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Lutheran Service Book #344 “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist Cry”

“May grace be to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:2)

Psalm 130 [A Song of Degrees.]
1 Out of the depths I have cried to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3 If you, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you so that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD. My soul waits, and I hope in his word. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, even more than those who watch for the morning. 7 Let Israel hope in the LORD, for with the LORD there is mercy and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Malachi 4:1-6:
1 “For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and all who do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear my name, the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings, and you shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts. 4 “Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Luke 1:1-25:
1 Because many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2 Even as they delivered them to us, who, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, 3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4 So that you may know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.
5 There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the course of Abia. And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. 7 And they had no child because Elizabeth was barren and they were both far advanced in years.
8 And it came to pass, that, while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zechariah saw him, he was troubled and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not fear, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel he shall turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “By what shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is far advanced in years.” 19 And the angel, answering, said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and am sent to speak to you and to show you these glad tidings. 20 And behold, you shall be mute and not able to speak until the day that these things are performed because you do not believe my words which shall be fulfilled in their season.”
21 And the people waited for Zechariah and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them. And they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24 And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived and secluded herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me in the days in which he looked at me to take away my reproach among men.”

Why did God send John the Baptist?

“For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel he shall turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:15-17

The words of Gabriel to Zachariah echo the Word of the Lord recorded by Malachi, the prophet: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).

And, as we prepare for the second advent of the LORD, our Lord Jesus Christ, we continue in the ministry of John the Baptist by calling sinners to repentance and pointing them to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world.

As God’s Word teaches us, we are to preach “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). We are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:45-47). We are to point people to Jesus and proclaim the truth that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), that He is our “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

While many think lightly of Christ’s return and the final judgment and see no need for repentance, it is indeed a serious matter. If the LORD judges us according to His law, who can stand, as we read in Psalm 130:3? The answer, of course, is none of us, for we have all sinned and come short of what God, in His law, demands (cf. Rom. 3:19-20,23).

In Malachi 3:2, we read: “But who may endure the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap.”

In Malachi 4:1,5-6, we read: “‘For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and all who do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘so that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. … Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’”

It is for that reason that John the Baptist came to call upon sinners to repent and look to Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, for pardon and forgiveness (cf. Luke 3:2ff.; Ps. 130:4ff.). And the Church, through its ministers, still preaches the same message today (cf. Luke 24:46-47; John 20:20-23; Acts 3:19ff.). Both John and the Church seek “to ‘turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Through the preaching of God’s Word, the fathers and their descendants are united again in the true fear of the LORD. Those who were disobedient to the true faith are awakened to their sinfulness by God’s Spirit and turned to the wisdom of the just — to the wisdom of those who acknowledge and repent of their sinful ways and look in faith to the LORD God for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the promised Messiah and His redeeming work.

What is the message in this for you and for me? The only way for you and me, or anyone, to be ready for the Lord’s return and to escape the curse and condemnation of God’s holy law is to repent and trust in the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus for the sins of the world (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 3:10,13; Acts. 3:17ff.)

It is as we read in Acts 4:12, “There is not salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your house shall be saved.”

O LORD God, we have sinned and come short of the righteousness Your law demands. We are guilty and justly stand condemned. Have mercy on us and forgive us our sins for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, Your Son and our crucified and risen Savior, that we may be found in Him, just and holy and acceptable in Your sight on that day when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. Amen.

Prayers
Almighty and everlasting God, who, by the mouth of Your prophets, proclaimed the advent of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Hope of Israel and the Savior of the world; By Your Holy Spirit, move us to humble ourselves before You, sincerely repent of our sins, and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness that we may be prepared for His second coming, when He shall appear in the clouds of heaven with all His holy angels to judge the living and the dead. Let not that day come upon us unexpectedly and surprise us in unbelief and sin, but grant that we be always watchful, continuing in Your Word and prayer. And, when that day does come, grant that we may lift up our heads with joy because our redemption draws nigh.

Hear us, O Father, for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Your dear Son in our stead. In His name, we pray. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who is in heaven, may your name be hallowed. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us for our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Benediction
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14)

Lutheran Service Book #878 “Abide with Me”

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (Read John 1:1-14)

Who is the Child born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem and laid in a manger?

