such a resolution as a show of piety rings of ludicrous hypocrisy. With a recent report, we were told, however, that many Americans pray every day – not just on the Day of Prayer. Out of 102 countries examined for frequency of prayer, Pew research says the United States is unique in that it has both a high level of wealth and high level of daily prayer among its population.

Except that such a day may give some people pause from mayhem, chaos, and protest, a National Day of Prayer for the Christ-believer, as well intended as it might be, is unnecessary, and for the denier of the Triune God and idol-worshiper, meaningless. Who is the God to whom people are to turn—yours, mine, theirs? Is it Allah, Buddha, or some self-proclaimed egotist? The God of Israel says, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 2-3). And even as Israel   rejected Christ Jesus it did not and does not worship the true God: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either…” (1 John 2:23).

Christ-believers who accept the Bible as the inspired word of God worship the true God Who is the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier. He is Triune. He is eternal. He alone is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, unchanging. He is the God beside whom there is no other (1Corinthians 8:4). He is the God of love (1 John 4:8). He is the God of grace and mercy, as well as the Judge of all mankind, Who has redeemed the world from death and hell, and Who by His Spirit creates the faith which moves the regenerate to say, “I believe.” He is the God who has in Christ prepared for all who believe a home in His presence. He is the God who will come on judgment day and say to weary but waiting souls, “Enter into your rest.” The Christ-believer does not need to be told to whom to pray, or when to pray.  Furthermore, true prayer is addressed to the Heavenly Father by His children in the name of Jesus Christ. Such are the prayers the Heavenly Father hears.

On the other hand, every god of man’s imagination died, is dead, is dying, or will die. Perhaps they who create their own god need a special day, but to what end? Of idols Isaiah said, “Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing” (44:9-10)?

Simultaneous to the article on prayer, an article in the April 2019 Daily Signal, an on-line news source, said that 15% of people in Europe say they believe in God, while 63% of Americans say they believe in God. Again, there again is no reference to which God.

Said the Daily Signal:: “Yes, America is much more religious than Western Europe, but that doesn’t seem to be making much difference on the big-ticket cultural issues of the day… “Despite our religiosity, we continue drifting in Europe’s direction on issue after issue.”

The article proceeds to speak of how the United States is following Europe’s lead. For example, according to a Gallup poll, so called same sex-marriage now finds 67% approval in the United States as compared to 60% 20 years ago.

Also, on gender issues, “Americans are becoming more accepting of transgenderism as pop culture, media, and schools promote the idea that gender is based on feelings, rather than an objective standard tied to biology.” Notice the reference to public schools!

Another poll revealed “Most Americans also are fine using transgender pronouns. According to the poll, only 1 in 5 Americans would use the pronoun of a transgender person’s biological (real) sex” (Ipsos survey from 2017).

NOTE: The drift toward Europe is a drift away from the Lord and His Word and true Christian teaching with Christ at its center which drift, as a consequence, leads to the same cultural and societal evil that envelopes Europe.

Though the Lord has His elect out of every nation, Christianity itself is dying in Europe. America is on that path. “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

It is not a secret that morals in America are deteriorating, in part sadly, because generally even among the majority of those who profess it, understanding what constitutes Christianity is no deeper than, “What would Jesus do?” This is, however, not the essence of Biblical Christianity. Christianity is not defined by what Jesus would do, nor by the imposition of moral codes and rules. The substance of Christianity is the proclamation of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus whose blessings are transmitted to the hearer through the means of grace— the gospel in word and Sacrament. The gospel is the power of God unto conversion from spiritual death to spiritual life. It is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Christian teaching proclaims the divine law which uncovers sin and condemns the sinner, and the gospel which teaches and seals to the troubled sinner the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ Jesus. The exhortation to put off the old man with the corruption that infects the flesh and society is not accomplished by promoting what Jesus would do. Putting on through repentance and faith the new man “created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24), is the work of the Spirit through the gospel. The gospel creates faith and the sanctified will in the life of the regenerate to the glory and praise of God.

The source of true Christian preaching and teaching is the Bible. The focus of true Christian preaching, teaching, prayer, and worship is the Triune God. The source and focus of secularism and morality-based Christianity is man. That America is more religious than another country, or prays more, is no more than a pharisaical feel-good exercise because the beginning, center, and end of its focus is not Christ, the divine Word.

Though the article does not address the real mission of the Church which is the proclamation of the gospel, nevertheless, it describes the sorry state  of what most Americans understand as Christianity:  “What we have in America is a radical separation of God from “reality”—the real world that we claim to live in. It’s not that we reject “God” per se, but we reject a God who comes with a certified worldview package—a God who orders the universe, sets moral norms, defines our being, and binds our consciences to a moral code in this world—today” (Our emphasis).

 Reference is made to secularism that is overtaking Christianity: “This secularism is more pronounced in Europe, no doubt. Yet it wields extraordinary power in America because so many of us—even religious believers—have conceded vital ground, saying that divine truth has little or nothing to do with this world. In relegating “belief” to the realm of private opinion, we have made our bed and are now living in it” (Our emphasis).

