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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20

Some in Jesus’ day misunderstood and thought that Jesus was trying to throw out all that is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures because He offered forgiveness and life through faith in His name.

Unfortunately, some today assume that Jesus’ teaching does away with the Old Testament and makes these Scriptures obsolete and unnecessary for Christians. Many even believe and teach that one can be a Christian and disregard some or all of what the Bible teaches. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

It is as Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Jesus, the long-promised Messiah and Savior, came to fulfill all that is taught in the Old Testament, not to destroy it. Not the smallest letter (jot) of the Law or the smallest part of a letter (tittle) in the Scriptures will pass away until all is fulfilled.

Thus, Jesus went on to say: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Thus, it is a grave offense to break even the smallest commandment in the Scriptures and teach others so. Those who do so will be least or excluded entirely from God’s kingdom (cf. Ex. 20:1-17; Rom. 6:1ff.).

And, as a study of the Scriptures will reveal, the righteousness which God demands is far greater than the outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It far exceeds the righteousness of the churchgoers of our day who depend on their own righteous works and deeds.

The Scriptures demand perfect righteousness of heart, soul and mind. Jesus said later in His Sermon on the Mount: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And God says in Leviticus 19:2: “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (cf. Matt. 5:21ff.; 5:27ff.; 5:33ff.; 5:38ff; 5:43ff).

The Scriptures demand a holy life in thought, word and deed — righteousness which we do not have and cannot attain by our own attempts to keep God’s Law. Instead of being righteous by keeping the law, the law condemns us. We read in Romans 3:19-20: “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” (cf. Rom. 3:9-20).

But Jesus came to keep every commandment of the Scriptures perfectly for us. He regarded the Scriptures as the very Word of God and was obedient in thoughts, desires, words and actions to every teaching of the Law and the Prophets! He fulfilled all and regarded all as absolute truth. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Scriptures for us.

Jesus also, as prophesied by the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament Scriptures), took our place under God’s Law and took the guilt and punishment of our sins upon Himself, that we might have forgiveness and life through faith in Him and His blood shed for us upon the cross. In Isaiah 53:6, we read: “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 these same Scriptures declare to us Christ’s full atonement for our sins and the acceptance and pardon of a merciful God for Jesus’ sake. “We have an 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; cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 3:21-28; 4:3-8; 4:23ff.). The Scriptures offer to us the imputed, perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus that we might stand in God’s judgment through faith in Jesus’ name.

And, the Bible assures us that all who trust in Christ will be saved. Jesus said in John 5:24: “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.” Those who trust in Jesus will not be condemned but have eternal life (cf. John 5:24; 3:16-18; Mark 16:16)!

Dear LORD Jesus, holy Son of God and true man, our Savior, thank You for fulfilling for us the perfect righteousness taught and demanded in the Holy Scriptures, and thank You for bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for all our sins and then rising again to grant us forgiveness and life — perfect righteousness — through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.]

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“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” 1 Cor. 4:1-2

St. Paul and all who are called by God through the Church to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are ministers and servants of Christ, and they are stewards of the mysteries of God. To them the saving Word of God has been entrusted, and they are to use that Word to extend and build up the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. As servants of Christ and stewards of God’s Word, they are required to be faithful — not to men but to Christ and His Word!

Elsewhere, St. Paul writes: “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4; cf. Gal. 1:1,9ff.).

St. Paul was faithful to his Lord Jesus Christ. He was unwilling to compromise the Gospel for the sake of temporal peace and tranquility; and he traveled throughout the Roman Empire, sometimes enduring great hardship, so that others could hear of Christ Jesus and the salvation He won for all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross (cf. Gal. 1:6ff.; 2 Cor. 11:22ff.; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Where the preaching of God’s Word was rejected, St. Paul shook off the dust from his feet and moved on; but, where the Gospel was received in faith, Paul continued on there, nurturing and building up the believers with the Word of God (Acts 13:44-51; 18:1-11).

Called pastors today are also servants of Jesus Christ, entrusted with the precious and saving Gospel. As a minister of Christ and a steward of God’s Word, a pastor is to be faithful, not to men, but to God, who called and placed him into this office. Pastors are to shepherd and feed the Church of Jesus Christ with the pure and sincere Word of God, and to administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution (cf. 1 Pet. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28; 2 Tim. 3:14-4:5; Jer. 23:28). It is as St. Paul says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (v. 2). What matters is not how men judge a pastor’s faithfulness but whether or not he is judged faithful by his Lord (cf. v. 3-4).

As believers and members of Christ’s Church, we also share in this stewardship of God’s mysteries. We have been entrusted with the saving Word of God and the task of using that Word to disciple all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). We are to send men to preach the Gospel in all the world (cf. Mark 16:15-16), forgiving the sins of penitent sinners and retaining the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent (cf. John 20:23). And, as servants of Jesus Christ, we are accountable unto Him for this stewardship.

Have we been faithful to God’s Word? Have we faithfully used the Word entrusted to us to carry out this great work for our Lord and Savior? Or, have we compromised the Word or hid it among us (cf. Luke 19:10-27)?

