Sermons, Uncategorized

Cleansed by the Thrice Holy God and Sent to Serve

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“Isaiah under Divine Inspiration” by Marc Chagall

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:1-6).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

It sounds like a scene that could only come from a feverish dream or the computer-generated imagery (CGI) of the latest Marvel superhero motion picture. The King sits on a throne, high and lifted up, the train of His robe filling the temple. Above Him are strange, supernatural creatures, each having six wings, two covering his face, two his feet, and with two flying. As they cry out, the foundations shake down to the bedrock, and the whole house is filled with smoke.

But it’s not a feverish dream, or CGI special effects, it is an historical event. It is the year 740 BC, the year that King Uzziah died. The prophet Isaiah has a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne in the inner sanctum of the temple. But it’s hard to tell if the prophet is seeing the throne room of heaven or the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem.

But there’s a good reason for this confusion: The Holy of Holies is the Lord’s home on earth. When the temple was first completed and dedicated, the Lord appeared in a cloud of glory and descended into the Holy of Holies to dwell with His people. In a very real way, in Isaiah’s time, the Holy of Holies is where heaven and earth come together, for the one true God is enthroned in both places.

The six-winged creatures flying above the throne are seraphim, attendants to the Lord Most High. Little is known about them. This is the only place where these spiritual beings are mentioned by name in Scripture. They seem to be nobles among the angels of God and superior in rank. But what is more important than speculation about their special position among the angels, is the action of these heavenly beings. With their wings, they hide their faces and cover their feet. They are not worthy to be in the presence of the Lord, and their actions reveal their great reverence for Him and their great humility in His presence.

Imagine that! These powerful and holy creatures consider themselves unworthy to stand with uncovered feet and faces in the presence of God—so great is His holiness! Isaiah sees them flying, hovering about the throne and calling out to one another in praise of the Lord. The chief occupation of these heavenly beings is praise. Here, they offer an antiphonal hymn as they call to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” The truest worship of God is pure and simple praise and confession. The sound of this angelic hymn shakes the doorposts and thresholds of the heavenly temple.

The One seated on the throne is the Thrice Holy: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He alone is worthy to be praised. He is set apart, perfect in every respect, and exalted above all things—including the angels of heaven. But God’s holiness also means that He is separate and opposite from all sin. He hates sin and must destroy sin like an antiseptic must attack bacteria. He would cease to be holy if He did not oppose sin and all its consequences.

Realizing he stands in the presence of the Thrice Holy, Isaiah is terror stricken. “Woe is me!” he cries out, “For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” As he looks upon the Lord in His holiness and glory, Isaiah’s own sin become clearer. The brighter the light, the more apparent are blemishes, stains, and scars; the nearer to God’s glory, the more evident is man’s wretchedness and sinfulness. The contrast is unmistakable, and Isaiah knows there is nothing he can do to make it any different. He is a dead man, a damned man.

But the Thrice Holy Lord can do something. He sends a seraph, who takes a burning coal from the altar. The seraph touches the coal to Isaiah’s lips and says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” The Lord makes Isaiah holy through the hand and voice of His ministering spirit. Now, Isaiah can be in the presence of God and live. Now, Isaiah can speak God’s holy Word: for the Lord has opened his lips, and Isaiah’s mouth will show forth His praise. All because the holiness of God exposed the sinfulness of Isaiah, leading him to repent, and to receive God’s grace and forgiveness.

One of the problems that the Church encounters today is simply this: people have far too high opinion of themselves. As long as this is true, they will see little need for Jesus and His perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Some of this is natural—at least according to the sinful nature. Blinded by sin, people cannot know how terribly unholy and apart from God they are. Furthermore, tempted by the devil to believe that they can be like God, people will find a way to justify the sins they commit.

You see it in society. Our culture has made a god out of self-esteem: it teaches that the key to success is feeling good about yourself. This is a problem in education, where a prevalent philosophy seems to be that it is better to pass a child who doesn’t know math, because we don’t want him to feel bad about himself.

It is a huge problem in matters of morality, where many seem to buy into the idea that, “I’m basically a good person; so whatever I do must be basically good, too. If you object to something I do, it’s not that I’m wrong or immoral. The problem is that you’re intolerant.”

This presents a great danger in therapy, too: for rather than help a troubled person overcome a sinful behavior, a therapist might instead help the person feel good about the sin.

But enough of the obvious examples in the world. If all we do is point out the troubles of other people, guess what will happen—we’ll end up feeling like we’re better than them and good about ourselves!

