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“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:7-8

Many deceive themselves, thinking that they can sow to the flesh — living to gratify their own sinful desires — and still reap life everlasting. They feel that they can use their time, energy and money to gratify their own selfish ambitions and yet still grow and mature spiritually and be ready for the Day of Christ’s return and judgment. How foolish!

God’s Word warns us of the fallacy of such thinking when it says: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).

God would not have us be deceived. And, God will not be mocked. If one sows weeds, he cannot expect to harvest wheat! So it is with our spiritual lives. If we sow to the flesh, we cannot expect to reap life, but corruption.

Again, the Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Thus, if we live to enjoy the pleasures of sin, we shall die. But if we sow to the Spirit of God, who has regenerated us and brought us to faith in our Savior, He will continue His gracious working in our lives through Word and Sacrament and keep us in the true faith and graciously give to us the eternal life won for us by Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead.

How do people sow to the flesh? When they live in such a way that they gratify the will and desires of their sinful nature, when they provide opportunities for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Thus people sow to the flesh when they flirt with sin and temptation and when they give in to their own evil desires. They sow to the flesh when they go places and do things that will arouse the desires of their hearts.

How do people sow to the Spirit? when they make regular use of God’s Word and His Sacraments and support the preaching of His Word (cf. v. 6) that the Spirit of God might use these means to strengthen faith in Christ Jesus and teach men to live godly lives, when they provide opportunities to do that which is God-pleasing and to follow the leading of His Spirit. Thus, people sow to the Spirit when they regularly attend church services and Bible studies, when they read the Scriptures daily and spend time in prayer, and when they seek to live according to the counsel and guidance of the Holy Ghost given to us in the Scriptures.

God will not be mocked. If we spend our time courting the pleasures of sin, if we live to carry out the sinful desires of our old evil nature, we will reap what we have sown: spiritual corruption and death!

On the other hand, if we devote ourselves to Christ and His Word and read and study the Scriptures and partake of the Sacraments that the Holy Ghost might strengthen and preserve us in the true faith, we will reap of the Spirit life eternal in Jesus Christ our Lord!

O Spirit of God, grant that we sow, not to our flesh and its evil desires, but unto Thee, that Thou might graciously grant unto us the everlasting joys of heaven for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:12-13

As the elect and chosen of God, holy and dearly loved children of God through faith in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead (cf. Gal. 3:26-27), we are called upon to put on the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.

We were baptized into Christ. All our sins and our old sinful nature were crucified on Christ’s cross. We have been raised up to new life by the gracious working (operation) of the Holy Ghost (Col. 2:10-15). We daily — through repentance and faith — put off the old sinful nature and put on the new (Col. 3:5ff.). And so we are called upon to be like Jesus in our dealings with others, and especially with our fellow believers.

We are to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

From our innermost being — from the heart — we are to be merciful and kind toward others. Why? Because we know God’s mercy and kindness toward us. Even when we were spiritually dead in our sins and living in rebellion against God, He showed mercy to us and sent His only-begotten Son to die in our stead and redeem us (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16). Even though we continually sin and come short in our lives, He shows us mercy and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood (1 John 1:7 — 2:2).

When we remember how Jesus humbled Himself, not appearing in a display of all His divine glory and power but living humbly as a man and even permitting His enemies to crucify Him that He might redeem all of fallen mankind, certainly we have every reason to live humbly and not usurp ourselves or our position over others. In the same way Jesus lived in this world as a servant to meet our needs and win our eternal salvation, so we ought to think and live as servants in this world to meet the needs of others and bring to them the message of God’s redeeming love.

Longsuffering and forbearing with one another means that we are to be patient with others and put up with their failings and shortcomings — we suffer much and long and are yet patient. And, indeed, when we consider the patience, longsuffering and forbearance of God toward us, we again have every reason to show the same longsuffering and forbearance toward others.

