The First Easter

The Historical Eyewitness of Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James

Mark 16: 1-8

Mark 16: 1-4   When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s Easter sermon (1520s):

The great longing and love of the women for the Lord must also be particularly noted here, so that unadvised and alone they go early to the grave, not thinking of the great stone which was rolled before the tomb. They might have thought of this and taken a man with them. But they act like timid and sorrowing persons, and therefore they go on their way without even thinking of the most necessary things. They do not even think of the watchers who were clad in armor, nor of the wrath of Pilate and the Jews, but boldly they freely risk it and alone they venture on their way.

What urged these good women to hazard life and body? It was nothing but the great love they bore to the Lord, which had sunk so deeply into their hearts that for His sake they would have risked a thousand lives. Such courage they had not of themselves, but here the power of the resurrection of Christ was revealed, whose Spirit makes these women, who by nature are timid, so bold and courageous that they venture to do things which might – have daunted a man.

These women also show us a beautiful example of a spiritual heart that undertakes an impossible task, of which the whole world would despair. Yet a heart like this stands firm and accomplishes it, not thinking the task impossible.

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s Easter sermon (1520s)

This is the meaning of the words by St. Paul: “Christ was raised for our justification.” Here Paul turns my eyes away from my sins and directs them to Christ, for if I look at my sins, they will destroy me. Therefore, I must look unto Christ who has taken my sins upon himself, crushed the head of the serpent and become the blessing. Now they no longer burden my conscience, but rest upon Christ, whom they desire to destroy. Let us see how they treat him. They hurl him to the ground and kill him. 0 God; where is now my Christ and my Savior?

But then God appears, delivers Christ and makes him alive; and not only does he make him alive, but he translates him into heaven and lets him rule over all. What has now become of sin? There it lies under his feet. If I then cling to this, I have a cheerful conscience like Christ, because I am without sin. Now I can defy death, the devil, sin and hell to do me any harm. As I am a child of Adam, they can indeed accomplish it that I must die.

Now I have a clear conscience, am joyful and happy and am no longer afraid of this tyrant, for Christ has taken my sins away from me and made them his own. But they cannot remain upon him; what then becomes of them? They must disappear and be destroyed. This then is the effect of faith. He who believes that Christ has taken away our sin, is without sin, like Christ himself, and death, the devil and hell are vanquished as far as he is concerned and they can no longer harm him.

Now, this Gospel he has not taken with him into heaven, but he caused it to be preached throughout the world, so that for him who believes in Christ, spear and whetstone, nay, sin and death, should be destroyed. This is the true Gospel, which bestows life, strength, power and marrow, and of which all the passages of Scripture speak.

Take as an illustration the fish in the water. When they are caught in the net, you lead it quietly along, so that they imagine they are still in the water; but when you draw them to the shore, they are exposed and begin to struggle, and then they first feel they are caught.

Thus, it also happens with souls that are caught with the Gospel, which Christ compares with a net, (Matthew 13:47). When the heart has been conquered, the Word unites this poor heart to Christ and leads it gently and quietly from hell and from sin, although the soul still feels sin and imagines to be still under its power. Then a conflict begins, the feelings struggling against the Spirit and faith, and the Spirit and faith against our feelings; and the more faith increases, the more our feelings diminish, and vice versa.

We have still sins within us, as for instance pride, avarice, anger and so forth, but only in order to lead us to faith, so that faith may increase from day to day, and the man become finally a thorough Christian and keep the true sabbath, consecrating himself to Christ entirely. Then the conscience must become calm and satisfied and all the surging waves of sin subside. For as upon the sea one billow follows and buffets the other, as though they would destroy the shore, yet they must disappear and destroy themselves, so also our sins strive against us and would fain bring us to despair, but finally they must desist, grow weary and disappear.

These two things, sin and death, therefore remain with us to the end that we might cultivate and exercise our faith, in order that it may become more perfect in our heart from day to day and finally break forth, and all that we are, body and soul, become more Christlike. For when the heart clings to the Word, feelings and reasoning must fail. Then in the course of time the will also clings to the Word, and with the will everything else, our desire and love, till we surrender ourselves entirely to the Gospel, are renewed and leave the old sin behind.

