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“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:5-6

How should we, as Christians, conduct ourselves in our dealings with those outside Christ’s church in this world? This the Apostle Paul answers in the closing words of his instruction to the believers at the church in Colosse: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

We, as believers ought to live our lives wisely in regard to those outside Christ’s church, redeeming the time and making use of every opportunity God gives to make known to them the truth revealed to us by God in His Word.

We may not realize it, but how we live and conduct our business here in this world can either make one want to know more of our faith or make one want nothing to do with it. Sometimes an uncharitable word is all it takes to close the door to further witness. Thus, how important it is to be charitable and honest in all our dealings with those not only inside but also outside the church!

We ought to buy back the time commonly given to evil or frivolity and make use of every moment God gives us to share the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

Our speech should be “always with grace,” reflecting the grace of God toward us in Christ Jesus. When we remember how much the Lord has forgiven us and to what lengths He went to bring about our salvation — even going to the cross and suffering and dying for our sins — should it be any trouble for us to speak kindly even to our enemies and to those who have mistreated us?

Being “seasoned with salt” means our conversations with those outside the church should neither be continual preaching against them nor only kind words devoid of any rebuke of the law and comfort of the Gospel. The Christian must wisely and consistently share the truth at every opportunity but use care not to drive away the unbeliever by too much preaching. We must not try to coerce people into the kingdom of God but, rather, share with them the truth and let the Holy Spirit convince hearts. Our role involves interspersing God’s truth in our conversations so as to raise awareness of the truth and draw interest in it, making it possible to continue to share the admonitions of the law and the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus.

The way in which we converse with those outside Christ’s church may be different with each person, making it so important that our speech be always with grace and properly seasoned with salt so that we, in the right way, give an answer to every person. For this, we most certainly need the wisdom and direction of God’s Spirit in our daily lives and conversations.

But what if we have been less than honest and charitable in our dealings with those outside the church? What if, instead of being motivated by God’s grace toward us, we have dealt with someone from the selfishness and wickedness of our old sinful nature? What can we do?

There is no better way than to honestly admit our sins and misdeeds to the Lord Jesus and to those — even outside of Christ’s church — whom we have offended.

We know from God’s Word that God graciously forgives us for the sake of Christ’s blood, shed for us upon the cross, when we repent and look to Him in faith. And, when we admit our sins and failures and forgive the sins and failures of others, what better witness to our belief in the true righteousness of God and in our total dependence upon His grace and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake!

We do not proclaim ourselves righteous and holy and the world sinful. We share and proclaim that we all have sinned and come short of God’s righteousness but that with God there is mercy and forgiveness for Jesus’ sake — imputed righteousness through faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 3:23ff.)! The Gospel we share is the good news that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom we are chief (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15-16). And, if God shows mercy to me when I look to Jesus in faith, He can and will show mercy to you as well when you repent of your sins and trust in Christ Jesus, your Savior!

O Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom in my dealings with those who do not yet know and trust in Christ Jesus, that my speech may reflect Your grace and that I might wisely use the time and opportunities given me to share the good news of God’s mercy toward sinners for Jesus’ sake. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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The crowds that went before Him and that followed Him cried out: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

Dear Christian Friends,

Today marks the beginning of a new church year, and the new church season – Advent. Advent is a penitential season. During Lent, we think about Jesus’ suffering and death. During Advent, we prepare for the celebration of his incarnation and birth, but we also think about how Jesus will return again in glory to judge the living and the dead – to take us to be with him forever, freed from this sinful vale of tears.

And so the first Sunday of Advent, we focus on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus’ disciples saw his approach to Jerusalem and clearly had mixed feelings about it. The disciples knew what awaited Jesus there, for he told them openly and plainly what to expect – Matthew tells us earlier (in chapter 16) about this. Peter even rebukes Jesus for saying that such things would happen to him; Jesus responds, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). When Jesus goes to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead, Thomas says, “Let us go also, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16). The disciples seem to be ranging from actively opposing going to Jerusalem with Jesus, to being resigned to going along and seeing what happens, though not expecting it to be good.

But regardless of their feelings, the disciples follow Jesus to Jerusalem. For much of his ministry, Jesus had not sought attention but had gathered large crowds anyway. In some cases, he even told his disciples not to publicize what Jesus had done.

But now the time had finally come to reveal himself, to announce his presence in the most public way possible when the city of Jerusalem would be filled to capacity with not only the normal inhabitants of Jerusalem but also all of those who had traveled to eat the Passover in Jerusalem.

In this environment, Jesus chooses to fulfill prophecy by entering Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey. This is clearly a reference to this prophecy of Zechariah (9):

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! And cry aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king is coming to you; he is righteous and able to deliver, he is humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the offspring of a donkey.

This has always been understood as a Messianic prophecy. Even the Jews of today, who deny that Jesus is the promised Messiah, have an expression “Messiah’s donkey” which refers to someone who does the dirty work for someone else. To ride a colt into Jerusalem, in particular, is to claim ownership and fulfillment of this prophecy, which is exactly what Jesus was doing.

And it is clear also from the text that this is exactly what the people of Jerusalem understood him to be doing. A large crowd gathers and spreads their garments in front of him; and some cut palm branches down to spread before him. They sing the song that is the focus of our text for today, which echoes the prophecy – the expression “able to deliver” is from the same base word as “Hosanna.”

There is a separate prophecy in Psalm 118 which explicitly uses the term Hosanna in Hebrew, specifically in verse 25:
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
23 This is what the Lord has done; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we ask You, O Lord; O Lord, we ask You, send now success.

The “Save us” here is literally “Hosanna” in Hebrew. And this song, which the people of Jerusalem sing to welcome Jesus into the city as they prepare to celebrate Passover, is clearly blending these two prophecies and confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior. He is Righteous and able to Save!

And that was the same crowd that called for Jesus’ execution later that same week.

Maybe the crowds were wishing for a different kind of salvation. Maybe the salvation they wanted was from Rome, and not from their sins?

It is entirely too easy to let the things of this world blind us to spiritual realities. We have just finished what I hope will be the most contentious election cycle in my lifetime in the United States. We pray for and support our national government, whether we agree with all of its policies or not; whether we agree with or admire its head or not. And after centuries of pagan occupation and dominance, it is easy to see how the Jews might have been yearning for independence.

But political independence, freedom, and even the democracy that we cherish so much in the United States are not what Jesus promises. We may enjoy those things, and largely, today we do. But what Jesus claimed by riding into Jerusalem that day on a colt is much more significant and powerful for us.

We have such a hard time seeing it because of the problem itself – and that problem is sin. Ever since Adam and Eve first rebelled in the garden of Eden, we have been subject to the curse of sin. It infects everything around us, including and especially us. It taints what we see and how we see it – it makes us subject to illness and disease and death. And we are not mere observers or victims – we ourselves have participated in this rebellion against God and his Law.

The Law tells us to honor God above all things, but do we? We can have a hard time focusing on Him and His Word for a couple of hours in a week. God’s Law tells us not to disobey the authorities, and do we obey? Maybe, reluctantly, we do. And do we look for loopholes? Do we try to use the system against itself for our own advantage? God’s Law says that we should be content with what we have, but it seems like all the voices around us tell us we need more, we must have more, no matter what it is or how much we already have.

These things are all sins – and God’s Law demands justice, and payment for them. Of course, God’s Law tells us that if we obey it perfectly, we have nothing to fear. All it requires of us is perfect obedience – yet fail in just one point, and it is the same as if we had broken all of it.

And broken it we have. As John wrote, 1 John 1: 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

So, we have sinned. And this, ultimately, is the thing that we cry “Hosanna!” for – we are praying to Jesus to fulfill his promise and take away our sins. He knew, of course, since before the beginning of the world, that we would be unable to earn our way back into God’s good graces. He knew that if it were all up to us, we would come up far short, as we do. We need righteousness, and there is none of us that have the perfect righteousness that is needed to stand before God’s throne of judgment on our own.

And yet, Zechariah’s prophecy says that the King, the Son of David, would be full of righteousness. How is this possible? This Son of David must be God himself, in human flesh, as was prophesied by Isaiah, and also by David himself. The name of the Messiah, “Immanuel”, is “God with us.” David prophesied of his Son, who would be his Lord. And how could David call his son Lord? Only if his son was to also be the Son of God himself.

How can any of this be? We have all heard this repeated so many times, that may be the sheer wonder of it fades a little. These things are not remotely possible, based on the rules of human logic. It is not possible for God and Man to be one person. We do not understand how a single person can be really and truly God, as well as really and truly Man. And yet this is what we believe, and what Scripture tells us, Jesus was and is. And this is why he comes “in the name of the Lord.” And more importantly, this is exactly why, Scripture tells us, Jesus had to be that so that he could save us, and all other people who believe in him, from the guilt of their sins. Paul sums it up very eloquently in his letter to the Galatians 4:4 “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

It is this Hosanna that we sing as we prepare for Holy Communion, as well. He knows our weakness and frailty, and so he has given us a very real and tangible reminder of who and what he is, and what we need from him – his Supper, where we really and truly receive his true body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

We sing that Hosanna at the beginning of the communion service, before the consecration, because it reminds us of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem in so many ways – he entered Jerusalem humbly, on a colt, not on the back of a warhorse as a conqueror. He was entering Jerusalem not to conquer it by force, but to lay down his life for us as a sacrifice for our sins. He comes to us the same way in Communion – in love and compassion, offering the full and free forgiveness that he won for us.

As we approach his altar today, let us remember who he is – the Son of David and Son of God, and ask him to remember his promises to us as we entreat him to Save Us – Hosanna! Blessed is He, who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Amen.

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Remember Your mercies, O Lord, and Your lovingkindness, for they are from old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, on account of Your goodness, O Lord. Psalm 25:6-7

Ad Te Levavi is the traditional name for the first Sunday in Advent. It is the Latin title for the introit of the day, from Psalm 25:1: “To You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”

As we prepare for Christ’s second advent — His triumphal entry into this world as eternal King and Judge — we lift up our souls to the LORD and pray that He would remember and look upon us in His mercy and not according to our sinfulness under His law.

