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19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28

Who was John the Baptist? He confessed that he was not the Christ, he was not Elijah, nor was he the Prophet promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19.

Who was John the Baptist? He himself said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (Cf. Isa. 40:3).

John was the messenger of God sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6; Luke 1:76-79; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13). He prepared people for the coming of the Lord Jesus by calling upon all to repent of their sins and turn to the LORD God for forgiveness and life through faith in the Messiah, who was about to appear and be offered up a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. Luke 3:1ff.; John 1:29).

Who are we as Christ’s Church in this world? What are we and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be in this world?
We are not the Christ and do not point to ourselves as the way of life, but we are a “voice … crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.”

Through the witness of Christ’s church and its called ministers, we continue to call upon all to repent of their sinful and rebellious ways and to look in faith to Christ Jesus, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We point people to Jesus and His cross. He is the only hope and savior of this lost and dying world!

Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Soon He will appear in the clouds with all His holy angels, and every eye will see Him (cf. Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:29ff.)!

Until then, we continue to be God’s voice, His witness, calling on all people to repent and believe on the LORD Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 3:19-21). In Jesus’ shed blood, there is forgiveness and life everlasting for all who repent and look to Him in faith for salvation (cf. John 3:14-18)!

Dear LORD Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit and embolden us to be Your voice in this world, calling on all to repent and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” John 7:1

Would Jesus be welcome in your church? I ask this question because Jesus was so hated by the religious leaders of the Jews in Judea that He chose not to walk there. They sought to kill Him. Instead, He walked in Galilee, to the north, and taught the truth of God’s Word there.

Why was Jesus hated in Judea, the center of Israel’s worship? He tells us the answer in His earlier dialog with Nicodemus. After saying the well-known words of John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life — Jesus said “that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19-20). Jesus was hated in Judea to the point of wanting Him dead because His teaching of the truth revealed the sinfulness and hypocrisy of the religious system of the Jews during His day (cf. John 5:16,18).

Instead of calling on all to repent of their sinful ways and offer sacrifices in faith that God would provide a perfect sacrifice for sin and grant them pardon and forgiveness, the religious leaders had twisted the Scriptures into a religion of righteousness by outward works and rituals. They had turned temple worship into a profitable business through the sale of animals for sacrifice and the exchange of money for temple taxes. The religious leaders sought honor and prestige as the religious elite and the leaders of God’s people instead of being God’s humble servants and teaching the truth.

What did Jesus do? He cleansed the temple and warned of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He challenged their religious system of works and pointed out the emptiness of their outward show of piety (cf. John 2:13ff.; Matt. 5:20).

Jesus’ teaching echoed the prophecy of Isaiah to His people in Isaiah 1:10-18: “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

What about today? Would Jesus be welcome in our churches? What would happen when He reveals the utter sinfulness of church members (even the most righteous) and calls upon them to repent and look to Him in faith for mercy? How would he be received when He rebukes and condemns all that the Bible calls sin, including the many perversions and lifestyles championed as acceptable in our day? What would church leaders say when He points out the emptiness of their rituals and the hollowness of their worship services? Our churches claim to love Him and follow His Word, but do we consider that His Word condemns us all and offers only one way of salvation: repentance and faith in the shed blood of Jesus?

Could it be that the real Jesus of the Bible is hated and silenced in our churches, too, causing Him to walk elsewhere and take the true teaching of His Word to others who will hear it?

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He sought to gather the people to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they “would not!” (Matt. 23:37). Does Jesus weep over our churches because, when He reveals our utter sinfulness and call us to look to Him and His cross in faith for pardon and forgiveness, we “would not”?

Certainly, a “Christian” church without the Christ of the Bible is neither Christian nor church. How important it is that we not keep the Jesus of the Bible out of our churches and our lives but welcome Him in and hear His Word, repenting of our sinful ways and looking to Him and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for pardon and forgiveness, and then seeking His help to follow Him and walk in His ways!

Dear Lord Jesus, come into our hearts and our churches, reveal our sins and shortcomings, but then comfort us with Your mercy and forgiveness, purchased with Your shed blood, that we may trust in You and then walk in Your ways. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

This is an amazing thing: the Eternal Word — the only-begotten Son of God, who was in the beginning with God, who is true God with the Father and the Spirit, the Creator of all things, the Life and Light of men — became flesh — true man — and dwelt among us!

As the LORD God dwelt among His people, His glory resting upon the tabernacle of old, so God Himself dwelt among us in the Person of Christ Jesus.

The Apostle John and the other apostles of Jesus could testify to the fact they saw and viewed with their own eyes the glory of Christ Jesus, the very glory of the only-begotten Son of the Father! In the ministry of Jesus, and through His mighty works — as well as upon the Mount of Transfiguration — they witnessed the glory which was Christ’s as the eternal Son of God (cf. John 2:11; 2 Pet. 1:16-18).

And Jesus Christ, God the Son in human flesh, was “full of grace and of truth.” In Jesus, we see and know the grace of God toward sinners. And in Jesus alone is truth, the true way of life and salvation!

For Christ’s sake — for the sake of His holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead, in human flesh — God is gracious and merciful and forgiving toward us sinners (cf. Eph. 1:6-7; 2 Co. 5:19). He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”; no man can come to God the Father but by Him (John 14:6).

Through faith in Christ Jesus, we sinners partake of God’s grace and forgiveness and have the promise of everlasting life in heaven!

