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“O come, let us sing to the LORD. Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and make a joyful noise to him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth. The strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it. And his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.” Psalm 95:1-7a

In Hosea 8:14, we read that “Israel has forgotten his Maker and builds temples.” They were still a religious people, but they had forgotten who the LORD God was and how to worship and serve Him.

These words are not only true of Old Testament Israel at the time of Hosea the prophet; they are true of us today. As a nation and people, we still build churches but we have forgotten our Maker and we neglect to give Him the glory and praise due unto His name.

We need to remember that “the LORD himself is God. It is he who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

In spite of man’s attempts to escape this fact, the truth still remains that the LORD (Yahweh) God of the Bible (the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) has created us and all things by His almighty word (Gen. 1-2; Neh. 9:6). It is He who formed us in our mothers’ wombs and gave us life (Ps. 139:13-16), and it is He who sustains our lives (cf. Ps. 145:15-16).

And, not only is the LORD God the Creator and Sustainer of all things, He gave His only begotten Son and redeemed us through the innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus that we might have forgiveness for all our sins and again be alive to Him and worship His name (cf. Ps. 130:7-8; Jn. 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10; Rom. 5:8-11).

Isn’t it about time we remember our Creator; look to Him to forgive our sins for the sake of the holy life and bitter sufferings and death of God the Son, Christ Jesus, and then worship and serve Him with our lives?

If we do not humbly kneel before Him now, we shall be humbled and kneel before Him on the Last Day when He executes His judgment upon all people (cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Ps. 2).

O Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Savior, forgive us for our many sins against You, and grant that we might kneel before You and worship You both now and forevermore in heaven! 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. God has spoken to you through the Son. He 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 (cf. Luke 24:46-47).

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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“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’” 1 Cor. 15:35 (read 35-58)

Have you ever wondered what kind of body you will have in the resurrection – what you will be like?

It’s hard even to begin to imagine what we will be like on that day when Jesus Christ returns and raises up those who have died trusting in His name and changes the living who trust in Him for forgiveness and life.

What do the Scriptures say?

Jesus told the Sadducees that in the resurrection there is no marriage: “The children of this world marry and are given in marriage, but those who are accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage, neither can they die anymore, because they are equal to the angels and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36).

After pointing out that we will be made like Christ when He was raised up (1 Cor. 15:35ff., St. Paul wrote: “Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality” (v. 50-53).

St. Paul also wrote to the Philippians: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our vile body so that it may be fashioned like his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

So, what will we be like? The best answer I can give you is that we will be like Christ Jesus, who died our death for us and was raised up in glory never to die again. So also, after we die and our sin-corrupted bodies are laid in the grave, the bodies which are raised up will be changed from this corruptible flesh and blood to a glorified and perfect heavenly body made to live with our God and Savior forever. Our bodies which are raised up will be changed so that we are without sin, without growing old, without disease, without weakness and without death.

St. John wrote in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

It will be as God’s Word describes it in the Book of Revelation (21:3-4): “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, because the former things have passed away.”

Even now, we are being changed by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit into the image of our Savior. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

And though we, as believers, do not long for death, we do long for the redemption of our sin-corrupted bodies so that we might be fully conformed to the image of Christ Jesus, our Savior. St. Paul wrote to the Romans that we, “ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, namely, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23; cf. 2 Cor. 5:1ff.; Rom. 8:18-23, 28ff.).

With David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, we say, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied with your likeness when I awake” (Psalm 17:15).

Dear Lord Jesus, grant us faith to believe that as You have been raised up from the dead in glory, so we will be raised up with glorified and heavenly bodies, like unto You, and live in Your presence and glorify You, the Father and the Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

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

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Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you. As my Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

On the evening of that first Easter Day, Jesus appeared to His disciples where they were gathered together behind closed doors for fear of the Jews and showed them His hands and His side to prove to them that He truly was Jesus and that He really had risen from the dead (John 20:19-20).

Two times Jesus said to them: “Peace be to you.” Since Christ had died on the cross for their sins and was risen again in victory, they had peace with God – the peace of having all sins pardoned and forgiven through faith in the shed blood of Jesus (cf. Eph. 2:11ff.; 1 John 2:1-2).

