“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)
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen!
The war and struggle between the human flesh and God’s spirit working within the Christian is real. However, only the Christian has such struggle. Such struggle demonstrates itself as one day may be of greater or lesser intensity than another.
Unbelievers do not have the same struggle as the Christian, nor do they see such a struggle of the Christian as of any major significance, for the unbeliever does not have faith. Yet for the Christian, the battle within, even greater than the battle with out, can often be overwhelming and even paralyzing, because the struggle of which I speak is not merely of the mind or of the heart, but of the soul. Does God still love me? How can God still love me? Things really shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t be this way! I should know better.
Granted, Christians don’t always ask such questions at every moment. Sometimes the confidence of the Christian is unwavering. The Bible does say that you are loved of God! (i.e. Romans 8:38-39)
God, in His tender mercy, gives such confident faith, and for this, Christians give unceasing thanks and praise.
There are times, though, that despondency and the sense of hopelessness, however brief or intense, may raise their ugly heads. These, though, are not of God. Therefore do we also pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
God instead gives certainty and promise. God does not lead to doubt and despair, but instead gives joy and certitude in His blessed Son our Savior.
When the questions of God’s mercy and His kindness appear, and they will, and when you face such struggles, remember that God is your Helper. He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). His Word is sure and everlasting! (1 Peter 1:25)
These things are so, not because you believe them, but because God has declared them so. Know that His love for you in Christ is abundant and abounding, and not at all dependent on how you feel or how you have failed (or are failing).
“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).
God also says, even to you, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3).
If you don’t feel such struggles as God’s beloved child, you need not look far to find them. They will find you. But when they do come, whether big or small, do not give in to despair. Rather, hope in the Lord! It may be that at those times, all you can do is pray and call out. Such is what faith does. You don’t have to change for God to hear you or love you. Know that He already does, in Christ! He is your comfort, whether the struggle be slight or intense. And should you ever sense that you can’t hold on any longer, know that it is He who is holding on to you. It is not you that carry God. It is He that graciously carries you! (See Luke 15:4-7)
Thus does your Lord say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
And, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Your Lord does care, and because He does, so do His people!
“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 6:10-13).
“Because the flesh cannot believe for sure that the promises of God are true, it resists the spirit. Therefore it contends against the spirit and, as Paul says, holds the spirit captive (Romans 7:23), to keep it from believing as firmly as it wants to (Gal. 5:17). This is why we continually teach that the knowledge of Christ and of faith is not a human work but utterly a divine gift; as God creates faith, so He preserves us in it. And just as He initially gives us faith through the Word, so later on He exercises, increases, strengthens, and perfects it in us by that Word. Therefore the supreme worship of God that a man can offer, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, is to practice true godliness, to hear and read the Word. On the other hand, nothing is more dangerous than to become tired of the Word. Therefore anyone is so cold that he thinks he knows enough and gradually begins to loathe the Word has lost Christ and the Gospel.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p64).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, do not forsake Me. Grant me faith to believe Your promises and to hold on to them as my own at all times, for You freely give them to me. Amen.
Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
What blessed and eternal comfort the child of God has in God’s own Word! You see this according to faith, not according to sight, for you live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). But what kind of faith? The faith that believes that anything is possible? The faith that believes you can do anything you set your mind to? The faith which blindly trusts that all things will work out the way we hope them to?
Such description of faith is not that description of faith revealed by God in His Word. The Christian faith is not “blind.” It trusts in God’s promises. Such faith does not trust in worldly expectations or self expectations, but only on the mercies of God in Christ. Such faith does not believe that anything is possible by oneself or by putting one’s mind to something. It rests on God’s unchangeable and unconditional grace, revealed in Christ. Also, such faith does not rest on false or misguided hopes, for its foundation is God’s Holy and faithful Word.
Such faith as the Christian faith rests squarely on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this Gospel is nothing but certain and sure, and not at all because I believe it. The Christian faith rests upon God and His Son. He makes it sure. I do not add anything at all to it, but simply believe it. This, after all, is what Christians do. They confess Christ and believe His Word. And they are sure that God’s Word “abides forever.”