Secularism is the national religion. It is promoted in government, in educational institutions, and in society. To the shame of the apostate church, secularism is abetted by the departure from the Word of God.  Another writer is quoted as saying, “We have become a nation of heretics.” Heretics individually or corporately teach contrary to the Word of God and promote opinions contrary to the law of God. They proclaim another gospel.

The Church and the apostles were beset by heretics who undermined the cardinal doctrine of Christianity – justification and salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Read Romans and Ephesians). The same heresy spawned the Reformation. The world promotes its own righteousness. Social gospel purveyors impose rules and codes of conduct instead of pure preaching of law and gospel. This is an attack against the Lord and His Church and undermines the authority of divine truth as well as the substance and blessings of the means of grace.

America may be more religious and pray more than other countries. But apostasy in the church and the abandonment of morals in society suggest, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8).

 

Standard

THE WILL OF THE LORD IS ALWAYS GOOD

The will and plans of the Triune God are established in eternity. From eternity, it was and is His will that no one should perish in his sin. Therefore the Lord God developed a plan within His compassionate heart. He announced it to Adam and Eve. He reiterated it through the prophets. In the fulness of time He fleshed out His plan that His will might be accomplished. He sent His only Son, the incarnate Son of God, placed Him under the law, and by the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, and His resurrection from the dead, reconciled the world unto Himself. The purpose of the plan conceived in eternity, and fulfilled in time, is declared in the inspired Word: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13, Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32). Jesus confirms the will, the plan, and the purpose of the Father, saying, “And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).

Believers thank the Lord for the fulfillment of the Father’s will and plan in their life. They thank Him, further, that we who by nature were dead in trespasses and sins, incapable of restoring ourselves to His good graces, or come to faith, were by the power of the Holy Spirit alone gifted with faith and the hope of eternal life. Believers in Christ unto eternal life were not and are not assisted in coming to faith. The unregenerate as were we all at birth were and are born anew through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, the gospel being the medium. “He called you by our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Faith unto salvation is the gift of God; it not works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8). Conversion to faith, as salvation itself, is a gift of grace.

God’s plan and the fulfillment of His will for our salvation is revealed to us in the inspired Word of God. It is sealed to us by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Children of God through faith in Christ Jesus do not pray, “Give us salvation and receive us to glory if it is Your will.” That would be an expression of doubt. We know it is His will. The cross and empty tomb testify to it. We have the word and promise of the Father, “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In the Scripture we have “the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). Therefore, when we pray, we thank the Lord for the gift of eternal life. We pray that He will keep us in the faith. In this regard, we have Jesus’ promise, “I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:32). We have His promise that all who hear His voice have eternal life and shall not perish (John 10:27-28). “Thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

While we know what God’s will and plan is for our salvation, except that He bids us pray, and promises to hear us, we do not know His will for us with respect to the temporal and material aspects of life.

Our Father in heaven has already determined what shall be the span of our life on earth (Psalm 31:15). Job reminds us that in His hand “is the life of every living thing” (Job 12:10). There are no guarantees of anything on this earth, not even life itself. All people live under the shadow of, “Here today, gone tomorrow.” James speaks of life as a vapor. Job described quickness of life as swifter than a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6), as a breath (7:7), as vanishing cloud (7:9), as swifter than a runner (9:25), to the swiftness of an eagle (9:26). The Psalmist compared it to smoke (Psalm 102:3) and to withering grass (102:4). In the scheme of life from eternity to eternity, our life is but an inconsequential speck. George Bernard Shaw said, “One out of one dies” (Kelly, Earl: “James—A Primer for Christian Living”, p. 214), Consequently, lacking a guarantee for tomorrow the child of God retires at night thanking the Lord for the blessings –spiritual and material– of the day past, praying also, “If I should live another day, I pray Thee, Lord, to guide my way.”

Recognizing the lack of a guarantee of tomorrow does not mean His children, whose focus is heaven, blindly or without plan let whatever will be happen without forethought. We anticipate tomorrow, “A man’s heart plans his way…” (Proverbs 16:9). Solomon also wrote, “There are many plans in a man’s heart… (Proverbs 19:21). Planning the next day or the future is true of the unbeliever as well as the believer.

However, under the influence of the Spirit, how the believer whose God is the Lord plans differs from the unbelievers who are bereft of the Spirit. Solomon wrote, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Solomon’s counsel in Proverbs 19:21 reads, “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” Whereas there is similarity in what unbelievers and believers may plan for tomorrow, unlike the planning of unbelievers, the believer’s plans for tomorrow pertaining to the temporal, material, pleasureful, things of life conclude with “Father, your will be done.”

However, since believers whose faith and hope is in the Lord God still have the sinful flesh about them, they need the Scriptural counsel offered by Solomon who wrote, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6). Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). Jesus prefaced His counsel with, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things shall be added to you” (v.33). The Lord’s counsel puts planning in the right perspective.

Our Lord also spoke through the apostle, James, “ Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’;  whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-15).

