“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12
By nature after the fall, all of our hearts are full of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). Instead of loving the LORD and desiring to do His holy will, our thoughts, as a result of our fallen and sinful nature, are “only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
As Christians, who trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for salvation, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and gives us love for God and holy thoughts and desires. As the Bible says, we are “washed … sanctified … and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Our “body is the temple of the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 6 19).
Yet in this world, we are still sinners. Like David, we need to acknowledge our sins, turn to the LORD for His grace and forgiveness, and pray that God would create “a clean heart” and “renew a right spirit” within us.
When we consider how we continue to come short and fail to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit through the Word, we deserve to be cast away from the presence of the LORD and have His Holy Spirit taken from us. How we grieve God’s Spirit when we go our own way and sin rather than give heed to the admonition and warning of God’s Word (cf. Eph. 4:30)! With David, we all have reason to pray, “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”
When we turn aside from following the Holy Spirit – when we turn into sin and evil – the joy which comes from being an heir of salvation and walking with the Lord is overshadowed by guilt and despair. We feel God’s wrath upon us. We know that we have failed again and are deserving of His everlasting punishment (cf. Ps. 32:3-4; 51:3-5).
But, like David, we look to the LORD God for mercy, acknowledging our sins and failures to the LORD and turning to Him for pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the Son, Jesus Christ, and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead.
We pray with David in Psalm 51:1-9: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.”
And, we also pray with David: “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.”
Only God’s Spirit can restore in us that joy of knowing that in Jesus we have forgiveness for all our sins and eternal salvation! Only the Holy Spirit can uphold us and keep us in the true and saving faith!
Let us then pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]
Prepared by Dr. Martin Luther for those who intend to go to the Sacrament
[The “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” designating Luther as the author, first appeared in an edition of the Small Catechism in 1551, five years after Luther’s death].
After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the pastor may ask, or Christians may ask themselves these questions:
1. Do you believe that you are a sinner? Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.
2. How do you know this? From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.
3. Are you sorry for your sins? Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God.
4. What have you deserved from God because of your sins? His wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation. See Romans 6:21,23.
5. Do you hope to be saved? Yes, that is my hope.
6. In whom then do you trust? In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Who is Christ? The Son of God, true God and man.
8. How many Gods are there? Only one, but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
9. What has Christ done for you that you trust in Him? He died for me and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.
10. Did the Father also die for you? He did not. The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed his blood for me.
11. How do you know this? From the holy Gospel, from the words instituting the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament.
12. What are the Words of Institution? Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
13. Do you believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament? Yes, I believe it.
14. What convinces you to believe this? The word of Christ: Take, eat, this is My body; drink of it, all of you, this is My blood.
15. What should we do when we eat His body and drink His blood, and in this way receive His pledge? We should remember and proclaim His death and the shedding of His blood, as He taught us: This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
16. Why should we remember and proclaim His death? First, so that we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that. Second, so we may learn to be horrified by our sins and to regard them as very serious. Third, so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.
17. What motivated Christ to die and make full payment for your sins? His great love for His Father and for me and other sinners, as it is written in John 14; Romans 5; Galatians 2 and Ephesians 5.
18. Finally, why do you wish to go to the Sacrament? That I may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for my sin, and also learn from Him to love God and my neighbor.
19. What should admonish and encourage a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently? First, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord. Second, his own pressing need, because of which the command, encouragement, and promise are given.
20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament? To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and in 1 John 2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.
These questions and answers are no child’s play but are drawn up with great earnestness of purpose by the venerable and devout Dr. Luther for both young and old. Let each one pay attention and consider it a serious matter; for St. Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter six: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.”
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2
When Moses reminded God’s people of all that God had revealed to them and commanded them, he added this warning not to add to or take away from the word which he had commanded.
Many would diminish the teaching and commandments given to us by the LORD God by denying or explaining away the clear and plain words of Scripture and somehow saying those words do not apply to us today. Preachers have denied the historical accuracy of the creation account, denied sin, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus and His bodily resurrection on the third day. Some explain away the clear pronouncements of God against sins which have become culturally acceptable with the argument that the commandments were culturally relative to a different time and place and do not apply to mankind today.
