Sunday, April 28, 2013

Three Convictions

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cantate
St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Fairview and Sidney, Montana
Three Convictions – John 16:7 – 11

     Jesus says:  I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;  concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

     Got it?  Is Jesus’ point clear as crystal to you?  If you are struggling to understand, you are not alone.  These three ‘convictions’ of the Holy Spirit are a challenging passage, not because Jesus is unclear, but because our understanding is so limited.  This is one of those passages I sometimes think I understand, but then the next time I hear it, or maybe right after I explain it to someone, I’m suddenly at a loss again, struggling to come to any confident conclusions.  Of course, God through His Scripture is always saying things deeper than we can fully grasp, which is why we can spend a lifetime digging into the Word, and never get to the bottom of it.  Still, it is good to be able to draw some conclusions, good to have a level of confidence, a surety that we know, at least in a simple way, how a passage fits within the overall Good News of God’s salvation.  Lord willing, together we’ll get there today with these three convictions of the Holy Spirit. 
     Jesus promises to send the Helper, and says this is better for the disciples, and us, than it would be if He remained.  The Helper is identified by Jesus in a nearby section as God the Holy Spirit, and His sending is, by Jesus’ definition, a particularly wonderful gift.  But the way Jesus describes the Spirit’s ministry is pretty hard edged.  The Helper is coming to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.  That doesn’t sound too comfortable.  What is this convicting all about?  How does it work?  What does it mean to me?   
     Jesus goes on to explain a bit: The Helper will convict the world concerning sin, says Jesus, because they do not believe in me.  What does this mean?  Well, it helps to consider how this first conviction sounds a lot like another challenging teaching of our Lord, that the only unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit.  What is the sin against the Holy Spirit?  Unbelief, the same thing for which the Helper convicts the world. 
     Here’s how this is:  As John the Baptist declared, Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, all of them.  The Cross was coming the very next day after Jesus’ said the words of this morning’s Gospel.  On that Cross, the Lamb of God has poured out His holy and precious blood on all sins, paying for every last one, reconciling the world to His Father, by means of His own suffering and death, in our place. 
     As the Son of God made man, the forgiveness earned by Jesus’ death is limitless.  But this reconciliation by forgiveness is received by each individual sinner only by faith.  There is forgiveness for everyone, but it is only received through personal faith in Christ. 
     Since Jesus has paid for all sins, anyone who believes in His forgiveness is saved.  So, ever since Jesus died and rose again, disbelieving the convicting testimony of the Holy Spirit is the only way to be condemned.  If you have no faith in the Cross and Resurrection, you are still in your sins.  But, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, all your sins have been taken from you, and you are declared righteous and holy by God.  When you believe in this blood-bought forgiveness, you have life, life in fellowship with God, both today, and forever and ever. To bring people to believe in Jesus’ forgiving blood, the Helper comes, giving the gift of faith by the preaching of the Gospel.  
     This is very good news, the very best.  However, the sinner’s road to faith is rocky.  Before anyone, you, me or anyone else, will even begin to look for a way out of our predicament with God, we must first believe we are in a predicament.  We must know how bad our predicament is.  Being confronted by your sin, and God’s wrath against sin, is the only way anyone will ever look to Jesus for rescue.  This is why the Helper comes to convict the world concerning sin.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit, and so also the ministry of the Christian Church, will until the Last Day necessarily include the condemnation of sin, and sinners. 
     Easier said than done, of course.  Proclaiming God’s law and the reality of human sin to people, especially to outwardly nice people whom we like, has never been easy.  Today in America, naming and condemning sin is extremely unpopular, as the world tries to redefine every sin as a lifestyle, as free choices made by independent, autonomous, consenting individuals.  So the claim is made that homosexual acts are not the sad extreme of the sexual sin that afflicts us all, but rather just an alternate lifestyle.  The same goes for heterosexual sex outside of marriage, and also living together before marriage. Speaking ill of your neighbor, cheating just a bit on your taxes, scheming to live off someone else’s money, worshiping your recreation time and ignoring the gatherings at God’s house, all of these sins are no longer talked about as sins.  God’s unchanging Word against these sins still stands, but nobody wants to speak it. 
     Thankfully, the ultimate proclaimer of the Law is the Helper, the Holy Spirit.   Through His Church, through His preachers, in pulpits, and at dining room tables, God the Holy Spirit causes His Word of conviction to go forth.  God the Holy Spirit convicts the world, including you and me, of sin, for the sake of forgiveness. 

