Christ is Christ
Tuesday of Pentecost 19
27 September 2016
How easy it is to focus on ourselves, our sin, our weakness, our faintheartedness, and conclude that because of these things we could not be Christians. Often people focused on themselves will avoid church attendance because they think that there lives must exhibit a pristine holiness before they can come to church. If they focus on their own abysmal weakness and sin, then certainly there is plenty to dissuade them from standing in the presence of the Lord in the divine services of the church.
However, we stand precisely in that position always. We stand before God as sinners, but sinners whose sin has been taken over by the Lamb of God, Christ our Savior. So what we feel is not true. If God has indeed taken our sin in Christ, why should we feel it? This is the ultimate false memory syndrome or counterfeit consciousness. How can you say that you are not worth God's love and grace, when Christ has fully cleansed you by His holy and precious blood? How could you be any more worthy? What sin of yours has Christ not taken and atoned for? What sin do you want to possess for yourself and cherish in your heart? What fault do you want to take care of on your own? There are none which Christ has not taken. None!
Yet there are still people who teach Christians that they must merit God's favor, by their own love, economic success, happiness, disposition toward God, or exemplary life. Such works clearly become a substitute for Christ Himself. You can't have it both ways. Either Christ saves you, or your own works save you. If your works save they have become your Christ and the Christ born of Mary by the Holy Spirit is not your God. How comforting it is to know that I do not have to be my own savior. I can cast all my care, my sin, my sorrow, and my suffering on Him. He bears the curse because I cannot. Either Christ is Christ or works are Christ. Not both.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Where sins are noticed and felt, there they really are not present. For, according to the theology of Paul, there is no more sin, no more death, and no more curse in the world, but only in Christ, who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and who became a curse in order to set us free from the curse. On the other hand, according to philosophy and reason, sin, death, etc., are not present anywhere except in the world, in the flesh, and in sinners....But the true theology teaches that there is no more sin in the world, because Christ, on whom, according to Isaiah 53, the Father has laid the sins of the entire world (Is 53:6), has conquered, destroyed, and killed it in His own body. Having died to sin once, He has truly been raised from the dead and will not die any more (Rm 6:9). Therefore, wherever there is faith in Christ, there sin has in fact been abolished, put to death, and buried. But where there is no faith in Christ, there sin remains. And although there are still remnants of sin in the saints because they do not believe perfectly, nevertheless these remnants are dead; for on account of faith in Christ they are not imputed.
"Therefore this is an important and powerful argument that Paul is presenting here (Gal 3:13) against the righteousness of works: 'Neither the law nor works redeem from the curse, but only Christ.' Therefore, I implore you for God's sake to distinguish Christ from the law and to pay diligent attention to how Paul is speaking and to what he is saying. He says, 'It is necessary that all who do not keep the law be under a curse.' But no one keeps the law. Therefore, the first proposition is true, namely, that all men are under a curse. Then he adds a second proposition: 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.' Therefore, the law and works do not redeem from the curse. On the contrary, they drag us down and subject us to the curse.
"But just as Christ is something different from the law and from the works of the law, so the redemption of Christ is altogether different from my merit based on works of the law; for it had to be Christ Himself who redeemed us from the curse of the law. Therefore, whoever does not take hold of Christ by faith remains under the curse. Not even the legalists are so stupid as to say that Christ is our work or our love, for Christ is something altogether different from a work that we do. No papist, no matter how insane he is, will have the audacity to say that the alms he grants to someone in need or the obedience that a monk yields is a Christ. For Christ is God and man, 'conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, etc.' Now about Him Paul says that He became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse of the law. Therefore, the law, works, love, vows, etc., do not redeem; they only wrap one in the curse and make it even heavier. Therefore, the more we have performed works, the less able we are to know and to grasp Christ."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.13
Isaiah 53:4-12

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)
Ah dearest Lord Jesus, in the deepest humility You reached down into the human situation to draw all sin into Your person. You took every sin of mine and took them away. Help me to live in the peace and joy You want me to have as a forgiven sinner. Amen.
For Archbishop Christian Ekong of Nigeria, that God would keep him safe
For Ed Farris, who has cancer, that he might be strengthened by his heavenly Father
For the family and friends of Alice Hobratsch, whom the Lord has taken to Himself, that they would mourn as those who have confidence in the blood of Christ to pay for all sin
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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