The harsh reality is that you have too high opinion of yourself. So do I. It’s that old sinful nature at work, tempting us to believe that we’re not that bad, that we’re actually decent people. Now, by the grace of God, you and I are willing to confess with Scripture that we’re poor miserable sinners; but are we willing to confess how truly sinful we are? Do we realize how sinful we are? We’re not just less than we should be; left to ourselves, we’re utterly sinful and unholy, completely undeserving of God’s grace and mercy. Unfit to come into God’s holy presence for even a moment.

Please don’t misunderstand: the point of this sermon is not that you should run away from God. Rather, it is that you and I are in constant need of repentance for failing to acknowledge how sinful we are, how undeserving of grace and mercy we are. See, if we think we’re reasonably good people, we’ll also believe that we’re only partially sinful. If we think we’re somewhat righteous on our own, we won’t look to the Lord to credit us with all His righteousness.

The truth from God’s Law, sounds brutal to protesting sinful ears. We don’t deserve God’s presence and mercy. We’re far too sinful, and there’s nothing you or I can do about it. But the Thrice Holy Lord can do something about it, and He has.

The Father sent His Holy One, Jesus, to live a perfect, sinless, and holy life for you. God’s sinless Son, became the sacrifice to pay the price for your sins and gain your salvation. Now when God sees you, He sees you clothed in the righteousness of Christ. You are now holy in His sight (Colossians 1:22).

Jesus became the sinner who was forsaken on the cross and cast from the Father’s presence so that you might dwell with Him forever. Before the Thrice Holy made the world, He chose you in Christ Jesus to be His child (Ephesians 1:4). Just as Isaiah was cleansed when the coal from the altar touched his lips, so the Father has cleansed you in the waters of your Baptism, uniting you to Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-14). In Christ, He made you new creations who love Him, trust in Him, and have His power to live holy lives. You are now His saints, His “holy ones.”

As you strive to live as the saints God created you to be, you are not alone. The Thrice Holy—God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is with you always. The Holy Spirit given to you in Baptism works to conform you to the image of Christ. Through daily contrition and repentance, you put to death the old Adam that your new man would arise to live in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness forever. At the altar, the place where heaven and earth meet, Christ feeds you His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

The Lord no longer holds your sins against you. Instead, He forgives you. He makes you righteous. He welcomes you into His presence, now and forevermore. Then, He sends you out into the world to share this Good News with your family, friends, and neighbors.

There is no greater hope or comfort than this—but only for repentant sinners. Those who think too highly of themselves will find little comfort in the news of forgiveness now; and they will find no comfort in themselves on Judgment Day. But this is not for you: by the grace of God, you confess your sinfulness. You know it doesn’t damage you to tell the truth about your sin, but instead frees you from the slavery that would have you try to make yourself righteous. And as you grow in faith, you’re not surprised that you feel more sinful—for as you grow in faith, your recognition of sin will grow, too; but so will the joy and comfort of the forgiveness that the Lord gives you.

Dear friends, the Lord has better for you than you feeling good about yourself for a while. Confess your sins and your sinfulness beyond what you can comprehend; and rejoice to hear the words of the Thrice Holy Lord:

“Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

You are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Sermons

When the Helper Comes…

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“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me. And you will also bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Oh, to be there on that day! The Day of Pentecost. A large multitude gathered from every nation under heaven. Rushing wind, tongues of fire, speaking in other languages. So much excitement that some could only imagine they must be drunk. Peter preaching boldly on the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.

As we gather here on this Day of Pentecost, we don’t have that, do we? The assembly can hardly be called a crowd, let alone a multitude. And we’re not exactly the poster child for diversity. Only one person born outside the borders of the United States. One who speaks fluent (Portuguese) Spanish, a few who can converse in German, and one or two who know a couple of colorful expressions in Norwegian. The only air that’s moving comes from the ceiling fans. The only fire from the candles on the altar. The preacher is not nearly as impressive as St. Peter. And no one is calling the sheriff that we’re disturbing the peace.

But we do have the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit at work. Oh, certainly we are missing the wind, the tongues of fire, and the miraculous ability to preach in other languages; but we do have Baptism, the Word, and the Lord’s Supper. And it is in those means of grace that the Holy Spirit does His work.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s go back to what our Lord says as He tells His disciples what the Holy Spirit will do: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father,He will bear witness about Me. And you will also bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). The first thing that Holy Spirit does is “bear witness” about Jesus.

Note a couple of things before we move on. First, we hear the glad news that the whole Trinity is working to save you, because the Son sends the Spirit from the Father to bear witness.