It is wisdom to plan. However, the Christian wise unto salvation commits his way to the Lord, trusts in Him with confidence that He will bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5) according to His will. The child of God recognizes that to exclude the Heavenly Father from one’s plans is folly. “’Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you provided.’ So is he who lays up treasure in for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21)? It is a mistake, if not a fatal one, to forget that the Lord determines our days on earth, and that He is the ultimate Decider of what plans shall or shall not come to fruition.

Acknowledge your transgressions unto Him who forgives you in Christ Jesus. With thanksgiving, pray earnestly, boldly, with confidence, for your neighbor and yourself, your health, your home, your family, your church, your nation, for whatever lies on your heart, for the Lord is the Provider of all good things. With thanksgiving pray to Him as your loving Father Who tells you that He has pity on those who fear Him (Psalm 103:3), and Who knows better than you do what you need. He knows what is or is not good for you at a given time. He knows when to test and try you for your benefit and growth in faith. Pray for faith and strength to bear the trials and tests of life. Pray for wisdom to know His will and the strength to walk in it. Pray in the spirit of the hymnwriter who wrote:

“What God ordains is always good; His will abideth holy.

As He directs My life for me, I follow meek and lowly.

My God indeed in every need does well know how to shield me;

To Him, then, I will yield me” (TLH – 521).

Our Lord, confronted with the anguish of pain and death, prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Because Jesus bowed to the will of His Father and reconciled us unto God, we have the privilege, through faith to call Jesus’ Father, our Father. Whatever the Father wills for us in this life we recognize to be to our benefit and blessing, for our Savior’s suffering death and resurrection confirmed for us the plan and will of our Father Who said: “ For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Our Father Who art in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

Your kingdom come.

Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

 Give us this day our daily bread.

 And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us,

 And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power

And the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Standard

Our God Is Plenteous in Mercy

How often our attitudes are determined by what we think is fair or not fair! How often our responses are conditioned by personal pride! How often our feelings are hurt because we feel offended! How often we question whether God really cares about us, or perhaps even blame God for the difficulties in our life. In summary, how often sin dictates how we think, we act, or react!

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

“O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken

That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?

Of what great crime hast thou to make confession,

Of what dark transgression?”

The only one born of woman who had no sin was Jesus Christ.

“Whence come these sorrows, whence this mortal anguish?

It is my sins for which Thou, O Lord, must languish;

Yea, all the wrath, the woes, Thou dost inherit,

This I do merit” (TLH 143: 1, 3).

But why did Jesus bear our sins and die in our place? Why Jesus, who had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth (Isaiah 53:9)? The answer: “For He [the Heavenly Father] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The substitution of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was not a consequence of a sudden, fickle, impulsive mood change in the mind of the Father. It was a deliberate, divine, eternal determination, in time spoken of by the prophet: “And the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him…” and make his soul an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). He for us is the grandest exchange ever made. And so, Jesus paid with His life – but not before bearing mockery, ridicule, slander, and challenge.

“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross. “Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and lders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.  He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing” (Matthew 27:39-44).

So what was fair about the treatment Jesus endured from the sneering mob, egged on by the leaders of the “church”, no less? They mocked Jesus’ person. They defamed His relationship to the Father. They questioned His authority. They devalued His royalty. They challenged His power. Could He not have felt injury to His pride? Did He not have a right to be offended at the mockery, the ridicule, and the slander spit at Him by the masses. Everyone of these He could have answered with a bitter retort. But He did not! Instead, “He opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7), except to say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Further, why did Jesus quietly and whole-heartedly accede to the will of the Father? Why did He not lash out? Frequently actions speak louder than words. In Jesus’ case, words and actions go together. One is not greater than the other.

But what moved the Father to lay our sins on Jesus? Why did the Father sentence His Son to death? We know the answer. “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). But did the Father love the world more than He loved His own Son? Though it might appear so to those to whom the gospel is foolishness, the answer is “Absolutely not.” Jesus said to His disciples, “As My Father loved Me, I also have loved you…” (John 15:9). The answer to why the Father offered up His own Son lies in the incomprehensible, unfathomable depth of the heart of God Who is rich in mercy.

Sin is of the devil. “Jesus was manifested to take away our sins…” (1 John 3:5). He humbled Himself. He did not complain that He “was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2: 9). Jesus of His own accord took the form of a bondservant and became obedient unto death on the cross (Philippians 2). By His death, without which we would still be subject to the wages of sin — everlasting judgment in hell — Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for sin, abolished death.

Without death there would have been no resurrection. Without the resurrection His death would have been useless. Jesus, the perfect Sacrifice for sin, received the unqualified commendation of the Father Who raised Him (Acts 2:24) from the dead. Through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus restored what man had lost – life and immortality. Jesus’ victory over the devil was complete. This is the message of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). Since He is risen from the dead, death has no more dominion over Him (Romans 6:9), or over those who believe in Him (John 11:26). Jesus donned our filthy robes and cleansed them through His blood. We through faith stand acceptable to the Father clothed in Jesus’ robes of righteousness. Hardly a fair trade, but Jesus did not complain. By grace you are saved!

