Today people don’t think much about God. There’s a lack of reverence, a lack of caution and fear. You hear the way some people talk about Him, all sorts of ways, perhaps you’ve even done it yourself, so you know this is the case. For instance, we’re more likely to use a nickname for Him than to bow the head when His holy Name is mentioned.
But it’s far worse than that. People rarely think about Him anymore. They’ve taken Him out of their lives. Either they chased Him away or let Him slip away because they let other things get more important or His Word less important. Then there’s this: people think that if God is love, He will let anything go, will let you sin however you want and won’t care. They think all ways lead to Him. You just gotta have enough faith in something or do enough good, they say.
This is not the picture of God The Scriptures paint. The Apostle takes us back to Mount Sinai. That was not a comfortable experience for the Israelites. People today will try to do anything to get themselves to think they’re getting into God’s presence, but when God’s presence actually appeared, people weren’t happy about it. They were scared stiff. The divine thunderstorm was more terrifying than the worst hurricane or tornado or earthquake America has ever seen. The sound of God’s voice was even more terrifying. It was not soothing, was not loving, was not comfortable. It was the worst thing they’d ever heard. And they didn’t want to hear it ever again.
What have we forgotten? That our God is a consuming Fire. He consumes all impurity. Malachi says He is a refiner’s fire to purify His people. Fire will either destroy or purify. It depends on who you are. It depends on your relationship with His Law – are you keeping it or not? Are you one who would be destroyed by His fire or one who would be purified by it?
So which fire is for you? You know you need to act a certain way around fire. You just can’t be careless around it. Sin is carelessness around God. Have you been careless? Animals weren’t even allowed to touch Mount Sinai. If they crossed the line, if they trespassed, they were to be stoned, even if they just wandered across and back, even if they were just careless.
Have you trespassed? Have you gone over the line God’s Law sets? Our trespasses are when we have stepped over the straight line of God’s Law and done what is evil. Have you trespassed? Your conscience tells you without a doubt you have. It ought to feel the guilt of sins committed and good works not done. And that guilt says that your sins have earned for you the eternal fires of punishment and suffering in hell.
You have trespassed, so come to Jesus, Mediator of The New Testament in His Blood. Moses ascended Sinai to receive The Law that condemns. Jesus ascended another mountain, Calvary, to receive The Gospel, double for all your sins. He went up the mountain, ascended The Cross, and was punished for all your sins. He has won for you pardon for all of them and eternal life. He has suffered the penalty for your sin and you are free.
So come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God. For that’s where you get His forgiveness. He Who was born in Bethlehem comes to His Church to forgive sins. So do as St. John the Baptist invites you: Repent. Turn to Jesus. Give Him your sins. He will give you His Blood in return. He will pardon and forgive you. We see this no more clearly than at this Altar, at Holy Communion. For then we sing with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. That’s exactly what The Apostle is describing when He talks about the myriads of angels and the festal assembly of the firstborn in heaven and the spirits of the perfected righteous. For our Lord comes down from heaven to this Altar, yet wherever He is, heaven is, and His saints and angels are always with Him. They are always praising Him in His presence, wherever He is.
But why does He come? He comes to forgive. He comes to physically, literally, give you The New Testament in His Blood. He willed before He died that those who receive It receive remission of sins, and with it, life and salvation. His will cannot be revoked. It went into effect when He died. He rose to personally execute His estate.
So come receive His Supper when He calls. Come eat His Body and drink His Blood. Come truly sorry for your sins. Come believing He suffered and died for you. Come believing His Words that what you receive is exactly what He says they are: His sacrificed Body and Blood for your salvation. In this way, through faith, you receive your forgiveness.
Live like you are forgiven. For God is a consuming fire, a purifying force. He wants to work in you now to do good, not evil. He wants you to keep His commands. Why? He wants you to want to please Him. He wants you to be the dear child that wants to do anything to please his or her dear daddy. So let the fire of His Word work in you to do what is good. And when you die, He will take you to be with Him, where there is no sin or imperfection, and thus purify your soul, as you wait to be raised from the dead, pure and holy, without blemish or spot or any sin.
That’s the fire you want. Do not let yourself be found by the consuming fires of hell. Remain faithful to your coming Lord. For He will be here soon. He Who will be born on Sunday will come again to judge the quick and the dead. Do not be found unprepared. Do not be found without oil, without faith in Christ. For if He finds you unprepared, without true faith, you will not enter the eternal heavenly city, but will be left outside it in eternal darkness.
He will come again and shake all things. So on that day, do not be shaken to pieces, but shaken into perfection, by the resurrection of the body. How can you be sure? Reverently, be with your Mediator. Have Him do away with your sins. Have Him give you His forgiveness. Have Him do it at home, at this place, at school, everywhere. Yes, be steadfast, unshaken, unmovable in The Faith. Then you will be unshaken through all eternity, as you stand firm in Him forever.