Maundy Thursday Sermon Mark 14:22-25

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord! Amen.
Mark 14:22-25
In the name of Jesus, who gave himself for our salvation, dear disciples:
It was just another Sunday morning or so most of the worshipers thought as they kneeled before the altar and received the Lord’s Supper. But there was one man for whom this was as if he had entered heaven itself. It had only been a few weeks since the last time he communed at the same altar, but today he had a deep need for the sacrament. For some reason, something he had done as a teenager began to trouble him. He couldn’t escape the horrible grip of guilt. He would dream about it when he slept. He would think about it as he rolled and tossed on the sleepless nights. He was in the depths of agony. His sin kept accusing him and insisting that he was headed for hell. So finally there would be relief from sin and guilt. For here his dear Lord Jesus came to him with his body and blood. Here the Lord Jesus would say to him, “Take eat, this is my body. Take drink, this is my blood. Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The man’s heart immediately knew the comfort. He returned to the pew, sat down, and shed a tear – but this was a tear of joy! Heaven had been opened to him once again through the forgiveness of sins. This is the same comfort and peace that our dear Lord Jesus wants to give to each of us this evening. He is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This sacrificial lamb gives us his own body and blood for our comfort and strength! So lean in and listen carefully to the words of our dear Lord. Tonight he comforts us through his soul nourishing meal. Behold the Lamb of God! Consider on this holy Thursday – The body and blood of the Lamb!
Here we find Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room celebrating the Passover. We find them together on a night on which the forces of hell are raging. We find them together as the most important event in history is but hours away. The salvation of the world was at stake. Jesus was facing all sorts of pressure and temptation. But what does Jesus display most clearly at this hour of action? His love for sinners. He is facing his own death, the punishment of hell in being forsaken by God, the pain and agony, and the soul wrenching guilt. But still he is giving of himself for others. In the midst of the Passover meal commemorating God’s rescue of Israel from Egypt, Jesus institutes a new meal – a meal centered in his rescuing us from sin.
Jesus takes the unleavened bread from the table, blessed it, broke it, and said, Take it; this is my body. Then he took a cup of wine from the table, blessed it and passed around to them saying, This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many. We watch in solemn, speechless joy as the perfect Lamb of God gives the only thing he has to give – himself! This is the height of love! In this same room, on this same night Jesus said, “Greater love has no than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus did exactly what he said – in love he died for us! His love for us is truly great!
This meal is a part of the new covenant of grace. This is a one sided covenant. It is an agreement in which God promises what he will do. We need not do anything. He accomplishes 100% of our salvation – we contribute nothing. This Supper of our Lord is all about what he does for us. He gives his body and blood. He forgives our sins. He comforts our troubled hearts. He strengthens our weak faith. What a precious thing this supper is! What a great comfort for us sinners! This is a covenant signed and sealed in the blood of Jesus! This Supper assures us of God’s love and fills our hearts with certainty about forgiveness. Come and receive this great gift of God’s grace! Come find comfort and rest for your troubled and restless souls. Join Jesus at the table as he gives you his body and blood for the forgiveness of all your sins!
Yes, friends this is a meal of forgiveness. But haven’t we already spoken of that? Yes, to a degree. However, we have spoken about the fact that our forgiveness was won for Jesus in the past. We have also spoken about the impact his forgiveness has on our present with the removal of guilt. Yet, one thing remains – the future! Jesus says, I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God. This is a meal that gives us a glimpse or a taste of heaven!
This Supper of our Lord joins the present promise of forgiveness with a future promise of life in God’s kingdom. At this Supper Jesus is present. The Lamb that was slain for us says to us in all simplicity – Take eat, this is my body! Take drink, this is my blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins!
Where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. That is precisely what we find in this Supper instituted by Christ. There is the comforting forgiveness of sins. There is miraculous strength to live a life of love and service. There is eternal life here also.
Can you imagine life without regret? Can you even dream of life without an ounce of guilt? Can you think of life without feeling bad about what you had said or done? Can you imagine life without anything bad happening? That’s what we get a small peek at in this Supper – the perfect life of love awaiting us in heaven! This Supper focuses our attention on what forgiveness of sins ultimately gives us – heaven.
We find ourselves living in the world somewhere between the fierce attacks of the devil in temptation and accusation and the perfect security of forgiveness in the Lamb of God. We are in the mix of this battle. We struggle. We fall victim. We are healed by God’s grace. WE get back up and back in the fray. We are part of the church militant that finds its life in the gospel in Word and Sacrament. We need this Supper to forgive, to assure, to strengthen. We also need this Supper to focus us on what Jesus has won for us. We need to have our focus directed beyond what we can see – to the eternal rest secured for us by Jesus. Friends, this Supper gets you thinking about sitting down at the heavenly banquet with Jesus!
The man had just been diagnosed with cancer – he would not survive. He called his Pastor. They talked. He received the Sacrament that day and once a week until that day when the Lord Jesus called him. Moments before he saw Jesus face to face he received the Lord’s Supper. He whispered, “Thank you! Now I’m ready to eat with Jesus!” He did that same day! He is still eating with Jesus at the heavenly banquet! That is in your future too – all because of Jesus – all because he gave himself into death. You are forgiven! Heaven is yours! Amen.

