Home > Trinity 6-15 > Writing the Promise In our Hearts. Trinity 13, 2014.

Writing the Promise In our Hearts. Trinity 13, 2014.

13th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 10:22-37; Galatians 3:15-22

September 14, 2014

“Writing the Promise in our Hearts: Divine Service, Scripture, Prayer”


Iesu Iuva!


You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Cor. 3:3


Jesus is writing a letter on our hearts.


What is the letter about? It’s a promise.


A promise of salvation.


Of salvation from sin and its dreadful curse—death and hell.


How the world needs to read this letter that Jesus writes on our hearts!


Because the world only knows one way out of the curse of sin. That is to pursue it by works, by law.


But there is no loophole in the law of God wide enough for us to squeeze through. Not even an expert in the law can find a way.  The judge can’t be fooled.


The lawyer asks, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus says, “You know the answer to that question.  What does the law say?”


Well, it says You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.


Right, says Jesus. Do that, and you will live.


Well, now, but who is my neighbor?   Do I have to love just my close relatives as myself?  Or all of my countrymen?


No, not just your relatives, says Jesus. Not just your friends.  Not just your countrymen.  But love sees an enemy in misery, suffering and doesn’t stop to ask, “Do I need to help him?”  Love just loves.  It takes the enemy, shreds its clothes to bandage him, pours its own medicine and balm on his wounds, puts him on its own animal, spends its own money to nurse him back to health.  Love is love.  It’s not bookkeeping.  It’s generous, spendthrift, because it’s rich.  Love never fails.


Love like that and you will live.


Isn’t it pretty that Jesus says to love like that?


Not if you’re going to be judged by that law. The lawyer finds no loopholes with Jesus.  The door to eternal life through the law has just been shut in our faces.

Because we don’t love like that. We’re out in the cold, or out in the fire and darkness.  How often do you really take on the pain and grief of other people as your own?  Maybe your children, your siblings, your parents.  But as the circle widens the warmth of our love begins to cool.  It’s tiring to pour yourself into the bottomless pit of people’s need and misery.  We run out of love and life long before people run out of needs.  And when it comes to our adversaries, the thought of stoking the fire of love to warm those who take our compassion as weakness and folly—our hearts freeze up completely.


But without that kind of love we are under the curse of God’s law. Death and hell are our lot.  Because that, after all, is the way God loves us.  Unceasingly, overwhelmingly, gratuitously, not taking account of the cost or our worthiness but only our great need.  And then we turn around and withhold love.  His great love pours through us like a sieve.  It’s wasted on us.  We neither love Him nor our poor neighbor in return.


That is the problem for us with God’s law. It’s not that God’s law isn’t beautiful and good.  It commands what is beautiful and good—heartfelt, generous love and kindness toward our neighbor.  But we don’t have this love in us, and the Law of God does not have the power to create it in us.  Paul says in the Epistle reading, If a law had been given that could give life, righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin.  The law is not able to give us life so that we love like it commands.  It shows us what is beautiful and good, but we are not able to do it.


That’s why Jesus writes His letter in our hearts. It is a letter containing the promise of salvation.  It is not a law that commands works of love but a pure promise of salvation.  Paul says that God did not give Abraham the promise that He would inherit eternal life by a law but by a promise.  He did not tell Abraham what he had to do to inherit eternal life.  He freely and unconditionally promised eternal l life to Abraham.


Salvation from sin and everlasting death comes to us in the same way. God does not give it to us by a law, but by a promise.  He freely and unconditionally promises eternal life to sinners for the sake of Jesus’ death and merit.


Jesus is the good Samaritan to us. He finds us dead in trespasses and sins.  We do not have love.  We are dead.  Not just half-dead; completely dead.  So the Son of God becomes man and lives in love, fulfilling God’s law, meriting eternal life.  Then He lays down His meritorious life and its reward so that it will be ours.  Like the good Samaritan made bandages out of his own clothes to wrap the wounds of the man who fell among robbers, Jesus gives up His righteousness to clothe us and dies a sinner.  He covers us with His wholeness and His perfect love and gives Himself up to taste the wrath of God which belongs to us.


And He promises us eternal life on the basis of what He has done. It is an unconditional promise of eternal life, just as the Samaritan unconditionally nursed the man who was beaten half to death to life.


This is the promise that God writes about in the letter He writes on our hearts. It is not a tale about our love, how we have sacrificed ourselves for God or other people and made ourselves worthy of heaven.  What God writes on our hearts is the promise of salvation through His Son, who unconditionally died for our sins on the cross.


How does God write this promise on our hearts? In the Divine Service and through Holy Scripture.


We need Him to write this promise on our hearts. Otherwise we remain like the lawyer, searching around desperately for a way to be justified by the law.  But when we are under the law, we do not find life; only death.  “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  When we are under the law, we are under a covenant that produces death.  It commands us to love freely and spontaneously and generously without asking who we should love or how much.  And we can’t do it.  We remain locked up and condemned by the law’s curse.


And that is the only way we know apart from God writing the free promise of salvation through His Son on our hearts.


But when God proclaims His promise of the free forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake, He is writing this promise in our hearts and making them a joyful letter that contains the promise of salvation. That’s why if you want to grow as a Christian and if the Church is going to grow spiritually it only happens through the Divine Service and the Scripture.


In the Divine Service God proclaims through the preacher that Jesus’ holy life of love is for you . He writes that promise on your heart by His Spirit.  He does it by proclaiming Christ’s righteousness and death for you in the sermon.  He does it by loosing you of your sins in the absolution.


Then He proclaims that Christ’s death is for you at the words of institution at the Lord’s Supper: “This is my body, which is given for you. This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”  You come and eat and drink the very body and blood that Jesus gave and shed on Calvary to free and cleanse you of sin and its curse.


These are the ways the Spirit writes the promise of salvation on your hearts. You become a living letter testifying to the promise of God that He has freely pardoned the world of its sins in the death of His Son.


As you read the Scripture during the week, the Holy Spirit continues this work of writing on you. His writing is living writing—the very life-giving breath of God.  It not only inscribes the letters of the promise on your heart, but it is living writing that frees you from the old writing of the law and its bondage to death.  You begin to spontaneously love your neighbor as the law commands, like the good Samaritan.


Then after God writes on us in the Divine Service and through the Scripture, we pray. We ask God to keep writing.  We take His promise which He has put in our hearts and we use it to call upon God to fulfill His promise, to keep writing on us so that the living letters in which He writes on us will become more clear and distinct to the world.


Often Christians try to get by with a minimum of Divine Service, Scripture, and prayer. They don’t realize that the promise of God in Christ, which He writes on our hearts, is our life.  We have no life at all apart from that promise that our sins are forgiven because of the blood of Jesus.  In that promise stands all our life.  Without it we are dead, condemned by the law.


If we lack anything—good works, faith, assurance of salvation, confidence in the face of death, joy, peace, self-control—these things only come to us in the Scriptures and the Divine Service. And where the promise of God in Christ is received, prayer rushes forth and cries out that the Lord would continue to write His promise on our hearts and bring it to its fulfillment in eternal life.


Yes, the unconditional promise of salvation in Christ is our only life. In the Divine Service and Scripture God is writing this promise on our hearts for us and for the world.  Nowhere else do we get life, forgiveness of sins, salvation.  In no other way than through the Divine Service, Scripture, and prayer, do our lives become living letters in which people can read the promise of salvation in Christ.





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