Look Up!

The Savior’s victory over sin, death and the devil was confirmed and stamped by the Heavenly Father through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Scripture records many incidents in which Jesus showed Himself after the resurrection. The apostle Paul records the significance of the resurrection, as well as the comfort of Jesus’ victory. He “was raised again because of [for] our justification” (Romans 4:25). The justification of the sinner by the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus is credited to us through faith. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Forty days after His resurrection the Savior would  return  to His Father in glory.

Before He did so, He spoke “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). He laid before His disciples their mission after His departure, laying  out a program and a timetable for the commencement of their mission. For three years He had instructed them, corrected them, comforted them, strengthened them, and  prepared them for their task. As He fulfilled His Father’s will He gave them the substance of their message.

 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Commissioned by the Lord, and empowered by the Holy Spirit after Pentecost, they were to go forth with the Gospel of life. This commission and its message remains the mission and the message of the Church to this day!

As Jesus spoke to them, suddenly a transcendent event occurred. Luke tells us at the end of his Gospel, “While He blessed them…He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). The Lord Jesus Who came to earth in Bethlehem, born in a  stall, and laid in a manger, and Who humbled  Himself unto death in our place, now as true God and true Man in exaltation ascended  to the throne of His Father. Luke gives us more detail in Acts. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).  What an awesome sight! The last physical view of Jesus the disciples and others had of Him  on the ascension mount was He with His hands raised in blessing upon them!  We can well understand why the disciples “looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up.”

As Jesus ascended, they were gazing up, watching intently. Why? They were struck with awe. No doubt they viewed the ascension with mixed feeling – with joy that Jesus, the victorious Lord, was ascending to fulfill another promise, and with nostalgia that He would no longer  be with them physically. Two angels, messengers of the Father, announced as they watched, “This same Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Though no one except Mary and Joseph observed Jesus’ humble entrance into the world, when He returns, the exalted Lord will come in power and glory. He will be visible to the whole world[DF1] . Then will be fulfilled Jesus’ promise to the disciples on the night of His betrayal. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).

After the disciples left  the mount of ascension they returned to the upper room where  “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14). They offered prayers of thanksgiving for the Father having kept His promise of the Savior, for all the blessings they had received from and through the Lord Jesus. They implored the Lord for strength and faithfulness to carry out their assigned task as they waited for the fulfillment of the promised Comforter. Remember how Jesus had told them, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). He further told them that He, God-Immanuel, would be with them always even to the end of the world.  

According to  promise, the Lord, Immanuel, has been with His Church through the ages. All God’s promises “in Him (Christ) are Yes, and in Him (Christ) Amen…”  (2 Corinthians 1:20). As He has promised that He will return to gather His disciples to where He is, His children through the generations, can be of confident faith that at God’s appointed time in history, Jesus Who came in lowliness to live among us will, [DF2] at a God-appointed time in history, come again in exaltation to exalt us so that we may live with Him where He is!

After the Lord ascended, the believers went home to worship and pray. They went about their tasks as assigned by the Lord. They went in the assurance of the Lord’s care, guidance, and blessing. They went in confidence that He “ascended up far above the heavens, that He might fill all things” (Ephesians 4:10) and that He to whom all power in heaven and earth belongs (Matthew 28:18)  would use His power in the interest of His Church (Matthew 16:18), to the benefit (Isaiah 43:2-3) of each believer whom He knows by name (Isaiah 43:1). 

Believers in Christ, in the year of our Lord, 2021, gazing up in anticipation of His return is an acknowledgement of His grace and will dictate how we live.

“The time is at hand” (Romans 13:12). God does not reckon time as we do. Mockers of  day of judgment will face it as it comes to all, first in a personal sense. The personal day of judgment comes when the sinner dies. One either dies in faith in Christ and is saved, or he dies in unbelief and is damned.  On the day of judgment of all things, the Son of Man “will  come, in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him…” (Matthew 25:31). “He will send His holy angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31). He will judge the living and the dead and “… will separate them one from another, as a shepherd gathers his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). The sheep who heard His voice and believed in Him will enter into life. The goats who listened to other voices will be cast away.

The apostles declared  that the day of the Lord was approaching. Are we not living in such days as those of which the apostle Peter spoke? He said, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying ‘Where is the promise of His coming…’” (2 Peter 3:4)? Immorality, incivility, hatred, greed, abound.  All of this is nothing new in the world. But it is receiving private and official sanction in a manner hardly seen, except before the flood at Noah’s time. The warning flags are flying! Furthermore, we must ask, “Is the Church today about its mission? Or has it, for its own reasons, accommodated itself to the world?”

The world stands yet because the Lord is gracious. He is calling all people to repentance for He desires the damnation of no one. God forbid that during this time Christ-believers should be lulled into the destructive mentality that  willfully forgets “that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:5-6). “The day of the Lord will come as thief in the night…both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3: 10-11).

“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11)?

This leads us back to the exhortation. Be watchful. “Look up.” The disciples looked up as Jesus left the earth. We are to watch for His return. Look up in joyful anticipation of the blessings of His ascension. How do we do this?

As eager watchers, Christ-believers will prepare personally by getting into the Scriptures, by acknowledging our own sins, and pleading for and trusting in God’s Word of promise, “Your sins are forgiven you.” We look up to Him for strength to daily walk the faith-walk. We are not to sit on a mountain top, or on our hands. We are not to observe the dying world scene with a baleful attitude, “The world is inviting judgment, what is the use?” We are commissioned to preach the Gospel into all the world. We are called to be useful in the kingdom by sharing the one thing needful. We do not stop living, but as confessors of Christ privately and with our brethren in the Church, the Body of Christ, we will   engage in worship and prayer to our Lord, with thanksgiving for the privilege. As we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in His inspired Word, we rejoice in Him Who has promised, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

The ascended Lord said through the apostle John  who witnessed the ascension, “Surely, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). How do you or I know that won’t be tonight?  In faith LOOK UP and with John say, “Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.” Grand will be the day for all who are watching!


 [DF1]

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What, Precisely, Do You Mean?

It is important  that in personal and public communication we say what we mean and mean what we say. All manner of difficulties have occurred if,  by intent or carelessness, we have not spoken honestly or clearly.

In speaking  God’s word before the world and in witnessing in the church world such communication is essential to the welfare of souls, as well as to the confessional life of the Church. We obviously cannot control what the hearer hears when we speak, or what he thinks he heard.  But we can control how we speak in words that are clear, to the point, and say what we mean.

1. GOD: Every religion has certain moral principles that theoretically put  a damper on evil. Today there is great lament among Christians that God is being put out of the schools and society. That is not debatable as we watch and listen. Nominal Christians, however, say it makes no difference in whom one believes as long as one believes in some “higher power”  or “supreme being.” Therefore, when it is said that God is being put out of schools, the tendency in society is to make no distinction between the living Triune God and idol gods of the heathen or human reason. So, when it is said God should be put back in schools, which and whose God is it? Similarly, when politicians say “God bless America,” whom are they imploring?

The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). “All should honor the Son (Jesus) just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father Who sent Him” (John 5:23). He alone is God who “forgives iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:7).  Speaking precisely, Christ-believers declare with Scripture that “there is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4) Who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. There is one God before whom all people on earth must one day stand to be judged, either unto condemnation or to eternal life.

