Did you know your hairdryer can help break in new leather shoes? Your microwave has the capability of fusing glass, measuring the speed of light, and squeezing the remaining juice from fruits. Your smartphone can read things out loud to you, like how many people are in your picture or the number of emails you receive. It can also take your words, put them into print, and send a message. …And if you don’t have a smartphone, any cellphone can unlock a car that uses a key-fob. Those are only a few additional things hairdryers, microwaves, and cell phones can do.
When we get new toys, excitement pounds the body. We use that toy right away—sometimes without reading the instructions or studying all of its capabilities. And it works great! You dry your hair. You cook food. You make calls and fire off text messages. Then, when the initial excitement wears off and you spend more time with that gadget, you discover additional features and more functions. It delights you even more.
So, let’s take a few minutes to revisit Bethlehem. Approach the manger with a curiosity that discovers all this child comes to do. Grasp those priceless joys God pours out on this most holy day. God Sent His Son! A Son to live with us under law and to live with us through his redemption.
Yes! Of course! We know that already! While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son (Luke 2:6-7). Stop and ponder that for a moment. Those well-known words are not a simple retelling of the first Christmas. God puts those words down in writing so that you can see a promise kept. A promise thousands of years in the making. A promise first made to trembling Adam and Eve. A promise repeated to childless Abraham. A promise proclaimed by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi. A promise repeated to millions, many of whom shrugged it off. [W]hen the time had fully come, God sent his Son…
God did what he said he would do. He did not turn his back and forsake a world of rebels. He did something the world did not deserve, something the world did not request. God Sent His Son. Not an angel. Not another prophet. Certainly not fiery destruction. He sends the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the One present before the world began and the One who stands long after time ends. God sends the only One who can change our lives. God Sent His Son.
So look again at the manger. The One lying there is God. When you see this baby, you see the face of God. When you touch this baby, you touch the perfect God. When you hold this baby, you hold Almighty God. When you listen to this child, you listen to God. When this Teacher comforts you, God comforts you. When this Teacher forgives you, God whispers forgiveness directly to you. God sent his Son, born of a woman…
True God—and at the same time, true man. Jesus is a human being— just like you and me. There’s a reason for this: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity (Hebrews 2:14). Humanity— like skin and bones and blood. A brain and eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. Jesus gets hungry. He grows sleepy. He cries and mourns. He has our human needs and our human emotions.
Yet, this goes deeper still. Because Jesus has flesh and blood, he, too, is born under law. God’s law, meaning, God expects Jesus to obey every single command. Consider that. God creates his commandments, his worship laws, and a law to govern life (Exodus 20-31). Then, he chooses to live under that law. He holds himself accountable to the same demands he created.
What king does that? Kings who create laws tend to live outside of those laws. Yet, your Jesus is born in order to live with you under law. That means, Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. He knows how difficult it is to trust God to provide food and income, and to protect health. Jesus also was tempted to make his own bread out of stones (Matthew 4:1-4). He knows the feeling to challenge God’s promises. To act in half-unbelief. The devil tells him to jump off a building because God would [supposedly] keep him safe (4:5-7). He confronts that green envy to guard wealth, to love pleasures so much you would rather give up heaven than give up your life (4:8-10). Jesus also read the Word, heard the Word, and let the Word sink into the heart, and still faced the pull to run away from it. [Jesus] been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
God Sent His Son for this reason: to live with us under the law and to obey every single article, sub-article, point, and detail. In Jesus you see perfection.
That perfect life marches to the cross. He takes your place (and mine) under God’s punishment. No, not that Jesus just no longer lives. Rather, God’s punishment is separation. Jesus is separated from the Father. God the Father turns his back on his Son and does not listen to Jesus’ cries for help. Yes, God is still present, but does not love. It would be like a prisoner locked behind bars. You throw the key down the hall and walk away. You hear the screams, but do not turn back. You ignore the tears, the sobbing, the crying. You walk away, leaving that criminal to fend for his own life. This is hell. To live forever without God’s love. This is what you and I deserve; to live forever without God’s love— and Jesus suffers so that you (and I) never will.
God Sent His Son to live with us under the law so that he may live with us through his redemption. Redemption. To ‘redeem’ means to ‘buy back.’ That’s what grocery stores do. A grocery store sends a coupon for $.50 off some groceries. Bring it to the store, hand it to the clerk, and she will give you $.50 to get the coupon back. We are conceived in sin, and born dead in sin (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:1). Sin binds us to hell. The only way out of hell is perfection; the only offer God accepts is holiness. We have nothing to offer that God wants, but Jesus does. He walks into heaven, stands before the throne of his Father, and hands him his perfect life. The Father takes that perfect life and he releases us from hell. You (and I) are free. You (and I) are redeemed, ‘bought back’ to Jesus.