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

Bold shall I stand in that great Day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully through these absolved I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame” (TLH-371:1,2).

Imagine if Jesus had said, “It is unfair that I should suffer for an ungrateful people; that I should bear their guilt. I am offended that I should be treated so terribly by my own people, and even by My Father Who forsook Me.” Imagine, in other words, if Jesus had acted like we so often act when our pride and feelings are hurt, and our good intentions maligned or, God forbid, when we are tempted to blame God.

Imagine if He had decided to respond to His offenders and had accepted the challenge to step off the cross to prove His power and authority, His divinity, and His relationship to the Father. His witness (His Word) during His ministry to the union between Him and the Father and His action in rejecting the challenge at the cross brook no compromise with evil. His words and action (inaction, not stepping down) were His witness to what the mockers proposed. “I will as His beloved Son do the will of My Father.” His love for His Father, and for us held Him to the cross. His obedience to His Father’s will as well as His unity with the Father were confirmed at the empty tomb that revealed that He was not there, as the angel testified: “He is risen.” We are the beneficiaries of Christ’s obedience, and the Spirit’s call to faith.

Could the Father not have worked His saving will another way? Even The question is out of place. He did what He did and chose to do it the way He did. Who are we to question? Why would we question? We thank and glorify our Father for the gift of life though His beloved Son Who loving us as He loved the Father, obeyed His Father’s will. And we give thanks to the Spirit for the faith to believe simply:

“He spoke to His beloved Son:

‘Tis time to have compassion.

Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,

And bring to man salvation;

From sin and sorrow set him free,

Slay bitter death for him that he

May live with Thee forever” (TLH-387: 5)

As we await the ultimate fulfillment of the salvation won for us, may we in our witness before the world exhibit the mind of Christ Who when He was reviled, reviled not again, but steadfastly served the Father’s will to our benefit and eternal blessing. Our God is plenteous in mercy.


The Lutheran Hymnal. Concordia PH, St. Louis, 1941

 

Standard

Even When Steeples Are Falling

 

Many people across the world watched with amazement and disbelief as the cathedral of Notre Dame fell victim to a devastating fire. As an historical work of architecture, it has been recognized across the world, and by Catholics as a religious icon, perhaps the most iconic religious and historical symbol of Paris. While much of the building remains, much of it collapsed, as flames destroyed a good part of the structure, including the recognizable center spire that fell to the floor in flames.

The cathedral of Notre Dame was constructed over 200 years, from 1163-1345. In it was a huge 18th century still functional pipe organ. The organ with its 8,000 pipes remained intact, though its condition has not been determined. The much-photographed Rose window, said to be the largest glass window in the world, dating back to the 13th century is still intact. If walls could talk what vast amount of history, it could tell– the coronation of Henry VI in 1431 and that of Napoleon in 1804. It stood through the French revolution (1787-1799) and Nazi occupation (1940) during which Paris was bombed with large loss of life.

It contained many church artifacts, ancient paintings, as well as relics that Catholicism venerates. Reportedly saved was the crown of thorns, in Catholic lore claimed to be the one placed on Jesus’ head. Also saved were what Catholics claim to be a fragment of Christ’s cross, a nail from Jesus’ cross, and the “Blessed Sacrament, a name for the body and blood of Christ in the form of consecrated bread and wine.” The latter reflects the Roman teaching of transubstantiation. The altar and cross in the front as well as some pews withstood the fire.

As the roof and the center spire of Notre Dame built with human hands collapsed, thoughts turned to the Church not built by human hands. It is the Church whose roots are in eternity. The foundation of this Church is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11), also the Head of the Church which is His body (Colossians 1:18). It is the holy Church in which perfect unity exists under one Shepherd (John 10:16). It is the glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, without blemish or spot (Ephesians 5:27). It is the Church in which a blessed diversity exists, consisting of Christ-believers “of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). All are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ who in one faith and confession, and in united heart and voice sing, “Salvation belongs to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10). This Church is imperishable. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). So long as the world stands it shall increase as the Gospel is taught and the Sacraments are administered in accord with the Lord’s institution. By the power of the Spirit, the Lord gathers it and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Its numbers and persons are known to God alone (2 Timothy 2:19). It is the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of saints.  Of it we sing:

 Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,

Even when steeples are falling. (TLH, 467)

Baptized into the Body of Christ, “begotten again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” every believer in Jesus waits for the unknown day when the Lord will call. While waiting, children of God live under the gracious promise that the Lord will guard and keep them in the faith. Among them we count ourselves.

But it behooves us not to jeopardize this assurance through neglect and indifference toward the Lord and His Word. “All the promises of God in Him [Jesus Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God…” (2 Corinthians 1:20). All God’s promises are good as He is faithful and will not deny Himself; but His promises are always in association with our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Who prays for us. He is our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2). Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and thy follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10: 27-28). Jesus’ word clearly tells us that security unto eternal life belongs to those who hear His voice and follow Him.

