Comfort
  • Colossians 1:14-23, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    Guilt is feelings of shame and failure. It can drive us to punish ourselves in various ways.  People filled with guilt usually view God as a mean and overbearing judge. We feel His anger over sins and that the only way to appease Him is to try to be good, to do good works. However, we only see His standards as impossible to achieve and we have no chance to please Him. Such thoughts bring on a feeling of hopeless about the situation and a sense of dread of what we will experience when we die. For many people, they resign themselves to living in His disapproval. Such people are without peace! Or, the peace that they have is a false one, one that is regulated by efforts to please God, to atone for sin.

    Fortunately, today’s text tells us of what God did for us in Christ Jesus! We were once alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our sins. But, God, who is rich in grace, sent His only-begotten Son to save us! He saved us from our sins, our guilt, our alienation and hostile feelings in our minds toward God. In Him “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14). “For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (vss. 19 through 22).

  • The Feast of Pentecost, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Feast of Pentecost

    John 14:15-21

    "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19b).

    15. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

    16. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with you forever.

    These are words of our Lord Jesus Christ who was about to depart from His disciples and so He bids them farewell. Frankly, I don't like goodbyes with loved ones and friends, and I think that the disciples felt the same way. But the Lord offered His disciples good news of comfort and peace. He exhorted them not to be frightened and saddened by His departure. It was as if He were saying to them, "I must now go from your sight. Therefore I tell you this as My farewell and Godspeed. But You must not become afraid and fearful; but believe in Me, and take to heart what I am telling you. For I will not leave you without comfort and help, even though you find no comfort and help in the world. Yes, I am going to the Father for this very reason, to assume My power and My reign and then to manifest these in you. And though I depart from you physically, I shall send you another Comforter from the Father. He will always remain with you, for I know that you cannot abide in [this sad and fallen] world without a Comforter."[1]

    "Until now I, through My bodily presence, have been your Comforter. You have taken delight in Me and have felt secure and fearless, and you would like to remain with Me. But now that you hear that you are about to lose this comfort, you are cast down and troubled. Yet My departure shall not harm you. Just remain My disciples and hold to Me, and I will compensate you richly for the loss. For I Myself will ask the Father to grant you the Comforter, who will stay with you forever; and neither the world nor the devil will deprive you of Him, no matter how they rant and rave. He will strengthen you and make you courageous and bold, far better than I can now do by My physical presence. Moreover, He is wiser and more learned than all the world. Therefore you will not lack for comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom."

    That is the comfort!!![2]  These very words of our Lord, words that are full of living power (Hebrews 4:12), words that have and give life (Proverbs 4:22; John 6:63), the very words of our Lord are given to you and to me this very moment in the proclamation of the Word! All that you have just heard concerning the disciples, the Lord will do and is doing for you and for me. The very same Jesus who spoke to His disciples, who at first could only look upon Jesus and his departure through eyes of tears and sorrow, He is the very same Jesus speaking words of comfort to us today!

    We have the Comforter, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor, because that’s what he does and is supposed to do. He is not just some divine force or power, but a very real person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding from them. He is coequal and coeternal with Father and the Son. In our text, Jesus indicates here that the Spirit is a distinct person—the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, yet He is one in essence with the Father and the Son. But for now, let us know and consider that He is a Divine person and that He is our counselor.

    The word counselor shows us how we should think of the Holy Spirit. As Luther so rightly put it, "A counselor is not a lawgiver or someone like Moses, who frightens us with the devil, death, and hell. No, a counselor fills a troubled heart with joy toward God. A counselor encourages us to be happy that our sins have been forgiven, death has been conquered, heaven has been opened, and God is smiling upon us. Whoever understands what it means for the Spirit to be our Counselor will have already won the battle. That person will find nothing but pure comfort and joy in heaven and on earth, because the Father is the one who sends him to help us, and because Christ is the one who asks him to do so. This sending flows from a fatherly heart-felt love. So Christians should remind themselves of this name for the Holy Spirit. He is a counselor, and we are the troubled and timid ones whom he helps."[3]

