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Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality. Ash Wednesday 2018.

February 14, 2018 Leave a comment

nineveh.PNGAsh Wednesday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 6:16-21

February 14, 2018

Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Death has been in front of our eyes in recent weeks, and today we are reminded again with the black ashes on many of our foreheads that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Today the black ashes are on our foreheads, tomorrow they will be gone.  But even when they are gone, we will still live in a world in which death’s mark is stamped on every person in it, as though every person we meet had a forehead smeared with black ash.

 

But death does not reign in the Church, over Christians.  Our Savior Jesus Christ…abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, the apostle says (2 Tim. 1:10).  And we are His people, baptized into His death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6)  We have a beautiful picture of this whenever a little child is baptized.  We light a small candle from the paschal candle, the candle lit on Easter, that symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  That little burning flame is a picture of the new life that we have received from Christ.

 

The new life that is in us is Christ’s life.  It is more powerful than death.  On Christmas Day we heard the words of St. John’s gospel: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  The little baby in the manger, and the little light born in us in Baptism, are stronger than the darkness of death in us because the life of Christ is the life of God.  It is not overcome by the darkness of sin and death in us.  It burns in the midst of the darkness in our flesh and, growing ever stronger, finally burns up the darkness and fills us with the light of life

 

Why is it, then, that the darkness within us seems to blot out the light of Christ’s life?  St. Peter says this in the epistle reading: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness [1 Peter 1:3].  It is ours, yet we must make every effort, as St. Peter says, to take hold of itAnd when we do not, the flame begins to sputter.  Faith flutters.  The new life grows dim.

 

So during Lent we examine ourselves to see where the darkness remains in us, where death has crept back in.  We meditate on Jesus’ passion to see the reflection of our sin and death.  And to aid our meditation, Christians fast.

 

We are called to do this not just during Lent but always.  We heard St. Paul discuss this a few weeks ago: Every athlete exercises self control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…[so] I discipline my body and keep it under control (1 Cor. 9:25, 27).  Fasting is self-discipline; it refers specifically to moderation in eating and drinking and to abstaining from food or drink for a period of time.  We do this to keep alert, to keep sharp so that we may devote ourselves to meditation and prayer and to serving our neighbor.  More broadly, fasting includes throwing off every hindrance to rising to new life with Christ, moderating our use of television, internet, phones, or abstaining for a time so that we may give our attention to the one thing needful—Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus expects that his followers will fast.  When you fast,  He says in the Gospel reading.  What does that mean except that Jesus expects that we will fast, that we need to fast?

 

He doesn’t reject all fasting, but false fasting, done to win praise from other people, done so that we may be proud of our own spirituality. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. 

 

Piercing words from our Lord for those who fast, or do other religious works only to take pride in themselves!  Jesus calls them hypocrites.  They have a reward—in the misplaced admiration of other people, in their own high esteem of themselves.  But they have no reward from God for this.

 

Instead God condemns their fasting, churchgoing, praying as false and empty.  They are only pretending to pray, or go to church, or fast, pretending to love and serve God. In reality, they are loving and serving only themselves.

 

How evil it is to use God’s name to make yourself a name!  Yet isn’t this what most religion boils down to?    Don’t even true Christians do this?  How many times have you acted piously, religiously, when your heart was far from God, not humble, not grieving over your sins, not desiring his grace, full of self-righteousness?  Oh, the bitter ashes we taste when we realize this about ourselves, that so often we ignored Jesus whipped, condemned, and pierced, and sought to glorify ourselves!

 

God relented from destroying Nineveh because they confessed their sins and eagerly sought His grace with fasting and prayer.  Most Lutherans do not fast, so we are not liable to be proud about it.  But in our worship, prayer, and work in the church we frequently forget that like Nineveh God has pronounced our overthrow, together with all who disobey His Law.  Before we realize it, we have forgotten what we are, become confident in our religious works, satisfied with ourselves because we seem to be doing more than others.

 

True Christian fasting is not done in this spirit.  Christian fasting is not done for men, not even for ourselves.  It is done because we desire life from Christ, because we confessing from the heart that we are dust and ashes. It is done because we desire life from Christ; we desire forgiveness, and we desire not to live in sin any longer.  It is done because we want to become like Christ.  A Christian who fasts in the way approved by God forgets about himself and what others think about him because he is looking at Jesus.