2. CHRISTIAN (Christianity): “I am a Christian” is today subject to different interpretations. Christianity has become more deed oriented than creed oriented, more socially oriented than faith oriented. Christianity in truth is not a social construct nor a religion of works, but of faith and trust in Christ. Works are a fruit of faith, not a definition of Christianity.

“Christianity consists in faith in Christ, not in man’s own moral conduct” (What is Christianity, F. Pieper, p. 4, 1933). The Christian life demonstrated in ethical and moral living is a fruit of Christ’s redemptive work and the Spirit’s regeneration of the heart.

Christianity  accepts the whole Bible as God’s inspired word. Precisely, Christianity confesses the Triune God as professed in the Apostolic Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Jesus defined a Christian (Christ-believer) saying, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed…” (John 8:32). A Christ-believer confesses Jesus as the Son of God, one with the Father and Holy Spirit. A Christ-believer does not worship Jesus as an example but worships and trusts in Him because He paid for the sins of the world and gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. A true disciple of Christ believes that he is saved by grace through faith in Christ without the deeds of the Law (Romans 3:28).

3. GRACE: Grace is the unmerited favor of God toward man. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men…” (Titus 2:11). God  showers us with His blessing of forgiveness and eternal life without any merit in us.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works …” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Catholic Church  speaks of grace, but includes the idea that God puts grace into the heart so that man does what is right (good works as defined by the church) which works in turn contribute to man’s salvation.  In its teaching on grace, the Catholic Church contradicts Scripture. All for whom Scripture is the final word let grace be grace. “If by grace, then it is no longer works; otherwise grace is no longer grace…(Romans 11:6). “Saved by grace” excludes works!

4. FAITH: Saved by faith? By faith alone? Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.” What is faith and what really makes life worth living? It is not faith in or enthusiasm for something. Precisely speaking, in the confession of the Church’s message of salvation (the Gospel) faith alone does not save unless it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the faith that makes life worth living. Such faith is not a work of sinful man but  is a gift of the Spirit through the Gospel. Saving faith has an object! That object is a person — Christ!Paul speaks in Ephesians of being saved by grace through faith, but the context of that passage clearly shows that it is faith in Christ (“made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved”). “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). John 3:16  says, that whoever believes  (has faith) in Him (Jesus) shall have everlasting life. Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26).  In this life we live and see life as worth living not because of faith in something, but because Jesus, our Redeemer, lives and has secured for each believer a place in heaven. The apostle John directs our focus, not to something, but to Christ, And John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus said, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

5. FELLOWSHIP: Fellowship means companionship, togetherness, community. This is a big word in the Church. There are camp fellowships, coffee fellowships, prayer fellowships, fellowship potlucks. But what is fellowship in the Biblical context? The apostle John wrote:

 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (John 1:1-7).

Speaking precisely, Christ-believers have fellowship with Christ and the Father in and through His Word, and with one another when gathered together around Word and Sacrament. Fellowship in the Church implies agreement in all the teachings of Scripture. In practice of fellowship between church bodies, confessional documents should be clear, precisely written, not subject to private interpretation. It is a blessed fellowship when Christ-believers are gathered in unity of faith and confession to worship the Lord and serve Him according to His will.

Preciseness of language, speech, and confession is important as we fulfill our responsibility as representatives of our Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously, innumerable examples could be given that demonstrate the necessity of saying what we mean, meaning what we say, and most importantly believing what we confess from the inspired, clear, and inerrant Word of God, bearing in mind always what our Lord says through the prophet: “He who has My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2: 1-5).

6. JUDGEMENT: The Lord wants all to be saved. He died for all. He reconciled all sinners to the Father. The Gospel call goes out to all.  But salvation is the gift of God to all who believe in Christ Jesus. The Lord will return once more, not to set up a kingdom on earth, but to fulfill His promise of eternal life in heaven (John 14:3) to all who believe. He will return to receive believers to life eternal and condemn the wicked to hell (John 5:28-29). “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should no perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “He who has the Son has life: he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).

Precisely, clearly, faith in Christ makes life worth living, It is God’s Word, that promises life eternal! It is faith alone through which the gift of  salvation is assimilated!

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Walk In the Light Or Suffer the Darkness

” In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep… Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called night. So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1: 1-5).

If life were possible without light, and light were possible without the sun, moon, and stars, imagine what life would be in perpetual, pitch black darkness. Imagine the insanity, the depression. As it is, we can hardly bear cabin fever in a long, cold, gray, winter season.

Light existed before the sun, moon, and stars.  The Creator God, the eternal Light, did not need the sun, moon, or stars. However, human life, animal life, and plant life cannot exist without light. Therefore,

    “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years, and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth’ and it was so.  Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day “ (Genesis 1:14-16).

There will be a time in the future, known to the Lord God alone, when the sun, moon, and stars will not shine. When the Lord returns “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). It will be a time of fright for all who in unbelief rejected the Lord.

Despite the sun, moon, and stars that shone in beautiful Eden, as sin entered, a different  and more serious darkness enveloped the world. Disobedience to the Word of God introduced sin. With sin, man became enslaved to Satan. The consequence was darkness — spiritual, temporal, and eternal—and death.  The consequence of rejecting the Word of God  is manifest to this day.

The  Father could have left mankind in the darkness. He chose rather in His grace and mercy to rescue fallen man. He promised the Savior from sin Who would be born in due time. The Savior  took the sins of the world on Himself and reconciled the world unto the Father. He made our peace with the Father by His death in our place, confirmed by His resurrection. Blessed are all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for they  have life in Christ Who said of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who believes in Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Inexplicably, however, “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Rejection of Jesus by His own people, the blood descendants of Abraham, is repeated millions of times over by all who do not receive Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the only Light unto salvation. It is eternally true, “If one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:10).

Because of sin, until Jesus comes everyone on the earth experiences a pass-through. It is called the morgue. On the other side everyone will have a view of eternity. They who by the Spirit live in faith in Christ and walk the path of righteousness (Psalm 23) shall view the grand vista described in Revelation 22:

 “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” And in Revelation 21: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

By invitation believers in Christ will enter the mansions  to which the Lord ascended to prepare a place for His children. On the other hand, for those who spurn the Light of the world and love the darkness rather than the Light, and who walk the path of unbelief and wickedness, the view will be one of chaos and suffering. The rich man who rejected the Lord was in “torment in hades.” He said, “I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:23-24). Hell is where God is not. Instead of invitation, for Christ-rejecters there is only rejection, “Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:27). There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In the meantime, in this world, until the day the Lord returns we see what we see. It is not pretty for in the brightness of the noonday sun, and in the shadow of the moonlight we observe a world in spiritual darkness, whose end is destruction. We need not recount for the caring what is observable  in a world in general that has chosen to go its own way, and in a society that has no respect for God the Father who created all things, for the Son Who has redeemed the world from sin, or for the Holy Spirit Who sanctifies those who believe. It is still as true as when Isaiah wrote it, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Where there is no light there is darkness.

By the Spirit working through the Gospel, Christ-believers have been turned “from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). They are those of  whom the apostle John wrote, “We know that we are of God…” ( 1 John 5:19). God’s Word and promise assures us of that. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…” (John 10:27). The Lord knows His sheep by name. “I have called you by your name, You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). All who hear His voice “follow Me,” Jesus said, and He promised, “And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (1 John 5:28).

