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Psalm 27

 

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold  of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (ESV)

No Sweat

Tuesday after Pentecost

10 June 2014

We cannot say that Christianity is "no sweat" in this life. We struggle, indeed, we sweat because of out timidity and spiritual weakness. We feel in our hearts the oppression of the law, although the gospel tells us that its power to oppress is done for. We struggle this way because we remain flesh and spirit, old man and new man. This battle provides plenty to sweat over in our daily lives. Our flesh remains a weight and burden. How easy it is to fall back into the maw of the law and feel the threat of judgment in our hearts. Even the most insignificant event or experience can drive us to despair. The merest remark from a friend, relative, or church member, even if that remark was not intended to wound, can drive us to doubt our value in the sight of God and remind us of our sin and weakness.

 

We even beat ourselves up because our consciences are not stronger and succumb to depression over the smallest thing, "If I were stronger, such sleights, real or not, would not bother me." Pastors often feel this way when there is conflict in the congregations they serve. They feel like they are failing their calling when they can't get everyone to live in harmony. And even though they know that it is an unrealistic expectation they often feel acutely the burden of failure.

 

We share our sweat with another. We don't sweat alone. The Lord Jesus knelt in the Garden and "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Lk 22:44). He suffered the burden of the whole law and the world's entire transgression of it. What a crushing weight He bore. He bears what we could not. He hefts a burden and will not shrug, but carries if for the world. His sweat changes everything. Only our timidity keeps us from believing this. God has been gracious to us in Christ, giving us in its fullness the life of Christ.

 

What if you were to find yourself as a poor beggar eking out a living on the street when you were approached by Bill Gates who offered you anything in his power to give, and you asked Gates for a moldy crust of bread? Who wouldn't consider you an ungrateful wretch unable to take this rich man at his word, take advantage of an opportunity to escape poverty, and perhaps in the process to help many other persons out of poverty? Yet, often because of our weakness, timidity, and fear we ask God for a crust instead of demanding the promised gifts of the righteousness that comes from Christ and is ours by faith. Stop being afraid! There is nothing to be afraid about. There is nothing to be timid about. Have courage, because in Christ and for Christ's sake the Christian life is "no sweat."

 

Martin Luther 

 

"It is extremely important to keep in view and always to consider this statement (Gal 4:4-5) and others like it, so delightful and full of comfort, which define Christ properly and accurately. Then throughout our life, in every danger, in the confession of our faith in the presence of tyrants, and in the hour of death, we can declare with a sure and steady confidence: 'Law, you have no jurisdiction over me; therefore you are accusing and condemning me in vain. For I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Father sent into the world to redeem us miserable sinners who are oppressed by the tyranny of the law. He poured out His life and spent it lavishly for me. When I feel your terrors and threats, O law, I immerse my conscience in the wounds, the blood, the death, the resurrection, and the victory of Christ. Beyond Him I do not want to see or hear anything at all.'

 

"This faith is our victory (1Jn 5:4); with it we conquer the terrors of the law, of sin, death, and all evils, though not without a great struggle. The truly devout, vexed by severe trials every day, really sweat over this. They often get the idea that Christ intends to rebuke us, that He intends to demand of us an account of how we have spent our lives, that He intends to accuse and condemn us. They cannot be sure that He was sent by the Father to redeem us who were oppressed by the tyranny of the law. The reason is this: the saints have not yet shed the flesh completely, and it conflicts with the Spirit. Therefore the terrors of the law, the fear of death, and other depressing specters keep coming back to hinder faith, so that one does not take hold of the blessing of Christ, who has redeemed us from the slavery of the law, with as much certainty as one should."

 

Martin Luther, 
Lectures on Galatians, 4.4-5
 
Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, You send Your Word to Your people so that we would no longer live in fear and trembling. Help us to quiet our hearts by being settled in Your suffering and death for the sin of the world. Amen.

 

For the many new missionaries being sent by the LCMS into foreign fields to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ, that they would be kept safe in their labors

 

For the family and friends of Joyce Backs, whom the Lord took to Himself, that they might find comfort in the power of Christ over death

 

For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS and all those who serve God's gospel, that they might be faithful to their calling 
Art: DYCK, Anthony van  Pentecost (1618-1620) 

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