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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Incomprehensible Fire of God's Love

"For God so loved..." (John 3:16).

In 1532 Luther gave, at home, a little sermon on John 3:16-21.  It contains the following paragraph.  Lutherans speak of "Law and Gospel."  Rather than define those terms here, I'll let Luther do it by example.  I am not aware of a better example than this.  Prepare yourself: the Law is strong.  But the Gospel is even stronger - indeed, incomprehensible.

"[Law:] It would have been more than enough for God to wish the world "good morning."  So He goes beyond this and loves the world, the disgraceful offspring.  It is just about the most utterly hostile and ill-disposed contradiction.  And in truth, that is what the world is: a pigsty of unabashedly evil people, who abuse all God's creation in the most brazen way possible, blaspheme God, and provoke Him to His face.  [Gospel:] These selfsame shameless people God loves.  That is a love which transcends all love.  This is truly a good God, and His love must be a great, incomprehensible fire, greater by far than the fire which Moses saw in the bush, indeed greater by far than the fire of hell.  Who would despair, seeing God is so disposed toward the world?  It is too high and beyond my ability to elaborate on it, or to draw out the abundant riches that it truly contains."

Monday, March 13, 2017

Being John 3:15

My sermon from Sunday, in a nutshell.

How would you like to be John 3:15?  You're right there all the time next to the great John 3:16.  But nobody has you memorized from childhood.  Nobody holds you up at a football game.  You aren't called "the Gospel in a nutshell."  How many sermons have been given on John 3:16?  How many on you?  Most Christians have no idea what you say.

There exists a sinful desire for recognition and fame.  T.S. Eliot wrote in the poem "Choruses from 'The Rock,'"

Many are engaged in writing books and printing them,
Many desire to see their names in print.

Speaking from experience, pastors in particular wrestle with this temptation.  We want to be seen as successful, as the spiritual leader who "makes it happen."  John the Baptist, who is the model pastor, said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30), and, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).

John knew the power and personal fulfillment of pointing to another, the way John 3:15 does.  Isn't it true that without John 3:15 we couldn't find verse 16?  But there it is, without fame or recognition, directing the whole world to the Gospel.

You do the same in the place God has put you.  And if anyone ever asks, "Okay, but what do you say?" you can tell them that "whoever believes in Him may have eternal life" (John 3:15).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Christ, the Commandments, and the Cross (cont.)

(continued from last week)

V. You shall not murder.  The opposite of murder is to lay down one's life.  "I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11).

VI. You shall not commit adultery.  In perfect marital love and faithfulness He gives Himself up for His wife, the church.  "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25).

VII. You shall not steal.  The opposite of theft is to give freely.  In perfect poetry He gives to a thief the free gift of eternal life.  "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

VIII. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.  His neighbors are crucifying Him, and yet He speaks no ill of them but prays for them to His Father and explains their actions in the kindest possible way.  "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

IX./X. You shall not covet.  To covet means to desire for oneself the good things that belong to another.  He does the opposite of this in two ways (since this commandment is given twice).  He desires our bad things - our sins.  He "thirsts" for them to be His own!  And He desires us to have His good things as our own - "everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness."