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“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4:5-6

How should we, as Christians, conduct ourselves in our dealings with those outside Christ’s church in this world? This the Apostle Paul answers in the closing words of his instruction to the believers at the church in Colosse: “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

We, as believers ought to live our lives wisely in regard to those outside Christ’s church, redeeming the time and making use of every opportunity God gives to make known to them the truth revealed to us by God in His Word.

We may not realize it, but how we live and conduct our business here in this world can either make one want to know more of our faith or make one want nothing to do with it. Sometimes an uncharitable word is all it takes to close the door to further witness. Thus, how important it is to be charitable and honest in all our dealings with those not only inside but also outside the church!

We ought to buy back the time commonly given to evil or frivolity and make use of every moment God gives us to share the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.

Our speech should be “always with grace,” reflecting the grace of God toward us in Christ Jesus. When we remember how much the Lord has forgiven us and to what lengths He went to bring about our salvation — even going to the cross and suffering and dying for our sins — should it be any trouble for us to speak kindly even to our enemies and to those who have mistreated us?

Being “seasoned with salt” means our conversations with those outside the church should neither be continual preaching against them nor only kind words devoid of any rebuke of the law and comfort of the Gospel. The Christian must wisely and consistently share the truth at every opportunity but use care not to drive away the unbeliever by too much preaching. We must not try to coerce people into the kingdom of God but, rather, share with them the truth and let the Holy Spirit convince hearts. Our role involves interspersing God’s truth in our conversations so as to raise awareness of the truth and draw interest in it, making it possible to continue to share the admonitions of the law and the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus.

The way in which we converse with those outside Christ’s church may be different with each person, making it so important that our speech be always with grace and properly seasoned with salt so that we, in the right way, give an answer to every person. For this, we most certainly need the wisdom and direction of God’s Spirit in our daily lives and conversations.

But what if we have been less than honest and charitable in our dealings with those outside the church? What if, instead of being motivated by God’s grace toward us, we have dealt with someone from the selfishness and wickedness of our old sinful nature? What can we do?

There is no better way than to honestly admit our sins and misdeeds to the Lord Jesus and to those — even outside of Christ’s church — whom we have offended.

We know from God’s Word that God graciously forgives us for the sake of Christ’s blood, shed for us upon the cross, when we repent and look to Him in faith. And, when we admit our sins and failures and forgive the sins and failures of others, what better witness to our belief in the true righteousness of God and in our total dependence upon His grace and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake!

We do not proclaim ourselves righteous and holy and the world sinful. We share and proclaim that we all have sinned and come short of God’s righteousness but that with God there is mercy and forgiveness for Jesus’ sake — imputed righteousness through faith in Christ (cf. Rom. 3:23ff.)! The Gospel we share is the good news that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom we are chief (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15-16). And, if God shows mercy to me when I look to Jesus in faith, He can and will show mercy to you as well when you repent of your sins and trust in Christ Jesus, your Savior!

O Holy Spirit, grant me wisdom in my dealings with those who do not yet know and trust in Christ Jesus, that my speech may reflect Your grace and that I might wisely use the time and opportunities given me to share the good news of God’s mercy toward sinners for Jesus’ sake. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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Remember Your mercies, O Lord, and Your lovingkindness, for they are from old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, on account of Your goodness, O Lord. Psalm 25:6-7

Ad Te Levavi is the traditional name for the first Sunday in Advent. It is the Latin title for the introit of the day, from Psalm 25:1: “To You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”

As we prepare for Christ’s second advent — His triumphal entry into this world as eternal King and Judge — we lift up our souls to the LORD and pray that He would remember and look upon us in His mercy and not according to our sinfulness under His law.

We pray that the LORD God (Jehovah God) would remember His tender mercies and His lovingkindness which He promised from of old — to Adam and Eve in the Garden, to Abraham, to David, and to all the Old Testament saints (cf. Gen. 3:15; 22:18; Ps. 51; Isa. 53; 55:1ff.).

If the LORD were to deal with us according to our sins, none of us could stand in His judgment. We would all be condemned to the everlasting torments of hell because of our sinful hearts and our sinful thoughts, desires, words, and actions (cf. Psalm 130:3ff.; Matt. 15:19; Rom. 3:9ff.; Gal. 3:10).