“Christ and His side are weak, and the Gospel is a foolish proclamation. On the other hand, the kingdom of the world and the devil, its prince, are strong; in addition, the wisdom of the flesh is very impressive. But this is our consolation,that the devil with his members cannot accomplish what he wishes. He may trouble many persons, but he cannot destroy the Gospel of Christ. The truth may be endangered, but it cannot perish. It is attacked, but it cannot be conquered; for ‘the Word of the Lord abides forever” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p54).
Prayer: Gracious Father, forgive me for doubting Your promises and Your undeserved mercy. Help me at all times to trust in Your Word and be ever sure of Your abundant grace and mercy in Christ. Amen.
31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:31–36
True freedom is only that which is in Christ, for only Christ Jesus gives true freedom. This kind of freedom no man, no society, no organization, no movement-nothing-can take away This kind of freedom in Christ cannot be taken away because it is the freedom won for us by Him who came to serve and give His own life as a ransom for us (Matthew 20:28). It is a freedom which the world does not nor can itself give.
The freedoms of this life are many. But they do not at all compare to the liberty of having sins forgiven and peace with God. The freedoms of this life consist of what only is temporary, that which is terminable. They have an end. Presidents pass on their mantle. Seasons change. We reap what we sow. But the truth—the truth declares salvation for all who believe. The truth declares sin to be put do death. The truth declares Jesus Christ to be God’s Son and our Savior.
This truth of our Lord we surely have in Scripture, for Scripture is truth. It is God’s Word. Therefore does Jesus say, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples.”
The disciples of the Lord are they who abide—remain—continue—in Christ’s Word. They hear His voice, and His voice alone (John 10). They do not listen to the voice of a stranger, but the voice of their Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for the sheep. And they continue doing so, knowing that other voices, other words, do not make them disciples. Only by remaining in the Lord’s Words does one remain a true, and not a make believe, disciple.
Certainly, many exist in Christendom today (as in all times) that only give lip service to the Lord, but whose hearts are from Him (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:7-8). But these are not the true disciples spoken of by Jesus. These are rather they who claim to be of Christ, who claim to be Christian, who claim to be of the Church, but in reality, are not. They glory in sin and despise the truth. They forsake Christ and His Word and follow a false gospel and that which is not of God.
Only by abiding in the Word of Christ does one remain a disciple of the Lord. And only by the Word does one and will one be sure and certain of the truth, and be set free by the truth—set free to rightly serve God in word and deed, having a confident faith before God through Jesus Christ, who does not count our sins against us, but calls us “beloved” and “well pleasing” to Him.
Divide yourself from Christ and His Word and you will be separated from He who calls you. Remain with Christ and His Word, and your conscience will be free.
31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
“One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ, as Christ says, John 11[:25], “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, through he die, yet shall he live”; and John 8 [:36], “so if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed”; and Matt. 4 [:4], “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Let us then consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that were the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul. If it has the Word of God it is rich and lacks nothing since it is the Word of life, truth, light, peace, righteousness, salvation, joy, liberty, wisdom, power, grace, glory, and of every incalculable blessing.” (The Freedom of A Christian-Dr. Martin Luther) Dillenberger, John (ed.) (1962), Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings, p54
These words of Dr. Martin Luther from a work entitled, The Freedom of A Christian, are true. They are true—not because Dr. Luther said them, but because they are according to the Word or our Lord. They were not only true for him in his day. They are true for us in ours. The very truth is this way. It is universal—Timeless—Relevant to everyone.
The Word of God is for all time, for all people, and endures forever (1 Peter 1:25). It is not merely an option, one word of many, or for us to question or doubt. We might be in a different time and in a different culture as compared to the time Jesus lived among His disciples and walked among the people around Him, and we might be in a different part of the world and at a different time on the historical timeline of things than those who went before us, but people are people. And the Word of God remains the Word of God.
We haven’t changed much since after the fall from our first parents. We’re still sinners—sinners who think that we can get by on our own—sinners who believe ourselves to be able to manage things ourselves—sinners who hold to the view that God does a little bit here and we do a little bit there.
Like the Jews in Jesus’ day, we have the temptation to want to take matters into our hands, like not to take God at His Word, and to disbelieve what our Lord makes known to us. This is really what they were doing in today’s Gospel from St. John the Apostle.