Second, the Holy Spirit bears witness—not “demonstrates,” for instance. We therefore conclude that the Holy Spirit regularly works by the Word, not by signs and wonders. He can work such things if He desires, but the absence of extraordinary sights does not mean He is absent.

Third, we note that, when the Holy Spirit bears witness, He bears witness about Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit, in concert with the Father and the Son, is to bear witness about the Savior—not about Himself. Therefore, when the apostles bore witness, they spent little time on the Holy Spirit. By the work of the Holy Spirit, they testified of Christ. This is important for us to understand. The Holy Spirit desires to put the spotlight on Jesus. If we unduly focus upon the Spirit instead of the Son, we are not doing what the Holy Spirit would have us do.

The second action of the Holy Spirit is that He comes to Jesus’ disciples. He comes because Jesus goes away. Jesus says: “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. Now I am going to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:4b-7).

Jesus tells His disciples that He is going away, and this news pains them. Why? Because He is going to the Father by way of the cross. He is fulfilling the plan of salvation. He is preparing the way to the Father in heaven for all who believe in Jesus. Jesus speaks these words at the Last Supper. His betrayal, suffering, death are all very near. And it is because of His cross that He will send the Holy Spirit to them.

This tells us something significant. The work of the Holy Spirit is linked with the death of Jesus for the sins of the world. If Jesus did not go to the cross, the Holy Spirit would not come and work. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Spirit would have no means to work saving faith. This reinforces what we learn elsewhere in Scripture, and in the rest of our Gospel lesson. The work of the Holy Spirit, first and foremost, is to deliver the forgiveness of sins won by Christ.

And this leads us to the third action of the Holy Spirit: He convicts. “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).

The Holy Spirit convicts, and that conviction has two meanings linked together. On the one hand, to convict is to convince by producing evidence. A prosecutor seeks to convince a jury and convict a criminal by displaying evidence. On the other hand, to convict is to pronounce a verdict. The criminal isn’t officially convicted until the jury declares him guilty. The Holy Spirit does both. He convicts by producing evidence of the truth, and He convicts by declaring a verdict.

So, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, because on account of sin the world does not believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit produces evidence in order to convince people that they are guilty of sin before God. Exhibit A here is the Law of God in His holy Word, because the Law shows us our sin and our need for a Savior. And only the Holy Spirit can convict us that we are indeed poor miserable sinners, who justly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness—because Jesus goes to His Father. He convinces us that the righteous, sinless Son of God went to His Father by way of the cross. Having triumphed over sin, death, and the devil, Jesus has returned to the Father in glory.

The Holy Spirit convinces us that that righteous Savior has suffered for our sins, and now gives us forgiveness and clothes us in His righteousness so that we might be acceptable to God. The Holy Spirit’s evidence for this is the Gospel. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit that the Gospel is proclaimed, forgiveness is given, and faith is strengthened.

Hmmm… So far, the work of the Holy Spirit is therefore to preach the Law and the Gospel, which sounds suspiciously like the doctrine and practice of this congregation. And what is the third convicting work of the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. In other words, by Law and Gospel, the Holy Spirit convicts by handing down the verdict. The ruler of this world, the devil, is already defeated at the cross and sentenced to death—eternal death. All those who refuse the forgiveness won by Christ face the same verdict—“guilty”—and the same sentence of everlasting condemnation. However, it is quite the opposite for those who hear His message of sin and righteousness and, by the Spirit’s work, believe in Jesus. To them, the Holy Spirit announces the verdict of “Not guilty”—forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ. They will have everlasting life.

And that, in a nutshell, is the work of the Holy Spirit. He is sent from the Father to testify about the Son. He convicts the world of sin by the Law and announces the redemption of Christ in the Gospel. And as He gives the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit also gives faith to believe.

Given the Second Reading and the Gospel lesson for this day, can we conclude that the Holy Spirit is at work here at Our Saviour’s/St. John’s/Trinity? Absolutely! By the grace of God, we proclaim His Law and His Gospel, and by these means the Holy Spirit is at work. By that same Word, He works forgiveness and faith in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—just as He did among those early Christians in the book of Acts.

To those who ask, we gladly concede that the Holy Spirit can do extraordinary things like tongues of fire or languages if He desires; but His foremost work is to glorify Jesus and point to Him. If miraculous signs or speaking in other languages don’t point to Christ and Him crucified, it is safe to say they do not come from the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, we don’t especially miss rushing winds or tongues of flame, for they do not give forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Rather, given the Lord’s Word and Sacraments, we have far better workings of the Spirit—for what could be more extraordinary than receiving everlasting life?