The apostle, John, continues in words that distinguish the Christ-believer from the unbeliever: “… and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” Christ-believers are in the world, but not of the world. Though they rue sin and are not slaves to it, yet in the flesh, they still sin. Troubled by their sin, they turn in repentance to the Lord Jesus whose blood has cleansed them of sin and through whose atonement they have been reconciled unto God (2 Corinthians 5:19). On the other hand, those who reject the Lord Jesus and spurn the grace of God remain “under the way of the wicked one.”  They make league with the evil one, Satan, and serve him. Despite the sun, they live in darkness.

Proverbs 4 describes the difference between the children of God, and the children of the devil. Incorporated in these words is a warning to all who walk in the light.

 “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they [the wicked] do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness;  they do not know what makes them stumble.”

Paul writes to Christ-believers, “You were once darkness….” But thank the Lord Who  through His Spirit effected a change, so that as you trust in the Lord Jesus, “ Now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Jesus  calls those who  walk in light to steadfastness,  “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who  walks in darkness does not know where he is going”… (John 12:35). Walk in the light, and let your walk reflect the Light, “giving thanks to the Father Who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12).    

As we view the scene today in the world and in our nation, who will argue with the hymn verse which says, “The world is very evil, the times are waxing short.” (The Lutheran Hymnal: 605). Does this not describe our age?” Children of the Heavenly Father, seek the wisdom which is from  above for:

“ When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths…” (Proverbs 2: 10-15).

“…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1: 5-8). All who walk in Christ-light have it—in time and in heaven.


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Walk In the Light Or Suffer the Darkness

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without from, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep… Then God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called night. So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1: 1-5).

If life were possible without light, and light were possible without the sun, moon, and stars, imagine what life would be in perpetual, pitch black darkness. Imagine the insanity, the depression. As it is, we can hardly bear cabin fever in a long, cold, gray, winter season.

Light existed before the sun, moon, and stars.  The Creator God, the eternal Light, did not need the sun, moon, or stars. However, human life, animal life, and plant life cannot exist without light. Therefore,

    “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years, and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth’ and it was so.  Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day “ (Genesis 1:14-16).

There will be a time in the future, known to the Lord God alone, when the sun, moon, and stars will not shine. When the Lord returns “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). It will be a time of fright for all who in unbelief rejected the Lord.

Despite the sun, moon, and stars that shone in beautiful Eden, as sin entered, a different  and more serious darkness enveloped the world. Disobedience to the Word of God introduced sin. With sin, man became enslaved to Satan. The consequence was darkness — spiritual, temporal, and eternal—and death.  The consequence of rejecting the Word of God  is manifest to this day.

The  Father could have left mankind in the darkness. He chose rather in His grace and mercy to rescue fallen man. He promised the Savior from sin Who would be born in due time. The Savior  took the sins of the world on Himself and reconciled the world unto the Father. He made our peace with the Father by His death in our place, confirmed by His resurrection. Blessed are all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for they  have life in Christ Who said of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who believes in Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Inexplicably, however, “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Rejection of Jesus by His own people, the blood descendants of Abraham, is repeated millions of times over by all who do not receive Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the only Light unto salvation. It is eternally true, “If one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:10).

Because of sin, until Jesus comes everyone on the earth experiences a pass-through. It is called the morgue. On the other side everyone will have a view of eternity. They who by the Spirit live in faith in Christ and walk the path of righteousness (Psalm 23) shall view the grand vista described in Revelation 22:

 “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” And in Revelation 21: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

By invitation believers in Christ will enter the mansions  to which the Lord ascended to prepare a place for His children. On the other hand, for those who spurn the Light of the world and love the darkness rather than the Light, and who walk the path of unbelief and wickedness, the view will be one of chaos and suffering. The rich man who rejected the Lord was in “torment in hades.” He said, “I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:23-24). Hell is where God is not. Instead of invitation, for Christ-rejecters there is only rejection, “Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:27). There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In the meantime, in this world, until the day the Lord returns we see what we see. It is not pretty for in the brightness of the noonday sun, and in the shadow of the moonlight we observe a world in spiritual darkness, whose end is destruction. We need not recount for the caring what is observable  in a world in general that has chosen to go its own way, and in a society that has no respect for God the Father who created all things, for the Son Who has redeemed the world from sin, or for the Holy Spirit Who sanctifies those who believe. It is still as true as when Isaiah wrote it, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Where there is no light there is darkness.

By the Spirit working through the Gospel, Christ-believers have been turned “from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18). They are those of  whom the apostle John wrote, “We know that we are of God…” ( 1 John 5:19). God’s Word and promise assures us of that. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…” (John 10:27). The Lord knows His sheep by name. “I have called you by your name, You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). All who hear His voice “follow Me,” Jesus said, and He promised, “And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (1 John 5:28).

The apostle, John, continues in words that distinguish the Christ-believer from the unbeliever: “… and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” Christ-believers are in the world, but not of the world. Though they rue sin and are not slaves to it, yet in the flesh, they still sin. Troubled by their sin, they turn in repentance to the Lord Jesus whose blood has cleansed them of sin and through whose atonement they have been reconciled unto God (2 Corinthians 5:19). On the other hand, those who reject the Lord Jesus and spurn the grace of God remain “under the way of the wicked one.”  They make league with the evil one, Satan, and serve him. Despite the sun, they live in darkness.

Proverbs 4 describes the difference between the children of God, and the children of the devil. Incorporated in these words is a warning to all who walk in the light.

 “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; Turn away from it and pass on. For they [the wicked] do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness;  they do not know what makes them stumble.”

Paul writes to Christ-believers, “You were once darkness….” But thank the Lord Who  through His Spirit effected a change, so that as you trust in the Lord Jesus, “ Now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8). Jesus  calls those who  walk in light to steadfastness,  “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who  walks in darkness does not know where he is going”… (John 12:35). Walk in the light, and let your walk reflect the Light, “giving thanks to the Father Who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12).    

As we view the scene today in the world and in our nation, who will argue with the hymn verse which says, “The days are very evil, the times are waxing short.” (The Lutheran Hymnal: 605). Does this not describe our age?” Children of the Heavenly Father, seek the wisdom which is from  above for:

“ When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths…” (Proverbs 2: 10-15).

“…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1: 5-8). All who walk in Christ-light have it—in time and in heaven.


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Hold Fast What Has Been Handed Down

It is an absurdly senseless statement, “We cannot remember what has not happened yet. We cannot remember the future.” We propose that it is as absurdly senseless  to forget or deny the past. To forget the past, good or bad, creates a lack of understanding of who, in Church and state,  we are, how we got to where we are, and why things are as they are. By studying history we are reminded of the ills we want to avoid. We are motivated to fix what went awry. On the other hand we are energized to perpetuate  the good. History serves the future.

History does not change. Two whose religion we as Christians no way endorse, nevertheless spoke an obvious, common sense truth. Jawaharlal Nehru, first prime minister of India said, “You don’t change the course of history by turning the faces of portraits to the wall.” To do so, does not change history but shows a lack of appreciation of it. One Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Our country gives every indication that it is rootless.

