Just as parents feed and nurture their children so that they will grow, GOD WANTS YOU TO GROW. He wants you to have a healthy appetite for His Word with which He feeds and nurtures you. And just as parents warn their children about dangers to their health and life, God warns you. "Rid yourselves of all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind." Sin is deadly and must be dealt with as the poison that it is. So He says bluntly, "Get rid of it." Address it. Confess it. Repent of it. Turn away from it. God tells you this because you matter to Him. Your spiritual health matters to Him.
So He continues: "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (I Peter 2:1-3) The more you feed on God’s Word, the more you see, know, and understand the goodness of God. Taste His goodness in the life Jesus lived for you, the death He died for you, and the victory over death He gives you. That is the taste of salvation, the forgiveness of your sins! Does it seem simplistic to stress these facts of salvation again and again? Your physical nourishment is built on the same basic elements day by day; you cannot live without them. But as you feed on them, you live, you grow…you flourish! Feed on God’s Word and taste and see for yourself how He equips, guides, and guards you through whatever you face in life. And most importantly, He will keep you focused on what matters most, your salvation in Christ. For this very reason, GOD WANTS YOU TO GROW.
God wants you to see what a miracle faith is. Peter describes it this way: "You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God." (I Peter 1:23) Faith in Jesus is not the work of any man. No pastor causes this rebirth, nor do you make it happen. Like dirt in the field, you need to have life planted in you. In the preaching of His Word, God comes to you who are as dead and lifeless as dirt, and He plants His Word in your heart. God’s Spirit graciously and powerfully works through His Word to create life in you – faith that sees, knows, and believes that Jesus is your Savior from sin and death. Look at the qualities of this Word He plants in you: It is imperishable. It is living. It is enduring. Do you see what this means for you? As God’s Word is living and enduring, so is your faith as it grows from His Word. What a miracle and gift faith is!
But perhaps you are reading this and wondering, 'What if I don’t have faith?,' or 'I’m not sure I have faith,' or 'My faith is weak.' After Peter assures you that "the Word of the Lord stands forever," He then adds, "And this is the Word that was preached to you." (I Peter 1:25) Those words "to you" emphasize that this message of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus is meant FOR YOU, and that God wants to plant and nourish this message of new life IN YOU. So look to God’s Word, where He begins this enduring life in you, and come with those who gather around God’s Word, where He continues His miraculous work in you, all the way to life everlasting. God’s Word is preached to you for this very reason – that you may know that YOU HAVE LIFE THROUGH THE LIVING AND ENDURING WORD OF GOD.
"Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" (Acts 26:8) The Apostle Paul asked this rhetorical question when he was on trial for sharing his confidence in Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of the dead. His point was that the One who gives life can just as easily raise the dead. Paul’s question wasn’t just for skeptics of yesterday and today; it’s also for modern believers who have let worldly philosophy influence their faith. Recent surveys reveal that many who call themselves Christians do not believe in a bodily resurrection or in the resurrection of Jesus. Paul is blunt: "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…
…But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead." (I Corinthians 15:12-20) His resurrection guarantees that His promises are alive and true, and so is your faith in Him. For all the times you struggle with doubts and your faith feels faint, look to the fact of Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection guarantees that your sins are truly forgiven, and sin no longer rules you and damns you. For all the times you feel sin and guilt hanging over your head, look to the fact of Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection guarantees your resurrection, that you will rise from the dead and live forever, body and soul, with the Lord in heaven. For all the times that life feels like nothing more than standing in line to die, look to the fact of Christ’s resurrection. Only the risen Savior can give these guarantees; any other faith is futile. Come and see that CHRIST’S RESURRECTION GUARANTEES HIS PROMISES of forgiveness and a resurrection for you.
Nowhere, anywhere, at any time in human history will you find more powerful, meaningful words than these: "He has risen, just as He said." (Matthew 28:6) With these words, angels greet the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ corpse on the third day after His crucifixion. "Just as He said" is a reminder that they should have known the tomb would be empty. Why did they forget? Why do we so easily forget what Jesus has told us – His commands and His comforts, His precepts and His promises? Worry, fear, confusion, and grief played a part in the women’s forgetfulness, and we sometimes focus on those and lose sight of Jesus as well. We’re just as likely to forget because we are self-absorbed and simply don’t listen or take seriously what Jesus has said. But there is victory in these words to pardon our poor listening and to forgive our forgetfulness: "He has risen, just as he said."