Then there comes a different light, different feelings, different seeing, different hearing, acting and speaking, and also a different outflow of good works. It comes in this way: When the heart and conscience cling to the Word in faith, they overflow in works, so that, when the heart is holy, all the members become holy, and good works follow naturally.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Historic WW 2 Sermon, April 8, 1945

Text: “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Romans 8:28

BETHLEHEM EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH

Ridgewood, New Jersey

The following sermon was delivered on April 8, 1945, one month before V-E Day, and simultaneously read by servicemen from the congregation in Ridgewood and others in harm’s way in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and those serving in South America, stationed in the United States, serving on naval ships, and recovering from injury in a hospital.  April 8 was the date selected by The Lutheran Church for a special worship service dedicated to the men and women in the armed forces and their families and others on the home front.

Sermon – delivered by Pastor F. A. Ottmann at a special service held in honor of our men and women in service – April 8, 1945 at 10:30 A.M.

Beloved in Jesus Christ:

To many people, the world is full of unsolved riddles, perhaps now more than ever.  Time and again in past years, we have heard the question asked, “Why such a monstrous war when God long ago proclaimed peace on earth, and all nations engaged in this terrible struggle profess to accept the religion of ‘good will toward men’?  Why should so many be made to suffer because of the unholy ambition of a few?  Again people ask, “Why are epidemics permitted to stalk through the country claiming their victims by the thousands among the unbeliever as well as the Christians?  Why do the honest and upright frequently have affliction and sorrow while the wicked are apparently free and prosperous?”  These and other questions of a similar nature often greatly disturb the souls of men.  Especially when adversity comes to the individual, when the question takes this form:  “Why should I have reverses?  Why should my house be stricken with disease?  Why should my husband, my wife, my son, my child die?”  Then the puzzle often spells disaster, wrecking men’s lives and driving them to despair.  We Christians too, are sorely tried by such questions.  But we know where to find an answer.  We turn to the Word of God.  True that Word does not always give us a definite answer to these particular questions.  On the contrary, it tells us that often God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out.  But it assures us that they are ways of wisdom and love gives us the definite promise that “all things work together for good to them that love God”.  And that comforting assurance I want to impress upon you today.  The Theme:

All things for good – so God says to His children.

            “All things”, that is an all inclusive statement.  It includes everything and excludes nothing.  “All things”, whether to is they seem good, bad, or indifferent.  We usually make this distinction.  Some things we consider to be always beneficial to us, as good health, a comfortable income, a circle of true friends.  Other things we look upon as misfortunes, believing them to be contrary to our interests, as calamities, war, sickness, business reverses, loss of employment.  Then there are things which we ordinarily imagine have practically no influence on our welfare.  But our experience and that of others show us that we are often mistaken in making these distinctions, what we usually call blessings are often harmful to those who receive them.  Many a man has been morally and physically ruined by prosperity.  So called misfortunes, on the other hand, often proved to be blessings in disguise and the apparently trivial things of life are in many instances of momentous importance in their consequence.

            But here comes the Word of God, saying that all things work together for good to them that love Him, even the evil things. Yes, God even makes use of the sins of men, for which He is in no wise responsible, to further His ends, as the story of Joseph in the Old Testament and particularly that of Jesus in the New Testament clearly how.  Joseph was torn from his home, sold into Egypt as a slave by his brothers.  They wanted to get rid of him, get him out of the way, they hated him.  But God was with Joseph.  He made use of the sin of his brethren to further His purpose, namely to elevate Joseph to the regency of Egypt and make him a benefactor of the world of his time and especially to his own brethren.  Wherefore Joseph said to them, “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So, it was not you who sent me thither, but God.”  Yes, God was with Joseph.  And need I remind you of the fact, that the greatest wrong man ever committed, the betrayal of Judas, the condemning of Jesus by Caiaphas, the sentence of death placed upon Him by Pilate, the crucifixion on Calvary, was used by God for the eternal salvation of man.

