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“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

God commanded His people to listen carefully and hold fast to this truth. The God of Israel was different than the many false gods of the peoples around them. “Jehovah (or Yahweh) our God, Jehovah is one!” The God of Israel — the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. Psalm 2; Isa. 48:16ff.; Matt. 28:19; John 1) — is one God. He is the Triune (three/one) God.

Though any who reject the truth that Jehovah God — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is one Jehovah do not know and worship the true God, we (by the grace of God) know Him — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is, in part, through the answer of believers like Athanasius and the early creeds of the Church (the Creed of Nicea and the Nicene Creed, as well as the later Athanasian Creed) to the errors of Origen, Arius and others who denied the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit or confused the two natures in Christ or misunderstood His person. And, of course, some of those same ancient heresies still trouble the Church today due to false teachers who have fallen into similar errors.

But to just know and profess that God is one comes far short of what God requires of us. It is not enough to just profess to believe that the true God is the Triune God. In James 2:19, we read: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!”

God would have us trust in Him for our salvation. Jesus said in His high priestly prayer: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). He told his Jewish hearers, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins”; and He then told them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:24, 58) — identifying Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3). Jesus called upon all to trust in Him and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for salvation and pointed out that apart from Him there is no salvation (John 3:16-18; 14:6).

Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah God in the flesh (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:30ff.; 2:10-11; John 8:58; Heb. 1; etc.), so loved us that He went to the cross and died for our sins (cf. Rom. 5:8; Rev. 1:5). He paid in full that we might have pardon and forgiveness, and He rose again in victory!

To worship and believe in the Triune God, Jehovah God of the Bible, is to trust in Him for our life and salvation. And then, as a fruit of our faith, it is to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. It is to treasure His Word in our hearts and to keep His Word continually before our eyes. It is to speak of Him to our children when we sit in the house, when we walk (or drive) down the road, when we lie down and when we rise up (vv. 5-9; cf. Matt. 22:37; Col. 3:16; Psalm 119:11; Eph. 6:4).

The Bible tells us that “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

Jesus redeemed us with His holy and precious blood that we might now trust in Him, love Him and serve Him with all our heart, soul and might. And, He also dwells in us by His Spirit and strengthens us that we might truly worship and serve Jehovah God — the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the one Jehovah, forgive us for our failures to love You, keep Your Word before our eyes continually, and teach our children of You and the salvation You have provided for us in the Son. For the sake of Jesus’ holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead, pardon our iniquity and sin, and strengthen us that we might live our lives for You. Amen.

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

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In Lamentations 3, we read these words: “Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord; let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned” (39-42).

When we, by our own sinfulness, bring God’s judgments upon us — whether it be financial difficulties, marital problems, health issues, etc. — we are so often quick to grumble and complain against the Lord as though we are undeserving of the troubles which have come upon us.

But why should we complain? What would we receive of the Lord if He dealt with us as we deserve on account of our sins?

Earlier in the chapter, Jeremiah wrote: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (v. 22-23).

It is for this reason that Jeremiah saw the horrific judgments which fell upon God’s people in Judah and Jerusalem (including upon himself) not as unfairness and injustice on the part of God, for they certainly deserved worse. He saw them as God calling them to examine their ways and turn back to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness!

These same words have an application to us today. Rather than complain when trouble comes and things do not go our way, why not remember that the Lord is being merciful to us — not dealing with us as we deserve on account of our sins but calling us to examine our ways, repent of our sins and return to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness!

Remember that it is “through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (v. 22).

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, don’t be angry at God because of your shortcomings. Acknowledge your sin and unworthiness and look to God to show you mercy for the sake of Christ Jesus and His cross?

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

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Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39

How is it that one can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? How can one “not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:18-20)?

Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, gives to us the answer: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

To be filled and led by the Spirit of God does not require any great spiritual work on our part. It does not require a specific prayer or a holy and sinless life before the Holy Spirit enters into us.

Through the good news of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world, God graciously calls us sinners to turn from our sins to Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. 2 Thess. 2:13-14). The Holy Spirit reveals our sinfulness and utter failure to live up to the demands of the perfect Law of God (cf. John 16:7-11; Rom. 3:9-20,23); but then the Holy Spirit comforts us with the assurance that atonement has been made for our sins in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again, and that we are forgiven and counted righteous by God through faith in Jesus’ name (cf. Rom. 3:24-26; Psalm 32:1ff.; 51:1ff.).

When, by the grace of God, we believe this and trust in Christ as our Savior, being baptized into His name and according to His command for the remission of our sins (Matt. 28:19), we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He takes up residence in our hearts, teaches us of Jesus from God’s Word and strengthens and keeps us in the true and saving faith (cf. John 14:16-18, 23-28; 16:13-15).

And He who has “begun a good work” in us will dwell in us and “complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, our risen and ascended Savior, we thank You for granting to us the gift of the Holy Spirit — for bringing us to turn from our sins to You for forgiveness, being baptized in Your name, and for dwelling in us by Your Spirit that we might be kept and preserved in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. For the sake of Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead, and Your glorious resurrection, we pray. Amen.

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

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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.

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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.]

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