 

This kind of fasting has a reward from God.  Jesus says, When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

The reward of the Father is life.  He sees what is in secret.  He sees the broken and contrite heart yearning to be forgiven, to be at peace with God, to become like Christ.  And He rewards such a heart with its desire.  He forgives our sins and makes Christ’s light burn more brightly in us until all darkness in us is burned away.

This new and contrite heart is God’s work, not ours.  He creates it in us through His Law.  And when faith in the good news of Christ enters the contrite heart, life comes in.  When we fast, we train the members of our bodies so that they do not lead us astray with the desires of the flesh and put out the life of Christ in us.  We train our members to seek life in Christ; our ears to hear His Word, our heart and mind to meditate on the Savior that the Word proclaims, our tongue to call upon Him.  And the reward is that this life grows in us.  We grow in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and love; vice, ignorance, self-indulgence, cowardice, and selfishness dies off in us.  And as Peter says, we make our calling and election sure; we grow in the assurance that the life God has planted in us will reach its fulfillment, and the light of Christ’s life will fill our whole bodies with light.

 

That is what we are after during these forty days of Lent.  We are straining ahead to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us when we were baptized.  We are straining toward the heavenly reward of the Father, when we will be like Him, when we will be completely new, and life will replace death.

 

It seems far away and difficult, and it is.  Between you and that reward stands the cross to which you and I must be nailed and die.

 

But if you desire it, it is not far; you only need to come a few steps to take the body of Christ and to drink the blood which He poured out for the life of the world, for your life.  If what you long for is everlasting life in heaven—come, for everlasting life is here.  Everything is ready.  Come and receive the life of the Son of God.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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Made Clean. 14th Sunday after Trinity, 2017.

September 20, 2017 Leave a comment

cleansing 10 lepers.jpgFourteenth Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 17:11-19 (Gal. 5:16-24)

September 17, 2017

“Made Clean”

Jesus

If someone asks you, “What is the Lutheran Church?  What makes it different from other churches?”—and you had to give a quick answer—the answer would be this: the doctrine of justification.  We say that a sinner is declared righteous by God for Jesus’ sake, solely through faith in Him, without any works.

 

But the Bible has other ways of describing what God has done for us in sending His Son into the flesh.  One is what we see Jesus doing in the Gospel reading today—He purifies the ten lepers, or makes them clean.

 

Jesus is headed down to Jerusalem.  As He goes through a town, a group of men with leprosy stand at a distance from Him and shout, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!  They are a long way off from Jesus because God’s Law commanded that they be.  It condemned people with leprosy as unclean or impure.

 

God is not only righteous and just; He is also pure and clean.  So He commanded that the impure were not allowed among the people with whom He dwelt.  The unclean were not allowed into His house.  Lepers had to live outside the camp with their clothes torn, in mourning.  Whenever an Israelite came by who didn’t have leprosy, they had to shout “Unclean, unclean!” to warn them.

 

Uncleanness and impurity separated lepers from God and His holy community.  They stood far away from Jesus, yet from far off they cried to Him: Have mercy on us! 

 

They must have heard about Jesus—how He had healed many others who were paralyzed, who had fevers, who were blind, how He cast out demons.  They believed that Jesus, who had overcome the devil’s power over other people, could and would take away their impurity.

 

And Jesus didn’t disappoint them in their trust.  He heard their cry and told them, Go, show yourselves to the priests. 

 

The Law commanded that if a leper was healed, he had to go to the priests at the temple and be examined by them.  If the priests found that the leper had been cleansed, they would perform two rites: one to purify him, and the other to reinstate him as a member of the holy people.

 

So when Jesus says, Go, show yourselves to the priests, He is telling them to believe that He has granted what they called out for even though they don’t see it.  Even though you don’t see it yet, I have granted your prayer.  I have mercy on you.  You are cleansed.  Go to the priests and let them acknowledge it.

 

And as they went, says the Holy Spirit through St. Luke, they were cleansed.

 

Jesus purifies us from the leprosy of sin and brings us before God’s face.

 

Leprosy has mostly been rooted out of the modern world.  But our sense of impurity hasn’t gone away.  Look at how people carry around little bottles of hand sanitizer to kill any germs they may get from contact with other people!  Look at how obsessed our society is with bodily perfection and health, and how increasingly we eliminate babies with physical defects, aborting them so that they never see the sun!  We don’t do these things from religious impulses.  But the fact that we are so preoccupied with them shows how people continue to recognize intuitively the need for purity and wholeness, at least in regard to the body.