On this Day of Pentecost, rejoice! As those first Christians gathered around Word and Sacrament, so do we; in fact, to ignore the means of grace and pursue the Holy Spirit elsewhere is to snub Him. Is the Holy Spirit here? Most certainly. Does He desire more attention for Himself and less for Jesus? Most certainly not! Our focus upon Christ and Him crucified is certainly, and only, the work of the Holy Spirit. And that is why Pentecost is so important, for apart from the Holy Spirit you would not be a Christian.

We live in a time when many deny such a thing as absolute truth, and the veil of sin is too much to keep them from refuting the absurdity of their position. Others still affirm that there is a right and wrong. However, it is only by the Spirit’s work that you confess your sinfulness and need for the forgiveness won by Christ at the cross.

It is only by the Holy Spirit that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, for it is He who has called you by the Gospel.

It is only by the Holy Spirit that you remain a child of God, because He has gathered you into the Church and keeps you in the one true faith—the faith of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for you.

It only by the work of the Holy Spirit that you can be sure that you are not forsaken, that Christ has redeemed you and will deliver you.

It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that you have the confidence of eternal life; for though you grow weary, He continues to call, gather, enlighten, sanctify, and keep you in the faith, so that you may be raised from the dead to life everlasting.

It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that you have the comfort of knowing that He has made you one in Christ with those who have gone before you in faith.

Apart from the Spirit, you have none of these gifts. But by the Holy Spirit’s work, the kingdom of heaven is yours for the sake of Jesus. You can be sure the Spirit is with you, because you know exactly when and exactly where He works: In the Lord’s Word and Sacraments.

Thanks be to God, who for the sake of His Son sends His Holy Spirit. For on this day, and each day, the Holy Spirit is at work to convict you of your sin and Christ’s righteousness, so that, you might repent and believe: For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Sermons, Uncategorized

Holy Father, Keep Them

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[Jesus said:] Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one” (John 17:11b).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

“The Bucket List,” tells the story of two men who have little in common except the room they share while they await treatment for terminal cancer. As their friendship develops they compile a “bucket list,” or things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.” You can tell a lot about what a person thinks is important by what they choose to say and do in their final days or hours on this earth.

Jesus is no exception. In addition to teaching His disciples about true greatness through serving, telling them one more time that He was going to return to the Father, and instituting the new covenant of His body and blood, Jesus prayed—first for Himself, then His disciples, and then for all believers to come.

In our text, Jesus prayed specifically for His disciples. The disciples were His special charges, and they needed help and strength to face what was coming. Jesus was going to leave the world and go to the Father, but His disciples had to remain in the world. So Jesus prayed for them.

“Holy Father,” Jesus prayed, stressing the reverence that is due God’s name. Then He called for the Father to keep and guard the disciples in His name. God’s name is everything we can know about Him: His person, His power, His character—His entire revelation of Himself through the Word. Here God’s name clearly implies His power that saves His followers from the forces of evil.

Jesus was given the Father’s name to guard and to proclaim in word, and to display in deed, as the incarnate Word of God. Through it all, He revealed and implemented the saving love of His Father. Now as He was completing His work, He was assigning the guarding and proclaiming of the name to His apostles.

“Keep them in Your name,” Jesus prayed, “that they may [continue to] be one as We are one.” All who believe and follow Jesus enjoy a God-given spiritual union in Him, reflecting Jesus’ own eternal oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God in three persons. This oneness helps us as we are sent into the world.

Jesus had used the power of God’s name to protect His disciples. It worked. They were kept safe. Not one was lost, except the one foretold by Scripture. Instead of remaining a child of God by faith in Jesus, Judas Iscariot was headed for damnation. Even as he received the bread of the Last Supper from the Lord’s hand, Satan had entered into him. At that moment, even as Jesus prayed for His disciples, Judas was betraying his Master for thirty pieces of silver.

That one of the Twelve was doomed to destruction by his negative role in God’s will for His Son is hard to understand. But let us remember: Judas was not a puppet on a string manipulated by God to be the villain in the drama of Jesus’ saving mission. He was chosen by Jesus to be an apostle out of the same gracious intention that He had for all the others. Judas was evidently a believer—but in the dreadful moment of having to choose, he chose to implement his own desire and will over that of the Lord. All of this, foreknown by God, made him the “son of perdition,” “doomed to destruction.” The lesson should not be lost on us. By the name of God, Jesus’ disciples are kept for God. But those who reject His name in unbelief are on the road to destruction.

