Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Midweek 3

Advent Midweek 3
December 17, 2008
Text: 1 John 5:6-12

“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (1 John 5:7; ESV). This is the very testimony of God Himself, through His Spirit who speaks to us in the Word of Holy Scripture and preaching, and in the Word made visible, connected to visible elements, the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine which are the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord has not left us to figure things out for ourselves when it comes to spiritual matters. We are not on some sort of spiritual journey wherein each of us makes his or her own discovery of “truth” as Oprah and the voices of our post-modern culture would have you believe. God testifies to Himself. He leads us on the journey. There is only one path. And Christ is our Captain. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves. He comes to us. He comes to us as He has promised, in the means of grace, in Word and Sacrament.

In the first week of Advent, we meditated on Jesus’ coming as God in the flesh to give His life on the cross in exchange for the life of the world. This was His first coming, or advent. In the second week of Advent, we meditated on Jesus’ coming again in glory, His second advent. But what about the time between the advents? Even in this in-between time, our Lord does not leave us helpless or alone. He comes to us. Before He ascended into heaven, our Lord promised His disciples, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He is with us in Word and Sacrament. That is what St. John is referring to in our text this evening. Jesus is with us in the testimony of His Spirit, His baptismal water, His blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. Through these means of grace He forgives our sins. He creates and strengthens faith. He gives us all the benefits of His cross. He makes us His people. He grants us salvation. He delivers to us all that He accomplished in His first advent in order to prepare us to meet Him in His second advent.

Here is the promise that sustains us in this time between the advents, the truth to which the Spirit, the water, and the blood testify: “that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). Notice there is a past tense and a present tense in this passage. God gave us eternal life. He gave us eternal life through the first coming of Jesus to be our Savior, to fulfill the Law for us, to die on the cross for our sins, to be raised again for our justification, and He made this subjectively ours when we came to faith through the Spirit working in the Word and in Baptism. And this continues to be ours, present tense: Whoever has the Son has life. It’s not just that we have been baptized into Christ, we are baptized into Christ, an event in the past that is nonetheless an ongoing reality for us. We have life because we are in Christ. We continue to live in our Baptism. We hear the Word. We receive the Spirit. We partake of our Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. And in this way, Jesus continually comes to us. Thus we do not meet His second coming alone. He’s right there with us, upholding us with His righteous right hand. He who is our Judge on the Last Day is also our Advocate and Defender!

We should look upon the Word of God and His holy Sacraments as lifelines that keep us alive in Christ. By these means God is always supplying us with what we need to remain in the one true faith unto eternal life. The Word and Sacraments give you a continuous supply of Jesus. By these means He is really present with you. He’s not just with you in spirit, whatever that means. He is with you as God and as Man, bodily, even though you cannot see Him. In the Scriptures and in preaching and absolution, Jesus is really speaking to you; through the mouth of the pastor or the words printed on the page to be sure, but it is really Jesus who is doing the speaking. And His Word enters your ear implants itself in your heart, where His Spirit dwells. In Baptism, Jesus is really the One who washes your sins away and makes you a child of God; through the hands of the pastor, to be sure, but it is really Him doing the washing and bringing you to new birth. And of course, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is coming to you in a special way, with His true body and blood. The bread and the wine do not just represent His body and blood. We know by faith, because our Lord says so, that in, with, and under the bread and wine is the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the very same body and blood given and shed for us on the cross. Again, you receive these from the pastor’s hand to be sure, but it is really Jesus feeding you and giving you to drink. He is strengthening and preserving you in the one true faith unto life everlasting.

Now if you believe in the Son of God, you have this testimony within yourself. Remember, this is God testifying to Himself and to His truth. If you accept the testimony of men in important matters (and you do every time you believe a product endorsement or the testimony of someone in court or ask someone to recommend a restaurant), surely God’s testimony is much greater. And you need this testimony in this fallen world. There are so many perils to your salvation in this fallen creation. The devil, the world, and your sinful flesh are all out to destroy your faith and your life in Christ. How do you battle against these? Again, you need to be connected to the lifelines our Lord has given. That means regular use of the Word and the Sacraments. That means coming to church faithfully and being in daily contact with the Word. That means coming to Bible class.

Now, it is true that you can miss church here or there, neglect your devotions, fail to have contact with the Word and the Sacraments for a time, and still remain in the faith. This is a gift of God’s gracious preservation. But don’t deceive yourself. When you fail in this way, your faith is ever weakening. It may be imperceptible at first. In fact, it may be so gradual, you hardly notice it. But what happens is that as you are separated from these lifelines that give you a continuous supply of Jesus, you weaken more and more until finally there is little if anything left of your faith. You take stock of where you are spiritually and you are amazed at how far you’ve wandered. You can lose your faith. You can disconnect yourself from Jesus, and we know that whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (v. 12). All of us falter in our spiritual life. It is so easy to become lax, to neglect faithful use of the means of grace. Beloved, when this happens, do not lose heart. Repent. And go where your Lord Jesus Christ has promised always to be for you. Go to the lifelines. Go to His Word and His Sacraments. Receive again His forgiveness and life. For even when you are unfaithful, Jesus is faithful. He is always there, right where He has promised to be, for you. These three testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. Their testimony agrees. And in their testimony Christ Jesus is present for you, to forgive you, to sanctify you, to strengthen you so that you stand firm in this time of tribulation between the advents.

This is pure gift on the part of God. As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas next week, it is good and right that we meditate upon our Lord’s continual coming to us in Word and Sacrament. In fact, there is no better preparation for Christmas. In reality, there is no other preparation for Christmas. For the way we receive Jesus is through the Spirit, the water, and the blood. He promises no other way. But through these means He is with us always, as God and Man, even unto the end of the age. And when that end of the age comes, He is there waiting to receive us into the splendor of His kingdom. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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