The Jews were doubting—questioning—and disbelieving what Jesus was saying to them. They had rightly heard the part of being His disciples and remaining in His Word and knowing the truth. But for them, hearing that the truth would set them free they couldn’t grasp. And they couldn’t grasp it because it meant what they were not willing to accept—that they were not already free, but were in bondage and enslaved, from which they needed deliverance.
You’ve heard the phrase, “The first step to recovery is acknowledging that there’s a problem.” The Jews in Jesus’ day were not willing to acknowledge that they had the problem that Jesus was talking about. Though they knew that they weren’t perfect, they didn’t realize the seriousness of their condition. And because they refused to hear Jesus’ diagnosis, neither would they believe in the remedy—Himself.
Particularly might this be disturbing to us on account of the beginning words of today’s text where we read, 31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him…At first hearing, it might not sound so bad. But did you catch what St. John is saying—Jesus is speaking to the very Jews who were believing in Him. He was saying to them, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Those Jews had believed in Jesus, which is good, right, and proper to do. They had believed the very words which He had spoken before, which was also good. But at His Word about ‘being set free,’ these words of our Lord they could not take. It’s also just a few chapters earlier where we hear that because of Jesus’ Word, many of His disciples no longer walked with Him (John 6:66).
It’s not just making a beginning, starting off on the right foot, which is of import. It’s continuing, remaining, abiding—to the end. This is the difference between those who complete the race and those who drop out, those who only begin the class and those who finish it, those who only begin the struggle and those who keep fighting.
There are many who start off right, but who, in time, waiver, and pass by the way. There are also many who begin to believe, but then, because they don’t continue in the faith as a little child, simply believing what God says with child-like faith (not childish faith), they go astray, and even become worse deniers of the faith than those who never had believed.
Remember the parable that Jesus told about the Sower and the Seed? Some of the seed fell by the wayside, some on stony places, other among thorns, and still other, on good ground (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23).
The seed that fell on stony places is about the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for awhile. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles (Matthew 13:20-21).
The seed that fell among the thorns is one who hears the, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that hears the word, and understands it; which also bears fruit, and brings forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matthew 13:23).
Those who only make a beginning in the faith, who believe for a time, or only believe what they want to believe or only believe how they want to believe show themselves not to be in the category of the Lord’s genuine disciples. These also will not know the truth, though they think they do, nor will they be set free. And by set free, we don’t mean the kind of freedom which they of the world talk about.
The freedom Jesus speaks of is not freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to worship, or the freedoms which we enjoy as citizens of this country. There may come a time when the freedoms which we currently enjoy are no longer our own. But this won’t at all mean that we are not free in the sense that Christ means it, because He is talking, not about a worldly kind of freedom, but the freedom which is the result of His sacrifice, the shedding of His blood, the freedom which comes from knowing and believing that before God the Father, all has been accomplished, all has been paid for, that there is nothing left remaining for our peace with God. We don’t even lift a finger and God pronounces us, you, in His good stead.
It is the freedom of sins forgiven, not being under Law, but under Grace (Romans 6:14-15). It’s the freedom of freely serving God and freely loving your neighbor, which is given on account of Christ.
All your sin is atoned for. You have a gracious God who loves you without end. And this love of His He demonstrated to you in Christ’s death. Therefore, it is yours. You are His and He is yours. And this love of God demonstrated in Christ you can be sure of and need not doubt, because Christ already did die and dies no more. And this message, Christ’s Word, continues to be proclaimed, that you continue to hear, continue to believe, abide in it, be His disciples, know the truth, and be set free, that you remain in God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ.
In Christ, you are free from your enslavement to sin, from your bondage to do what is contrary to God and His will. You are free from Satan’s grip on your soul and from the fear of eternal death, for in Christ, eternal life is your inheritance. As long as you remain in His Word, you will remain having His promise. This is because remaining in His Word IS faith.
One who believes contrary to Jesus and His Word, at any point, is not truly His disciple, but is a counterfeit, a fake Christian, one who truly is not. To be a Christian means to be ‘of Christ.’ This doesn’t mean that you have to know everything. But it does mean that you don’t deny what the Lord has said.
Being Christian also means that you believe what Jesus says, even if you can’t explain it, don’t like it, or have trouble with it because it goes against what you know or feel or would like to be.
