“It is certain that whoever does not rightly believe one article or refuses to accept it (after he has been admonished and instructed), certainly believes none sincerely and in true faith. And whoever is so presumptuous as to dare to contradict God or call Him a liar in one word [of Scripture], and does this willfully, persisting in it, though he has been admonished and instructed once or twice, he is ready (and he does it, too) to deny God and accuse Him of lying in all His words. There are no two ways about it: either all and everything is believed, truly and fully, or nothing is believed.” (Luther, quoted in F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol I, 147)
“The theologian is dealing with a fixed and unchangeable fact, the Word of God which Christ gave His Church through His Apostles and Prophets. God’s Word is constant, as the laws of nature are constants. As little as we can change those laws, but accept them as they are, so little can we alter the Word of Christ; the Church and its teachers must receive it as it is. It is the business of the scientist to ‘observe the data.’ and the ‘datum’ which the theologian ’observes’ is the Word of Christ. There are no other ‘data.’” (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol I, 143)
“There is only one book in the world which possesses the quality of perfect unity, and that is the Bible. Though its writers were men of widely different culture and a period of about 1,500 years separated the last from the first writer, the Bible owes its perfect and inerrant unity to the fact that it was written by the inspiration of God. For that we have the authoritative declarations of Christ and His Apostles relative to both the New and the Old Testament in all their parts (John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:10-11; 2 Pet. 1:21; John 17:14, 17; 8:31-32).” (F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol I, 142)
Concerning the sign of the Rainbow, Luther says:
“This sign should remind us to give thanks to God. For as often as the rainbow appears, it preaches to the entire world with a loud voice about the wrath which once moved God to destroy the whole world. It also gives comfort, that we may have the conviction that God is kindly inclined toward us again and will never again make use of so horrible a punishment. Thus it teaches the fear of God and faith at the same time, the greatest virtues… Let us, therefore, be reminded by this sign to fear God and to trust Him, in order that, just as we have escaped the punishment of the Flood, we may also be able to escape the punishment by fire.” [Luther's Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14, (Genesis 9:20)]
The concern is genuine; the apprehension palpable. Worry gives way to fear that sounds the alarm. Income lags behind expenses. Fewer people are attending church on a regular basis. The slide parallels that of the surrounding community. How are we going to turn it around? What will it take to get more people in church who then contribute money to meet the budget? Sound familiar? It is being voiced throughout the United States in communities large and small, urban and rural.
Scapegoats are sought. It doesn’t take long before the target is acquired. Sharp barbs of accusation are launched. “The pastor is driving people away.” “His personality is not winsome and charming.” “The sermons are lack luster and boring.” “If only he was more like Pastor So and So.” “You know, the one nearby.” “He’s a great story teller and loves to crack jokes.” “Ah, if only our pastor was not such a loser” “We expected the perfect pastor for our situation but each one that comes is flawed in ways we refuse to overlook.” “What’s wrong with our universities/seminaries/district/Synod?” The same thing that is wrong within you and me.
There is none that is righteous, no not one. No one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom. 3:10-12). Stop and think about what people in your congregation say about your church, your workers and your people? Is it positive? Is it negative? Does it glorify God’s name and His Word (Ps.138:2)? Sinners excel at sin. Their throat is an open grave. The venom of asps is on their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Rom. 3:13-14). What do your words sound like to God and others? James writes regarding the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so (James 3:8-10).
What’s a sinner to do? Repent, repent and repent again as often as necessary. The good news is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. It is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are sick. By nature everyone is born with the terminal disease called original sin. This soon gives way to actual sin, even among the baptized. Those who are baptized have the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5). This is not a license to sin for hateful words grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:29, 31-32).
The questions raised at the beginning are genuine. No one person is to blame. Go back and read President Harrison’s column in the June/July Lutheran Witness. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The first three commandments are routinely broken with hardly a blush of shame or even an apology. The answer is surprisingly simple. It follows the actions of those baptized on Pentecost. They continued steadfast in the Apostles’ Teaching, in the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42). These are the reasons for the Divine Services and Bible classes. When you are in Bible class it is like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet. When you attend worship you are knit closer in the fellowship as forgiven sinners receive the body and blood of Jesus. The prayers are another way of saying the liturgy, the ordered service of the church back to the days of the synagogue rich in Scripture and the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. Miss any of them and you are spiritually starving yourself. Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28). Why not say with the psalmist: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Ps. 122:1). I look forward to seeing you in worship AND Bible study.
(Found originally here)
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31, NKJ)
The confession of Christ is not self-derived. It is not self-induced, self-revealed, or self-chosen. Rather, the confession of Christ is God-given, God established, God revealed, God made known.
