The Theologian Sees a Man as Sinner



“Therefore we are not dealing here with the philosophical knowledge of man, which defines man as a rational animal and so forth. Such things are for science to discuss, not for theology. So a lawyer speaks of man as an owner and master of property, and a physician speaks of man as healthy or sick. But a theologian discusses man as a sinner. In theology, this is the essence of man. The theologian is concerned that man become aware of this nature of his, corrupted by sins.”

-Martin Luther on Psalm 51

Before the Father’s Face, A Few thoughts on Prayer

Sermon Audio

Jesus, in this text from John 16, has been teaching the disciples that He is leaving, but it is today that we begin to consider where He is going. And this is especially fitting for us to consider on the edge of Ascension.

But remember, Jesus, in His ascension, does just disappear. He does not just go away. He goes somewhere. He has a destination. He goes to the Father, and sits at the Father’s right hand.

We’ll consider more of what that means on Thursday, but now it is good to consider that Jesus is at the Father’s right hand, and that He brings us there with Him, so that as Jesus speaks to the Father, so do we. This is prayer.

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

The first thing we ought to consider with prayer is that it is a privilege. It is a great and high honor that the Lord gives us the opportunity to pray.

We think of prayer the opposite of this, at least I’m tempted to. Like it is a privilege that the Lord gets to hear my prayer. (It sounds really bad to say it that way, but it’s right.) Do you know what I’m talking about? We consider our prayers a duty, a chore, something that God expects. Like a child brushing its teeth, they don’t want to, but mom and dad expect it, and if they don’t they’ll get mad, so they go and brush and then come show you their teeth so you will be proud of them. “I said my prayers, God, see…”

Prayer is privilege, it is God giving you an audience, promising to hear you, graciously asking for your council. Remember Esther. She was the king’s wife (one of them), and even she was afraid to go and speak to the king without an invitation. The punishment could be death. Esther told Mordecai, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11).

Think of that! And we might think of this as totally backwards, but imagine showing up in the oval office without an invitation. I suspect the secret service might treat you with the laws of the Medes and the Persians. To stand in front a ruler and make a petition is a privilege. There is nothing that would require God to hear our prayer, nothing that would require Him to listen to us, nothing to require Him to care. Certainly we do not have any wisdom that He needs. We don’t have any grand insights that He lacks. And there is nothing about our unholiness to commend our words to Him.

But still, the Lord invites us to pray; He holds out the golden scepter. He wants us to talk to Him, to ask Him for things, to tell Him what we need and what we desire. I don’t think this makes it any less law. It might condemn us more. We don’t pray when we have do, and now, we don’t pray when we get to. Either way, we are always confessing our breaking the Second Commandment. Do not misuse the Name of the Lord your God. We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

Our prayers falter, they are cold and lifeless. In our prayers we see our pride and our despair, and all our idolatries manifest themselves when we go to pray. We think that God ought to hear us, or we are convinced that He doesn’t.

Instead of pray we worry. Instead of asking God for things we fret. And we consider prayer our last resort.

But still we find Jesus urging us and kindly inviting us to prayer. He does this with the promise we heard.

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus here adds to the promise of prayer. He will hear us and He will answer us. But there is a curious thing Jesus says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me.” We will ask nothing of Jesus, but everything in the name of Jesus.

This does not mean that we do not pray to Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit for that matter. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each persons of the Godhead, are each God. We worship each of the Persons; we pray to the Father as well as the Son and the Spirit. But this is the point, Jesus will be sitting right there next to the Father. And He, in fact, with carry our prayers to the Father.

Remember the Last Supper, how the disciples were gathered around the table, and Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him. Peter was across the table, but John was right there next to Jesus. So Peter says to John, “Ask Jesus who it is…” And John can lean over and talk to Jesus.

This is how it is now with Jesus and the Father. Jesus is right there, right at the Father’s right hand. He has the Father’s ear. So Jesus brings our prayers to God.