Again and again, each of us fails to live as God intends — we go our own way, think we know better or just neglect to listen — and yet God doesn’t cast us off or condemn us. He continues to deal with us in mercy and patience.

And, instead of holding another’s sins and misdeeds against him, we are called upon to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. And, indeed, if we consider the great debt of sin which Christ has forgiven to us — even going to the cross and shedding His holy and precious blood to pay our just penalty — what is the small debt of sin against us by others? Jesus shed His blood to redeem all and to win pardon and forgiveness for all; how can we not forgive as He has forgiven?

The Apostle Paul wrote the same things to the believers in Ephesus: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).

We must remember that it is our old sinful and fallen nature — our nature which was condemned and punished on Christ’s cross — which would have us be unmerciful, impatient, unkind, proud, haughty, quick to condemn and unforgiving. The new nature, created in us by the Holy Spirit when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, seeks to be like Christ: with “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.”

Once again, we see our own sinfulness and failures to live as God’s redeemed children and we turn to Him in faith for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the shed blood of Jesus, who died for the sins of all and rose again in victory. In Jesus, we find mercy and forgiveness. His blood cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7). And, in Jesus, we find help and strength to amend our sinful ways and to live each day for Him as God’s elect and chosen children.

Dear Jesus, forgive me for living according to my old evil and sinful nature. Wash away my sins in Your holy and precious blood and give me a heart like Yours, full of mercy, kindness, patience and forgiveness toward others. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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His Healing, Our Thanks

NKJV Luke 17:11 1 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Our text for this morning finds Jesus near the beginning of the last trip of his earthly ministry to Jerusalem. He started in Galilee and was headed south – through the land of Samaria, which wasn’t entirely friendly to Jews.

Samaria was the land directly between Galilee and Judea. Long before, it had been populated by the Jews of the Northern Kingdom, the 10 tribes that broke away in a revolt when King Solomon’s son inherited the kingdom of Israel. This began the divided kingdom, with a separate kingdom of Judah. Relations between north and south were tense, and sometimes they even fought. Meanwhile, the northern kingdom drifted further away from God’s commands and laws and was eventually overrun by the Assyrians after about 300 years, or about 700 years before Jesus was born, and about 140 years before the Jews of Judah and Benjamin were carried off to Babylon.

When the Assyrians conquered the northern tribes, they carried many of the people off, and they brought in many others – the idea was to destroy the sense of nation and identity that the people they conquered had. In this case, it was successful – the tribes lost their sense of identity and those who were left mingled with those who were brought in. These people became known in time as Samaritans.

Jesus has several interactions with Samaritans, and occasionally uses them in illustrations, and he does in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The woman at the well freely admits that Jews do not associate with (eat with or socialize with) Samaritans. This was because the Samaritans had some very peculiar religious beliefs – they had the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, but that’s all. They didn’t use the rest of the Old Testament. They did not worship in Jerusalem and weren’t particularly welcome there.

The Jews did not like the Samaritans, and it seems safe to think that the Samaritans didn’t like the Jews very much either. But shared suffering can make for some strange friendships, and it seems that it did in the case of our text.

Jesus and his disciples pass by a group of lepers. The term “leprosy”, as Scripture uses it, refers to a number of disfiguring diseases, including the disease we call leprosy today, but also including some conditions that weren’t necessarily as destructive or as contagious. But it didn’t really matter – anyone with any of the conditions that counted as “leprosy” (which are laid out in detail in Leviticus chapter 13) were considered permanently unclean and had to live apart from the rest of the people. Furthermore, sufferers of leprosy in the narrow sense (which is the disease we call Hansen’s Disease today) suffered nerve damage that could destroy their hands and feet, and make them go blind. In those days, leprosy was a death sentence.

These men must have heard something about Jesus because they address him by name (they don’t use the term “Lord” to refer to him, the use the term “master” instead, which doesn’t necessarily have the same divine overtones). They must have thought he could do something for them; and so they plead for his mercy. They show their obedience to the law by standing a ways off.

