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Wednesday, December 7, 2016 - Romans 2:1-16, St. Luke 1:26-38

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Posted: Friday, December 9th, 2016 by Pastor Westgate

Advent is a penitential season. There are plenty of distractions this time of year, so it’s easy to forget it, and it doesn’t quite look or sound like Lent, but it’s penitential none the less. That’s one of the reasons we don’t sing the Gloria in excelsis. We are focusing on the reason our Savior had to come, which makes the joy all the sweeter when we sing the Gloria again on the day it came down from heaven upon the lips of the holy angels.

Advent is a penitential season, but for what should we repent? We should repent of all our sins. We should be truly sorry for them, wish to do better, and yes try to do better. But what are those sins? It’s easy for us to open our Catechisms to find out what Luther tells us about God’s Ten Commandments, but we do well also to hear Scripture itself convict us.

St. Paul is hard at work doing that in tonight’s Epistle. He says that when we condemn people because of their sins, we are just as condemned as they are. But what are those sins? He’s referring back to a whole bunch of sins he referenced at the end of chapter 1. Yes one of them is gross sexual misconduct that ought not be named. But it’s not alone in the list. He speaks out against all manner of unrighteousness, evil, and covetousness, of not doing what is right and not wanting to do what is right, but desiring what is wrong and ungodly. Then he names these sins: gossip, slander, hating God, being insolent-haughty-boastful, inventing evil, disobeying parents, being foolish and faithless-untrustworthy, being heartless and ruthless. He condemns all these sins equally, not just the one we normally focus on in Romans 1.

That’s quite the list. It covers all the commandments. Who of us hasn’t gossiped or slandered? Who of us hasn’t gotten mad at God? Who of us hasn’t been full of himself or looked down on somebody else? Who of us hasn’t liked being evil and bad? Who of us hasn’t been disobedient? Who of us hasn’t been foolish when we didn’t need to be or untrustworthy or mean and cruel when we knew we shouldn’t be? Who of us has ever been completely sexually pure in deed and thought? We are absolutely guilty of all these sins. We have been full of wicked desires, evil, and unrighteousness and can never deny it with a straight face.

How should we respond? We should repent, knowing we deserve eternal death for every single one of our sins. We should not act like those in tonight’s Epistle who act like they are innocent of the same sins even though they aren’t and declare that someone who does them must be condemned – while we aren’t. If we do that, St. Paul says, we deserve to be condemned for those very sins, because we’re just as guilty as anyone else. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite – God can see right through it. Nor should we think, since God doesn’t do anything about it now, He won’t later. Hypocrisy itself breaks His Law, and only those who do The Law will be saved.

So how can you do The Law if you are full of sin? How can you escape the judgment of Christ on the Last Day? For sinners cannot stand in the judgment. God hates sin and must punish it. How then can you do The Law? You truly must be condemned. Sinners in the hands of an angry God, and God is angry over sin every day, must truly be afraid of His wrath and fury

But the hand of God is not a perfect hand. There are holes in His hands, holes large enough for a sinner to slip through. And it’s not as though you sneak through as much as He pushes you through. For those are the hands that were nailed to The Cross, not because He broke any crime, but so that He might pay the price of all your sins. Those hands have felt all the wrath and fury of God over sin, your sin. Those hands are now outstretched to you, not to spank you, but to embrace you.

So what does this have to do with doing The Law? The First Commandment, the chief one, is this: “You shall have no other gods.” The summary of the first part of The Law is this: “Love The LORD your God with all your strength, all your heart, all your mind,” that is, more than anything else, after all, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” What is Luther telling us with that little word “trust?” The doing of The Law starts and ends with trust, faith, faith in the saving Blood of Christ.

His Blood must be saving. For His Name is Jesus, God’s Son. He was conceived by The Holy Ghost of The Virgin Mary because He wanted to save you. His Name means Yahveh, The LORD, saves, and the angel says, “He will save His people from their sins.” He is The Lord, the eternal God Who is full of mercy for those who fear Him. He saves, He rescues, from sin, death, and Satan. His Name tells us what He’s all about. It’s a guarantee.

This is a big deal, that He was conceived by The Holy Ghost of The Virgin Mary. Many will deny it this month, claiming He must be Joseph’s boy or she must have had relations with a Roman soldier. They say this because they refuse to believe God can become man. Either there is no god or he would never become like us. They don’t want to believe that God truly forgives and pardons sins.

That’s why this is so important, that Jesus be both God and Man. A man had to be punished for sins – blood had to be shed, God’s Law is clear. But only sinless Blood could do the job, which means no sinner could. No angel or animal could do it either. Only The Creator, the eternal Lord God, could pay for the sins of all sinners. He determined to do exactly that. Very God of Very God decided to become true man. He came down from heaven upon the words of the angel, words in which The Holy Ghost worked, and took up residence in Mary’s womb.

So The Child Mary bore is 100% God and 100% Man. To this day He remains true God and true Man. The wounds He acquired have not disappeared. The forgiveness He won for you on The Cross hasn’t gone away. He still stands at the ready to pardon those who repent. He still desires to forgive your sins. So be a doer of The Law. Believe.

What’s so important about faith? Why does it save? It’s not because you’re doing anything. Faith does not save just because it’s faith. Christ’s Blood brings salvation. That’s why It saves. Faith receives salvation. It takes hold of it. It says “Jesus died for me! His Blood is mine! I am forgiven!” That’s why it saves. Faith saves because it trusts Jesus died and rose for you.

That’s how you do The Law. You believe in Jesus. And then faith works. It desires to please God. It does please God. It acts like a dear child who wants to please his or her dear father. It causes us to do what is good, to speak well of others, not be jealous, be nice and kind and trustworthy and obedient and good. It is not our doing. It’s all His work in us. So repent of your sins and desire to do better. He will work in you. For He came down from heaven to The Virgin’s womb to save you from sin – both from doing sins and from the punishments we deserve.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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