Because of our sinful nature we tend to take the path of least resistance at times, you know, the easier way. If weâ€™re not careful that way of thinking can slip into our faith life and thatâ€™s a problem because itâ€™s not taking up our cross! Jesus cautions us; whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Itâ€™s no easy task to take up our cross day after day and follow our Lord. Itâ€™s possibly the most difficult thing we do. It can wear on us, but do we still make that effort every day? Do we still have that zeal for our Lord? Is Jesus still our hearts desire?
Jesus came to give what no one couldâ€™ve ever dreamed up – salvation by grace through faith alone. As a result, weâ€™re justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Youâ€™d think people would be overjoyed at that Message, to be relieved of the unbearable weight of Godâ€™s Law but most react just the opposite. Even though Jesus teaches throughout Scripture that the Law only condemns, that it has no power to save, that by the law is the knowledge sin. Many still think they deserve heaven! Godâ€™s Law acts, in part, like a mirror. When we look into the Law it reflects back the fact that weâ€™ve failed, that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God! For that reason, everyone is destitute, penniless of any righteousness within ourselves!
We have nothing that we can use to bargain with God. But there is Good News, in perfect love for mankind, our Savior died so that we could be forgiven and saved by His grace alone. In Jesus we have unconditional forgiveness of every wrong, no questions asked, no strings attached! as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us! He assures us that He doesnâ€™t even remember them anymore. Through Him the spiritually poor, (you, me, and all people) are given riches beyond measure and understanding! The free riches of Godâ€™s forgiving grace in Jesus. Make no mistake, weâ€™re all completely dependent on Jesusâ€™ righteousness alone!
Thatâ€™s why He came! to heal the brokenhearted â€“ everyone who realizes our sin and its terrible consequences. Jesus has healed our hearts, washed away our sins; given us peace with our heavenly Father, and a new life of saving faith! Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives. To set free all who were held prisoner by the power of sin and satan. Picture a dungeon, one of our own making, where we and all mankind were imprisoned awaiting eternal death! Our jailor was evil incarnate whose hatred for us goes beyond anything we can imagine!
Now, picture yourself chained in that dark, wet, dungeon; starving, dying, with no hope and no possible way to escape! That was our fate – until Jesus opened the prison door and set us free. To those blinded by the darkness of unbelief He gives recovery of sight. The Holy Spirit replaces the absolute darkness of death with the Light of Life â€“ the power of God to salvation! No longer are we trapped in the depths of despair. Jesus set at liberty those who are oppressed, those who were slaves of their own mind and its corrupt desires! The souls of all throughout time who were chained in darkness Jesus has set free. He shattered those chains, forever destroying our adversaryâ€™s power over us. Thatâ€™s the greatest act of love in all eternity, willingly taking all mankindâ€™s sins upon Himself and dying the death we deserved to pay the full price for our redemption. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. Jesus came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. The time when God extends His saving grace to mankind. That time is right now and for as long as the Lord permits the world to continue! Jesus then spoke a most glorious revelation of mankindâ€™s redemption; today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. This Message of perfect love and forgiveness, deliverance and life, is for all mankind! Itâ€™s the greatest Message of peace and love the world will ever know!
The OT faithful had waited thousands of years to hear those Words. It had been passed down from generation to generation, and now, before their very eyes, stood the fulfilment! Jesus the Messiah had come! But most had fallen into the deep and deadly sleep of spiritual indifference! Many no longer cared, they couldnâ€™t even see why they needed to be forgiven, they thought they were good with God. Itâ€™s the same today! The saving Gospel, Jesus crucified for the sins of the world, often falls on indifferent ears.
By Godâ€™s grace we celebrate what the world despises and laughs at, our Lordâ€™s Message of full and free salvation! Jesus has set us free from the prison of eternal death by forgiving us! He still freely gives that life and salvation to everyone who asks! He promises; ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Thatâ€™s our Saviorâ€™s boundless love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. That perfect love forever stands revealed on Calvary!
But sadly, many are still blinded by unbelief, they ridicule and curse the Message of Life and Its Author! Their minds have been deceived by the world and its prince, theyâ€™ve turned their ears away from the truth! Theyâ€™ve grown indifferent and quite simply â€“ just donâ€™t care.
But, what about us? Have we grown spiritual indifferent?
Do we still trust in Jesus alone for life and salvation?
Do we still look to Jesus alone for strength and courage?
Do we still build our faith on the eternal foundation of His saving Word alone?
Do we still find joy in serving our Lord with our gifts?
Do we still have a burning zeal to share His saving Gospel with the world around us?
If not, weâ€™re dead! Weâ€™ve fallen back into the death He saved us from! By Godâ€™s grace the Christian faith still burns brightly in this congregation. But we must always be on our guard! May the Spirit enable us to always see (through eyes of faith) what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God?