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Colossians 1:1-8

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: as ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit.” Colossians 1:1-8

Though the Apostle Paul may never have visited the church in Colosse, when he heard of the believers’ faith in Christ Jesus and the resulting love they had for their fellow believers, he, together with Timothy, gave thanks to God for giving them the confident hope of eternal life in heaven through faith in Messiah Jesus.

The good news of God’s pardon and forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life in heaven because God the Son became true man and redeemed mankind reached the ears of the Colossians through Epaphras (and perhaps others, too) and faith in Jesus was kindled in their hearts through the hearing of the Gospel.

As the good news of God’s gracious gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven for Jesus’ sake was used to generate faith in the hearts of the believers at Colosse nearly 2,000 years ago, so this same message generates faith in human hearts today. The same Gospel, that Word of truth, tells us of the certain hope laid up for us in heaven, not because of anything we have done or can do, but because God’s own dear Son, Jesus Christ, came into this world and suffered and died for the sins of all people and rose again in victory. God’s Word tells us that His gift to us for Jesus’ sake is life everlasting in the mansions of heaven.

Such a gracious gift of God – the forgiveness of all our sins because of His own Son’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead and the assurance that we have a place in His eternal, heavenly kingdom – will also move us to selfless love for other believers and fellow heirs of eternal life in heaven, but this love is the result of God’s loving gift of salvation to us, not the cause of it.

What a comfort to know that, though we have sinned and come short of the holy demands of God’s good law, Jesus fulfilled it for us and then took our sins upon Himself, paying the just penalty upon the cross that we might have forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in His name! And this hope which we have is not an uncertain hope but simply waiting for of the things assured to us by the promises of God.

God has offered and promised to us a place in heaven through faith in His Son. That place has been made certain to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We await that day in confidence and assurance that heaven is ours for Jesus’ sake.

When we face the end of our lives here in this world, we need not doubt and wonder if we will make it into heaven. Heaven is guaranteed to us because Jesus shed His blood for us and paid in full for all our sins. If our salvation depended upon us or anything we did, we could have no certainty and no hope; but because it depends upon Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for us, we have every assurance and hope of everlasting life in the mansions of our heavenly Father’s house!

Paul wrote this letter while he himself was a prisoner because there were those who were seeking to rob these believers of the assurance and hope they had in Jesus by placing other demands upon them – suggesting such things as the worshiping of angels, eating certain foods or observing certain days. Today, too, there are many false teachers who would suggest and say that to be true Christians people must exercise certain gifts, eat certain foods or observe certain days.

The apostle’s message, the true Gospel, is that we are complete in Jesus – our salvation and everlasting life are certain in Him – there is nothing we need to add to His redemptive work!

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for graciously bringing to us the Word of Truth, the saving Gospel of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting through faith in Your Son, Christ Jesus. By Your Spirit, move us to believe and take heart and be assured that, for Jesus’ sake, our sins are forgiven and, for Jesus’ sake, we have life everlasting with You in heaven. Amen.

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

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“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11 (Read John 2:1-11)

Jesus’ presence at a wedding feast in Cana and His turning water into wine has troubled some. Why would Jesus attend a wedding feast where wine was served? And why would Jesus turn water into wine, making some 120-180 gallons of it for the wedding guests to drink?

Jesus’ presence at this wedding — and we do not know precisely why He was invited — shows His respect for the divine institution of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Gen. 2:18ff., Matt. 19:4-9). And His making wine, as well as drinking it, shows that drinking wine or alcoholic beverages is not of itself sinful, nor is one holier or more righteous through abstinence. What is sinful is the overindulgence in it and drunkenness (cf. Matt. 11:18-19; 1 Tim. 5:23; Eph. 5:18; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21).

But far more important in this account is what His miracle teaches us about Him. Even though it was not yet His time to be revealed as the Son of God in human flesh and the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus used the divine power He possessed to come to the aid of a wedding party in a potentially embarrassing situation — they had run out of wine. And not only did Jesus turn water into wine; it was the best wine served at the feast.

And this miracle, of which many at the feast had no knowledge, revealed the glory and power which Jesus possessed as the Son of God to a few — to Mary, to the servants who drew the water, and to Jesus’ disciples.

The result was not only a wedding feast without the embarrassment to the hosts of running out of wine; it was a revelation of His person to His disciples, causing them to believe that He indeed was and is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel.

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records this miracle for us that we too might see and believe that this same Jesus who humbled Himself and lived among us as a true man is more than just a man or even a great prophet and teacher. Jesus was and is Jehovah God Himself in human flesh! And this was necessary in order for Him to pay the price required for the sins of the world!

This miracle is but one proof of that fact. He also healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and rose from the dead Himself after being crucified! Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus’ divine glory and might; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that Jesus redeemed us and all mankind from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that atonement for our sins has been made — we’ve been redeemed by the blood of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

And, through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and our Savior, the forgiveness and life He won for all when He paid the price for our sins upon the cross becomes our own. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!

O that all would see and believe that Jesus is God the Son and that He has paid the price and redeemed us from all our sins!

