Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lenten Vespers In the Week of Laetare (Lent 4)

Matthew 27:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Prophet contrasts the faithfulness and obedience of the LORD’s Servant with the rebellion and unbelief of Israel. Though the LORD figuratively sold Israel into exile in Babylon as punishment for their transgressions and iniquities, they should not consider this to be like a certificate of divorce. The LORD has not divorced and abandoned His people, but He has chastened them because He loves them and, in time, He will redeem them. Though there sins be as scarlet, the LORD will wash them and make them as white as snow. With the LORD, there is always hope.
The LORD’s Servant is obedient where Israel was disobedient, faithful where Israel failed to listen and believe. Jesus became as one taught and disciplined so that He might comfort and sustain you who are under the Law. Jesus’ ears were opened to the LORD’s Word and will, and He was strengthened by it to persevere through temptation and suffering. When the same came upon Israel, the people grumbled and fell away into apostasy, but the LORD’s Servant gave His back to those who struck Him, His cheeks to those who would pull out His beard. He was not rebellious. He turned not from disgrace and spitting.
The LORD’s Servant could remain steadfast in the face of temptation and suffering, mocking, spitting, striking, and piercing knowing that the LORD God was His help, His strength, and His vindication. “Who will contend with me?” He asks. “Who is my adversary?” “The LORD God helps me; who will declare me guilty?” The LORD’s Servant expresses the same sentiment as does St. Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? […] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Israel considered it easier, even wise, to blend in with the pagan nations and their cultures than to stand out like a backward, ignorant, and superstitious sore thumb, and so they capitulated and they shrugged off their holiness and hid their light under a basket so that they might blend in with the darkness and find an easier way. We face the same temptation and challenge today. It’s easier to say that we all worship the same god, just in different ways, than to stand firm on God’s Word, “I am the LORD your God, and there is no other,” “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” It’s easier to redefine and broaden the definition of marriage and family than to stand firm upon God’s Word, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It’s easier to speak of the rights of individuals and to determine for ourselves when human life begins and ends instead of standing firm upon God’s Word, “Thou shalt not murder.” And, it’s easier to accommodate and acquiesce to our culture that thinks that co-habitation is wise and good, that homosexuality should be celebrated, and that promiscuity is a right, instead of standing firm upon God’s Word, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Because of his fear, rebellion, and unbelief, Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He gave into the temptation of his flesh and the devil, of his fallen wisdom and the pressures of his culture. Yet, once he committed the betrayal and succumbed to the devil, was he rewarded? No, but the devil began to accuse him and drive him into despair. Satan, your flesh, and the world do not truly want you to prosper, but they want to destroy you. When Judas attempted to return the money, the chief priests would not accept it, but they accused Judas of betraying his friend, his master, and his God for money. Oh, Satan, your flesh, and the world make the betrayal of your Lord and His Word seem so attractive, so wise, and so very good, but once you have succumbed, they stab you in the back and leave you hopeless and despairing.
For Judas, and for you, the LORD’s Servant endured mockery, spitting, disgrace, scourging, crucifixion, and death. Though they meant it for evil, Jesus trusted that the LORD meant it for good, to bring it about that many might be saved and live. When the tempters tempted, Jesus gave them no answer. He would not entertain their poisonous words, temptation, and provocations, but He set His face like flint and would not be put to shame, knowing that His vindication would come in the LORD’s way and time. Jesus endured this for you that He might sustain you in your temptation, trial, and tribulation with a Word – with His Word. When temptation, trial, and tribulation befall you at the hands of Satan, the world, and your own sinful flesh, you must pray, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire my hurt!”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Laetare - The Fourth Sunday In Lent (Lent 4)

John 6:1-15; Galatians 4:21-31; Exodus 16:2-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There is a saying, “The devil will find work for idle hands to do”. That’s because the devil is always busy; he never rests, and he wants you to be always busy and never resting too. In contrast to the devil is your God and heavenly Father who wills for you to have a regular and consistent times of rest. He Himself worked for six days in creation and then He rested on the seventh day and sanctified that day to be a day of rest for all generations. Rest is a necessary and important part of our lives. We need our eight hours of sleep each night to keep our bodies healthy and our minds sharp. Most of us get much less than that. But, even during our waking and working hours we need to take a break and sit down, or lie down, and rest a bit.
