Christ is the Way to the Life of God–Advent Midweek 3 2014
Third Week in Advent—Midweek Services
St. Peter Lutheran Church
December 17, 2014
“Christ is the Way to the Life of God”
Adapted from Georg Stoeckhardt’s Advent Predigten, 9th Sermon
In Paul Gerhardt’s great Christmas hymn, “O Jesus Christ, Thy Manger Is”, we sing:
Thy light and grace
Our guilt efface
Thy heav’nly riches all our loss retrieving.
That is a comforting thought–that everything we lost in Adam and Eve Jesus has retrieved for us. And it is not only comforting. It is true. Our communion with God has been restored by Christ.
We have heard from the prophecies of Psalm 2 and Psalm 8 about the majesty of the Son of God and the humiliation and exaltation of the Son of God. Psalm 16 teaches us that
Christ is the way to the life of God.
-By nature we are all estranged from God and His life.
-But Christ is in communion with God and lives to Him in eternity.
-And Jesus helps us live godly here and in eternity.
Thy light and grace
Our guilt efface
Thy heav’nly riches all our loss retrieving.
What loss is the hymn referring to? It’s referring to what we lost in Adam and Eve. Adam enjoyed the glory of paradise. He ate the costly fruit of the garden of God and had all the animals in subjection to him. But he was not fulfilled by this; it was not good for the man to be alone. So God gave him the woman. The two were to support and serve one another, fulfilling their callings together and enjoying the goodness and glory of God. But even the love which Adam shared with his wife was not the highest blessing of paradise. That was the communion that they enjoyed with God. God dwelt with them and spoke with them as a father speaks to his children. This was the crowning joy of paradise. And human beings’ hearts were fixed on God—they had Him “always before them”, as the Psalm says. They feared, loved, and trusted Him above all things.
This is what we have lost in Adam and Eve—the blessed, perfect communion with God. All those who are born of Adam’s race are now estranged from God and His life. Our hearts and reason are alienated from God. They are stuck on the creature instead of the Creator. We are more than alienated from God—we are hostile towards Him. Our hearts “run after another god and take their names upon our lips”, as the Psalm says. Human beings put their trust in earthly wealth and honor. They spend their entire lives running after the passing pleasures of the world and its evil lusts.
And God for His part has dissolved His connection to man. Because their hearts did not abide with God, did not honor and thank Him as their God and Creator, God gave human beings up to the lusts of their depraved hearts. Human beings are now without God in the world, devoid of His comfort, His light and His life. And having lost their communion with God, people have also lost the bond that connected them to each other—the bond of love of the neighbor, of brotherly love. They offer drink offerings of blood. They are quick to anger, quick to hate, quick to violence and bloodshed. And the worst thing about the fall of man is that having lost so much, man does not fell his loss or stir himself up to recover it. He does not seek communion with God or a restoration to paradise, but continues in his degradation on the way to the eternal loneliness of damnation.
But even from the beginning God was planning a new way to come to mankind that had gone astray from Him. Since He could not draw near to man in the old way—with His direct, unmediated presence, since human beings hate God and flee from Him in terror, He drew near in the word of the promise. He told Adam and Eve and those who followed them that He would restore to them all they had lost. And through this word of promise He inspired sinners to long for the lost communion with God and one another.
[That word of promise is what we have been tracing through the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. From the promise of the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head, to the promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring, to the promise that David’s offspring would reign on his throne forever—God was inspiring those who heard the word to long for the communion with God that had been lost.]
That’s what the patriarchs and prophets longed for—not just the promised earthly inheritance in Canaan, but the city which is above, whose architect and builder is God. The sigh and prayer of the patriarchs, prophets, and all believing Israelites was, “My soul longs for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God’s face?’
We too, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, long for God and communion with Him, long for what we lost in Adam. We still feel our wicked flesh that draws back from God and His life. But we long to be free from the sinful nature and see God’s face in righteousness.
Our longing has been fulfilled. There is a man in whom communion between God and man has been restored. That person is Jesus Christ; He is the man who is in communion with God and lives to Him in eternity. And the perfect communion with God in Jesus Christ is for us, that we might share in the good pleasure of God for His sake.
He is true God of God, the eternal Son of the Father. He is the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father. The Son has never been separated from the Father’s bosom. He is in perfect communion with Him. The Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son. The Son knows the Father, and the Father knows the Son. The Son loves the Father, and the Father loves the Son. The Son was and is happy forever in the light and splendor of God. He is the exact imprint of His being and the brightness of His glory.
But the Son is not only in perfect communion with God according to His divine nature. The human life of Jesus also was and is directed entirely to God and fixed on God. This man, Jesus Christ, has perfectly given God His honor and glory. Jesus feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things, with His whole heart, soul, mind, and all His powers. From His childhood on, He said, “The Lord is my portion and my cup; You hold my lot.” (v.5) He loved God above all things. When He was only 12 years old, He told His parents: “Didn’t you know that I must be in the things of my Father?” When the devil offered Jesus all the wealth and glory of the world, Jesus rejected it. He wanted to serve God, God alone. HE hated and reproved the adulterousness of the generation He lived in, which “ran after another god and took their names on their lips” (v. 4).