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Three days?

What’s up with the three days in the tomb? Jesus said that he would be killed and rise again in three days. How does that work out if he died on Friday and rose on Sunday?
The Jews considered a part of a day as a full day when they designated a period of time. Accordingly, to them “three days and three nights” meant parts of three days. So it works out for Jesus in this way:
1. Jesus was placed in the tomb during the last daylight hours of Friday – day 1.
2. Jesus’ body resting in the tomb from sunset FRiday to sunset on Saturday (the Sabbath). – day 2
3. Jesus’ body still resting in the tomb from sunset Saturday until becoming alive sometime before sunrise on Sunday – day 3.

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Monday – Tuesday of Holy Week Mark 11:12-14; 20-24

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. 20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Early Monday morning (after Palm Sunday) Jesus and his disciples left Bethany and went toward Jerusalem. Jesus became hungry. Though it was early in spring and not yet the season fro figs, Jesus saw a fig tree off in the distance that had leaves on it. He went over to see if he could find some figs on the tree (seeing that the figs usually appear before the leaves). Jesus found nothing but leaves. It was a barren fig tree. Jesus cursed the tree for being barren.

As the group passed the same tree on Tuesday morning, they discovered that the tree had withered away from the roots. Peter called the group’s attention to the fig tree.

The fig tree was a symbol of Israel. Israel had leaves, but not fruit; it had the appearance of godliness, but did not have true godliness. For three years Jesus had worked on Israel but the majority of people did not repent and bring forth the fruit of repentance. As the fig tree died from the curse of Christ, so Israel was destroyed by the wrath of God for rejecting the Savior. And not only Israel. That is the miserable end of hypocrites, who bring forth no fruit of good works and show nothing but leaves.
Israel did not have real, true faith, and therefore no works.

To “root up mountains” was a common expression of the day for doing the impossible. Faith in God goes out in prayer to God, and with God nothing is impossible.

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Palm Sunday Sermon Philippians 2:5-11

