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“And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” Genesis 22:13-14 (Read v. 1-19)

The account of God’s testing of Abraham’s faith is indeed remarkable, for God told Abraham to offer up as a burnt offering his own beloved son Isaac, the son God had promised to him and through whom God had promised to make Abraham a blessing to the nations of this world. Abraham obeyed, taking the wood, the fire and his son Isaac and traveling to the specific mountain at which God told him to offer up his son.

God’s Word tells us in the book of Hebrews (11:17-19) that “by faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Abraham took his son Isaac, bound him and laid him on the altar; and, as Abraham raised the knife to kill Isaac and offer him up as a burnt sacrifice, “the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (v. 11-12).

It was then that “Abraham lifted up his eyes” and saw “a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and Abraham offered up the ram as a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” Abraham named the place “Jehovahjireh,” which means, “in the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.”

And this substitute ram offered up in the place of Isaac, the father of Israel, certainly points us to another substitute offering for the sins of the world — possibly sacrificed on the very same mountain in the land of Moriah (cf. 2 Chronicles 3:1). Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son made man, born of the Virgin Mary, was offered up in our stead — in the stead of all mankind. The holy and innocent Son of God bore the sins of the world and was sacrificed upon the cross on Golgotha, just outside ancient Jerusalem, to make full atonement for the sins of all mankind.

The prophet Isaiah wrote (53:5-6): “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus is our substitute. He atoned for our sins so that we could be pardoned and forgiven by a just and holy God. And when we look in faith to Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of all, God pardons us, declares us just, righteous and forgiven, and He accepts us as His own dear children (cf. Romans 3:23-26; Ephesians 1:6-7; 1 John 1:7 — 2:2; Galatians 3:26-29).

Indeed, in the mountain of the LORD, God has provided for us a substitute, His only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for us to atone for our sins and raised up again that we might trust in Him and have forgiveness and life through faith in His name!

We thank Thee, dear Lord Jesus, for bearing our sins and being our substitute, that we might have pardon and life everlasting through faith in Your name. Amen.

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

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“And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Mark 14:4-8

Why are we here tonight? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to stay at home and spend time with our spouse or children? Is this a waste of our time and energy? Perhaps we could be working to raise money we could give to the poor. Or, maybe, we could be out ministering to the poor and needy around us and providing them with a supper. Why are we gathered together here instead of being out there in the world?

What about Mary? Why did she pour this expensive ointment on Jesus – certainly an extravagant act – when it could have been sold for nearly a year’s wages and the money given to the poor?

What did Jesus say to the criticism? “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.”

While many might consider attending Lenten services as a waste of time, Jesus graces us with His presence and accepts our humble worship (cf. Matthew 18:20). Through the hearing of His Word, we are moved to acknowledge our wretched sinfulness and look to Him and His sufferings and death for mercy. And through faith in His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, He graces us with pardon and forgiveness, new life here and everlasting life in heaven.

Indeed, it may seem to many a waste of time to gather together here to worship Jesus and hear His Word, but we are graced through it (not because of it) as we learn of Jesus’ sufferings and death in our stead, and of His glorious resurrection, that we sinners might obtain mercy and forgiveness and have life eternal through faith in Jesus’ name.

We thank and praise Thee, O Jesus, for bearing the guilt and punishment for our sins that we wretched sinners might receive mercy and forgiveness through faith in Thy holy and precious name. Amen.

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

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“And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” Mark 9:5-6 (Read 2-10)

What do we learn from Jesus’ transfiguration? Why do we consider it just before we enter the season of Lent and focus our attention on Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world? And, why must we, like Jesus’ three disciples, go down from the mountain?

First of all, we learn that Jesus is indeed the eternal Son of God for His disciples saw His glory – a glory which was hidden from their eyes during His earthly ministry. And, God the Father spoke from the cloud of glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” Cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; Mark 1:11; John 12:28.

Secondly, we learn from the transfiguration the truthfulness of the Scriptures and all they teach concerning Jesus and the Christian Faith. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-21, Biblical Christianity is not some cunningly devised fable to deceive the world. Jesus is indeed the Son of God and His doctrine is true. Peter, James and John were there on the holy mount. They saw Jesus in glory and they heard the testimony of God the Father concerning His Son.

Thirdly, we learn from Jesus’ glory, when compared to the fading glory which shone on Moses’ face in Exodus 34:29ff., as well as the fact that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus “of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31), that the purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to the New Covenant which Jesus would put in place by the shedding of His blood upon the cross.

Fourthly, we learn that, as Moses’ face reflected the glory of the LORD after he communed with the LORD in the tabernacle of meeting, so we, when we commune with our Lord Jesus through Word and Sacrament, reflect more and more the glory of our Savior. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Fifthly, we learn that Moses and Elijah also appeared with Jesus in glory. They were glorified and so also will we who believe be glorified with our Lord Jesus when He returns for us in clouds of glory. Cf. Revelation 7:9-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:35ff.; 1 John 3:2.