I cannot reveal Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world to anyone. All I can do is preach the Gospel and tell those who are terrified by the threats of God’s Law of the comforting promises of the Gospel — the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith (cf. John 3:14ff.). Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, reveals Himself to those whom He wills (John 6:44,63; Matt. 11:27; John 1:10-14).

It is as we confess in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (Art. V, Of the Ministry): “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

As we think about this miracle worked by our Lord Jesus, I invite you to also think about Holy Baptism. I, of myself, can’t wash away sins or give the Holy Spirit to anyone by pouring or sprinkling water on them, but when water is used in connection with God’s Word, Jesus does (cf. Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Titus 3:3-7; Eph. 5:25-27).

Think about the Lord’s Supper, of which we are about to partake. I can’t turn water into wine, but Jesus can and did; and I cannot cause Christ’s body and blood to be present, distributed and received in the Supper (in, with and under the bread and wine), but Jesus can and still does through His words of institution spoken on the night when He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Through His words of institution, He offers and gives to all who eat and drink of His Supper to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world — of His body which was given into death for our sins and of His blood which was shed for the remission of our sins. And, through faith in Christ’s life-giving words, we receive the blessings He won for us when He was sacrificed for our sins. We are assured of and receive forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I see your divine glory and believe that You indeed are my God and my Savior and place my trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. 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 so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.” Luke 2:46-50 (Read Luke 2:41-52)

It is amazing, isn’t it? Rather than returning with his parents and running with the other boys his age on their journey home, what did the 12-year-old Jesus do? After three days, He was still in Jerusalem, in the temple, sitting among the teachers of God’s Word, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Jesus were astonished at His understanding and answers.

Some would imagine that Jesus, because He was and is the Son of God, was lecturing the teachers of the law. But it doesn’t say that. Instead, He was listening to them and asking them questions. We must remember that though Jesus had all knowledge, He humbled Himself and studied and learned the Scriptures just as we are enjoined to do by God in His Word (cf. Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:14-17).

As Jesus said (v. 49), He was about His Father’s business. He was learning and studying God’s Word. His delight was in the law of the LORD, and in His law He meditated day and night (Psalm 1:2). He loved the LORD God with all His heart and with all His soul and delighted in learning God’s Word.

In the commandments (Ex. 20 and Deut. 5), we are told to “Sanctify the Holy Day.” Luther explains this in his Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” And if you wish to see what obedience to this commandment looks like, look at Jesus!

The fact that He delighted in the LORD God and His Word and sought Him with the whole heart (cf. Psalm 37:4; 119:2) amazed His parents, and it amazes us too because we do not — as we are by nature since the fall — have such love for God or the desire to learn of Him and His ways. What would you have been doing at 12 years old? What do you do even yet today?

To be honest with you, I’ve heard complaints about sermons which are too long but seldom that they are too short. I’ve not had church members suggest we stay on into Sunday afternoons or, much less, into extra days to dig deeper into the Bible and consider its teaching. Seldom does anyone suggest we have more services, but sometimes people suggest we have less. Yet, if we loved the LORD God with all our heart and soul and delighted in His Word, we just might do as Jesus did — continue on at church for days in the study of the Scriptures.

We come so far short of God’s commandments, but Jesus’ love for the Father and for the Word of God is evidence of His holy life in our stead. Jesus fulfilled God’s commandments for us and then suffered and died on the cross and rose again that He might bear our punishment and win for us forgiveness and life everlasting in fellowship with God the Father.

When we acknowledge our sinfulness and our failures to keep God’s laws and look in faith to Jesus and His life and death in our stead, we obtain mercy and receive forgiveness from God and life eternal (1 John 1:7 — 2:2; John 3:14ff.; Psalm 32:1-6). Only through faith in Christ Jesus can we return to God and live.

And, having God’s pardon and forgiveness, as well as His promise of eternal life, we will want to devote ourselves to the diligent use of the Word and Sacraments that we might be strengthened and preserved in the true faith unto life everlasting.

Again, I remind you of the summary of Scriptural teaching found in the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration: “13] Therefore, if we wish to think or speak correctly and profitably concerning eternal election, or the predestination and ordination of the children of God to eternal life, we should accustom ourselves not to speculate concerning the bare, secret, concealed, inscrutable foreknowledge of God, but how the counsel, purpose, and ordination of God in Christ Jesus, who is the true Book of Life, is revealed to us through the Word, 14] namely, that the entire doctrine concerning the purpose, counsel, will, and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, call, justification, and salvation should be taken together; as Paul treats and has explained this article Rom. 8:29f.; Eph. 1:4f., as also Christ in the parable, Matt. 22:1ff., namely, that God in His purpose and counsel ordained [decreed]: 15] 1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocency] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life. 16] 2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments. 17] 3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith. 18] 4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life. 19] 5. That He will also sanctify in love those who are thus justified, as St. Paul says, Eph. 1:4. 20] 6. That He also will protect them in their great weakness against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and rule and lead them in His ways, raise them again [place His hand beneath them], when they stumble, comfort them under the cross and in temptation, and preserve them [for life eternal]. 21] 7. That He will also strengthen, increase, and support to the end the good work which He has begun in them, if they adhere to God’s Word, pray diligently, abide in God’s goodness [grace], and faithfully use the gifts received. 22] 8. That finally He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified.”