God Sent His Son to redeem those under law. That is your status now: free! Yes, guilt flares up. Shame might plague you. Frustration swells over poor choices. Yet, nothing will bind you to eternal misery. When Jesus died, his blood unlocked our chains. When Jesus rose, hell’s gates were thrown open and we ran out and up!
This is the reality!— and this is what makes Christmas so grand! God Sent His Son to live with us through his redemption. Jesus does not free us so that we can simply live for no reason, no purpose. You are not set free like animals released into the wild, aimlessly searching for family or home, for purpose. Rather, the shackles of slavery are removed so we can live under God’s care.
God sent his Son… that we might receive the full rights of sons. That is what you have, the “full rights of sons.” That includes you, ladies; God hands you what the firstborn son received. In the past, the son inherited the father’s wealth when the father died. All of it. He became the boss of the family business. He cared for the household. He managed the wealth. He receives the full rights to do and manage as he pleases. Nothing was divided. Nothing was split. Nothing was limited. He owns everything. When God says, we might receive the full rights of sons, he makes clear that nothing of his is off limits.
That means, you are God’s son now. You have changed from ‘sinner’ to ‘saint!’ You can approach God for any need, with any concern, for any reason at any time just like you approach your earthly father. God listens because he sees you as belonging to him.
He gives you heaven—and nothing is off-limits there. You can enter his throne room. You will not have to make reservations to see God. You will not need to pull a number and stand in line. You will not have ranks in heaven— where the rich live by the golden sea or the strong-in-faith live in luxury mansions and you live in the barracks. You are all sons of God. Regardless of your past, regardless of your time as a Christian, regardless of how much Bible you remember, you all have full access to God’s heaven— live in the same place, see the same God, and will enjoy all things.
If you are sons, then it means the father has graciously lavished this gift on you. You do not need to fabricate reasons all is well between you and God. Rather, the you can point to the manger and live confident. God Sent His Son to live with us through redemption.
When we get new toys, excitement pounds the body. We use that toy right away—sometimes without reading the instructions or studying all of its capabilities. And it works great—but so much joy is overlooked without studying that object more. Hairdryers, microwaves, and phones have so much potential when you take the time to study their uses a little closer.
Christmas becomes dull and repetitive when we rush over the Christ in the manger. Approach the manger with curiosity and discover a child who lives with us under law. Any pressure to undo the past, any despair flies away when you grasp how Jesus lived in your place. Then, he brought us to himself—without our actions or asking! Look to the manger and grasp those priceless joys God pours out on this most holy day. God Sent His Son! A Son to live with us under law and to live with us through his redemption.
“God said ‘No.’ That’s why.” She could eat from any other tree in the garden. Any one! Any time! Yet, this one specific tree is off limits. No, it does not possess magical powers. No, you would not become a god and then rival the true God. Rather, this one specific tree stands off limits because God said, ‘Do not eat.’
Quite frankly, Eve loved that command. She knew God loved her. She knew God’s Word is good; that Word kept her close to him. In fact, God’s love for her fueled her love for God. That love revealed itself by respectfully obeying the good Word of a good God.
He could not deny that. God’s Word is good. In fact, God’s Word is perfect. It accomplishes what God desires. Since he could not attack the Word, he attacked the person. “Eve, what do you think about the forbidden tree? Yes, we know what God says, but for just one moment, put the Bible down and tell me, do you want to eat?” And Eve fell right into the trap.
Oh, you would never fall for the same tricks, right?! If you were in the Garden of Eden, you would have resisted temptation, outwitted the devil, and life would still be perfect! Ever think that?
Believing you (and I) can withstand the devil on our own falls into the devil’s trap. If you want to resist, withstand, and overcome the devil’s lies, you must Be Strong in the Lord! Identify your enemy, Put on the armor of God, and then you can March forward in victory.
It’s no secret that Christian living is challenging. Friends might slap you with the word: ‘bigoted,’ ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘old-fashioned’ because you follow God’s definition of marriage. You feel this tug-of-war inside; either brush off what God calls ‘right,’ or live with tension between friends. National laws may endorse behavior God does not condone. So, you struggle: stand up for the life of the elderly or condone the relatives who want to end life with medicine. You see, you (and I) face this constant struggle between obeying God’s Word or ignoring it. You feel this tension because you want to obey God out of love, but you also want to be loved by all. In verse 12, the apostle Paul makes that clear: You will have this struggle.
Yet, remember this: You struggle because you are a Christian; you follow Christ. Pay attention those verbs; you are, you follow. You do not switch Christian beliefs on and off, just like a light-switch controls a light bulb. The desire to trust God does not exist only here in worship (and then when you get home, you hate trusting God). We do not forgive people here only (and then you “flip the switch” and hold grudges later this week). No, through faith you follow Christ and continue following Christ. God has made you a citizen who belongs to him. Just like a king governs behavior with his word, so Christ governs your decisions, actions, and thinking with his Word.
Still, because you live on God’s side, it means you will stand against those who oppose God. Quite simply, those who hate God also hate those who follow God.