And finally, we learn that, though it is wonderful to be on the mount and see the Lord’s glory, we have to come down into the valley of this world. As Jesus descended from the mountain to bear the sins of the world and to suffer and die upon the cross, so also we are called to take up our crosses and follow Jesus (cf. Mark 8:34). As long as we live in this world, we have work to do here in the valley. We are called upon to “go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). We are to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Jesus’ name to all nations (Luke 24:46-47) that others, too, might see Jesus for who He is and place their faith in Him. We are to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Christ Jesus that others, too, might partake of His glory.

Yes, “it is good for us to be here” and we need to be here that we might be assured of who Jesus is and what He has done for us, but we also have work to do down in this world that others might learn of Jesus and partake of the glory which awaits all who trust in Him!

O glorious Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, You have shown us Your glory that we might know You and have a glimpse of the glory to come, but You humbled Yourself and went to the cross that we might have pardon and forgiveness and be raised up in glory on the Last Day. Grant that we hear Your Word, trust in You and proclaim Your glorious Gospel to the world. Amen.

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

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“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.” 2 John 1-2

The apostle John, who simply refers to himself as an elder in the church, writes to the elect lady and her children. While this could be a real woman named Kuria (the Greek word here translated lady) who has children and a sister, it appears more likely that John writes to a local church and to the believers in that church.

John doesn’t proclaim his apostolic authority, but simply writes as an elder and proclaims his genuine love for this congregation of believers. In fact, all who know and believe the truth revealed and taught to us by God’s Spirit in the Holy Scriptures share in that love for individuals and congregations who know and believe the truth revealed in God’s Word; namely, the truth of God’s salvation for lost and condemned sinners in His Son, Jesus Christ.

This remains true even today. Who are our dearest and most loved family members? Are they those related to us merely by blood or those related to us by spiritual birth and faith in our God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).

O God, grant us a genuine knowledge of the truth and true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Give us a love, like that of John, for all who abide in the truth and hold fast to Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” 2 John 3

Though we hear greetings like this often in church services and from the pulpit, what do these words mean?

Grace is God’s undeserved and unmerited favor. Instead of looking upon us in judgment on account of our sins, He looks upon us with favor because all our sins have been punished in His Son, Christ Jesus. Instead of dealing with us as our sins deserve, He has mercy upon us and forgives us for Jesus’ sake. Instead of being God’s enemies, God looks upon us as His friends. Instead of coming to us in wrath and with punishment, He comes to us in peace and accepts us as His own because all our sins were judged and condemned in His Son.

And this grace, mercy and peace come to us from the Father who so loved us that He gave His only-begotten Son, and from the Son who so loved us that He went to the cross and died for us to make atonement for all our sins. And, of course, it is God’s Spirit who, in love toward us, reveals this truth to us and brings us to trust in God’s grace and mercy and peace in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His cross.

O gracious God, look upon me in mercy and with favor for the sake of the death and resurrection of the Son, Christ Jesus, in my stead. Amen.

“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” 2 John 4

As it gives parents joy when their children grow up and live decent and upright lives, so it gave the apostle John reason to rejoice greatly when members of this Christian congregation continued walking in the truth of God’s Word. Instead of turning back into sin or being misled by the many false teachers who pervert the truth, they continued in the faith revealed to them through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and clung to Christ and His cross for their salvation.

Sad to say, today so many who grew up in Christian churches and heard the truth as children have turned away in their adult years. Though they learned of their sinfulness and the redemption won for all by Christ Jesus, they have turned back into sin, turned away from the saving Gospel and have abandoned their faith in Christ Jesus.

Yet, when we find those who once heard and believed the truth continuing in it years later and throughout their lives, it gives us reason to rejoice and praise God for His faithfulness in preserving His elect children in the true faith in Christ Jesus.

O faithful and merciful God, thank you for bringing me to know the truth and to trust in Jesus as my Savior. Keep me in that truth that I not be lost but hold fast to Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” 2 John 5-6

Many are deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and yet disregard God’s commandments and live as they please in accord with the sinful longings of the flesh. Instead of living for the God who loves them and gave His Son to redeem them, they turn from Him and reject His Word to them. Not only do they not love and honor God, they also do not love and respect those who follow after Christ and seek to live in accord with God’s commandments.

John directs his readers – members of Christ’s church in this place as well as members of Christ’s church today – to love one another as God has loved us. He directs them to love but also explains that true love for God and fellow believers is to walk in accord with God’s commandments.

In his first epistle, the apostle John wrote: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3).

John warns his readers against those who held a false faith, who claimed to be believers but denied the Son and the Father by refusing to heed God’s Word and the truth taught them from that Word by the Holy Spirit. That warning is still needed today.

Keep me, O God, from a false sense of security. Grant that I not turn from You and Your truth and live in willful disobedience to Your commandments. Have mercy upon me for Jesus’ sake and keep me in Your truth and love. Amen.

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 7

In John’s day, there were those who denied the truth revealed regarding the person of Christ. Some denied that Jesus was true God. Others denied His humanity, teaching that God the Son did not really take on human flesh and blood and become true man in order to save us.

Today, too, there are those – even within the outward pale of Christianity – who deny either the deity or the humanity of Christ Jesus. Some claim He was just a man, a great prophet. Some say He is the Son of God but somehow less than the Father and not equal to the Father in being eternal, almighty, all-knowing or having all glory. Others still deny that He really became a true man, taking on a human body and soul through His conception and birth of the Virgin Mary.

