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“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Psalm 119:9-10

God’s Word reveals to us our utter sinfulness and failings. We agree with what God says in His Word and acknowledge with David: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4).

We confess our sins and look to God with faith in Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world, and God is merciful toward us and forgives all our sins and iniquities for the sake of Christ Jesus (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2; Psalm 51:1ff.; Psalm 32:5).

But how do we now cleanse our way? How do we, as a fruit of our faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness toward us for Jesus’ sake, now live for our God and Savior and walk in a way which is pleasing to Him?

While some would direct us to look inside ourselves, to our hearts and feelings, we do not lean on our own thoughts or understanding; rather, we look to God’s Word to guide and change the thinking of our hearts.

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).

We look to the Scriptures, for there God has revealed His good and perfect will for us. He has told us what He desires of us.

We pray to God: “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm 86:11); and “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” (Psalm 119:36-37). With the psalmist we pray: “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments” (Psalm 119:10).

As the Spirit of God regenerates us and creates in us a new heart and right spirit (Psalm 51:10), we seek Him and His ways and join in praying that God would keep us from wandering outside the path of His commandments.

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

And, of course, if we are going to walk in the way God commands, we need God’s Word in our hearts.

Consider Psalm 119:11-16: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”

And so, we trust in Christ alone for pardon, forgiveness, and life eternal. As a fruit of our faith in Christ, we pray that God’s Spirit would unite our hearts to fear His name. And we look to God’s Word for guidance — studying, meditating, treasuring it in our hearts — that we might continue in the faith, walk in God’s ways, and not sin against Him.

O gracious and merciful God, we have sinned and gone astray. Forgive us for Jesus’ sake and cleanse our hearts, and teach us Your Word that we might walk in Your ways. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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

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Who is the Creator? The Bible, which is God’s inspired account, tells us that “in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

And, who is this God? The Hebrew word Elohim, which is the plural form of God, is the name used to describe the Creator in Genesis 1. He is also called by the name Jehovah (some pronounce it Yahweh or Yehuvah), often translated LORD.

“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Genesis 2:4).

The Bible further defines God and who He is, when it says: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:6). Thus we see that all things were created by God the Father through Jesus Christ, who is God the Son.

God’s creation account also tells us that, in the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). And so we see that God the Holy Spirit, too, was active in the creation of all things.

The opening verses of John’s Gospel tell us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). We learn that the Word, Jesus Christ, identified in verse 14 as God Himself in the flesh and the only-begotten Son of the Father, created all things and is the giver of life, both physical and spiritual.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the inspired Scriptures say of Christ Jesus, that He 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” (Colossians 1:15-17).

So, who is the Creator? It is God, the God the Scriptures identify for us as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Though God is one – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4) – God is also three – thus, the command to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). This is why the God of the Bible is often called the Triune (three/one) God, because He is one God and yet three distinct Persons. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, there are not three Gods, but one God.

The Bible tells us “there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).

Though beyond our ability to comprehend, this is how God has revealed Himself to us – it is His account and His word. And it is this God who has created all things and given us life.

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

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Galatians 3

21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Luke 10

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

St. Paul teaches us that “if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. … The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:21-22,24).

So then, the Law, which is good and right serves to prepare us to hear the Gospel promises which offer God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross. If we could be righteous in God’s eyes by our keeping of His Law, the Law would be used to justify us in God’s eyes. But the Scriptures teach us that not a single one of us has kept God’s Law as He requires. We have sinned against God, our Maker, in our thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says: “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

Romans 3:19-20 tells us: “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.”

And, again, Galatians 3:22 says: “But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

And so, the Law is indeed our school teacher, showing us our shortcomings, sins and wickedness in God’s eyes and preparing us to hear and take hold of the Gospel promises of forgiveness and life eternal through faith in Christ Jesus and His perfect righteousness under the Law and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the remission of all our sins.

When do we speak God’s Law and when do we speak God’s Gospel? As the 1943 “A Short Explanation of Dr. Luther’s Small Catechism,” in question 17, points out, “the Law must be preached to all men, but especially to impenitent sinners; the Gospel must be preached to sinners who are troubled in their minds because of their sins.”

So, when the lawyer stood up and tested Jesus with the question: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” should Jesus respond with the Law or the Gospel? What did Jesus say? “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” (Luke 10:26).

The lawyer answered Jesus: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (v. 27).

Jesus’ response may surprise you: “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (v. 28).

In fact, on another occasion, Jesus answered in the same way. It says in Matthew 22:34-40: “But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

But could this expert in Jewish law who wanted to know what works were required of him to enter into eternal life actually do what the law requires? Could he love the LORD God with all his heart, soul and strength as Deuteronomy 6:5 commands? Did he love his neighbor as himself, as required in Leviticus 19:18?

And notice the words of verse 29: “But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” He hoped to narrow the scope of the commandment a bit so that he could be justified by his obedience to the commandments.

