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“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24

We may not like to think of ourselves as slaves and servants, but the fact is that we do serve a master in this world. We live for, work for, and devote ourselves to something whether we realize it or not. For many, it is the things of this world that we serve, whether that be our job, money, house, property, pleasure, power, honor, or other such things.

Jesus points out that we are unable to serve two masters, because we will either hate one and love the other or be loyal to one and despise the other. And, how true this is! If we devote ourselves to one master, we will neglect another. If we live to be successful in business and become wealthy, we will likely neglect our families and fail to spend time with our spouses and children.

The point of Jesus’ illustration, though, deals with our relationship to the LORD God. It is impossible to serve both God and mammon. Mammon is a word that encompasses the money, property and things of this world. Jesus’ point is simply this: we are unable to live for God and serve Him and at the same time be living for the money and things of this world. Either we will love one and hate the other, or live for one and neglect the other.

Oh, people try to serve both but it just doesn’t work. One who truly lives for the LORD God will trust in Him to provide the needed goods of this world and will use the goods of this world to serve Him. The one who is living for earthly mammon will neglect the service of God and will even attempt to use God to gain earthly goods and protect the things he has! But, as Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The question which each of us needs to honestly answer is this: “Who is our master?” Are we living for this world’s goods and attempting to use God to gain and keep them? Or, are we living for and serving the LORD God and using the goods He gives us to live for Him in accord with His Word?

Jesus’ words give us all cause to reconsider our ways and turn to Him for forgiveness and life. All of us have failed to put the LORD God first — to live our lives for Him and serve Him. All of us are easily distracted and lured into living for the things of this world. In Jesus and the blood He shed for us on the cross we are offered forgiveness for all our sins and a new life through faith in Him!

Dear Lord Jesus, holy Son of God and the atoning sacrifice for our sins, forgive us for serving earthly mammon and neglecting to learn of You and live for You. Change our hearts that we might love You, trusting in Your shed blood for the forgiveness of all our sins and relying upon Your merciful goodness to care for us and provide for all our needs. Move us to live for You and use the earthly goods You have entrusted to our care in accord with Your will and for Your glory and honor. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“When He is revealed, we shall be like Him” 1 John 3:2

Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He humbled Himself, suffered and died for the sins of all and rose again on the third day, having won forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for all mankind.

He now – through the preaching of His Word – calls sinners to repent of their sinful ways and trust in Him and His shed blood for full and free forgiveness and for the everlasting joys of heaven.

When by the grace and mercy of God, we are brought to see our sinfulness and to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and life in Him, we become children of God – saved by His grace alone. We have an inheritance in heaven and look forward to the day when Jesus our Savior returns to take us to live with Him in holiness and righteousness, forever with our God and Savior.

We can’t even begin to understand what it will be like when we are raised up in – or changed into – His image. The Bible tells us: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Now we are faultless before our heavenly Father because of Christ’s righteous life and atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, but we look forward to that day when we are free of all sin and can indeed serve our God in righteousness and purity forever. While we await that day, we strive – led and aided by God’s Holy Spirit – to be more and more like our Savior. As the Bible says, “Everyone who has this hope in Him (Jesus Christ) purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

But the day will come, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” and we shall be changed into the image of our Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 15:52). “We shall be like Him.”

As believers in our Lord Jesus, we can join with David in his psalm and say: “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

What a day that will be!

Dear Lord Jesus, we thank You for redeeming us with Your holy and precious blood and for graciously bringing us to repent of our sins and trust in You for forgiveness and life. By Your Spirit, keep us in the faith and move us to seek to be more and more like You until that day when You return and we are changed into Your likeness and dwell with You forevermore. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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Again and again, I hear preachers telling mourning loved ones that this person or that is, without a doubt, in heaven because of how much he loved Jesus, how many people’s lives she touched, how strong a faith he had, or how much good she accomplished in her lifetime.

I can’t help but wonder, “Was it enough?” After all, God’s Word commands us to love the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; to love others as much as we love ourselves; to be holy and perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It says our best works, in and of themselves, are like filthy and unclean rags in God’s eyes.

So, I just want to make a few things clear before I die. I might even suggest these words be read on that occasion so there is no doubt:

  • I won’t be in heaven because of how much I loved Jesus; I will be in heaven because of how much Jesus loved me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of any good things I’ve done; I will be in heaven because of all the good and perfect things Jesus did for me!
  • I won’t be in heaven because of all I’ve sacrificed for Jesus; I will be in heaven because of all Jesus sacrificed for me when He gave His life on the cross and paid the just penalty for my sin.
  • I won’t be in heaven because I died a good death for Jesus; I will be in heaven because Jesus died a good death for me, conquered sin and death and rose again to be my ever-living Savior!
  • I won’t even be in heaven because of my strong and enduring faith; I will be in heaven because Jesus gave me His Spirit at my baptism, and the Holy Spirit endured me and patiently and again and again throughout my life revealed to me my utter sinfulness but promised me forgiveness and acceptance through faith in Christ Jesus!

