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Lost

June 28, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for the third Sunday after Trinity comes from our Gospel text, where Luke records Jesus’s words, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 46 times: context is king. In order to best understand our text, it is important to know why and to whom Jesus is speaking. In this case, we’ve got a familiar sight: Pharisees and scribes grumbling against Jesus. What’s the reason this time? He has the gall to be in unsolicited (though not unwelcome) close proximity to tax collectors and sinners. You can almost hear the collective snobbish gasp as they say to one another, “This man receives sinners and eats with them!” It is in direct response to this pretentious display of elitism that, in our text, Jesus tells the first two of three parables: the “lost” sheep and the “lost” coin. The third parable not included in our text is about a certain “lost” son.

These parables are perhaps the best known that Jesus tells. That said, in recent times they have been used in … peculiar fashion. These days, when Christians speak of “the lost” they are often referring to those outside the Church. That phrase, “the lost,” is used especially when talking about mission and evangelism. The Church, it is said, is to seek “the lost.” To be missional is to focus our efforts beyond the walls of St. James Lutheran Church and School, beyond the people gathered here and more toward reaching “the lost.” Rather than “preach to the choir” or concern ourselves only with “the ninety-nine,” a church that is faithful to its mission must foster a “zeal for the lost,” so that “our hearts would feel a burden for the lost.” You’ve probably heard these parables taught this way before; I know I have.

On the one hand, it’s a legitimate concern. We Christians are called to lift our gaze to those who are outside the Church, to those who are hurting and have nowhere and no one to whom they can turn. We are called to reach out beyond our walls to those who need to hear the gospel, to stop looking exclusively inward, directing all our efforts toward self-sufficiency, and to look to those who have not heard of Christ Jesus, crucified and resurrected. We are called into a sacrificial, self-emptying existence, looking always to those who are in need, those who are suffering, those who are … lost. The problem, however, is that when this phrase is used exclusively in this manner, we start to draw lines in strange, and arguably, dangerous places.

Again, consider the context. Jesus is telling these parables as the answer to the Pharisees and the scribes who are offended that He should receive sinners and eat with them. He tells them, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”

Next comes a similar, but distinct parable: “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’” In both cases, Jesus concludes these parables by saying, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The “lost” in these parables—the sheep, the coin, yes, even the son from the subsequent parable not included here—are clearly these people that are drawing near to Jesus in order to hear Him—tax collectors and sinners, whose repentance brings joy into the heavenly places. And who are the “ninety-nine”? Who are those that Jesus leaves behind? They are the “righteous persons who need no repentance.” They are the Pharisees and the scribes, those that grumble against Jesus’s association with the lost. These parables are set to condemn them, to make their grumbling stick in their throats.

The line between the lost sheep and the ninety-nine, the lost coin and the other nine is not between Christians and non-Christians, between churched and unchurched. The line is set between those who, on the one hand, draw near to Jesus to hear Him, those who repent, those who need Jesus and know they need Jesus, those with whom Jesus chooses to have fellowship; and, on the other hand, those who have no need of Jesus, who feel no need to repent, who are secure in their own righteousness, who think they are just “fine.”

We make a serious error when we speak as if the line simply divides church members from non-members. It is a strange ecclesiology (perhaps a profoundly arrogant one) that asserts that we can know who is “in” and who is “out” of the Church—that we can identify who are the “lost” and who are the “found.” To the contrary, Jesus continually challenges any attempt to label and categorize people for the sake of governing our attitude toward them. Earlier in Luke’s gospel account, when the lawyer asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus would not allow him to use the label on others and instead, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, answered: you are the neighbor, you go be the neighbor, so that everyone is an object of your love.

Simply put, we are not God; far from it! We are not omniscient, and thus we are not privy to the thoughts and intentions in the hearts of others. As such, we mustn’t draw lines and categorize—“us” and “them,” “churched” and “unchurched,” “in-reach” and “outreach.” We are the lost, the imperiled, the endangered who need the Good Shepherd to rescue us from the perils of our own stupidity and vanity. We are those … whom Jesus has come to save. We are to repent and stand alongside the world—not over against it—and bear witness to this Jesus who has come only for sinners. Week in and week out, we rightly confess that we are broken sinners in need of forgiveness – and the hosts of heaven issue a cry of thunderous praise and joy as we repent of our sins, and hear God’s life-giving absolution. Jesus came to save the lost, and we’re counted among that number. When we are oriented in that mindset, the world may look at the church and begin to see … in our midst … “this Man who receives sinners and eats with them.”