     Forgiveness is the ultimate aim of the Helper’s first conviction, because forgiveness in Christ is the only hope for salvation, and also because the forgiving love of Jesus is the only power for a truly amended life.  God the Holy Spirit, joining us by faith to Jesus Christ, gives us life in Him, connecting us to His power, causing us to begin to live differently.  Scolding people into outward conformity with the law only works so long, and doesn’t change hearts.  Only God’s forgiving Gospel makes real change in sinners, the Gospel, which needs its way prepared by the Law.
     So the Church which has the Holy Spirit will be preaching against sin and sinners, for the sake of salvation.  When we do this, the world will accuse us of bigotry, hatefulness, of trying to hurt and control people.  But proclaiming God’s law in order to lead sinners to forgiveness is truly the only way to fully love a sinful world.  Law and Gospel, the condemnation of sin, in order to apply Christ’s righteousness, His forgiveness, which restores, resurrects, and gives joy to sinners, this is the Holy Spirit’s first conviction.
     Jesus also says the Helper will convict the world concerning righteousness, because no longer will the Apostles, or anyone else, see Jesus.  The righteousness of Christ must be learned and received through the Spirit’s convicting Word; seeing Jesus with our fallen eyes is not the way of salvation. 
     Jesus in His visible ministry was certainly righteous: perfectly faithful to God His Father, perfectly loving to His neighbors, teaching and healing and comforting.  Jesus’ earthly ministry was wonderful, and definitely attracted many people to come and see Him.  But the star power of Christ tended to make people miss the essence of His ministry.  His healings, His great moral example and teaching, the comfort He gave, the power and wisdom He displayed, all of these were wonderful.  All of these were true and Godly.  All of these were good.  But none of it could save anyone from sin.  All of the amazing works of ministry Jesus did were simply preliminary to the main act.  Rescue from sin and death requires a death, a full payment for sin.  So Jesus saved the world through death.  Ugly, sad, and frightening though it was, His death makes our life. 
     Jesus achieves our righteousness and future glory, through suffering.  And so, the amazing miracle worker, the wonderful preacher, the one to whom the crowds flocked, goes away, so as not to be seen for His brilliance.  Jesus goes away so that through His Word the Spirit can give eyes of faith to the Apostles, and us, and to people all around the world, eyes of faith to see His true beauty, in His Cross.  The Holy Spirit displays the righteousness of Christ Crucified and Resurrected, through His Word, which gives us eyes of faith to see and receive Jesus, our Savior. 

     The third conviction flows from number two.  The Helper also convicts the world concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.  There is no “neutrality,” no safe place to exist between the kingdom of God and kingdom of Satan.  Every human being is either in one kingdom, or the other.  The Helper comes to convict the world that the kingdom of Satan stands condemned, defeated, so that people might look for a way to escape. 
     The judgment of Satan is also a comfort for believers.  The world may still be in Satan’s sway, but in truth, because of Jesus, the old evil foe is only angrily and bitterly awaiting the final enactment of his eternal defeat.   At the Cross, the power of Satan’s kingdom, his ammunition for accusing sinners, was destroyed.  Satan’s power is God’s Law and our sin.  Satan uses God’s law against us, pointing out how we have failed, tempting us to hate God and flee, or persuading us to believe that God could never love such as sinner as you or me. 
     But Jesus by His life of good deeds and by His Cross fulfills God’s Law, both positively and negatively.  All the good works that God’s Law demands are fulfilled by the Good Works of Jesus.  You are free to do the good works God has prepared for you to walk in, free to do good works precisely because you don’t need them to win God’s favor.  God the Father is completely pleased with you and everyone who is joined to His Son, for Jesus shares the credit for His perfect life of good works with His people, with you. 
     As on the positive side, so also on the negative.  All the punishment and the death that God’s Law requires for human sin was suffered by Jesus at Calvary.  It is finished.  There’s nothing left.  In the blood of Christ, all your sins are washed away.  So Satan has nothing left to say.  His kingdom is judged, destroyed, powerless over those who are in Christ.  This bad news for Satan is our great hope, the heart of the Gospel, for you and me.  Satan may still accuse you of your sin, he may try to fool you with his lies.  And it is truly frightening that in our sinful flesh we continually try to emigrate to Satan’s kingdom.  Despite what we know and believe, despite what God has made us to be, members of the body of His Son, the Church of Christ, still, we sin.  And by each sin we cast our lot with Satan.  This is the great struggle of Christian living, daily realizing and repenting of our sins, from which we cannot free ourselves.  Lord have mercy. 
     He does.  The Lord does have mercy, for you.  The Holy Spirit, day by day, forgives you all your sins, and the sins of all believers, in His Church, by His Word.  Repent of your sins, and trust in Jesus, trust in the truth of His Word, trust in the power of His blood.  For the truth is, Jesus Christ is your all in all, your righteousness, your forgiveness, your holiness, your resurrection from the dead.  Look to His Cross, and be convicted of this: Satan’s power over you is a lie.  In Christ, you are free, free to rejoice in God’s grace, and live under Him in His kingdom in righteousness, innocence and blessedness, today, and forever and ever, Amen. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Grace of Suffering