 Human  history recorded in Holy Scripture is by divine inspiration of  the Holy, Triune  God. He is the Author. Scripture  is truth. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created all things. On the 6th day, God created man in His own image… “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). God’s image consisted of “righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). God “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). That is the truth and the good of human history, denied as it is by all who have bought into  evolution, the lie of Satan. The divine record also records the bad – the entrance of sin with all its consequences, the fruits of which we see every day, and which culminates in the trip to the cemetery.   But thank the Lord for the good news.  It records God’s restorative act in the promise and fulfillment of the birth of the Savior from sin.

History as recorded in Scripture is lost to some, neglected by others, and distorted by those outside, as well as by some within, the Church who deny divine inspiration of Holy Scripture and reject the Author. The cause of evil in the world today is recorded in history– in Eden. The hope Christians hold for the future life in glory is rooted in history – in the cross of Christ. To forget or deny history is folly and it is death.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [is God breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Creating doubt about any part of Scripture casts doubt on all of it, including the Gospel (Good News) message of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, because the same Author Who inspired what sinful man in his corrupted reason rejects inspired the good news of our salvation. “The apostle John, the disciple of the Lord, through whom God speaks to us in the Scriptures speaks to our eternal hope in his first epistle (5:13),  “These things I have written to you who  believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life…”– that is past, present, and future. When Jesus prayed for His disciples on the night of His betrayal, He addressed the Heavenly Father saying, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). WasJesus a liar? The very thought is blasphemy. The salvation of the believer in Christ is not in doubt!

The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words… As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:1-8).

Those words from the past speak to every age. They speak to the present, which plays itself out in the future. By reason of our own sinful flesh as well as the evil forces around us, steadfastness in the truth that is in Christ is not without struggle.

Martin Luther endured such struggle in his personal life, and in his service to the Church.  Lutherans who appreciate Reformation history know the struggles of Luther. All thanks to God for raising up confessors before us and especially for Martin Luther who took on the apostate Church, and the pope.

The world does not care, but the fact is that the world and the Church have not been the same since October 31, 1517, when Luther, a lonely monk, posted the 95 theses. That significant event was confirmed 4 years later, April 17, 1521 (500 years ago), when Luther stood before representatives of the Church, the emperor, and the pope who had elevated the Roman Catholic Church tradition and papal authority to the level of Scripture. Furthermore, Luther steadfastly proclaimed salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – alone! By so doing, he was striking at the false teaching of Rome, as well as at its financial structure.

Luther who was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church and placed under the ban in January of 1521 was summoned to a diet (meeting) in Worms. He was promised safe-conduct. His friends urged him not to go. Said he,” Though there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs, I will go there.” On April 17 on a table before him were piled many of his writings. He was asked if they were his. He answered that they were, and he had written more. He was asked if he defended them or if he was ready to reject the “heresies,” as Rome defined them. Luther was granted another day before answering. He used the time in much earnest prayer. On April 18, 1521, he faced a larger assembly. Before the emperor, he said, “Should I recant at this point, I would open the door to more tyranny and impiety, and it will be all the worse should it appear that I had done so at the instance (sic) of the Holy Roman Empire.” He was willing to recant anything that could be proven to be contrary to Scripture. To this came the reply from one of the interrogators, “Martin, your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always made by heretics…How can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture?… I ask you, Martin,–answer candidly and without distinction—do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”

At the end of  his response, Luther concluded: “Since your Majesties and your lordships desire of me a simple reply, I will answer without distinctions… Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Sacred Scripture or evident [cogent] reason (I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other), my conscience is captive  to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand. God help me! Amen.” 

Luther left Worms on April 26. On May 6, the Edict of Worms was presented to the diet by the emperor. It accused Luther of many things including attacking the 7 sacraments of the Roman Church. It  declared, “Luther is to be regarded as a convicted heretic. …when the time is up [21 days], no one is to harbor him. His followers also are to be condemned. His books are to be eradicated from the memory of man.”  Are these days returning?!

This is history. Five hundred years after Worms, we are confronted by our own challenges. No less than then, Scripture is under attack; our faith is challenged so that we must stand against the common evil, as well as against perverters of the truth, and against the “emperor” in the form of government. Our weapons are not carnal. Our warfare is not in the street. It is waged with the Word of God from our homes, in our Christian schools, our pulpits, and in our public witness before the world as we speak the truth. Our defense is no different than when Paul wrote it, and Luther wore it:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”(Ephesians 6:11-18).

History repeats itself. Luther said, “And you Germans need not think that you will have it [the Word] forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can….”  After his death it was necessary to  make another solid confession in the Formula of Concord. The history of Worms is much deeper than Luther’s stand. It testifies to the faithfulness of the Lord who defended Luther until he, commending himself to the Lord, died a natural death in 1546.  

History is what it is, good or bad. On what side will we come down? Who among us will be bold to replicate Luther’s staunch confession and stand at Worms? In these days Christianity and our faith are under severe attack by the world. Our Lutheran confession is under assault within Lutheranism itself! God grant that, we stand on the solid foundation of Christ and His Word. God forbid that we forget our history and jeopardize our future. Stand fast therefore in the truth confessing boldly until we attain the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.

Defend Thy truth, O God, and stay

This evil generation;

And from the error of its way

Keep Thine own congregation.

The wicked everywhere abound

And would Thy little flock confound;

But Thou art our Salvation (Luther, 1523, TLH- 260.v. 5).

Sources: Here I stand, Bainton, Roland, Abingdon Press 1950

The Story of Civilization – The Reformation, Durant, Will, Simon and Schuster 1957


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WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR OUR CHILDREN?

Over the ages and certainly now, parents have asked the question posed by the title as the world in general, including our nation,  increasingly spins out of control. Decades ago the question was related more to the rapid modernizing and changing of society. Today the breakdown of family structure, and the precipitous decline in morals has  increased the concerns.  Then also burgeoning technological advances,  for better or for worse, are dominating our lives.  However, technology is not the culprit or the cause of our deteriorating society. The problem lies within the corrupt hearts and minds of those who abuse it. It is called sin!

The  public defense and promotion of immorality from the highest level of society and government is destructive. Freedom of speech and  right to exercise conscience in speech and practice is increasingly being denied today– the so-called cancel culture. “Our freedoms are vanishing. If you do not get active to take a stand now against all that is wrong while we still can, then maybe one of your children may elect to do so in the future, when it will be far more (sic) riskier — and much, much harder” (Source unidentified). On the other hand,  exercise of freedom without  responsibility is common. Christianity is facing attacks, not unexpected in a world in which the Lord God and His Word are rejected. Churches that cater to the whims of society contribute to the concern as God’s truth is compromised in the name of love, diversity, and search for relevance. With no respect for the Lord, or the consequence of disobedience in time or eternity, the exercise of  one’s civic  rights has become license and excuse to do as one chooses. Christian parents ask, “What  difficulty, threat, evil, intimidation, pressure, moral decay, emotional or physical discomfort, and loss of freedom  will confront our children so long as the world stands? How free will they be to publicly worship their Lord and confess their faith in public?  What will be the circumstances as “perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1)?

In our decadent society is  a boy a boy (male) and a girl a girl (female)? Is it wrong to be wealthy? Is one a “racist” based purely on the color of his or her skin? Is having an opinion different than the  majority sexist, wrong, discriminatory, simply because it is different? Is there still sin in the world or is it simply a right of self-expression?