Who stirs up that conflict inside of you? [O]ur struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Did you catch that? Who is your enemy? Not: flesh and blood; believers do not attack people. Your enemy are not atheists (people who deny God’s existence), nor do you argue and insult nonbelievers. God does not ask you to disengage from the world and never talk to a nonbelieving neighbor, or to only have Christian friends, or to quit your job because you deal with nonbelievers. Your struggle is not ungodly influences, like the teaching of evolution (which denies the existence of a Creator) or progressive social ideas on marriage, abortion, and euthanasia. Your fight is against the unseen spirits who love what is wrong Your enemy is the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
If you wish to resist temptation; if you wish to remain strong with the Lord, you must identify your enemy. Know who you stand up against. Recognize his powerful might.
Then, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Because the devil is crafty. He is clever. He prowls around like a lion— hiding, stalking, waiting patiently for the right moment to lunge, collide, and drive you into the ground.
Ponder that. The devil recycles his timeless temptation and it sounds so innocent, as though no harm can come out of it. He plainly asks, “What do you think?” Do you realize that is the anthem ruling our present-day society? “Don’t force your beliefs on me!” the world cries! That’s the fancy way of saying, “I will tell you what I feel is fair and not what God says is right.” An early rally cry for same-sex marriage was: “If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Just don’t tell me I’m wrong.” That sounds fair. Yet, Jesus teaches, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). You speak what God teaches on marriage so that others have a chance to hear.
The devil wants you to lay aside God’s Word so that you can create manmade rules. So, if you feel it fair that your teenage child (who still lives at home) wants to skip worship, then let him! It feels fair to you; never mind God puts you in charge over the spiritual life of your house (Ephesians 6:4). If you believe you are entitled to hold a grudge, then do so! You think it is fair; never mind God forgives you (Ephesians 4:32). If you do not want to commit to marriage, then don’t! Follow the world; stare at computer images, daydream, do not work toward getting married! Never mind God’s command to honor the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4).
Do we need to go on? The scheming, conniving devil employs the most innocent of looking strategies: Put down the Bible and follow the flawed thinking of a sinful heart (Mark 7:20-23).
On our own, you (and I) can never stand against the devil and win. And he knows that; he knows you are no match for him. He knows he will conquer you without Christ. Fail to put on the armor of God and you (and I) will fall.
Only God makes you strong to stand your ground. Did you catch that? [B]e strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Right away our minds like to change those words to say, “I am strong. I can be strong. All I have to do is…” No! You do not make yourself strong; it’s an action God does. God makes you strong.
God’s Word—a word, which (by the way) you did not create— makes you strong. Your words are not more powerful than the devil. Your opinions are not what is needed. It deflates the ego to know that God’s Word drives away the devil— and God gets credit for those words. But that’s the point!
God’s Word exposes the hollowness of our self-trust. God’s Word leads you to the cross, where Jesus crushes the serpent’s head. There you hear powerful words: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). On Easter morning he says, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19) Jesus reveals your future: “Come you blessed by my Father” (Matthew 25:34). God has brought you into his kingdom; you are his (Isaiah 43:1). Then, he dresses you in his armor so that you may stand your ground and never fail into unbelief.
You are Strong in the Lord as you put on the armor of God because with God on your side, nothing stands against you. You march forward into victory.
That’s the reason for the battle call: Stand firm then… Stand and fight with courageous confidence. Stand with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. Roman soldiers wore a thick leather apron around their midsection and upper legs. It kept very vulnerable parts protected.
The devil will lunge at your (and my) weaknesses. He will lie: It does not matter what you believe. Follow what you feel right and fair.” If that lie penetrates your heart and you believe it you can die. Yet, God’s truth protects you. The Bible identifies the devil as he truly is: the father of lies (John 8:44). When temptation seizes you, call the devil by his name: ‘Liar!’
[Stand firm] with the breastplate of righteousness in place. Protect your heart with body armor. The devil never stops his assault. If he cannot get you to believe his lies, he will point to history. He will dredge up your regrets. Just when guilt pierces into your heart, he drives you into despair. Because when you feel so terribly guilty, you feel that God could never love you. If you feel God could never love you, you may actually believe it to be true.
But Jesus died for you. And he placed his righteous life over you. Jesus’ righteousness, his perfection, keeps your heart safe. The devil’s lies bounce off because Jesus tells you what really happened: You are forgiven!
[Stand firm] with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Feet carry good news. Soldiers covered the tops of their feet, just like you wear shoes. Shoes prevent thorns and sticks from piercing your feet. Just like a messenger runs to share good news, be ready to remind the devil the good news of Jesus’ victory.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith… and not just a little trashcan lid-sized shield. We’re talking about the shield covering you from head to toe. The devil shoots little flaming temptations at you so that they burn into great fires. Lust turns into action which turns into a lifestyle. One beer becomes two which evolves into constant heavy drinking. Anger burns into rage burns into hate.