But, how did Jesus answer his question? He told the parable of the Samaritan who loved his enemy, showed mercy on him and cared for his wounds when others who certainly should have exemplified love for God and neighbor passed by and did nothing to help. And, when this lawyer recognized who was a good neighbor to the man who fell among thieves, Jesus told this lawyer to “go, and do thou likewise” (v. 37).

Again, Jesus preached the Law. Why? Because, until this man recognized that he did not measure up to the demands of the Law but was condemned by the Law as a sinner, he wasn’t prepared to hear the Gospel. Until he recognized that he had failed to keep the Law and that the Law actually condemned him, he was not ready to hear God’s offer and promise of pardon and forgiveness through faith in Christ’s perfect obedience and His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world.

Does this still happen today? Certainly! There are plenty of people who count themselves righteous under the Law and think that God will receive them into heaven because of their good works and deeds. And, if they consider themselves to be righteous on the basis of their own works and life, we need to remind them of the full demands of God’s Law — not just some outward obedience but true and perfect obedience from the heart.

Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount: “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. … Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:20, 48).

But, when the Law has done its work and the Spirit of God convicts a sinner’s heart and reveals to him God’s wrath against sin, then it is time to preach the Gospel and point the condemned sinner to Christ Jesus, who kept God’s Law perfectly in thoughts, desires, words and deeds, and who took the burden and guilt of our sins upon Himself and bore our just punishment when He died on the cross and then rose again.

In Galatians 3, St. Paul wrote: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (v. 10). But then he also wrote: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (v. 13).

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (v. 24).

We continue to make this distinction between Law and Gospel yet today in applying God’s Word to our own lives and to the lives of others.

We use the Law of God to reveal God’s perfect will and what He requires of all to be counted righteous in His sight on the basis of our life and works. We use the Law to expose the sin and evil in our lives — to see our shortcomings and our guilt before God. And, we use the Law to see the just punishment we deserve on account of our sins — eternal death and damnation. As it says in Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

But when we see our own sinfulness and guilt before God, when we come to know that we stand condemned under God’s Law, we look in faith to the promises of the Gospel, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16); that “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); that “He 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).

And, though we are not justified by the Law of God, all who believe God’s Gospel promises are justified through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

As Jesus said, “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).

God grant that we see our utter sinfulness under God’s Law and take hold of the Gospel promises by faith that we might be justified through faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior, and receive everlasting life! Amen.

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

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“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” 2 Corinthians 13:5a

The Word of God calls upon all who call themselves “Christian” to examine and test themselves to see if they are truly in the faith. And this is indeed important, for many deceive themselves and think that they are Christians and all is well with their souls when, in fact, they are living in sin and unbelief and on the road to eternal damnation!

To test yourself, consider these questions:

1. Are you genuinely sorry for your sins against God and His commandments, or are you securely or intentionally continuing on in your own sinful ways?

2. Do you trust in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for forgiveness and eternal salvation, or do you rely on your own works or life to merit God’s acceptance and a place in His heavenly kingdom?

3. And, as a test of your honesty in answering the first two questions, do you sincerely desire, with God’s help, to amend your life and live for Christ in accord with His Word, or are you unwilling to change your lifestyle and give up every sin or evil in your life and follow Christ?

If you are not sorry for all your sins, are not trusting in Christ Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for salvation, or are not sincerely desiring and seeking to amend your life, you fail the test and ought to consider the consequence of continuing in sin and unbelief and repent before it is too late. Cf. Psalm 32; Psalm 51; 1 John 1:5 – 2:6.

The Bible tells us: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

The Bible also says: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). In other words, if we continue on in our sinful ways, we will suffer spiritual and eternal death and damnation. If we repent and look to Christ Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, God will forgive our sins and grant us the gift of eternal life!

In Psalm 139, David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (v.23-24).

O dearest Jesus, for the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, forgive me for all my sins and iniquities, cleanse my heart and grant me the sincere desire to amend my sinful ways and live for You. Amen.

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

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How is it that this world and the universe came to be? How did life begin and why does it go on? Is it all the result of chance over extreme lengths of time? Or is it the result of an intelligent creator who wisely designed and created all things?

While many have speculated and theorized, there is one eye-witness account of how all came to be and who is behind it.

And this account is foundational for the Christian Faith. If God did not create the heavens and the earth and all things, we are not accountable to Him. But, if the creation account is true and God did create this world and give us life, each of us must answer to Him for how we have lived the life He gave us.

Many scoff and criticize this account and offer alternative theories with no foundation in truth in an attempt to escape the accountability which goes along with the creation account, but wisdom calls upon us to seek the truth and accept it, along with any accountability which accompanies that truth.

That one eye-witness account is recorded for all to know in the first two chapters of Genesis. It is the account of the Creator Himself, recorded by Moses for all to read and know the truth.

That account begins: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Please take the time now to read Genesis 1:1 — 2:3.

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. 23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

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

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