 

That feeling that we need to be pure, to be clean, is correct.  Uncleanness, sickness, deformity is a manifestation of the corruption and death at work in our bodies.  And the reason why corruption and death are at work in our bodies is because of the impurity of our souls, even our whole natures.  Original sin, in which we are conceived, passed down to us from Adam and Eve, makes us impure and unclean before God even before we think or do anything sinful.  And just like skin diseases break out in boils, scabs, or running sores, so original sin breaks out in impure thoughts, words, and actions against God.

 

We were all born with this leprosy.  It is not something we have any power to cure.  It corrupts everything we think, everything we do.  And it separates us from God.  We cannot come into His presence when we are unclean with sin; we can’t be numbered among His holy people.  Behold, (A)the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,  or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;2 (B)but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Is. 59:1-2)It isn’t just our evil words and evil deeds that separate us from God, but the evil nature with which we are conceived, so that all that by nature provokes the wrath of God.

 

Yet we sit here this morning not defiled, but clean.  Not alienated from God, but reconciled to Him, and brought near to Him.

 

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, (BC)doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled (BD)in his body of flesh by his death, (BE)in order to present you holy and blameless and (BF)above reproach before him (Col. 1:21-22), says St. Paul in Colossians 1.  We were brought near to God and cleansed of our sins when Jesus was cast out as the one who bore the impurity of our deeds and thoughts and even of our nature.  As He bore that impurity on the cross and the sun was darkened, He cried out that God had forsaken Him.

 

That was the purification of our uncleanness.  It says in Hebrews 10: 1But when Christ[b] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he (Q)sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time (R)until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering (S)he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  By a single sacrifice He perfected sinners; by that one sacrifice He purified us of sin.

 

Jesus was going down to Jerusalem to do this very thing when the lepers cried out to Him.  When our parents brought us to the church as little ones, seemingly innocent yet already impure and alienated from God in our minds, through the pastor Jesus received us and cleansed us in the washing with water through the Word (Eph. 5).  He baptized us, putting us to death with Him and raising us up with Him.  We died to the old life of Adam.  We rose in Christ to a new life as children of God, free from condemnation and sin.  Our sins were covered.  We were brought into the communion of saints, the holy people of God.  We were purified from the uncleanness of sin, and God came to dwell, not in a tent near us, but in our bodies.

 

It is true that we still feel the old nature working in us, making our conscience dirty again, making us think evil thoughts and provoking us to do evil deeds.  But the thrashing around of the old Adam is not counted to us, as long as we are led by the Spirit, as long as daily we resist and crucify the flesh and return to our Baptism to die in repentance and rise through faith in Jesus alone.

 

So as often as we feel the old nature and its impurity, Jesus comes to us through the pastor in holy absolution.  We confess our sins, and Jesus testifies that our sins are forgiven—which means that they are loosed from us, they are not counted to us, and we are not cast out as unclean, but we are pure and clean and brought to our Father in heaven.

 

This is what the letter to the Hebrews is talking about when it says: 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts (AA)sprinkled clean (AB)from an evil conscience and our bodies (AC)washed with pure water.  (Heb. 10:22)  Jesus sent the lepers to the temple.  They did not yet see that they were clean, but they went in faith.  We draw near to God in faith that Jesus has made us clean, trusting His cross, where He provided purification for sins, trusting His promise in Baptism, where He applies that purification to us.   We see that impurity is still at work within us.  It seems, sometimes, overwhelming.  But we don’t believe in it.  We consider Jesus’ promise greater than what we see with our eyes, and His work more powerful than the works of our flesh.

 

Jesus purifies us from the leprosy of sin, and brings us to stand with confidence before the face of God.

 

But in the reading, something awful happened.  Jesus cleansed ten lepers.  Nine of them were Jews, who were descendants of Abraham and heirs of God’s promises.  One was a Samaritan—a foreigner.  Yet out of the ten men for whom Jesus did this amazing miracle of cleansing and restoration, only the Samaritan came back to thank Him!

 

Was it because the others thought they should thank God in the temple and not at the feet of Jesus?  Was it because the priests at the temple convinced them Jesus was a false prophet?  We aren’t told.  We only hear Jesus faulting them for not thanking God at His feet.

 

How awful it is to face the reality that the same thing happens among us!  Jesus has cleansed many people of something worse than leprosy in this place.  When He baptized them, He washed away the uncleanness of original sin that separates people from God forever.