As we consider our own failures as servants of Christ and stewards of His mysteries, we can be thankful that our Savior was faithful in that task entrusted to Him of His Father, for our Lord Jesus Christ did not fail or come short in accomplishing the redemption of our souls! He fulfilled perfectly in our stead all that God’s holy law demands of us, and He paid in full the just punishment for our sins and the sins of the whole world when He suffered and died upon the cross (cf. Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27; 9:11-14,27-28; 10:19ff.). Through faith in our crucified and risen Savior, we have forgiveness for our sins and the assurance of eternal life with Him in heaven!

Again, the Bible says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

And, as forgiven children of God, we use the time He has entrusted to us in this world to be His faithful servants and stewards of His saving Word.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us for any laziness or unfaithfulness on our part; and move us to be good stewards of Thy Word, sharing its sacred truths with people everywhere, that they too might know Thee as the only true God and their only Savior from sin and the everlasting punishments of hell. Amen.

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

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“1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” Luke 5:1-11

I remember when I was a young man and contemplating studying for the ministry, an uncle of mine jokingly told me that being a pastor was a great job because “you only have to work a half-day a week and you can go fishing the rest of the time.” And, to be honest with you, it’s even better than that. A pastor’s job allows him to go fishing every day of the week. Of course, the same is true for every Christian.

All of us, like Peter, are unworthy to serve the almighty Son of God or even be in His presence (v. 8), yet Jesus called Peter and He called His apostles and He calls His Church — every true believer — to be fishers of men, to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (cf. Luke 5:10; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 8:4). Even though we may have tried our best and “toiled all the night,” Jesus commands us to let down our nets again and again, trusting that He will accomplish His purposes.

And so we do. We continue to preach and share God’s Word, knowing and trusting God’s promise that His Word will not return to Him void, without accomplishing His purpose.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 55:10-11: “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

Perhaps we can take the analogy of this Scripture text even further. Jesus commanded His disciples to launch out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch. He didn’t tell them to stand on the safety of the shore and try to bait the fish in. He sent them out to where the fish were — in the deep — and it is there where they were to let down their nets.

So also, Jesus would have us go out into the world where the people are — maybe even into places we would rather not go — and there let down our nets.

It doesn’t usually work to call the fish to come onto the shore or to jump into our boats. Nor is it sufficient to simply invite people to come within the walls of our church building that they might hear the Word of God and believe. We need to go to them and find ways to reach them with the Word of God where they are. It’s only when they are caught in the net out there that they can be brought into the boat and in here!

The Bible tells us that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). But it also says: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:13-16).

Though I have read these articles of faith to you before, I again remind you of Articles IV and V of the Augsburg Confession, to which we all subscribe:

Article IV. Of Justification.
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, hath made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Article V. Of the Ministry of the Church.
That we may obtain this faith, the Office of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who worketh faith where and when it pleaseth God in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justified those who believe that they are received into favor for Christ’s sake.

So, how do we launch out into the deep that we might catch men for Jesus? First of all, we need to go out where the people are and not expect them to come to us where we are.

Secondly, we need to let down our nets, and they may need to be let down deep to where the fish are. That means finding ways to touch people’s lives with God’s Word where they are and in ways they will hear.

Thirdly, we need to remember who it is that fills the nets and follow His fishing instructions. We won’t catch souls for Jesus unless the nets we let down are His words of Law and Gospel — His words warning people concerning their sin and its eternal consequences and His words telling them of God’s mercy and forgiveness and of life eternal in Christ Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness for us and then suffered and died on the cross for our sins and the sins of all, and rose again in victory!

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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.” And to the Romans, Paul wrote (Rom. 4:23-25: “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Jesus was delivered up to die and pay the price for our sins and the sins of the world, and Jesus was raised up again on the third day in victory, proving that atonement has been made. Why? That we might believe on Him and trust that in Him we have a Savior, that through faith in Him and His cross, we have pardon and forgiveness and are justified and counted righteous in God’s eyes.

And, what a great job God has given to us as believers! We get to go fishing every day by taking the message of His Word out into the deep, where the lost are, and catching them with the good news of forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus, who is God’s Son and our Savior, who died for the sins of the world and rose again in victory!

God grant that we hear His Word and trust in Christ Jesus, our Savior! And God grant that we hear His call and let down our nets in the deep and become fishers of men! Amen.

Dear Lord Jesus, You have called us to be fishers of men, to launch out into the deep and let down the net of Your Word for a catch. Grant us the faith to heed Your call and to go out into the world and proclaim Your Word to people where they are that You might fill the nets and bring people from the depths of their sin to faith in You as their Savior. Amen.

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

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“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Psalm 130:3-4

Our days in this world are numbered, and we have come short of what God requires of us as His creatures. Hence, the words of Psalm 130:3: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”

The answer, of course, is that none of us would stand. We have been weighed in the scales of God’s righteous judgment and are found wanting. Our lives are filled with sin in our thoughts, desires, words and actions.