Even though His life was full of hardship and deprivation, He said, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (v. 6) The Lord was His lot, His portion, and His joy. His heart was not fixed on the passing, temporary pleasures of this life, but on the eternal glory of the living God.
He had the Lord always before His eyes (v. 8) Even in the midst of His work, His eyes were fixed on God. When He wanted to heal the deaf-mute, He first sighed to His Father. When He was going to hand out the bread to the 5000 and when He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He first gave thanks to the Father. He lived His life in constant communion with God. “I praise the Lord, who counsels me. Even at night my heart instructs me” (v. 7)—that means that even in the night His heart exhorted Him to give thanks and pray.
All night long Jesus spoke to God in prayer. And the Lord held His lot, that He might come into His inheritance—the glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world.
The whole life and work of Jesus was uninterrupted communion, uninterrupted sharing with the Father. And even when He finally had to suffer, He still prayed, “Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge” (v.1) As He wrestled with death in Gethsemane and as He writhed on the cross, He still had God before His eyes. Even there He said, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. I will drink the cup of salvation.” He knew and did not doubt, “The Lord is at my right hand, therefore I will not be shaken. Even in death I will remain well and will not be put to shame.”
And as Jesus believed, so it happened.
Christ died and lives forever. Death divided His body and soul. But the bond that bound Him to God was not destroyed by death. He gloried in the midst of death, “My heart is glad and my whole being rejoices. My flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to hell, or let your holy one see corruption.” V(v.9-10) Jesus’ soul was with God in paradise. His body rested in the grave, but He was still in God’s hand there. Therefore He did not see corruption. It was impossible that the prince of life, the Son of God, should be held by death and see corruption.
Christ is risen and lives to God in eternity. His hope has been fulfilled: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there si fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” V. 11 He now sits at the right hand of God and beholds also as man the glory that He had with the Father before the world began; He has joy to the full and sees the pleasures that are at the right hand of God.
And Christ helps us now, that we live godly here in time and there in eternity. Christ is the way to life. Everything that He did, He did for our benefit. He has perfectly given God the glory in our place. He is the perfect man of God. All God’s good pleasure rests on Him. And we are included in this good pleasure of God. Whoever of sinful mankind believes in the Son who has become man, who in life, suffering and death has honored God, that person in righteous. Whoever is baptized has a pledge from God that Jesus’ perfect fear, love, and trust in God is credited to him. Whoever eats Christ’s body and drinks His blood has a pledge from God that he has communion and fellowship with God through faith in Christ. Through Christ we have communion with God not in our works and experience, but through faith. His perfect obedience to God is counted to us.
But Christ does more—He imparts His nature, disposition, and attitude to us. He helps us, so that we live godly here in time. Through His honor of God in perfect obedience we begin to honor God. WE believe in Christ and honor God through faith in His Son. We also begin, as justified sinners, to have our hearts and eyes turned toward God, so that He is our portion, our delight, our inheritance. He makes us in His image. He gives us a new mind—the mind of Christ. There are saints on earth, holy, sanctified people, in whom the mind of Christ lives. In these holy ones God has all His good pleasure for Christ’s sake. They renounce the world and all other gods and do not take their alien names on their lips. They say, “I will not offer their drink offerings of blood.” They say to God, “You are my Lord. Apart from You I have no good thing.” V. 2 “The Lord is my good and my portion; Yes, I have a delightful inheritance; God is my inheritance. And if I have You, then I don’t ask about heaven or earth. When my soul and body languish, then You are still my God, my heart’s potion and comfort.”
What these saints do in word or deed, they do in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. They live to God, speak with God at night on their beds. They have the Lord always before their eyes, even in the hour of fear and distress. Then they say to God with Christ, “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in you.” V. 2 And they are certain, for the sake of Jesus who won for them the Father’s good pleasure, that the Lord is at their right hand and they will not be shaken. The Lord holds their lot and preserves their inheritance at His right hand. Yes, there is a congregation of holy ones and saints on earth, which serves God and thanks Him through Jesus Christ our Lord.
These saints are “the excellent” or “glorious ones” of whom this psalm speaks. Christ will glorify His own. He helps us so that we live godly here but also in eternity. We will not be shaken, even by death. Death divides soul and body, but does not divide soul and body from God. The souls fo the saints rejoice in God, and even their flesh will dwell secure. The bodies of the saints will continue, even though they see corruption. They will not be held by death forever. They will be resurrected, and then body and soul will rejoice in the living God. Then we will behold our inheritance, the glory of Christ. Then we will glory and say, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Soli Deo Gloria