Socialist and communist countries program youth in the schools. To them God and faith are an aberration and considered a threat to the state.  Parents who pay attention know such indoctrination  is now infiltrating  the public educational system in our country from elementary through higher education. Concerned parents should consider getting children out of the public educational system in which impressionable minds are being programmed to conform to the corruption and whims of society. Use your Christian Day School. Start one. Home school.

Our societal and political culture have adopted an “anything goes” mentality. Within our culture there is a deaf ear to Scripture which says, “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today – every man doing what is right in his own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8). Education is being dumbed down. There is more social engineering and indoctrination in our public system than there is education. For example: It is publicly reported that new education standards have been proposed in the State of Minnesota that will eliminate classes on the Holocaust, and American history and replace them with class work on gay, trans, and racism subjects. The Illinois School Board of Education encourages all schools across the state to adopt a new, pro-LGBTQ+ curriculum that emphasizes use of more gender-neutral terms. The Illinois State Board of Education is proposing a rule that would force teachers to promise they would “embrace and promote” “progressive” views starting in October 2021. If one has access to a Christian high school as we do—Immanuel Lutheran High school and College– use it!

In New York City, a math education professor said  the “notion” that 2+2=4,  “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.” A teachers’ guide says, “We see white supremacy culture show up in the mathematics classroom even as we carry out our professional responsibilities.” On the language side a different source, Rutgers University, recently concluded that speaking and writing English correctly is racist (Source WORLDNETDAILY, March 21, 2021; multiple sources).  The California Department of Education has proposed  a “model curriculum” that includes chanting the names of Aztec gods in an attempt to build unity among schoolchildren.

Concerned about the future of your children? Parents, preparing them for it begins with you. Speak out! Petition. Be involved. Set an example of godly exercise of faith. Avoid  evil; pursue good. Entreat the Lord in prayer.  Jeremiah  said to the exiles in Babylon, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Seek the peace of the city (Babylon) where I have caused you to be carried away captive and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace’” (Jeremiah 29:7). Be awake and vigilant in heeding the advice of the Spirit through the apostle Paul. “ Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:11-13). Hold fast  the faithful Word. Cloth your children in the armor of God through immersion in the Word of God.  Openly and boldly confess the faith. Share with them the joy of the Gospel and the hope of heaven.  

Therefore, pray that pastors and teachers will remain faithful to the inspired Word of God, preaching Law and Gospel – repentance and remission of sins. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). In truth, nations and the church are blessed only by the good grace of God Who is the ultimate judge and Savior of both. Pray that your church remains true to the inspired Scriptures in word and practice.

How does all this address the question, “What does the future hold for our children?” We cannot tell the future. We do not know what they will face in society when we are gone. Will they who contend for truth and faithfully declare the will of God and the Gospel  suffer pain and stress, intimidation and perhaps imprisonment as well anguish and perhaps death at the hands of evil men and nations?  Furthermore, as chilling as it is to ask the question, will there be a church in the land where the voice of God is still heard, and not the opinions of men? Again, what can we do?

Engage in fervent prayer that the Lord will bear them through the evil days! Instill in children now the Word that by the Spirit they may grow in faith to bear whatever is cast at them as citizens in the civic sense or as Christ-believers. Help them to know that whatever comes, as they focus on Christ, and stand steadfast in the faith, bearing the suffering, burdens, discomfort, and fears that “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Yes, direct their attention to where lies their real future! Be honest with them about sin, and the devil’s walking about. Above all, declare to them  the faithfulness of  the Lord God, and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ Who resisted evil even unto death on the cross, so that they might bask in the joy of forgiveness, and the certainty of eternal life in heaven.

Raise them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Faithfully lead them into the  Word through which the Spirit works discernment between good and evil; by your life in word and deed, set them an example of godliness;  confirm to them from the Word that their God is Immanuel – God with us — and that He promises never to leave nor forsake those who call upon Him. Teach them, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). Show them that the Heavenly Father  who delivered Israel from Egypt and heard their prayers in the wilderness is also the God Who will attend  them. “He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Though their flesh and heart may tremble  in adversity, as they know as God is their Refuge and Strength (Psalm 46), they can say, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

We will have done for our children the best we can do in face of the unknowns that lie ahead as they travel through this godless and dying world if we have faithfully nourished them through the Word to believe, and say, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3), because  “The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear. What  can man do to me”(Hebrews 13:6)?  We cannot remove all fear, pain, and unrest of what may lie ahead. What we can do and are beholden to do by the Lord is to equip our children now  with the armor of defense, the shield of faith, and with “ the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God,” (Ephesians 6:17).

Parents, if you are serious about the question  What Does the Future Hold for Our Children?” give your children something to believe, and  through the Word assure them they have a future as they cling to their Savior. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Build them up in the Lord and His  promises. Establish them upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus so that in the midst of trial and toil, fears and tears, they remember the promise of the Lord: “Call upon Me  the day  of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). Prepare them and then turn your concerns over to the Lord in prayer.

As we Christian parents faithfully train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, God help us to die in peace confident that we have done what we could to prepare them to navigate this life with all its unknowns until the Lord receives them into Heaven.

In summary, do what you can do now faithfully, and leave the future to the Lord!

O teach them with all diligence

    The truth of God’s own Word,

    To place in Him their confidence,

    To fear and trust their Lord… (TLH 629, st.5).

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Resurrection Promises Endure

A caption,   “Easter’s Promise Endures” (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 4-5-2021), was accompanied by two pictures, one of which was a pastor, welcoming worshipers to church. The caption directed the reader to an article in which nothing was said about the substance of what the Christian Church celebrates at Easter.  It did say “A service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem was celebrated by the senior Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land.” The closest reference to Easter in the Associated Press article out of the Vatican was: “That is the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried.”

The thrust of the article was not about the message or the  blessed, enduring effect of Christ’s resurrection, but how Easter endures through the pandemic age with the virus, the vaccinations, and restrictions on worship. Unrelated to the article or the Pioneer Press was a Newsmax article online in which a “Christian pastor”(Ugh) who is also a United States senator said, and this is a direct quote, “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  He further said, “Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”

The Washington Times reported that he “deleted the tweet several hours later after being lambasted on Twitter as a ‘phony pastor’ and ‘false teacher,’ and for promoting  ‘false doctrine,’ ‘blasphemy,’ and ‘unbiblical theology…’”.

Scripture declares,  “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Christ was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:25). In Him we are clothed in the righteousness that avails before God. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  The resurrection Gospel is the declaration that our sins are washed way. Our guilt is removed. Our innocence is ensured. Our reconciliation with the Father is complete. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus says not, “do something.” It says, “It is done.” It is the confirmation of Jesus’ word from the cross, “It is finished.”

There is nothing—nothing– that is more unbiblical, unchristian or more to be condemned  than the idea that “Whether you are a Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.” Shame on one who identifies as a “Christian” pastor and promotes that lie!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). The resurrection of Jesus is the seal of salvation to all who believe. It is an essential of the Gospel that is the root, the source, and the energy to the commitment “to helping others,” which by the way, starts by telling them the truth. Christ is risen from the dead. “He who has [believes in] the Son has life; he who does not have [does not believe in]  the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).

One wonders, what is the promise of Easter that endures in the world, for those who have a zeal for God but do not believe in their heart in the person, nature, purpose and accomplishment of Christ? What makes Easter “happy” to those who don’t know what it is or why it is — the flowers fade, the eggs rot,  the bunny dies, and life returns to its normal rat race with its hatred, anger, and pursuit of pleasure and self-aggrandizement?!  What meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the meaning which the loving Father and the risen Christ have given to it? There is none!