No one on this earth would know of Christ crucified and resurrected the third day unless had God had made it known to us. And this, God, in His mercy, has done. Through the Holy Scriptures, God makes known your salvation through faith in the crucified and risen Lord. Therefore, does St. John write, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
Also, St. Paul writes, “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Thus, God gives us His Word, the Bible (and the preaching of that Word), not so you can live a better life or “have a better life now.” God also does not give you His Word that you might know how to live your life apart from faith in Him.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) are indeed commands about how God’s people are to live, but the Bible is not a “rule book” or a book of do’s and don’ts. The Bible is the book of salvation, and speaks of that salvation which is alone by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
As such, the preaching of the apostles following Christ’s ascension was not, “live this way” or “do these things” to get right with God. Christ’s preaching was not this way either. Christ’s preaching, and the apostles’ preaching after Him, and the Church’s proclamation today, is Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins.
If the preaching of the church becomes anything else than this, her preaching is false and not to be heeded (i.e. Rick Warren and trying to find a purpose, Joel Osteen and self-help rhetoric) [See Galatians 1:6-10]. Should the church preach this way, she leads the hearers away from the Gospel and away from eternal life to eternal death and hell.
Because Holy Scripture testifies of Christ, so do Christ’s people confess and bear witness to Him who purchased them with His own blood (Acts 20:28). This is their confession. And this is the confession of Christ’s body, the Church.
Therefore, with Thomas who went from unbelief to faith by God’s gracious word and work, we too confess and say of and to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Prayer: Gracious God, look not upon our doubting hearts. Turn us from disbelieving Thomas’ to confident believers in your Holy Word. Amen.
1When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1–8 (ESV)
Isaiah 25:6–9 (OT Reading)
6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (Epistle Reading)
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
With certain expectation did the women approach the tomb of our Lord on that first day of the week. They came prepared, bringing spices to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1). But what they found, and what they didn’t find, they were least expecting. Though the Lord Jesus had told beforehand what would be, the believed Him not. And though He had clearly spoken, His words they did had not remembered. Therefore did the women approach the tomb, expecting a body to be present, the body of Jesus, laying there in the tomb.
The thoughts of the women were on what they expected, anointing the body of Jesus with spices, and that the stone at the entrance of the tomb would still be there. These were on their mind as they approached the tomb of our Lord. Jesus had been Numbered with the transgressors on the cross, and His grave was with the wicked, but with the rich at His death (Isaiah 53:12, 9).
What the women expected to be was not. What they had not expected at all, that is what was. Truly it is God who works this way, surpassing human expectation, and fulfilling that which is according to His Holy Word. This Jesus did that day, on that first day of the week, the day after the Saturday Sabbath, early in the morning when the women had come to the tomb.
As the angel had declared, so it was, You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.
But who believes such an account today? Who believes that Christ is physically, bodily, and corporeally risen from the dead? No man can come back to life of himself after being dead three days.
But it is truly Jesus who in St. John’s Gospel is recorded as saying, The Father loves me, because I lay down my life, in order that I might take it up again. No one takes it from me, but a I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again (John 10:17-18, my translation).
Who believes such an account today? You do, but not because you have seen it with your own two eyes, but because God’s Spirit testifies that it is so by means of Christ’s Holy Word. And His testimony is sufficient.
Eyes, senses, and reason will all speak differently than the Lord does on this matter. Like the women of our text, we too have certain expectations of what is and of what will be. According to what we know from human experience, man remains dead after death. Corpses remain corpses. Bodies decay. But not so with Christ. His body saw no decay. Nor did God’s Holy One see corruption (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31).
Neither will you remain in the grave into eternity. As Christ resurrected, so shall we when our Lord returns, for Jesus says, I am the resurrection and the life. 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)
Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29).
Pilate did not have authority of himself to put Jesus to death. Rather was that authority to put Jesus to death given to him. And on that cross of crucifixion, Jesus bore the sins of all and truly died. Yet none, not even the devil and death, had power to keep Jesus dead and in the tomb.
On this day of days, we celebrate, we rejoice greatly in the resurrection of our Lord. The crucified One is no longer in the grave. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Death and grave have lost their hold, for Christ has conquered death and the grave has lost its power. Sin no more has dominion (Romans 6:14). Jesus reigns victorious over sin, death, and the grave, now and forevermore.
But in all honesty, it doesn’t appear this way. We still contend with our own sin and the sin of others. And in this life, we still must face the reality of our own mortality and death, whether we like it or not, and whether we deny it or not. Death comes to all of us, unless Christ comes before that time. Yet for this reason did Christ die, in order to save you from your sin, from your sin that leads you to eternal death.