We find God’s answer to that in John 1:1-4,14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind … The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

That Babe born in Bethlehem was none other than God Himself, the eternal Word, made flesh that He might dwell among us and redeem us from sin and eternal death and damnation.

The Apostle John also writes of Him: “We saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father …” John and the other disciples witnessed Jesus’ divine glory in His mighty miracles, in His glorious transfiguration, and in His resurrection and ascension. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, come into this world a true man.

Indeed, God did the most amazing thing! With us being totally dead in our sins and unable to please God or come to Him, He sent His only-begotten Son (the eternal Word, true God with the Father and Holy Spirit, the Creator of all things visible and invisible) into His own creation as a man to redeem fallen mankind and give us life! God’s Son became flesh — a true man with flesh and bones and blood, like you and me — when He was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary through the miraculous working of God’s Spirit.

The Bible tells us in Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

In fulfillment of God’s promises of old, God the Son took on human flesh and blood and became true man so that He might take our place under God’s law and fulfill it for us and then redeem us from the curse and condemnation of God’s law by suffering our just punishment by means of His death on the cross.

The Bible tells us: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us — as it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).

And why did He do it? “That we might receive the adoption as sons” through faith in His name (Gal. 4:5), that we might look to Him and His atoning sacrifice in faith and be received as God’s children.

Again, St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-27: “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

As our text says, Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” In Jesus, we see the fullness of God’s grace toward us sinners. In Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross, God’s undeserved love reached down and provided a way of salvation for lost mankind; and, in Jesus, God still reaches down to us lost and condemned sinners, offering forgiveness of sins and life everlasting through faith in Christ and His cross.

In this sin-darkened world, God’s truth is revealed to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the truth — only in Him is there forgiveness and life everlasting! He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Only in Him can we obtain forgiveness of sins and life everlasting (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12)!

God grant that we look to Him in faith!

O eternal God, our heavenly Father, we thank you for the gracious gift of Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior and the only true way to life everlasting. Graciously grant to us true faith in Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Thanksgiving Message

Since we have come to the close of a sermon series on Hebrews this week, and with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us and the need for a Thanksgiving text, how convenient of the author of the Hebrews to provide one for us in the final chapter of his epistle.

I read to you the Word of God recorded for our instruction in Hebrews 13:15-16:

“Through Him, then, let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, after he had presented the truth of the Gospel, urges us, as a response to the salvation Christ has won for us, to offer our bodies back to God as a living sacrifice, devoted to the service of the Lord.

After teaching us that we are not and cannot be counted just and righteous in God’s sight by our keeping of the law since none of us can or do keep it perfectly as God requires, but that we can be counted just and righteous in God’s eyes through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world for He perfectly kept God’s law in our stead and then bore the full punishment for our sins when He suffered and died on the cross, Paul urges us to now live and devote our lives to Christ, who died for our sins and rose again (cf. 2 Cor. 5:15).

We read in Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The epistle to the Hebrews, whether written by the apostle Paul or by another disciple of our Lord, makes clear to us that we have not been redeemed by the blood of goats and calves but by “the blood of Christ.”

We read in Hebrews 9:11-14: “But Christ, when He came as a High Priest of the good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies so that the flesh is purified, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

And so, we are justified, saved, and made acceptable in God’s eyes, not by our own sin-tainted works, but through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins and the sins of the world. But we are saved for a purpose. Our consciences were cleansed “from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).

Or, as Paul writes to the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we should walk in them.”

Therefore, through faith in Christ, entering the very presence of God the Father by means of the shed blood of Christ and His atonement for our sins, “let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

Do you get it? Since we are saved by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to atone for our sins, we are called upon to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, and we are to offer up to God “the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

We, of course, have so much for which to be thankful. We have families, homes, food, clothes, jobs, and lots of things to occupy our time and give us pleasure. And, at this time of year, many talk of being thankful for all they have. But, what is so often forgotten on this day is to whom we should be thankful! It is one thing to be thankful that we have been able to work and have our home and family and all these wonderful things. It is quite another to know and thank the one who has given them to us to enjoy!

That is why the psalmist, in Psalm 96:7-9, writes: “Give unto the LORD, O families of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.”

You see, it’s not enough just to be thankful. We are to be thankful to the LORD (Jehovah or Yahweh, the Triune God) who created the heavens and the earth and has given us our lives and all things. He alone is worthy of our worship and praise!

