What's to Doubt?
Friday in Pentecost 7
28 July 2017
What a heart there is in God! While our love is fleeting and changeable, God's is absolutely consistent. He created humans to be the foremost beings of His creation. He lavished upon them every blessing. He placed them in a paradise perfectly suited to their needs. The plants and trees set there by Him gave their fruit to the first couple without the need of cultivation. They knew neither fear nor lack. He had set upon their hearts His infallible Word, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gn 2:16-17). His speech to them gave them pleasant boundaries (Ps 16:6). God initiated the church fellowship of personal communion with Adam and Eve strolling with them in the garden, singing Vespers, as it were, in the cool of the afternoon. They knew God as no one would know Him again until the disciples walked the dusty roads of Palestine with the Word made flesh. How easy it was for God to love those whom He created perfect while they maintained their perfection. His cost was the pleasure of perfect communion with His creatures. His heart delighted in them.
However, He knew full well that His love would cost Him His dearest Treasure. He fully understood that those upon whom He lavished every gift would not delight as fully in Him as He had in them. He knew they would despise the pleasant boundaries of His Word to them. They would now delight in themselves and in the most despicable case of lèse-majesté would reject His Word considering themselves gods to rival Him. Now what was to love? What was lovable about these ingrates? How would the kings of this world deal with such ingratitude and rebellion? With wrath and slaughter. This is what Adam expected from his King. Upon hearing the gracious approach of God for Vespers that afternoon, he hid himself in shame, seeking to cover his rebellion from his gracious Sovereign. He didn't even have the decency to own up to His wickedness. When the King questioned Him, He could not see that the judicial examination was for His good. He answered only grudgingly, pinning the guilt on the other: that woman and the One who had given her to him. How heavy the heart of God to see and hear this. There was nothing lovable here.
Yet love them still He did. Here is true love. God takes the loveless and loves them. God has compassion on the ruthless. He makes no demands upon the demanding. He excuses those who make excuses. He feeds those who have rejected His food. He grants life to those who have rejected life with Him. He turns away anger by quelling His wrath. He is gracious toward the ungrateful. God's love toward us is not conditioned on us. Nor could it ever be. He loves us, as we say in the antique phrase, for His own sake. The cause of love is in God, not in us. The cause of forgiveness is in Christ. The cause of mercy is in the Font of Mercy. How could we doubt that this love is ours? If it depended on us, love would be doubtful indeed. But it does not. "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God" (Rm 5:8-9). What's to doubt when God has pledged the blood of His own Son against our fallen wickedness?

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Because God foresaw all things, and was therefore not unaware that man also would fall, we ought to consider this holy city in connection with what God foresaw and ordained, and not according to our own ideas, which do not embrace God's ordination. For man, by his sin, could not disturb the divine counsel, nor compel God to change what He had decreed. For God's foreknowledge had anticipated both, that is to say, both how evil the man whom He had created good should become, and what good He Himself should even thus derive from him. For though God is said to change His determinations (so that in a tropical sense the Holy Scripture says even that God repented ), this is said with reference to man's expectation, or the order of natural causes, and not with reference to that which the Almighty had foreknown that He would do.
"Accordingly God, as it is written, made man upright, and consequently with a good will. For if he had not had a good will, he could not have been upright. The good will, then, is the work of God. For God created him with it. But the first evil will, which preceded all man's evil acts, was rather a kind of falling away from the work of God to its own works than any positive work. And therefore the acts resulting were evil, not having God, but the will itself for their end; so that the will or the man himself, so far as his will is bad, was as it were the evil tree bringing forth evil fruit. Moreover, the bad will, though it is not in harmony with, but opposed to nature, inasmuch as it is a vice or blemish, yet it is true of it as of all vice, that it cannot exist except in a nature, and only in a nature created out of nothing. The bad will cannot exist in that which the Creator has begotten of Himself, as He begot the Word, by whom all things were made. For though God formed man of the dust of the earth, yet the earth itself, and every earthly material, is absolutely created out of nothing. And man's soul, too, God created out ofnothing, and joined to the body, when He made man.
"But evils are so thoroughly overcome by good, that though they are permitted to exist, for the sake of demonstrating how the most righteous foresight of God can make a good use even of them, yet good can exist without evil, as in the true and supreme God Himself, and as in every invisible and visible celestial creature that exists above this murky atmosphere; but evil cannot exist without good, because the natures in which evil exists, in so far as they are natures, are good. And evil is removed, not by removing any nature, or part of a nature, which had been introduced by the evil, but by healing and correcting that which had been weakened and depraved. The will, therefore, is then truly free, when it is not the slave of vices and sins. Such was it given us by God; and this being lost by its own fault, can only be restored by Him who was able at first to give it. And therefore the truth says, 'If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed' (Jn 8:36). This is equivalent to saying, If the Son shall save you, you shall be saved indeed. For He is our Liberator, inasmuch as He is our Savior."

Augustine, The City of God, 14.11
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 
Lord God, come among Your people by Your Word that our boundaries might be set in pleasant places. Send Your Spirit that we might own our wickedness and confessing it faithfully receive the full price of Your love in the blood poured out for us. Have mercy on us, who have not shown mercy. Forgive us, who have not forgiven as we have been forgiven. Love us still that through love to the loveless shown we might lovely be. Amen.
For all Christians that they might proclaim the overwhelmingly abundant love of God to those who know only to hide from God
For those who are weak in faith, that they might be strengthened in the Word of God
For all those who are dying that they might be comforted with the forgiveness of sins that comes from Christ alone
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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