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Jubilate, April 21st, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
The Grace of Suffering         John 16, 1st Peter 2, Isaiah 40

Last Sunday morning I stepped out into the snow, not happy, muscles all up and down my legs complaining that I shouldn’t try to play basketball like a kid, for 2-1/2 hours, especially not on Saturday with a winter storm warning for the next day.  Six inches of wet snow from our latest, Lord willing our last major April storm bent the handle of my old shovel, straining at the duct tape that holds the cracked part together.  Steadily falling snowflakes mocked my attempts to clear the sidewalk, but I needed to make a path, so I could dig out our vehicles, so we could get to church.  I very much felt I was suffering, mostly mentally, a bit physically, all in all feeling quite all by myself.  The storm wasn’t that bad, the snow wasn’t that deep, and spring will come, I think.  But still, I was unhappy, feeling very much put upon. 

Just then, a pure and gleeful cry cut through the air.  Across the street a four year old neighbor was experiencing the same snow, but much differently.  He laughed in delight as he ran through the snow, his voice instantly reviving my mood, triggering a lifetime of memories of playing in the snow, those memories pushing out all my grump and gloominess.  I was no longer alone, suffering in the slushy wet cold.  Now I was a participant in a young boy’s joy, as he loved the surprising snow and cold to the utmost.  

Thank you, little boy.  Thank you for brightening my morning, and even more, thank you for reminding me that when we know with Whom we share this life, grace abounds, driving out despair and darkness.  For my shared moment with that 4 year old in the snowstorm reminded me of how God talks about suffering, like what Peter says in his first letter:  But if, when you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  All over the New Testament we read examples of Christians rejoicing in their suffering, because their suffering gives evidence of their unity with Christ Jesus.  The Apostles return home rejoicing after being flogged for preaching Christ, rejoicing for having been counted worthy to suffer for the Name.  Paul speaks of rejoicing in sufferings, for the sake of the Church, filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.  And Jesus of course says rejoice and be glad when you suffer for His sake, and for the sake of His Gospel, for the reward of those who suffer for righteousness sake is great, in heaven. 

Now, my snow shovel ‘suffering’ last Sunday morning is not to be equated with the suffering Peter, Paul and Jesus describe, true persecution by the world for one’s faith and life in Christ.  Peter and Paul, and many Christians still today, suffer real persecution for their faith, false arrests, imprisonment, loss of livelihood and property, torture, even death.   Neither my suffering last Sunday, nor any of the suffering I have ever endured in this life, whether caused by circumstance, my own mistakes, or even suffering for being a Christian, none of my suffering has been worthy to compare to what many Christians go through.  But the gift that little boy gave me, the way his laugh allowed me to participate in his joy, lifting my gloom away, this is comparable to the way Christ makes Christian suffering a gracious joy.    

How can this be?  How can suffering be good, a gracious joy?  Because to endure suffering mindful of God, that is, to suffer as a believer in Jesus, this is to cast a reflection of Him.  To suffer as a Christian is a confirmation of our participation in Christ’s life.  For it is Christ’s suffering and death which has made our glory.  Jesus talks about this same thing in our Gospel today, as He foretells the disciples coming sorrow.  In a little while, prophesies Jesus, you will be sorrowful, weeping and lamenting, and world will rejoice. 
In a little while, that is, the disciples will see Jesus dying on a cross, and they will be filled with the deepest sorrow, while the world laughs and mocks and wags its head.  At the foot of the cross, and during the darkness of the Saturday, the Sabbath day following Good Friday, the disciples would suffer.  But their suffering would be turned to joy, on Sunday, and forever and ever, as our Crucified Lord rises from the dead, the joyous light of the Resurrection driving out the darkness of Satan’s momentary victory.  The Resurrection is the joyful cry of laughter that cuts through all our suffering. 