We pray that the LORD God (Jehovah God) would remember His tender mercies and His lovingkindness which He promised from of old — to Adam and Eve in the Garden, to Abraham, to David, and to all the Old Testament saints (cf. Gen. 3:15; 22:18; Ps. 51; Isa. 53; 55:1ff.).

If the LORD were to deal with us according to our sins, none of us could stand in His judgment. We would all be condemned to the everlasting torments of hell because of our sinful hearts and our sinful thoughts, desires, words, and actions (cf. Psalm 130:3ff.; Matt. 15:19; Rom. 3:9ff.; Gal. 3:10).

As sinners, condemned by God’s holy law, we flee in faith to the grace and mercy of God for the sake of His Son, the Lamb of God who made atonement for the sins of the world (John. 1:29; 1 John 1:8 – 2:2; Rom. 3:19-26). We pray: “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, on account of Your goodness, O Lord.”

And, because Jesus Christ died for all our sins and rose again on the third day, those who look in faith to Christ and His cross for mercy are pardoned, forgiven, justified, and accepted of God (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 1:6-7; Gal. 3:13, 26-27); they have a place in His everlasting kingdom (John 3:14-16; Mark 16:16; Rom. 5:1-10,17).

Jesus Christ is coming again! Though He entered into Jerusalem, the center of the Old Testament church, humbly and riding on a donkey nearly 2,000 years ago with some hailing Him as the promised Messiah and King and others rejecting Him, He now is coming as King of kings and Lord of lords and every knee shall bow (cf. Phil 2:9-11; Rev. 19:11-16). He will judge the living and the dead.

How do you wish to be remembered on that Day? According to your sins and many transgressions, or according to His mercy for the sake of Christ’s blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of all?

“To You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”

O LORD God, our gracious Savior, do not deal with us according to our sins as we justly deserve under Your holy law but deal with us in Your mercy and lovingkindness for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, Your dear Son and our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
and to sing praises unto Your name, O Most High:
to declare forth Your lovingkindness in the morning
and Your faithfulness in the night,
on a ten-stringed lute and on the harp,
and on the lyre with a solemn sound.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will sing joyfully at the works of Your hands.
O LORD, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep!
A brutish man does not recognize,
neither does the fool understand this.
Though the wicked spring up as the grass
and all those who do iniquity flourish,
they shall be destroyed forever:
But You, O LORD, are on high forever.
For Your enemies, O LORD,
for Your enemies shall perish;
all those who do iniquity shall be scattered.
But my horn You have exalted like the horn of the wild ox;
You have anointed me with fresh oil.
My eyes also shall see the downfall of my enemies,
and my ears shall hear the doom of my wicked adversaries.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
they shall be filled with vitality and foliage,
to show that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

[Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“They read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Then Nehemiah the magistrate, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were teaching the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God. Stop mourning and weeping.’ (This was because all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law.) Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Hush! Because today is holy you should stop being so sorrowful.’ Then all the people went to eat, to drink, to send portions, and to enjoy a great celebration because they had understood the words declared to them.” Nehemiah 8:8-12

When we read and hear the words of our God and understand His holy Law, we have much over which to grieve and mourn for we as individuals and as a nation have all sinned against God and failed to live up to His perfect and holy will (cf. Rom. 3:9-23; Gal. 3:10).

The people of Israel, too, began to grieve and mourn when they heard the words of God’s Law and realized their sin against their God and Maker. Yet, because this day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, was a holy day unto the LORD, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites told the people not to weep and mourn, but to eat, drink and rejoice in the LORD as He had commanded (cf. Deut. 16:13-15).

While we might, as we consider the Word of the LORD and gain understanding, grieve and mourn over our many sins against God — over our many failures to keep God and His Word first and foremost in our lives, over our failures to live according to God’s commandments and to love others as we should and consider their needs before our own — yet we have so much for which to rejoice and give thanks.

We can give thanks and rejoice that our God so loved us that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die on the cross for us and redeem us from all our sins and iniquities (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Gal. 3:13).

We can give thanks for the great privilege of gathering in His name, hearing His life-giving Word, and offering to Him our worship and praise.

And we can rejoice in the LORD and give thanks to Him for creating us, caring for us and blessing our labors.

We are to weep and lament over our sins and not take them lightly; but we also have reason to rejoice in the LORD, taking hold of His promises of mercy and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Phil. 4:4). Remember: “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, though we could weep and mourn over our sins, let us rejoice and be glad in the LORD and His abundant mercy toward us in Christ Jesus! Let us offer up praise and thanksgiving unto Him with rejoicing! Let us bless the LORD and forget not all His benefits toward us (cf. Ps. 103)!

Remember that the Bible says: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises unto Your name, O Most High …” (Ps. 92:1; cf. 1-4; Neh. 8:8-12).

O LORD God, we have sinned greatly against You and Your holy Law — we have failed to live up to Your holy commandments. Forgive us for the sake of Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead and grant us joy this day in Your grace and mercy and move us to offer up to You praise and thanksgiving for all Your blessings. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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