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Ephesians 1:3-14


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.


In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
















Unlikely to Change: Sin and Forgiveness

Monday of Lent 6

14 April 2014

There is reconciliation with God through the forgiveness of sins. Theologians have often tried to de-couple the change in our status in the presence of God from the forgiveness of sins. Redemption, the bloody death of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins all belong to together as central to the biblical gospel (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:22, 10:18). All of this forgiveness and blood talk implicitly leads to the conclusion that there is something frightfully wrong with humans: they need forgiveness. There is a great deal of pressure on theologians to reduce that implication or to soft pedal it. A pastor friend of mine recounted calling members of his parish who had been absent for quite some time. At first, they declined to speak of their reasons for being absent. Finally, however, the husband simply said, "Every sermon is about sin and grace, and we are sick of hearing it. So we won't be back." The pastor quietly admitted that every sermon was about sin and grace, "That is unlikely to change." Of course, every sermon is about sin and grace! That is what the Christian religion is "about." There is no greater problem in the world and no better solution.


Sin can only be rightly dealt with by forgiveness and only then are we reconciled to God. If the church does not forgive sin then it leaves people to their own devices, which are meager indeed. They seek ways to assuage their burning consciences, trying to put out the fires with the gasoline of self-righteousness. Or they try to paper over their failures with legalistic excuses: "Everyone is doing it," "I am better than everyone else," "I did my best," "I couldn't help myself," "I was close," "I had the best intentions," and so on. None of this will either squelch the fires of conscience, because the excuses are so clearly an evasion or truly change the situation, because without the intrusion of forgiveness from God the sinner is in a closed system, where there is no help. Something from outside must come in to change the sinner's status in the presence of God. That something is the forgiveness of sins.


How remarkable forgiveness is because of its absolute character. God generously and for Christ's sake forgives all; none are beyond the pale, no one can run so far as to be beyond the reach of God's grace, no sin is too big, and no amount of excuse-making can keep God from offering full and free blood-bought forgiveness to sinners like us. Only in God's speech to us, "I forgive you," can the conscience be pacified and calm to the heart restored. This is why the church is always talking about sin and forgiveness. They belong together in the church's speech. Anything else is just a painful evasion. And that is unlikely to change.


Augustine of Hippo


"Taking into account all the inspired statements which I have quoted, whether I regard the value of each passage one by one, or combine their united testimony in an accumulated witness or even include similar passages which I have not adduced, there can be nothing discovered, but that which the catholic Church holds, in her dutiful vigilance against all profane novelties: Every person is separated from God, except those who are reconciled to God through Christ the Mediator. No one can be separated from God, except by sins, which alone cause separation. There is, therefore, no reconciliation except by the remission of sins, through the one grace of the most merciful Savior, through the one sacrifice of the one who is the truest priest. No one who is born of the woman, who trusted the serpent and so was corrupted through desire (Gn 3:6), is delivered from the body of this death, except by the Son of the virgin who believed the angel so as to be conceived without desire (Lk 1:38)." 


Augustine, On the Merits of Forgiveness and the Baptism of Infants, 1.56



Lord Jesus, You have given forgiveness to the world at the cost of great suffering. Send Your Spirit that we would covet this gift and gladly and joyously confess our sins in Your presence that we might receive from You Your boundless mercy. Amen.


For the mission trip of the Memorial Lutheran Church Nicaragua mission team, that the Lord bless the work they will do there among fellow believers


For Stephen and Stephanie Cholak, that the Lord would send His holy angels to guide them in all their ways


For the work of Daniel McMiller and the Luther Academy, that the Lord would give blessing to the proclamation of the gospel in all the world


For Bud Obert, who is gravely ill, that the Lord would send His holy angels to watch over him 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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