Monthly Archives: November 2014

Advent 1 – Matthew 21:1-9

Happy New Church Year! The Advent greeting sounds once again for a blessed new church year: Behold, your King comes to you. Jesus Christ, once visible in Jerusalem, now unseen, will certainly come to us again this new church year through His Holy Gifts of preaching, Baptism, the Supper, and Absolution. Through these Gifts, as through means, we receive God’s grace, His undeserved favor. We Christians cannot live without His grace. Though many things change in a new year, one thing remains constant: God’s grace will be with us in the new church year.

Saint Matthew reminds us what the prophet Zechariah said about Jesus’ coming: Behold, your King comes to you. If we first came to Christ, we would never be partakers of Him. Jerusalem is not able to come to Christ. Christ must come to her. Christ must come to us. Jesus Himself says so in John chapter six: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, “And they will all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.

We also know this from the Small Catechism, where Martin Luther teaches us to confess as Holy Scripture teaches. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason and strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him”. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, brings Jesus to us as He once came to Jerusalem. Jesus was the One Who sought Jerusalem. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 23: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Jesus still comes to us today. We see this coming before our eyes here in the Divine Service as well as in our homes when we take up Holy Scripture and read it, meditate upon it, and learn from it our only hope for salvation: Jesus Christ. We see this coming as we confess our sins and receive Absolution not doubting, but firmly believing, that our sins are absolved, taken away, and covered in Christ’s atoning blood. We see this coming of the Christ as we open our mouths and receive His True Body and True Blood in the Lord’s Supper. He is here. He offers Himself to you. You don’t need to travel a long distance to a far away place. You don’t need to ascend into heaven or descend into hell. The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. Cling to this evermore in the new Church Year, dearly beloved. Cling to Christ’s certain Word of forgiveness and life.

Christ also comes to us not as a judge, but as a Savior. He is humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. If Christ would come to us in order to deal with us according to God’s righteousness, we could not wait for grace, much less be certain of it. It would amount to the same thing as if Christ would bring a conditional grace that would stand on our actions and our behavior. You are saved from everlasting death and hell only if you’re good enough or if you have sinned 50 percent less this week than last week. His coming then would bring only a judgment on the basis of our works. This judgment denies us grace. Grace never measures. Grace only works on those dead enough to receive it.

You are dead in trespasses and sins. God’s Law reveals this to you. You do not live up to His expected standard. You miss the mark God demands. God’s Word shows no true deed is found among us. Yet Christ now comes not in order to judge, but in order to save. Listen again to the description of how Jesus enters Jerusalem. Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. The key word here is humble. He came to Jerusalem at that particular time in order to suffer and die and thus redeem us in our place. Jesus comes now in the humble Word of the Gospel. He doesn’t come to collect debts. He comes in order to give. Jesus delivers the grace we need to sustain us as we walk the pilgrim way. That is why the message of Zechariah repeated by Matthew is a joyful message for us on this First Sunday of Advent: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. The King brings free and certain grace for you, just as He has for many church years before. The message does not change this new church year. Though the calendar year will change in a month or so, the constant cycle of Christ’s grace does not change. Your King comes to you bringing gifts of forgiveness. Welcome Him anew today and always!

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Trinity 23 – Matthew 22:15-22

The United States of America can rightly be called, as Canaan once was called, a land in which milk and honey flows. As it did for Canaan, so these words of Moses also apply for the United States: There will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess. No wonder people from all over the world want to come to our country like our ancestors did many years ago.

The greatest and dearest treasure with which God has crowned our country is not our ample natural resources, our national parks, or even the abundance of wealth. It is freedom of religion, the independence of the Church from the secular state. In spite of our federal government’s many missteps through the years, our founding fathers were clear-headed to keep the free exercise of religion and the governance of the country as far apart as the east is from the west. This echoes our Lord’s words in Matthew chapter 22: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

Rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s means to submit to the governing authorities what God gives them. For example, we render everything that falls in the area of earthly and temporal matters. This includes our money, for currency belongs to the governing authorities. Rendering to God the things that are God’s means to submit to our heavenly Father all things that concern the soul, the conscience, all spiritual assets and gifts, even the Word of God.

