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God’s Plans for You: Christ


 

 8th grade Graduation—X

 St. Peter Lutheran Church

Jeremiah 29:11

May 31, 2012

“God’s Plans for you—Christ”

 

Dear X,

Y, Z, A, and the rest of X’s flesh and blood,

All of you who work and learn at St. Peter Lutheran School and all of you who carry it on your heart,

Beloved members of Christ’s holy body at St. Peter Lutheran church;

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

1.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Those words from Jeremiah 29 are in the middle of a letter.  The letter was written by Jeremiah, God’s prophet, to some of his people who had been taken as prisoners of war and brought far away from the promised land and the temple of God into Babylon, an evil, pagan city.

 

The sentence from the letter fits the occasion tonight.  But the verse in its context does not.  You aren’t going away to an evil, pagan city.  You’re going to Joliet Central.  And you’re not going bound in chains by soldiers who just set your home on fire.

 

We are not in mourning tonight.  There are bittersweet feelings for you, X—and even more so for your parents and teachers, because they feel time marching on.  But no one, I’d guess, expects your future to be a bad one, a hopeless one.

 

But in the letter from Jeremiah, the verse of the class of 2012 takes on a slightly different texture.  The letter in which it comes is written by Jeremiah, but it really is God’s letter to the exiles.  It reads something like this:

 

From the Lord of mighty armies of angels,

To the prisoners of my people, whom I locked up and sent away into exile,

 

Build houses, plant gardens.  Get married, have children.  Plan to stay in the evil pagan city for awhile.  Keep having kids, don’t die out or give up.  But, seek the blessing of the evil pagan city you’re in, because you will prosper only if it prospers.  For this is what I, the Lord of the armies of angels, your God, have to say: don’t listen to the preachers who tell you that you’re only going to be in the evil pagan city for a little bit.  Nope.  I will keep my promise and I will bring you back, but not for seventy years.  Which means that you will finish your lives there, and most of your children will too.  Don’t listen to the prophets and preachers who tell you otherwise.  They are lying.  They’re talking about their own plans, not mine.

 

For I know the plans I have for you—plans to prosper you and not to harm you…”

 

Now wait a second.  How are you planning not to harm us if you’re going to keep us here 70 years?

  1. 2.      God’s good plans for you are not your plans.

It’s like when your parents follow through on a threat not to let you go on a big trip that you really wanted to go on.  Their plans are what?  To harm you?  No, of course not.  Their plans are to give you a hope and a future.

 

That was the Lord’s plan for Israel.  He was going to make them seek Him with their whole heart.

 

The Lord’s plans are not ours.  But that is good.

 

What are our plans usually?  Self-seeking in one form or another.

Even as Christians our flesh does not will what pleases God.  We will to let God have some as long as we can remain in control.

 

But the things that we set our hearts on—success, popularity, a “good life”—often draw us away from Christ.  They become more important than him.

 

The Lord’s plans are to prosper you, but not the way the world measures prosperity.

Look at Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet.”  Do you think it was his plan to preach judgment and wrath to his people?

 

Look at Luther.  Do you think he wanted to get into a fight with the pope and the emperor and the whole world and the devil?  No!  He wanted peace—just like we do.  And it’s always more peaceful for us if we do not receive the Lord’s plans for us.

 

  1. 3.      God gives you a real hope and a real future—Christ.

 

Chastening causes us to seek the Lord—to take hold of the “shalom” that the Lord has planned for us.

 

Israel would not serve the Lord but insisted on doing things its own way.  It couldn’t even see that it was not doing the Lord’s will. 

 

But God’s will is to give you real hope and a real future.

Not temporary happiness, but eternal happiness.  Not success accomplished by our own strength or beauty, but a victorious future in eternity.  Not a short life in a world of sorrow and death, not a temporary glory here, but eternal life as one who receives God’s praise and commendation.

 

This hope and future is Christ.

            In Christ, and in Christ alone, He gives you deliverance from eternal death and wrath, and the forgiveness of sins.

            In Christ He clothes you with righteousness so that the self-seeking of the flesh is not counted to you.

 

            God gives you Christ, as He has done all through your years at this school.  His thoughts toward you are thoughts of peace and blessing—so He gives you Christ.

 

            This means our daily bread.  It means that He will provide us with earthly good, because He does not tempt us beyond what we are able to bear.

            But even more, it means that we receive the benefits of Jesus and we become what Jesus is.  We share forgiveness on His account, and we are born again and participate in His life.

 

This is what your baptism is all about—you were united to Jesus.

 

So when He gives you Jesus He gives you all of Jesus.  All of Jesus for you, received by faith, and along with it, all the fullness of God in Christ dwells in you.  Christ is in you.