Jesus’ word, even for the Christian, doesn’t agree with the sinful nature. It doesn’t agree with the world, the devil, or the nonbeliever. For them, it doesn’t make sense. And for you, too, it might not completely make sense, like how crosses and burdens can be good, or how this or that can be for God’s glory. But that’s okay. It doesn’t need to make sense to be God’s Word. It just has to be God’s Word. And God’s Word is what you are to believe.
Let others say what they will. The Word of God is stronger than any other. And besides, there is no other Savior. None other promises the freedom from sin, death, and the devil as Jesus does. And none other can change what God has already done in Christ for you, me, and the world. Christ already died, never to die again. And now He lives forevermore, as King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:6).
The words of St. Paul are true, By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness (Romans 3:20-25)
This is the message of the Reformation—that God is a good and gracious God and that God makes this known to us in Jesus Christ. In Jesus is your true freedom, sins forgiven, and your peace with God. And this same message is that of our Lord! You too have inherited it, for you are Christ’s.
Therefore, in His Word abide. In His Word continue. And as you do so, truly you are His disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Bible does not speak highly of the world, nor of the age in which we are living. For example, through Isaiah the prophet God says, “I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible” (Isaiah 13:11).
That the world and its ways are indeed corrupt and evil (though not originally so) is a truth that is nearly forgotten. Rather than seek to live separate from the world, in the world but not of the world, we immerse ourselves in the ways of the world and attempt to justify our ways before God. We seek signs and evidence of God and His ways without and within, apart from His gracious Word. And yet, Jesus Himself says that “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 12:39). And in another place, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).
Not without reason, St. Paul writes, “As you have therefore 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. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:6-10).
By yourself, you will remain and continue digressing in the ways of the world, attaching yourself to that which is not God-pleasing and in opposition to the world’s Creator, regardless of how hard you might try. The ways of the world and the devil and your sinful flesh are too great for you or anyone even of stature.
There is One Deliverer who has overcome the world, and who does and will indeed “Deliver us from this present evil age.” That One is none other than Christ, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Because of this One Deliverer, you do have hope, a hope that cannot and does not fail, the hope that is everlasting, the hope which is eternal, the sure hope that is yours through faith.
Jesus’ prayer for His disciples is also His prayer for you, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:14-17).
God’s word is truth, and by that Word are you sanctified, set apart to be the people of God. Remain in Him. Remain in His Word. Do not neglect the truth, but embrace it and hold fast to it. The world and this evil age will remain such and worsen before the Lord returns. But know this; Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Therefore, do not fear (John 16:33). Though you live in the world, you serve Another. You serve He who has conquered sin and death and gives you life through this age and into eternity. Rest in Him, all you who labor and are heavy laden (Matthew 11:28-30). And remain confident of His deliverance. Amen.
“Let these words of Paul stand just as they are, true and accurate, not painted or counterfeit: this present age is evil. Do not be dissuaded because there are many fine virtues in many men or because hypocrites make a great pretense of sanctity. But pay careful attention to what Paul says. Out of his words you may boldly and freely pronounce this sentence against the world: that the world, with all its wisdom, righteousness, and power, is the devil’s kingdom, out of which only God is able to deliver us by His only Son.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p41).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, do not forsake us to the world nor its ways. Help us to resist the temptation to succumb and give into doubt, despair, and further corruption. Strengthen us in the true faith and give us a confidence, not in the world changing, but in your abundant mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
1 Timothy 1:15
It is an easy thing to see what others do and to lay blame, point the finger, and criticize. It is also an easy thing to look at another’s faults without also seeing one’s own. This habit is common to all sinners. We notice what others do or do not do that is not to our liking, and we immediately make judgments. We compare ourselves with others, using our own criteria as the measuring stick.
God works differently. St. Paul the Apostle writes that, “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). He judges all the same with the same judgment—guilty as charged, having fault, condemned (Romans 3:23).
This means, that before God, as the Bible says, “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10). All of us are in the same boat. One is not better than another. Nor is one worse than another. There are only sinners here.