So, you see, I won’t be in heaven because of me – I’ve failed and come short; but I will be in heaven because of Jesus and what He has done for me – He did it all!

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 3:23-24).

To quote from the hymn (emphasis mine), “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,” written by Ludwig von Zinzendorf and translated by John Wesley, nearly 300 years ago, “When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, e’en then, this shall be all my plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.”

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Since many people I meet show little interest in heaven and express little desire to go there, I thought I’d provide a few instructions on how to go to hell instead. Following are just a few surefire courses of action to be damned and arrive in eternal hellfire and brimstone:

  • Ignore the whole issue of heaven and hell and put off all thoughts of God and eternity for another day.
  • Avoid, as much as possible, reading the Bible or attending churches where the Bible is read and taught. After all, the Bible is so narrow in its views regarding life, God’s judgment, and the age to come.
  • Hope that God grades on a curve and will not condemn you if you have lived as well as the next guy.
  • Believe that you can escape the fires of hell and obtain eternal life in heaven by doing good deeds.
  • Live for now and indulge in all your desires because life is short.
  • Give no heed to preachers who call upon all to repent and look to Christ Jesus for mercy and forgiveness.
  • Treat the blood of Jesus shed for the sins of all as a worthless thing by continuing on in your sinful ways.
  • Ignore Jesus and His pleas for you to repent and trust in Him for pardon, forgiveness and life everlasting in heaven.

Yes, I could go on listing ways to be sure of hell; but wouldn’t you rather be sure of heaven?

It’s simple: Acknowledge and repent of your sinfulness and shortcomings and place your faith and hope in Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for all sins.

In Jesus, heaven is sure! Why? Because Jesus kept all of God’s commandments perfectly in your stead and then suffered and died on the cross for your sins (and the sins of all), rose again, and ascended into the glories of heaven to prepare a place for all who repent of their sinful ways and believe God’s offer and promise of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus! All who look to Jesus in faith will be spared the fires of hell and receive, instead, the eternal glories of heaven!

God’s Word says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31 NKJV).

Some Bible proof passages: Romans 3:9-26; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 3:14-18, 36; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; John 14:1-6; Acts 1:9-11; 2:37-40; 3:19; 4:12; Ephesians 1 and 2; 1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2.

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1 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. Matthew 9:1-8

In private confession and absolution, and each Sunday in corporate worship, sinners confess their sins to the Lord God and look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith for the forgiveness of sins; and, the pastor announces unto them the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgives the sins of penitent sinners. “But who can forgive sins but God alone?” some may ask.

This is what the scribes asked within themselves when Jesus forgave the sins of a man, sick of the palsy. They thought Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because He, seeing the faith of this paralyzed man and his friends, said to the man, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

Of course, anyone can say the words, but if they lack the authority to forgive sins, those words are but a deception, a lie, a sham. But Jesus proved His authority to forgive sins. He said, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

And, what happened? The paralyzed man “arose and departed to his house.” Jesus’ proved His authority to forgive sins, and He proved that His words to this man were indeed true. This man’s sins were forgiven! He could depart in peace.

And what about the words of your pastor when he hears your confession and points you to Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world and tells you to “go in peace; your sins are forgiven you”?

He may not be able to heal the sick or raise the dead, but Jesus did and it is Jesus who commands him to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Christ’s name (Luke 24:47). It is Jesus who commands His disciples and His pastors to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent (John 20:22-23). It is Jesus who said, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).

And notice that pastors do not forgive — or baptize, or administer the Lord’s Supper, or preach — in their own name and by their own authority. Rather, it is “in the stead and by the command” of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus healed the paralyzed man, proving His authority to forgive sins. Jesus even rose from the dead, proving the sufficiency of His sacrifice on the cross to satisfy God’s just wrath against all sins (cf. Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Cor. 15:1ff.; John 1:29). Certainly, He who paid for our sins with His blood and then rose again from the dead on the third day has the authority to forgive the sins of all who look to Him in faith.

So, when you confess your sins to God — whether in corporate worship or in private confession — and the pastor, based on your confession and your profession of faith in Christ Jesus, announces unto you the grace of God and proclaims to you that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, you can depart in peace, in good cheer, for indeed your sins are forgiven by the Lord Jesus Himself — He has the authority to forgive sins! (Cf. Luther’s Small Catechism on Confession.)

O gracious and merciful God, forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may believe and rejoice in the pardon and forgiveness won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ and promised and assured to us in Your absolution spoken by the pastor. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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