God has given both state and church as His gift. He gives them special rights, gifts, and duties. Saint Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 13: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Again Paul says in First Timothy chapter two: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. Even our Lord must remind Pontius Pilate that My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. Jesus comes into the world to bear witness to the truth, not to govern earthly affairs.

Here’s where many Christians misunderstand the separation of church and state. We catch ourselves lamenting the lack of prayer in schools, yet it is not given our governing authorities to mandate any prayer in schools. A child is free to pray in school of his or her own volition, but the state has no business telling children to pray. Christians, Buddhists, even Muslims have no business saying the government should be arranged in a theocracy, a divinely ordained, correct form of government. It is not our place to tell judges to put the Ten Commandments in courtrooms.

These matters come as a surprise to many Christians because, in our zeal for proclaiming the Gospel, we forget to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. We mix our rendering in order to make our point. Or, even worse, we refuse to render to one in order to make sure we render to another. That was how the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in His speech. They wanted Jesus to say it was OK to ignore Caesar in order to maintain a right relationship with God.

Jesus sets them, and us, straight. Both kingdoms are distinguished by the persons belonging to each kingdom. All who live according to the laws of the land, regardless of their religion or lack of religion, belong to the state; only believers in Christ belong to the church. The state deals with bodily welfare, the church with spiritual welfare. The state has the light of reason, the church has the light of Scripture. The state uses the sword and power to compel obedience, the church has God’s Word alone, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Believers may disobey Caesar only when Caesar says you must put the governing authorities over God. Only then may you say with the apostles, We must obey God rather than men.

This is why we Lutherans are quite zealous when it comes to reminding Caesar, and ourselves, that the government should stay out of the free exercise of religion. Unlike the United Kingdom, where Queen Elizabeth is both head of state and head of the church, we have no established religion in our country. After having seen the mess that different states have made of marriage, we should thank and praise God that time and again the civil courts of our country have provided Christians the freedom to practice the faith without binding our consciences.

Rendering obedience to both kingdoms may not be what we want to hear, but it is the Lord’s Word for our own good. Jesus did not die in order that citizens of the United States may have free medical care. The Congress or the President of the United States or the Governor of Illinois did not write Holy Scripture and does not enforce us to trust God’s Word until penalty of death. Each knows their realm. Each stays to their realm. The same with us. We pay our taxes, even when we hold our nose to do it. We also pay our offerings in order to support the work of the Gospel here and beyond.

If we gave our church offering to Uncle Sam in the hopes that the secular authorities could save us from everlasting death and hell, then we look to the wrong god. The opposite holds true as well. Paying our 1040 to God hoping He might do something about illegal immigration or greenhouse gases won’t fix either problem. Our heavenly Father lets the ruling authorities handle that problem, for He will ultimately fix it by making all things new on Judgment Day. This is a matter of vocation. Is it your business to keep the world safe for democracy? No. Vote your conscience for those who will. Is it your business to save yourself from sin? No. Jesus Christ has done it. You place your trust in Him Who takes on flesh to suffer, die, and rise from the dead for your sin.

Jesus alone is the image of God in human flesh, the second Adam, new humanity. He came into our flesh to render to God what was God’s, namely our humanity, and to restore the image of God to our flesh. He rendered to God the things that are God’s. He did it “not with gold or silver,” not with the coin of Caesar, but with His holy and precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death at the hands of the Pharisees and the Herodians and the Roman government all of whom served as God’s instrument to reclaim a fallen cosmos from sin, entropy, and death.

God has put His image and inscription on you in your Baptism. He’s restored His image and likeness. You belong to God. In this world, you render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. But you don’t belong to Caesar. You belong to God, thanks to Christ – joined to Him in His death, covered with His righteousness, living under the umbrella of His grace, walking in the freedom of His forgiveness as we live in freedom from oppression and tyranny under Caesar’s hand.