But the Good News is that, because of Christ, God does not hold that damning, condemning, judging sin against you. Though everyone stands before God a sinner, on account of Christ, that very same sin which condemns no longer condemns. Christ has born that judgment for you. He did this on the cross when He was crucified. There, He took away your sins that they no longer have the last word over you (Romans 6:14). You still struggle with them, and with judging others as more sinful than yourself, but in light of God’s Law, all are humbled (or will be), either at the present, or in time to come. Thus do we learn that it is not what we say of others that is final (nor of what others say about us), but what God says. This and this alone is of lasting significance.
If God calls you a sinner, so you must be. If God declares you forgiven, so also must you be.
Therefore, instead of denying the truth as God so readily reveals through His Holy Word for your salvation, believe it. Believe that you are a sinner as God makes known to you through His inescapable Law. See yourselves as God sees you according to His Word.
Also, and especially, believe yourselves to be as God declares you to be on account of Jesus-forgiven, blessed of God, God’s own child. All this apart from what you have done or have not done. All this because of Jesus (Romans 4).
“Do not permit your sins to be merely sins; let them be your very own sins. That is, believe that Christ was given not only for the sins of others but also for yours. Hold to this firmly, and do not let anything deprive you of this sweet definition of Christ, which brings joy even to the angels in heaven: that Christ is, in the strictest of terms, not a Moses, a tormentor, or an executioner but the Mediator for sins and the Donor of grace, who gave Himself, not for our merits, holiness, glory, and holy life but for our sins.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p38).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me faith to believe that your Son’s death covers all of my sins. Help me not to doubt or despair Your grace in Christ towards me, an undeserving sinner, because of the sin that I know or feel. Strengthen my confidence in You. Amen.
I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”
The Psalmist speaks what is true. David, when confronted with his sin of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12) likewise spoke when he said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13; see also Psalm 51:4).
It is the humble of heart that trembles at the Lord’s word and acknowledges that any goodness and righteousness does not at all belong to self. This is not an easy word to swallow, as all of us have the innate tendency to justify ourselves, even against God Himself. To not do so is to go against our human nature.
Yet this is exactly what Christians do. They struggle with their sinful flesh, with the world, and with Satan himself. They despair of themselves, however weakly, and look to Another for help.
Again, the Psalmist cries out, “Give us help from trouble, For the help of man is useless” (Psalm 108:12). There is none other that can deliver but the Lord.
We, however, want the quick fix, the immediate “recovery,” the cessation of struggle, and the trials to end, esp. with ourselves. We devise ways of helping ourselves to ease the pain. We try to escape, if even for a bit, from the cold hard reality in which we live (i.e. movies, books, food, etc.). We deny that we are that bad off or that there is nothing that we can do. Yet deliverance does not come by avoiding the truth, but facing it—head on.
Yes, it is true, our words and our actions, our silence and our inactions, these demonstrate our disobedience to the God of gods and Lord of Lords (Deuteronomy 10:17). Out of our own hearts come “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).
It matters not if we consider our sins to be small or large. Before God, sin is sin, regardless of our “interpretation” of them. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) the Bible says. And “The Scripture has confined all under sin…” (Galatians 3:22). Being confined under sin, whether thought of as large or small, or grand or minute, judgment is our lot before God.
But Scripture has confined all under sin “that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” In other words, confined under our sin and not able to save ourselves, it is God who does the saving—through faith in Jesus Christ—of those who believe. Thus is salvation of faith, not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
And what does this mean? This means that yes, your sins are damnable before God. But Jesus Christ bore your sins and became damnable before God for you. This is nothing but Gospel. And it shows God’s abounding love for you. Because of Jesus, the Father’s condemnation has been placed on Jesus, no longer yours to bear.
