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Remember, O LORD, your tender mercies and your loving kindnesses, for they have always been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. According to your mercy remember me for your goodness’ sake, O LORD. Psalm 25:6-7

Ad Te Levavi is the traditional name for the first Sunday in Advent. It is the Latin title for the introit of the day, from Psalm 25:1: “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.”

Advent is still months away, but our preparations for Christ’s second coming – His second advent – are ongoing year-round.

As we prepare for Christ’s second advent — His triumphal entry into this world as eternal King and Judge — we lift up our souls to the LORD and pray that He would remember and look upon us in His mercy and not according to our sinfulness under His law.

We pray that the LORD God (Yahweh or Jehovah God) would remember His tender mercies and His lovingkindness which He promised from of old — to Adam and Eve in the Garden, to Abraham, to David, and to all the Old Testament saints (cf. Gen. 3:15; 22:18; Ps. 51; Isa. 53; 55:1ff.).

If the LORD were to deal with us according to our sins, none of us could stand in His judgment. We would all be condemned to the everlasting torments of hell because of our sinful hearts and our sinful thoughts, desires, words and actions (cf. Psalm 130:3ff.; Matt. 15:19; Rom. 3:9ff.; Gal. 3:10).

As sinners, condemned by God’s holy law, we flee in faith to the grace and mercy of God for the sake of His Son, the Lamb of God who made atonement for the sins of the world (John. 1:29; 1 John 1:8 – 2:2; Rom. 3:19-26). We pray: “Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. According to your mercy remember me for your goodness’ sake, O LORD.”

And, because Jesus Christ died for all our sins and rose again on the third day, those who look in faith to Christ and His cross for mercy are pardoned, forgiven, justified, and accepted by God (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 1:6-7; Gal. 3:13, 26-27); they have a place in His everlasting kingdom (John 3:14-16; Mark 16:16; Rom. 5:1-10,17).

Jesus Christ is coming again! Though He entered into Jerusalem, the center of the Old Testament church, humbly and riding on a donkey nearly 2,000 years ago with some hailing Him as the promised Messiah and King and others rejecting Him, He now is coming as King of kings and Lord of lords and every knee shall bow (cf. Phil 2:9-11; Rev. 19:11-16). He will judge the living and the dead.

How do you wish to be remembered on that Day? According to your sins and many transgressions, or according to His mercy for the sake of Christ’s blood, shed on the cross for the sins of all?

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.”

O LORD God, our gracious Savior, do not deal with us according to our sins as we justly deserve under Your holy law but deal with us in Your mercy and lovingkindness for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, Your dear Son and our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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The woman says to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus says to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know. We know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour comes, and is now, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit. And those who worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:19-24

After Jesus revealed His knowledge of this woman’s life – that she had had five husbands and was now living together with one who was not her husband – she perceived that He was a prophet and changed the subject away from herself and her own sin and need of a Savior to a more generic question which had been disputed between the Samaritans and the Jews for several centuries: Where should men worship?

As she said, the Samaritans said Mt. Gerizim in Samaria was the place to worship, even altering that portion of the Old Testament Scriptures they accepted to reflect their beliefs. The Jews, on the other hand, said, as did the Old Testament Scriptures, that people should worship at the temple in Jerusalem – that’s where they were to bring their gifts and offer up their sacrifices.

Jesus’ answer, however, is rather astonishing to both Jew and Samaritan, and to us today: “Woman, believe me, the hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know. We know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour comes, and is now, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit. And those who worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Though where one worshipped was an issue under the Old Covenant (cf. 1 Kings 12), the real issue under the New Covenant would not be the place of worship but the heart of the worshiper. Simply observing the prescribed feasts and festivals of the Old Covenant in accordance with God’s commands is not what God seeks. He desires worship to be genuine and sincere worship from the heart that is motivated by God’s Spirit and the knowledge and belief of the truth. The Jews had that truth and testimony in the Scriptures, but the Samaritans had altered and rejected it.

But Jesus said true worship would no longer be connected to the temple at Jerusalem which had served to point to the coming of the Messiah and His perfect sacrifice for sin for now the Messiah had come and the temple would soon be destroyed. Nor is true worship today dependent upon following certain forms or traditions. True worship is dependent upon knowing and trusting in Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God made man, and the Savior of the world.

The truth is that only those who know and trust in Christ Jesus can worship the Father. It is as Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me” (cf. 1 John 2:23).

Apart from Jesus, we cannot know or worship the Father (cf. John 15:5). Thus, true worshipers gain access to the Father, not by going to a certain place like Mt. Gerizim or Jerusalem, not by following certain worship forms or saying certain words, but through faith in Christ Jesus, the Savior.