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The Christian Life Is Shaped by Christ’s Love

The Christian life is shaped by the giving love of Christ and in the Scripture we have his bidding and descriptions of that shape. We would please him. Yet in nothing of our achievements, in no factor of us, do we place our final reliance. That is in his body and blood given and shed for us, in our Baptism, and in his forgiving and life-giving word of the Gospel which does not merely tell but bestows what it says. This is all from him and as sure as he is sure. There is nothing anterior to him which makes him sure. At no point may we insert some factor of ourselves as decisive or guaranteeing. Our competence does not rise above the ability to reject him. He suffers himself to be rejected. His saving way is the gracious giving way which is the way of his Spirit with the means of grace. Outside the means of grace his working with his power is irresistible. He makes no one alive as his forgiven child by use of his irresistible power. From creation and our own faculties we cannot know God as Savior. From these we can at most know him as powerful and just. Only in Christ and his cross do we know the heart of God toward us. The most incredible thing is that God should love us, and love us so much as to go through Calvary for us.

Here is a love beyond the limits of our understanding. We cannot explain it. It derives solely from the heart of God before time and beyond time. From the cross I know God thus loves me. That redeeming love is not only for me or a limited number of men.

– Norman Nagel, “The Gospel Is What Lutherans Care About”

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Trinity 22 – Matthew 18:21-35

Nothing is more difficult as to forgive someone who has insulted you. The proud, hard heart cannot easily bring itself to put mercy before justice. As the prophet Hosea puts it: I desire mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. You believe an offender should really feel how the insult has hurt you, even if he or she is a family member. You show them no compassion and no patience. You let them sweat it out for a while, maybe for the rest of your life. You’ll take it to the grave. You have something to lord over them. To hell with them!

To hell with you when you will not forgive as you are forgiven. You are the guilty servant in Jesus’ parable. You owe the Lord more than ten thousand talents, an amount of money that can never be paid back in your lifetime. If God were to call in our debt, He soon finds that you often transgress all God’s commandments in thought, word, and deed. You won’t do what’s given you to do in your stations in life. You have offended God from the day of your birth up to this moment. You deserve His wrath and everlasting condemnation.

God does give you frequent glimpses of how large your debt is when He holds up His Law against you. He lets your conscience sweat it out for a while. His wrath and judgment literally scares the hell out of you. What is your debt of ten thousand talents compared to one hundred denarii your neighbor owes you? Pocket change compared to the awareness of your guilt of sin.

When the servant could not pay the enormous debt, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. One minute the servant was under his master’s thumb. The next minute he was free from debt. There’s no happier feeling than not to owe anyone anything. No mortgage payments, no car payments, and no credit card payments are good things. You’re free from the chain gang of debt.

You’re free from the divine chain gang because of Jesus Christ, Who took on your guilt and the guilt of the whole world and paid for it with His suffering and death. Whoever repents and believes in this Savior is granted forgiveness, life, and salvation. There is no greater grace, no greater love for sinners. How blessed are you that you are released from all sins. You are a partaker of God’s grace in Christ through faith. The love of God fills your heart that you begin not only to love God, but also your neighbor, your offender, and your enemy. Your heart melts with love that you, according to the example of God our Father, are also willing to forgive your debtor.

Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? Yes, you should. This parable, along with why Jesus tells this parable, is an explanation of how forgiveness works according to God’s command. The Old Adam in you cannot stand how forgiveness works. You mean I have to forgive my worst enemy? I have to live as if they didn’t insult me? What kind of fool am I to live that way!

It’s not your discretion whether you will or won’t forgive your offenders. You don’t keep track of it because our Father in heaven doesn’t keep track of it. “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” A-ha! There’s my out! Seventy-seven times. Let me get my notepad and start the chicken scratches.

Not so fast. Seventy-seven times before God might last an hour, if even that long. Then what happens? Under your plan, God has to start charging you again. He must stop having mercy on you because you are keeping score. If you want to play by the numbers, you will die by the numbers. The numbers aren’t in your favor. Neither are the Scriptures. If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.  For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

From these passages it is clear that the forgiveness of sins received in Christ could again be lost through new, willful sinning, through withholding forgiveness from your neighbor, for example. The wicked servant is a clear example. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.

God’s standard default position is to have mercy. He has had mercy on you by sparing you from eternal death in His only-begotten Son’s death and resurrection. Because the Lord has forgiven you, you now forgive as He has forgiven you. You forgive more than seventy times, or even more than 490 times. Forgiveness always lives on your lips, for your lips have received the Body and Blood of Christ that feed you with His forgiveness.