The Bible says: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

Not only did Jesus bless His disciples with the peace of sins forgiven, He breathed on them, gave them His Holy Spirit and commissioned them to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain (not forgive) the sins of impenitent sinners as long as they do not repent (John 20:21-23).

We speak of this as The Office of the Keys because it opens the gates of heaven to those who are sorry for their sins and look in faith to Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for pardon and forgiveness, and it closes the gates of heaven to those who are not sorry for their sins and do not trust in Christ Jesus and His cross (cf. John 3:14-18).

Indeed, it takes the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit to use and apply these keys to others rightly, but this is what Christ our Savior would have us do as His disciples!

Some would object and say, “How can we, as believers in Christ, forgive and retain sins? Only God can do that!” This power is given to Christ’s Church precisely because of Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of all mankind and His glorious resurrection on the third day. Since Christ has paid for all sin and is risen in victory, we can announce and proclaim God’s pardon and peace to penitent sinners. And since Christ is the only way of salvation, we must also warn those who continue in sin and unbelief of the coming judgment of God and point out that apart from repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, they stand condemned to the eternal torments of hell.

As Jesus says, “He who believes in him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we thank and praise You for Your death on the cross for our sins and Your glorious resurrection and ascension. Grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in You and find peace in the pardon You have won for us, and help us to rightly apply Your Word to others that they too might receive the comfort and peace of knowing their sins are forgiven and that they too might have life everlasting through faith in Your name. Amen.

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

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“Since then the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same, so that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For truly he does not give help to angels, but he gives help to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things it behooved him to be made like his brothers so that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18

It is an amazing thing that the only begotten Son of God would take on human flesh and blood and become true man in order to redeem us from sin, death, and the power of the devil!

Yet this is what was necessary for our salvation. Jesus Christ, who is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity (cf. Heb. 1:1-3), took on human flesh and blood in the Virgin Mary and became true man that He might take our place under God’s law and fulfill it for us and that He might also bear on the cross the curse and condemnation of God’s law upon our sins.

In the Garden of Eden, the devil tempted Eve and then used the curse of God’s law – “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17) – to condemn Adam and Eve and all mankind.

He continued to use the threats of God’s law to enslave mankind because, as the Bible says: “The soul who sins, he shall die”; and “The wages of sin is death” – speaking not only of temporal death but also of spiritual and eternal death and torment in hell (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23). Since the law of God condemns sinners, the devil only needed to get man to break the law to bring him under the wrath and condemnation of God.

Thus, as sinners, we were afraid of God and of His just punishment for sin. We could not love God or gladly and willingly obey His commandments, for we were guilty of sin and deserving of His wrath and the eternal tortures of hell.

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came into the world that He might destroy (καταργηση – annul or make of no effect) the devil and his evil work and that He might set us free from bondage and the fear of death (cf. 1 John 3:8).

In order to accomplish this work, it was necessary that He take on human flesh and blood and become true man – “to be made like his brothers” – that He might take our place under God’s law, fulfill it for us, and then suffer and die for the sins of all mankind (cf. John 1:1,14; Gal. 4:4-5).

And, because Jesus Christ is true God, His holy life and innocent sufferings and death on the cross are a sufficient ransom for the sins of the whole world (cf. Psalm 49:7-9; Rom. 3:23-24; 5:10, 18-19; 1 John 2:1-2; Gal. 3:13). He made “reconciliation for the sins of the people” and then rose again from the dead (cf. Rom. 4:23-25); and now, “the accuser of our brothers is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night”; he is overcome “by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:10,11).

Since the holy Son of God took on flesh and blood and redeemed us with His blood, shed on the cross, the devil can no longer successfully accuse us when we despair of our own faulty works and righteousness under the law and flee in faith to the cross of Jesus for refuge; through faith in the crucified and risen Christ, our sins are covered and washed away in Jesus’ shed blood!

Dear Lord Jesus, eternal Son of God, we thank You for taking on human flesh and blood and becoming true man, like us, that You might redeem us from sin and the devil’s bondage over us and grant us everlasting life with You in Your heavenly kingdom. Amen.

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

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