The Lord tells us, “If your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish…” (Deuteronomy 30:17-18). Therefore, we read, “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

The potential for greater loss and damage to the believer than the falling of a church or cathedral steeple lies in turning from the Lord. The faithful child of God who takes God’s Word to heart and who recognizes the challenges to the faith perpetrated by the devil will guard against the attitude of Felix who said to Paul, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you” (Acts 24:25). Do not keep the Savior out in the cold to warm your hands around the fire of worldly pleasures.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion’” (Hebrews 3:12-15).

Besides personal neglect and indifference another danger lurks. It lies in the temptation for God’s people to become overly impressed with the history, artifacts, icons, social action, and impressive steeples of churches and cathedrals which in the process of time have lost the solid foundation of divine truth. Under the increasing pressure to adopt the diversity mantra of society, it is easy to become more impressed with common religion that allegedly fits all than to abide in divine truth.

Paul said to the Athenians, “I perceive that you are very religious” (Acts 17:22). He proceeded to tell the heathen of the true God, the “Lord of heaven and earth,” Who “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” It is not much of a leap from not knowing the true God, to the modern apostasy that promotes the idea that all gods are the same, which in the end suggests that it makes no difference what one believes as long as one believes something. The heterodoxy of churches within Christianity who claim to speak for God but speak the thoughts of their own heart and mind in contradiction of His truth make it imperative that God’s people be on guard and avoid false teachers who by their smooth words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting (Romans 16:17-18).

Isaiah in the Old Testament and the apostle Peter in the New Testament wrote, “The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:25). Every holy man and every god of man’s imagination is dead and dies, but the Triune God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier has lived from eternity.

The Holy Scriptures, the Holy Christian Church collectively and individually have been under as vehement attack through the ages as they are today. Nevertheless, as surely as the Lord of Heaven and Earth is eternal, His Word has endured. God’s truth endured against the deceit of scribes and pharisees, the philosophy of the Greeks, the persecutions of Rome, and every other attack from within the church and outside of it. It will endure through the secularism of our day.

Steeples fall, but the message of the incarnate Son of God, crucified for the sins of he world, and risen again for our justification, translates His love unto salvation for all who believe in Him. In the darkest times His word endures to the comfort of all who cling to His Word, “’The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed’ says the Lord, Who has mercy on you” (Isaiah 54:10). By grace you are saved.

The devil fights, but in vain. As surely as they failed who crucified the Lord, so shall the Savior’s enemies fail today. Literally and figuratively, steeples fall, but the Holy Christian Church shall remain and increase until it is delivered from this present world. God says of the Word that goes forth from His mouth: “It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10). “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word.”

To the faithful, the watchful, the waiting, the Lord says:

“I know mine own, My own know Me;

Ye, not the world, My face shall see,

My peace I leave with you. Amen” (TLH, 467).

Standard

Joyful Resurrection Day

 

Easter bunnies, chocolate bunnies, and Easter egg hunts have no spiritual significance. The heathen world of course has no understanding of the meaning of the Christian Easter observance. Are we wrong if we suggest that the secularization of Easter has distracted many within the Christian church as well? While the involvement of bunnies and the hiding and searching for eggs is not wrong, surely we want to keep our focus and emphasis on the real meaning of Easter—our Savior’s resurrection.

In worldly lore, Easter is basically the celebration of spring, new life after a cold, dead winter. Unlike Christmas, Easter is a movable feast. The traditional date of Easter is the 1st Sunday after the first full moon on or after March 21. The Easter date this year will occur again in 2030.

There are many explanations of the origin of Easter, generally associated with spring and fertility rites (Easter bunny, eggs). “Most historians, including Biblical scholars, agree that Easter was originally a pagan festival. According to the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary: ‘The word Easter is of Saxon origin, Eastra, the goddess of spring, in whose honour sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo–Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.’ However, even among those who maintain that Easter has pagan roots, there is some disagreement over which pagan tradition the festival emerged from.” (Source of Ancient Origins, on line). Though there are different opinions on when Easter began to be celebrated in the church, it appears the more formal festival of our Lord’s resurrection began sometime in the 2nd century. To this day the Eastern (Orthodox) Church and the Western Church celebrate Easter on different days.

The King James Version translates Easter once, in Acts 12:4. The more exact translation of the Greek word is Passover. The Passover originated in Egypt. By divine command it was celebrated regularly to remind Israel of God’s grace in delivering it from bondage. A Passover lamb without spot or blemish was to be sacrificed. The perfect lamb foreshadowed the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. The blood of the lamb painted on the door post protected the Israelites as the angel of death passed over Egypt. The first born of the Israelites who believed and did as the Lord directed lived; the firstborn of the Egyptians died. Faith in the Lord Jesus and His Word and promises saves!

Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was crucified in the Jewish month of Nisan which corresponds to late March to April. This time basically corresponding with the start of spring was the time of the Passover. The Passover observance lasted 7 days. It was to be celebrated until the fulfillment of its shadow in Christ whose blood washes us from sin. Jesus observed the Passover and desired to eat it one more time with His disciples before His death. They gathered in the upper room from where, after Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane. The death and resurrection of our Lord occurred in the same time frame as the pagan celebration, though obviously there is no connection between the two.

Critics suggest the early Christian Church celebrated Jesus’ resurrection when it did, usurping the pagan festival to clean it up. If it did, so what? The concentration of the Church was, and is, on the most momentous event in the history of the world: Jesus rose from the dead overcoming sin, death, and the devil, thus assuring to all who believe in Him resurrection unto eternal life. God forbid that this message is packed away with the plastic eggs and baskets. Since there is so much baggage connected to the word “Easter,” perhaps we do well both for our joy, as well as our witness to the world, to speak of Resurrection Day. That reflects the greeting of the early church, “Christ is Risen” and the response, “He is Risen indeed.” Since what the Church celebrates on Easter is not the celebration of spring, or fertility, what does Happy Easter mean to those who do not know or have forgotten the significance of the day which we confess in the Apostolic Creed, “On the third day, He rose again from the dead”?

The women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, which was the third after the crucifixion. Consequently, the early church worshiped, not by command but by choice born of faith, on the first day of the week. Jesus died to pay our penalty; He suffered the everlasting excruciating pains of hell in our place; He rose again for our justification. By His suffering and death, He overcame for us devil, death, and the fear of the grave; He reconciled us to God. We have peace with God. His resurrection was the Father’s “well done” on Jesus’ work of atonement. It was the Father’s exclamation mark on Jesus’ word on the cross, “It is finished.” Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee of His word, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

The Apostolic Church gathered on the first day of the week for worship in remembrance of Jesus’ victory over death. Every Sunday that we gather around the Word and Sacrament we are remembering and celebrating Resurrection. Every time we gather in worship, we are celebrating the truth that Christ lives, and that we have life in Him.

On the first day of the week there were comings and goings at the tomb. The women came. They heard the angel, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen from the dead. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:5-6). As the shepherds hastened to tell the message of Jesus’ birth, the women ran back to tell the disciples of the resurrection. Peter and John then ran to the tomb and saw the grave clothes, one piece neatly folded (His body had not been stolen by the disciples in haste as was reported). As Mary sat at the tomb, Jesus Himself assured her that it was He. It is exciting writing about it. Imagine experiencing it!

The stone was not moved from the tomb to let Jesus out. It was moved so that the disciples and the women could look in to see for themselves. The tomb is open so that we through eyes of faith can look in which is what we do when we study His Word. Even then “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 1:29). Oh, what peace and hope they lose who in this sin-cursed, deteriorating world reject or neglect the Word and spurn the Savior’s invitation, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The blessings of our joy, hope, life, and confidence of eternal salvation through Christ’s resurrection begins with an honest and daily assessment of our sinfulness and unworthiness before God. Only as we recognize our sin and what we had lost on one hand, and on the other hand what we deserved can we truly appreciate what it is that has been restored to us through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Only as we recognize that we “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) can we appreciate the power, magnitude, and love manifest in Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul wrote: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For he who has died has been freed from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:9-11).

Through Christ’s atonement, sealed by His resurrection, we have been “made alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4). What a blessed truth! Not only are we alive in Christ to rejoice in the resurrection unto eternal life, we are alive with. Christ. Now! As we are alive in Christ and with Christ, what is said of Christ– “Death has no more dominion over Him” is true of us. “When Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

Let the world have its Easter with all its meaningless and empty trappings and expressions. You “have been begotten again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Rejoice! Christ is risen; He is risen indeed! As many as believe in Him have eternal life.

Happy Resurrection Day; yea, more: JOYFUL Resurrection Life!

 

Standard

CHRISTIANITY UNDER DURESS (From Without and Within)

 

 

When we look at the state of Christianity today, we must recognize that there is not universal understanding even among Christians as to what Christian means. It sufferers the same confusion as the name Lutheran. In either case one is not what he is because he says he is. To faithful heirs of the Reformation: “Christianity is entirely outside us: in the righteousness of Christ and in the mercy of God.” (1). “Christianity consists in faith in Christ, not in man’s own moral conduct.” (2) The foundation, center, and end of Christianity is Christ. Other foundation can no one lay (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Christianity consists of those whose heart and mind are on Christ Jesus the Savior from sin, and whose focus is heaven from which Jesus will come again, as He promised, to take Christ-believers where He is. Such a heart and mind and focus are the creation of the Spirit through the gospel, “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

Redeemed for heaven and sanctified to live to the glory of his Lord, a Christian reflects his Christianity by being socially conscious of his responsibility to love his neighbor with whom he is eager to share the gospel through which the Spirit of God gathers the elect into His kingdom. However, Christianity is more than a socially driven religion as many are trying to make it today. Unlike the socially driven whose focus is on earth, and whose thoughts and actions are subject to the whims and winds of changing customs and cultural morals, the life of the Christian focuses on heaven. The generator of such focus is the objective Word of God.