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tags: Luke 15:1-10

What Is Love?

June 21, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this second Sunday after Trinity is from our Epistle text where John tells his readers, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. … Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

When I was growing up in the 90s, there was a song popularized by the movie, “A Night at the Roxbury.” The song was called, “What Is Love?” by the artist Haddaway. In the song, he keeps asking the question that is the song’s namesake – “What is love?” followed by the plea, “Baby don’t hurt me no more.” Without psychoanalyzing this pop song or the singer’s apparent unreciprocated feelings, it’s worth looking at because that question is still pertinent today: “What is love?”

The world has its definitions. They range anywhere from “a chemical stimulation in the brain that generates strong emotions toward another” … to “live and let live” and “don’t rock the boat” … to “it’s the feeling I get whenever I’m near her … or him.” With all due respect to those who hold that these pithy sentiments define love, I have to disagree. I do so because they are confusing “love” with the sensation of being loved. It’s a common mistake to make, but it is a mistake nonetheless. Being loved … is great! To know that someone has these strong feelings for you … it feels wonderful! Simply put, you love being loved.

But what happens when that special someone does or says something that is … unlovable? A thoughtless word; a careless deed. What happens when your beau has a bad day and takes out his frustrations on you? What happens if she holds a position different than you regarding something you care about? Do you truly love him, according to those definitions? Does she truly love you? Is there love to be found in those relationships?

Words have meaning, and suffice it to say, the aforementioned “definitions” of love are anything but. Allow me to humbly offer a different definition for what love is: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John heard Jesus speak these words, this definition of love, and as he recorded his gospel account, those words were brought to his remembrance. According to John, this definition of love, demonstrated by God … laying down His life for His people… is the definition of love.

He heard those words firsthand … but what’s more, he saw them come to fruition firsthand. Standing beside his rabbi’s mother, John saw Jesus be crucified. He saw the agony that his Lord endured, as He bled from innumerable lacerations and punctures. He heard the words, “Behold your mother” escape Jesus’s lips mere moments before He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John saw firsthand this working definition of love … as Jesus of Nazareth, true God and true Man … died for the sins of the world. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us ….”

That’s love. Real sacrifice on behalf of someone who doesn’t deserve it. Paul puts it another way in his letter to the Romans: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Humanity did not deserve such great love being shown to us; we’re all born sinners – spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of the one true God. And in spite of that … Christ died for us.

That’s the working definition of love – sacrifice! Telling the truth even when it means someone is going to be angry at you or hurt by you. Suffering alongside another who’s in the depths of sorrow. Forgiving another whose actions would otherwise be unforgivable. Real love is uncomfortable, it’s messy, it can be deadly! And it’s precisely what we are called to show to our brothers.

Can you do it? Think about someone who really grinds your gears – perhaps someone who holds a different political opinion than you. Would you be willing to show them this kind of love? On your own, probably not. You’re a sinner, after all, and sinners love their sin. On your own, you wouldn’t love your neighbor as yourself. But because you have the Spirit of the living God dwelling within you, given through the waters of Holy Baptism, you are compelled to love.

This isn’t about works righteousness. This isn’t about you earning your salvation. This is not prescriptive; John’s words are descriptive. We, who have passed from death to life will show love for our brother, even to the point of emulating (albeit imperfectly) the perfect example of love found in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for you. As a Christian, you are willing to endure the pain of love. You’re willing to endure the scorn and the shame that comes from speaking the truth. You are willing to love the unlovable brother, knowing how unlovable you are and yet seeing the unfathomable love God first showed to you, in sending Jesus to the cross on your behalf.

It’s not easy, friends. We still struggle against our flesh to, as John puts it, “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” The Old Adam within us still wants to get offended, to hate, to justify his lashing out. But God has given us His promise that we have passed from death to life, and that, even if we don’t know it, recognize it, or see it, He loves the brothers for us, through us, sometimes even in spite of us. “By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down His life for us.” That’s love – messy, painful, and what God calls us to show, because He first loved us in that way.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Casting Out Fear

June 14, 2020
By Rev. James Barton
 
Note where the apostle John begins this reading. He begins right where we left off last Sunday - with the Holy Trinity and what the Holy Trinity already has done for us. That is at the very center of our Christian faith, and it is the motivation for all we now do as believers.
 