And so Jesus tells them all to go show themselves to the priests, who have the responsibility (according to Leviticus 13) of diagnosing leprosy and declaring when people are clean again – meaning that they can rejoin society and live with their families again, do work, and so on.

And so while they are on the way to the priests, they are cleansed. Just one of them realizes, turns around, and gives thanks. He knew that he was healed, so he fell at Jesus’ feet, showing that he understood the importance of what had happened to him.

And possibly the most surprising thing of all? This man was a Samaritan! We don’t know how many of the other nine might have been Samaritans, maybe none of them, but probably not all of them, since Jesus singles him out as a “foreigner.” But foreigner or not, he showed proper thanks for his healing, and he gets a special blessing from Jesus: “Your faith has saved you.”

What does this teach us today? Surely, we have much better medicine today; leprosy is still a problem, it can be readily cured. But perhaps in seeing the things that our medicine can help now that perhaps it hasn’t been able to, we see the things that it still can’t cure and think of them.

Maybe we hear about this and think, “What a bunch of jerks! What were those nine men thinking? I know I would have been thankful! I would have marched right back there and fallen at Jesus’ feet along with that Samaritan guy!” Scripture says no more about the other nine.

It’s easy for us to look down on these nine men. But when we examine ourselves, are we any better? Have we been as thankful as we could have been for all the blessings God gives us, each and every day? I know I don’t. The blessings we have in this area, in this country, are almost countless. Even in this midst of the great tragedy of this pandemic we are living through, this area has not been as badly affected as others. Many of the shortages we experienced at the beginning of the crisis have now been addressed. And are we thankful for it? Maybe we are, but even if we are, we can never be thankful enough.

We always want to make deals with God, to have God grade us on a curve, as it were, when it comes to our standing with him. We like to compare ourselves not to his perfect law, but to other people, or even to ourselves. We like to think God will be pleased with us if we act better than our neighbors, or at least if we improve on ourselves from yesterday.

But that kind of thinking is like a leprosy in our souls – it will devour our spirits and will only lead to death. Why did Jesus heal those men? Was it because they deserved healing? Were they better than their neighbors? Was it because they cried for mercy?

Jesus did not have to heal them, but he chose to. He doesn’t reveal his reasons for doing so, but he showed mercy and compassion on many such people who were suffering physically during his public ministry. And he also follows the same pattern in dealing with us spiritually today.

We like to think that we deserve God’s mercy. But we do not. We are all born with a kind of leprosy of the soul; we are born hating God and his Word. We start out blind, dead, and enemies of God. The sin we are born with corrupts our souls much as leprosy corrupts the body, and leads to spiritual death.

And yet, Jesus finds us and shows mercy on us. The lepers asked for his mercy and he showed it to them; spiritually, he shows us mercy before we can even ask for it. In most cases, he calls us to faith in Baptism, cleanses us, and creates a new and right spirit within us. It is only that spirit, which cries out in faith, that can properly thank him because it is only with that spirit that we can see how blind and dead we are without him.

But even with this new spirit, we must still carry around our old man, the old sinful nature, until Jesus takes us home to him or comes back in glory. This old man can make it really hard, when we receive something we recognize as a great blessing from God, to fall down and thank him. At least we are in good company – Saint Paul himself was in agony over the conflict he suffered because of his own sinful nature:

NKJV Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

And yet it was the same Paul who said:

NKJV Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.

And if we are tempted to think that our faith is the reason God has chosen to be gracious to us, Paul reminds us:

NKJV Eph 2:8 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The thankfulness that Jesus praised the Samaritan leper for, was one of the good works that God had prepared beforehand for him to walk in. Just as he did, we too have thanks that we can show – and many other works besides – to thank our God in Christ Jesus for the great love he has shown us in cleansing us from our spiritual leprosy.

In Jesus name, we pray, Amen.