This forgiveness is a complete forgiveness. You wouldn’t be able to live with a partial forgiveness from God Almighty. You would never know where the line of forgiveness and lack of forgiveness is. Your forgiveness, God’s forgiveness, is from the heart. If God had not sent His Son for you, how then would you know His forgiveness? How would you be able to forgive had you not had Jesus Christ Himself go before you to show you true forgiveness? Even on the cross our blessed Lord says, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

You know what you have done. You are sorry for them and want to do better. All your debt is paid in full thanks to the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses you from all sin. What joy it is to live in the blood-bought absolution from the Master Who pays all debts in full for you. What joy it is to forgive those who trespass against you in the same forgiveness Jesus gives you. The Jesus way is the forgiving way. Memories of hurt feelings return, but forgiveness is never forgotten because Jesus remembers your sin no more.

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Martin Luther on Forgiveness of Sin and Extra Nos Righteousness

It’s a simple thing to mouth the expression “forgiveness of sins” just as it is a simple thing to repeat the basic truths of Christian doctrine. Ah, yes, if all we had to do was to mouth the words! The problem is that when it comes to putting that expression into practice, we don’t know the first thing about it! You see, it is such a tremendous truth, a truth that I am to believe wholeheartedly, that all my sins are forgiven, and that by faith I am righteous before God. Oh, what a marvelously astounding righteousness this is! How totally different this is in contrast to the righteousness of this world as proclaimed by all its lawyers, intellectual giants, and philosophers! For they all reach the same conclusion, namely, that righteousness must be an inner, inherent characteristic of the human heart and soul. But this Gospel lesson teaches us that Christian righteousness is not a universal characteristic of the human heart which all share. No, Christ is teaching us that we become righteous and are freed from sins through the forgiveness of sins!

When we hear that we have been promised forgiveness of sins, we really cannot grasp that, and take this position: I have committed this and that sin; to pay for them I will do thus and so, fast “x” number of days, say “x” number of prayers, fund “x” number of poorhouses, and pay for all my sins. It’s because human nature is proud and always wants to be in control, pulling it own water bucket from the well, wants to have the honor of laying the first stone, of being Number One. That’s why this is a majestic message of divine wisdom: We must believe that our righteousness, salvation, and comfort lie outside of ourselves, namely, that we are righteous before God, acceptable to him, holy and wise, even though there is nothing within us but sin, injustice, and stupidity.

Human nature is defenseless against a bad habit; it cannot avoid an awareness of sins and yet cannot believe in pure grace and the forgiveness of sins. If you have developed this skill, of not seeing what you do see, and of not feeling what you do feel, then let me tell you something about nobler and more majestic. But I warn you, it will take you a long time to develop this artistic skill! For this business of faith in the forgiveness of sins is just as if someone were aiming a loaded gun at your face and was ready to pull the trigger, and yet you are to believe and to say, “Not to worry!”

– House Postil for Trinity 22 (Matthew 18:23-35)

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Preparing Budgets at Home and at Church

Many Christian congregations are preparing their income and expenditure guidelines for the next calendar year. As they prepare, so it behooves you to prepare as well. These passages from Holy Scripture are suitable for your meditation on how to support the preaching of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments in your congregation:

The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Let the one who is taught the Word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:6-7)

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

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What Would Your Ecclesiastical Supervisor Say…

…if you (Pastor) or another pastor you know stood up before a group of pastors and said the following words?

During my whole ministry I have been listening to the glowing success stories of other pastors. I have felt intimidated by those who obviously knew an awful lot more than me about growing their churches. Out of sheer self-doubt I have shirked the daunting task of saving the world. I have felt guilty because my Gospel presentation is apparently not winsome enough. I have lost sheep and lost sleep. My joy has taken a vacation and my natural optimism has deserted me, all because I have not done what the experts said. And I refuse to tell you gentlemen how great my current ministry is. It’s bad. All the numerical indicators are down. I am losing members. I am losing leaders. Confusion reigns among those who are staying. They are sad. I don’t know what will happen next week much less next year. I have no five-year plan. I just barely have a five-day plan. Yet, gentlemen, despite this terrible news I still think that God is doing just find in my church, and I think I am too.

Would he say, “Help is available with our team of experts?” Would he say, “I’ll pray for you and circulate your name?” Or would he encourage the brother pastor? You make the call.