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.
Philippians 2:5-11
In the name of Jesus dear saved ones:
Today we begin the solemn celebration of Holy Week! By faith we stand on the crowded streets of Jerusalem and strain to see Jesus riding on a colt the foal of a donkey. We join in crying out our hosannas! We hail him as the King of kings. It all seems so joyful. But we know where this all leads. This King is marching off to shame, to suffering, and to sin-bearing. The King is not about his own glory – but ours. The King offers himself for sinners. This is the real glory and grace of this day. What a remarkable celebration! What a red-letter day! But it is bitter sweet. We still need to watch the blood flow that pays the price for sin. We still need to hear the groans of agony as he is forsaken by his Father for us. We still need to hear the cry of “It is finished!” There will be the lifeless time in the tomb. Then in a week we will celebrate the resurrection. This is a great day to contemplate the salvation Jesus has won for us and the impact his forgiveness has on our daily life. So we watch King Jesus enter Jerusalem to suffer, to die, and to rise again! He empties himself for us and our salvation. Jesus’ emptiness makes us full!
Paul reminds us on this festive day that Jesus’ humble service for us fills us with a heart of service. Don’t fail to see the impact that the events of this week that we call “Holy” has on our eternity and our daily grind. Listen carefully to the humble service our dear Lord offered! Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
What has Jesus done? He is true God – but he didn’t consider himself to be equal with God. He did not seek his own gain and glory but our forgiveness and eternal life. He emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant. Here we watch in amazement as Jesus willingly exchanged the “form of God” for the “form of a servant.” He voluntarily gave up the full use of his divine attributes for a time to accomplish his divine task of saving us. The Son of God became man to accomplish the salvation of all people by his perfect life and his innocent sufferings and death. It was for this reason that he emptied himself so that he might do and suffer all that needed to be done and suffered to accomplish our salvation. Jesus emptied himself and humbled himself so that we will be exalted for eternity. This is what we see happen during this Holy Week.
What does this mean? It means that Jesus took our place. That he lived a perfect life in our place. That he suffered the punishment for our sin. That’s all fine and good – but where, where is the practical value of it? Remember that Jesus took your place under God’s Law –so through faith in Jesus we are credited with his perfect life and covered with his robe of righteousness. Remember that Jesus was punished for your sin. God will not and does not punish you for your sins even now, because he punished Jesus instead! You have no punishment to face!
What does this move us to do? It moves us to take up our cross and follow him. It moves us to walk in his footsteps to serve and love others, to place them before self. It really is all about an unconditional love for all. It is indeed about service. Precisely the lesson Jesus was teaching in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday when he took the time to wash his disciples’ feet. Listen in on the conversation as recorded in John’s Gospel: Do you understand what I have done for you? He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” All service – godly service – begins with God’s service to us in Christ. So set out to be of the mindset that you need your Savior’s service to you. You need his love, his forgiveness, his comfort, his peace. You need his Word, his Sacraments, his strength. These things are the things that strengthen the new person to willingly serve the neighbor as a way of serving the Savior who served us by going to the cross.
Today we begin the final leg of Jesus’ journey to the cross for our salvation. We follow. We rejoice. We look forward with pain. We anticipate the sorrow and the rejection. But we know in a week’s time we will celebrate with vigor the accomplishment of all Jesus did for us and for our salvation. We pause now to contemplate how deeply Jesus loves each one of us – enough to die for us on the cross of all places – a symbol of the most wretched, wicked sinner. His death is your life!
Yes, we have life in Christ. Paul sets our eyes on the prize as he reminds us that Jesus’ glory fills us with hope for eternity. Jesus is our trailblazer. He walked the road to hell for us and now leads us on the narrow path that leads to heaven. So Paul continues: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For a brief moment in every Communion service we join the Palm Sunday crowd in praising the Lord Jesus. We sing, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We join our voices with those who have entered into the glories of heaven before us. All this because Jesus has been emptied and exalted. In fact, it was Jesus’ emptiness that is his greatest glory. For God’s glory really must be measured by grace and not powerful physical signs. The power of God is strongest in the gentle whisper of his gospel. Ultimately everyone will bow before King Jesus and confess that he is Lord. But not everyone will be a beneficiary of his gift of grace. Those who have rejected the message of an empty Christ, will not enjoy the blessing of heaven. May we not be left outside the gates to suffer! Rather may we be found among the faithful praising Jesus for his dying love!
What does this mean for us? Because Jesus nailed our sins to the cross and has blazed the trail to heaven – we are going there also. Remember he is the only way to heaven! Those found in faith will be welcomed into heaven. John saw this sight and describes it for us in Revelation 7, After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. So we will join a different and prefect Palm Sunday crowd in the heavenly Jerusalem!
We live in this sure and certain hope. We look forward to our heavenly home. We have a glorious future. Lord keep us faithful to you, so we join you for eternity! Amen.

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Sermon Wednesday, April 13 1 Peter 1:18-19