Jesus had not died on Good Friday on account of any transgression of His own. On the cross, He died your death, yours and mine, and there crucified and put to death all your sin before our Holy God. And now, because of Christ, your sin no longer belongs to you, for Christ has taken it away. Now, because of Christ, you have His goodness, righteousness, and the Father’s everlasting kindness. And Jesus rose again on the third day to demonstrate His power and authority over sin and death.
Therefore Christ is your life. Death could not hold Him. The grave could not keep Him. In Christ, you have new life and even eternal life, where sin, death, and sorrow will be no more.
Now is Christ’s victory your victory, through faith. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5).
All your sin, your doubt, your faithlessness, and your despair has been swallowed up by His death, and the joy of His resurrection is now your own.
Today, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord! In the confession of this faith, we declare to one another and to the world this Christ, crucified and now risen. But not only this day do we celebrate on this day. Each day is lived in the resurrection of our Lord. Each Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. And in every Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes, receiving into our very mouths the very body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins, confessing too that the same Jesus Christ is no longer dead but risen, risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious;I turned not backward. 6I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
7But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
8He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.
9Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. 10Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
11When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
1Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. 3Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
9When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
12The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
15“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
16His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Prayer: Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)
Even Jesus wasn’t free from temptation, temptation being that which would lead to sin against God and away from God if given into. Immediately following His baptism by St. John the Baptist, as according to Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where He was tempted by Satan himself. No figure of speech here is meant by that name Satan. The Satan here means none other than the devil himself, the same devil who was thrown out of heaven because he wanted to be like God (Revelation 12:7-9). This is the same devil who as a serpent in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve, the woman formed from the rib of the first man Adam, to eat of the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:21-23; 3:1-6). This is that same Satan who attacked Job in the Old Testament book with the same name, that same Job who suffered greatly and suffered much at the hands of the accuser, but who would not give-in to curse God and die (Job 2:9-10).
Satan is a real being, contrary to the results of many a poll in our day that say otherwise. When it comes to matters of truth, numbers and the majority don’t run the show. God’s Word does. Though we do not see Satan, he tries to not only hurt, harm, and tempt to sin, but ultimately he tries to lead us to doubt and to disbelieve God’s promises, that we not trust Jesus for help and hope and find in Him rest for our weary souls, but rather that we despair and find no comfort whatsoever, or that we find comfort in that which is not the true and everlasting comfort of God’s Word (Matthew 11:28-29).
This is where Satan would lead us, not to belief and trust in God’s Son our Savior, but belief and trust in another that is not the true God. Thus would Satan lead us to hell, not to heaven. For this reason, Satan has his eyes not only on us, but during those 40 days that Jesus was in the wilderness, Satan had his eyes fixed on Jesus, not in belief, but for the purpose of bringing about Christ’s downfall. Had he succeeded, no Savior would we have and certainly lost eternally would we be.
That Jesus suffered temptation and yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) is a sure testament that temptation, in and of itself, cannot harm us. Here, Dr. Luther’s Words of the Reformation are helpful, for they rightly distinguish between ‘being tempted’ and ‘giving in’ to temptation. There is a distinction, as is recorded in Luther’s Large Catechism,
107 To feel temptation, therefore, is quite a different thing from consenting and yielding to it. We must all feel it, though not all to the same degree; some have more frequent and severe temptations than others. Youths, for example, are tempted chiefly by the flesh; older people are tempted by the world. Others, who are concerned with spiritual matters (that is, strong Christians) are tempted by the devil. 108 But we cannot be harmed by the mere feeling of temptation as long as it is contrary to our will and we would prefer to be rid of it. If we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent to it is to give it free rein and neither resist it nor pray for help against it. (Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (The Large Catechism: 3, 107-108). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.)
These words hold more than a little comfort for all who are troubled by temptation. It is a sure sign that one is on the right path if one wants to be rid of temptations all together and sees them for what they are. But resisting them by our own strength we cannot do, as even by experience we know. As soon as we believe ourselves strong enough to overcome, we find that we fall. By our own strength, we cannot resist. To the Lord we must cling. It is He who gives His strength that we keep at it, not losing heart, but trust in the Lord for grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Here, our Lord does not forsake, for No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
It is not the faithlessness of God that leads into temptation, but Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (James 1:14). Therefore do we certainly struggle with our own desires which are contrary to God’s Word and will. But here we are not left to ourselves, nor are we old Adam only. In Christ we are new creations. The Old has passed and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your sinful flesh has been drowned in the water of Holy Baptism. No longer are we your own. You belong to another, even to the Lord who has redeemed you from your sin and saves you from eternal death. Belonging to Him, we wish not to remain as we once were according to the flesh. We wish to change, living Godly and upright lives according to God’s Word unto Him who calls us to Himself.