In Hebrews 9:11-28, we read: “But Christ, having come as a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctify to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

And it is because of Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross that we can have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he has dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having a high priest over the house of God,” we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22). It is because God “has made us accepted in the Beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6,7), that we can approach God with our prayers and praises and be acceptable in His sight.

Jesus, God’s own dear Son in the flesh, shed His blood on the cross and paid in full for our sins to make us acceptable in God’s eyes. Through faith in Him, we gain access to the Father and, for His sake, our worship is acceptable to God. And, it is also because of what He has done for us that we are moved to sincerely and truly worship and glorify the Father for His grace and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus.

So, it’s not where we worship, the music we sing, or even the words we speak. God desires that we worship Him in spirit and in truth. And that only happens when we repent of our sinful ways and look in faith to Jesus and His cross for pardon, forgiveness and acceptance in God’s sight. True and genuine worship only flows from the hearts of those who know and trust in Christ Jesus, their Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus, our Messiah and Savior, grant us Your Holy Spirit and faith in You and Your shed blood that we might partake of Your salvation, be assured of forgiveness for all our sins, and live in fellowship with You and the Father. Let our worship and praise of the Father be acceptable for the sake of Your innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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15 And when one of those who sat at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God.” 16 Then he said to him, “A certain man made a great supper, invited many, 17 And sent his servant at supper-time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground and I must go and see it. I pray you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen and I go to prove them. I pray you to have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore, I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Lord, it is done as you have commanded, and yet there is room.’ 23 And the lord said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in so that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you, that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’” Luke 14:15-24

You have been invited to the greatest banquet of all! Even though you are a sinner and deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law in your stead and then to suffer and die on the cross and bear the full punishment for your transgressions and sins. God calls you through the preaching of the Gospel and invites you to receive His pardon and forgiveness and to be a part of His everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus and His cross.

The Bible tells us that “this is how God loved the world: he gave his only-begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16; cf. 1 John 4:9-10). It tells us that “Jesus Christ … loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5); that “in [Him] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7); and that “Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

And, the risen Lord Jesus even now is preparing a place for all who believe in Him, in His Father’s house. Jesus tells us in John 14:1-3: “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many places to reside. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to myself, so that where I am, you may be there also.”

Through the preaching of this good news, God calls you to come to Him and receive the everlasting blessings of His kingdom. Even now, as you read these words, God’s Spirit calls you to “come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17); and to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you and your house shall be saved” (Acts 16:31).

When one of those who sat at the table with Jesus said, “Blessed is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God,” Jesus told this Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:16-24) to admonish His hearers for neglecting and rejecting the salvation God was providing for them in His Son.

The Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures, which promised eternal salvation through the coming Messiah and Savior; but when Jesus, God’s Son, came into this world to accomplish the salvation God had promised of old – when the Gospel invitation went out: “Come, for all things are now ready” – the Jews excused themselves for various reasons.

They were too busy with the things of this world to come to Christ Jesus and receive from Him forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. One bought a piece of land and wanted to go and see it; another had bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out; and another had just gotten married and could not come (cf. Luke 14:18-20).

What about you? This same Gospel invitation has gone out to you: “Come, for all things are now ready.” Do you have time to come to Jesus and learn of Him and the eternal blessings He has won for you? Do you come to hear His life-giving Word and learn of God’s offer and promise of forgiveness for all your sins and of the everlasting joys of heaven? Or, are you too busy with the cares and concerns of this life?

What is your excuse? Are you too busy checking on land or property? Do you have to try out that car or truck or tractor? Do you have to try out that new tool or toy? Are you too busy with work or school or business to come to Jesus? Have you married a wife and become too busy with family concerns to take time for church services and the hearing of God’s Word? What is your excuse?

The excuses in Jesus’ parable angered the man who made the great supper (v. 21). He said, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” (v. 24).

Will God accept your excuse? Is not this a warning to us not to become so busy with other things in life – the things of this world – that we neglect that “one thing … needful” (Luke 10:42)?

Jesus admonishes us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). And Jesus warns: “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

What did the master of the house in Jesus’ parable then do that his house might be filled with guests? He sent his servants out into the streets and lanes of the city to bring in the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And, when there was yet room, he sent them out into the highways and hedges (where the poor often camped) to compel those there to come in (Cf. Luke 14:21-24.)

It is by the grace of God that we have heard the Gospel of Christ and come to trust in Him for forgiveness and life (Eph. 2:4-9); “and yet there is room” (v. 22)! Our Heavenly Father sends His servants out into the streets and lanes, and to the highways and hedges, to compel them to come in — to call upon all, whether rich or poor, healthy or handicapped or sick, to come to Christ Jesus in faith and partake of the blessings of His kingdom.