Are you suffering?  Are you sick, suffering in your body, afraid for both the quality and the length of your life?  Do not despair.  Wait for the Lord.  Jesus may not take away your disease right away, maybe He won’t take it awaya at all.  But He has taken away your death, and given you His new life, so your eternal health is guaranteed, in Christ. 

Are you suffering because you are lonely, missing your friends and family, struggling to find the human fellowship you need, feeling all alone in the world, even when you are in a crowd?  Wait for the Lord, for He knows loneliness, even more deeply than you.  Jesus knows the loneliness of being abandoned by all His closest friends, even the loneliness of being abandoned as The Sinner, abandoned on the Cross by His own eternal Father.  And yet Jesus endured, for you, so He could give you His eternal joy.  Jesus went all the way to absolute loneliness, dying utterly forsaken, so that He can have you for a friend and companion, forever.  Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.  And when you have Jesus, you have so much more, His Father as your Father, His Spirit as your Comforter, His family as your family, a motley looking crew to be sure, the people God calls the Church, a motley crew which is in God’s gracious eyes, a beautiful family, forgiven and made new.   

Are you suffering because you are scorned, perhaps looked down upon by family members, friends, or co-workers, scorned because you cling to the Word and Faith of Christ?  Do the taunts of the world cut you, as Christians continue to be the butt of every joke, and scapegoats for all the world’s evil?  Wait for the Lord, the One who was scorned and tortured by the Romans, scorned and spit upon by the Jews, scorned as the a failure, a fraud, a criminal.  Wait for Jesus, for He has conquered the scorns heaped on Him, by His blood converting them to honor and glory.  And the glorified Jesus looks at you with pride and love, for you are His chosen and beloved one, the prize He most looks forward to bringing home and showing to His Father.   

Are you suffering from fear?  Did the bombing at the Boston marathon make you afraid, make you wonder when evil and hatred will claim someone you love, make you feel like locking yourself in your own home, even thought the manhunt took place three thousand miles away?  Or maybe the terror in Boston reminded you of the fear that is still just below the service here, the fear that we all suffered, when Sherry was taken from us, fifteen months ago?  Wait for the Lord.  Do not fear.  Even in the midst of your fears, look to the Cross and do not fear, for the Lord will lift you up.  The disciples suffered too, they were afraid, very afraid.  But their fear was lifted away, when Jesus came to them, behind locked doors, coming to share His joy with them, the joy of peace with God, the joy that flows from free and full forgiveness, the joy of knowing that no earthly evil can snatch God’s children out of His hand. 

 Are you suffering from guilt?  Has some sin of yours become Satan’s dagger, some sin that you are afraid to name, some desire or anger that you cannot escape, twisted in your back by the enemy, seemingly so bad that you doubt God’s forgiveness?  Wait for the Lord, because Jesus has suffered your guilt.  Wait for the Lord, but do not wait for forgiveness.  Do not wait around, wondering if God’s love extends even so far as to cover you.  The blood of Jesus cleanses you from all sin.  Confess your sin, and claim the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  He is for you.  You are forgiven. 

We all suffer, sometimes directly for our Christian confession, sometimes as we see and feel the suffering of others, sometimes simply because we live in a broken and dying world.  But we endure, we wait for the Lord, for we know that He too, suffered.  Jesus suffered sorrow at the death of Lazarus and the unwillingness of Israel to be saved.  Jesus suffered fear and dread, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not my will, but Thy will be done.”   

We wait for the Lord, by seeking Him out.  We seek Him out in the places He has promised to be present, truly present with grace and mercy for sinners.  Jesus has promised to meet you and me, to lift us up on eagles’ wings, whenever two or more gather in His Name.  Jesus has bound Himself to you through the washing of Water and the Word, where He  put His Name on you, lifting you out of the flood of your sin, raising you to new life, in Him.  Jesus has promised to meet you in His Word, speaking words of comfort and mercy and encouragement, today.  Jesus meets you, keeping His New Covenant promise forever and ever, in the breaking of the bread.  Wait for the Lord by coming to meet Him in His promises.  God is faithful, He will do it, for you. 