    In the verses leading up to our text, Jesus made great promises to the disciples concerning their faith. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:12-13). If these were not great enough, there is yet a far greater promise, namely the Holy Spirit. But notice that our Lord firmly states, “He who believes in Me." "If you love me, my precepts will you guard," says our Lord. Love is always the fruit of faith, it is not something we create in our hearts. He who does not trust cannot possibly love. Jesus was speaking to believers! He showed them that if they truly believe, their faith will be reflected in love, a love that the Bible defines as an agape love, namely love that is from God and is unconditional in how we love God and one another! This love is selfless; it gives and expects nothing in return. Again, to have such a love, God’s love actively working in us, we need to have faith, true faith, and not something that we create in our minds. "… Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Faith is the gift of God.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel…" (Luther’s Small Catechism, Art. III.) Such faith will love God above all things, and delight in keeping His commandments, which all find their " fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10).

    And it is in God's Word you will find the Counselor, the promised gift of God Himself, the third real and living person of the Trinity counseling and comforting your heart in every need. He dwells within you, not around you, but in you through the Word. He will assure you that you are not left in this world as “orphans.” Because of the work and presence of the Holy Spirit we hear His words spoken to the disciples, and therefore now unto us, “… Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (vss. 19-21).

    Oh, dear friends in Christ, God fashions His love in us, enabling us to demonstrate such faith-produced love in keeping His commandments, which become to us in ways of “faith expressing itself in love.” Moreover, we are loved by our heavenly Father, and by our Lord Jesus, who will manifest Himself to us and in us!!! And yes, the world, the devil and our sinful nature will throw many things at us simply because we have such faith. But the promised Comforter, our dear and abiding Counselor, is in us through the means of God’s Word. He will stay with you forever. He will not let the devil, the world or anything deprive you of God and His presence and work in your life. No matter what happens in your life, in every moment He will strengthen you and make you courageous and bold. He will do this, and even more than He did when He was only present with His Disciples. Through the Spirit, God is at work in all believers. Therefore you will not lack for comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom. We lift up our heads and hearts and pray daily that God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon us, upon this world. Our hearts sing with such words of faith and love:

    Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
    Be all Thy graces now out poured
    On each believer's mind and heart;
    Thy fervent love to them impart.
    Lord, by the brightness of Thy light,
    Thou in the faith dost men unite
    Of every land and every tongue;
    This to Thy praise, O Lord, our God, be sung.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (Martin Luther)

     


    [1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther's works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 14:16). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

    [2] Luther, M. (1999). Luther's works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Jn 14:15–16). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

    [3] Luther, Martin; Galvin, James C. (2009-05-26). Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional (p. 228). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

  • The Lord will confirm us to the end, by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    THE LORD WILL CONFIRM US TO THE END

    Sermon by Pastor Edward Brockwell

    The Twenty-first Sunday After Trinity  

    Based on 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

    The Confessional Lutheran Church of Finland 

    + + +

     

    I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)

    Dear Friends in Christ,

    The Apostle Paul reminds us that since we have God's grace and every spiritual gift that we need, our life in this world is one of living in the hope of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; we eagerly wait for His return. However, there is one thing that could give us pause and cause us to worry: we are tempted to doubt about whether we will endure to the end. We see how so many had started well, when they first heard the Word of God, they welcomed it with joy. But they didn’t have any roots. They believed for a while, but in a time of trial and temptation they abandoned the faith and fell away (Luke 8:13). If we are honest with ourselves, we daily experience how cunning Satan is, how alluring the world is, and sadly, how mighty our sinful nature remains. It is not uncommon for Christians to sometimes fear the Last Day instead of looking forward to it with great joy.