Your God and Creator knows this about you, and so He designed your bodies to take rest, even if you try to resist it and continue working. But, what about rest for your soul, rest for your spirit? Yes, you need spiritual rest as well, but that doesn’t happen automatically. You have to make that time, you have to take that time, you have to set that time apart and keep it sacred and holy. Perhaps this is because your spirit doesn’t count hours, days, months, and years, for the life of your spirit has no end. Thus, it is in conflict with your flesh, which is dying, which is all too aware of the passing of time. But still, your spirit needs rest, and that rest is not found in sleep or in taking a break, but it is found in the Lord, in His Word and in His presence, in His Sacraments, and in prayer, meditation, and contemplation upon these.
Ultimately, rest is about faith and trust in God, that God will provide, that you will have enough of whatever it is that you need, that you will persevere, no matter what may happen, that eternal life with God cannot be taken from you, even if your physical life perishes. Satan wants to keep you so busy living this life, which is really death and leads only to death, that you lose sight of the promise of true and lasting life with your heavenly Father.
It was this lesson about rest that the Lord wanted the children of Israel to learn in the Exodus, to put their fear, love, and trust in God to provide and protect and to keep His promise of deliverance from their enemies and the hope of a promised land of milk and honey in which to dwell. But, not long after the Lord delivered them from harsh slavery under the hand of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the Israelites began to grumble that they had no food and they longed to be slaves again in Egypt where at least there was meat and bread. In response to their grumbling, the Lord literally caused bread to rain down from heaven upon His people. Each morning a flake-like substance appeared on the ground as the dew dried. The Israelites did not know what it was and so they called it manna, which means, “What is it?” They were commanded to gather as much as each of them could eat for the day. And, when the amount gathered was measured against an omer, both those who gathered less and those who gathered more found that they had the amount that they needed. No one had lack or need, but all had as much as they could eat for the day. The Lord provided them their daily bread just as Jesus taught His disciples and you to pray for – literally, bread for the day. Still, the people did not trust in the Lord. They tried to leave some of the manna till morning, but it bred worms and stank. And, later, the children of Israel began to grumble again saying, “there is no food and water, and we loathe this worthless food.”
All this fretting and worrying about food for the body – Your Lord would have you find rest from these. He says to you, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus, the New Moses, had lead a large crowd of people into the wilderness after performing wondrous signs in the towns and cities in the region of Galilee. It was near the end of the day and the Passover was about to begin when the people could do no work. To test His disciples, Jesus asked the question they all were thinking, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” The disciples answered according to the ways of the flesh, exclaiming the hopelessness and despair of unbelief – “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said to them, “Have the people sit down.” In the midst of their despair and hopelessness, when their minds and hearts were overwhelmed with impossible concerns about feeding the flesh, Jesus tells the people to rest. The Lord will provide what is needed; as it was in the beginning, so it is now, and ever shall be.
“So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.” St. John further tells us that there was much grass in the place, a subtle reminder that, as God provides for all living things, like cattle and livestock, the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, so too, and how much more, does He provide for men created in His image. Jesus took the meager offerings of bread and fish, gave thanks to God for His providence, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. He did not wave His hands. He did not speak a magical incantation. He did nothing to draw attention to Himself or to glorify Himself, but, in the distribution of the bread and fish, miraculously, by God’s providence, all ate their fill and were satisfied. Then Jesus instructed His disciples to gather the leftovers into baskets. When all the fragments were gathered, twelve baskets were filled to their brims.