My gloomy spirits were lifted when I was allowed to participate in the joy of a little boy, playing in the snow.  Likewise, our spirits, our very souls, are lifted up, because by faith we participate, we share, we commune in the very sufferings and death, and the resurrection, and the glorious new life, of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  When we suffer as Christians,  Christ is with us.  And in the midst of suffering, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we find this to be all joy, because Jesus is our Joy, today by faith, and, one day soon, face to face.  Remember that, through His Cross, your sufferings, indeed, your whole life, is precious to God.  Christ is with you and will help you endure, giving you His Spirit to carry you through until that Day when He removes all your suffering, making your joy complete, forever and ever, Amen. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Good Shepherd Removes Your Doubt and Gives You Faith

Third Sunday of Easter - Misericordias Domini 
April 14th, Year of Our + Lord 2013
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
John 10:1-18
Vicar Jason Toombs

“I am the Bread of life,” says Jesus, “the Light of the world, the Door of the sheep, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am the true Vine.”  These are the seven “I am” statements of Jesus found in John’s Gospel.  Today we hear two of these statements from the mouth of Jesus.

“I am the Door of the sheep ... I am the Good Shepherd.”  Jesus is our entrance into the good pasture and He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.  We are His sheep, He came for us little lambs.  He came to remove your doubt and give you faith.

On this side of the good pasture, on this side of heaven, our faith lives alongside of doubt.  The devil doesn’t need to plant it in us.  By our fallen nature, it is already there.  He simply needs to apply water and wait for his fruit to grow.  When we hear Jesus say, “I know My own and My own know Me,” it doesn’t take much to get us thinking, “Do I really know Jesus?  Am I one of His sheep?”  Our doubt wants proof that we know Him.  Where should we look?  Doubt directs us back to ourselves, back to our hands, back to our heart, back to our works.  Doubt directs us away from Jesus, away from our Good Shepherd, away from the Truth.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He lays down His life for His sheep.  He lays down His life for you.  He pays for your sins, your doubts, your troubles.  He ransoms you away from the grasp of your enemies: sin, death, the grave, and the devil.  Our enemies are always around us.  You are a sinner who can do nothing but sin when you try to do things on your own apart from God.  Death lingers behind every corner in your life.  You never know when you will breathe your last breath.  The grave is beckoning you to lose your life because you know it’s not worth anything.  And the devil, that chief liar, who always uses lies, uses tricks, uses anything he can to get his hands on your soul.  He wants to drag more people, more souls, down to hell with him.  His appetite for souls in insatiable, always looking for one more soul.

But Jesus comes to defeat your enemies forever.  He has paid for the wrath that you deserve, He has satisfied justice on your behalf.  You are righteous, perfect, and holy because Jesus has declared you to be so.  He has taken your death, the death that you deserve because of your sin, and He has given you life, a new life, eternal life.  He has risen from the dead to be your justification and He will raise you too when He returns.  And He will bring you into the good pasture of heaven.  There He will be your Good Shepherd for you to see all the days of your life.  He loves you.  He lays down His life for you.  And you know His voice.  You hear it now. 

It seems strange to say that you hear His voice now.  You hear His voice in His Word, in everything that He has done for you.  You heard His voice in the lessons this morning.  You heard His voice in the hymnody as you sang.  You heard His voice at your Baptism.  You hear His voice as God claims another child as His own in Baptism.  You hear His voice when the Pastor, the under shepherd of Christ, absolves you of your sins.  You will hear His voice every time you receive the meal that He instituted for you to eat for the forgiveness of sins.  You will hear His voice as He blesses you at the end of the service.

It also seems strange every time you hear His voice because you doubt.  You doubt that He is there for you.  You doubt that He is your Good Shepherd.  You doubt that your sins are forgiven.  The devil tries to seize on this doubt, trying to get you to trust in the doubt rather than God’s Word.  But this doubt that you have is also evidence of your faith.  The doubt that is in your mind, in your heart, in you is the pin pricks of conscience.  As you grow more mature in the Christian faith you become more aware of your sin, more aware of the guilt and burden of your sin, and more aware of the weakness of your faith.  You doubt that God is good, that Jesus is your Good Shepherd.   But this doubt is evidence that you are engaging the enemy inside yourself.  God is good and Jesus is your Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you.  He paid for all of your sin, all of your guilt and remorse over your sin.  He came to remove your doubt and give you faith.  If you had no faith in God’s love toward you, you would not care if He exists, you would not worry about your doubts, you would feel no guilt.

