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Showing posts from February, 2014

You Shall Be Perfect: A Command or a Promise?

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! The text for today is Matthew 5:48: [Jesus said]: “Therefore, you shall be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Notice the subtle change? The ESV translation we just heard for our Gospel has “Therefore, you must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” I just said, “Therefore, you shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” So which is it? Must or shall? Either is grammatically correct. The Greek verb may carry with it two senses: an imperative or a description of a future condition. It could either be a command or a promise. Or, to express it in terms we Lutherans are more inclined to speak: Law or Gospel. The first way of translating it is Law. You must be perfect. You must be as perfectly righteous and holy as your Father in heaven is perfectly righteous and holy. God doesn’t grade on a curve. His standard is perfection. Don’t settle for less if you wa…

Jesus Lays Down the Law

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Jesus lays down the Law. He pulls no punches, setting forth in no uncertain terms the holy, righteous will of God. Do you remember how our Gospel ended last week? In the verse immediately preceding our text, Jesus warns His disciples: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). In our text for today, Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus begins to describe what such righteousness looks like. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before th…

Acceptable to the Lord

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! The Lord Himself speaks in the verses preceding our text from the 58th chapter of Isaiah: “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to My people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.Yet they seek Me daily and delight to know My ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of Me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.” Isaiah is to lift up his voice, to shout “like a trumpet” to proclaim the rebellion of God’s people. Notice how this rebellion is described. It’s a passive-aggressive sort of rebellion. It seems as if the people are eager to know the ways of the Lord. They observe the worship regulations, including fasting and observation of the Sabbath, outlined in the Law of Moses. They ask God for righteous judgments and seem to be eager to draw near to Hi…

Why Did You Come Here? What Do You Seek?

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The text for today is our Gospel lesson, Luke 2:22-40. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Why are you here? What do you seek? Why did you come here, to this place of worship, on this day? What do you expect or hope to find here? Those are important questions because someone (even with “good intentions”) could come naively here for the wrong reason.Or because a seeker, whose particular desires are contrary to God’s will and Word, might come to this place hoping or expecting to find what he or she wants. Examples of such false expectations, wrongful motives, or selfish desires? To come here as a matter of course, merely out of habit. To try to impress other people with your personal piety. To get your parents or spouse off your back. To build up heavenly reward points for the number of trips you’ve made to be here. To seek to appease God’s wrath with your good works. To gain leverage against God that you will pull out …