With the shield you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Faith clings to Jesus as Savior. Faith clings to the Word of God. When temptations poke you, remember who you follow and those flames snuff out.
Take the helmet of salvation… At your baptism, the sign of the cross was made over your head and your heart to mark you as God’s child. That cross reminds you of Jesus dying for you. That cross reminds you that Jesus’ death is your possession; you carry it. You carry Jesus’ perfection. You are saved; you will enter heaven. His perfect life protects you.
Finally, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Do you see the only weapon you carry? The Word of God. The Word reminds the devil of what God has done. This is that truth, and the devil cannot deny the truth. Nothing and no one has more authority that God. God has already explained what will happen, you win and the devil loses forever— and the devil can do nothing to stop him. When tempted wield God’s Word. Tell the devil:“God says” and he will flee. And you get to March forward in victory.
Eve put down the sword and tried to fight the devil with her cleverness. That is exactly what the devil wanted and he won the battle… but Jesus wins the war.
As a Christian, remember that you have an enemy. Someone who hates God. Someone who wants to take believers away from God. Someone who attacks you. Yet, you can stand because God dresses you in his armor. He sets the sword of the Word into your hand. Remind the devil of Jesus’ victory on the cross. Remind the devil of your eternal home. Remind the devil his promises are nothing but empty lies. He will flee; you will march forward in victory.
This is all yours— not because you are morally tough and strong. Rather, God makes you Strong in the Lord! He Identifies your enemy. He puts the armor of God on you. And you get to March forward in victory.
What is the answer to God’s question? What have you done? It’s very clear and understandable; it is not difficult to grasp. It has a very simple answer. What have you done?
Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day… Remember, this is their God! The One who creates this perfect paradise! He gives the word and earth roars into existence. Rivers slice through landscapes and fill up seas and oceans. Vegetation shoots up, producing all sorts of flowers and trees, every kind of fruit and food. Sun warms the air, moonlight illuminates the night, stars twinkle in the sky. Fish fill the seas, birds soar through the skies, animals roam the earth. Then God stoops down and holds out the keys to his creation and says: Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish and birds and creatures (Genesis 1:28).
Rule everything! Except for one tree, one untouchable tree: ‘the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ (2:17). No, it does not possess magical powers. God is not holding back secret knowledge. Obeying this command demonstrates that Adam and Eve love God more than anything else. Because love for God accepts his wishes; it does not challenge him. It finds perfect contentment in doing whatever pleases God.
Now this. Hiding. Running away from the God who holds this open, unobstructed relationship with them!
The Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
How does the man answer? “God, I was naked, so I hid! I had no clothes. That’s why I could not see you. It’s just not appropriate. Let me find something to put on.”
“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
“Hey, God, you know that woman you put here with me? Yeah, she picked the fruit. She put it into my hands. She made me eat it. She did the wrong!
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
How does the woman answer? “God, I can tell you what the serpent did. He lied to me. He said the fruit was beneficial— and he seemed trustworthy. He’s the one who told me to do wrong.”
Those are not the answers God is looking for, are they? You know, as well as I, Adam did not answer God’s question. Eve did not answer what God asked. What you find here is blameshifting. You find defending actions. You find justifying choices. You find minimizing consequences. You find ignoring commands. Do you realize what one thing is missing in all of those answers? Accountability. “The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accountability)
God simply says, “What did you do?” God does not ask Adam about Eve. He does not ask Eve about the serpent. He is not looking for excuses. He is not duped by their finger-pointing. God knows full well what they have done. He knows behind every action is a motive. That motive, when it does what God calls ‘wrong’ has rebelled. That motive comes from a heart which wars against God. Refusing to call disobedience ‘wrong,’ places you at war with God.
Take a look at these two people standing naked before the mighty Judge of the universe. Take a moment to realize these are your ancestors. Just like you have inherited the physical makeup of your parents, you have inherited this same rebelliousness from Adam and from Eve. And the same excuses they make remain the all-too-common excuses in our world today.
God defines marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-5). Yet, the world creates its own definition to allow men to marry men and women to marry women— and goes so far as to defend why this new definition is better than God’s. Their reason? “Well, nothing bad happens.” That completely dodges God’s command: You shall not.
Many list the reasons as to why marriage is no longer needed today: “Well, my parents soured my views on marriage…” “I don’t want to hurt my kids if I get divorced…” “We’re just not ready to commit…” “We don’t have the money…” God asks you a very simple question: Are you honoring the marriage bed? (Hebrews 13:4) ‘Yes’ or ‘No?’
Neither is divorce in God’s plan. Yet, out comes the defense:“I just don’t love him…” “She won’t listen to me…” “I love someone else…” “I’m tired of this marriage…” God cuts through the heart’s sidetracking and simply asks: Are you treating your marriage as the lifelong union it is, just as you swore to me? ‘Yes’ or ‘No?”