Jesus commands His disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). They are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). They are to say: “Come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). And, Jesus tells us: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

Dear LORD God, our Savior, grant that we do not neglect and excuse ourselves from partaking of the salvation so graciously provided for us through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Jesus Christ. Fill us also with Your love for lost sinners that we may obey Your command and send men into all the world with Your saving Gospel and compel them to come in! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your heart, as at Meribah, and as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me, they proved me and saw my work. Forty long years I was grieved with this generation and said, ‘It is a people who err in their heart, and they have not known my ways,’ to whom I swore in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” Psalm 95:7b-11 (Read Psalm 95)

Will you enter God’s eternal rest, or are you hardening your heart against Him? God’s Word comes to you. You have it in your Bible, and it is still preached by faithful ministers; but will you hear it and believe it?

The Children of Israel heard God’s words through Moses and even directly from God Himself on Mt. Sinai. They saw God’s mighty works in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness. But did they believe? Did they trust in the LORD God to lead and guide them, provide for them in their journeys, and bring them safely into the Promised Land? The answer is, No!

Again and again, they grumbled and complained. Again and again, they disobeyed the commandments of the LORD. And, when it was time to go up and take possession of the land the LORD was giving them, they doubted God’s Word to them and wanted to return to Egypt (cf. Num. 13-14). Therefore, because of their unbelief, they did not enter into the promised rest (cf. Ex. 17:1-7; 32:1-6; Num. 11:4ff.; 25:1ff.; 1 Cor. 10:1-12; Heb. 3:7ff.).

Now, the Word of the LORD comes to you. It calls you to repent of your sinful ways and rebellion against the LORD God and receive forgiveness and life through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son.

Will you hear God’s Word? Will you acknowledge your utter sinfulness and rebelliousness before the LORD? (Cf. Psalm 32:1ff.) Will you come to God and trust in Him to receive you and forgive you for all your sins because Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God in human flesh, fulfilled the righteous demands of God’s law for you and then bore your punishment on the cross and rose again?

If you refuse to repent and turn to the Lord Jesus for mercy, you go astray in your heart. You do not know the way of the LORD, and you will not enter into His eternal rest! But if you humble yourself before the LORD, hear His Word, and believe, you will receive His mercy and be blessed with the eternal joys of heaven for Jesus’ sake!

LORD God, have mercy on us and grant that we do not harden our hearts against You and the truth of Your Word. By Your Holy Spirit, grant us true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus who was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off with Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried, and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus, in like manner, evil things. But now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who would pass from here to you cannot, neither can they pass to us who would come from there.’ 27 Then he said, ‘I pray you, therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 For I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham says to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31

Jesus’ illustration of the rich man and Lazarus may be much more than a parable, for it is told by Jesus as if it is a true and factual account. But, whether an actual historical event or a parable, we can still learn much from Jesus’ words.

The rich man is not identified by name, but the poor beggar’s name was Lazarus (from Greek, but probably Eleazer in Hebrew), which means “God is help.” Even though Lazarus was poor and full of sores, he was a true believer in God, as his name indicates, because he was taken to heaven when he died.

Even though the rich man was greatly blessed by God in material things, he did not hear and heed God’s Word (Moses and the Prophets) and repent of his selfish and sinful ways and look in faith to the Messiah. This can be seen by the fact that there were no fruits of faith in his life in regard to poor Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, and also by the fact that his soul went to hell when he died. And we see that his brothers, too, were self-deceived and didn’t heed the warnings of God’s Word and repent.

In addition to teaching that one’s soul goes either to heaven or to hell when he dies, Jesus warns against living one’s life solely for the selfish enjoyment of the things of this world. One’s first concern should be to heed the Word of God and repent, turning away from sin and the selfish use of this world’s goods to faith in Christ, who died to redeem us from sin and death and then rose again.

As a fruit of true repentance, we will then, in love for Christ and neighbor, put to death our selfish and sinful desires and use the goods of this world to help those in need. We will not close our hearts to the poor and needy but will do all we can to help them.

One more important truth should also be learned. If one does not heed the Word of God during his lifetime, there is no other hope for repentance; for the Holy Spirit works through the Law to convince us of our sin and the punishment we deserve, and through the Gospel to reveal our Savior and to give and assure to us forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

If one, during his lifetime, refuses to turn from his sins to Christ Jesus, his Savior, there will be no more opportunity for repentance. His torment in hell will be forever!

But when one, by the grace of God, heeds the Word and repents, trusting in Christ for forgiveness and life, he is forgiven by God and will love his brother; and his soul, at the time of death, will be transported by angels to the bosom of Abraham.

O Jesus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smitten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also written! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all condemnation. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 611, Verse 5)

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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