Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Midweek II

“God’s Saving Love Stirs Up My Heart”[1]
Advent Midweek 2
December 8, 2010
Text: Mal. 4:1-6

Beloved in the Lord, the Day is coming, proclaims the Prophet Malachi. It is the Day of Judgment. It is inevitable. Every one of us will stand before the judgment throne of God. There will be no exceptions. And there are only two possible outcomes for the accused. Either there is condemnation, or there is full acquittal, nay, justification, a proclamation of righteousness. What determines the difference? Malachi tells us that the difference is this: Fear of God’s Name. You either fear the one true God, YHWH, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or you don’t. And what is this fear? It is the fear that knows we deserve to be ablaze, burned up in God’s wrath, but that He has sent us a Savior, the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, who pays the punishment of our sins on the cross. Fear of God’s Name thus includes both repentance and faith. We know we are sinners, that we deserve the full punishment of God’s wrath, and we mourn over our sinful condition. But we turn to God in faith for help and salvation in Jesus Christ. It all hinges on this fear of God.

For we are all arrogant and evildoers. Every last one of us deserves the Day of Judgment to be a Day of terror for us. And for many, it will be such a day. For it is coming as God here says, “burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble,” which is to say, they will be the worthless chaff left over after grinding the wheat. It is good for nothing but burning. “The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:1; ESV). The fire of God’s wrath will utterly consume them. God gives us this warning in His grace and saving love. By this warning God would stir up our hearts, wake us up, so that we understand His judgment is no joke. Those who do not fear His Name will experience His very real and everlasting wrath on the Day of Judgment. What is described here is hell. And even though hell is not a politically correct concept anymore, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. There is a real hell, and real people go there, namely, all unbelievers. God doesn’t want them to go there. God has provided for their salvation. It is a great tragedy that anyone ever goes there, because Christ died for their sins. The truth is, we all deserve to go there, and would go there were it not for Christ and His sin-atoning work on the cross and victorious resurrection. So the Day of Judgment is a terrible Day for those who are outside of Christ, for all unbelievers.

But there is a different outcome for those who fear God’s Name, again, those who repent of their sins and cling in faith to their Savior, Jesus Christ. That Day will be for us a Day of great joy and blessing. For on that Day, the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, will rise, will come visibly, just as the sun rises and gives its light each morning. The Lord Jesus will come visibly and shine His “wings,” His rays, upon us, so that we are healed of sin and death and every dread disease. All that is wrong in the world will be right again. Our bodies will be raised from the grave and made perfect with the perfect healing of our risen Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord says through Malachi that we will leap like calves from the stall. Calves who have been cooped up all winter, when they released into the pasture in the spring, leap and kick and play in the freedom and fresh air. That will be us. We will be released from our bondage in this sinful and fallen flesh. Imagine, no more disease or injury, no more aches and pains, no more disabling maladies, no more death. And no more sin. And as for the wicked? They will not bother us anymore either. They will have received their judgment as those who did not fear the Name of the LORD. They will be ashes under the soles of our feet.

Beloved, God must accomplish such fear in us, such repentance and faith, for we cannot do it by our own reason or strength. The Holy Spirit must do it in us by His means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. And that is why He tells us in our text to “Remember the law (the Torah, the teaching, the instruction, including both Law and Gospel)… Remember the [Torah] of my servant Moses” (v. 4). In other words, abide in the Word. To remember here means more than simply to call to mind. It means to be immersed in the Word, to meditate upon it, to keep it as a treasure in the heart. Because by means of this Word, the Torah, the Holy Spirit keeps you in this fear of the Name of YHWH unto life everlasting. Indeed, He who began this good work in you, repentance and faith, will bring it to completion on the Day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6), the Day of His returning to judge the living and the dead. His saving love stirs up your heart to believe in Him, and thus be saved by faith alone. But so also it produces a new life of faith in you, a life marked by love. The hearts of fathers are turned toward their children, and children to their fathers. We no longer live for the self. Our Lord Jesus has redeemed us from that. Now we live for others, in proper relationship to one another, fearing and loving God so that we desire and strive to keep His commandments, always returning to His throne of mercy when we fall, to His flood of grace (our Baptism!), to the Table of His body and blood.

The Holy Spirit calls us to this fear of the Lord every time His Word is proclaimed. He sent His prophet, St. John the Baptist, in the spirit of Elijah to proclaim this timeless message, just as He promises here in our text. The Lord is faithful. And His call is urgent. Because the Day is coming. Fear the Lord, you His saints (Psalm 34:9). Prepare His way by repenting of your sins, confessing them to God, and clinging to the forgiveness of sins you have in Christ Jesus. For in this way, the Day of Judgment will be for you the Day when the Sun of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings. Indeed, by His wounds you are healed (1 Peter 2:24). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Sermon series based on the Rev. David Fleming, God’s Love at Christmas (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010).

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