 

Yet most do not come back to give thanks here where Jesus is present in flesh and blood.  So many baptized babies we never see again after their parents bring them to be baptized.  They bring them to Jesus to be baptized, but not to hear His Word or receive His body and blood.

 

But some are brought back long enough to be confirmed and admitted to the sacrament of the altar.  Then, after their confirmation day, a few months or years later, they too are gone.

 

And others keep coming.  Yet though they thank Jesus with their lips, it is just lip service.  They do not cast themselves facedown at the feet of Jesus, thanking Him for making them clean.  They come as those performing a religious duty, not with the joy of those who have been made clean and pure by Jesus’ blood, but as those who think they have kept themselves pure.

 

How do we know that we are not one of the nine who were cleansed and then fell back into spiritual death?

 

Because we trust in this only: that Jesus has purified us from the leprosy of sin and brought us into the presence of God.  When we see the thanklessness and unbelief in our hearts, we turn our eyes and our ears to His promise.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness…If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 1:9, 2:1-2).  Jesus made purification for our sins on the cross.  It is done.  He bestowed that purification on us in Baptism.  That too is done.  That is what we cling to in faith.  And as we continue to put to death our impure flesh, we come to Jesus for help.  We draw near to God through Him, who alone can help us.

 

And He helps us.  He spreads before us the blessed feast of thanksgiving, the Sacrament of His body and blood.

 

When the leprosy of your old nature seems to have broken out again, and you fear that you have relapsed into death and alienation from God, come to the table the Lord spreads.  Pay attention only to His words: “for you, for the forgiveness of sins.”  He is telling you that it is done.  You are purified.

 

As you eat and drink, believing these words, you also lay your body and soul at His feet, that your life from then on may be for the praise of His glory.  Then you go out from here, believing you are pure in God’s sight, and eager to glorify Him for this great mercy.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

To Jordan Came our Lord the Christ. Martin Luther, Trans. R. Massie.

martin luther old with bookThis translation is far better than the one in The Lutheran Service Book.  The last stanza is goosebump-inducing.

To Jordan came our Lord the Christ,

To do God’s pleasure willing,

And there was by Saint John baptized,

All righteousness fulfilling;

There did He consecrate a bath

To wash away transgression,

And quench the bitterness of death

By His own blood and Passion;

He would a new life give us.

 

So hear ye all, and well perceive

What God doth call Baptism,

And what a Christian should believe

Who error shuns and schism:

That we should water use, the Lord

Declareth it His pleasure;

Not simple water, but the Word

And Spirit without measure;–

He is the true Baptizer.

 

In tender manhood God the Son

In Jordan’s water standeth;

The Holy Ghost from heaven’s throne

In dovelike form descendeth;

That thus the truth be not denied,

Nor should our faith e’er waver,

That the Three Persons all preside,

At Baptism’s holy laver,

And dwell with the believer.

 

The eye of sense alone is dim,

And nothing sees but water;

Faith sees Christ Jesus, and in Him

The Lamb ordained for slaughter;

It sees the cleansing fountain, red

With the dear blood of Jesus,

Which from the sins, inherited

From fallen Adam, frees us,

And from our own misdoings.

 

M. Luther, 1541.  Trans. R. Massie, 1854.

Hell’s dam-gates burst

January 14, 2014 2 comments

baptismHoly Baptism (Psalm 29:10)

 Der Herr sitzet, eine Sündfluth anzurichten.*  Und der Herr bleibt ein König in Ewigkeit.

Hell’s dam-gates burst: a man, the LORD

Ascends to rule the nations,

And to the flood He gives His Word

To pour out in salvation

O’er ev’ry nation, ev’ry tongue

Which for hell’s bath were numbered;

That those who in these depths are flung

With millstone sins encumbered

This very death will rescue.

Categories: Baptism, Hymns Tags: , , , ,

“Whoever Does Not Receive the Kingdom of God Like a Child Will Never Enter it”. Sermon on Infant Baptism, Wed. after Judica 2013

March 21, 2013 7 comments

 

cranach let the little children 1Wednesday after Judica (Vespers)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:9-17/ Passion History/ Small Catechism: What does such baptizing with water indicate?

March 20, 2013

“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it”

Jesu juva!

INI

 

Jesus died for you.  You are saved.  That is a short and sweet rendition of the article of justification.  Lutherans have always said that the Christian Church stands or falls on the article of justification.  If you keep that front and center, it will save people; God will build His church on it.  When it is kept straight the conscience is comforted, and all the other articles of the Christian faith will be preserved.  But without it all of the teaching of the Church is corrupted.  Without it there will not be harmony in the Church.