    C.F.W. Walther wrote, that "God has not given any Christian an unconditional guarantee that He will preserve him until the end so he may do exactly as he pleases until then. The Gospel provides no freedom for security, but instead calls us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). God has not promised to force anyone to faith by an irresistible grace and to save him despite his own desire to indulge wantonly in sin and unbelief. Yet these warnings apply only to those who in wantonness desire to tempt God's grace and to sin against it." We are Christians! We have been justified by faith through God’s grace in Christ. We have been washed from all our sins and God has assured us He is "able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Nevertheless, we struggle with temptation, we fear sin and unbelief. However, when we are tempted to sin, our thoughts should be like that of Saint Paul, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2). There are also times when we painfully feel our unbelief, but in such moments, we sigh and cry out to God, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). It is most absolutely true and certain that we can and should, without fear of falling, look forward with joy to the revelation of Jesus Christ on the Last Day. Why? Because, the promise of our text applies also to you and to me.

    Indeed, this promise applies to every person who believes. The main thing is to seize this promise in faith. According to this precious promise, our salvation does not depend upon our wavering faithfulness, but upon the unwavering faithfulness of his God. Our salvation does not lie in our weak hands (for then it would soon be lost), but in the strong hands of our loving and gracious God. We may be ever so weak, but God Himself will be our strength. If, out of weakness, we still stumble and fall, God's faithfulness will always raise us up again. If, out of weakness, we still go far astray, God’s faithfulness will always fetch and bring us back aright, as He did the erring Thomas. The battle may still be hard, but God’s faithfulness will strengthen us for it, and He will fight with us amid our battles. Paul assures us "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). True, the devil, the world and our "old Adam" may still cunningly seek after our soul, but God’s faithfulness will not bring us into disgrace. The writer of the Hebrews encourages with these words that should resound in hearts and in the depths of our souls: "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

    The enemy of our faith, and of God and His Church, would like to have us think that God has totally forgotten us and has left us to struggle in our own power. The devil likes to torment Christians with his fiery arrows. One such fiery arrow is how we will make it through this life with all our trials and temptations. And once he gets a foot in the door of our minds, he continues with other thoughts: "Go ahead and continue your miserable struggle. You know that your prayers are useless. You cry to God and believe in him – but all for nothing. You had hoped that God would free you and help you. Well, let God save you if he feels like it!" (Martin Luther). Such are the miserable thoughts that the devil would like to depress our minds with.

    Martin Luther knew such temptations very well. But he has advice for us who struggle and find it hard to persevere in the faith. He wrote: "When faithful people are happy and when they sing, "The Lord is my strength and my song" (Psalm 118:14), the devil stays far away from them. All complaining and impatience soon end. As long as believers praise and thank God, then temptation, sadness, and unbelief disappear. Heaven is opened wide and hell is shut with words like these: "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips" (Psalm 34:1)".

    Yes, our text for today is full of hope, light and life! "[You are] eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ah, perhaps the devil and your depressed conscience remind you of your sins. Then as faithful Lutheran Christians, let us turn immediately to the Scriptures which declare, 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!' (Ezekiel 33:11). To souls burdened with sin and guilt, which means all of us, our Lord says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). I love this verse, and so do you. Jesus is telling us, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens," or literally, "you who are overburned, and I will give you rest.

    Oh, dear friends, let us not charge the Lord with a lie and by not believing in His mercy. Such is the case when we think our sins are too great, like Judas did. We despair and think that God is a merciless and angry judge. But the cost of our redemption and the love of God was so great that God that He "sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Scripture tells us that, "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Romans 5:20). God’s grace infinitely outweighs our sins. Sin is temporal, it happens in a moment of time, but the grace of God is from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus has completely saved us and redeemed from our sins by His death on the cross. Yes, through His death and resurrection the grace of God has been restored to each and every one of us. So, let us flee unto him for refuge.

    Therefore, dear friends, we live in the grace of our Lord and walk in faith, believing and knowing that God has chosen us "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). He has elected us to salvation, and because of this, his salvation stands so firmly that the gates of hell will not be able to overpower it. "And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Thus, you boldly confess that you are "eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:7-9). Amen.