Your media fosters an atmosphere to gripe and complain and find nothing good in the blessings God showers on you. WNEM-5 airs a news segment where people can call in just to rant— even if it is against someone’s good intentions. News reports spit out insult after insult against God’s appointed leaders (Romans 13:1-2). Social media paves the way to gossip and gripe. Apologies are hard to come by. Defending slander is easier. God asks: Are you taking words and actions in the kindest possible way? ‘Yes’ or ‘No?’
What have you done? That’s God’s question. Understand, you can point a finger at your parents, but that does excuse you from abusing God’s gift of marriage. You can justify your conversations by saying, “Everyone does it!” but that does not make right your rebellion against what God clearly calls ‘wrong.’ You can defend your choices— even when those choices clearly contradict Scripture, but it does not undo the fact you fail to obey a holy and perfect God. Trying to direct attention onto someone else or pretending to ignore what you have done solves nothing. When it comes down to it, you are held accountable for what you have done. God’s crushing question is yours to answer.
You, as well as I, know the only correct answer to our actions. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge... Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love (Psalm 51:4, 1).
God’s response is to crush sin forever. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
God rolls up his sleeves and takes action by placing enmity for you. Did you catch that? God has mercy and does not live hostile to you. Instead, he places a wall of hostility between you and Satan—and he starts with your first parents.
I will put enmity between you... devil, and the woman… Eve. God promises to rescue from hell. He starts by calling Adam and Eve to trust that Jesus would do just that. Eve would carry the promise of the Savior. God’s promise created faith in her heart. No longer did she join the dark forces of the devil, but rather lived on the side of God, as his dear child.
As the centuries roll by, the promised Descendant is passed down from generation to generation, passed down from believer to believer. The entire time God putting up this barrier of hostility between Satan and those who belong to God. Father Abraham clings to the unseen promises of God, considering them as good as kept (Hebrews 11:11-12). Great King David looks forward to the coming Savior, One who would establish an eternal kingdom in the hearts of every believer (2 Samuel 7:16). The prophet Isaiah sees the virgin Mary give birth to a Son, calling him ‘Immanuel,’ because ‘God is with us’ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
Eve’s promised offspring is passed down from generation to generation— and then, Jesus steps foot on earth. He does not ignore sin; he calls people to turn from their rebellious ways. He does not justify the lack of trust from his disciples; he rebukes them for doubting his Word. He does not defend the rejection from the religious leaders; he exposes their pride.
God exposes sin because he hates sin. He hates sin so much he condemns his only Son because of it. Nails bite Jesus’ hands and feet. Thorns sting his head. Spear pierces his side. The devil serpent bites Jesus and Jesus dies. But with that bite, the devil seals his own fate.
You see, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid the wages of your sin with his perfect life and death. Then, Jesus rises up Easter morning. Sits up on the stone slab. Removes the linens from his face and body. Folds them neatly, leaving them at the foot of his bed. Swings his legs over the edge and stomps down on the head of Satan. Jesus lives! It demonstrates that his life has removed sin’s wages forever. If he has paid the debt you owe, then it means you have life!
So, What is the Answer to God’s Crushing Question? For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Now, there exists enmity between [the devil’s] seed and you. Through faith in Jesus as Savior, you stand opposed to Satan. God sees you on his side, no longer on the devil’s side. Sin’s crushing shame no longer hovers over you. You can approach the well again and again and receive the awesome refreshment of forgiveness. God has been merciful and he sent his only Son to be the sacrifice to make you at-one with God! You are forgiven! Live in peace!
Live opposed to Satan and his seed. That ‘seed’ does not refer to demons. Rather, it refers to those who live without faith, and therefore live against God’s commands. Be sure, the world will try to pull you to follow its god-less ways. The world will teach you to blameshift, to justify, and to defend. Even your own heart will wiggle and squirm in the hopes to deceive God and escape punishment.
Remember The Answer to God’s Crushing Question. God still comes to you (and me) with his Word, calling out to hearts which have wandered little too close to the enemy. His very Words cut straight to the heart of the matter. Have you wandered? ‘Yes’ or ‘No’? Love for God moves you to confess ‘wrong,’ as ‘wrong,’ and ‘evil,’ as ‘evil.’ Love for God begs, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
And he has. In sending the snake-Crusher. In sending the sin-Destroyer. In sending you to his side. Then, he puts into your hands the only weapon to strike down your enemy: His Word.
There you will find God has crushed Satan. There you will find God has conquered temptation. There you will find God has ended death. You have life—and life on his side. Stand strong against temptation—not by relying on yourself, but by spending time in the Word. See Jesus crucified and Jesus living as The Answer to God’s Crushing Question.
Call it a case study if you will... He grew up attending Sunday School and Sunday worship. In later grade school, he studied the teachings of the Bible in catechism class. He continued increasing his understanding in Bible Class. This Christian man even served as an elder in the congregation, giving special attention to the spiritual life of his fellow believers. He made it his regular habit to take in God’s teachings and to live God’s teachings.