Happy Easter has different meanings to different people. Here is a suggestion. As Christ-believers who acknowledge our sin and believe in Christ and His atonement, we should instead of  “Happy Easter,”   greet another with “Happy Resurrection Day.”. “Happy Resurrection Day” witnesses to the truth. “Christ is risen from the dead. Rejoice! Your sins are forgiven, you are reconciled unto God. As you believe, you who are alive with Christ, shall live with Christ in the glory of heaven.”

Christ is risen from the dead. “ I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.”  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18). That is the Easter (Resurrection) promise that endures. Want more?  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, shall not perish, but has everlasting life  (John 3: 16,18). Yet another. “And the Lord, He is the One Who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). One more of many, “’For 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).

Christ is risen from the dead, and so at the day of resurrection when all the graves shall be opened and the dead shall come forth, we who believe shall enter into life. What a grand and glorious day when  the Christ-believer hears,

“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

Until then we have life to live where we are. In this life we face many storms, — some present, some lying in the future. The fight is fierce, the warfare long. The enemy plays on our sinful flesh, and he is relentless And right here is where we often forget the enduring resurrection promises. As the disciples traversed the sea, a storm arose. Jesus was asleep in the boat. The fearful disciples awakened Him, and He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”  Jesus rebuked the winds and the storm subsided (Matthew 8:26). Have you ever been in that boat and had the same fear the disciples had?” The Lord is with us always. He says so!

Our Lord lives. He knows our circumstances. The disciples in the boat, “now in the middle of the sea, tossed  by the waves for the wind was contrary,” saw Jesus walking on the sea. They feared, but Jesus said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Even then Peter doubted the Lord, who said, “Come.” Peter walked on the sea as he focused on Christ, but when he lost focus and began to sink Peter feared. “Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” And “When they got into the boat the wind ceased” (14:31-32). Have you ever had that sinking feeling? Jesus was there when Peter and the others needed Him.

On the evening of the resurrection the disciples were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews who in an effort to disprove what they feared was true had spread the lie that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. The risen Christ appeared and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Later the disciples were fishing and caught nothing. Jesus told them to try again. They caught their limit and more. When they came ashore Jesus said to them “Come and eat breakfast” (John 21:12). Can you identify a time in need when the Lord supplied?

We have celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and were nourished with the true meaning of what it means unlike many who do not know what it means.. Our Lord lives, and we are alive in Him, “though now for a little while, if need be, [we are] grieved by various trials.” As difficult as they are and very well may increase, they serve a purpose, namely, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,  whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,  receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Every day of the Christ-believer’s life on earth is lived in the light of the Savior’s resurrection from the dead, because the Lord’s resurrection day promises endure; they never fail. We frequently fail Christ. But He never fails us. The Father testifies to that through our atonement wrought by His Son. The Father sealed it by the resurrection through which we have the promise:  “When Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

Our Lord Jesus has overcome sin, death and the devil. In Him our victory is in hand. But so long as we are in the flesh we war against the enemies of our soul, lest lethargy or complacency rob us of the precious promises that lead us to give thanks “to God Who always leads us in triumph in Christ…” (2 Corinthians 2:14). That is the enduring resurrection promise – in time through eternity!

 

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Christ is Risen

 

We have been inundated recently with “fake news.”  What is fake news? On one hand, fake news is news passed off as facts  in an effort  to persuade a gullible or unsuspecting  public to a personal agenda or cause. Fake news is used to destroy another’s reputation, or to promote some agenda or undermine some reality that is uncomfortable to the reporter of the news.  Fake news is lies. The reporter of fake news is a deceiver and a liar. On the other side of that coin, news is frequently considered fake in the mind of the hearer who chooses not to accept facts or believe the truth. Such who choose not to accept the truth frequently cast aspersions on the reporter.

The Scottish poet, Sir Walter Scott, perfectly described  the whole fake news phenomenon when he said, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Fake news is nothing new, though it seems now to be a staple of our culture.

According to the Author of  Holy Scripture, the holy, eternal God, some two thousand years ago Mary and other women came to the tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ on the first day of the week. The crucified Christ had been placed in the tomb by Joseph  of Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus “for fear of the Jews,” assisted by Nicodemus “who at first came to Jesus by night” (John 19:38-39). The report of the angelic reporter  whom the Lord had sent invited the women to see for themselves that Christ was risen. He told them to spread the good news:

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus Who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you” (Matthew 28:5-7).

Peter and John ran to the tomb. They saw the empty tomb. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, who told others who, “When they had heard that He was alive and had been seen  by her, they did not believe” (Mark 16:11).

The soldiers who stood guard at the tomb reported what had happened to the chief priests who with the elders said to the soldiers, “Tell them ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept’” (Matthew 28:13). The soldiers were bribed to spread fake news on the street; tell a lie.

The soldiers’ fake news was contradicted by Jesus’ visit with Mary, His walk with the Emmaus disciples as well as His appearance to all the disciples who were victims of the fake news. They  were behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). Jesus appeared. He spoke peace to them and showed them His hands and His side. “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Later “He was seen by 500 brethren at once…” (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). He spent  40 days with His disciples teaching them, after which they watched Him physically ascend into heaven.

On the resurrection day Jesus said to the Emmaus disciples who were perplexed, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things [His suffering and death] and to enter into His glory?”  And then “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scripture the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:26-27).  Eight days later, Thomas, the skeptical disciple who was not with the disciples behind locked doors the first time, when he laid hands on Jesus’ hands and His side, said, “My Lord and My God” (John 21:28). Through the suffering and death of Jesus attested to by the cross of Calvary, by the Father, by the angel, by the empty tomb,  a multitude of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled. Peter in his Pentecost sermon said, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).                                                 “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” The disciples and the rejoinder of the early Church testified to the truthfulness of Scripture and to the resurrection.

Despite the historical evidence recorded by the Spirit in the divine Word, there   have been fanciful fake news stories. Unbelievers claim Jesus did not really die, but that He was in a swoon. He faked it! As one peruses the internet one finds the report of an archeological dig in which bones were found. “The bones seem to indicate marks of a crucifixion with the skull having holes caused by the crown of thorns.” The title of the report? “The Bones of Jesus Discovered!”  This story accepts the fact of Jesus’ death, but rejects the resurrection.

After another  dig during the tomb of Christ was allegedly found, no bones were found. Are you surprised?

In this day, churches  that question or deny the divine inspiration and absolute truth of Scripture, cast doubt on the resurrection. People are led to ask, “What is one to believe?”  Listen to Jesus. “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think  you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Sanctify us, Lord, by  Your Word. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

Christ-believers reject the fake news. The apostle John, a disciple of the Lord who ran with Peter to the tomb writes, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11-13). John’s assurance is predicated upon the truth that the Savior Who bore our sins and suffered our punishment on the cross, enduring the forsakeness of God in hell for us, rose from the dead.

A dead Christ is no Savior. “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty… But now Christ is risen from the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15). The promises recorded and reported  by John are sealed by the Father through the resurrection of Jesus. The living Savior says, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Blessed are all who have the confidence of Job who said, “I know that my Redeemer lives… (Job 19:25).