And what can we give to the God who created and upholds all things? We have nothing that He needs. Indeed, all things are already His!

In Psalm 50:10-15, God tells us: “Every wild animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and the creatures that move in the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice a thank offering to God, and pay your vows to the Most High, and call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.”

What does God desire of us? Our worship and praise, “the fruit of our lips.” He desires that we give to Him “the glory due His name” (Psalm 96:8). And our offerings to Him are not providing anything He needs but are an expression of trust in His name — trust that He can and will provide all our needs even when we first honor Him and present a portion of what he has given us back to Him and to the work of building His kingdom.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your substance, and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your presses will burst out with new wine.” The question is: Do we trust in the LORD enough to do this?

And so, first of all, since God has created us and sustains us, since He gives us our life, our families and all things, since He also has redeemed us, sending His Son to pay the price and atone for our sins, and sending us his Word and the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith in Christ and give to us pardon, forgiveness and life eternal, we are called upon to “continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

And, secondly, the Word of God urges us to “not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). It is true that we have nothing that God needs. However, there are many around us who are in need, and God would have us share the blessings he has showered upon us with those who are truly in need.

This, too, is an act and expression of faith, trusting that when we share with others, our God will still supply all our needs. Our Lord Jesus, who gave His life for us, told us: “Give, and it will be given to you: Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will men give unto you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you” (Luke 6:38). And the Scriptures repeatedly urge us to “remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10).

God told His people in Deuteronomy 15:7-11: “If there be among you a poor man, one of your brothers within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God has given you, you must not harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. But you shall open your hand wide to him and must surely lend him what is sufficient for his need, in that which he lacks. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin in you. You must surely give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because in this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works, and in all that you put your hand to do. For the poor will never cease from being in the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and needy in your land.’”

In Isaiah 58:6-9, God says: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the poor who are outcasts into your house? When you see the naked, to cover him and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth quickly, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your reward. Then you shall call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and He shall say, Here I am.”

Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed are those who consider the poor; the LORD will deliver them in the day of trouble.”

We also read in Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay what he has given.” And, in 22:9: “He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.”

In Luke 12:33-34, Jesus tells us: “Sell your possessions and give alms. Provide yourselves purses that do not grow old, an unfailing treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

And, certainly, there are many more verses we could consider. But the point is this: God desires that we trust Him enough to be willing to share the blessings He has showered upon us.

This, of course, takes wisdom because we are not to encourage slothfulness, and St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that “if any will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Therefore, we also need to be careful that we support those who are truly in need and not those who are too lazy to work. That may mean working through a trusted organization or taking the time to know those we help to be sure they are truly in need and not seeking to exploit the generosity of others. Of course, in the end, God will judge those who deceive us and abuse our generosity — meaning the burden of being good stewards lies not only on the giver but also on the recipients of our kindness.

We also seek to meet people’s greatest need, to share with them the precious teaching of God’s Word. Since God so graciously has given to us His Word and called us to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we share that Word with others, calling upon all to repent of their sinful ways and look to Jesus Christ and His cross for mercy and forgiveness (cf. Luke 24:46-47). We sacrifice that others, too, might hear the Gospel promises of forgiveness and life through faith in our Savior!

Therefore, through Christ, and as a result of His love and mercy upon us, we are exhorted to “continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share. For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

We do so, not because God needs anything of us but because He has shown us mercy, forgiveness and abundant blessings for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Savior! We offer this sacrifice to God, not to merit God’s grace and favor but because God has shown us His abundant grace and favor for the sake of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice for us on the cross!

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” — Hebrews 13:20-21

A blessed Thanksgiving season to you!

[Scripture is quoted from the Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

O That Men Would Give Thanks!

from Psalm 107 Music courtesy of Robert Evans and scripturesongs.net.

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
For He satisfies the longing soul
And fill the hungry soul with goodness
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

Refrain:
(Oh, give) thanks, Oh give thanks
To the Lord for He is good
Oh, give thanks, oh give thanks
For His mercy endures forever

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
For He has broken the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron in two
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving
And declare His works with rejoicing
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

O that men would give thanks
To the Lord for His goodness
And for His wonderful works
To the children of men
Let them exalt Him in the congregation of the people
And praise Him in the assembly of the mature
Let them understand
Let them understand and give…

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“He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:10-13

It is an amazing thing that God the Son, the Creator of the world, was in the world, and yet the world did not recognize Him! Jesus Christ, God Himself in human flesh, came into this world, and the people of this world did not know Him or acknowledge Him to be who He truly is.