Now, this Christian leader had three children: one daughter and two sons— and he cared for their spiritual life. He carried each child up to the baptismal font. He made Sunday School their regular spiritual diet, while he learned in adult Bible class. He faithfully drove each child to catechism class, where they studied the teachings of the Bible. Eventually, each child was confirmed.
Now, after confirmation day, this Christian father let his first two children— a daughter and son— decide if they wanted to worship on Sundays. If they wanted to wake up Sunday at 8:00am and join him for worship, they could. Can you guess the decision those teenagers made? They stayed home in bed, sleeping every single Sunday. Can you guess how that affected them spiritually? The daughter grew up, moved out, and stopped attending worship. God was no longer important to her. He did not occupy a place in her life; she could not even give him one measly hour of her week. She created her own teachings for living. The son also stopped worshipping. He married a lady who [honestly!] created her own strange religion. Unfortunately, he floundered in his marriage because he had no firm footing on God’s truth.
One final son. The father woke him up every Sunday at 8:00am. Bible Class remained their spiritual diet. He encouraged his son to sing in the church choir and help maintain the church property. Can you guess how that affected this son spiritually? He started studying for the pastoral ministry. Even though he did not become a Pastor, he still assists his congregation every Sunday as a musician.
Do you comprehend the results of this case study? Confirmation is not graduation! Confirmands, you are not finished learning what Scripture teaches you! Parents, your child is not graduating (or completing) church! Your life in the Word of God never ends! Each of you will face new challenges that come with the many changes of life. You must Continue Your Training! Your sinful nature constantly fights God, but God keeps you on the way of life.
The words for our hearing this morning come from Proverbs 22:6: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Do you know why you must train a child? Confirmands, you know the answer to this question; in just a few minutes you will describe the natural condition of the human heart. Everyone else, you have witnessed baptisms; in fact, every Sunday you admit: God, I am by nature sinful. The human heart is not naturally good; the human heart is naturally hostile to God. That means, the very moment you (and I) are conceived, we are God’s enemies. You do not submit to God’s law, nor can you do so (Romans 8:7). You do not want to obey God; you fight God. You see, every single child born has a “way.” His “way” leads to death in hell.
So God commands: Train a child in the way he should go. A child needs someone to start him on a different “way,” a “way” that leads to life in heaven; a child needs someone to teach him Jesus. Who is that person? You.
[Grand]Parents (and Christian examples), you have done that as you carried your child to be baptized into the family of God. You have done that as you brought your child to catechism class. But you are not done yet. You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Parents, the devil is still out to destroy the faith of your children. Do you know who he will use to help him? You. He will stoke your own sinful nature to adopt the oft-repeated beliefs of this world. The excuses are many: “I’ll let my child decide what to believe…” “I brought my child to church; I’ve done my part. Now my child will decide what to believe….” “My child is too old to be encouraged to worship…” “Oh, she will come back later…” Do you know what those are? Lies. God explicitly says: Train a child! The devil says: “Why bother?” The devil knows if he can make you— spiritual leaders(!)— indifferent to the spiritual life of your child, he will have removed one more obstacle keeping your child in faith and on the way to life with God. You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Confirmands and students, you are walking on this path that leads to life. What you learned in catechism class provides a firm foundation on which to build your life. You will find peace and comfort and strength from God. But you are not done yet. You must Continue Your Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
The devil’s working hard to destroy your faith. Do you know who he will use to help him? You. He will dangle alluring temptations to snag you away from the teachings you have learned. The temptations are many. Your world will entice you into following its manmade gods of money, pride, and arrogance. Your sinful nature will create fantastic excuses as to why you may ignore what God so clearly teaches. The devil will push you to self-worship: you are the reason for success, you hold all-wisdom, you control life! You must Continue Your act of Training because the sinful nature continues fighting God.
Dear friends, Continue Your Training. The sinful nature continues fighting God, but the sinful nature has been conquered. Jesus has opened the way to life. Continue Your Training because God keeps you on the way of life.
Parents, do you see where you have ushered your child? Confirmands and children, do you see where you stand? You are walking on the way that has led to the cross of Jesus. This visible reminder preaches God’s love for you. Jesus marched to fight your sinful nature— and did that by resisting every temptation. He makes worship his regular routine. He urges his disciples to follow the words of Moses and the prophets. He puts God in the number-one spot of his heart— and did all this for you.
That perfect life trickled out on the cross for you. Jesus paid off the debt of your sin for you. Jesus rises to announce forgiveness to you. Jesus rises up into heaven to make it a home for you. Your faith in Jesus as Savior has placed you on the way of life.
So, Continue Your Training. Do not forfeit what you have begun.