John writes, “By this we know that we abide in God and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). And how do we know that we have the Holy Spirit? The Scriptures, inspired by that same Spirit, tell us so. Paul writes, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). We would not even be here today, as believers, wanting to hear the Word of God, without the work of the Holy Spirit.
 
And how did the Holy Spirit work in us? Our Lord Jesus Himself says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The Spirit worked through the Word of God and baptism. As Peter preached on Pentecost, “... be baptized ... for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off” (Acts 2:38-39).
 
We believe these promises, and so we say with John, in our text, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God” (with all that means, according to Scripture), “God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:14-15). It is through Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, that, as John says again in our text, “We have come to know and to believe the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in (His) love, abides (remains) in God and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16).
 
Think for a moment of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, in our gospel lesson. There’s an old country-gospel hymn, written in the 1930s during the Great Depression, that begins:
    Only a tramp was Lazarus that day,
    He whom they laid at the rich man’s gate,
    He begged for some crumbs from the rich man to eat,
    But they left him to die, like a tramp on the street.
That pretty much describes Lazarus - very poor, sick, hungry, covered with sores, and with such ragged clothes that dogs could come and lick his sores. He finally died, a tramp on the street. And yet Jesus says he went straight to heaven, carried by angels to be with Abraham (Luke 16:20-22).
 
Why did he go to heaven? Was it because he was poor - or he had such a rough life here that he deserved a better life in heaven? What did he do to get there? The Scriptures are clear, Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Somewhere in his life, this poor man had come to know and trust God’s love and His promises, even for him; and he hung on to God’s love to the end, by faith, as miserable and abandoned as he was by others. Jesus gave him the name Lazarus in the parable. That name means, “God provides help.” And God did, in His love, help and take Lazarus to perfect peace in heaven.
 
That old gospel hymn goes on to say:
    O Jesus he died on Calvary’s tree,
    Shed His life’s blood, for you and for me.
    They pierced His side, His hands and His feet,
    And they left Him to die, like a tramp on the street.
It was even worse for Jesus. He, too, was bruised and bleeding, with most of his clothes taken away by others. He died with nothing. And He also died as a criminal in the eyes of most people, executed by Jewish and Roman justice, though He had done nothing wrong. Talk about brutality from bad authorities! Jesus knew exactly what that was.
 
But Jesus went to the cross willingly. The Scriptures say, though He was the Son of God, “He made Himself nothing” and “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). He did it out of love for us, who could not deal with our sins and sinful nature on our own. He did not have to do it, but He did it out of love for us, to be our Savior and to rescue Lazarus and us from sin and its consequences, including hell itself.
 
John wrote, earlier in 1 John, “(Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins.” That is a big word that John uses twice in this letter (1 John 2:2 and 4:10). It means that Jesus made the sacrifice that atones for, that pays the penalty for our sins, by His death on the cross. And, John says, “not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). And he says, “The blood of Jesus, (God’s) Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
 
Think about that for a moment. That means that Jesus, in love, died also for the rich man in the parable in the gospel lesson. Then why did the rich man end up in hell? Was it because he was rich? No, Abraham was also a rich man, yet he was in heaven, when Lazarus came there. Was it because the rich man failed to help poor Lazarus? That was very wrong, but that was only a symptom of the real problem - the problem of unbelief. The Scriptures say, “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark16:16).
 
The rich man was apparently so much in love with himself and his lavish life and lifestyle that he could not see any need for God or for His love and forgiveness for him. He could not see his sins, including his failure to help Lazarus, and his total neglect of God, either. He died in unbelief.
 
Abraham reminds him that he and his brothers had the Word of God, through which the Holy Spirit works to bring faith. Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). That means that the rich man and his brothers also had our Old Testament lesson for today, which said, “Abraham believed the Lord, and He (the Lord) counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Abraham was far from perfect. He did not even love his own family as he should have at times. But Abraham hung on to God’s love and promises, even in his weaknesses and difficult times, and God counted him as a righteous man.
 
This passage is quoted again and again in the New Testament to remind us that we are never right with God by our own efforts and goodness, but by faith, by belief in God’s love for us and His saving work for us in Jesus. (See Romans 4 and Galatians 3, for example.) This is so important for us to remember, as we go back again to our epistle lesson and hear John also speaking God’s Law to us. He says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21). This is all true. There is right and wrong, and the Law always works to show us our sins and failures and to drive us to repentance and God’s love and forgiveness. And laws and fear of punishment also help in our civil society to keep order and protect us from chaos (Romans 13:1-5).
 