            All things work together says our text.  There is design and purpose in everything.  We have the evidence of that fact all about us.  In the whole universe there is order, adaptation, system, as every careful student of nature must see. The great things as well as the small things denote the presence of a divine Master-mind.  There is purpose then in the things that enter into the life of each individual, and all things which enter into your life work together to accomplish a certain end.  What is that end?  That work together for good.  God’s purpose is always good so all things must work together for the good of His children – I say for His children.  The Lord knoweth them that are His.  That is our great comfort at all times and in all conditions of life that the Lord knows us as His own.  He is deeply concerned about our welfare.  Nothing can befall us without His will and so all things must work together for our good.  Which does not mean that they work together solely for the promotion of our pleasure or according to our ideas of what is good, but for our best interests, our welfare, our real happiness according to God’s ideas in time and eternity. Everything in our lives is a means to an end.  It is not always the medicine which is most pleasant to the taste which is most effective.  Sometimes a very bitter medicine prescribed proves to be the very thing to restore health to a sick person.  So God often prescribes for us, bitter things, which at the time seem far from good for us, yet they are for our benefit. 

            As the Apostle says, Hebrews 12:11: “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”  Not of themselves however, are our experiences productive of that good of which the text speaks.  The essential thing for our true welfare in time and eternity is the salvation of our soul.  And that is obtained only by faith in Christ, not by any other thing entering our lives.  It is by faith only that we receive full pardon for our sins and become acceptable to God.  It is by faith only that we are made righteous and heirs of eternal life.  It is faith which fills our hearts with peace and joy, comfort and hope, faith, living faith, in the Savior Jesus, and such faith is wrought and strengthened by the Holy Spirit through the means of the Gospel.  All the various things then that we experience in life work together for good only when they serve the purpose of bringing us closer to Christ, nearer to God, more and more under the influence of the Gospel.  And that is precisely what adversities and afflictions, according to the will of God, are to accomplish.  It is the days of good fortune that ought to bring us nearer to God.  They ought to fill our hearts with greater appreciation of God’s goodness.  They ought to turn us to God in true repentance.  They ought to induce us to seek the Lord in His temple, to come before Him with thanksgiving.  But we know very well that God’s blessings only too often have the opposite effect.  When a man enjoys God’s blessings he often becomes careless of spiritual matters, of church and religion, and drifts away from God.  Instead of being led to repentance by the goodness of God, he despises the riches of God’s mercy and forbearance.  Therefore, the discipline of trials and sufferings are needed.

            They are to divert our minds from the perishing things of this world and fix them on things above.  They are to remind us that our welfare is entirely in the hands of God, that He must provide for us the things that make for our real happiness, and that our relation to Him must be right if we are to enjoy His blessings.  As Job says: “Lo, all these things worketh together oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.” (Job 33:29)  Many who are Christians today, earnest Christians, are ready to acknowledge with feelings of deep humility and gratitude that they never had serious thoughts of eternity, never truly sought their Savior, never found comfort in the Gospel until the days of adversity made them consider, gave them food for thought, so that today they are more thankful to God for some of the troubles they have had than for the good fortunes which befell them.  And we earnestly hope that all the anxiety and worry, the trouble and want, the suffering and sorrow, and the heartache and heartbreak of the present time will have the result of turning the people more permanently to God and His Word, and that all these things and whatever affliction God permits to come into our lives will truly work together for the real good of all of us.

            But if that is to be the case, we must not forget the concluding words of the text, “All things work together for good to them that love God.”  While God’s dealings with men are intended to be for the good of all, His gracious purpose is realized only in some.  Not in those who merely entertain reverent thoughts of God, not in those who merely form resolutions to lead upright lives, not in those who attend church off and on to pacify their consciences, not in those who come to God in days of affliction, but soon drift away again.  No, only in those who truly turn their hearts to God, who realize that Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and cling to Him with an abiding faith; only in those who are moved by the Spirit of God and therefore are God’s children.

            It is to His children that God gives the promise that all things work together for good to them.  One of the chief characteristics of a dear child is that he listens to the voice of the father and abides by his will, and so the child of God will, even in deepest sorrow and the greatest trouble, turn to the Father and say, “Father, Thy will be done.”  So if we are truly children of God, come what may, all things must work together for our good.  Here is God’s definite promise. Behind that promise He stands, the all gracious One, the all wise One, the all powerful One, the all faithful One.  It must be fulfilled.  Amen.