As sinners, condemned by God’s holy law, we flee in faith to the grace and mercy of God for the sake of His Son, the Lamb of God who made atonement for the sins of the world (John. 1:29; 1 John 1:8 – 2:2; Rom. 3:19-26). We pray: “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, on account of Your goodness, O Lord.”

And, because Jesus Christ died for all our sins and rose again on the third day, those who look in faith to Christ and His cross for mercy are pardoned, forgiven, justified, and accepted of God (cf. Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 1:6-7; Gal. 3:13, 26-27); they have a place in His everlasting kingdom (John 3:14-16; Mark 16:16; Rom. 5:1-10,17).

Jesus Christ is coming again! Though He entered into Jerusalem, the center of the Old Testament church, humbly and riding on a donkey nearly 2,000 years ago with some hailing Him as the promised Messiah and King and others rejecting Him, He now is coming as King of kings and Lord of lords and every knee shall bow (cf. Phil 2:9-11; Rev. 19:11-16). He will judge the living and the dead.

How do you wish to be remembered on that Day? According to your sins and many transgressions, or according to His mercy for the sake of Christ’s blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of all?

“To You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”

O LORD God, our gracious Savior, do not deal with us according to our sins as we justly deserve under Your holy law but deal with us in Your mercy and lovingkindness for the sake of the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, Your dear Son and our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“They read from the book, from the Law of God, with interpretation, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Then Nehemiah the magistrate, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were teaching the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the LORD your God. Stop mourning and weeping.’ (This was because all the people wept when they heard the words of the Law.) Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Hush! Because today is holy you should stop being so sorrowful.’ Then all the people went to eat, to drink, to send portions, and to enjoy a great celebration because they had understood the words declared to them.” Nehemiah 8:8-12

When we read and hear the words of our God and understand His holy Law, we have much over which to grieve and mourn for we as individuals and as a nation have all sinned against God and failed to live up to His perfect and holy will (cf. Rom. 3:9-23; Gal. 3:10).

The people of Israel, too, began to grieve and mourn when they heard the words of God’s Law and realized their sin against their God and Maker. Yet, because this day, the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, was a holy day unto the LORD, Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites told the people not to weep and mourn, but to eat, drink and rejoice in the LORD as He had commanded (cf. Deut. 16:13-15).

While we might, as we consider the Word of the LORD and gain understanding, grieve and mourn over our many sins against God — over our many failures to keep God and His Word first and foremost in our lives, over our failures to live according to God’s commandments and to love others as we should and consider their needs before our own — yet we have so much for which to rejoice and give thanks.

We can give thanks and rejoice that our God so loved us that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die on the cross for us and redeem us from all our sins and iniquities (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Gal. 3:13).

We can give thanks for the great privilege of gathering in His name, hearing His life-giving Word, and offering to Him our worship and praise.

And we can rejoice in the LORD and give thanks to Him for creating us, caring for us and blessing our labors.

We are to weep and lament over our sins and not take them lightly; but we also have reason to rejoice in the LORD, taking hold of His promises of mercy and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Phil. 4:4). Remember: “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, though we could weep and mourn over our sins, let us rejoice and be glad in the LORD and His abundant mercy toward us in Christ Jesus! Let us offer up praise and thanksgiving unto Him with rejoicing! Let us bless the LORD and forget not all His benefits toward us (cf. Ps. 103)!

Remember that the Bible says: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises unto Your name, O Most High …” (Ps. 92:1; cf. 1-4; Neh. 8:8-12).

O LORD God, we have sinned greatly against You and Your holy Law — we have failed to live up to Your holy commandments. Forgive us for the sake of Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead and grant us joy this day in Your grace and mercy and move us to offer up to You praise and thanksgiving for all Your blessings. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were wise and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them. 4 But the wise took jars of oil with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom delayed, they all rested and slept. 6 “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.’ 9 “The wise answered, ‘No, lest there not be enough for us and you. Go rather to those who sell it, and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they went to buy some, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us.’ 12 “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25:1-13 MEV

‘Are you wise or foolish in your preparations for Christ’s Return?’