But in the spiritual realm, what John does not want us to do is to fall into the trap that Martin Luther was in, in his own time, with a false religious system that said: Yes, God gets you started with love and grace. But then, it really depends upon you and how well you live and how much good you do. And because Jesus really did not pay for all sin, entirely, in this viewpoint, you must do extra things yourself, in payment for your sins, when you fail. And over everything else is a threat, a motivation by threat. You better do good, or else, when you die, you will be taken to another place, a kind of purgatory, where you will have to keep on paying for your sins for who know how long; and you will be obligating your living relatives to do even more good to help you out of that place.
 
John wants none of this false thinking. He does not want us motivated by fear or threats, but by love, God’s love for us. “We love,” John says, “because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Listen again to how he describes this in our text. He says, “We have come to know and to believe the love God has for us. God is love... By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence (not fear but confidence) for the day of judgement, for as He (God) is, so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:16-17). These are amazing words! “As God is, so also are we.” As we, too, believe in Jesus and His completed work for us, in His love, we are also counted as righteous in God’s eyes - perfectly acceptable to Him.
 
That is why Paul can write, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her ... having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle and any such thing ... holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). That may not be the way we feel and look, but this is the way God looks at us, through the perfect love of Christ, as we believe and trust in Him. As John says in our text, “Fear has to do with punishment,”... but there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). And it is not our perfect love for God, but the perfect love of God, given to us in Christ, that takes away our fears.
 
And so, we can live our lives, not in fear every moment, not to try to earn favor with God or others, but in a joyful way, thankful and grateful for the perfect love of Christ for us and the blessings that He has given us, with which we can now help others, in love. We love, because God first loved us.
 
Most of us, I suspect, are tired right now from the struggle with the coronavirus and more challenges possibly still to come. And in the last few weeks, in numerous parts of our country, we have also seen justifiable anger and concern about some terrible things. But the reactions have tended to have been more anger and accusations and threats and demands, some of which, biblically, seem justified; and others, biblically, not justified or right at all.
 
How good it is to be able to step back for a few minutes today in worship and just quietly rejoice in God’s continuing love for us, even in these confusing, chaotic times. God’s love does work, and we do love, because God first loved us. We also know that He loves and cares for all people, for Christ gave His life for all.
 
Think about these things as we close. Those involved with our food pantry kept it going all through the pandemic, week after week, and donations have continued to flow in to help. Jesus loved poor Lazarus, and there are plenty of Lazaruses still around who are needy. And so, we love and provide food because God first loved us and them.
 
$90,000 was raised for the school ministry even through the limits of a virtual auction and an economic climate that has not been so good. We know the importance of all people to our Lord, including children and parents and teachers. And so, we love them and help as best we can.
 
It was announced last week that we are one of the top churches in giving in support of a fundraiser for Matrix LifeCare Center, to help protect unborn babies in the womb, and moms and families struggling with pregnancy and childcare issues. All of these human beings are also important to God, and we do what we can. We love because Christ first loved us and all others.
 
Do we have to have a virtual VBS and a virtual Sunday school and other things we are offering? We know we are blessed with the whole Word of God; but there are still people today like the rich man and his brothers who don’t know and aren’t listening to that Word of God. And so we try to share the Word as best we can. And who knows what other opportunities the Lord might give us in days ahead? Some of us are still confined at home and can’t do much except pray. But that is important, too. And so, not with fear, but with joy and thanksgiving, we love because God first loved us.
 
In Christ. Amen

Who God Is

June 07, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this Trinity Sunday weekend comes from our Gospel text, where John records Jesus’s famous words to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

Characteristics. I’ve got them, you’ve got some, and by them, we are able to describe things about ourselves. I’m approximately six-feet tall, have brown (and silver) hair, blue eyes, a goatee, and weigh … more than I’d like to. I’m a pastor, a husband, a son, a brother. There are many different characteristics that you could name about me, but which of any of my characteristics … are defining? Am I the sum of my height and … stress-related weight? Am I the color of my skin? The degrees that I hold? Am I defined by my job? My clothes? My car? My vocations?