If the LORD were to mark our every iniquity in His books and keep a record of our every failure, who could stand in His judgment? Who is innocent of all sin? Who can stand before God and proclaim his own righteousness under the law?

Yet, that is what many plan to do — to seek acceptance with God on the basis of their own lives and works. But God demands more — He demands perfect obedience in thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

Even Christians cannot stand. Our hearts are divided. As believers, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we may have the desire to love the LORD with all our heart, mind and soul, but we don’t because we also still have our old sinful nature within us. We may desire to obey all God’s commandments, but we fail. Knowing that God demands that we be holy as He is holy (cf. Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48), we can also easily become discouraged and even angry with God for demanding of us what we are not able to do.

God’s law condemns us all. God’s Word, however, also gives us comfort when it says in verse 4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

The LORD God forgives sins! As the psalm promises, God sent His only-begotten Son to die for our sins and provide for us “plenteous redemption” (v. 7). Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died not only for the sins of Israel; He made atonement for the sins of the whole world and then rose again from the dead (cf. Matt. 1:21; 1 John 2:1-2). We, therefore, hope in the LORD and trust in His mercy.

As believers, we have confidence that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). When we trust in Christ and His cross, we can rest assured that our God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6-7).

Have we come short? Are we found wanting in God’s judgment? Yes, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But, when we despair of our own righteousness and place our faith in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for our sins, we also are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Dear LORD God, we give You thanks that You have redeemed us in the Son and forgive us all our sins when we place our faith in Him. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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

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While many may not agree with me, I’d like to point out a denial of Biblical truth that has permeated modern thinking and leads to flawed approaches to dealing with what psychologists and sociologists would call deviant or pathological behavior — deviant being contrary to socially accepted norms, and pathological often being associated with mental deficiencies and mental illness.

Modern thinking views man as basically good. And, where deviant or socially unacceptable behavior occurs, the cause is not sought in the person but in the environment in which he or she lives or was raised or in some sort of mental disease or disorder. That is why, when evils like senseless shootings occur, people immediately begin looking at mental illness or the accessibility to guns as the cause and think that a more healthful and weapon-free environment would prevent such acts of violence and mayhem.

The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that all mankind is fallen. It teaches that we are by birth self-centered and incapable of pure selfless love and good toward God or toward our fellow man and are capable of — and even inclined toward — evil. This does not mean that people cannot do what society considers good and right or live what society considers an upright life. It does mean that the reasons and motivation for doing so are not so selfless and pure as we may wish people would believe. People do good for a reason, whether it be financial gain, public acclaim or just to feel good or better about themselves. And, yes, people sometimes do deeds almost all would agree are terribly evil — sometimes for the same or similar reasons.

The Bible teaches that the fall of Genesis 3 affects us all. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). God’s Word teaches: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21; cf. 6:5). And David wrote in Psalm 51, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (v. 5).

I might add that one of the reasons I find the Bible so believable is that it tells the truth about mankind and about me. Nothing is whitewashed or covered over; even some of the greatest personages in the Bible fell into terrible transgressions and sins.

While the philosophy of the modern world teaches that we are all basically good, the Word of God says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

We may not like to think it of ourselves, but we all have a propensity to do great evil. While we may not have carried out crimes against others, whether it be because of our fear of God or because we fear human disapproval or punishments, we’ve all at times had thoughts of evil too shameful to tell.

While modern philosophical thinking looks to prevent deviant behavior by controlling the environment and rewarding socially accepted behavior, those who hold to the Biblical view of fallen man recognize that evil does and will exist in this world no matter how stringently the environment is controlled. Rather than pretending all can be well, those who believe the Bible face man’s evil propensity with deterrents — the teaching of God’s authority and of His judgment, upholding Biblical moral absolutes, and enacting laws and punishments based on Biblical principles.

If all of this sounds foreign to you, consider that America’s founders recognized man’s propensity to evil and, to limit evil’s effect, divided power between the states and the federal government and even further divided powers within the federal government to limit the powers of any one man or any group of men.
Along with the Bible’s teaching in regard to the fall and sinfulness of man is also a Biblical remedy: forgiveness and a new birth and life from God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Biblical doctrine of the fall doesn’t leave man wallowing hopelessly in his fallenness. It calls upon sinners to repent and offers God’s pardon and a new life for the sake of Jesus Christ, God the Son made man, who paid the just penalty for all sins and gives new life to believers here in this world and a life free of all evil and sin in the age to come.

What’s my point? If the Biblical view of man is true — and I am convinced it is — the attempts of sociologists, psychologists, politicians, teachers and society to rid the world of evil and prevent acts of violence and mayhem by cleansing the environment of poverty, inequality, bullying, intolerance, guns, drugs, etc. will be of no avail. Evil and violence will still be with us because it is within us.

On the other hand, if we wish to minimize its impact and devastation, we need to teach the truth about sin and God’s remedy in Jesus Christ, return to Biblical moral absolutes, truly punish criminals, and allow people to defend themselves against coarse outbursts of evil.

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

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