We ask for something. “Lord, give me a bite to eat. Help Alan to feel better. Give faith to Kris.” And the Holy Spirit takes that prayer, dusts off all your selfish motives, and carries that petition to Jesus. Jesus takes those petitions and wraps them with His blood, and gives them to the Father. And now the Father has your prayers, your petitions, perfect, holy, delightful, and He goes about the business of answering them.

“Ask, and you will receive.” That’s a wonderful promise. Now, it might take a while for the Lord to keep His promise. He’s never in the hurry we are, and the bigger rush we are in, the slower the Lord seems to respond, but we pray with faith, trusting His promise.

And then we find, at the end of His promise, something incredibly unexpected. “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” The goal and end of all this asking and praying and promising and the Lord’s answering is your joy. “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

The Father is interested in your joy, and He is interested in it being full. Jesus is, if you can believe these words, interested in your joy, and it being full. He wants your heart to be happy. He wants you to be content, to be happy.


Everything that Jesus is doing, His coming and His going, His dying and His rising, His ascending and sitting at the Father’s right hand, all this is done for you, for your joy, a joy full, full of forgiveness, joy full of life, joy full of salvation, joy full of Jesus.

The Work of the Holy Spirit, or, A Plate Full of Rotting Possum (Thoughts on John 16:5-15)

We are listening again to Jesus in John 16, the day before the crucifixion, preparing His disciples of what is to come after His death and resurrection. It would be better, with this text, though, to speak of “who” is coming, because Jesus is here promising to send the Holy Spirit. This is one of the greatest gifts of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus: the Holy Spirit is poured out.

This is indeed a mystery. The Holy Spirit has always been; He is eternal God, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is there are the very beginning of creation, hovering over the waters. King David prayed “take not your Holy Spirit from me.” We know that it is God the Holy Spirit who creates faith, and this is just as true in the Old Testament as it is in the New.

But there is something unique that happens at the Ascension, when Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, and now the Holy Spirit is proceeding from the Son, who is both God and man, dead for our sins and raised for our justification, now the Holy Spirit is pour out on “all flesh,” as the prophet Joel promised and Peter preach fulfilled on Pentecost. We’ll hear more of this in the weeks to come, but as far as our text goes, Jesus is pointing to this sending of the Holy Spirit as a comfort to the disciples.

Jesus says, “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, 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” (John 16:6-8). That one named Helper is the Holy Spirit, also known as the Comforter, or Advocate. The Greek word there is paraklete, and it seems difficult to bring into English. It is a legal term, an official of the court who is on your side, like a defense attorney.

Here’s the really wonderful thing about this word. Jesus has already used it as a title of the Holy Spirit in chapter 14. John will use this as a title for Jesus in his first epistle.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

In this text it was translated “Advocate,” as John was teaching us how Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, is speaking to the Father on our behalf, pleading our case, making the argument for the forgiveness of our sins, and presenting as evidence His suffering, His death, His scars.

Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are given the title “Paraklete.” Jesus is parakleting before the Father, making the case of our forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is parakleting in our conscience, making the case that we are sinners forgiven by Jesus. This is simply wonderful.

So Jesus unfolds this by teaching the disciples what the work of the Holy Spirit will be.

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.

Jesus outlines the three main works of the Holy Spirit: to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. At first this looks like all law, but we will see, as Jesus explains it, that it is both law and Gospel.

First, the Spirit convicts the world of sin because “they do not believe in Me.” The Holy Spirit brings the crushing weight of the law to bear on the sinners conscience.

We know that when we do something wrong it bother us, we get an inflamed conscience, we know we’ve made a mistake. We are troubled. But the Holy Spirit comes along and shows us how we’ve done more than hurt our neighbor (or our self), but that we’ve broken God’s law, offended His holiness, and deserved His wrath.

And while the Holy Spirit will convict us of all sin, of breaking all the commandments, it is His special work to show us how we’ve broken the first commandment, how we have not believed in God, how we have had other gods, how we have feared and loved and trusted in just about everything else above God. And when the Holy Spirit is doing this work, He is getting to the heart of the matter, showing us how we have lost the image of God, how sin has infected every part of us.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of more than our sins, the things we do and don’t do, and He shows us that we are sinners. This is original sin, the corruption that clings to our nature from the moment of our conception, the sin that was passed down to us from Adam.

