Posted

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

I think we are all aware of this account told by Jesus. It was directed toward those who were confident in their own works and righteousness and is certainly fitting for all of us to consider.

We could say that the Pharisee thought he was righteous but wasn’t. The tax collector, on the other hand, knew he was a sinner but was counted righteous and acceptable before God. How could this be?

Outwardly, the Pharisee may have appeared to be righteous. As he said, he fasted twice a week, he gave a tenth of all that he had to his church; and he wasn’t an extortioner, unfair in his dealings, an adulterer, or a traitor and thief like tax collectors. But, did He love the LORD God with all his heart, soul and mind? Did he love his neighbor — even tax collectors — as much as he loved himself?

Isaiah wrote: “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Even our best works are tainted with sin and unclean before the righteous and holy God! Our motives are less than holy and pure, and what we do is not done out of repect, love and trust in the LORD God. And, if we say or think we are not guilty of sin, the Bible tells us that we are deceiving ourselves, “and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). When we think that we are just and righteous before God by our own works and lives, we are not justified before God — we are guilty and stand condemned by God’s law!

What about the tax collector. He didn’t measure up to the demands of God’s law, either. He was a sinner, guilty before God, and he knew it. What did he do? Did he try to appease God’s anger by his works? What does the Bible say?

“The tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” He confessed before God his sin and unworthiness and received in faith God’s pardon and forgiveness! As Jesus said, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What does all this have to do with you? How do you come before God? Are you self-righteous and proud, depending upon all your good works? Or, are you humble and honest, acknowledging your sins and unworthiness and appealing to God to have mercy upon you and forgive you for the sake of Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross?

Again, the Bible tells us: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). And how can God forgive us sinners when we acknowledge our sins and look to Him for mercy? “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world,” (1 John 2:1,2).

As you prepare for worship and the reception of Christ’s body and blood, given and shed for you for the remission of sins, how do you come? Self-righteous and proud, confident in your works? Or humble and penitent, acknowledging your sins and unworthiness but looking to God to show you mercy for the sake of Christ Jesus and His cross?

Those who humble themselves, confess their sinfulness and look to Christ in faith will go to their house justified and forgiven! God grant that to you for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Author
Categories

Posted

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11 (Read 1-11)

This Word of God, which was spoken by angels to the disciples who had just witnessed Jesus’ ascension into heaven, teaches us that Jesus Christ will return visibly in the clouds of glory on the Last Day. The Bible says: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7).

As Jesus ascended into heaven, so He shall also return on the Last Day, the Day of Judgment. He will come again in clouds of glory. Every eye will see Him! His return will be no secret rapture — both the believer and the unbeliever will see Him coming in glory!

But, are you ready for His return and judgment? Are you prepared to meet Him?

Those who do not trust in Him for salvation will wail in sorrow at His return because they stand condemned for not trusting in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). But those who do trust in Him as their Savior — believing that they have pardon for their sins and peace with God for the sake of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death in their stead — will rejoice at His return because He comes to take them to be with Him forever in the mansions of heaven (cf. Luke 21:27-28; Heb. 9:27-28; John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Do you acknowledge your sins and look to Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness? If not, the day of His return will be a day of sorrow and mourning as you face His eternal judgment and condemnation!

If you agree with God about your sins and trust in Christ and the atonement He made for the sins of the world when He died on the cross, that day will be a day of joy and gladness as you receive His mercy, pardon, and life eternal in His glorious kingdom!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, as You have ascended up into heaven to the right hand of God the Father, so come again and take us to be with You forever. Graciously keep us in the true faith so that, on that Day, we may greet You with joy and not with sorrow. Grant this unto us for the sake of Your holy life and bitter sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Author
Categories

Posted

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

Jesus’ disciples were troubled over His words that He was about to go from them to a place where they could not yet come (cf. John 13:33, 36). Jesus spoke words of comfort to them, telling them of the many mansions (dwelling places) in the house of His Father in heaven. Jesus was going to prepare a place for them, and He would come again and take them to be with Him forever in heaven.

To prepare a place for His followers to be with Him in heaven, Jesus had to go to the cross, suffer and die for the sins of the world, and then rise again and ascend to the right hand of God the Father (cf. Luke 24:46-47). From there (this exalted position of power and authority), He rules and fills all things for the good of His church; He intercedes for believers and leads and guides them by His Spirit (cf. Eph. 1:20-23; Rom. 8:34; John 14:16-18,26). Jesus continues to work for our eternal salvation; and He is preparing a place for us, that we might be with Him in the mansions of His Father’s house.

And Jesus will come again and take us to be with Him where He is! When He comes to judge this evil world, He will gather up all who have trusted in His name and take them to be with Him forever in heaven!

The Scriptures say: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).

O dearest Jesus, cleanse away our sins with Your shed blood and prepare us to meet You on that glorious day when You come again to gather up Your elect and take them to be with You forever in heaven. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Author
Categories

Posted

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19

Who is a God like our God? Though He carries out judgments against His own people when they turn aside from His ways and disobey His commandments, “He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.”

Our God delights in mercy. He would rather deal with us in His mercy for the sake of Christ Jesus and his innocent sufferings and death on the cross than to deal with us in His just wrath which we merit under His holy law. And though He chastises us because of our sins, His desire is that we repent of our sins and look to Him for mercy in Jesus Christ.

God tells us, in His Word, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11). He tells us that He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

For you and me, this means that God desires to deal with us in mercy rather than in wrath. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to fulfill the demands of the law for us and then to suffer and die on the cross to make atonement for the sins of all — God did this that He might deal with us in mercy. As Micah writes, He subdued our iniquities through the shed blood of His Son.

If we continue on in our sinful ways and do not repent and turn to Him for mercy in the cross of Christ Jesus, He will (and must) deal with us in his wrath. But, if we repent of our sins and look to Him for mercy in the atoning blood of Jesus, He casts our sins into the depths of the sea to be remembered against us no more.

God’s Word assures us that when we confess our sins and look to Christ Jesus and His cross for mercy, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:7 — 2:2). And when He forgives our sins, He also accepts us as His own dear children and gives to us the blessings of life eternal in Christ’s heavenly kingdom (cf. Eph. 1:6ff.).

I, therefore, ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you have sinned? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment?

Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? That He fulfilled the law’s righteous demands and then took your sins upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and suffered your just punishment when He died upon the cross?

Do you also believe that Jesus, in the Sacrament, gives you to partake of His body and blood which was given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you?

As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word?

If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Author
Categories