Of course, to deny either the deity or the humanity of Christ is to reject God’s Word which tells us that Christ was and is the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14). It is to deny that Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary and yet was Christ the Lord as proclaimed by angels (Luke 1 and 2). It is to deny that Jesus (Jehovah God, Himself) took on our flesh and died in our place to be our Savior.

Those who profess such lies are deceivers and opposed to the true Christ and the salvation He won for all by His holy life and innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of all the world.

Protect us, O Lord, from the many lies and deceptions of the devil that we might hold fast to Christ as true God and true man and our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 8-9

John warned his readers – members of a local church of Christ Jesus – to be ever watchful over their doctrine and beliefs that they not lose the faith and salvation for which they had already suffered so much as they struggled to hold fast to Christ and His cross in a world full of idolatry and deceptive doctrines. If they were to give up the doctrine of salvation through faith alone in Christ Jesus, they would lose their reward and suffer the loss of their own souls.

Those who transgressed and did not continue in the teaching of Jesus Christ no longer walked in fellowship with God. But those who, by the Spirit, remained in the true doctrine of Christ – who acknowledged their sinfulness and placed their faith in Jesus, the God-man Savior, had forgiveness and mercy from God the Father, walked in fellowship with the Father and the Son and had eternal life (cf 1 John 1).

And, yes, this remains true today. We all need to watch out for the many lies and the deception circulated as truth in the world, and even within the outward pale of churches, and hold fast to Christ Jesus, true God and true man, as our Savior and Redeemer.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).

O Spirit of God, keep me ever watchful and preserve me in the true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through the study of Your Word. Amen.

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2 John 10-11

Is it right to help or in any way support those who proclaim a doctrine which is false? If one proclaims some truth but also mixes in error, what should we do? Can we support those who persist in departing from the teaching of Christ? Should we even wish them well in their work?

This is a difficult commandment to follow in a day when people are doctrinally indifferent and advocate a tolerance for false teaching and deception. But the apostle clearly tells us not to in any way support the preaching and teaching of one who does not hold to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus. We are not to give them lodging to help them on their way or even wish them well in their work if they “teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3). From such we are to withdraw ourselves (1 Timothy 6:5).

O Lord, deliver us from the lies and deception of the devil and grant that we do not support the work of those who would pervert the true doctrine revealed to us in the Scriptures. Give us the wisdom and strength to withdraw from them and not become partakers of their evil deeds. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.” 2 John 12-13

How important it is that we gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments that we might encourage each other in the truth and be preserved in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus!

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

There is something special about encouraging each other face-to-face, and the apostle intended to do just that. Yet, the threat of false teachers and their erring doctrine made it necessary and urgent for John to send this warning to his fellow believers.

He relayed to them a warning against those who taught and lived contrary to the doctrine he and the apostles had delivered to them. He warned them against turning away from God’s commandments and back into sin, and he warned them of teachers who denied that Jesus is the Christ, the God-man Savior, and who departed from Christ’s doctrine.

John’s letter is equally important for each of us today. God grant that we heed God’s Word and hold fast to “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent” (John 17:3).

O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, graciously keep me in the truth, trusting in the atoning sacrifice of the Son. In His name, I pray. Amen.

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“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

Those who trust in Christ Jesus believe His words. They do not pick and choose, nor do they twist or explain away Jesus’ words and teaching. They accept His teaching on all things – even where it is contrary to contemporary public opinion. In fact, Jesus warns that, if we are ashamed of Him and His words in this present adulterous and sinful generation, He will be ashamed of us at His coming.

Do we live in an adulterous and sinful generation? Without a doubt! Even “Christians” and “churches” adulterate Jesus’ words and teaching to fit their opinions and lifestyles and to be more acceptable to this world.

And what do Jesus and His words entail? He said marriage is between one man and one woman, citing Genesis 2 (Matthew 19:3-9). He condemned adultery, pornography and divorce (Matthew 5:27-32). He was there in Genesis 18, talking with Abraham about God’s judgment upon the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. He is the one who forms and gives life in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16 and John 1:1-4). Jesus called God His Father and not His mother or some neuter-generic name.

Jesus also taught that He is the only way to the Father, that apart from faith in Him as the eternal Son of God and Savior we will die in our sins and be condemned to hell (John 14:6; 3:14-36; 8:24).

Are we ashamed of Jesus and His words? Do we shrink back from confessing Jesus as our God and Savior in the present adulterous and sinful generation? Do we pick and choose or twist His words to make our beliefs and teaching more palatable to those around us? Do we use our own limited reason to explain away what we don’t understand or what does not fit our modern worldview? Do we trust in our own works and lives rather than repenting of the sin and evil in our lives and looking to Jesus and His cross as our sole source of salvation?

Consider Jesus’ warning: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Dearest Jesus, forgive me for failing to confess You and Your words without shame before this adulterous and sinful generation. Grant that I hold fast to You in faith and boldly proclaim Your name. Amen.

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

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