Bible verses about the Cross

The Cross

Isaiah 53:5: But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Luke 23:33: They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.

John 19:18: There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.

Matthew 27:37: When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.

Matthew 27:54: Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Luke 23:47: Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

Matthew 27:37: And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Mark 15:25: It was the third hour when they crucified Him.

John 19:32,33: So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But when they came to Jesus and found he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

The importance of the Cross in our Lives

1 Corinthians 2:2: For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Titus 2:11,12: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

John 16:33: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

2 Corinthians 10:3: For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 Timothy 6:7,8: For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

James 4:4: You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Mark 16:15: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Bible verses about Holy Communion

Holy Communion, Holy Baptism, and God’s Word in the Bible are the intimate means God is with us in faith, grace, and love. Our faith in Jesus Christ is made stronger and more vibrant each day that we read and hear His Word, remember the promise of eternal salvation when He called us by name in our Baptism, and when we receive His forgiveness and grace in the bread and wine that He told us to do in remembering His presence in our lives and world.

Matthew 26:28 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

John 6:33 “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:35 “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Luke 24:30 “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.”

Luke 22: 19-20 “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Matthew 26: 26-28 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

John 6:48-51 “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.”

Bible verses about Hope

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Hope-1

Acts 20:35  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Hope-3

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Hope-2

John 15:7  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Hope-7

John 3:16-17 “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.” 

Hope-4

Bible verses about Prayer

Lent 2020

Focus on Prayer

Matthew 6:9-15
“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 

Prayer-8

Mark 11:25
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Prayer-4

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Prayer-2

Ephesians 1:18
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,”

Prayer-7

Ephesians 6:18
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Prayer-1

Jeremiah 29:12
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

Prayer-3

Job 22:27
“You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows.”

Prayer-6

1 John 5:14

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

Prayer-5
Matthew 26:41
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Prayer-9

Bible verses about Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14-15
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 

Forgiveness-1

Luke 17:3-4

“So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Forgiveness-5

Ephesians 4:31-32
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgivenss-3

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Forgiveness-8

Acts 3:19

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,”

Forgiveness-6

Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Forgiveness-7

Ephesians 1:7
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

Forgiveness-2-Eph1-7

Hebrews 10:17

“Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

Forgiveness-4

Strategies for Life’s Most Challenging Struggles!

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D 

Our Victory Lap!
Strategies for Life’s Most Challenging Struggles

Romans 8:31-39:  What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

romans8-37
Martin Luther on Romans 8:

St. Paul comforts fighters of sinful desires. He tells us that Christ has given us his Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit makes us spiritual and restrains the flesh. The Holy Spirit assures us that we are God’s children no matter how furiously sin may rage within us, so long as we follow the Spirit and struggle against sin in order to kill it. Because nothing is so effective in deadening the flesh as the cross and suffering, Paul comforts us in our suffering. He says that the Spirit, love and all creatures will stand by us; the Spirit in us groans and all creatures long with us that we be freed from the flesh and from sin.
Luther made four points for us to think about.

First, “in this way [God] wants to make us conformed to the image of his dear Son, Christ, so that we may become like him here in suffering and there in that life to come in honor and glory.” So, we suffer in this life, so that we would be like our Lord Jesus who suffered in this life. Being like Him here in this life, we will be like Him in the life to come, with honor and glory.
Second, “even though God does not want to assault and torment us, the devil does, and he cannot abide the Word.” What does Luther mean ? He means that the devil wants us to suffer because of God’s Word, but God uses this suffering so that we may learn that the Word is greater than the devil: “Then our Lord God looks on for a while and puts us in a tight place, so that we may learn from our own experience that the small, weak, miserable Word is stronger than the devil and the gates of hell.”