What is the further significance of the resurrection? As mentioned above it testifies to the truthfulness and reliability of the divine Word. Scripture foretold the historical event, and the resurrection of Jesus confirmed the Scriptures are truth.

Jesus said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple [the temple of His body] and in three days will raise it up again” (John 2:19). Jesus raised himself from the dead. In the uniqueness of the Trinity, Scripture speaks of God [the Father] raising him from the dead. The apostle Peter records by divine inspiration that Jesus was made alive after death “by the power of the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). (Compare creation account). That God raised Jesus from the dead declares beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus fully, perfectly, sufficiently, and once for all, accomplished the atonement for the sins of the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the Father’s exclamation mark on Jesus’ work. The resurrection of Jesus confirms His own words: “ I am the resurrection and the life… “ (John 11: 25).

Job said before the fact, “I know that My Redeemer lives.” Jesus  concluded His word to Martha saying, “…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).

As He arose from the dead “on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4), doomed mankind was told that Jesus “Who was delivered up because of our offenses was raised because of [for] our justification” (Romans 4:25).  This objective fact is comfort  for the believer in Christ. Jesus  said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

This is the good news! “The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus are past events; they live only in the Gospel that proclaims them. We meet them only in the Word, the promise of God. Our faith, like Abraham’s, ‘comes from what is heard’ (Romans 10:17) and lives by holding to that heard and heeded Word of God” (Franzmann, Concordia CommentaryRomans, CPH 1968, p.86).

Blessed are all  who in time and in anticipation of eternity hear the Word of God and treasure it. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This is most certainly true! “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

 

As Christ the Lord was born and died,

And rose again from death,

He then ascended to His Father

To prepare our place in heaven.

By Gospel Word from heaven above

The Spirit gave us faith.

Now, by that self-same Word we know

He’ll take us Home to heaven!

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By His Stripes We are Healed

  

As we move on to Good Friday, the day of our Savior’s crucifixion, we are reminded many times of the abuse that was heaped upon the Savior.

Why was He even exposed to such treatment? We do not understand the passion suffering of our Lord, nor do we understand the meaning, and even less the blessing of Easter unless we penitently from the heart acknowledge the reality of what Isaiah declares in his prophecy in the 53rd chapter: “And the Lord has laid  on Him the iniquity of us all.” These words penned by the prophet 750 years before Christ, were reiterated some 25 years after the fact when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For He [the Father] made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us…” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We were not the immediate cause of the suffering of our Lord.  We were the underlying cause of it! We, with the whole mass of humanity before Him, and after Him. We were  and are responsible for Jesus being crucified.

The hymn writer, Johann Heermann, in his hymn (The Lutheran Hymnal -143), “O dearest Jesus, What Law hast Thou Broken” includes in the hymn, “It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish.” Jesus suffered pain and anguish in body and soul from Gethsemane to Calvary for us, because of us!

We remind ourselves of these things, not to evoke sympathy for Christ. He does not want our sympathy. To the lamenting women on the way to Calvary He said, “ Do not weep for Me, but weep  for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28). We remind ourselves of these things because they speak to what we would have suffered in time and eternity had He not. “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry” (Luke 23:31)? This is not a drama play, nor an attempt to be over dramatic. This was not a criminal lashing out to intimidate or get even. This was the innocent Son of God – the green wood – calling to repentance, sinners – dry wood – lest His pain and approaching death be in vain for them. If  the fire of God’s judgment “does not spare even God’s Son…what will become of those who have refused God’s mercy and have in their impenitence become dry wood ripe for judgment” (Franzmann, Concordia Bible with Notes, CPH, 1971, p. 159)?

In Isaiah 50 we find a prophecy, the fulfillment of which speaks to the payment for our sins. Jesus did not turn away from suffering, but “ set His face like a flint” to accomplish His purpose. “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). This found its fulfillment when “They spit in His face and beat Him; and others struck [slapped] Him with the palms of their hand” (Matthew 26:67). Imagine if you will, spitting on and slapping the Lord Jesus! Then later again after putting on him a crown of thorns and mocking Him, whereafter they spit on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head” (Matthew 27:28-30).

We expect that of the world for Christ and His cross are foolishness to the dry wood. But now pause. How different is what His captors did to Him than what we do when we sin?  The very question smarts, does it not?

Or think of the ignominy He suffered without complaint when Pilate, despite his acknowledgement that Jesus was innocent, gave the Jews the choice between the innocent Son of God, and the seditionist and criminal, Barabbas. Ought we not think about that also when we are confronted with the choice between truth and error, right and wrong, Christ and the world?

One of the cruelest blows He bore was when “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Indeed He died for all, even those who did not and do not receive Him. But ought we who are called by His name, and Who by His grace He has claimed as His own (Isaiah 43:1), “put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6), and crucify Him again by our sins in thought, word, and deed?

Finally, the cruelest  blow He bore for our sake was voiced when He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matthew 27:46)?

If  what Jesus endured makes you uncomfortable, it is no more than he who is writing it. As much as we would like to deny reality, we cannot. We are compelled with the prodigal to say, “Father, I have sinned, against heaven and before You,  and am no more worthy to be called Your son” (Luke 15:18-19), and say with the publican in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

Thank God, there is another reality greater than our discomfort, our pain, our guilt. It is anchored in all that Jesus suffered in our behalf and for our salvation. The Lamb of God, bearing our sin, went uncomplaining forth to the cross to fulfill the task for which He had come. This was the greatest demonstration of love. Jesus was paid the wages we earned. The very God whom we offend with our sin recorded through the apostle Paul, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11).  The Law of God uncovers our sin and condemns, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). Grace covers our sin and forgives. The Law unclothes our ugliness. The grace of God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ, in robes fit for heaven.

By His stripes we are healed! “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

In our experience we at one time had a young couple quit church because in their judgment we did not teach enough about how to live. The fact is that if we preach Law and Gospel we are teaching how to live as well as exposing the corruption called sin. What part of God’s Law does not teach us how to live?  Which part of God’s Law does not show us where we have failed to live up to the standard of the holy God.

If we acknowledge that, which part of the Scriptural narrative does not show us how to live and by the  Gospel – the cross of Christ —  energize our faith and empower the will to live for the Lord?  As we observe the Savior in His life, in His deepest agony, in His death as our substitute under the wrath of God, do we really have to tell one what to do and not to do beyond leading one back to the cross where in the crucified Christ is found the will and desire to live for Christ Who died for us. Can we walk away from Pilate’s courtroom and from Calvary without assenting to “Whether  you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 1:10)?

Our Lord has borne our sin, our shame and our guilt. He has reconciled us unto the Father. Certainly as one penitently goes to the Lord seeking His forgiveness for sins past and present, and as certainly as one hears, “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you,”  there is created the desire  to “live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness” (Luther’s Small Catechism, 2nd Article).

Viewing our Savior suffering for our sins, bearing the cruelty of trial and cross, and recognizing that through His stripes we have been healed and given the hope of heaven, we pray:

         Grant that I Thy Passion view

        With repentant grieving

        Nor Thee crucify anew

        By unholy living.

        How could I refuse to shun

        Every sinful pleasure

        Since for me God’s only Son

        Suffered without measure?

