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“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:3-4

The apostle Paul had a sincere desire that his people, the people of Israel, would be saved. He prayed that they too would repent and place their hope and confidence in Messiah Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world.

Paul wrote (Romans 10:2-3): “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Why were so many of his fellow Jews not saved? Because they did not know of God’s imputed righteousness for Christ’s sake and sought their own righteousness based upon their obedience to the law. In fact, in their zealous efforts to keep all of God’s commandments and be acceptable to God by their own works, they rejected the perfect righteousness of their Messiah and Savior and failed to place their hope and trust in Jesus, crucified for their sins and risen again in glory.

And this remains an obstacle for so many today, whether Jew or Gentile. People seek to be acceptable to God by their own works and lives and hope they have done enough that God will be satisfied and admit them into the joys of heaven.

What the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob failed to understand in Paul’s day, and what so many fail to grasp today, is that none of us measure up to God’s standard.

Moses wrote of God’s standard in Leviticus 18:5: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” The problem is that none of us has kept all of God’s commandments and judgments, and the Scriptures also say: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26); “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); and, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).

Though none of us measure up, Jesus did. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and suffered the just punishment for the sins of all, rising again in victory, God’s righteousness – the only righteousness which avails before Him – is a perfect and imputed righteousness received through faith in Messiah Jesus. Cf. Romans 1:16-17; 3:9-26.

Indeed Christ Jesus is the end – the fulfillment (telos) – of the law for righteousness to all who believe. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and, by His sufferings, death and glorious resurrection, God “hath made us accepted in the beloved … In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6-7).

Do we then return to the law for righteousness before God? Never! We hold fast to Christ Jesus and the perfect righteousness which is ours through faith in Him.

Thy righteousness, O Christ, alone can cover me: No righteousness avails save that which is of Thee. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal #380, v. 5)

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

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“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23

If one’s eyes are good and he can see that which is illumined by the light, his whole body and life are full of light. That person can see what is around him and where he is going. But, on the other hand, if one’s eyes are bad and he cannot see the light, his whole body is full of darkness. That person cannot see where he is going and he gropes in endless darkness.

With this simple parable or illustration, Jesus is teaching about much more than the effects of good vision and blindness; He is speaking of spiritual sight and understanding. If one’s eyes are opened so that he can see and understand the message of Scripture – if he can see himself as God sees him and see Jesus for who He really is, his life will be full of light. He will acknowledge and agree with God about his utter sinfulness and look to Jesus, God’s own dear Son, and to His sufferings, death and resurrection for life and eternal salvation! Then he will see and know the pathway of life and will not grope about in spiritual darkness.

But if one’s eye is bad – if he cannot grasp and understand the message of the Holy Scriptures and does not see and acknowledge his utter sinfulness and look to Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for forgiveness and life everlasting – his whole life is full of darkness. He may live a normal life here in this world, but he doesn’t really see and know why he’s here, nor does he have any assurance about the hereafter!

Often it happens that “the light that is in you is darkness.” A person thinks he knows and understands the way to heaven, but he doesn’t because he has gotten his ideas from some other source than the Scriptures. Thus, people assume that they can get into God’s kingdom by their own works and deeds, that God will accept them if they try to please Him or that there is some other way to be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ and His blood shed upon the cross for mankind’s sin.

As Jesus says, “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” Those who think they know the way – who perhaps go to church and are active in various works – are often the hardest to reach with the truth of God’s Word. They see no need of it, for they are convinced that everything is OK with them. Thus they live their lives in darkness and don’t even realize it!

How can one’s eyes be opened that he might see? Only God can open the eyes of the blind. As Jesus opened the eyes of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46ff.), so He can open our eyes and give us light; for He Himself is “the Light of the World.” Those who follow Him “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Through the hearing, reading and studying of God’s Word – the Bible – the Holy Spirit teaches us and opens our eyes that we might see the truth about ourselves and trust in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and life everlasting. Through the Scriptures, the Spirit leads and guides us to see and know the way of God in truth!

Open our eyes, dear Lord Jesus, that we might see and know the truth and trust in You – and You alone – for life and salvation. Amen.

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

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Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Where is your heart? Is it in this world, or in the next? If you want to find out where your heart is, look at where your treasures are! If we live and work to amass things and riches here in this world, our hearts too are in the world.

But what does Jesus say? “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

When our treasures are in this world, we are filled with care and concern about maintaining them, preventing loss or damage, and even insuring them against theft and destruction. Earthly treasures are temporary. Things wear out. Property is stolen. Moths and rust corrupt. When we die, we leave everything behind; and ultimately all will be destroyed by fire at Christ’s return on the Last Day.

How much wiser to have our treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust can corrupt and where thieves cannot break in and steal! Then, when this world comes to a close, we will have treasures in heaven which will never be taken away from us.

How can we do this? By using the goods of this world which the LORD God entrusts to us to do His work and bring Him glory! Why treasure what we cannot keep when we could use the temporal to gain treasures which are eternal?

Indeed, God has given us all that we have that we might use it in a way which brings Him glory and honor and which furthers the work of His eternal kingdom here in this world. It dishonors Him when we selfishly treasure up this world’s goods for ourselves and our own sinful goals and ambitions.

The Lord Jesus laid down His very life in this world that He might win for us forgiveness of sins and the everlasting joys of heaven. As children of God through faith in Jesus Christ and citizens of heaven, our faith and hope will move us to part with our earthly treasures that we might have eternal treasures awaiting us when we join our Savior in the mansions of His Father’s house.

In fact, if we cling tightly to the goods of this world, it is evidence that we are not clinging tightly to Christ our Savior; for He bids us walk with Him, serve the needs of our fellowman and lay down all for His kingdom.

Dear Lord Jesus, in mercy and compassion, You gave up the goods of this world to help those in need; and You willingly laid down Your life to bear the punishment for my sins and make me Your own. Forgive me for clinging too tightly to the goods of this world instead of clinging tightly to You and following in Your steps. Lead me in the way everlasting for the sake of Your holy and precious blood shed for my salvation. Amen.

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“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.]

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“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.]

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