Of course, nothing is different today. People still do not know or recognize Jesus for who He is. He made us and redeemed us, and yet we, by nature, do not acknowledge Him as our Creator or our Redeemer.

Jesus, the promised Messiah and Savior, came to His own people — to those who had the promises of God’s Word and looked for His coming — but they did not receive Him. And today as well, He comes through His Word to those who have known and heard the promises, but still, people are unwilling to receive Him.

But to those who do receive Him — to those who trust that in Him and for the sake of His blood shed on the cross for the sins of all mankind, God is gracious toward us and forgives sins — God has given the right and privilege to be His children.

As the Scripture says, “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).

However, our receiving of Jesus as the Messiah and Savior is not the result of our natural birth or bloodline. It is not because we were born to Christian parents or were raised in a church. It’s not even the result of our own will or decision. Rather, it is the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit in our lives. Through His Word, God reveals Himself to us and reveals to us Jesus as God the Son and our Savior, leading us to trust in Him for forgiveness and life.

It is as God’s Word says: “Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

We give You thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, for graciously revealing to us that You are both our Creator and our Redeemer. We thank You for going to the cross and paying in full for our sins and the sins of the world so that we might have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Your name. Thank You for moving us to trust in Your name and for giving us the right and privilege to be called children of God. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Marriage is to be honored among everyone, and the bed undefiled. But God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. Let your lives be without love of money, and be content with the things you have. For He has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:4-6

In Deuteronomy 5:21, Moses reminds Israel of God’s command against coveting (Ex. 20:17), restating the commandment in these words: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor shall you covet your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

And what God is teaching us in this commandment is to trust Him in all things and to be content in Him and in all His blessings. We are not to covet or desire what God has not given us but to trust in Him and rejoice in His blessings.

Therefore, we are to honor the covenant of marriage and keep it holy and undefiled, which means we should not covet our neighbor’s wife (or spouse), and we are not to commit adultery or engage in any kind of sexual immorality. We are not to be adulterers or sexually immoral (pornos) persons. Rather, we are to abide by God’s institution of marriage in Genesis 2:18-25 — a lifetime union of one man and one woman unto one flesh.

And, if you think about it, when we desire our neighbor’s spouse or seek to gratify our fleshly desires outside of God’s institution of marriage, what we are really doing is questioning and rejecting the truthfulness of God’s Word, which forbids both committing adultery and coveting (Deut. 5:18,21). We are yielding to the lies and deceptions of the devil and not being content with the blessings God offers and gives to us through the institution of marriage.

The writer to the Hebrews adds the warning, “God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers” (13:4).

As the commandment against coveting teaches us, we are not to desire money or the goods of this world which God has not given us, but we should live in faith, trusting that our God will meet all our needs and is working for our good.

And so, the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us: “Let your lives be without love of money, and be content with the things you have” (13:5).

This, of course, is completely contrary to the thinking of the world and our own selfish and sinful nature which is never satisfied and always seems to desire more — something better, the latest and the greatest.

Yet, the Bible cautions us against the love of this world when it says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

The Bible urges us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us of God’s promises (13:5,6): “‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” Cf. Deut. 31:6,8; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 118:6-7.

Therefore, as we live by faith in the promise of God’s Word to grant us forgiveness, access to God the Father, and the eternal joys of heaven through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for us on the cross, so we are also urged to live our lives here in this world in faith that God’s Word is true and right, that His commandments are for our good, that He will provide us with all our needs and will never leave or forsake us. We are urged to be content with what God provides us and to trust Him in all things, confident that He will lead us safely through this life to Himself in heaven!

Grant to us contentment in Your blessings, O Lord, and take from us our faithless longings for those things you have not given to us and which are not ours to have. Deliver us from the sinful lusts and desires of our own flesh and keep us from breaking Your good and holy commandments by desiring our neighbor’s spouse, loving money, or being discontent with the blessings You have given to us. Grant us faith in Christ Jesus for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal, and move us to walk by faith in Your Word. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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