This is the difference between confessing, “I have sinned,” and confessing, “I am a sinner.” Both are true. But the first thing, that “I have sinned”, is obvious. You can look at your life and see what you’ve done wrong. But this confession that “I am a sinner” is not as obvious.

Consider Xerxes the Unbeliever. If you ask him if he has sinned, I suspect he’ll answer “yes.” (You might have to help him out a little with the law, tell him that stealing is a sin, that lying is a sin, that lust is a sin, etc.) But then, ask Xerxes if he is a good person, and he will say, “Yes,” or “I think so,” or “I’m trying to be.” You know how that goes? We know that we have sinned, but apart for the work of the Holy Spirit, we do not know that we are sinners.

Original sin is so deep a corruption that we don’t know or feel it, we only know and feel the effect of it. This is the difference between the man who falls off the ladder and breaks his leg, versus the man who falls off the ladder and breaks his leg and his neck. If you ask the first guy how he is doing, he’ll tell you, “I’m hurt. I broke my leg.” But if you ask the second man how he is, he’ll answer, “I don’t know, I can’t feel my leg.” This is how wounded we are by sin, we can’t even feel the depth of our own sinfulness. It is the Holy Spirit’s first work to reveal this to us, to convict the word of sin, because they do not believe in Jesus, to show that the rottenness of our thoughts and words and deeds goes all the way down to our hearts, and that the stench that arises for there, even if we cannot smell it, is repulsive to God.

This is the preaching of the Law.

But this first work of the Holy Spirit is followed by the second. “He will convict the world of righteousness, because I,” says Jesus, “am going to the Father.

So the Holy Spirit comes and convicts the world, convicts us, of righteousness. This sounds strange, probably because of the word “convict,” because we think of being convicted of a crime. This, though, is the conviction of innocence, the declaration of righteousness, the imputation of the perfection of Christ. This is justification, the justification of the sinner by grace through faith, and it, too, is the work of the Spirit through the Word.

Jesus has accomplished the satisfaction for our sins. He has died, been raised, and ascended to the Father. His work is finished. Now the Holy Spirit brings that saving work of Jesus to us. He convicts the world of righteousness, that is, He preaches the Gospel.

This word, “righteousness,” is one of the most important words in the Bible. It means keeping the law, and stands alongside words like holiness and perfection. We often think of it as a word of the law. How does a person become righteous? By living according to the Ten Commandments. This is true, but if that is the only way to be righteous, then we would all be doomed.

There is a righteousness of the Gospel, an alien righteousness, an external righteousness, the righteousness that is imputed to us, given to our account. This is the righteousness of Jesus, His perfect keeping of the law, both in what He did and didn’t do. His holiness, His perfection, this is given to us in the preaching of the Gospel.

The picture we use for this is a child eating their dinner. There are two ways to be finished with dinner, the first is to eat all the food. This, for a child, is difficult. (I remember that this was difficult as a child. I can hardly imagine it now, as I’m scraping up the last crumb and wishing there was more. Anyhow…) You can either finish eating all your food, or your mom or dad can say, “You can be done.” There is still food on the plate, you haven’t done the required work, but the declaration has been made, “It is finished,” and dinner is over.

The righteousness of the Gospel is this second kind of righteousness, a declared righteousness. This is what Paul is talking about through all of His Gospels. Here’s Romans 4:5, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Galatians 2:16: “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

I have heard justification defined “just as if I had never sinned.” This is true, but it is only the first part of justification. Jesus not only takes away our sin, He then gives us His own righteousness, His holiness, His perfection. Justification is both a taking away of sin and the gift of God’s own righteousness.

Back to dinner. Imagine that you thought that you had to bring your own food to dinner, so you went out to the street and grabbed some road-kill (I’m sorry about this illustration, it’s a good thing we’ve got a few hours until lunch), you get the rotting stinky carcass of a possum, and slop it down on your plate. That’s about how nice all your good works look. There you are with your sin, and it’s not going to do you any good. So Jesus comes along and dumps your filth, he takes the plate, cleans it off, and brings it to you, clean slate (or in this case, a clean plate). This is the forgiveness of sins, and a lot of Christians think that this is the end of it, this is the Gospel, and now it’s up to them to get out there and cook up something better, to bring something nice to the table. But this is only the first part of forgiveness. Jesus not leave you with an empty plate.

