Advent Midweek 3
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Wednesday of Gaudete
Perhaps our biggest problem with sin is not so much the committing of sin, though this is bad and truly damning. Our bigger problem with sin is our comfort with it. Yes, we confess in the three Creeds that Jesus sits at the right and of the Father, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead, but, like anything repetitive, eventually we get used to it. The loudly ticking clock in the living room is just part of the familiar noises of your house. You stop noticing the tiny strip of darker wall paint on the white ceiling where you didn’t tape well. It all fades into the background, nothing that grabs your attention. Our problem is that sin does the same thing. We all do it. We all have favorite sins, things we go back to time and time again. Sometimes we call these pet sins. The proper term is besetting sins. “Pet sins” sounds too cute and innocent, like the puppy that curls up next to you on the couch. What puppy is harmful?! Consider Webster’s definition of “besetting:” constantly present or attacking. What sin, what lure to evil is always attacking you, always present, always singing its siren song to you? I know mine as well as you know yours. Besetting sins are never “one and done.” Once you give in, it happens repeatedly. Consider what James said: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown brings forth death”( Jas 1:14-15).
This is why besetting sin is so dangerous. You get caught in its endless spiral.
Who, tempted by the fresh plate of cookies stops at one? How easily does one become two and two a plate of your own. And while in this endless cycle, Satan tries to convince you that it’s okay. He tells you, “God will understand. Jesus is a human like you. He knows that sometimes you just need to sin to get it out of your system. But this is a lie. Remember what you sang in the Psalm, the Word of God that condemns your delusion: “You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. ‘Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!’” God does not justify sin. He will never see your sin and whisper in your ear, brushing it off: “I get it I do the same Myself.” There is never a godly justification for sin. And sin never brings relief. It only brings shame, desire for more, and eventually death. You and I are addicts of the most powerful drug ever seen on this earth.
What calls us to sobriety is the vision of Daniel: “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated…the court was seated, and the books were opened.” There will be a Judgement Day.
At present we live in God’s Day of grace. He gives us this time to hear His Word and its call to repentance. Instead of damning us as He could—and should—He calls to us to repent, and He meets that repentance with forgiveness. He does not want you or anyone else to receive the fiery torment of eternal death. To prevent this, He gladly makes avail able this, His second Advent, where He comes to you in His Word, in His Sacraments, and when He bends low His ear to hear your prayer. By the work of obedience, crucifixion, death, and resurrection accomplished in Jesus’ first Advent delivered to you in this second Advent, His final Advent need not be a thing of fear.
If your sins terrify you and make you question your eternal salvation, look no farther than your forehead and heart where the holy cross was placed upon you as a sign of your redemption. The water of Baptism may have dried from your head, but its effect is still there. When temptation to your besetting sin pulls you hard, remember your Baptism and pray for deliverance from the evil. The Lord will help as He has promised to do.
This deliverance and help is not temporary, but is eternal. In the Psalm Asaph recorded the Word of God: “Gather My saints to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” Except it is God who has made a covenant with you by sacrifice, the sacrifice of His Son. You are gathered to God and He has judged you innocent by Jesus’ sacrifice and has welcomed you into His kingdom, one Daniel confessed to be everlasting, unable to be destroyed. And if the kingdom cannot be destroyed, neither can you, its inhabitant.
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Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.