Nevertheless, however Christianity is defined today, it and Christians themselves are under bitter attack across the globe. This of course, is nothing new. The prophets of the Old Testament (e.g. Elijah, Jeremiah) suffered ridicule and violence from those who rejected them and their divine message. Though much of its pain and suffering was self-inflicted, Israel was the object of heathen wrath.

Before His own betrayal and death, Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Scripture says:

“Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).

“I have given them Your Word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:24).

“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed” (John 3:20).

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake” (Matthew 5:11).

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

John the Baptist was beheaded (Mark 6:27). Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:59). Paul, the apostle who as Saul was complicit in the death of Stephen, died as a martyr. All the disciples except John died at the hands of persecutors. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:37). In the early Church, Christians were thrown to the lions.

In 2019, heathen rape, shoot, behead, stab, and torture Christians, not only out hatred, but in furtherance and defense of their godless, spiritually bankrupt religion. Christian missionaries and adherents of Christianity are incarcerated. Scripture is being fulfilled. There is no way to diminish or dismiss the personal fear and fright, or the physical pain, and anguish of those who face or personally suffer the venomous, murderous hatred of evil toward Christians and Christianity.

Thankfully, In our country to this point yet, confessors of the Lord Jesus Christ and citizens of heaven have been spared such violent venom. However, Christians have not escaped persecution for the faith, though it is different in scope. In congress recently a representative was taken to task for mentioning the name of Jesus. The Vice-president has been mocked for expression of his Christian faith. Children in school have been reprimanded for letting their faith be heard or witnessed. State laws are being passed that discriminate against Christians who quietly, peacefully and in exercise of their conscience live their faith. For the simple expression of their faith, Christians are being mocked, ridiculed, fined, and threatened with imprisonment. Freedom of speech to express one’s faith in word and action is being denied to Christians while the religion of secularism which is unbelief can say whatever the secularists and abusers of our Lord and His people choose to say or teach. Verbal venom, accusation of hate crime for confessing one’s faith, ridicule, mockery, and intimidation is rife. This is a Christian nation?

Christians have a right under the law to appeal to authority. When the apostle Paul as a bold confessor of the Lord Jesus Christ had been denied his civil right to fair trial – he had been left in custody for two years — he appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11). Yet when verbal venom, accusation of hate crime for confessing one’s faith, ridicule, mockery, is made against the child of God, unless the glory of the Lord is at stake, let us pray for even a particle of the wisdom of our Lord Who when He was mocked, when “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He held His peace. “Pilate said to Him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against You?’ But [Jesus] answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled” (Matthew 27:13-14). However, when the glory of the Lord was at stake Jesus spoke. “Then they all said, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ So He said to them,’ You rightly say that I am’” (Luke 21:70).

Sin of whatever magnitude is sin against the Holy God who will not be mocked. In His way and judgment, He will repay (Romans 12:19). In Psalm 2 we read: “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure…”. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. Jesus, the Messiah, was very cognizant of its message and the expression of the Father’s wrath against those who opposed Him. Yet on the cross our Savior, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, said concerning those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

If we recognize the nature and wages of sin, we will appreciate the Savior’s prayer, for honesty compels us to confess that we are responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross. He was praying for you and for me, as well as for those who crucified Him, and for those who this day deny Him and reject Him and His truth. He does not abide their evil, but He still died for His persecutors and those of His Church. Jesus still tried to save the betrayer. And yes, with respect to our continuation in the faith in the face of persecution He says, “I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:32), and again to His Father, “I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

If there is one thing more dangerous to souls and to the Church because it has spiritual and eternal ramifications, it is the worldly philosophy and the poison of false doctrine spawned within Christianity and the church. This is the danger within. The satanic “Has God indeed said?” (Genesis 3:1) and/or the attitude that suggests “We know better than God what the world needs,” denies the truth to those who do not know it and undermines the foundation of faith in Christ. For all its evil, physical persecution is observable. The damage caused by attacks against the Word of God from within by those who claim to speak for the Lord is like unseen cancer that destroys the soul from the inside unless excised.

May the gracious God lead those who hate Him and His Church to repentance.

May He further shield us from all false teaching and teachers who through their lies mislead His children. Further we pray that the Lord will watch over His people in the world wherever they are and protect Christian missionaries who proclaim in the world the gospel of salvation in Christ.

Finally, we pray that He will protect us against any evil that would destroy body or soul and that He will give us strength to stand against the evil until the day that we stand at the throne of God among those who have “come out of great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

1) What Luther Says, Vol 1, para.753, p. 254.

2) What is Christianity, Pieper, Franz, p. 4

Standard

From Womb to Grave — God is Love

 

 

We venture where the godless and purveyors of evil say the church should not go. For politicians whose main goal is to win an election or perpetuate themselves in office it is an area where many fear to go. It describes an activity which today’s abortion purveyors would not be here to promote had their parents been as ruthless as they.