But while doubt is, in a bit of a paradox, a sign of faith, still it is no fun to doubt.  We doubt God’s love toward us because we know we are sinners, only deserving God’s wrath.  We doubt Jesus’ laying down His life for us sheep because we know we wouldn’t lay down our life for all of humanity.  For all of this you feel guilty.  You worry about it.  You know you are a sinner.  You know you have broken His law.  You are terrified.  You are sick to your stomach.  You must look somewhere for Him.  And God directs you back to Himself, back to His loving arms, back to the arms of your Good Shepherd.  God returns your focus back to the cross, back to Good Friday, where Jesus was crucified for your sin.  Back to where your Good Shepherd laid down His life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy ... the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them.”  The devil and his cohorts are thieves and wolves.  We know the devil is the one who tries to get us to turn away from God, but who are his cohorts?  His cohorts are those who are like us, humans.  They are the religious leaders who try to turn you away from the God who died for you and rose again on the third day.  They are your neighbors who care more about the pleasures of this life than the life to come.  They are teachers who direct you to the things that you can do to “get right with God.”  They try to take away the sheep, steal them, kill them, destroy them.  Steal you.  Kill you.  Destroy you.  But Jesus, your Good Shepherd, is stronger than they.  They would seek to harm you but He loves you.  He loves you in this way, that He willingly laid down His life for you, for your life.

Hear again as your Good Shepherd says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”  Jesus came down from heaven to lay down His life upon the cross.  He came to suffer the death that we deserve, the death that we owe because we are sinners.  And He laid down His life in your stead.  And three days later, He took up His life again.  He has authority to lay down His life, and He has authority to take it up again.  This was what He came down from heaven to do.

He didn’t come down from heaven to do this for Himself.  He came down to do this for you.  He came down to die for you.  And He’s not the only one who has died.  In your baptism, you died with Christ.  You have died with Him, only to hear Him say to you, “Arise.”  He has authority to not only take up His life, He also has authority to give you life.  You live every day as one of His little lambs, a lamb of God’s flock.  You hear the Good Shepherd’s voice calling you through the door.

You hear as the Good Shepherd says, “I am the Door of the sheep.”  He is your entrance into the good pasture, He is you entrance into heaven.  It is only through Him that we can be saved.  If we try to get in on our own, whether trying to cross the fence or jump over it, we won’t make it.  Some teachers will tell you that you can cross the fence by your works, your deeds, your faith, your love, your anything.  But none of those ways will get you through the fence into the pasture.  It is only those who enter by the Door that get into the pasture.

He is the only way into heaven.  Not our works, not our deeds, no religious leader, no prophet can get us into heaven.  No other door gets us to the pasture.  “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14).  The door to hell is wide and there are many teachers who will lead you there.  But the door to heaven, the door to the good pasture where the lambs will eat forever, is narrow.  This Door is the cross.  This Door is the empty tomb.  This Door is our crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only door that leads to God.  He calls you to enter through Him.  You have entered through Him in Baptism.  You have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.  You have been given Christ in the waters of your Baptism.  This is the life giving water, the water that flowed from His side.  And He feeds you with Himself.  He gives you His Body and Blood, the same body broken on the cross and the same blood that flowed from His side.  You eat His Body and drink His Blood and He gives you life.  He feeds your faith through His Word and through His meal.

He gives you faith to answer your doubt.  He gives you His eternal promises to confirm your faith when doubt raises its head.  He gives you life when doubt tries to bring death.  He brings you back to Himself when doubt tries to run away.  When doubt asks, “How?,” Jesus answers, “Repent.”  Repent of your doubt, repent of your self-justifying works, repent of your self-centered lives.  And after turning us from our sin, Jesus directs us back to Himself where we are focused once again on our Good Shepherd.  You have been turned away from you and back to Jesus and what He has done for you.  And you rejoice because He alone has saved you.

A lamb cannot save itself from a thief or wolf.  Only the Good Shepherd can rescue His lambs from the devil.  And your Good Shepherd has called you by name, called you through the door into His pasture.  And there you eat the food and drink the drink that He has given to you, resting comfortably under His watchful eyes.