When you came to the table Jesus was sitting on the other side, and His plate was piled high with all sorts of wonderful things. It’s pizza in my imagination, but use yours to put your favorite foods on Jesus plate, lots of it, cooked perfectly, smelling wonderful. And when you came to the table with your possum carcass, Jesus takes your plate for Himself, and gives you His. He suffers your sin. And you are given His righteousness.

I’m sorry this is disgusting, but there is something incredibly distasteful in the work of the cross, this shame that Jesus despised (Hebrews 12:1), the stench of death that is your sin and mine that Jesus suffers in order to give you His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). So your plate is not empty. Jesus does not give us a clean slate; He gives us His righteousness. When the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then, look upon you, they seen not your sin, but the righteousness of Jesus. According to God’s reckoning, you are as perfect as Jesus.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness.

And there is a third work of the Spirit that Jesus speaks of: He will convict the world of judgment. This, again, sounds like the work of the law, until we hear Jesus explain what He means: “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” This is the work of the Spirit to convict us, to convince us and give us the comfort that the devil has been judged.

The Holy Spirit has to do this work, because just as we don’t know the depth of our sin, so the Holy Spirit has to show it to us, and just as we don’t see the Lord’s righteousness, so the Holy Spirit has to teach is too us, so here, we do not see the devil overcome. What we see is the devil running around unfettered, bringing violence and destruction all over the world. What we hear is the devil’s voice tempting us, throwing unbelief into our heart, confusing law and Gospel. We see false teaching everywhere. A false understanding of reason and natural law destroying the state. False doctrine destroying the church. It looks to us as if the devil has free reign. 

So the Holy Spirit comes to show us that the devil has been judged. Consider especially Hebrews 2:14-15 (this is a text we should inscribe on our hearts), “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Jesus, by His death, destroyed the power of the devil. He stripped from the devil his greatest weapon, which is the fear of death.

Death normally comes with the terrifying fear of judgment, but not for the Christian who has passed from death to life, from sin to forgiveness, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, who is a friend of God. Now there is nothing to fear, nothing to dread. Death is a kind sleep, and to close our eyes to sleep the sleep of death is to open them and see the face of Jesus, His smile, His love. The Holy Spirit convits us of this, of the judgment of the devil. He convicts us that Jesus is at the right hand of God, and that He rules and reigns the universe, and all for the sake of His church.

We are not Lookaroundists, determining truth from what we see. We are Christians, determining truth from what Jesus says. And it is the Holy Spirit who brings this truth to us, in the word of the prophets, in the words of the apostles, and in the preaching of the word.

So Jesus promises:

 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

I have heard the accusation that Lutheran never talk about the Holy Spirit. I think what this means is, “Lutherans never talk about God on the inside, about that whispering voice that you hear in your heart. Lutherans never talk about the internal tugging, about the impulses that are supposed to be from God.” And this is true, because the Holy Spirit gets to your heart through your ear. Whatever internal voice we hear is first the external Word. The Holy Spirit is not in the impulse business, but in the word business, because He is in the certainty business, and the Holy Spirit does not want your faith resting on your feelings, or on the vague impulses that occur in the heart and the conscience.

The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world, to bring certainty, and, dear saints, we have His certainty. We know, for a certainty, that we are sinners, and that sin goes all the way down. We know that we have deserved God’s temporal and eternal punishment. But we know we even more certainty that our Jesus has carried all our sin, suffered all our suffering, and delivered to us His perfection and righteousness. We know that we are holy, justified, forgiven, and that there is nothing to fear. Though the devil rage, we belong to Jesus, and salvation belongs to us.

This certainty, this comfort, this is the joyful work of the Holy Spirit, the work He does in His church. It is the work He has accomplished in us today.