And because Jesus lives, the power of sin, death, and the devil is destroyed! What is sin when God has shown that He accepted His Son’s sacrifice for you by raising Him from the dead? What is death when the Lord's tomb is empty? What is the devil when he can no longer hold sin and death over you? Jesus’ resurrection transforms and shapes everything – because Jesus lives, in Him you live. No matter what you face, in Him you live. No matter what you endure, in Him you live. No matter when you die, in Him you live. Name the disease, the ailment, the hardship, the sin, the guilt, the loss, the disappointment – no matter what you may suffer, in Him you live! Does that sound defiant? It is! Such is our confidence because "HE HAS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID."
I don’t usually write these ForgivenFully posts as a personal testimony, but maybe it’s the best way to share with you why this matter of Jesus dying and rising from the dead is so important. Whether you are a believer or a skeptic or you’ve made up your mind against Jesus, I relate with you and you with me more than you may realize. I try live a good life, and I bet you do too. But I know that I fall short in many ways. People say 'no one’s perfect,' but that doesn’t comfort me in the least bit. Deep down I know that life isn’t graded on a curve. There’s a sense of failure and inadequacy and guilt and fear of accountability that I can’t dull and I can’t outrun. And there’s a cry for 'more' in my life and 'more' out of life that I can’t in any way satisfy by what I do or what I pursue. Can you relate? Honestly, can you relate?
This is why, like a man in a desert who’s found an oasis of life, I point you to Jesus telling you that HIS LIFE MEANS NEW LIFE FOR YOU.
I am inviting you to that refreshing oasis of life. Come learn of Jesus. Come to my church this weekend. Or go to your church if you'll learn of life in Jesus there. Just don’t pretend that life is OK as it is or that you can ever get enough of the refreshing that Jesus extends to us through His life lived for us, given for us, and risen for us. Come and experience the truth that HIS LIFE MEANS NEW LIFE FOR YOU.
It wasn’t spontaneous or a matter of circumstances. It was intentional and purposeful. Yes, Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Some 500 years earlier through the prophet Zechariah, God painted this picture of the promised Savior and His work: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9) Think of what this says about God’s faithfulness. With incredible planning, patience, precision, and power, He keeps His promises. But how often are we suspect of His attentiveness and care, especially when things go wrong or don’t seem to go our way? Let us repent and put our trust in Jesus, who rode that donkey on purpose to fulfill what was promised and to say personally to you, 'Zechariah was writing about me; here I am, your king, righteous and having salvation.' Deliberately and precisely, our King did what He needed to do to save us from sin and its eternal consequences, and to save us for life with Him in His eternal kingdom. What greater care and attentiveness could He show us?
Did those who spread palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem fully understand the purpose of Jesus’ ride on a donkey? The cries for His crucifixion just a few days later suggest that many did not. But I pray you do. The Righteous King who brings you salvation is worthy of your praise! For wherever His Gospel is shared, wherever the waters of Baptism are poured out, wherever His Holy Supper is received, SEE, YOUR KING OF SALVATION COMES TO YOU!
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What was it that Jesus declared as "beautiful" and others called a "waste"? Out of love for her Lord, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, poured an expensive perfume over Jesus’ head and onto His feet. As the fragrance filled the house, Judas and others were quick to criticize Mary, pointing out that the perfume was worth more than a years' wages. (Mark 14:1-11) When you see that Judas' next act was to arrange to betray Jesus, you realize that his criticism was actually aimed at Jesus. Jesus wasn’t living up to Judas' ideal of the Messiah. More bluntly, Judas wasn’t getting what he expected from Jesus. …Is there a Judas within you? Think of the times you’ve been frustrated with Jesus, times He has not met your expectations. Think of the times you’ve criticized and questioned life but you were really criticizing and questioning Jesus. Just like Judas and the other disciples showed at times, we tend to forget why Jesus really came.
Then there is Mary, of whom Jesus said, "She has done a beautiful thing." Focus not on what she did but on WHY she did it. For all the times Jesus said He had to suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, for all the times the disciples refused to accept this and so failed to understand it, Mary heard and believed. It is just as Jesus said: "She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial." By grace, Mary knew why Jesus came and what He came to do, and it’s a beautiful thing to see the effect it had on her. Her extravagant outpouring was an expression of love to the One who would pour out His life on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus said that Mary’s story would be told along with the Gospel throughout the world. What He said is being fulfilled right now that you also may know why Jesus came. Come and see why FAITH IN JESUS IS A BEAUTIFUL THING.
