Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)

May 25, 2014
Text: John 14:15-21

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            Lutherans are often falsely charged with forbidding good works, or thinking that good works are unimportant or unnecessary.  St. Paul suffered the same false charge at the hands of the Judaizers in his day.  The preaching that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from works, will always bring that charge.  Natural man is a Pharisee.  By nature, we think we have to do something to be saved, do good works, be good enough to (at least to some degree) earn eternal life.  Preach free grace to a Pharisee and he’ll always react by charging you with making it too easy.  “So, you don’t think God demands good works, eh?  You don’t think the Ten Commandments apply anymore, eh?  You don’t think a Christian has to behave?”  That’s not what we’re saying at all.  In fact, the Lutheran Confessions are very clear on this: “we hold that good works should follow faith” (Apol. XX:92; McCain).  “Faith must be the mother and source of works that are truly good and well pleasing to God… as Dr. Luther writes… O, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith.  It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly.  It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is constantly doing them” (FC SD IV:9-11).  In other words, Christians do good works.  That’s who we are.  That’s what God calls us to do.  Good works are necessary in the sense that they are the life of living faith.  As faith lives, it works.  But works are not necessary for the forgiveness of sins or salvation.  Works rather come about as the result of forgiveness of sins and salvation, and the love for God who has saved us by the blood and death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
            Which is simply to say what our Lord Jesus says in the Holy Gospel this morning.  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15; ESV).  Jesus doesn’t say, “If you want to be forgiven of your sins, work them off by keeping my commandments.”  Jesus does not say, “If you want salvation and eternal life, earn it by keeping my commandments.”  Nor does Jesus promise we’re going to do the Commandments perfectly in this earthly life.  Now, you may think this goes without saying, but there are many who interpret this verse precisely that way.  What Jesus actually says, though, is that love for Him is the basis for your keeping of His Commandments.  You already love Him because He saved you.  That all happened prior to the works.  Now, as a result of all that, you want to do what pleases Him.  It is not unlike a husband who buys flowers for his wife, not to make her love him, but because he loves her and wants to do something that will express his love.  Or a wife who makes her husband’s favorite meal, not to make him love her, but because she loves him and wants to bring him joy.  Or a child who wants to do what pleases her parents, not to earn their love, but because she loves them and wants to honor them.  That’s your relationship to God in Baptism.  You are His child.  He has told you what He would have you do in His Commandments.  Now, you’re already His child, so your being loved by Him is not contingent on you keeping the Commandments.  Thank God for that.  But you want to do it because He’s your Father, because Jesus is your Savior, because He continually pours out His blessings upon you, including His Holy Spirit who works in you to will and to do what He commands (Phil. 2:13).
            The Son bids the Father send the Spirit to you for this very purpose.  As He says, He will ask the Father to send another Helper (John 14:16).  The word is Paraclete, and it means not only Helper, but also Comforter, Counselor, Advocate, One who is always at your side to help you in your time of need and defend you in your time of trial.  That’s what the Holy Spirit does.  Ever since your Baptism into Christ, the Holy Spirit is with you and in you.  He is ever directing you to Jesus, giving you faith in Jesus, teaching you by His Word about Jesus and the salvation you have freely in Him.  That is why Jesus calls Him “the Spirit of truth” (v. 17).  He is always teaching you the Truth that is Jesus Christ, your Savior, and the Truth that is God’s Word.  He is guiding you by that Word, which is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Ps. 119:105).  This is called sanctification.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies you, makes you holy, so that you actually want to walk by the light of His Word and do what He commands.  The world cannot receive that light.  The unbelieving world reviles the Truth.  They don’t want to walk in the light of God’s Word.  They prefer to bask in the darkness of the serpent’s lies.  But not so you.  You have the Spirit of Truth.  You know Him, for He dwells with you and is in you (John 14:17).
            And where He is, there is Jesus.  That’s the great thing about the Holy Trinity, our one God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  When you have one Person, you have them all.  When you have the Spirit, you have Jesus and His saving work for you.  When you have Jesus, you have the Father.  You have Him as your Father, and you are His son.  So it is very true what Jesus says.  You are not an orphan.  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18).  Even as He came in the flesh to be your Savior, He comes to you continually in His Word and the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and you see Him (v. 19), even though the world cannot see Him.  You see Him, not with your eyes, but by the Spirit who dwells in you, by the Spirit-given faith which sees Him where He has promised to be for you in the means of grace.  You see Him, and you live in Him, for He gives you life by the same Spirit whom we confess to be “the Lord and Giver of life.”  It is life with God, life with Jesus who is in the Father.  Life with Jesus in whom you are, and who is in you (v. 20).  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, your saving God, in whom you live and move and have your being, who comes to you and dwells in you.  Now that is really living.  That is living eternally and abundantly.  That is the life Jesus gives you by the power of His resurrection.
            And it spills over in love toward God and love toward the neighbor.  In other words, it overflows in good works.  “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (v. 21).  You have His commandments, for He has given you His Word.  What a gift.  We don’t have to guess at what God wants us to do and not do.  He has spelled it out for us in His Word.  Want to please God?  Do the Ten Commandments.  You don’t have to make something else up that you think will please Him more.  In fact, know this, that if you make something else up it will most certainly not please Him, but merit His wrath and anger.  He has told you what to do and not do.  Have no other gods.  Fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.  Keep His Name holy and do not misuse it.  Do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.  Honor your father and your mother and those in authority over you, for they have been placed in their office by God Himself.  Do not murder, but help your neighbor in his bodily needs.  Be chaste in your thoughts and words and deeds, be faithful to your spouse, keep the marriage bed pure, and husbands and wives love and honor one another.  Do not steal, but give generously.  Do not bear false witness, but be truthful in everything, for after all the Spirit of Truth dwells in you.  Do not covet, but be content with what God has given you, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
            But what about when you don’t keep the Commandments?  Repent.  Confess your sin.  Turn from it.  And rejoice that Jesus has paid for all your sins in His death on the cross.  His blood has washed all your sins away.  What a beautiful thing.  He did all that for you because He loves you.  And so you love Him.  And so you are loved by the Father and by Jesus Christ Himself, our risen Lord, who manifests Himself to you, makes Himself known to you so that you really see Him by your Spirit-given eyes of faith in His gifts, the Word and the Sacrament (v. 21).
            And so, loving Him, yes, you do good works.  Yes, you serve Him by serving your neighbor.  Remember, God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does, and so you do good works for God by doing good works for your neighbor.  Yes, you give yourself for your neighbor, as Christ Jesus gave Himself for you.  Yes, you give generously of the gifts that God has poured out upon you and continues to pour out upon you.  It grieves you to grieve God, and so you live a life of repentance, sorrowing over your sins and fighting against it, daily crucifying your sinful flesh, taking up your cross, and following Jesus.  Lutherans have never taught anything else.  But you don’t do this in order to be saved.  You do it because Jesus saved you.  You love Him because He first loved you (1 John 4:19).  You live because He died.  You never die, because He lives.  You live in Him.  For He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  And the risen Lord breathes the Spirit of Truth into you this day, the breath of faith that is living and active, the faith that works.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.      


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