When you take rest in the Lord, in His Word, and in His gifts, you will find that you have all that you need and more. You receive plenteous forgiveness, plenteous mercy, plenteous grace, and plenteous love. You have food for your bellies, clothing for your body, and a roof over your head. As David sang, “My cup overflows”. And, as Jesus taught, “Give, and it will be given to you, a good measure, shaken together, pressed down, filled to overflowing will be put into your lap. For, with the measure you give will it be measured back to you.” For, taking rest in the Lord and in His gifts means trusting in Him to know your needs and to provide for them because He is your God and Creator and He is good. Taking rest in the Lord means living freely and not in bondage and slavery to the desires and passions of your flesh and the values and virtues of this world. Do not sell yourself into slavery once again as the children of Israel were ready to do in order to fill their bellies with Egyptian meat and bread. Satan is always tempting you to feed your flesh and to live not by the Word of God just as He tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread as He tempted Him in the wilderness. Jesus resisted that temptation and defeated the devil, and He obeyed His Father’s will and trusted in His Word for you. Thus He did for the five thousand what He would not do for Himself, He took man’s meager offering of bread and fish and He miraculously fed them till they were satisfied, trusting that the Lord knew their need and that He would provide.
Of course you know that there are starving people in the world, even in this rich and abundantly blessed country. You know that there are people who do not have adequate clothing and shelter. This is not because God has not provided, but this is because of man’s sin, greed, and lack of compassion and mercy. There is enough food in the world, perhaps in our nation alone, to feed the entire world’s population and have multitudinously more than twelve basketfuls leftover. But men would rather let food spoil or destroy it rather than give it away. And the same goes for clothing and shelter. Greed and selfishness, mercilessness and lack of compassion are the fruits of unbelief that you bear when you do not take rest in the Lord and confess Him as the good giver of all things needful. Your heavenly Father would have you take rest in Him and receive His gifts. And, from the abundance of your blessing He would have you bless others that they may take rest in Him and receive His gifts also. This is the true worship of your God and Lord, for the highest worship of God is to receive His gifts.
In the beginning, the Lord created the world and all things in it in six days. On the seventh day He rested and He sanctified the seventh day to be a Sabbath, a day of rest. Our First Parents were tempted by the devil to forsake that rest and to strive and desire food for their bellies in defiance and unbelief of God’s Word. The result of their rebellion and disobedience was that the providing of bread for their bellies would become difficult and grueling work and that the end result of our striving for food would be death. Thus, in His mercy and compassion, God set Himself to work again, to recreate the world that man, His creation, cast into ruin. He sent His Word, His Son, to be conceived and born as a man, under the Law, to be obedient to the Law and to suffer and die for the sins of men. Jesus fulfilled all that God’s Law required. He did it in perfect faith, love, and trust, without grumbling, out of love for God and out of love for you. He suffered and died on Good Friday. He rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. And he rose again on the Eighth Day, having fulfilled the Law, having destroyed the power of death and the grave, and having fulfilled the Sabbath rest of God’s command. Now, there is no need to observe the Sabbath on any particular day, for it has been fulfilled, but Jesus has become for you God’s Sabbath rest. Through faith in Jesus, you have rest from your labors. Through faith in Jesus, you have the forgiveness of sins. Through faith in Jesus, though Holy Baptism, you have died and have been raised in Jesus, a new creation. Through faith in Jesus, you live, now, and forevermore. His mercies are new every morning. To receive them in faith is to worship Him in the highest way possible. Let us be glad to come to the House of the Lord. Let us be glad to remember His Sabbath Day of rest and keep it holy.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lenten Vespers - Week of Oculi (Lent 3)

Matthew 26:57-75; Isaiah 49:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
To be a Christian is to die. That’s about as plain and simple as I can make it. You, O Christian, must die: You must die to your sin-corrupted passions and desires. You must die to your sin-corrupted reason and wisdom. You must die to your sin-corrupted estimation of what is glorious and good and to your sin-corrupted expectations of how God must act, appear, and save you. Pretty much, everything that you were born with – which God created and gave you as a good and perfect gift – has been corrupted by your sin, both actual and inherited. Yeah, I know that’s a pretty gloomy picture. It’s all Law, not a shred of Gospel to be found in it. Do you accept this truth? Do you agree with this sentence against you? I pray that you do. For, you must. But, do not despair. There is still hope – not hope in yourself, in your reason and wisdom, in your ability to please God or to save yourself. No! – But, there is hope, real and perfect hope, in the LORD’s Suffering Servant Jesus Christ, whom your sin-corrupted passion and desires, reason and wisdom, estimation of what is glorious and good, and of how God must act, appear and save, sadly refuses and rejects, but whom God the Holy Spirit has created faith in your hearts to trust and believe in, and whom has raised you from death to life in Holy Baptism that you may live for Him now, and with Him in eternity.