 

That sounds good.  But in practice it doesn’t look true.  Jesus died for you, you are saved.  That’s enough for salvation?  That’s enough to keep the Churchpastor with black eye alive and together?  Have we found that to be true?  No, it looks to us like either the Lutheran reformers were wrong or it hasn’t been taught clearly here lately.  Because the churches that have other things to boast about besides the article of justification do well and we feel like, to quote the Psalms, “A sparrow alone on a housetop, like an owl in the ruins.”

 

Once a catechumen told me, respectfully and honestly, “That seems too easy.”  He had a lot of Roman Catholic family, so it was understandable.  But it’s not just the pope’s church.  If a Baptist asks you, “Are you saved,” tell them yes, and then if they say, “How do you know,” say, “Because Jesus died for me on the cross.”  What will many of them say?  “Yes, that’s true, but did you accept him into your heart, really and truly?  Do you have a relationship with Him?”

 

And it’s not just them either.  A lot of times it seems too easy to Lutherans, to Lutheran pastors.  Jesus died for me, so I’m saved.  But I’d like to see some evidence.  Holiness, victory over sin, any kind of victory.  What good is it if I preach Jesus died for us, and then everyone is just as angry and anxious as they were before?  Sometimes I ask that of myself, and sometimes you do too.

 

But there are some Lutherans, and not just little kids, either, who know in the time of trial, that the article of justification is their refuge.  Jesus died for me, so I’m saved.  It’s not easy to comfort yourself with that when the mountains are removed and tumble into the heart of the sea, when it looks like you are going to die or maybe your congregation is, and maybe it’s your fault, at least partly.  Can I get an Amen?

 

But there are some Lutherans who God has enabled to do it.  That’s the difficult art that Christians are taught by the Holy Spirit—to say, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ word will never pass away, and His Word says that He saved me from my sins by His death on the cross.”

 

crucifixion thief on the crossBut there are even fewer who know how to comfort themselves with their Baptism, who can sing the hymn we just sang tonight and find comfort in it when Satan attacks or when death is near:

I am baptized in Jesus’ blood;

this is my pearl, my highest good,

which calms my soul in all distress

against the devil, hell, and death. 

 

Or as the old hymn in the Lutheran Service Book teaches us to sing:

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

 I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. 

Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me

in a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

 

If saying “Jesus died for me on the cross, so I’m saved” seems too easy to us, saying “I am baptized” seems even worse.  Especially if you were baptized as a baby.  A man who plays the piano at one of the nursing home services was raised at Messiah Luth. Church.  But now he’s a Baptist or a Nazarene.  He always really likes my preaching, except when I talk about Baptism.  One time he said, again, honestly and respectfully—“If all you have to do is be baptized as an infant to be saved, why don’t Lutherans just baptize babies as often as possible, even when their parents aren’t looking?”

 

But the baptism of infants is possibly the clearest picture we have of what it means when we say that salvation is by grace alone.  That is what Jesus is getting at when He says “let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (St. Luke 18:16-17).”

  Read more…

“How Do You Know?” Lent Midweek Catechetical Sermon.

March 6, 2013 3 comments

faithWednesday after Oculi

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Catechism: “How Can Water Do Such Great Things?”

March 6, 2013 (2nd rvs. Vespers)

“How Do You Know?”

Jesu Juva.

 

INI

How do you know that you’re saved?  Sooner or later that question comes.  It rises within our hearts.  It comes from the mouth of another Christian, or from an unbelieving acquaintance.  But it must come.  If not now, sometime in our lives.  How can it not come?

 

If you are saved, will the devil permit that to go unquestioned?  Absolutely not.  He didn’t allow Eve and Adam to live in God’s blessing in paradise without raising questions about God’s word.  “Did God really say…?”  How do you know that God isn’t keeping you in slavery when you could be gods yourselves?

 

Satan didn’t even shy away from questioning Jesus’ blessedness.  “If you are really the Son of God, why are you left alone with me in the desert with rocks for bread?”

 

But God also asks.  He questions those who have deceived themselves with false faith, “How do you know you’re saved?”  He also questions those who believe in Christ and are His children.  Through the apostle Paul he exhorts Christians to question themselves.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.”  (2 Cor. 13:5)

 

So is it God or the devil asking “How do you know you’re saved?”