Despair and Joy Switching Places, a few thoughts on John 16:16-23


Jesus is risen to give us joy, overflowing and unending joy.

Our Gospel text is from John 16, and we will hear readings from this chapter for the next four weeks. Jesus is talking on Maundy Thursday, the night when He was betrayed, and He is preparing His disciples for what is about to happen: His crucifixion and resurrection.

It seems like the disciples were hearing these words in a mist. The heard Jesus tell them that He was going to die, and they were troubled, but it is almost as if they could hear Him talking about the resurrection. Three day later, after Jesus had come out of the grave, and things were crazy all over the place, they start to remember, “Hey, didn’t Jesus mention something about a resurrection?” But now, the night before Jesus’ death, the disciples are just hanging on to get the idea of Jesus dying, and they don’t like it.

Jesus was for them hope, and life, and salvation. He was their Teacher and their Savior, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the One who would rescue Israel and bring about the kingdom of God. All their hopes in life and in death were bound up in Jesus. Now, they probably had a bad idea about what the kingdom of God would look like. I think they were still unravelling this idea that the Messiah would have a physical kingdom on this earth from the truth of what Jesus was taking. Changing your mind about a thing takes a while, and the idea that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans had been a big part of Jewish thinking for quite a while. But the disciples were beginning to understand that the kingdom of God was not a place, but a man, this Man, Jesus. And the hope to which they were to cling was not a hope of power, but the authority of Jesus. They had heard Jesus preach the law and the Gospel. They knew that their real problem was their sin, and that they would have to stand before the face of God one day, and be judged for that sin. And they knew that for this last great stand, they needed Jesus. And they needed Him alive.

All their eggs were in one basket, and in this the disciples were exactly right. All of their hope, all of their peace, all of their faith, all of their salvation, all of this is with Jesus, bound up to Him. But they have it all bound up to His life (not to His death), and so, when Jesus dies, all of this is lost, and the disciples plunge into despair.

Jesus knows this is going to happen.

Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful… (John 16:19b-20a).

This kind of sorrow is difficult to imagine. They have not only lost a beloved friend, they have lost their Lord, and with His death all joy and hope has died. We see this in the account of the two disciples on the Emmaus road. Jesus comes alongside them, but He hides from them so they don’t recognize His face.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:15-21)

That last “we had hoped” captures the sorrow that Jesus promises, the sorrow that took hold of the disciples. “We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel,” but our hope is lost, our hope is crucified and buried, our hope of redemption and forgiveness is gone, and we are handed over to sadness and despair.

This is the despair of the law. The despair of knowing that you will have to stand on the last day before the holiness of God and there, in the brightness of His countenance, all of your sin will be exposed, there will be no hiding, and so there will be no joy, only eternal horror.

Now, contrast this despair of the disciples occasioned by the death of Jesus with the joy of the world and the devil. Jesus does, again, in John 16. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” The world rejoices at the death of Jesus. The devil and the demonic hordes rejoice at the death of Jesus. Those who want to justify themselves, those who are handed over to darkness and death, and especially those who want to establish their own righteousness rejoice at the death of Jesus. The have no use for Him. In fact, Jesus threatens to overturn their entire system, and they can’t have it. The rulers of this world take council together against the Lord and His Messiah, and they execute Him, and they rejoice.

We sing this in the Walther Easter hymn (He’s Risen, He’s Risen, Christ Jesus the Lord, 2-3),

The Foe was triumphant when on Calvary
The Lord of creation was nailed to the tree.
In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer,
For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.

I’m not sure if the devil was triumphant, but I suspect he thought he was. It was, after all, the devil who threw it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus. And it is stunning for Walther to put into our imagination the picture of the demons throwing a victory party at the death of Jesus. “In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, For Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear.”

Now, dear saints, I would like you to consider this for a moment. It must be, if you could interview the devil, and ask him what his greatest victories have been, that he would have a list of his triumphs: the temptation of Adam and Eve, and the fall, the utter corruptness of Noah’s generation, and of Sodom and Gomorrah, the apostasy of King Solomon would all be on this list. We wonder if the events of this past week, the terror in Boston and the explosion in Texas, and all the increasing violence that is brought to this world would be somewhere on that list.