The Prophet Isaiah presents us with a dialogue between the LORD, God the Father, and His Servant Son concerning the hidden and unexpected ways, by human standards, in which He will act. The Servant says, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” Truly, nothing could be more contrary to man’s conception of glory and power than an infant child. The incarnation and virgin birth of the LORD’s Servant Son Jesus is simply scandalous to human reason, wisdom, and expectations. What kind of god comes in the form of helplessness, weakness, and pitiable humility? Yet, the Servant continues, “He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.” The power of the LORD’s Servant will be in His Word, not in weapons of iron, physical might, or brutish strength. Moreover, He will be hidden away until just the right time, when time was full.
Interestingly, perhaps in a demonstration of the full humanity of the LORD’s Servant Jesus, the Servant seems to express dismay Himself saying, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” You will recall how Jesus pleaded with His Father in Gethsemane that there might be some other way. The Servant of the LORD was fully human, and had to be for our sake and salvation. You must not discount or minimize the suffering, temptation, and weakness Jesus struggled with, even as you do, in trusting in His Father’s will and Word and obeying His commands. The Preacher to the Hebrews says of the LORD’s Servant, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” This should be comforting to you when you feel and are tempted to believe that your labor and striving is in vain, that, despite all your best efforts, what you hoped to achieve seems to have failed. Certainly, you are not alone in this, but all the children of God from Adam to the present day have at times felt this sense of futility. Yet, the LORD’s Servant Jesus did not fall into despair and unbelief, but His faith was strengthened by remembrance of the LORD and His promises in His Word, “Yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”
The LORD did not take away the cup He ordained for His Servant to drink. Jesus still went to His cross through scourging, mockery, and intense suffering. And yet, the LORD accomplished through His Servant even greater works than He had originally promised saying, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
Jesus, the LORD’s Servant, was one deeply despised and abhorred by the nations. The Jewish religious leadership, the scribes, Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin, all thought Him to be a blasphemer, claiming to be God. Though Jesus taught only from the Word of the LORD and performed miracles that both fulfilled the prophecies of old and confirmed who He claimed to be, they were deaf and blind by their sin-corrupted reason and wisdom so that they could not understand and believe: Hearing, they did not hear, and seeing, they did not see. Even Peter and Jesus’ disciples only heard and saw in part, and thus they were confused and were afraid and they doubted. When He was arrested, tried, condemned, scourged, and crucified, the disciples were dismayed and began to seriously doubt if Jesus was the promised Messiah. Could the LORD’s Christ be such a pitiable failure? What kind of god gets himself arrested and executed? Perhaps they, as Isaiah prophesied concerning the LORD’s Servant, considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God Himself. Though Jesus warned him beforehand, Peter, the chief of the disciples, denied Him three times saying, “I do not know the man.”
The LORD’s ways are not our ways. The foolishness of the LORD is wiser than man’s wisdom. Let us humble ourselves and die daily to our sin-corrupted desires and passions, reason and wisdom, our estimations of what is glorious and good, and our expectations of how God must act, appear, and save. And, let us be informed, guided, and directed by the Word of the LORD which is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path. Let us with Spirit-filled ears, eyes, and hearts see in the Stone whom the Builders rejected, the LORD’s Cornerstone, our Redeemer, and God.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oculi - The Third Sunday In Lent (Lent 3)

Luke 11:14-28; Ephesians 5:1-9; Exodus 8:16-24

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Peter says that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He roars because he has been defeated in Jesus’ death upon the cross. There, the devil wounded Jesus’ heal, but Jesus crushed the devil’s head. Satan has been defeated, but as a wounded animal is more dangerous than a healthy one, so Satan’s wrath burns furiously hot against you, God’s children. Satan hates you and wants to destroy you simply because God loved you so much that He sent His only-begotten Son to die for you to set you free from sin, death, and Satan’s claim upon your life.