And, I challenge you to devote yourself to the regular use of the Means of Grace, to regular attendance at the services of God’s House and to regular use of the Sacraments, to studying the Scripture and the teaching of Holy Scriptures at home, to the reading and study of Luther’s Small Catechism and looking up the Scriptures and prayerfully considering the truths of God’s Word that you might, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament, become firmly established in the true faith and continue in it unto life everlasting (cf. 2 Tim. 3:14-17; John 8:31-32; Acts 17:11; Heb. 4:11ff.; Eph. 4:11-16).

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for fulfilling in our stead all righteousness and paying the just debt of our sins by Your innocent sufferings and death upon the cross. Grant us faith in You and Your cross for pardon and forgiveness and give to us a sincere and ever-growing love for You and Your Word. We ask this for the sake of Your atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Amen.

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

For those willing to join me in studying Luther’s Small Catechism, an excellent copy of the Catechism for study may be ordered at Luther’s Small Catechism: An Introduction to the Catholic Faith.

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“For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6

A key to knowing the LORD God and how He deals with man is contained in these verses of Scripture. The LORD God is a jealous God who punishes the sins of those who hate Him and rebel against Him and His commandments, even down to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him. But He is also a merciful God who forgives the iniquities, transgressions and sins of those who, by His grace, repent and turn back to Him for mercy.

In Exodus 34, God describes Himself in these words: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (v. 6-7).

In the history recorded for us in the Bible, we can see the truthfulness of these words. When the people of Israel rebelled against the LORD, went their own way, and disobeyed His commandments, even worshipping other gods, God’s judgments fell upon them; and children and grandchildren who continued on in their sinful ways suffered the consequences, not only of their own sins but also of the sins of their fathers, when the Assyrians and the Babylonians came and destroyed their land and carried them away into captivity. On the other hand, God showed great mercy to such men as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jeremiah, Daniel and others. For the sake of the promised Messiah and Savior who was yet to come, God pardoned and forgave the sins and iniquities of those who looked to Him in faith for mercy and forgiveness.

The question for you and for me today is this: “Do we want God to deal with us in His mercy or in His wrath?”

If we continue on in rebelliousness and sin against God and His commandments, we will suffer His wrath, both here and forever in eternity! But if, by the gracious calling and mercy of God, we repent of our sinful and rebellious ways, turning to Him for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of Messiah Jesus in our stead, He will have mercy upon us, forgive our sins, and give us a place in His everlasting kingdom.

O LORD God, have mercy upon us and turn us from our evil thoughts, desires and ways to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son and our Savior, for forgiveness and life eternal. 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 after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2 (read verses 1-23)

Once again, through the recounting of the Scriptures, we have heard of the birth of the Christ Child in Bethlehem of Judea. God the Son was made true man, born of a virgin, and laid in a manger. An angel told the shepherds in the field nearby that this Child was none other than the Savior of the world, the Messiah and Jehovah God Himself!

Wise men (the Bible doesn’t tell us their names or how many) from a land or lands east of Judea learned of the Messiah’s birth through the appearance of a star (cf. Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 60:1ff.) and traveled a great distance to come and worship this newborn King and bring Him costly gifts.

When they arrived in Jerusalem, King Herod was troubled at their quest and inquired of the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah was to be born. They rightly understood the Scriptures and quoted from Micah 5:2, pointing out that Bethlehem was to be the place of Messiah’s birth.

But what happened after this? The wise men continued on their journey and were led by the star to Bethlehem and to the very house where Jesus was. There they worshiped Jesus and offered Him gifts.

Herod the king felt threatened by the birth of the Messiah and sought to kill Him and prevent Him from reigning upon the throne of David.

The chief priests and scribes knew the Scriptures and could tell Herod where the Messiah was to be born, but nowhere do we ever hear of their traveling to Bethlehem to worship their newborn Savior and King.

The question today is: “What about you?”

You have heard of His birth and know of His sufferings and death for your sins (and the sins of the world) and of His glorious resurrection. You have heard God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness to all who repent and look to Jesus in faith for pardon and life eternal. How do you respond?

• Do you reject Jesus and try to silence those who would speak to you of Him because Jesus is a threat to you and to your way of life?

• Do you know all the facts about Jesus and His redemptive work but still fail to come and bow before Him and give Him your praise and worship?

• Or, like the wise men of old, do you follow the star (hearing and believing what the Holy Scriptures say of the Christ Child) to find Messiah Jesus and worship your God and Savior, presenting Him with the costliest of gifts — even your very selves?

Dearest Jesus, You are the Almighty God and our Maker. We thank You for taking on flesh and blood and coming into this world to redeem us from sin and death. We praise You and give to you our treasures and our lives. Amen.

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

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