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“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18

We are not saved by our works under the Law of God but through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again on the third day. Through the preaching of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit has brought us to trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of all and thus has justified us and given us forgiveness for all our sins and eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul wrote, earlier in his epistle to the Galatians (2:16): “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

But, as those justified by faith and regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit, we continue to walk by faith and by the power of God’s Holy Spirit and not in the power of our own sin-corrupted flesh; for, until we die and are raised up again on the Last Day, our sinful flesh continues in its rebellion against God and His Word. It does not submit to God’s will and would lead us into all sorts of sin and error.

In fact, there is a struggle going on within us right now. On the one hand, God’s Spirit, working through the Word and Sacraments, strengthens and keeps us in the faith and moves us to walk in accord with God’s perfect will which is revealed to us in His Word. But, on the other hand, the desires of our sinful flesh are contrary to God’s Word and His commandments. Our sinful flesh would lead us back into sin and disobedience to God and bring about our eternal ruin (cf. Gal. 5:17ff.; Rom. 6:23).

And look at God’s warning: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). Indeed, to walk according to the desires of the flesh takes us right back into sin and the condemnation of God’s holy Law.

Rather, we who have come to faith in Christ by the Spirit’s gracious working through Word and Sacrament cannot continue in the power of our flesh but need to continue in the Spirit, making use of God’s Word and the Sacraments that the Holy Spirit might move us to continue in daily contrition and repentance and then preserve and strengthen our faith in the redemption accomplished for us by Christ Jesus when He fulfilled all righteousness for us and suffered and died on the cross to atone for our sins and failures to keep God’s commandments.

And, when we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law and its condemnation. We have been redeemed from its curse and have God’s pardon, forgiveness and eternal life (Gal. 3:10,13).

And the Holy Spirit, working through God’s means, produces in us the fruits of faith — “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24-25).

O gracious and merciful God, by Your Holy Spirit, grant that we hold fast to the promises of the Gospel and receive Your pardon and forgiveness for the sake of Your Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And grant that we do not walk in accord with our old sinful flesh but in the power of Your Spirit’s working in us through Word and Sacrament. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Hebrews 11:7 (Read Genesis 6-9)

When the number of people grew upon the earth, so also did the wickedness and rebellion against the LORD God. The believers (sons of God) intermarried with unbelievers (daughters of men) and the result was more and more people who did not walk in the ways of the LORD but followed after the imaginations of their own hearts – after their own evil thoughts and desires.

Genesis 6 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth Me than I have made them” (v. 5ff.).

The account continues, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD … Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (v. 8ff.).

God told Noah, in days when the earth was yet watered by a mist (Gen. 2:6), that He would send rains and a flood upon the earth to destroy man and beast. And God commanded Noah to build an ark to save himself, his family and two of every kind of animal from the coming flood (Gen. 6:14ff.).

Even though a flood like that of which God warned was unheard of in Noah’s day, Noah believed the LORD and prepared an ark, warning others around him to repent of their wickedness and turn back to the LORD. By so doing, Noah forsook the present world and became an heir of the righteousness of God which is by faith.

Similarly, God calls upon all mankind today to repent and return to Him, warning that “the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7). God will once again judge this world and all mankind. As He was, at the time of the flood, forced to destroy those who would not repent and turn to Him for mercy, so He will soon condemn all who reject Him and the salvation He offers in the cross of Jesus. This present world and all of man’s evil works will be burned up on that day when Jesus Christ returns.

Those who heed God’s warning and repent, trusting in Christ Jesus and His shed blood for forgiveness and life, forsake this present world and look forward to another in which there will be everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. They are forgiven and accounted righteous by faith in Jesus and walk in fellowship with the Almighty God by that faith and confidence in Jesus and His sacrifice for the sins of the world.

God’s judgment is coming. He is being patient with us, not desiring that any perish, “but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). He calls us to turn from our evil ways, trusting that in Jesus we have forgiveness and in Jesus we have life everlasting.

O dearest Jesus, Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, forgive us and grant us a place in your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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