The quote, by the way, is from The Fire and the Staff by the late Klemet Preus. I recommend you read it.

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Forgiving Your Neighbor Flows from God’s Forgiveness of You

The guilty servant, who beats himself and begs for mercy, finds mercy with the king; “he released him and forgave him the debt.” God takes pity on us in eternity and sent His Son Who took on our guilt and the guilt of the whole world and paid for it with His suffering and death. Whoever repents and believes in this Savior is granted forgiveness, life, and salvation. Could there be a greater grace, greater love for sinners? How blessed must the debtor feel, he, released from all sins, is partaker of God’s grace in Christ through faith! How the love of God now must fill his heart, that he begins heartily to love not only God, but also his neighbor, his offender, his enemy! Truly, whoever has experienced the love of God in Christ, his heart must melt with love that he, according to the example of his heavenly Father, is also willing to forgive his debtor.

– Georg Stöckhardt, Sermon Outline from 1885

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Trinity 21 – Ephesians 6:10-17

Your baptism not only made you a child of God and an heir of Christ’s death and resurrection. Your baptism also placed a target on your back. Satan and his dark angels will throw everything at you in order that you would turn your back on God and walk the broad road of unbelief.

As little as you are able to participate in your conversion from death to life, you are able, as a new creation in Christ, to turn your back on God and walk your own path. This is what Saint Paul addresses in today’s Epistle when he talks about the armor of God. Most of what Paul says is about playing defense, about protection from attack. There is only one weapon of offense, and it is often forgotten, or at least rarely used. Your life is a fight to the death. You need protection. The Lord has protection for you.

Paul begins by saying be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. The prophet Zechariah heard this when the Lord said to him, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. It was the Lord’s Word to Zerubbabel, and it is also the Lord’s Word to you. You have no reason of strength on your own to resist Satan. The Lord is your strength.

However, this divine strength is set alongside and against the Old Adam that clings to you. The Old Adam continually resists good things. Saint Paul teaches in Romans chapter seven: I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

The Lord delivers you from this body of death. Nevertheless, as long as the flesh clings to you, you continually ask for forgiveness. The familiar words of Psalm 32 ring true: I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Consider also that many other faithful Christians have fallen from the faith. Saint Peter denied Jesus three times, yet was restored to the kingdom. Demas, a believer mentioned by Paul in Second Timothy, deserted Saint Paul and left for Thessalonica.

God’s Word does not merely talk the talk, it also walks the walk. It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. In every struggle of both flesh and spirit, the Scriptures beg you to turn to the Lord for help and not your own doings. If only you believe it. If only I believe it! Still we rely on willpower or reason or anything else than divine assistance.

You do not fight flesh and blood. You are not fighting 98-pound weaklings. The Christian as Christian has nothing to do with fighting for the sake of fighting or, worse yet, revenge. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

You fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The prince of this world tempts you through the flesh and the world. Sometimes he uses cunning, sometimes force. Other times enticements and threats. Satan wants to plunge you into sin, false belief, or even unbelief. Evil thoughts plague you every day. It seems to be impossible to survive these struggles. Yet countless Christians have already fought this struggle and blissfully sleep in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul says, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. These are primarily defensive weapons for protection. God is more powerful than all the demons. His armor placed on you by virtue of your baptism keeps you safe as you struggle against the spiritual forces of evil.

You wear the belt of truth, a righteous Christian nature. Jesus is cinched around you to protect you from the false deeds of the armies of darkness. You wear the breastplate of righteousness, the holy, spotless life of Jesus Christ lived in your place and given you through faith in Him Who did not sin, yet became sin for you that you might become the righteousness of God. You wear as shoes for your feet the readiness given by the Gospel of peace. You are zealous as God’s dear child to speak of the hope you have in Jesus to those who know Him not. You carry the shield of faith, the firm confidence in God’s undeserved love for you, a poor, miserable sinner. Finally, there is the helmet of salvation, the firm hope of eternal life.

The only weapon given you for attack is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. When the worst temptations come your way, respond as Jesus did to Satan: IT IS WRITTEN. Let this Word dwell in you richly. Let the Word of God permeate every fiber of your being. The Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles is the only way to destroy your enemy. Remember what we sang two weeks ago:

Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill;
They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none.
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

            Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Eat His Body and drink His Blood for the forgiveness of sins. Live in your baptismal grace. You are forgiven. The Lord fights for you and with you. He gives you protection and the sword of the Spirit. You have everything you need to fight with the devil. The victory is yours, for the Lord is on your side. Believe it for His sake.