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and glory and blessing! Amen.
1 Peter 1:18-19
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
In the name of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, dear fellow redeemed:
If I mention the name, Achilles, what comes to mind? Perhaps the term Achilles’ heal. That is a phrase used to describe a flaw or weakness in a person. The concept comes from the Greek Myth about a warrior named, Achilles. According to the myth Achilles’ mother dipped him in the river Styx when he was a baby – holding him by one heal. The water of the Styx is said to have made him invincible – accept for on his heal where the water didn’t touch him. So in the end he died in battle as an arrow struck him in his one vulnerable place. Friends, each of us has our own Achilles’ Heal, our own weakness, our own flaw, our own failure. We are mortal because of sin. We have flaws because of sin. We are far from perfect – we are sinners. But there is One who was and is perfect – a hero with no flaws or blemishes or weakness – he is Jesus. Tonight we once again are called on to “Behold, the Lamb of God!” A Lamb Without Blemish!
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). That is godly wisdom from the Proverbs. The way that seems right to a man is the way of the world and the way of the sinful nature. It is a way of thinking that speculates that we have to act in a certain way, do certain things so that we can earn a place in eternity or become immortal. For the Jews of Peter’s day it was following the right rabbis and working hard to keep all the rules and regulations – deluding yourself that somehow this would overcome your fatal flaw – sin. For the Gentiles of Peter’s day it too was a system of works to earn favor with the gods and a concept of fate that gave no one real comfort, all they could was hope for the best and see what would happen. We are born with the very same opinion of the law. It is an opinion of the sinful nature that suggests to us that we must do something to influence God into saving us. It is an opinion that puts eternity, at least in part, on our shoulders. Just be good and hope you get to heaven one day is the world’s spiritual advice. The only problem is that this opinion simply does not deal with reality. Reality is that each one of us has our own Achilles’ heal – our own fatal flaw that leads to our eternal destruction. We cannot save ourselves from the empty way of life handed down from our forefathers. There is only One who can save us. The price is great! Silver and gold won’t cut it. We need the lamb without blemish or defect. This is the only type of lamb that could be used for the Passover. It was also the only kind of lamb that could be used for sacrifices. Forgiveness, peace with God and access to God was only available to the Old Testament believers through the sacrifice of such a perfect lamb. Ultimately – forgiveness, peace with God, and access to God comes only through the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus! He is our perfect Redeemer – the spotless, sinless Son of God gave his life to buy us back from sin and Satan and make us God’s own dear children! He covers your flaws, protects your Achilles’ heal, with his perfect life, innocent sufferings and death, and resurrection!
We had accrued a huge debt of sin to God. Stop and think of it – we are conceived and born in sin – original sin – this causes us to stand before God condemned! Then you start adding up all the actual sins. The sins of commission, in which God had said don’t and yet we did. The sins of omission, in which God had said do and we left it undone. The debt is far bigger than the national debt. In fact, the debt was so large we couldn’t pay it off in 100 lifetimes, we have no way of paying for our sin! So what does God do? He sends his only Son to pay the debt for us. Here is where God showcases his amazing, undeserved love for sinners. Instead of punishing us as our deeds deserve – he punished his Son! What love!
Our eternal life, our freedom from sin’s slavery, our release from guilt was purchased not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Martin Luther observed: “Just one drop of this innocent blood would have been more than enough for the sin of the whole world. Yet the Father wanted to pour out his grace on us so abundantly and to spend so much that he let his Son Christ shed all his blood and gave us the entire treasure. Therefore he does not want us to make light of and think little of such great grace; but he wants us to be moved to conduct ourselves with fear, lest this treasure be taken away from us.” The price of our redemption is a telling tale. It points out to us the seriousness of sin. It shows us God’s incredibly great love for us. It leads us to a life of thankful service to the God who sacrificed his Son for us.
In his explanation to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed Luther borrows the picture language of Peter and gives us these powerful words of encouragement: All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally. God did not spare anything in his love for you – he gave his all, his most precious. This urges us to give God our all and our most precious. Stop letting self stand in the way of service. Stop letting the sinful nature dictate your actions. Live to serve this loving God who spared you from damnation by sacrificing his Son!
Our gracious God has done it all when it comes to your forgiveness and eternal life. There is nothing left for you to do! With joyful hearts respond to his love in lives of thanksgiving. Lent assures you your sins are forgiven. Lent inspires you to reflect God’s love for you to everyone around you! As we live in the shadow of the cross – we live to serve our God in thought, word, and actions. Friends, this is joyful service – a privilege and a pleasure. For God has rescued us from a life leading to eternal destruction and set before us a life of joyful thankfulness. May the Lord lead each of us to live a life that joyful knows his love and joyfully shares it! Amen.