The war is real. Don’t kid yourself that it is not. Jesus says that “Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.” There is no fence-straddling when it comes to God and Satan. You cannot keep one foot in heaven and one foot on the earth. To do so is to stand with both feet in hell. The First Commandment is that you shall have no other Gods. Simply put, God will not share you with another god, with Satan. You are either His through faith in Jesus, His Word made flesh, or you belong to the devil. In the Revelation, the glorified Christ says that He would have you be either hot or cold; that is to say, be honest with yourself and confess Him as Lord, or deny Him in unbelief. But, Jesus continues saying that, “because you are lukewarm, I spit you out of My mouth.” Who do you say that Jesus is? That is the question. And, corresponding to your answer to that question, how then will you live your life? You see, you cannot claim to belong to Christ and continue in your sinful ways unabated. Don’t hear me wrong, you will at times stumble, succumb to temptation, and sin, but you must repent and strive to amend your sinful ways. That means, you cannot willfully and intentionally continue in your sinful ways, but you must repent, be absolved, and pray and strive to sin no more. You must change. You must be changed. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “[I do not] condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
When you were baptized, Satan was exorcised from the house of your body and soul by the Finger of God, which is the Holy Spirit, through the Word of the LORD and the washing of water. You were set free from captivity to sin, death, and the devil, passing through the waters of death, born into new life, even as the children of Israel were baptized in the killing and cleansing waters of the Red Sea and emerged safe and new on the other side, as Satanic Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in that killing, cleansing, and purifying flood. However, “When an unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’. And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” That is to say, your body and soul cannot remain a neutral ground. There is no neutral ground in spiritual warfare. “Whoever is not with Me is against me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters.”
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to get us to believe that he doesn’t exist. Truly, Christians today have drunk the societal / cultural Kool-Aid of materialism, evolutionary theory, and post-modern relativism. Along with the culture, Christians embrace as the highest values equality, freedom, and tolerance – higher than truth, goodness, and morality. Christians get divorced at nearly the same rate as unbelievers. Christians raise up their children and educate them, above all else, to get a good job and make a lot of money so that they can live in comfort and security and possess nice things, rather than to fear God, obey His commandments, marry, have children, and train them up in the fear of the LORD. In truth, God’s good gifts of marriage and family are all but despised. Marriage is put off until after careers are established, as late as is possible, if at all, and children are an inconvenience, even a curse. It seems that church attendance, for many, is for when you feel that you need it, and its value is judged by what you feel that you get out of it rather than what the LORD has promised you that He is doing for you through His Word and Sacraments. Christians seemingly live alternate lives on social media – at least I pray that they are alternate lives! They share near pornographic images, make lewd comments, change their profile pictures to rainbow flags, promote abortion, often claiming to do so in the Name of Christ. And, while they seldom take time to read God’s Word, to attend a Bible Study, or to pray, they regularly listen to and read the works of false teachers like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, the Dalai Lama, and a host of others. Popular novels and movies filled with godless values and the celebration of sinful behaviors are greedily consumed, while there is no interest or patience for an hour and a half to receive the true and Living Word of God and His Sacraments on a Sunday morning.