 

So you share His life.  You share in His passion and death.  And His resurrection.  And His ascension, His glorious rule over all things.  All of this is yours.

 

This is far better than your own plans, which are to exalt yourself, to have a good life, to be popular, or what have you. 

 

Instead God gives you Jesus, and makes your life not the life of an earthly success story—which ends in death and judgment—but the life of a son of God, the life of Jesus in you.

 

Jesus’ life was a huge success in the eyes of God.  In the eyes of the world it was the worst of failures. 

 

God’s plans are to make you in the image of Jesus, a son.

 

 

4.      Real joy because God’s thoughts toward you are always good.

That’s why I am glad you picked the hymn you picked.

 

The life of Christ, as a disciple, is not miserable.  It is the way of the cross, but it is the way of joy.

 

Hebrews 12—Jesus endured the cross, scorning the shame, for the JOY that was set before him.

 

Yes, joy!  Absolutely.  But not the joy of the world.  That joy depends on having things.  When things go well, when you get rich, when you succeed, when you don’t suffer—the joy that comes from that is worldly joy.

 

The joy of God’s children is not dependent on things going well or on doing well.  Like the hymn says: God’s own child, I gladly say it!  I am baptized into Christ!

            Death, you cannot end my gladness!  I am baptized into Christ!

            Satan hear this proclamation!  I am baptized into Christ!  Drop your ugly accusation!  I am not so soon enticed!

            Sin, disturb my soul no longer!  I am baptized into Christ!

 

Listen to the joy!  It is joy not based on works or ability or success or payoffs in this world.  It is joy that is by grace—the joy of receiving Christ, which is the peace and prosperity the Father has planned for us.

 

Why do we have joy?  Because I am baptized into Christ!  When I suffer, when I struggle with sin—I am baptized into Christ.  My struggle, my pain is His.  He died for me on the cross, and all that I now suffer from and struggle with He made His own and tasted the pain for.

 

Joy comes from faith in Christ.  Faith in Christ believes that God’s plans for me are good, always.  Faith in Christ believes that sin, death, and hell are conquered for me.  Faith that saves takes hold of Christ and says, “He is mine, just like God said.  So now hell, death, sin can’t harm me.”

 

And that is true hope and a future.  In this life it is comfort when we suffer with sin, or death, or the animosity of the world.

 

In eternity the Christ whom I grab by faith and hold on to when the devil or my conscience accuses me will be eternal joy, reigning as a king.  I share in Him and bear His cross now; there we will share in His reign and glory and everlasting life.  There will no longer be anything to make us afraid.

 

Christians boast of that now, by faith.  Did you hear the boasting in the hymn?  God’s own child, I gladly say it!  Does anyone dare to say with a hundred percent certainty—I am God’s child, God is pleased with me, there is no condemnation for me, and even though I still have sin God does not count it against me or wish to damn me because of it? 

 

You, together with all Christians, make that boast every time you pray, “Our Father…” and every time you receive Jesus’ body and blood.

 

Joy marks the Christian life in the face of sin, which still lives in us, and Satan, who tempts and attacks us, threatening us with hell, and the world, which hates Jesus and also opposes and attacks all who belong to Him and are members of His body.

 

Christians live in joy through all this.  Because we know that God’s thoughts and plans toward us are good; His thoughts and plans since eternity have been to give us His only Son.  He gives us Christ now in the Word and Sacraments; He will give us Christ in His heavenly glory on the last day.

 

The Lord said to the exiles that his purpose in 70 years of captivity was that they would call upon Him and He would hear them.  They would seek Him and find Him.  He said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

 

That seeking is repentance and faith. 

 

Don’t seek what the world seeks.  Seek God’s thoughts of peace—Christ.  Seek to take hold of Him daily; read His word asking for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  By faith, claim Him and all His gifts and promises as your own in prayer.  Say, “Lord, you have given Yourself for me, and I am yours; let me have You.  Let me believe in you as my Savior and let me live in You as my new life.”

 

Then—you may be a Jeremiah, or a Canaanite woman, or a Daniel in exile, or one of the many saints whose name is not recorded in Scripture or remembered by anyone on earth, but is written in God’s book.  And whatever God gives you to do, whatever He allows you to suffer—He will be giving You it in Christ.  He will be giving you your life in Christ, and such a life is always shalom—peace and prosperity, a life with hope and a future—because Christ is risen from the dead and dieth no more.  Death hath no more dominion over Him.

 

Death has no dominion over you then.  That is a hope and a future.  Boast in what is yours, because you are baptized into Christ!

 

Amen.  In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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  1. June 2, 2012 at 8:18 am

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