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Wednesday April 6, 2011 Sermon John 1:29

O Lamb of God, send your Spirit with your gracious pardon, and silence my accusing conscience. Amen.
John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
In the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes our sin away – dear forgiven ones:
He wasn’t much to look at. He didn’t dress in the current fashion. No, he wore camel hair. He could have been the host of the TV show, “Bizarre Foods,” with his diet of locusts and honey. He didn’t have a fancy temple or auditorium – you could find him along the banks of the Jordan River – out in the sticks. His message was jarring and harsh. He said things that upset people. He called on people to repent. He called the religious leaders a brood of vipers and called on them to produce the fruits of repentance. But there was more to his preaching – something unique, comforting, and powerful. This John, whom God had sent to prepare the way for the Christ, he pointed to Christ. His finest preaching consisted of simply pointing to Jesus and saying: Look, the Lamb of God!
Let’s listen to John with undivided attention. He wants us to see the long-awaited Christ. He wants us to know the source of our forgiveness and salvation. He wants us to see repentance as not just sorrow over sin, but also trust in Jesus for a certain forgiveness of all our sins. John wants us to see Jesus. John wants us to see Jesus as God’s promised deliverer.
He will crush your head – that’s the promise God made to Satan in the Garden after the fall into sin. God was talking about the great deliverer he would send to rescue his creation from corruption and damnation. The Great Deliverer would conquer Satan as Satan struck his heal – there would be pain and suffering. So in Psalm 22 the deliverer says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” The suffering Servant of the Lord is described in detail by Isaiah in his 53rd chapter: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The Great Deliverer took on human flesh, became one of us, fulfilled the law in our place, and suffered our punishment. So much he loved the world of sinners! So much he loves you!
John bids us look to the Lamb of God – Jesus! He is everything to us. He has delivered us from ourselves, from the devil, and from death. He took the sins of the world on himself. He paid for those sins in full with his bloody death. He delivered us – as he was the only one who could. So this Lamb of God carried our sins away. He removed them forever. In so doing he has reconciled us to our holy God and counted us as God’s dear children and his dear brothers and sisters. We have been set free from slavery! We are forgiven because of this Lamb!
He took away the sin of the world. This powerful and important truth is often dismissed among us as the “same old message.” Yet, it remains the single most important message you will ever hear. You need to hear it and hear it often, because the delicate soul inside you depends on it for its life. You need this assurance of God’s love for you in spite of your sinfulness. You need to have the guilt that nags at you removed. You need to know that everything is good between you and God. You need this great assurance of God’s perfect love.
As far as the east is from the west so far has God removed your sins from you! This is what the Lamb of God has accomplished for the world! This is what the Lamb of God has accomplished for you! So now you stand forgiven before God! Only and all because of Jesus.
It is this amazing and eternity changing fact that caused Martin Luther to write, “The Son of God says to me, ‘You are no longer a sinner, but I am. I am your substitute … All your sins rest on me and not on you.” Let this good news wash over you. As you hear it think back to the font where water was applied to your head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – all for the forgiveness of sins. Let this good news wash over you each time it is announced – As a called servant of Christ and by his authority I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Let this good news wash over you each time your receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus, the holy God who hates sin, became the very thing he hates because he loved you. He became your sin – so now you have his righteousness. Paul puts it this way: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus carried your sin away. He carried it to the cross. He nailed all your sin to that cross and left it there. You are forgiven!
May the Lord keep our eyes of faith focused on the object of John’s preaching – Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! You are forgiven! Amen.

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April 3, 2011 Lent 4 Sermon Romans 8:1-10

