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Luke 15:11-24


 

And [Jesus] said, "There was a man who had two sons.   And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

 

"But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants,'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate." (ESV)

Let's Celebrate!

Johann Walter, Kantor

24 April 2015

Spiritual despair is a deadly disease. We fall into it so easily. We are accused on every side, Satan howling our guilt, "See what you have done!" The world looks down on us, "You are not worthy to be called a Christian!" Our own hearts rising up to indict us, "You are a spiritual failure. Why do you bother even to try?" Old Adam is poking his finger into our soul: "You are hopelessly fallen. Why should the perfect God look upon a soul so tainted by perversity?" These accusations are powerful because they are true, at least according to the perfect law of God, which admits of no mitigation. Its holiness reaches a divine standard and is not reducible to obedience in terms of niggling human pieties, attempts and "close, but no cigar" efforts characteristic of human acts. This fact alone makes susceptible to terminal despair.

 

Such despair would rightly be our lot absent the gospel of Jesus Christ, in which we learn that sinners like us are forgiven for His own sake through the merit of His substitutionary suffering and death. In the gospel we are made aware by God that Satan can howl however he will, but that we have a Lord who has taken on his assaults and defeated him (1Pt 3:19). In the gospel we know that we are able to turn our back on the world, which in comparison to Christ and His cross-purchased riches, has no value. The gospel gives us the priceless treasure: Christ Himself and all His benefits.

In the gospel we experience our hearts being comforted, calmed by God's stilling voice of compassion in Christ. Old Adam can poke us, but to no avail, because our hope is not in ourselves but in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us (Eph 5:2).

 

In the gospel despair becomes impossible, for in it God's gift of righteousness has been revealed to sinners. Our Father has embraced us as His children. He will not take us back into His house as slaves, only as sons together with His Son. Why worry? Why struggle with our own sin? Elisha the prophet of God declined to despair when confronted by the military might of Naaman, the Syrian general (2K 5:8). He trusted in God who promised to save. He believed that God has exalted us to the heavenly places.

 

No one has been more highly lifted up than us. Our sin has been drowned in the depth of the sea. The great deep has groaned to swallow it and crush it in the depths below. Our Father's heart has taken what our hearts could never bear and freed us of it. If we stand in the gospel, then there is nothing but freedom (Gal 5:1), good cheer is ours from God. Under the gospel anything else is a false memory. Do you remember the "false memory syndrome" that surfaced some years ago, when adult children accused good parents of horrible sexual abuse? After several highly publicized cases, it was recognized that this was only the result of therapeutic suggestion or auto-suggestion? Despair is merely a false memory suggested by the devil, the world, or our sinful flesh, because we have Christ, who is the real thing (Col 2:17). Don't despair. Our Father embraces us with open arms. The gospel promises. So let's celebrate. Our Father is.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"When the prodigal son came back there were flutes and harps, dancing, feasts, and parties. The father, who might have called his son to account for his ill-timed extravagance and flight to a far country (Lk 15:13), did nothing of the sort. He looked upon him as not guilty and could not find it in him even to use the language of reproach, or rather even merely to mention to him the former things. But he threw himself upon him, kissed him, killed the calf, put a robe on him, and placed on him abundant honors (Lk 15:22-24).

 

"Let us then, who have such examples before us, be of good cheer and avoid despair. For He is not so well pleased with being called Master, as He is with being called Father, nor with having a slave as with having a son. This is what He likes rather than slavery. This then is why He did all that He has done. He 'did not spare his own Son' (Rm 8:32), that we might receive the adoption of sons, that we might love Him, not as a Master only, but as a Father. And if He obtained this from us, He delights in it as one who has glory given to Him, and has it proclaimed to everyone, although He needs nothing of ours."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 10.3
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have given us so much to rejoice about, for we are free of the plagues of sin, death, and the devil. You have loved us so deeply, that You have embraced our flesh and taken its stains from us in Your suffering and death. Help us to celebrate these gifts from You every day, that we might not succumb to despair. Amen.

 

For Walter friend, that the Lord would be with him as he prepares to undergo cancer surgery

 

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS as they gather for placement of candidates to the office of the holy ministry, that they would place men to be called to the church into congregations where they are able to serve the Lord Jesus, especially Chad Smith and Christopher Nuttelman

 

For Cantor Janet Muth of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord would continue to set His word to music using the gifts He has granted her

 

For Pastor Charles Wokoma who is serving in Nigeria, that the Lord Jesus would watch over him and grant him success with the gospel labor there

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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