But it must be that the devil’s greatest triumph is the death of Jesus, and this death is the devil’s undoing. The devil’s greatest victory is his own defeat, for in the death of Jesus the devil is overcome, and his power is taken from him (see Hebrews 2:14). In the Lord’s mysterious working out of your salvation, the devil gives you the great gift of the cross of Jesus, the blood that is shed for your forgiveness. I hope there is comfort here for you.

We look around as see the world falling to pieces, and it seems to us as if the devil has won the day, but the devil can’t help but bring about God’s gifts, all of his work is his own undoing. Luther loved to call the devil “God’s devil”, and I suspect this is why.  So even as the devil attacks God’s institutions he does us the service of reminding us that they are real things, that marriage is a real thing, that life is a real thing, that man and woman are a real thing, that family is a real thing, and that the church is a real thing, all instituted by God. (As the old theologians loved to say, “The abuse does not destroy the essence, but confirms it.”)

But back to the days of Jesus resting in the tomb. The disciples are full of sorrow, and the world and the demons are full of joy, but all of this is about to end. Jesus being dead is about to end. And this turns everything on its head.

But short was their triumph, the Savior arose,
And Death, hell, and Satan He vanquished His foes;
the conquering Lord lifts His banner on high.
He lives, yea, He lives, and will nevermore die.

As Jesus says, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20b-22).

The disciple’s despair is turned to joy. The devil and the worlds joy is turned to dread. Despair and joy switch places, and you are on the side of joy. Jesus is alive. Our Redeemer is alive. Our Savior is alive. And this means that when we are called to stand before God on the Last Day, we will not stand alone. Jesus will stand at our side, with the robe of His righteousness covering our shame, with His blood covering our sin, with His death and resurrection turning God’s anger into a smile.

Jesus is risen to hand you over to joy, to a joy that cannot be stolen; to a joy that will not fade, to the joy of life and life eternal, to the joy of salvation, to the joy, dear saints, of the Absolution, your sins forgiven, and the absolute certainty that when your last day comes, you will not face judgment, but you will rather see the face of Jesus, your Jesus, a face alive with delight in you.

Thought-bite for April 14, 2013 at 04:13PM

Worship paper finished.

Worship is at the heart of the church of Jesus, and this is because worship is being served by Jesus. Our Savior brings us His saving gifts, His promises, the benefit of His death and resurrection, and we take hold of them by faith, rejoicing at the surprise and delight of this divine kindness.

Worship belongs to Jesus. He has instituted it, and he has done so for a specific purpose, with s specific end in mind, and that is that we sinners would be forgiven, absolved, comforted by His forgiving, absolving and comforting Word. The Holy Spirit, then, through the means of the external Word, comforts our conscience. And we can say a bit more.

I would like, in this essay, to put forth the thesis that the divine service is instituted by Jesus so that the Holy Spirit, through the Word, would create in our conscience a reflection of the heavenly council. This forensic understanding is found in the Scriptures and Confessions, and it is helpful as we consider the words and forms of the liturgy.

Thought-bite for April 14, 2013 at 02:13PM

The Biblical counter-part to Satan, the Accuser, is the Paraklete. Jesus is our Paraklete (Advocate) with the Father (1 John 2:1), where He stands interceding for sinners, presenting His blood as evidence on our behalf. And from this heavenly council Jesus send forth the Holy Spirit to be our Paraklete on earth (see John 16:7-11). The Holy Spirit, then, speaks the heavenly verdict on earth. He stands in the courtroom of our conscience and testifies on our behalf, and the Holy Spirit accomplishes this through the Word, the Absolution (another forensic word).

It is in the Divine Service, where the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered, that the Holy Spirit delivers the heavenly verdict to our conscience. It is where the heavenly declaration of righteousness is heard on the earth. It is where our conscience is made good, that is, it becomes a reflection of the heavenly council, the devil removed, his accusations silenced, and the blood and word of Jesus winning the day. It is for this purpose that Jesus has establish His church, and has instituted worship, so that he might deliver to us His righteousness.