Father, by your Spirit, direct our hearts to Christ, where true joys are found. Amen.
Romans 8:1-10
In the name of Jesus, who came to serve you and give his life for you dear believers:
Are you frustrated? No, not frustrated with your job or your marriage or the government or your parents or the children’s teachers or the neighbor. Are you frustrated with yourself? I know I am. I am frustrated with myself the way Paul was frustrated with himself and the way every Christian in frustrated with themselves. The frustration comes from dealing with the sinful nature. We battle and fight and struggle all the time. We wrestle with temptation and all too often fall victim to it. We say and do things that we latter regret. We think thoughts that later horrify us. We want to live by God’s Word but fail. In Romans 7 Paul expresses his frustration with the whole thing as he writes, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” This is our lot in life as Christians living in a sinful world and having a sinful nature. In all this frustration and struggle we have a desperate need for comfort. So today we have come to the Lord’s house seeking rest from our troubles, relief from our guilt, and forgiveness for our sins. We have come to the right place! For our merciful God announces to us today: There is no condemnation in Christ!
Find relief for your frustration with yourself in these powerfully comforting words inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned by Paul: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Here we see the comforting result of Christ’s service to us. We are set free from the law of sin and death. No condemnation means we will not be condemned for our sins. What an incredible relief that is for us! Understand that it is Christ alone who sets you free – any other teaching cannot comfort. Any combination and Christ and something else cannot comfort but only bring more troubling questions – have I done enough? Did I do it the right way? Will God be pleased? And so on. We get no credit for our work. All our righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. We get no credit for our name, in other words, our connections to others.
Outside of Christ we stand condemned. Contrary to what seems to be growing in popularity even amongst Christians – the teaching that hell is not really a biblical teaching, but something made up by the church. Friends, hell does exist! Even more dangerous is the fact that when we teach there is no hell, we minimize the importance of Christ. What’s the point of having a Savior if he rescues us from a place that does not exist? The truth of the matter hell does exist. Jesus says in Matthew 25, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” It’s real and we want to avoid it! So we listen to the words of comfort that Paul shares with us. He assures very emphatically, “There is no now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …” A connection to Christ is of upmost and eternal importance. In Christ we are free from the law of sin and death. In Christ sin and death has lost control. As we face the struggle and frustration of living in a world of sin and sinners, we need help. We need the strength and the wisdom to be always asking – who is in the driver’s seat? When the sinful nature is in control we are on a crash course to condemnation, but when the new person of faith is in control we are living a life of loving service.
Paul clearly reminds us that the law can’t save us. What the law can’t accomplish – God accomplishes in Christ. Yes, God saves us in Christ – so we are not condemned! Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. Christ was condemned in our place. Christ met all the requirements of the law in our place.
Paul continues: 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. So what is your mindset? Truthfully, sometimes we fall in line with what the sinful nature wants and we act selfishly, and other times we fall in line with what the new person of faith created by the Holy Spirit through Word and sacrament wants and we serve others as Christ served us. We see evidence of this in the lives of the disciples. As Jesus is once again patiently preparing them for his passion – he has a request from two of them for special considerations in heaven. The sinful nature prompted them to ask for such special treatment. The rest of the disciples hear this and take issue with it. Here again the sinful nature exerts itself. How does Jesus deal with this tense and upsetting situation? He goes right back to his lesson. He teaches about putting self aside and serving others. He instructs them to listen to the new person of faith and to act differently from what they see in the world around them. He uses the law to put down the selfish sinful nature and he uses the comforting gospel to build up the new person of faith created and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Instruction with direct law (must be …) and sweet gospel (give his life ..). You can’t change hearts or encourage willing service by the law – the sinful nature won’t submit – it will rebel. It is only through Christ’s service to us that we become willing servants.
We have been set free from slavery to our sinful nature. The liberation happened through the Spirit’s work in Holy Baptism. There the sinful nature was drowned and a new creation brought to life. As believers in Christ we are set free to live by the Spirit!
The same Spirit who called us to faith by the gospel continues to be your source of spiritual life and strength through the same gospel. So Paul writes, 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
You are alive in Christ! That means you have eternal life! Heaven is your home! This means you have spiritual life – the new person of faith lives in you and is indeed the real you. You may have noticed a different spelling of spirit in the bulletin vs. the worship folder. One is capitalized, the other is not. Both are correct! The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us spiritual life and maintains that spiritual life. The spirit – small “s” – is the new person of faith that willingly follows God’s ways. My friends, this means you also have a sacramental life – the gospel in Word and Sacraments is the pipeline that brings you spiritual life. So when the struggle is getting the best of you go back to the well for the living water Jesus gives you. When the struggle is getting the best of you confess your sins and recall Christ’s complete forgiveness. When the struggle is getting the best of you come to the Lord’s table and feast on the body and blood of Christ given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. Keep your faith alive as the Spirit influences you through the means of grace!
Then, dear fellow believers, express your gratitude for all our triune God does for you! Express that gratitude in action. Serve your neighbor! See in each and ever person, Jesus Christ, and serve them as you would serve Jesus. In so doing you will be serving Jesus and saying thank you to him at the same time!
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! You are in Christ! You are not condemned! You are free from sin and death – don’t return to such slavery! You are free to live by the Spirit – stay close to him through Word and Sacrament! You are free to serve – say thanks to God by serving your neighbor! Amen.

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