Parents and Christian friends, Continue Your act of Training. God has set you in charge over the spiritual health of your child (and other Christian friends). You are the people God uses to bring others to him. It is not always the guy next to you. It is not always the Pastor. It is not always a stranger. It is you. That’s why, parents, you Continue Your Training, your act of training up a child. Statistically speaking, these children have about another 70-years to their life. They have much life left and much ahead of them. They have college, marriage, children, parenting, work, retirement, older age, and the thought of approaching death. Those are some serious life hurdles, but hurdles they overcome with God. So, bring them to worship; do not even offer skipping as an option. Encourage them to read their own devotions. Speak your faith to them. Continue Your Training.
Children and confirmands, Continue Your Training. God has begun a good work in you; he has brought you to faith. You have a foundation on which to build. So, build on it. Grab God’s promises and find peace in trouble. Run to God in prayer on the day of trouble. Lay anxiety and worry to rest because God is in control. Stand confident of eternal life in heaven because Jesus has won it for you.
When you do step off the way, God will use his Word to draw you back. He will expose the error of your walking and the foolishness of you heart. He will walk you up to the foot of the cross and reveal Jesus who died for you. Continue Your Training because God keeps you on the way of life.
Our case study demonstrates that truth. One Christian leader. One daughter and two sons. Two spiritually neglected neglect their faith. One spiritually strengthened strengthens his faith.
Do you understand the results of this case study? Confirmation is not graduation! It never was; it was the devil who leads us to believe it is. That means, confirmands, you are not finished learning what Scripture teaches you. Parents, your child is not graduating church! Your life in the Word of God never ends! Each of you will face new challenges that come with the many changes of life. So, Continue Your Training! Continue Your Training in the Word of God because Your sinful nature constantly fights God, but God keeps you on the way of life.
(from our midweek Lenten service)
It can happen that after a politician is elected, he forgets the struggles of the people who elected him into office. No longer does he hold their interests in mind; he works only for his own advantage. Perhaps he starts endorsing an agenda contrary to the political beliefs of those in his district. He may fight bills that would actually benefit his constituents. Maybe his constituents reach out to him for help, but he ignores their pleas. Politicians can lose touch with their constituents. People elect him to fight for them, but he may fail to do so.
When a politician no longer fights for his constituents, people are hurt. Their needs are not being met. They grow frustrated because no one listens to their challenges. Eventually those constituents stop trusting, supporting, and voting for that particular politician. They end up replacing him.
Maybe you battle a similar feeling when you approach Jesus. You know he died for you. You know he rose from the dead and promises to raise you also. You know he entered heaven and is preparing a place for you. He blesses you, but when temptation beats you down, you may feel as though Jesus is a politician who has forgotten about you. That he remains only a high, majestic God who is far too busy with the universe than to deal with your troubles.
In our selection from Hebrews, God combats any fears you may have in approaching Jesus, your great High Priest. Jesus Christ is Our Compassionate High Priest who sympathizes with your weaknesses and who strengthens you in weakness.
Remember the content (and background) of this letter. The title “Hebrews” identifies the ethnicity of its recipients; “Hebrews” are Jews. Now, these Jews do not reject Jesus as Savior, they are not embracing the teachings of Judaism. These are ethnic Jews who are Christians; they follow Christ.
Yet, they confront a significant challenge. In Judaism, they saw a high priest minister to their needs. One time each year the Jewish high priest would enter the temple. Half of the temple was partitioned off with a large, thick curtain. One side was called ‘The Holy Place’ and the other side: ‘The Most Holy Place.’ Inside the Most Holy Place rested the Ark of the Covenant. God’s presence dwelt there. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place and approach the Ark of the Covenant. Yet, the high priest could not enter any time he desired; he could approach only once each year after offering a sacrifice for his own sins first.
For some of these Jewish Christians, they wonder if Jesus understood the struggles they had and if he could identify with their sin. After all, Christianity did not have a high priest. Could Jesus fill them with the same concrete comfort of peace with God?
It would be nice, right? It’s really no secret that life has changed from 30AD to 2018AD. You live in a mobile society; planes, trains, and automobiles allow you to cross vast distances in mere days. Technology lets you receive instant information and reach others immediately. We have a democratic government, instead of a Roman Empire dictator. Life is different. As a result, you face different challenges.
Sometimes you may wonder if Jesus really understands the tempting struggles you face each day. Does Jesus know what it’s like to fight lust in the 21st century? You live in a hyper-sexualized society where suggestive images are used to sell clothes, relationships, and television shows. Does he know how difficult it is to fight sexual temptation as a teenager? …or at home alone? …or when watching television?
Does Jesus know how difficult it can be to obey your authorities? To obey teachers even when they do not care for you? To respect your parents when they sin against you? To support a government which passes (and pushes) un-Christian agendas? Does Jesus understand?
Does Jesus understand just how difficult it is to stand up for your Bible-based beliefs in a society which demands you compromise? Has he ever felt that immense pressure to cover up your faith in front of a friend? Does he know how politically incorrect it is to speak Scripture on sexuality and marriage, abortion and end-of-life, raising children? Has Jesus ever felt the inner struggle of accepting the Bible as truth when you wonder if all of it is right and true? Can Jesus relate to those struggles, or is he just another politician who has lost touch with his people?
