Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: righteousness

Feasting with God #45 – Food of Penitence

Feasting with God #45

Food of Penitence

Text: Matthew 3:1-6

1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”

4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.  5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

With the advent of our Lord approaching, we have to be prepared.  It was John the Baptist’s purpose to prepare hearts for that very coming, hence his message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

At the end of the world, when Jesus returns in glory, “he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32).  You remember that story, when the King will recount to the sheep and goats their deeds (or lack thereof), demonstrating the evidence of a righteous or a wicked life, and the wicked “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

Going through the deeds of the wicked and the righteous, if we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that we often slip onto the side of the goats.  Or maybe we think we’re fine.  Think of the Christmas story: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).  How many of us haven’t thought, “If Mary and Joseph came to my town, I would give them a room!”?  That’s a nice sentiment, but how honest is it, really?  Have you ministered to all of “the least of these” that you’ve met (Matt. 25:45)?  Have we started to claim that we’re pretty good, that we try our best, that God has to admit that we’ve done everything we’re capable of?

Such claims are pointless, trying to make ourselves feel better for our own shortcomings.  Claiming, “I’m doing my best,” assumes that God is content with “the best” of someone who is corrupted by sin.  The truth is, God demands perfection: not one bit less.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  This is why John baptized and demanded repentance.  His whole life was a demonstration of this attitude: he “wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.”  He gave up any comforts or soft fabrics and wore the itchy camel’s-hair to remind himself of his sinfulness.  He relinquished any delicacies and ate only the things found in the wilderness, locusts and wild honey.  His image and his message made an impression, and people were awakened to their sinfulness and their need for salvation.

Realize: it’s no use trying to hide your sinfulness.  Saying, “I’ve done my best,” means nothing; only trying to hide your true wickedness from yourself and from God.  But there is a promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  This is how we get on the side of the sheep: we repent, we are baptized, we are forgiven, and the righteousness of Christ covers our unrighteousness.

This is John’s message, and it applies now more than ever, with the kingdom of heaven so close at hand.  It’s coming; are we on the side of the righteous or the unrighteous?  Cross the river Jordan in baptismal repentance, by confessing your sins and receiving Christ’s forgiveness.

Lord Jesus, as your advent nears, prepare us by your grace and forgiveness.  Return us always to our baptisms in repentance, and when we confess our sins, cover us in your righteousness, so that at your coming we might stand on your right and join you in eternal glory.  In your name we ask it.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #35 – Satisfied

Feasting with God #35

“Satisfied”

Text: Matthew 5:6

6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

In the apostle John’s first letter, he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  Between that statement and this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we can see the whole story of salvation: as we are on our own, we are full of unrighteousness, we are brimming with sin, we are overflowing with wickedness; but to confess our sins, to pour out this pitcher of our hearts, emptying its putrid contents on the floor at God’s feet, asking him to give us righteousness in its place, to put good hearts back where were our wicked ones, this leads to forgiveness and satisfaction.

It seems absurd.  It seems like we’re swindling God, conning him into a terrible deal.  “Give us your holiness, your righteousness, and godly glory, and we’ll give you a mortal, death-pocked heart, rotting away with sin.”  Yes, it certainly seems that God is getting the short end of the stick, but that’s the essence of grace.

Martin Luther was fond of illustrating our salvation as a marriage: Christ was the groom, rich and powerful, and we his Church were the bride, poor and lowly, wicked and criminal.  This mighty, wealthy man selected this bride out of the slums and married her.  Because of that wedding, all her crimes were attributed to him, and he had to make the payment for them.  And at the same time all his wealth, his mansions, his feasts belonged to her.  This is called the “Great Exchange.”  Our sin was given to Christ on the cross, and in exchange his righteousness was given to us.

The problem is, when the groom comes looking for us, we tend to scurry deeper into the garbage heaps we call home, fearing that his extended hand means us harm.  After all, if he pulls us into the light, won’t our ugliness be revealed for all the world to see?  If he removes the hoods from our faces, our diseases will terrify those around us and send them fleeing.  And besides, we know how often we have offended this very prince himself: we’ve cursed his name to our friends, we’ve mocked his grace, we’ve preferred to be our own masters than under his rulership.

The problem is, we don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness.  We proudly ignore the rumblings in our stomachs and say, “I’m fine.  I don’t need a handout.”  We really had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the slums, objecting that we were being persecuted, oppressed, and assaulted by this prince.  We were like rats cockroaches who never willingly come into the light and instead convince ourselves that we’re content to feed on garbage.

But his grace, despite our protests, carried us to his mansion, washed us clean, dressed us in fine silk and jewels, vowed to keep us as his own, “to love and cherish,” “in sickness and in health,” “for better or for worse,” “as long as we both shall live,” and then he placed before us the most magnificent feast we had ever seen, with the richest bread, the sweetest wine, in endless supply.

Taking our first bite of this grace, we can see how hungry we really were, and this leads us, ever afterward, to realize when we are starving for lack of grace.  Then we hunger for this righteousness once again.  We are moved by our Lord always to seek his grace.  And in that we are given the promise: he will never allow us to go hungry again, there will never come a time that he does not offer us his righteousness, we shall be satisfied.

Dear Jesus, for your sacrifice we thank and praise you, for we could never deserve such a rich gift as you give us in the righteousness you have earned and with which you have clothed us.  Lead us never to become complacent, never to forget what great nourishment you offer us in your Word and Sacraments.  Guide us ever back to the study of your word, with which you satisfy us in your righteousness.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.