Luther on The Armor of God

[St. Paul] tells [the Ephesians]: If you wish to be strong and invincible, let the Lord Christ be your Strength; take hold of Him, and exercise yourselves in Him, that He is well known to you, and preserve His Word in its purity, learn it diligently, use it daily, and impress it upon your mind and soul with such intensity that God’s Word and your heart by and by become one and the same thing, so that you may be sure in your confidence, more certain than of your own life. If you have done that, then you are really strong and firm and will remain unconquered and secure.

First of all the loins are to be girt about with truth, that means, they are to lead an upright life, in all sincerity, free from any hypocrisy…. After this first requisite the elimination of all hypocrisy is assured. There must then follow that the Christian protect his bosom with the breastplate of righteousness, that means, an approving conscience, namely, that the Christian live a blameless life, injure no one, so that no one may accuse him justly…. By the breastplate of righteousness the Apostle means a blameless, righteous life so as to deal fairly with all men, injuring or harming no one, but endeavoring to be of service and to help everyone, so that neither the devil nor anyone else may justly accuse the Christian or confront with any ungodliness in life.

[Paul] gives the correct names to both the devil and his weapons, he calls the devil a villain who attacks with such malice and poison, accuses and condemns so bitterly, as to crush the heart. Inexperienced persons can scarcely believe this. His darts are called fiery darts which burn and penetrate, piercing the heart so as to weaken life and a good conscience, even as wax is melted by the fire…. At such a time we must take a weapon of defense, we must take a good and strong shield. When Satan intends to wound the conscience, to smite the heart, and destroy life, you may be girded too loosely, you may not have struggled as earnestly as you should, you may have been at fault in dealing with your neighbor; then you must hold the shield against him so that he cannot wound you with his darts. This shield, as Paul himself points out, is faith which clings to the Word of Christ, takes hold of the Savior, and answers the devil: Though I be a sinner and have an imperfect life, both in what I have committed and what I have omitted, yet there is a perfectly holy One, clean and pure, who has given himself for me and has died for me. That Man was given to me by the heavenly Father Himself, that He may be my own with all His holiness and righteousness, Him you dare not touch, Him you dare not condemn…. Wherever there is a defect in my work and life which exposes me to assault, there my Christ must help and fight for me. You cannot condemn Him.

[The sword of the Spirit] is the final and most powerful weapon of our warfare, by means of which we drive off the devil and conquer him thoroughly. For, as I have said above, it is not sufficient that we guard ourselves against the foe and may defend ourselves when he attacks us, so that we may not be overcome, all of which is our defense, but it is for us also to grab the weapon of offense, with which we can pursue the enemy and put him to flight. This weapon of offense, the sword, is the Word of God. Of course, it is not made of steel, it is not a material, it is a spiritual sword with which to conquer the devil. That is chiefly done by preaching the Word and proclaiming it from the pulpit. But in addition, also every Christian should use this sword in hearing the Word, reading it, singing it, speaking it, and meditating upon it. For its power is such that wherever it is proclaimed in its  truth and purity, wherever we learn it with diligence and sincerity, wherever we think upon it, there no Satan and no devil can abide. For it reveals the lies and deceit of Satan, by means of which he deceives the people and creates a false confidence, vain credulity, sadness, and despair; it points to the Lord Christ, whom the devil crucified but opposed in vain, had his head crushed; wherefore Satan fears this Savior and flees before Him. Moreover, this Word weakens and harms the devil’s kingdom, for it takes from him many souls, so that his kingdom comes to totter. Wherever this Word is read and proclaimed, Satan’s lies and errors are revealed and put to flight. Truth is, we can at times see it with our eyes how the devil is worsted, his power over certain people taken away, and souls truly rescued by the Word which is preached with spiritual power. For even though we are weak in our own reason and strength, yet if we grasp this sword of the Spirit, if we take these weapons of defense and offense and use them in accordance with this instruction, we become too strong for all the devils, for then we are fighting not in our own strength, but in the power and strength of God Himself.

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