How often Satan succeeds in getting us to believe just that! That Jesus does not understand your present-day temptations. That his life cannot possibly forgive 21st-century sins. That Jesus is not your compassionate High Priest!
“So, go find someone else!” the devil tempts. Go rely on another person, another method, another way to wipe away sin! To find forgiveness in someone other than Jesus Christ Our Compassionate High Priest is to turn away from the greatest High Priest of all time.
Listen to our reading again and discover exactly how Jesus ministers to your every need. It reads: We have a great high priest. Out of all the high priests in the Old Testament, Scripture never calls any of them “great.” It only calls Jesus, the Son of God, the “great” High Priest. In other words, Jesus is superior to any other Old Testament high priest. How? The Old Testament high priest grew old and died, but Jesus did not die. Neither did Jesus have to offer a sacrifice for his own sins before entering the presence of God. In fact, Jesus did not enter the Most Holy Place only one time each year, he went somewhere better. We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Jesus entered heaven, stands in the presence of God, and he remains there!
[W]e do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. To “sympathize” means to “bear alongside with.” Jesus also bears your temptations. Two thousand years may separate you from Jesus Christ, but no matter how many years have passed, sin remains sin. Lust remains lust— whether you lust after someone decked out in a 30AD-dress or 2018 clothing. Rebellion remains rebellion— whether you riot against a 30AD overlord or fume over a 2018 politician. Changing the Word of God remains the same— whether you deny Jesus before the lions or before your friends.
You can be sure the devil tempted Jesus with the same things with which he tempts you. Jesus is tempted to destroy the Roman soldiers who repeatedly strike him. You can be sure he felt like taking revenge on the religious leaders who wanted him to bend his teachings. You can be sure Jesus knew what it was like to question God’s presence— especially when he prays and does not receive the answer we would want: “Deliverance.” Jesus is tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
As your perfect High Priest, he sacrifices his life for you. His blameless blood sprinkles from the cross in order to make atonement for you. To remove your rebellion, your lust, your faithless challenges. To make you “at-one” with God.
When a politician remembers his constituents, he is able to fight for their needs and pass bills for their benefit. In the same way, Jesus Christ is Our Compassionate High Priest who not only sympathizes with your weaknesses, but also strengthens you in weakness.
That means you can approach the throne of grace with confidence. Thrones symbolize power, sovereignty, and respect. Imagine meeting the President of the United States. You stand in the Oval Office and he sits behind his enormous desk. Here sits the most powerful man in the world and you can ask him anything. Nervous? You may watch your words closely so that you do not offend or anger him, or ask for the wrong thing. And you certainly do not want to forget to ask him something important. The entire time you are there, you remain on edge; you feel a little inadequate.
Yet, you can approach God’s throne with confidence. Jesus Christ is Your Compassionate High Priest. He ministers to you, just like a priest would. He identifies with you, experiencing temptation, but never sinning. Now standing in the presence of God, he remains your mediator between you and God. You can approach God with confidence because you have received mercy. God does not treat you (and me) as your sins deserve. He forgives you because Jesus paid sin’s price. You have also found grace. Even when you stumble and fall, God, in undeserved love, wipes away sin. No Jesus, no confidence. With Jesus, you can approach God for help in [y]our time of need.
So when tempted, run to Jesus Christ Your Compassionate High Priest. Jesus knows what it’s like to struggle with temptation. He understands the feelings of anger and resentment, revenge and hate, lust and greed, pride and arrogance. He also knows how to conquer them.
Instead of relying on yourself to stand up under temptation, run to Jesus Christ Your Compassionate High Priest. Receive strength from Jesus to fight sin. Receive the strength needed by reading the Bible. Greed vanishes when you find contentment in God. Lust goes away when you run away from temptation. Hatred goes away when you focus on the fact God does not hate you, but rather treats you in love.
When temptation presses you down, approach God’s throne for help. When you’re mentally exhausted, ask God for strength. Strength for clarity and perseverance. When you feel impatient, when you must speak to someone you lose your temper with, ask God for patience. You have a Compassionate High Priest who strengthens us in weakness.
Jesus is not a politician who is unable to sympathize with you. He is your great High Priest who ministers to your every spiritual need. He remains a High Priest who has been tempted in every way like you. A High Priest who remained without sin. A High Priest who gave his life as a sacrifice for your sin. A High Priest who assures you that you truly stand in God’s presence forgiven. A High Priest who helps you fight the devil. A High Priest who gives you every reason to approach his throne with confidence.
So, the moment you feel temptation creeping up inside of you and you do not know where to go, run to Jesus Christ is Our Compassionate High Priest who sympathizes with your weaknesses and who strengthens you in weakness.