Jesus’ time had come. He was to complete His work of salvation and return to His Father. But now while He was still on earth with the disciples, He prayed that they might have the fullness of Jesus’ joy in themselves. Just hearing the prayer would help sustain the disciples in the troubled hours ahead, and it laid the foundation for the joy to follow. Jesus’ joy was to complete the work the Father gave Him and return to His glory. The disciples received the full measure of that joy in the assurance that Jesus succeeded for them and all people.

The disciples could depend on Jesus’ Word, which was also the Father’s Word. Through that Word, Jesus’ disciples were separated from this unbelieving world and consecrated for God. They were not part of the world any longer, just as Jesus was not part of the world. They needed the Father’s protection. They would face hatred from the world for the same reason the world hated the Lord: God’s Word exposes and judges human sin as it calls people to forgiveness in Christ.

But please notice: Jesus did not pray for God to take the disciples out of the world and keep them safe. They had work to do for God following Jesus’ departure. As the disciples carried out their mission, they would face fierce, hellish opposition, no less than Jesus had encountered. They needed Jesus’ prayer.

We must never underestimate the power of the evil one. On the night when He was betrayed, Jesus made this clear to His disciples. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you [all the disciples] as wheat. When Peter declared that he would remain at Jesus’ side even if all the others left, Jesus added: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). When Peter insisted he was ready to go with Jesus to prison or death, Jesus was more blunt: “I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:34).

Later, St. Peter could draw from his own personal experience of the destructive power of the evil one as he wrote: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Peter knew the sting of Satan’s bite, but he also knew the restoration of the Lord. That’s why he could continue: “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10-11).

Although Peter failed to live up to his prideful boast, by God’s grace his faith did not fail, as Judas’ had. Rather than fall into despair after his shameful denial of Christ, Peter turned back in repentance. The resurrected Lord forgave Peter and restored him to leadership, as we see in our First Lesson for today.

As you prepare to battle Satan each day, keep the following precious promise in your heart and mind: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

To this end, God also gives you His Sacraments. Through Baptism, Jesus protects you from Satan’s destructive powers. When you are baptized into Christ, the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ comes to live within you. He is someone the devil definitely wants to avoid. St. Paul explains, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

God also gives His devil-defeating power to His children in a special way in Holy Communion. Communion is more than a mere ritual of remembrance. Jesus’ body and blood are a living, spiritual medicine, which is able to suppress the devil and control the power of sin. Receiving the Lord’s Supper regularly is especially important at the time of illness and near death. Luther writes: “As long as I am living, it is necessary for me to go to the Sacrament in order to strengthen my faith so that death (in case it comes swiftly) may not scare me and cause me to despair.”

Pastors today need to explain the benefits and blessings of frequent and regular distribution and reception of Holy Communion to their people so that always and particularly, at the hour of death, these children of God may desire Communion, especially to fight the devil’s final attacks.

For every Christian, each day is a struggle against the demonic power of sin. Thank God daily that Jesus has given you another special weapon to fight the power of sin: His gift of prayer. When His disciples asked for advice on how to pray, Jesus said to pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Pray the Lord’s Prayer daily, with the confidence that God will not only hear you, He will surely answer your prayer for protection from sin and every evil.

Using prayer for protection from the power of sin is not a human idea. In our text, Jesus prays that very thing for His disciples: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.” Jesus told His disciples also to use this divine weapon, and now He commands you: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40).

And as you pray, don’t forget to ask for help from God’s holy angels. Angels are “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). The psalmist writes: “[The Lord] will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all of your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”

The devil may try to tempt or even destroy you, but God provides His holy angels to be present at your side at all times to strengthen and deliver you! Even when you sometimes stumble and fall, your heavenly Father sends His angels to protect and bring you new hope and strength.

No wonder, Luther, in his Small Catechism, gave this example of prayer for the head of the family to teach his household to pray each morning: “I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

Your help and only hope to overcome the evil one is in your Savior, Jesus Christ. When you are baptized, Christ lives within you to guide your thinking and to fight the devil every time he tries to tempt, control, or destroy you. Through His Supper, our Lord strengthens your faith that you might resist temptation. Just as He prayed for His disciples, our ascended Lord is at the Father’s right hand interceding on your behalf. His Holy Spirit helps you to pray that you would not be led into temptation, but delivered from the power of the evil one.

And should you fall into temptation, repent and take heart, trusting that this sin has also been paid for. You have been redeemed by the holy, precious blood of Christ, and His innocent suffering and death. Indeed, for His sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.