Jesus’ death does indeed save you. It also shows you the enormity of your sin. But seeing your sin more clearly, as it is in truth, against God Almighty, you also see Christ more clearly. Because of Jesus, you are no longer in your sin. Because of Jesus, you have nothing but peace with God (Romans 5:1). Thus do you, as God’s people, acknowledge the greatness of your sin before the Holy and sinless God, and rejoice in His abiding mercy unto you, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
“The main knowledge and true wisdom of Christians, then, is this: to regard as very serious and true these words of Paul, that Christ was given over to death, not for our righteousness or holiness but for our sins, which are real sins—great, many, in fact, infinite and invincible. Therefore you must not think of them as minor or suppose that your own works can remove them. Nor must you despair on account of their gravity if you feel them oppressing you either in life or in death. But you must learn from Paul here to believe that Christ was given, not for sham or counterfeit sins, nor yet for small sins, but for great and huge sins; not for one or two sins but for all sins; not for sins that have been overcome—for neither man nor angel is able to overcome even the tiniest sin—but for invincible sins. And unless you are part of the company of those who say “our sins,” that is, who have this doctrine of faith and who teach, hear, learn, love, and believe it, there is no salvation for you.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p35).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for looking at and interpreting Your Holy Word through my eyes that I justify myself before You. With the prophet, I also cry, “I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5). Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). For Christ’s sake, grant me your unmerited forgiveness and help me to hold on to nothing but Your righteous Word of deliverance. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
“We desperately need this Pentecost sermon of the Holy Spirit, so that he may give us a courageous heart, so that we, too, may persevere, regardless of who is offended, regardless of how much people may slander us. And even if cults and sects arise, we will also ignore that. That’s the kind of courage we need, a courage that remains undisturbed by any of these things and simply continues fearlessly to confess and publicly proclaim Christ, who was so grossly misjudged, condemned, and killed.” [Sermons of Martin
Luther, The House Postils, Vol 2,
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Many say that they believe in Christ. It is quite easy to do so. However, a disconnect exists between the words and actions of those who say that they believe in Jesus. You’ve heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” Why is it, then, that so many, in fact, all, who say that they are Christian, fail the test of backing their own words with their actions? Many speak contrary to the Word of God, and yet they claim that what they are saying is Christian. Others say that they are Christian, but live immorally (living together before marriage, “sleeping around,” cheat on their taxes, use other people for their own gain, etc.). Still, others who claim to be Christian think little of other people and are only concerned about themselves—and none other (see 1 John 4:7-11).
These things, and our own experience, demonstrate that words can be deceiving. However, they also show the weakness of our sinful flesh. Christians do indeed say one thing, and often do another. Such was the struggle of St. Paul (Romans 7), and such is our own struggle with sin.
Christians, as well as nonChristians, see and know the contrast that exists in what Christians say and do. This cannot be avoided, because Christians are, in truth, sinners.
This is very frustrating, not only because of the way the world sees the words and actions of Christians and how inconsistent they truly are, but because the Christian also knows these things. They say one thing and do another. They confess their sin, and do the same thing again. They say, “I’m sorry” the one moment, and the next, keep doing that thing that they had said they were sorry for.
It’s quite tempting to become despondent and despair because of one’s own shortcomings and failures, in fact, of one’s own sin. This is a cross that Christians are to bear (Matthew 10:38-39). Here, it’s a great temptation to consider others somehow more worthy of God’s grace and favor than oneself.
But remember, even St. Paul had said, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
God’s grace and favor does not depend on your worthiness or unworthiness. It depends on Christ. Here, one is not more worthy than any other. Here, God’s mercy and compassion through His Son is all that you need.
Should you come bringing your own “worth” to God, you then will most certainly not have His grace upon you. But seek the mercy of God in Christ, without any merit or worthiness in you, and God’s grace you most certainly will have—sin forgiven and peace with God (Romans 5:1).
Believing such revealed truth is faith, faith that believes in the heart, and the faith that doesn’t merely speak with the mouth (Romans 10:4-13). One who so believes will constantly struggle with their sinful flesh, confess their sins to God, believe in the Lord Jesus for forgiveness, and seek to amend their sinful life. Though life will be one of falling and failing, the Lord does neither. And in Jesus is our trust, comfort, and hope. So the Christian will constantly seek to do better, knowing that salvation rests in Jesus alone. Amen.
“It is easy for you to say and believe that Christ, the Son of God, was given for the sins of Peter, Paul, and other saints, who seem to us to have been worthy of this grace. But it is very hard for you, who regard yourself as unworthy of this grace, to say and believe from your heart that Christ was given for your many great sins.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p34).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for not being and doing who you have called me to be and what you have called me to be doing. Direct my eyes, not to any worthiness in me or in any other, but to Christ Jesus and Him alone (Hebrews 12:1-2). Help me to do better. Give me a firm faith, that I boldly confess Your Holy Name and also live a godly life, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.