Dear baptized of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
God’s promise is clear, that there is no sin too big for God to forgive. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, no matter how greatly we’ve sinned. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
Jesus took everything to the cross, and He died for all.
But, if people want to cling to their sin, and hold on to it, rather than receive the full and free forgiveness that Jesus offers, even freely offering us the ability to turn from sin by the power of His Spirit – if people want to reject repentance and faith in Christ, they can if want to.
Jesus fortells the sad news about a city that did just that. She knew not what belonged unto her peace. Interesting that her name, Jerusalem, means city of peace, (Jeru - shalom).
Yet, she lost that peace, she lost her faith, and she lost her love for God. But did it happen overnight?
When Solomon had finished building the Temple in Jerusalem, He prayed to God for His help and protection, and God answered that He would remain with Jersalem forever.
So then the very next day the people forsook God? No, it didn’t happen that quickly. But in time, it did happen.
The devil doesn’t normally show up at our doorstep either, saying, “forsake all you know about God, and follow me right now, bow down to me right now.” He often works in small steps, and he looks for small victories. He works through the repeated bombardment of the false doctrine that is spewed out daily on television and radio and internet – the wisdom of the world.
And if we think that even the smallest false teaching, or even the most obvious false teaching, cannot affect us, especially through the repeated hearing of it, we had better think again. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall.” The Scriptures continually remind us that we are like sheep - sheep that by nature are followers. A simple game of “Simon says” reveals how easily we follow.
The answer is not that we turn to our own strength. That’s like a sheep going up against the strength of a lion, as the devil is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
The answer is: The Lord is my Shepherd. He maketh me to lie down in the green pastures of His Word. He leadeth me beside the still waters of His Sacraments. We need to hear often of His forgiving grace, what Jesus accomplisshed for our salvation.
“The LORD is my strength and my shield.” He is my rock and fortress, my deliverer, as we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Deliver us from evil.”
The devils lies can really be summed up into one… “Did God really say that? Are God’s commandments really that relevant today? In our advanced and technological age, is it really that practical to follow every single command of God, to not lust, to not hate, to not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain? Are we really supposed to turn the other cheek when our enemy hurts us, and wait for God to set things right? Shouldn’t we just take justice into our own hands? Maybe we’re not totally sure, but we’re sure enough that a cop made a mistake? So, we gotta get revenge.”
Yet “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
The problem with Jerusalem, is that same problem we see today: Pride. The belief that we deserve everything. “And don’t you dare say that I need to repent.”
Many think that God would never judge or punish anyone. It is true that God already placed upon His Son the punishment that our sins deserve, and “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Yet, to continue to reject repentance and faith in Christ is to invite disaster. W hen Jesus came near to Jerusalem, “He beheld the city, and wept over it.” He cried because many refused to believe in Him. The greatest tragedy of all is when souls have everything they need to be saved in Christ, and yet, many still reject Him, through pride and unbelief. There are eternal consequences for doing so.
It’s interesting that when God planned to send His Son own into the flesh, He chose the birthplace to be, not Jerusalem, but Bethlehem. Jerusalem was the capital city, the thriving city. Bethlehem was nothing compared to Jerusalem, in size and importance. And when Jesus visits Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He comes riding on a donkey. Who wants that?
Yet, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
Jesus doesn’t come to bolster human pride, and satisfy every earthly desire, and that’s just not what many care to hear.
He comes to set us free form the power of sin. He comes to forgive our sin, to cleanse us from all unrightouesness. To give us the gift of His Spirit, the gift of faith, and a brand new heart He creates by Baptism and His Word.
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people." Christ came with grace to save us, to save sinners. Once and for all He made satisfaction for all sins and reconciled us to the Father. "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” “There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
So, let no one think it is too late for him. The arms of Jesus are still open to sinners, as He says, "him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." And again, "joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." By going to the cross, Christ purchased for us everlasting peace with the Father. The fact that He rose from the dead proves that the Father accepted His sacrifice for our sins. He made everything right between us and God, not just for a while, but for all eternity. And, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
By His grace and Spirit, we do repent and believe, and we continue to receive full forgiveness for all our sins through His Word. No matter how great our sins have been, heaven is for us, because it is by God’s grace and not by our works. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
In being His children, by Grace through faith, we know the things that belong unto our peace. We know that Christ accomplished everything needful for us to be saved, and that He will keep us in the true saving faith by His Spirit working in us through the Word.
We use God’s house as a "house of prayer". We take our cares and concerns to Him in Christ’s name, and we know He will always help us.
We do take comfort and refuge in His promises. We receive the things that belong unto our peace: the promise of forgiveness, the promise of the Holy Ghost to continue to make His home in us, the promise of eternal life in Christ, the promise that He will never leave nor forsake us, and will always make all things work out for our good.
Therefore, by His Grace and Spirit working in us through His Word, let us continue to receive the peace He offers now, and know and appreciate the time of our visitation. Let us be very attentive to hear Him, partake of His Sacraments, rely on His promises, and so receive His peace. Christ has accomplished everything needful for us to be saved, and He promises to keep and sustain us in that one true and saving faith in Him.
It isn’t our strength that keeps us. It isn’t our own intelligence that protects us from the lies of the devil. Scripture is clear, “Ye are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."