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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 (Read all of Psalm 51)

We sing these words in the Offertory (which follows the sermon on Sunday mornings), but what do they mean and why do we sing them?

The words are a part of David’s penitential psalm – Psalm 51 – written after his sin with Bathsheba. Though David sinned against Bathsheba by committing adultery with her, and though David sinned against Uriah by taking his wife and then arranging his death in battle to cover up his sin, against whom had David really sinned?

As David confessed in verse 4 of Psalm 51, “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.”

And was David in danger of being cast away and having the Holy Spirit taken from him? Most certainly, for he hid and covered up his sin and remained impenitent for months (perhaps more than a year) before he finally acknowledged his sin and turned to the LORD God for mercy and forgiveness! Bathsheba had given birth to his son before Nathan the prophet went to David and confronted him regarding his sin (2 Sam. 11-12).

And, if the LORD had cast David off and taken the Holy Spirit from him, David would have remained impenitent and would have been lost forever. But God reached out to David in mercy and, through the prophet’s admonition, brought him to acknowledge and confess his sin to the LORD God and seek God’s mercy! Cf. Psalm 32.

Do we deserve that God would cast us off and take His Holy Spirit from us? Most certainly, for we, like David, are guilty before the LORD! Each of us fails to love the LORD God with all our being. We fail to love our neighbors as ourselves. We break God’s commandments in our thoughts, words and deeds. And, if God would deal with us as we deserve, we would be left to our ways, remain impenitent and become hardened in our unbelief and sin.

But God, through His Word, admonishes us and reveals our sins and failings. He shows us our guilt and the punishment we justly deserve. And then He does an amazing thing! When we see and acknowledge our sinfulness, He comforts us with His mercy. He assures us that Christ atoned for our sins by His sacrifice on the cross and that in Him there is forgiveness for all our sins and a place in God’s family and kingdom!

Instead of taking His Holy Spirit from us, the Spirit reveals our sins and then works faith in our hearts which trusts in God’s mercy, receives His forgiveness, and moves us to amend our ways and live for our God and Savior!

With David, we sinners 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” (Ps. 51:10-12).

We pray that God would, for Christ Jesus’ sake, have mercy upon us and blot out our transgressions. We pray that He would restore to us the joy of His salvation and uphold us by His gracious Holy Spirit.

And God, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, does move us to repent. He cleanses our hearts in the shed blood of Christ Jesus. He restores to us the joy of His salvation. He upholds us with His free Spirit (v.12). And, as we tell others of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, other sinners are converted too and come to faith in our Lord Jesus (v.13).

Have mercy upon me, O God, and by Your Spirit, grant me repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, my Savior. Do not cast me away or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Uphold and keep me by Your free Spirit. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12 (Deut. 5:16)

This commandment of the LORD requires us to honor our parents as our God-given representatives. Children are to obey their parents; and parents – especially fathers – are to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20-21; Deut. 6:4-9).

And notice that this commandment contains a reason to obey – a promise: “that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:3).

What does it mean? Well, to disobey and dishonor our parents brings us all sorts of trouble and usually leads to disobeying our teachers in school, our pastors at church, and our government leaders, resulting in a troubled life and often spiritual and eternal death. And, God punishes those who disrespect and disobey their parents and promises blessing and long life to those who obey and respect their parents and others in authority over them (cf. Prov. 30:17; Rom. 13:2).

This command, too, extends to others whom God has placed over us in civil government, the church, and at work and in school.

The Bible tells us: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1); and, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17; cf. 1 Pet. 2:17ff.; Eph. 6:5ff.; Col. 3:18ff.).

The only exception to God’s command to honor and obey parents is that “we ought to obey God rather than men” when there exists a conflict between the will of parents and other authorities and the will of God Himself (Acts 5:29).

And this commandment does not end when we are grown because the Bible also commands us to honor and care for our parents in their old age.

1 Timothy 5:4 says to grown children: “Let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.”

Children sin against God when they disobey their parents and do not show them the honor and respect which God requires. Parents, too, are guilty of sin when they do not bring up their children to know the LORD and His ways. All of us are guilty when we do not submit to our government and its laws in all matters except where they contradict God’s Word. And, we are guilty when we do not heed the admonitions of our pastors and spiritual leaders when they rightly apply God’s Word to our lives.

How thankful we can be that Jesus Christ kept this commandment perfectly for us, not only in deed but in word and desire! The Scriptures tell us that He submitted Himself to His parents and honored them (Luke 2:51; cf. John 19:25-27). And, how thankful we can be that Jesus also bore upon the cross the just punishment for our sin (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 John 2:1ff.)! Through faith in Him, we sinners find pardon and forgiveness. In Him, we find strength and guidance to amend our ways and live in accord with God’s will and command.

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, forgive our sins against the perfect will of You, our God and Maker, and give us the desire to live our lives for You in accord with Your holy Word. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22 (Read Matt. 18:21-35)

How often should we forgive a brother or sister who sins against us? This is the question Peter asked of Jesus after Jesus instructed His disciples in regard to binding or not forgiving the sins of impenitent sinners and loosing or forgiving the sins of those who repent.

Note Jesus’ answer: “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Jesus did not mean only 490 times, but all the time! Like our Lord, we are always to be “good, and ready to forgive” (Psalm 86:5).

The parable of the unforgiving servant which follows illustrates Jesus’ point to Peter. A certain servant owed the king such a great amount that he would never be able to work off and repay his debt. When the king justly would have sold him and all that he had to recover at least a part of this debt, the servant pleaded for mercy. And the king was moved to compassion and forgave the entire debt.