Truly, the greatest temptation Christians face today is to live as if the devil isn’t real, to live as if our sins do not matter, to tell ourselves that we are good enough, to base our confidence for our salvation upon how we feel, to buy into the lie that this material world in which we live evolved by chance, that all things continue on as the ever have, that God is an antiquated idea that served a useful purpose long ago, but has now gone the way of the dinosaur, and to continue to hold on to such belief is ignorant, foolish, and superstitious at best, and bigoted, racist, and hateful at worst. Therefore a Christian must examine himself in the mirror of God’s Law and Commandments. Do I live in gross idolatry, placing my fear, love, and trust in created things above and before the LORD my God? Do I curse, swear, lie, and deceive by the Name of the LORD, taking it in vain? Have I despised prayer, God’s Word, and His Ministry? Have I despised my parents and those God has placed in authority over me, despising government and the order the LORD has established? Have I hated my enemy, been cruel towards my neighbor and my brother, have I been vindictive, jealous, and unforgiving? Have I been lustful in my heart and with my mind and with my eyes? Have I harbored unchaste and impure thoughts, spoken vulgarities and profanities, and indulged in gluttony and drunkenness? Have I deceitfully attempted to defraud another or to steal from another by wasting time for which I am paid, borrowing without paying back, or taking what does not belong to me? Have I lied about and slandered others, defaming them and harming their name and reputation by gossip and backbiting? And, have I used underhanded and deceitful means to obtain what my neighbor has, or to prevent him from keeping what belongs to him?
The Christian faith and life is a renunciation of the world, the flesh, and its passions and desires – “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).” Thus, the ancient rite of Holy Baptism always contained an exorcism, “Be gone thou unclean spirit and make way for the Holy Spirit,” and a three-fold renunciation of the devil, his works, and his ways. Baptismal candidates literally turned their backs to the west, symbolic of the devil, and faced the east, the symbolic direction of Christ’s return on the Last Day. But, more than that, Holy Baptism marked not merely a spiritual renunciation of Satan and sin and evil, but it marked a change of life. “For at one time you were…,” says St. Paul, “but now you are…,” he concludes. For the early Christians, such a renunciation of their former life often meant rejection by their families, ostracization from their society, and persecution by the upholders of pagan religion and the governmental cult of Caesar. Christians could expect to lose everything of worldly value, even their freedom, welfare, and lives. However, today, what is the price that you pay for your faith in Christ? What comforts and pleasures do you renounce and leave behind? What do others see when they look at your actions, hear when you speak, and conclude that you believe by how you live your life? Jesus says “they will know that you are My disciples when you have love one another.” So, do they know?
When you were baptized, the Holy Spirit drove Satan from your body and soul and set you free from slavery to sin and death. You were a tomb and a prison, but now you are the temple of God. The Holy Spirit must abide in you, or you will become host once again to the devil and his demons. There is no neutral, middle ground – “He who is not with Me is against Me, and the one who does not gather with Me scatters.” Again, St. Peter describes Satan as a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” He will not give you up willingly, but relentlessly pursues you and tempts you and deceives you that he might overcome you and destroy you. Therefore you must be on guard, be vigilant and sober, watching at all times. Take care, then, how you live, the pleasures you partake of, the sinful desires that creep up within your heart and mind, that infiltrate your eyes and ears, and that slither out from your lips and from your hands.
You cannot do this on your own. But, take heart, for you are not alone – you are never alone. The Holy Spirit was poured upon you and filled you in your Holy Baptism, and He will remain with you and protect you and guide you so long as you do not continually resist Him and open yourself to the devil and his demons. When you stumble and fall and sin, humble yourself and repent, and receive God’s gracious forgiveness anew. Cover yourself in the holy armor of Christ He provides you and take up the defensive sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Do not despise His Word and preaching, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Call upon His Name in times of trouble, in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. Return to your baptismal grace, purity, and righteousness through daily repentance, being absolved anew by the LORD’s gracious Word. And, receive Jesus’ body and blood into your own body in Holy Communion that your faith may be strengthened and protected, that you may be equipped for good works to the glory of His Holy Name, and that you may persevere and withstand the fiery assaults of the Evil One.
Let not your minds and hearts and members ponder and do works of sexual immorality and impurity. Let not covetousness be named among you. Purge yourself of filthiness, foolish talk and crude joking, and guard your eyes and your ears from the same. Be on guard against false teaching by hearing and reading and meditating upon the Word of the LORD. “Do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true).

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.