 

Is it God or the devil speaking through the chief priest to Jesus: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  Is it God, seeking to have Jesus confess the truth before the high council of Israel?  After all, isn’t he in the office God set up to represent His people before Him in the temple?  Or is it the devil, trying to make Jesus afraid, using the high priest’s appearance of holiness to make Jesus question whether His teaching is really the Word of God?

 

Is it God who asks Peter, warming himself by the fire, if he is a disciple of Jesus, so that Peter will be confess Jesus before men, so that Jesus may acknowledge Peter before the Father on the day of judgment?

 

Or is it the devil who asks Peter, trying to make Peter afraid, saying, “Are you sure Jesus is the Son of God?  Are you sure that you are saved through Him?  After all, Jesus is about to be condemned to death by the high council that God gave authority to judge in His name.  They’re saying He’s not God’s Son, but a blasphemer.  Are you sure that you’re ready to confess Him and die as a blasphemer with Him?”

 

This is not a question we can avoid any more than Peter could.  Are you sure that you’re saved?  How do you know?

 

We can say, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief!”  Jesus does not put out the smoldering wick or break the bruised reed.  But a person with such weak faith cannot be content to remain there.  He prays, “Help Thou my unbelief” because the unbelief is sin.  It is painful to be full of doubts about whether God receives you or whether you will be cast into the lake of fire.

 

When you are asked “How do you know if you’re saved?” the devil is asking to cast doubt on God’s Word.  But God asks the question to remove our faith from ourselves and place it on solid ground—His promise.  God asks to strengthen faith in His Word and weaken trust in ourselves.  The devil asks to undermine faith in God’s word and to fill us with false confidence or to make us despair of God’s mercy.

 

How do you know if you’re saved?  Do you have to do something to be saved?

 

The answer is…no—right?  No, we don’t do anything to be saved.  Jesus died for our sins on the cross.  God promises us in the Gospel that our sins are forgiven because Jesus suffered and shed His blood for us.

Read more…

“The Secret Place of the Most High”. Lent Midweek Sermon. “What Benefits Does Baptism Give?”

March 6, 2013 7 comments

baptism deutschlandWednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Small Catechism: What benefits does Baptism give?

February 27, 2013

“The Secret Place of the Most High”

Jesu juva.

 

In the Holy Name of Jesus.

 

Last week we heard the first thing that it is necessary for us to know about Baptism in order to defend our consciences against the lies of the devil when he wants to rob us of the comfort of Baptism.  When we are suffering or dying, or when we are depressed, afraid, and everything we do seems to fail, God baptized us so that we can say, “The Lord is with me.  He loves me.  He will turn all sorrow into joy.  Nothing can separate me from Him.”

 

And when the devil or our flesh or believers in false teaching say, “You think you are saved just because you are baptized?  Lots of people are baptized, but they aren’t saved”—the first thing you have to learn to say to them (or yourself) is—“Baptism is not to be taken lightly.  It is not just water; it is divine water,  God’s water.  Not because the water itself is unique, but because this water is caught up in God’s command.  Even more, He has joined His holy name to the water.  So now God’s power and glory and honor are joined to Baptism.  So I am not trusting in a human work or an idol when I say ‘I am baptized.’  Baptism is not man’s work.  Baptism is God’s work.”

 

This week we hear what the benefit of Baptism is, which is sweet Gospel and comfort from God.  Why did God command baptism and put His name on it?  Why put so much power and majesty into Baptism?  It’s as if the United States went to war and mobilized every possible plane, tank, helicopter, missile, and soldier—every last bit of its military might.  But God put all of His power (which is unlimited)—into Baptism when He joined His name to it.  Why so much?

 

For one purpose—to save.

 

There is so much power in Baptism—even the name of the most Holy Trinity—so that we may be saved and be confident and certain of our salvation.

 

The Small Catechism mentions three benefits of Holy Baptism.  It works or does something; it rescues or delivers from something; and it gives something.  For the sake of simplicity we will stay with those three things mentioned by the catechism: what Baptism works, what it rescues from, and what it gives.  And we will look briefly at where these benefits are shown in the Scripture in addition to the verse from Mark in the catechism, so that whenever a question arises about the benefits of Baptism, you will at least have heard that Baptism has these benefits not because I said so, or even because the catechism says so, but because God says so in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.

 

First of all, Baptism works.  What does it work?  “It works forgiveness of sins.”

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