Third, Luther says, “it is also highly necessary that we suffer not only that God may prove his honor, power, and strength against the devil, but also in order that when we are not in trouble and suffering this excellent treasure which we have may not merely make us sleepy and secure.” God gives suffering so that we wouldn’t get sleepy in this life, but always look to the treasure we have in Jesus and His eternal promises which will be ours forever—as Paul says, “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Lastly, Luther says, “Christian suffering is nobler and precious above all other human suffering because, since Christ himself suffered, he also hallowed the suffering of all his Christians.” When Christians suffer, it is a suffering which Christ Himself has made holy for them.

In fact, Luther says, “when people without faith run into affliction and suffering, they have nothing to comfort them, for they do not have the mighty promises and the confidence in God which Christians have. Therefore, they cannot comfort themselves with the assurance that God will help them to bear the affliction, much less can they count on it that he will turn their affliction and suffering to good.”

There is a special component to sufferings for the Christian. Not only has Christ made their suffering holy, but there is also special hope. There is the hope that points to this work of God, this work which conforms us to the image of Jesus. This work points to God’s own words and promises to overcome the world and the evil one. This work draws us to eternal hope. There is hope in who this God is as the Almighty One who loves us and cares for us. He is the God who proved His love and sent His Son to suffer and die for us. If He has done this, will He not certainly in His love do what is best for us in all things? Yes, yes, it shall be so.

On a personal note, my wife and I selected this Bible verse for our wedding as a reminder that we would always remain connected to God and His love in the face of unknown challenges we might face together in this life.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org  

Our Most Important Decision!

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

Our Most Important Decision

In life we only have this choice: Accept God’s Grace or Reject God’s Grace!

Ephesians 2: 4-10:  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Saved by Grace

Martin Luther on grace

There are two kinds of Christian righteousness, just as man’s sin is of two kinds. The first is alien righteousness, that is the righteousness of another, instilled from without. This is the righteousness of Christ by which he justifies though faith, as it is written in I Corinthians. 1:30: “whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” In John 11:25-26, Christ himself states: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me…..shall never die.” Later he adds in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

This righteousness, then, is given to men in baptism and whenever they are truly repentant. Therefore, a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say: “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.” Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh [Gen. 2:24]—so Christ and the church are one spirit [Ephesians 5:29-32]. Thus, the blessed God and Father of mercies has, according to Peter, granted to us very great and precious gifts in Christ [II Peter 1:4]. Paul writes in II Corinthians 1:3; “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

This inexpressible grace and blessing was long ago promised to Abraham in Genesis 12:3; “And in thy seed (that is in Christ) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” “To us,” it says, because he is entirely ours with all his benefits if we believe in him, as we read in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” Therefore, everything which Christ has is ours, graciously bestowed on us unworthy men out of God’s sheer mercy, although we have rather deserved wrath and condemnation, and hell also. Even Christ himself, therefore, who says he came to do the most sacred will of his Father [John 6:38], became obedient to him; and whatever he did, he did it for us and desired it to be ours, saying, “I am among you as one who serves” [Luke 22:27]. He also states, “This is my body, which is given for you” [Luke 22:19]. Isaiah 43:24 says, “You have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities.”

Through faith in Christ, therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that he has becomes ours; rather, he himself becomes ours. Therefore, the Apostle calls it “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17; For in the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed…; as it is written, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” Finally, in the same epistle, chapter 3:28, such a faith is called “the righteousness of God”: “We hold that a man is justified by faith.” This is an infinite righteousness, and one that swallows up all sins in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ. On the contrary, he who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as he. It is therefore impossible that sin should remain in him. This righteousness is primary; it is the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness. For this is the righteousness given in place of the original righteousness lost in Adam. It accomplishes the same as that original righteousness would have accomplished; rather, it accomplishes more.

It is in this sense that we are to understand the prayer in Psalm 30: “in thee, O Lord, do I seek refuge; let me never be put to shame; in thy righteousness deliver me!” It does not say “in my” but “in thy righteousness,” that is, in the righteousness of Christ my God which becomes ours through faith and by the grace and mercy of god. In many passages of the Psalter, faith is called “the work of the Lord,” “confession,” “power of God,” “mercy,” “truth,” “righteousness.” All these are names for faith in Christ, rather, for the righteousness which is in Christ. The Apostle therefore dares to say in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” He further states in Ephesians 3:14-17: “I bow my knee before the Father . . . that . . . he may grant . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Therefore, this alien righteousness, instilled in us without our works by grace alone—while the Father, to be sure, inwardly draws us to Christ—is set opposite original sin, likewise alien, which we acquire without our works by birth alone. Christ daily drives out the old Adam more and more in accordance with the extent to which faith and knowledge of Christ grow. For alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress, and is finally perfected at the end through death.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org 

Why are Brick and Mortar Churches Essential in a Digital World?

