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“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100

It is sad how few truly know and recognize the truth expressed by this ancient psalm.

In spite of what we may think, Jehovah is God. He always has been and always will be.

He made us; we did not make ourselves, nor are we the product of some chance evolutionary process. Not only did the Almighty God create the first man and woman (Genesis 1-2), He caused each and every one of us to be conceived in our mothers’ wombs and He created and formed us there (cf. Psalm 139:13-16). Our lives are not our own. We are indeed “His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

We have every reason to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise” – every reason to “be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” Why? Because “The LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations.”

Think about it! Are we deserving of His care and blessing? Does He owe it to us to give us our families, our jobs, our food and our health?

When we consider how we have rebelled against Him and so often set aside His commandments, we truly deserve only His wrath and eternal punishment! Yet, He is merciful to us and continues to give us all that we need to support our bodies and lives.

In His mercy, God also gave us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to obey His commandments in our place, and to suffer and die for our sins and then rise again from the dead on the third day. For Jesus’ sake, the LORD God reaches out to us in the Gospel with mercy. He graciously calls us to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in Christ and His blood which was shed on the cross to atone for the sins of all (cf. Isaiah 55:1-7; 2 Peter 3:9; Matthew 11:28-30).

And we can be thankful, too, that “His truth endureth to all generations.” His Word, the Bible, has not been lost or corrupted through the ages as some assume (cf. Matthew 24:14,35; 1 Peter 1:25). He has preserved it as a witness to all people of all time of His goodness and mercy toward us in creating and redeeming us. His Word continues, even yet today, to teach us to know and trust in the LORD God who made us and sent His Son to die for us and redeem us (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Psalm 119:105). Through the Bible, we learn who the true God is. We learn His holy will for us, and we see our utter sinfulness. But we also learn of His love and mercy toward us for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. We learn of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting through faith in Jesus’ name (cf. Romans 1:16-17; 3:19-26).

This Thanksgiving and every day, let us do as the psalm enjoins us: “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

We thank You, dear heavenly Father, for Your goodness and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake. We praise and bless Your holy name. Amen.

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

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“While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:35-36 (Read v. 21-43)

Do things ever seem beyond hope? Have you ever prayed for the Lord’s help only to have things go from bad to worse, with no intervention in sight?

Think how Jairus must have felt when he sought Jesus to come to his house and heal his 12-year-old daughter who was ill and near to death. While on the way, with crowds pressing in upon Jesus, a woman with a flow of blood touches his garment and is healed, and Jesus stops to speak with her. Jairus had hope – faith, whether strong or weak – that if Jesus would just get there in time and lay His hands upon his daughter, she would be healed. But then the bad news came. It was too late. His daughter had died! Why bother Jesus – “the Teacher” – any longer?

But note what Jesus did as soon as He heard those discouraging words. He gave Jairus words of hope, words upon which his faith could rest: “Be not afraid, only believe.” Rather than letting Jairus give up all hope, Jesus called upon him not to be afraid but to believe!

The Scripture record tells us what happened next. Jesus arrived and, accompanied by His inner circle of disciples, He puts out those weeping and mourning over the girl’s death, saying she’s not dead but sleeping. They laugh at Him, knowing she’s dead. They had no hope.

Then Jesus takes hold of the child’s hand and speaks to her the words: “Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise” (v. 41). The Scriptures tell us: “And straightway the damsel arose, and walked” (v. 42).

We may see no hope. We may think it is too late for God to intervene. We may even consider our sins too great and think there is no help for us. But Jesus says, “Be not afraid, only believe”

Cannot the God who created and still sustains all things help us in every time of trouble? We remember the words of the prophet in Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee” (Cf. Ps. 50:15.).

And need we give up hope of salvation? Jesus died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:3,4). He suffered our just punishment and paid the price. Jesus will be our judge, but He is also the same one who died on the cross and paid in full for our sins and the sins of the world and rose again. The Bible comforts us: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34; cf. 1 John 2:1-2). And Jesus says to us, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

There is still hope, no matter how hopeless all may appear. Rather than giving up in despair, trust Jesus. “Be not afraid, only believe.”