Do you believe that Jesus, the Child born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, is the eternal Son of God and Savior of the world? Have you considered His glory? Cf. Isaiah 9:6-7. Do you trust that in Him — for the sake of His blood shed on the cross for the sins of the world — God graciously forgives you all your sins, accepts you as His own dear child and grants you life everlasting in His eternal kingdom? Cf. Colossians 1:12-23.

Indeed, Jesus is “full of grace and of truth”!

O eternal Son of God, we give You thanks for taking on human flesh and becoming true man that You might fulfill all righteousness for us, suffer and die for the sins of all the world and rise again in victory. Graciously grant that we partake of You and Your blessings through faith in Your name. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And by this we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: by this we know that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” 1 John 2:3-6

Many claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ — to “walk in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7) — but not all who make such claims really know and trust in Jesus. Some are hypocrites, and some deceive themselves into thinking they are Christians when, in fact, they are impenitent and do not really look in faith to Jesus and His blood, shed on the cross, for cleansing and everlasting life.

God’s Word teaches us that we can see whether we truly know and trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior from sin by our attitude toward Jesus’ Word and commandments.

John writes in 1 John 2:3-5: “And by this we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: by this we know that we are in him.”

The one who knows and trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins and life everlasting will, as a fruit of genuine Spirit-wrought repentance and faith in Christ, gladly and willingly obey His commandments. This desire to obey God’s Word is evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and of the new nature created in believers, a nature that loves God and desires to serve Him.

Of course, as John wrote in the first chapter (1 John 1:5-10), believers are not without sin in this world and cannot claim to be sinless and holy of themselves, for they still have their old sinful nature inherited from Adam, which balks at and resists living in accord with the Word of God.

Nevertheless, believers can see evidence of their regeneration in their new-found love for God and their fellow believers and in their desire to keep the words and commandments of Jesus. Those who come to know the great love of God in sending His Son to suffer and die for our sins and the sins of the world are moved to love Him in return for providing salvation for us lost sinners. Cf. 1 John 4:9-10; James 2:14ff.

If we continue to trust in Jesus as our Savior — if we acknowledge our sinfulness and look to Jesus’ shed blood for pardon and life everlasting (1 John 1:8 — 2:2) — we will, as a fruit of that faith, seek to conform our lives to His. We will seek to live and conduct ourselves as Jesus did in this world — in obedience to God the Father, with the utmost respect for God’s Word, and with genuine love toward lost sinners.

Our catechism teaches this same truth in regard to examining one’s self before partaking of the Lord’s Supper: “How should he who would eat this bread and drink this cup examine himself? He should examine: 1. whether he truly repent of his sins; 2. whether he believe in Jesus Christ; 3. whether he have the good and earnest purpose with the aid of God the Holy Ghost henceforth to mend his sinful life” (A Short Exposition of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, CPH, 1912, Q. 348).

St. John writes in 1 John 2:6: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Cf. Rom. 8:29; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:15.

So, walking “in the light, as he is in the light” is not to pretend to be without sin or to try and merit God’s grace and favor by our own life and works. Rather, it is to acknowledge and confess our sins (agreeing with God about our sinfulness and the judgment we justly deserve) and to look in faith to Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all that we might receive God’s pardon and forgiveness and be counted righteous and holy in His sight. And, where there is genuine repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, there will follow the sincere purpose and desire to conform all our thoughts, desires, words, and actions to His Word and His commandments.

God, grant to us such repentance and true faith in Christ Jesus — that we “walk in the light, as he is in the light”!

Jesus, our Savior, You have redeemed me and all mankind from sin by Your atoning sacrifice on the cross, and You have graciously brought me to know Your great love and mercy toward me through the preaching of the Gospel. Grant that I grow ever deeper in the knowledge of You and of Your love for me and all believers, and so move me to love You in return and gladly obey Your commandments. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Webster Version, an update of Webster’s 1833 revision of the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:1-5

Who was already there in the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1)? Who was with God the Father in the beginning? and with God the Spirit as He moved upon the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2)?

Who created all things that were made? Who formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, giving man life, both physical and spiritual — making Adam a living creature who loved God, trusted in Him and served Him whole-heartedly (Gen. 2:7)?

It is the Word — God’s Son, Jesus Christ! In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God the Son was already there! He was with God; He was and always is God!

Christ Jesus, before taking on human flesh, created man and all things! Without Him, nothing was created that has been created!

It is as the author of the book of Hebrews wrote: “God, who at many times and in many ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1-3).

And St. Paul wrote to the Colossians of the Son: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are upon earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:15-17).

Man’s life originated in God the Son, and this life was man’s light. But now this Light of life shines in our sin-darkened world, and man does not understand or take hold of Him in faith. How tragic!

How blinded we are by our sin not to recognize our own God and Creator come into this world a true man to redeem us and give us back the life in Him we lost by our sin and disobedience!

God would have us repent of our sinful ways and look in faith to God the Son, who created us and gave us life, and who redeemed us by giving His life in our stead to make atonement for our sins.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, open our eyes that we may see You for who You are and see the life You have won for all by Your holy life and Your innocent sufferings and death for us on the cross; and breathe into us Your Spirit that we may be made alive, enlightened, and take hold of You by faith. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the Revised Webster Version, a revision of Webster’s 1833 update of the King James Version. All hymns and tunes are in the Public Domain.]

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