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People          1522 – 2022

The First Churches

Why are brick and mortar churches essential in a digital world?

Acts 2:41-47: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

From Martin Luther’s sermon on Acts 2: “It is not enough simply that Christ be preached; the Word must be believed. Therefore, God sends the Holy Spirit to impress the preaching upon the heart–to make it in here and live therein. Unquestionably, Christ accomplished all–took away our sins and overcame every obstacle, enabling us to become, through him, lord over all things. But the treasure lies in a heap; it is not everywhere distributed and applied. Before we can enjoy it, the Holy Spirit comes and communicates it to the heart, enabling us to believe and say, “I too, am one who shall have the blessing.” To everyone who hears is grace offered through the Gospel; to grace is he called, as Christ says (Matthew 11:28), “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.”

Now, with the belief that God has come to our rescue and given us this priceless blessing, inevitably the human heart must be filled with joy and with gratitude to God, and must exultingly cry: “Dear Father, since it is thy will to manifest toward me inexpressible love and fidelity, I will love thee sincerely, and willingly do what is pleasing to thee.”

The believing heart never sees God with jealous eye. It does not fear being cast into hell as it did before the Holy Spirit came, when it was conscious of no love, no goodness, no faithfulness, on God’s part, but only wrath and displeasure. But once let the Holy Spirit impress the heart with the fact of God’s good will and graciousness towards it, and the resulting joy and confidence will impel it to do and suffer for God’s sake whatever necessity demands.

Let us, then, learn to recognize the Holy Spirit–to know that his mission is to present to us the priceless Christ and all his blessings; to reveal them to us through the Gospel and apply them to the heart, making them ours. When our hearts are sensible of this work of the Spirit, naturally we are compelled to say: “If our works avail naught, and the Holy Spirit alone must accomplish our salvation, then why burden ourselves with works and laws?”

By the doctrine of the Spirit, all human works and laws are excluded, even the laws of Moses. The Holy Spirit’s instruction is superior to that of all books. The Spirit-taught individual understands the Scriptures better than does he who is occupied solely with the Law.

Hence, our only use for books is to strengthen our faith and to show others written testimony to the Spirit’s teaching. For we may not keep our faith to ourselves, but must let it shine out; and to establish it the Scriptures are necessary. Be careful, therefore, not to regard the Holy Spirit as a Law-maker, but as proclaiming to your heart the Gospel of Christ and setting you so free from the literal law that not a letter of it remains, except as a medium for preaching the Gospel.”

community

These Bible verses and excerpt from Martin Luther emphasize the importance and power of the church as a community of people who come together to read, pray, listen, serve, and share. We come to know Jesus through the struggles in our heart which leads us to believe in a very personal way. After the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave, the disciples lived in fear because the Jesus they had come to know and trust was no longer with them. But just as Jesus promised, He came to them on Pentecost in a powerful and visible way and they believed. The dimension of their belief after witnessing Christ’s Resurrection, the baptism of thousands of people from many different countries and cultures, and the breaking of bread is what changed the world! This is documented historical evidence.

They followed the teachings of the apostles, which is the Gospel that Jesus loves each of us and gave His life that we might be saved, be free from sin and death, and experience His grace through an intimate relationship with Him. This is the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of a loving church. Many churches involve passive listening but the church described above involves active engagement!

There are many good and uplifting philosophies that inspire us. They teach us to do good, show kindness, accept others, and help people in need. There are many who call themselves Christian and speak enthusiastically about God, Jesus, and the Spirit. Acts 2:44 tells us that the Christians in Jerusalem had one thing in common – they knew Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!

Faith is a long-distance journey, it is a calling and gift, it involves constant work because we stumble with the challenges of life in a sinful world.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org