Commemoration of the Reformation
Written and Preached for the Fort Smith Circuit Churches Joint Reformation Service held at First Lutheran Church in Fort Smith, AR
Soli Deo Gloria – Glory be to God Alone
In the Name of Jesus: For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Martin Luther invented a game. It was a game to teach your kids to discern and sort out the various and sundry passages of Holy Scripture. What you do is you take four pouches. Label the first pouch “sin”. Label the second pouch “love of neighbor”. The third bag you would label—unexpectedly perhaps—“Christian suffering”. The fourth—“forgiveness in Christ”.
Then read a passage of Scripture. Deliberate. And put a marble in the right pouch.
Fathers. Mothers. You should be playing this game with your children—immersing your children and yourselves in the saving Word of Jesus Christ. God has called you to no higher vocation in life than this.
Anyway. Sin—love of neighbor—Christian suffering—forgiveness in Christ. Law—Love—Suffering—Gospel. Death—Mercy—Lack—Life.
Then you die.
There it is. Welcome to the Christian life. It’s hardly glorious.
But why? Shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t your life be glorious? Your God is glorious. This is your God. He’s holy, magnificent, all-knowing, omnipotent, immutable, eternal, infinite, sovereign. Everything is present to him.
Here’s the problem. He is all these things. You’re not. God is glorious and you’re not. He is worthy to receive glory and honor and power. You are worthy of none of it. Would you dare to gaze upon Him who is Holy? Would you dare approach Him?
If you want to know the feeling of your eyes melting out of their sockets you might give it a shot.
Get out your little Scripture pouches and peek inside. What will you find?
Bag #1 – Sin: Let every mouth be shut up for by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is knowledge of sin.
Bag #2 – Love of neighbor: For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Bag #3 – Christian Suffering: I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.
This is the Christian life? There is no glory, honor, or salvation for you in your deeds or your status or your wealth. Under the damning weight of those three pouches. They will drag you to hell.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Wait. Wasn’t there another pouch? Open it up.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
Remember your glorious God? The holy, eternal, good, righteous, immutable God? The one that melts your eyeballs out of their sockets? He will gladly exchange all of that for you. He will come down into this inglorious mess you call life.
Brethren: Let this mind be in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on cross.
Surprise—surprise…Do you desire glorification? Then lower your gaze from the heavens—from power—from wealth—from honor among men—down to the crucifix.
Christ bids you thus: “Glory in me for I glory in you. Be still and know that I am God. Do you see me adorning this cursed tree? It is because you are my glory. Give me your inglorious mess of a life. Give those pouches to me. They are mine now.”
Bag #1 – Sin: Let every mouth be shut up for by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no distinction: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of Do, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
Bag #2 – Love of neighbor: For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Bag #3 – Christian Suffering: I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake. “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” If any of you suffer as a Christian, be not ashamed, for it is to glorify God.
What was the name of bag #4, again? Oh yes, “forgiveness in Christ”. Open it up. again…Take eat…Take drink…Come now…taste and see that the Lord is good.
Welcome to the Christian life. Glorious, indeed.
In death, in life, in mercy, in lack, in love, in shame, in all to God alone be the glory.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end.
Amen. And so be it.