We’re talking about characteristics today – ours, but more importantly, those of the only true God. One of His characteristics is that He is triune – hence, the “Trinity” in “Trinity Sunday.” This means, while He is only one God, He is inexplicably also three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father’s not the Son, the Son isn’t the Spirit, and the Spirit ain’t the Father. Each Person is God, but there aren’t three Gods, there’s only One. … Have I messed with your head enough yet? Really, the Athanasian Creed which we confessed just a few moments ago is the best articulation that we have for understanding this incredible mystery that cannot be comprehended by human reason and is only understood through faith. Any attempts to grasp this concept with our broken human reason wander inevitably into heresy; simply put, it’s a concept that’s beyond our ability to comprehend.

This concept of God’s Trinitarian nature is intrinsic to who God is, but it’s certainly not His only characteristic. He’s omnipresent – always present in every place at the same exact time. He’s omniscient – knowing all things, all possible outcomes, seeing all ends and every beginning. He is eternal, without beginning and without end, like an auryn or a ring. He’s omnipotent, all-powerful, speaking the creation into existence and melting it with a whisper. He’s immutable – that is, unchanging throughout eternity. He’s holy, as in without sin or the ability to make a mistake. He’s just, and His sense of justice is far above and beyond ours. He’s ultimately sovereign – He’s God, and we’re not; anything He does, He is right to do, even if it doesn’t make any sense to us.

These are some of the attributes, the characteristics of God’s nature, who He is … but in a roundabout way, these attributes are also a commentary about certain characteristics of our human nature. The fact that we are unable to comprehend eternity, or absolute sovereignty, or the fact that the Trinity is a mystery to us is an indication that something is broken within us. That points to one characteristic that is endemic to humanity, regardless of the language we speak or the amount of melanin in our skin. We are, all of us, sinners. In his letter, the apostle Paul quotes numerous Old Testament texts to the Roman Christians, reminding them that, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” That’s our primary characteristic, and it knows no class or nationality. We are all sinners.

Spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. That’s what we are, and that’s who we are. That single characteristic defines us, and it makes all of the aforementioned characteristics of the triune God absolutely terrifying. If we knew nothing about God other than His perfect justice, His holiness, His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, then that would mean that He literally knew every evil thought, word, and deed you have ever committed, and His perfect justice and sovereignty would require Him to punish you for each and every one. Lightning would be striking constantly, and the mere fact that we can draw breath, let alone survive to the end of the day, would be a miracle of miracles. We would all be like Isaiah from our Old Testament text – coming into the presence of raw, unadulterated, sheer holiness, we would all cry out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

As it turns out, these are not the only attributes that God has. He has other characteristics that help us to understand who He is, and we see one rather prominently displayed in our Gospel reading. During His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus patiently discloses one of God’s most prominent characteristics: love. Not the sort of love that the world likes to think of, the love that’s easy, the love that doesn’t offend, the love that doesn’t confront wrong with compassionate truth. The world’s idea of love is selfishness; it loves the feeling of being loved. No, Jesus is talking about actual love - self-sacrifice on behalf of another who may or may not deserve it. The love Jesus is talking about is real action, intentionally planned, carefully executed, always with the needs of others in mind and with no thought to oneself: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

It’s tempting to gloss over these well-known words, but pause. Think about what Jesus is telling Nicodemus here. God is not wrathful or vengeful. He hates sin and what sin has done to His perfect creation, but His love for us, His creatures, is so great, so unfathomable, that He was willing to pay any price to win us back. He was willing to allow His only-begotten Son, the second Person of the Trinity, to take on human flesh, becoming one of us, enduring the pain of our existence, to live a life that was well acquainted with sorrow and grief, hardship and trial,, and then … allow Him, the only truly innocent man in existence, to be killed in arguably the most excruciating method of execution ever conceived. All … in order to pay, to atone for, our sin. Your sin. My sin. Your mistakes. My mistakes. Every careless thought, flippant word, and thoughtless deed ever perpetrated by mankind. All paid for in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. All done for you, so “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” He was lifted up for our sins, just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Yes, God is triune. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, always present. He is absolutely sovereign, right in whatever He does or doesn’t do, and His sense of justice is infinitely higher than our own. But He is also good, desiring our welfare. He is merciful, showing His steadfast lovingkindess and friendly compassion to a thousand generations of those who love Him. He is gracious, rich in forgiveness and kindness toward those who absolutely deserve nothing but death and damnation. Ours is a God of love, not of wrath, and He has revealed Himself to be this just, holy, loving triune God best in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ. That’s who God is. He is the great I AM, and He is real love.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Tags: John 3:1-17
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