In nearly every sport, close doesn’t count. It does no good to say, 'I almost made that goal,' or 'We almost won,' when you didn’t. A miss is a miss. A loss is a loss. Close doesn’t count. This is also true when it comes to entering the kingdom of God. 'I’m almost in,' or 'I think I’m in' are no consolation. You’re either in or you’re not. In is in. Out is out. Close doesn’t count. Think of what that means when Jesus tells an expert religious teacher, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Wait...this expert wasn’t in? This had to have startled him as well as others on the scene. Some would think, 'If this religious leader isn’t in, who is?' Others likely thought, 'Who is Jesus to determine who’s in and who isn’t?' Still others would wonder why he wasn’t in since the man just agreed with Jesus when He stated that the most important commandment is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:28-34)
Does God have all of your heart? You are not in the kingdom of God merely by agreeing with Jesus about the commandments; God demands obedience. You are not in if you think the obedience God expects and deserves is attainable, especially when we are so often guilty of loving ourselves above God and our fellowman. You are not in if you fail to see your helplessness to enter by anything you can do, offer, or give. It was essential for the expert to see he needed more than a clarification of the commandments; He needed a Savior, a divine rescue. So do you and I. Please take this to heart: If you think you are in the kingdom of God because you are a good person or because you haven’t done anything too bad, you are not in. Close doesn’t count. Good isn’t good enough. God only accepts wholehearted, perfect love from you. But take heart, for the One who clarified the Law perfectly is the One who lived the Law perfectly, and He did so for you, to offer up His life as the perfect sacrifice that cleanses you from all sin. Close doesn’t count, but WHAT JESUS DID COUNTS FOR YOU. Through faith in Him, His perfect life counts as your perfect life. Through faith in Jesus, you are IN - you are in the kingdom of God!
'Unwritten rules' are basic standards of behavior that are widely assumed and generally accepted. One of them is that there are many settings in which you simply don’t talk politics or religion. But Jesus didn’t hesitate to speak on these matters, and to speak boldly at that. His enemies asked Him, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" They were trying to force Jesus to choose between Rome and Israel, and to do so would make Him an enemy of the people or an enemy of the state. But Jesus amazed and silenced them by answering, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s." (Mark 12:13-17)
To the shock of all who thought Jesus would free God’s people from godless Roman rule, He actually said (and obediently lived!), "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s." More than just paying taxes, this means giving honor and obedience to the authority God has established. We have great freedoms in our democracy, but we are not free to slander or disrespect the government. But as much as "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s" may offend our pride, "Give to God what is God’s" ought to crush our hearts, for who of us has given God what is due Him? Everything we have comes from Him; our very lives belong to Him. Does He get our faithfulness, our selflessness, our sacrifice, our unwavering love? Does He get our best in every area and aspect of our lives? We must admit that we have cheated God, withholding what is rightfully His. Yet the One who has been cheated is the One who gave His entire life for us, in our place, shedding His own blood to forgive our sins and to give us eternal salvation. May this move us to GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S and GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S with newfound gratitude.
"By what authority are you doing these things?" Unless you’re the boss, you will face that question if you start firing people or changing long-standing practices at your workplace. Jesus faces that question after He forcefully drives buyers and sellers out of the temple for turning God’s house of prayer into a place of profit. "Who gave you authority to do this?" seems like a legit question from the religious leaders in charge of the temple. But Jesus knew their evil intent to try to trap Him in what He said in order to put Him to death. So He asks them a question: "John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men?" John’s ministry was all about pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Savior. So to say that John’s baptism was from God was to say that Jesus was who John said He was, the Son of God, who indeed has all authority in heaven and on earth. Do you see how Jesus mercifully tries to lead them to repentance? But they valued their own authority more than the plain truth in front of them, so they sheepishly and dishonestly answer, "We don’t know." (Mark 11:27-33)
Facing Jesus’ authority means facing our sins. It does us no good to try to claim ignorance like those religious leaders; the Lord knows the evil intents of our hearts too. He knows when we have questioned and resisted and rebelled against His authority to live life on our own terms. He knows our self-centeredness and defensiveness. But listen to His authority as He cries from the cross, "It is finished," cancelling the entire debt of our sin. Listen to His authority as our risen Lord says, "Peace be with you," dispelling all our fears. For all the suspicions of authority we have in the world today, we do not need to be suspicious of Jesus’ authority. His authority is liberating, forgiving us all of our sins. Come and see that JESUS’ AUTHORITY LEAVES A LASTING IMPRESSION.
Come visit us at CHRIST OUR REDEEMER for more of this message of God's grace!
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.