Weddings are joyful events. But they usually come with a great deal of stressful planning for the bride and at a great expense to the bride’s family. One of the ways God pictures heaven is as a wedding celebration, one in which YOU are invited to come and be His bride. "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Revelation 19:9)
Stressful planning? No! God has already taken care of every bit of it. His plan of salvation was in place before the beginning of time, and He has worked it out to the smallest detail. You see that in the promise of the Savior preserved from the Garden of Eden to the manager at Bethlehem to the empty tomb outside of Jerusalem. You see that plan of salvation worked out as He continues to call you to His side even now through His Word, through this very message. He doesn’t invite you to be His bride because you’ve caught His eye with good looks or good deeds or anything to win His love. No, but in love, your heavenly Bridegroom gave His life to pay the full cost for your sins which otherwise would have separated you from Him forever. Yes, the expense of this wedding celebration is great, but as with the planning, He has already taken care of every bit of it. So come! YOU ARE INVITED TO THE WEDDING SUPPER OF THE LAMB!
Have you ever been so overwhelmed or confused by a challenge or a hardship that you had no idea what to pray or how to pray? Whenever or for whatever reason you might find it difficult to pray, God wants you to know that YOU HAVE HELP IN PRAYER: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." (Romans 8:26) We struggle with prayer because we are weak, and our weaknesses are many. We often don’t understand why God does what He does. Our desires don’t naturally line up with His will. At times we are impatient or lack hope or struggle to take God at His word. Behind it all is sin, and that really is our biggest barrier to prayer. How can sinners approach God and ask anything of Him?
Before you ever uttered your first words of prayer, the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to see and believe that Jesus is your Savior from sin, that He has removed everything that would separate you from God or get in the way of a relationship with Him. And now, just as you can be confident that Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead for your salvation, you can be confident that the Holy Spirit is right there with every prayer you pray. In legal matters, a lawyer may intercede for you, but in prayer matters – in the most important matters in life – it is the Holy Spirit who speaks on your behalf! In His own divine way beyond your words, the Spirit knows your heart and expresses your deepest needs in line with God’s will. His work is described as "interceding for the saints." (Romans 8:27) "The saints"? That’s how God sees all who trust in Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death for their salvation. When you come to the Father in prayer through faith in His Son, you are holy to God; you are His saints, and the Spirit attends to your every prayer. So pray with confidence. You have divine help in prayer!
What will make you truly content in life? Fill in the blank for yourself: 'If ________ , then I will be content.' To hold up these 'ifs' as the key to contentment is to live with false hope. The sinful human heart is never satisfied; today’s 'ifs,' even if fulfilled, are replaced by new 'ifs' tomorrow. And to live life under such 'ifs' is to live at the mercy of your circumstances. Life is a constant flow of change; what would make you content tomorrow can quickly be overshadowed by difficulty the next day. God wants you to understand that true contentment is unrelated to circumstances. Paul, imprisoned for his faith, learned this "secret of being content, whatever the circumstances." What is that secret? "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13) This Bible verse is often misused, but keep the context. Paul isn’t saying that there are no limitations to what you can do in life. He’s saying that nothing in life can limit your contentment when it is rooted not in your circumstances, but in your Savior. YOUR SAVIOR IS GREATER THAN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES!
But what do we give more attention to – our circumstances, or our Savior? If it’s our circumstances, we’ll never find contentment. And here’s the great evil of our discontent: We so easily and arrogantly live the lie that God owes us better, that we’ve earned or deserve better circumstances than what we’re experiencing. The reality is that we will only be content if we understand and admit what God really owes us. We have sinned against God – often in this very matter of blaming Him for our circumstances – and we deserve nothing but His wrath and eternal punishment. But because of God’s great mercy, Jesus took our place and was punished for our sins, and we are made right with God. Now, instead of living AT the mercy of our circumstances, we get to live IN the mercy of our Savior, forgiven of our sins and bound for heaven. Greater than any circumstance in life is to know where you stand with God in life and in death and in eternity. All this is yours through faith in Jesus; He gives you strength for all life’s circumstances.
What is it like to seek someone’s approval only to feel like you can never measure up to that person’s standards, like nothing you do is ever good enough? You may have experienced that in a relationship with a parent or a spouse or a boss or a teacher. It is beyond frustrating and can lead to anger and despair. This is what Martin Luther experienced in his relationship with God. The harder he tried to please God, the more he realized he could not meet the unrelenting demands of God’s Law for continual obedience and purity of heart. Luther’s problem is our problem. How do we satisfy God? How do we gain His approval? We come to the same answer Luther did: If it’s up to us, we don’t; we can’t gain His approval by our efforts.
But everything changed for Luther when God opened his eyes to this truth: "In the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last." (Romans 1:17) Righteousness is 'right-ness' with God. Put another way, to have righteousness is to have God’s approval. Previously, Luther had only known the righteousness OF God, His standard of holiness that none of us can measure up to. But do you see what Luther saw? The gospel is the good news of righteousness FROM God. The approval you desperately need and long for comes FROM GOD, TO YOU, through faith in Jesus. He lived a life that fully met God’s approval and gave up His life as the righteous sacrifice to fully satisfy God’s wrath against sinners. His resurrection proves that His sacrifice was fully accepted and that we are fully approved through faith in Him. YOU HAVE GOD’S APPROVAL THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS! The gospel changed Luther’s life; I pray that it changes your life today as well. I leave you with Luther’s reflection on how precious this approval from God is: "If you want to be comforted when your conscience plagues you or when you are in dire distress, then you must do nothing but grasp Christ in faith and say, 'I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who suffered, was crucified, and died for me. In His wounds and death, I see my sin. In His resurrection, I see the victory over sin, death, and the devil. I see righteousness and eternal life as well. I want to see and hear nothing except Christ.' "
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.