But I will punish you
according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord. Jeremiah 21:14
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6,12
This has been written, lest it shall be forgotten, what is so easy to forget, namely that our doings, our works and actions, but also what we have left undone, is measured and weighed by the Lord God, our Judge and evaluator. We have to live up to his standards and meet his expectations. That’s our responsibility.
Through the ages mankind has realized, that this is too much for us. Even in our best lives, our doings are just not up to scratch. We fail. We leave good undone. We don’t make the grade. That’s rather hard to swallow for those, who really try and even seem to succeed in their surroundings and compared with others. That’s what Jesus stories of the Pharisee and tax collector praying in the temple is all about. Its not so easy to grasp, that we’re not just to be better than the tax collector, but should measure up to God’s standards of holiness, righteousness and sanctity. We’ve got not alternative, but to cry out in desperation: “Lord – have mercy on us – on me!” Luther’s testament “We are beggars. That’s true!” is not merely a bonmont, but the truth and hits the nail on the head. We have nothing to show for all the goodness and mercy the Lord has showered upon us all of our lives. To us so much has been given and thus all the more will be demanded and required. There’s no way of slipping through on this one. God is a righteous God, who judges each one fairly and does not show favouritism. God, almighty, omniscient and vigilant upholds his divine law and we’re to answer for it.
Thankfully that’s just one side of the coin. Our Lord and God has had mercy on us and granted us an outcome through his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. He is the one, who took on our being to fulfil God’s requirements of holiness and godly living in our troubled world and amongst us imperfect beings and our mix-up circumstances. He did so perfectly. He obeyed God’s will to the last letter and minutest detail until he finally breathed his last on the cross on Golgotha. He even bore our burdens of sins and iniquities and those of the whole world. He bore it all so that we would have peace. He paid our debt and came up with the ransom to set us free. He fulfilled the law vicariously – in our stead – for and instead of us – so that we would be counted righteous because of him. His perfection is awarded to us – because of his grace and favour. We are released. Forgiven and at peace +
That’s why we’re no longer caught up in the struggle to stand up for ourselves, but are free to forgive even those, who sin against us. Not just in our families, but in general. We are free from retaliation, free from the need to fight for our own retribution and justification. We are free to bless those, who curse us and free to pray for those, who persecute us. Free to bear the burdens of others – without demanding rewards, but rather because heaven and earth already are ours, we’re heirs of heaven, sons and daughters of the heavenly Father, eternal bliss and salvation in the presence of God and all his angels and saints. We’re not short changed, we’re not discriminated one bit – we’re forgiven, we’re reborn and new creations – we’ve got life and salvation for free although we deserved to be punished, written off and damned forever. Our God has not only made us and blessed us immensely and richly, but he has also forgiven and saved us. Nothing can separate us from his love, grace and favour. We’re free from the obligation to justify ourselves. We’re free from the obligation to prove ourselves before others and we’re free to confess that we’re alive solely because of the goodness and kindness of our God. He’s our all and everything. To him be all glory now and forever. Amen.
“Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
1. Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice,
With exultation springing,
And, with united heart and voice
And holy rapture singing,
Proclaim the wonders God hath done,
How His right arm the victory won;
Right dearly it hath cost Him.
2. Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay,
Death brooded darkly o’er me,
Sin was my torment night and day,
In sin my mother bore me;
Yea, deep and deeper still I fell,
Life had become a living hell,
So firmly sin possessed me.
3. My own good works availed me naught,
No merit they attaining;
Free will against God’s judgment fought,
Dead to all good remaining.
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left naught but death to be my share;
The pangs of hell I suffered.
4. But God beheld my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And, mindful of His mercies great,
He planned my soul’s salvation.
A father’s heart He turned to me,
Sought my redemption fervently:
He gave His dearest Treasure.
5. He spoke to His beloved Son:
‘Tis time to have compassion.
Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,
And bring to man salvation;
From sin and sorrow set him free,
Slay bitter death for him that he
May live with Thee forever.
6. This Son obeyed His Father’s will,
Was born of virgin mother,
And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,
He came to be my Brother.
No garb of pomp or power He wore,
A servant’s form, like mine, He bore,
To lead the devil captive.
7.To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,
I am thy Rock and Castle;
Thy Ransom I Myself will be,
For thee I strive and wrestle;
For I am with thee, I am thine,
And evermore thou shalt be Mine;
The Foe shall not divide us.
8. The Foe shall shed My precious blood,
Me of My life bereaving.
All this I suffer for thy good;
Be steadfast and believing.
Life shall from death the victory win,
My innocence shall bear thy sin;
So art thou blest forever.
9. Now to My Father I depart,
The Holy Spirit sending
And, heavenly wisdom to impart,
My help to thee extending.
He shall in trouble comfort thee,
Teach thee to know and follow Me,
And in all truth shall guide thee.
10. What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never;
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy;
This counsel I bequeath thee.
Hymn 387 The Lutheran Hymnal Text: Rom. 3: 28
Author: Martin Luther, 1523 Translated by: Richard Massie, 1854, alt.
Titled: “Nun freut euch, liebe Christen g’mein”