 

Yet with the apostle we must acknowledge, “In me ( that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). Hearing the words of forgiveness from the cross, and knowing the victory over sin, death, and the devil through Christ and His resurrection, we pray with confident thanksgiving:

        Grant that I may willingly

        Bear with Thee my crosses,

        Learning humbleness of Thee,

        Peace mid pain and losses.

        May I give Thee love for love!

        Hear me, O my Savior,

        That I may in heaven above

        Sing Thy praise forever  (TLH-140, st.4,6).

 

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Hear, Hear, O Citizens of Heaven

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20).

 

Philippi, in Macedonia, was a settlement of Roman soldiers. In Philippi was the first congregation established in Europe under the ministry of the apostle. During his ministry in Philippi, Paul with Silas had been imprisoned because they dared to speak truth. Without  due process of law to which he was entitled as a Roman citizen, Paul was beaten and imprisoned, yet  the Word of God prevailed.  One of the fruits of his “jailhouse ministry” was the jailor who asked. “What must I do to be saved.”   Paul’s answer was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ… (Acts 16:31).

Presently he was again in prison, this time in Rome, from where he wrote to the Philippians. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;  and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” ( Philippians 1:12-13). Paul was ready to count all thing loss — as rubbish — “that I may gain Christ.” The letter, written during his two-year imprisonment in Rome, has the tenor of a close relationship of the apostle with the saints. In fact they had sent an emissary, Epaphroditus, with a gift to Paul. His letter in turn was sent to them through the same emissary who had become ill while in Rome. Paul says of him, “for the work of Christ he came close to death” (Philippians 2:30).

The congregation in Philippi had suffered persecution. It also had some internal issues which lay on the heart of the apostle. He warned them against “evil workers” who disturbed the faith and peace of the church. “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and my crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved” (4:1). Following his reference to their “citizenship in heaven,” Paul reminds them of their responsibility as citizens of heaven while they  wait for their heavenward call. These words are instructive also to us who possess what we may call dual citizenship.

Citizenship of Christ-believers in the world: In cultural and political terms, citizens are primarily those who live in their country of birth.  Whatever one’s color, or religion, under the US constitution all citizens in theory possess  the rights of citizenship —  rights defined as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Increasingly these rights are being denied or diminished by the evil of abortion, which is the grossest denial of the aforementioned, as well as by impingements of  rights imposed on citizens by social pressure or through legislative action. Citizenship is today distorted by compromise  of immigration laws that allow illegal entry into the country.

Citizenship in heaven: Citizenship in heaven is not a birthright. However, it is open to all mankind of whatever derivation, or color. Citizenship status is granted only to those who by the washing of water and the Word in Baptism (regeneration, new birth) and faith believe  in Jesus. Scripture is clear. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth,  and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This is confirmed in Acts, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which  we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There are no illegal aliens in heaven; that is, there are none who sneak into heaven. The right to citizenship in heaven is through faith in Christ. Likewise, entrance  to heaven is through faith in Jesus Who said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Everyone who confesses his sin and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Lord, Savior from sin, and who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21). Furthermore, citizenship in heaven is free to all who confess their sins and trust in the merit of the crucified and risen Lord. “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesian 2:8). “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

There shall not enter heaven, “anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27). That gives depth to Paul’s encouragement: “Stand fast in the Lord,” for “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5). The citizenship confirmation of every believer is written in the Book of Life with the indelible blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! Whatever occurs in this life, even in the darkest moments, believers in Christ may trust Jesus’ word, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).

 Responsibilities as citizens in the temporal realm: While citizens on earth, believers who possess citizenship in heaven are called to reflect the grace of God in Christ in our teaching and glorify Him in our daily walk; therefore, we will exercise  our duties and privileges as responsible citizens in society. In exercise of  our relationship to God-ordained authority in the land (Romans 13), we will pray for those to whom is entrusted authority as they carry out their responsibilities. We will function within the laws of the commonwealth and state in which we live. We will respect our history, and work for the betterment of our society. We will show graciousness and love in our interactions with our neighbors. In fact, if  our life and interaction  does not match what we believe and teach, our Christian witness loses its impact. Our life and deportment, therefore, are to be respectful.  We will not be conformed to the evil of the world, but will speak the truth in love. We will live our lives in the foreign environment of this woeful world as testimony that we are citizens of heaven.

Citizens of heaven are ambassadors for Christ in the world: As ambassadors of the Lord, we are to preach repentance and remission of sins  to all the world beginning where we are. The Lord wills that through the Gospel proclamation, through the power of the Holy Spirit,  more names be recorded in the Book of Life.  “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, that I have commanded you…”. (Matthew 28:19-20).  Beside the privilege to be an ambassador of Christ we have an awesome responsibility. Of all of the citizens of this earth, only those who are of the Gospel and live in the Gospel can proclaim it. We are called to give an answer of the hope that is in us,  letting our speech “always be with grace (kind, caring), seasoned with salt” (clear, honest, truthful) (Colossians 4:6). In short, as citizens of heaven  we will live our faith with thanksgiving to the Lord, bearing in mind in the church as well as in world the exhortation of the apostle Paul, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:14-15).

Benefits of citizenship within the temporal nation: As we speak of benefits of  citizenship in a nation, we think of the freedoms under the constitution— freedom of religion, freedom of opportunity, freedom to assemble peacefully,  freedom of speech, freedom to earn a living. These and other freedoms granted by our constitution have been a staple of our democratic constitutional republic. Our country has been the envy of many others where such freedoms are not enjoyed. But frequently these freedoms  are subject to the whim of  unscrupulous authorities or government figures. In this life, what government guarantees can as easily be denied by the fiat of authority or by the pursuit of self-aggrandizement of those in charge.

As citizens of a nation, citizens of heaven will defend and pray for the appropriate use of freedom, as well as for the continuation of the same. For this is our home until we are translated, body and soul, to the better country for which the Old Testament patriarchs, the apostles and prophets, and the early Church waited. The benefits of our present domain, are in no way comparable to the blessings of the better country  prepared for us.

 Blessings of citizenship in heaven: Unlike in our temporal existence where freedoms are capable of being lost, the blessings we have and which are  promised to us as citizens of  heaven are guaranteed by the eternal and faithful God. The blessing of our citizenship in heaven is manifest  through the Lord’s gracious care and providence while we wait for the deliverance to the new heaven and the new earth where is laid up for us an inheritance, though now for a time we languish under the weight of sin and the burden of the devil, the world, and our  flesh. The new  heaven and new earth is the home of which Jesus spoke in John 14:3:  “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  It is the paradise Jesus promised to the penitent thief (Luke 23:43).  It is the home for which the apostle Paul yearned, (Philippians 1:23).  It is the eternal dwelling that will be received by Christ-believers upon Jesus’ return, and for which John prayed when he closed Revelation imploring, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

It is the home in which will be no more sin, no more curse no more weeping, no more fear, no more threat or intimidation. No more death. In heaven, at the right hand of God will be “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11), The former things, the things of this earth, sickness, pain, trials, tribulations, perpetrators of hate – all consequences of sin — will be gone. Of this Paul also wrote. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Heaven is “Where the Lamb Who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them (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)  and lead them to living fountains of water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

The present evils and trials serve a salutary purpose if they steer us into the Word. They whet our desire to be delivered to the fullness of our citizenship in heaven.

Fellow citizens of heaven, cherish the blessing and endure life in this world with patience and anticipation for, “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” (1Corinthians 2:9)!

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