O dearest Jesus, Son of God and my Savior, grant that I not despair and be afraid, even when all appears hopeless, but trust in You and in the everlasting salvation You won for me by Your death upon the cross and your glorious resurrection. Amen.

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

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“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:12-14 (Read v. 9-23)

How is it that you and I, rebellious sinners by birth, were made meet (or fit) to be “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”? How is it that God the Father could translate us from the kingdom and power of darkness into the kingdom of His own dear Son? How is it that our sins could be pardoned and forgiven?

We find the answer in St. Paul’s letter to the believers at Colosse. It is because of the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, when He suffered and died upon the cross.

The inspired Word tells us that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (v.15-18).

Jesus is God Himself in the flesh, the eternal Son of God and the Creator of all things who took upon Himself our nature and became a true man (cf. John 1:1-5, 14-18; Hebrews 1:1-3; 2:14-17). And, as our Redeemer and the firstborn from among the dead, He is the head of the church.

And, “it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (v. 19-20).

God’s only-begotten Son became true man that He might take our place under God’s law and fulfill all righteousness for us, and He took the guilt and just punishment of our sins and the sins of the world that He might appease God’s wrath and satisfy the just demands of God’s law against us sinners.

God the Father made peace through the blood of Jesus’ cross (aorist active participle), in order to reconcile (aorist active infinitive) all things unto himself, whether in earth or in heaven.

“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight…” (v. 21-22, again using the aorist tense). The salvation and reconciliation of believers to God always go back to the cross of Christ Jesus and what He accomplished for all there when he offered up Himself as a sacrifice for sin.

This applied to the believers at Colosse, and it applies to us, as well (cf. Rom. 3:19-26; Eph. 2:11-18). In our natural state, from conception and birth onward (cf. Ps. 51:5), we were in rebellion against God and living in death because of our disobedience and sin (cf. Eph. 2:1ff.). But God, in His grace and mercy, sent to us His Word and brought us to see our lost and sinful condition under the law and to see, through the preaching of the Gospel, Christ Jesus our Savior, the Lamb of God who shed His blood on the cross and made atonement for the sins of the world (John 1:29)! Thus we, who are rebellious sinners by birth and separated from the family of God by our sins, are reconciled to God when we trust in the atoning and reconciling sacrifice of Christ Jesus – the satisfaction rendered by God’s own dear Son when He suffered and died upon the cross for our sins and the sins of all mankind.

When Christ Jesus, God the Son and true man, fulfilled all righteousness for us and died on the cross for our sins and rose again in victory, the redemption price was paid, satisfaction was rendered, peace with God was won. And this was done that lost and condemned sinners might look to Jesus in faith and be pardoned, forgiven, justified, counted righteous, holy, unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight.

And how are they forgiven, pardoned, counted righteous, holy, unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight? How is it that you and I, rebellious sinners by birth, are made meet to be “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”? It is through faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 3:19-26; Eph. 2:8-9; John 3:16; 5:24). And St. Paul says the same here: “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (v. 23).

Through the redemption accomplished by Christ and through the preaching of the Gospel, God the Father has made us “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” He has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”

We thank and praise You, O Christ, for redeeming us and bringing us to know and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Preserve us in this true and saving faith unto life everlasting. Amen.

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

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“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them….” Revelation 7:14-15 (Read v. 9-17)

In the opening verses of “For All the Saints” (by William W. How), we sing: “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed … Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might; Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight; Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light. Alleluia, Alleluia!” (Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 677).

Who are these saints? They’re not only the apostles and other prominent Christians over the past centuries; they’re all who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – all who trust in Him and His cross for forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2).

And for these and all the saints we give Jesus glory and praise, for He paid the price for our sins and sent His Holy Spirit to regenerate us and bring us to faith in His cross, thus making us His saints – holy and righteous in God’s sight through faith in His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world (cf. Eph. 1:3ff.; Rev. 7:9-12).

As His elect, we are sealed and preserved in the faith by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. He keeps and protects us as we face persecution and trouble in this evil world which is under the judgment of the Almighty (Cf. Rev. 7:1ff.; 12:1ff.; 2 Tim. 4:18; Phil. 1:6; Eph. 6:10ff.; v. 5-6 in LSB).

And when we die – whether martyred or of natural causes – we who trust in Christ leave the tribulations of this world to join all the saints who have gone before us into heaven, to be with those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb who suffered and died to take away the sin of the world (Cf. Rev. 7:9ff.; Phil. 1:23; John 1:29).

And there we await that day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead and to raise up and give eternal life to all the saints, to all who have trusted in Him for salvation (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13ff.; John 14:1ff.; 1 John 3:2).

In the words of the hymn: “But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day; the saints triumphant rise in bright array; the King of glory passes on His way … From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Alleluia, Alleluia!”

We thank and praise You, O Christ, for redeeming us and bringing us to know and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Preserve us in the true and saving faith until we join the saints in heaven singing Your eternal praises. Amen.

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

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“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” Romans 3:21-22 (Read v. 19-28)

How can you and I, who are sinners, be righteous and acceptable to God? How can we escape the condemnation of God’s perfect law and be counted righteous and holy in God’s judgment? You might be surprised how many get the answer wrong, even among those who call themselves Lutheran.

First of all, it is not by our obedience to God’s Law or by any good works or righteous deeds we perform. This was the misconception with which Luther struggled, trying to be righteous before God by doing good works and living a holy life. Having been taught by the church of Rome that salvation is by holy living and righteous works which we do with God’s infused grace and help, Luther sought to appease God, even going to the point of becoming a monk and punishing himself for sins; but it was never enough!

It is as the Bible teaches us in Romans 3:9ff. We are all guilty of sin and deserving of God’s wrath and punishment. It is as St. Paul writes in v. 19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

If the Law of God reveals our sin and condemns us, how can we be righteous and acceptable to a just and holy God who demands perfect righteousness, that we be holy as he is holy (cf. Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:20,48)? The answer is recorded in Romans 3:21-22: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” Luther found it in Romans 1:16-17.

A righteousness of God apart from our keeping of the Law is revealed to us in the Gospel. It is a righteousness to which the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, testify. It is “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” It is a righteousness which is imputed to us when we have faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world.

The following verses (23-28) explain: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Who are the “all” when it says: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”? We shouldn’t take these verses out of their context and from the full statement as some do. Even though all people have sinned and come short of the glory of God, the “all” in this passage is the same as the “all” at the beginning of Paul’s statement when he says: “even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”

This is important if we wish to rightly understand the chief doctrine of the Christian Faith. Who is it that is justified? Is it all people? Or, is it those who believe in Jesus?

Note that the text says: “Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood”; and “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Thus, justification is by faith alone in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. And, with Paul, we conclude “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Cf. Romans 4:1-11; 23-25; 5:1-2; Galatians 2:16.

This, of course, is in complete accord with our Lutheran Confessions (Augsburg Confession, Article IV): “Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.”

So, how can we sinners be counted righteous and acceptable to God and escape His just punishment for our sins? It’s not by works of the law because we, like all others, fail and come short of what God demands. It’s not by a supposed righteousness imputed to all sinners apart from and before faith, as some teach. Rather, it is by faith alone in Christ Jesus – it’s when we flee to the cross of Jesus and trust that God, for the sake of Christ’s perfect righteousness and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world, is gracious and merciful and forgives the sins of penitent sinners for Jesus’ sake. It’s when we place our trust in Jesus and His cross, that God forgives our sins, counts us just and holy and righteous for Jesus’ sake, accepts us as His own dear children and gives a place in His everlasting kingdom!

Your Law condemns us, O God. We are guilty and deserving of Your wrath and punishment! But we flee to the cross of Jesus and trust that, for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for all sin, You deal with us in mercy, grant us forgiveness, and count us righteous and holy in Your sight. Graciously keep us trusting in Christ Jesus that we might not be condemned but have everlasting life. Amen.

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

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