Abortion is not a political issue; it is not even a social or cultural issue except that it says something about the deterioration of society. It is an issue the chief support of which is perpetrated through lies, subterfuge, greed, and political skullduggery. It is a moral issue, an issue about which Scripture testifies:

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139: 13-16).

Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity…  Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay…  Did You not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews?  You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:8-10).

“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting, that the babe [John] leapt in her womb” (Luke 1: 41).

The issue is about murder, euphemistically called abortion because the reality sounds too harsh. It is given a political spin under the guise of civil rights – the right of a woman to destroy what is conceived in her womb in the name of what is broadly and selfishly described as a health issue.

There is presently (3-19) a motion picture “Unplanned” in the theaters. It is not popular with abortion promoters and practitioners. It is a real-life account of one who participated in many abortions. She had an awakening as she witnessed the struggle of a child in the womb literally trying to fend off the probe that would lead to its death. This is shown on the film.

The movie contains parts from which some watching have turned away or found very disturbing because of the brutality of it. It is ironic that the film received an “R” rating for an activity that is so common place and promoted. One sceptic suggested that the “R” rating was given so that Christians who dislike such motion pictures will not attend and learn the truth of the horrors of abortion. There is no compelling reason to see what Christians already know: “You shall do no murder.” This writer has not seen the film. If he does, he will do so only to support the “pro-life” cause.

Many who have seen “Unplanned” have described it as brutal. Brutality is “savage physical violence; great cruelty.” Among synonyms are savagery, violence, ruthlessness, evil, wickedness, harshness, viciousness, cold-bloodedness. Of course those who perform abortion do not agree with its savagery because to them what they are destroying is nothing but a blob or an inconvenience. They have no respect for the gift of God in the womb of whom the Psalmist wrote, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

We wrote to our senator about at birth abortions which are now legal in some states. Surprisingly, she responded with more than a form “happy you wrote” letter. She declared herself against late-term abortions but trumpeted the hope that a consensus can be reached in this country on women’s health issues. For those who believe the Bible and that life is a gift of God, the answer is still unsatisfactory. Life begins at conception.

In a sense, the aforementioned film can serve a salutary good if it wakens heretofore hard hearts to the horrendous brutality of destroying a living being in the womb. Certainly, Christians should not become desensitized to the sin that occurs with the destruction of life within the womb. Though many in our godless society do not agree, abortion is not a victimless crime. In a spiritual sense, abortion is more than a crime because the destruction of a child is an affront against the holy God Who gives life, and against the child who is robbed of its time of grace.

Furthermore, abortion may, can, and unless she repents will affect the woman who wantonly destroys the child within her. The sin will destroy the practioner of the evil unless he or she acknowledges the sin, turns in penitent sorrow from it to the Lord for grace. Penitent sorrow is not simply Judas’ remorse upon betraying the Savior. In unbelief he destroyed himself. Penitent sorrow is the sorrow characterized by Peter, the denier, who in heartfelt tears wept at his denial of his Lord and found his peace in the encompassing love of Christ.

What can faithful Christians do? We can pray that by a miracle of grace hearts will be turned to appreciate that life begins at conception. We can pray that even among those who do not believe the Bible or who do not respect the Lord God as the Author of life in the womb, there will be some who are disturbed at seeing a fully developed baby in the womb try to escape the probes of death, who will also as the former abortionist in the film quit the industry, repent of their sin, and find comfort in the redeeming love of the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose shed blood washes away all sins. To the penitent sinner the grace and mercy of God is greater than the vileness of sin, and the accusations of Satan. We pray that they who repent and find peace in Christ will also during their time on earth be relieved from the conscience pangs that linger. God with whom nothing is impossible, according to promise, in the fullness of time sent forth the incarnate Christ “born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4). By the power of the same Spirit working through the Word, He can change hearts; He can bring peace of heart and mind to those who repent of their sins and seek His mercy. Such is the compassion of the Father upon those who feel the burden of their sin. For this cause, Jesus came into the world.

Our Lord Jesus, true God from all eternity, humbled Himself and was born of woman as we were. Indeed, His conception of Mary was a miracle as He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, His humanity began as ours in the womb. Jesus, without sin, from the beginning was never a “nothing.” From His conception He was a living being Who grew into adulthood as we. One difference: Jesus was born to die unlike Adam and Eve who were born to live. Yes, our first parents were born to live but brought death upon themselves and all mankind through sin. Thus, the Father in His compassionate love sent His Son into the world for the specific purpose that He should die. By His death and resurrection, He has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

Jesus loves little children. Every child is precious in His sight. In Mark 10 we read, “Then they [parents] brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Each of these children were conceived in the womb, were persons whom the Lord loved from conception, and at birth felt the warmth of His embrace. He still cares about children from the womb to the grave, and at the baptismal font He through the Word and washing of regeneration showers them with the gift of forgiveness and salvation (Titus 3: 4 -7).

It is not a small thing to rob a child of its time of grace, either before it is born, or after. It is not a small thing to think lightly of God’s gifts or wantonly destroy that which God loves.

 

Standard