And to you does God give strength and preserve you in the faith that you continue in Him. According to His Holy Word does He call you from despair and doubt, and from self-righteousness and pride. He offers you His forgiveness and His body and blood that you believe and eat and drink and so be confident of His grace and mercy, for we know ourselves to still be sinners. He gives you of His Spirit that you live unto Him who is your Head, deny yourselves, and follow Him. And these you do, though feebly on your part on account of your sin that still clings to you. But God in Christ shows you your Savior and Lord, even your Salvation, your anchor and your sure foundation.
Therefore, to Christ flee for refuge. Temptations surely do and will come, even as our Lord says, Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). Of yourselves and by yourselves, we will fall. But pray to the Lord for help, even as you pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from the evil one.” And so our Lord does, through He who did overcome when He Himself was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and through He who delivers you from sin, death, and the power of the devil through His own death on Good Friday. Amen.
Prayer: Lord, in Your mercy, do not forsake me. Help me to resist temptation and always firmly to believe in You. Amen.
The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14
In the Augsburg Confession, Article 2 (Original Sin), we confess:
1 It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. 2 Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.
Corresponding to this article of our confession is Article 18 (Freedom of the Will), where we also confess:
1 It is also taught among us that man possesses some measure of freedom of the will which enables him to live an outwardly honorable life and to make choices among the things that reason comprehends. 2 But without the grace, help, and activity of the Holy Spirit man is not capable of making himself acceptable to God, of fearing God and believing in God with his whole heart, or of expelling inborn evil lusts from his heart. 3 This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who is given through the Word of God, for Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:14, “Natural man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God.
4 In order that it may be evident that this teaching is no novelty, the clear words of Augustine on free will are here quoted from the third book of his Hypognosticon: ‘We concede that all men have a free will, for all have a natural, innate understanding and reason. However, this does not enable them to act in matters pertaining to God (such as loving God with their whole heart or fearing him), for it is only in the outward acts of this life that they have freedom to choose good or evil. 5 By good I mean what they are capable of by nature: whether or not to labor in the fields, whether or not to eat or drink or visit a friend, whether to dress or undress, whether to build a house, take a wife, engage in a trade, or do whatever else may be good and profitable. 6 None of these is or exists without God, but all things are from him and through him. 7 On the other hand, by his own choice man can also undertake evil, as when he wills to kneel before an idol, commit murder, etc.’
The teaching that sinful man has freedom to “choose” God or to “make a decision for Christ” apart from God’s gift of faith in Christ (and thus, being created anew, i.e. John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17) is not in accordance with Holy Scripture. Sinful nature always wants its own way. This is the way of the flesh (see Matthew 15:19-20; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9).
The way of the spirit, however, desires the way of the Lord, which the Lord Himself makes known to us by means of His Word (see Romans 8:1-17; 10:17; Galatians 16-18, 22-26; Colossians 3:12-17). Such desire of the spirit comes from a changed heart, produced by God’s work according to His Word and not without it or apart from it. By means of Law and Gospel, God creates a people for Himself, people diligent to be about His Word, people believing it, and people who desire to live in accordance to it. Such people do not create themselves, nor do they make the changes themselves (John 1:12-13; 3:5-8; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). Rather, does God form and mold His people to be as He would have them, loving Him above all things, and loving one another (see Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:3-6; Romans 9:14-24)—by means of His Holy Word.
Instead of glorifying and praising man and what he does or accomplishes, the Christian confesses, praises, and glorifies God for what He does, even what God does through poor sinners like ourselves.
Thanks be to God for His goodness! And thanks to be God that His will is not at all according to our nature! Amen.
“Let us praise God the Father, therefore, and give Him thanks for His indescribable mercy, that when we were incapable of doing so by our own strength, He delivered us from the kingdom of the devil, in which we were captives, and did so by His own Son. And with Paul let us confess that all our works and righteousness, with all of which we could not make the devil stoop down one hairbreadth, are nothing but loss and refuse (Phil. 3:8). And let us tread underfoot and utterly abhor, as a polluted garment (Is. 64:6) and the deadly poison of the devil, all the power of free will, all the wisdom and righteousness of the world, all religious orders, all Masses, ceremonies, vows, fasts, hair shirts, and the like. On the other hand, let us praise and magnify the glory of Christ, who has delivered us by His death not only from this world but from this “evil world.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p41-42).
Prayer: Father, I praise you for all your goodness to me. I am humbled by all that you do for my good, even as I do not see it or fail to see it because I am a sinner who looks to my own ways and seeks my own glory. Forgive me for abiding by my own expectations. Shape me, form me, and mold me to be nothing but Your humble and lowly servant. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.