Clearly, diminishing from God’s Word is prohibited by God. Look at Jesus’ own words: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
But harder for us to recognize are those instances in which we seek to infuse our own thinking and add our own applications into the words of Scripture. Notice that God’s Word here warns against adding to the words of Scripture before it mentions diminishing from it. Perhaps that’s because we are prone to add to what God says (cf. Genesis 2:16 and 3:3).
Jesus encountered it in during His ministry. He was accused of sin for healing on the Sabbath (cf. Matthew 12:10ff.). His disciples were condemned for breaking the Sabbath when they were walking through the grainfields on the Sabbath Day and picked, hulled and ate some of the grain (cf. Matthew 12:1ff.). The Pharisees and scribes excused themselves from honoring their parents in old age as required in God’s commandment by dedicating their property to God upon death and saying they could not use it to help their parents because it is dedicated to God (Mark 7:6-13).
And Jesus had harsh words of judgment for the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24; read chapter 23).
Not only do we need to use great care not to diminish or take away any word or command of the LORD; we need to be careful not to add to God’s words and commands with our own interpretations and applications. And, as the scribes and Pharisees were zealous to follow every tradition passed down to them by the elders, we need to exercise care that we do not do the same things by demanding obedience to the doctrinal applications of our fathers in cases where those applications are not commanded of God in the Scriptures.
To take away from the Scriptures often leads to minimalizing sin and reducing the atonement accomplished by Christ Jesus to an example of love for us to follow. To add to the teaching of Scripture can lead to condemning those who trust in Christ alone for forgiveness and life and who, as a fruit of faith, seek to live in accord with God’s Word. Both are dangerous and damaging to souls for whom Christ shed His holy and precious blood.
Rather, we should teach exactly what Jesus has commanded us to teach, neither adding to it or diminishing from it, that souls be moved to repent of their sins and look to Christ and His cross for pardon and forgiveness. Woe to us if we destroy souls redeemed by the blood of Christ by adding to or taking away from Scripture!
O God, grant that we neither add to Your words nor take away from them, but hold fast to the truth You have revealed to us that we may repent of our sins and look to You and receive pardon and forgiveness through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to redeem us. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]
Why do I believe in Jesus? Why do I follow after Him and read His Word? My answer is quite simple. I believe in Jesus because I am a sinner and because Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
I am a sinner – there’s no doubt about that! I haven’t kept all of God’s commandments perfectly as He demands. I haven’t loved God with all my heart, soul, and mind; and I haven’t loved my neighbor as much as I have loved myself. I haven’t always put God first in my life, and I haven’t always used God’s name in an honorable way or eagerly listened to God’s Word. I’ve disobeyed my parents. I’ve hated and spoken evil of others rather than loving and helping them in their needs. I’ve had evil thoughts and desires, and I’ve desired things which were not mine to have.
God’s Word is right when it says of me: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”; and, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23, 6:23a). I know that I am a sinner and, in God’s judgment, deserve to be condemned to eternal punishment in hell for my sins!
So, why do I believe in Jesus? Because He came into the world to save sinners!
The Bible says: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). All of us are sinners, and God provided a way for sinners like me to be saved when He sent His only begotten Son into the world as a true man to keep His commandments for us and then to die on the cross and bear the punishment for all our sins.
Again, the Bible says that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures … He was buried … He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4); and that “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2).
I believe in Jesus because God has forgiven all my sins and made me, a sinner, acceptable in His sight through faith in Jesus.
The Bible says: “He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 7).
Because of Jesus’ life and death for me, I know that God will not condemn me to eternal suffering in hell for my sins, but will, instead, grant me a place with Him in heaven!
Jesus Himself says: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
When I stand before God in His great judgment on the Last Day, I need not be afraid. Though a sinner, Jesus shed His blood for me! His cleansing blood will be my only plea!
I pray that you too will believe in Jesus, for He came into the world to save sinners like you and me!
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]
Author Pastor Randy Moll