We, like the first servant in this parable, owe to God a greater debt than we can ever repay. Our sins against the LORD God are so great that there is no hope of us ever repaying or making amends for our sins – even thinking that we could do so is foolishness. God’s law, therefore, demands that we be cast into hell’s eternal prison and suffer there forever the just penalty for our sins (cf. Rom. 3:9ff.; 6:23a). Indeed, there is nothing we can do but plead for mercy!

And God, like the king in Jesus’ parable, is merciful. He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to live a righteous and holy life in our stead and then to pay in full the debt of our sins and the sins of all by suffering our just punishment as He was crucified and died on the cross. God accepted Christ’s atoning sacrifice and raised Him up and, in the Gospel, God offers to us through faith in Christ mercy instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of eternal damnation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 3:21ff.; 5:6ff.).

When we look to God in faith, seeking His mercy in Christ Jesus and for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, God graciously forgives our entire debt of sin. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

But then there is the second part of Jesus’ parable. This same servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him only a very small and insignificant amount in comparison with the huge debt which had been forgiven him. Rather than showing mercy to this servant as he had been shown mercy by his lord, he refused to forgive this small debt and “cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.”

When the king saw that his compassion and forgiveness had no effect on this unforgiving servant, he was angry and “delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.”

In our earthly lives, others sin against us many times; but this debt of sin, though it may seem great to us, is small and insignificant in comparison with the great debt of sin that the LORD God has forgiven us for Jesus’ sake. As a fruit of our faith, and as a result of God’s great mercy to us in Christ Jesus, we ought also to forgive those who sin against us, even “up to seventy times seven.”

In fact, the Bible urges us to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

If we refuse to forgive from our hearts those who sin against us, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us; instead, He will cast us into the fires of hell to pay in full the punishment due unto us for our sins (cf. Matt. 6:12,14-15).

Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore, remove from us their burden sore, as we their trespasses forgive who by offenses us do grieve. Thus let us dwell in charity and serve our brother willingly. Amen. — “Our Father, Thou in Heaven Above,” Martin Luther, The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 458, v. 6

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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And when he had come near, he beheld the city and wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only known in this day the things which belong to your peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, that your enemies shall build a barricade about you, encompass you, keep you in on every side, and shall lay you and your children within you even with the ground. And they shall not leave in you one stone upon another because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44

Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus, when He drew near to the city of Jerusalem, wept over it because its people did not recognize Him as their Messiah and Savior — they did not know and recognize the things which make for peace between God and man; they were hidden from their eyes. Jesus loved them and shed His blood in death upon a cross to redeem them, but they didn’t know and didn’t see and didn’t repent and turn to Him in faith!

As a result of their unbelief, God’s judgment would come upon them. The words of Jesus were fulfilled when the Roman armies besieged and destroyed the city and the temple in 70 A.D. The people were killed and taken away captive.

In Luke 21:20-24, Jesus had said, “And when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of it depart from it, and do not let those who are in the countries enter into it. For these are the days of vengeance so that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse infants in those days! For there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

But does Jesus also weep over you? Does He weep because He willingly went to the cross and paid in full for all your sins and yet you do not recognize Him and His sacrifice and you continue on in impenitence and unbelief?

The Bible says of Jesus in Matthew 9:36: “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.”

And people today are no different than people of Jesus’ day. They wander to and fro like sheep without a shepherd. They do not recognize their own utter sinfulness, nor do they recognize Jesus as God’s Son in human flesh and their Savior from sin and eternal death.

We see it in family members and friends, coworkers and acquaintances. They are lost and headed for the fires of hell and don’t even know it. They may know of Jesus, but they do not know Him and trust in Him for pardon and peace, forgiveness and life everlasting!

Yes, Jesus weeps, and we weep with Him in sorrow as we see people living their lives in ignorance of Jesus and what He in love has done for them — in ignorance of the judgment which is soon coming upon them.

Does Jesus weep over you? Does He weep because He loves you and went to the cross and paid in full for all your sins and yet you do not recognize Him and His sacrifice for you and you continue on in impenitence and unbelief?

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53:6: “We have all like sheep gone astray. We have each turned to his own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

We’ve all sinned and gone astray! We were all headed toward eternal condemnation! But God the Father sent His Son, Christ Jesus, and charged Him with our sin. Christ died in our stead. He bore the punishment for your sins and mine and rose again from the dead on the third day that we might repent and look to Him in faith and receive God’s pardon and forgiveness! God desires our salvation! He sent His Son to redeem us, and He sends His Word and the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and to move us to look to Jesus our Savior in faith!

There is sorrow when we do not repent and look to Jesus, but there is joy when we, by the grace of God, trust in Jesus and are saved!

O dearest Jesus, eternal Son of God and son of man, open my eyes to Your love and mercy, cleanse me from all my sins and give me life in fellowship with You, the Father and the Holy Spirit through faith in Your sacrifice for my sins. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

With parenting comes great responsibility toward God, who creates and gives life to children in their mothers’ wombs (cf. Ps. 139:13-16; Gen. 1:27-28).

After giving His law, the LORD God, through Moses, commanded His people: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:4-7).

And, as God’s people under Moses were to circumcise their sons and teach their children to know the LORD God and love Him, so also God commands parents today to bring their children to Him in baptism and to bring them up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Act. 2:38-39; Tit. 3:4-7; Col. 2:11-15; John 3:3-6).

Not doing so causes these little ones to sin or stumble in regard to faith in Christ Jesus and results in the eternal ruin of their souls.

And Jesus said: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

This warning of God’s judgment upon those who cause children who believe to sin and fall away from their faith in Christ Jesus ought to make parents and others all the more diligent to bring up their children to know and trust in Christ Jesus as their Savior and to walk in His ways!

O God, for the sake of Christ Jesus and His perfect sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, mercifully forgive us where we have failed in our responsibilities to bring up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Give us Your wisdom and strength that we might bring our children to Christ in baptism and teach them all things that He has commanded. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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