Are you ready for Jesus Christ to return on the Last Day? As we read in 1 Thessalonians 5, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape” (v. 2-3).

Jesus told the parable of the Ten Virgins to admonish us to be watchful and ready at all times for His return.

In the parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins “who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” The wise virgins took extra oil for their lamps so that they would be ready even if the “bridegroom delayed.” The foolish took only the oil in their lamps and did not consider the possibility that their lamps would go out before the bridegroom arrived.

As a result, these foolish virgins were not prepared and ready when the bridegroom came; and they did not, together with the wise virgins, enter with the bridegroom into the marriage feast.

With this parable, Jesus warns us against being foolishly unprepared for His return on the Last Day.

It is, of course, foolish to willfully continue in sin, thinking that Jesus’ coming will not catch us off guard and in impenitence. It is foolish to think that we can enjoy the deceitful pleasures of sin and yet, somehow, at the last moment, repent and still be saved. The Bible warns us against such thinking in passages such as Hebrews 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Romans 6:1-23; and Jesus’ parable in Matthew 24:45-51.

And, as the parable of the Ten Virgins shows us, it is foolish for us who believe in Christ today to assume all is well with our souls and fall asleep and not be watching for and expecting His return at any time. It is certainly foolish not to have our faith continually nourished and kept burning through the regular use of the Word of God and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), which is the oil in our lamps the Holy Spirit uses to preserve and strengthen our faith in Christ Jesus (AC V; FC, SD, XI, Par. 14-22; John 6:63; 8:31-32; Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; 2:2-3).

If we do not make such provision through the continued use of the Word of God in our homes and the Word and Sacraments in our church, we may find our lamps empty and gone out — our faith dead — at Jesus’ coming.

And those who have no living, saving faith in Jesus Christ when He returns in Judgment will be shut out of heaven. It will be too late to rekindle faith at that time!

But those who have wisely provided oil for their lamps — those who continue to nourish their faith by remembering their Baptism, using the Word of God and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ given and shed for the remission of sins that the Holy Spirit may, through these means, keep their faith burning and alive, giving and assuring to them forgiveness for all their sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake — will enter into heaven with Jesus and enjoy its blessings forever (cf. 2 Thess. 1:4-12; Psalm 16:11; 17:15; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:1ff.).

God grant that you be wise and not foolish, that you be found ready, with your faith alive and burning, on the day of Christ’s return.

With my lamp well trimmed and burning, swift to hear and slow to roam, watching for Thy glad returning to restore me to my home. Come, my Savior, Come, my Savior, O my Savior, quickly come. Amen. (John S.B. Monsell, 1863, The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #606, Verse 4)

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:2-4

The Apostle Paul, in prison for his testimony to the crucified and risen Christ, urges his fellow believers at Colosse to continue in prayer. And while they are praying to the Lord God, watching and giving thanks for God’s answers to their prayers, Paul urges them to remember him and his companions in their prayers as well.

Notice that Paul doesn’t request his release from prison, but rather the opportunity to speak of Christ and of the salvation Christ Jesus has purchased with His blood for all mankind. Paul desires the opportunity to tell the mystery of Christ — that which had been veiled before and only in part revealed through the prophecies of the Old Testament but was now made known in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Paul was in bonds for telling the truth about Messiah Jesus, and he requested the prayers of his fellow believers that he would be given further opportunity to tell of Jesus and of the forgiveness and life which Jesus won for all mankind — both Jew and Gentile — by His holy life and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world.

Paul asked for prayers on his behalf that he might make the mystery of Christ manifest and openly known to all. He asked for prayers that he might hold back nothing, even in the face of adversity, but speak the saving Gospel as he ought to speak it that his hearers might be moved to repent of their sinful ways and look in faith to Jesus and His cross for pardon and peace with God.

This should be the desire of all ministers of the Gospel — for open doors and opportunities to speak the truth and tell others about Jesus and His life, death and resurrection. And, this should be our prayer for all who are called to preach the Gospel — that they would hold back nothing of God’s Word, but preach the truth about man’s sinfulness and proclaim Christ Jesus and His blood shed upon the cross as the only hope for sinful mankind.

No matter what our circumstances or what obstacles would prevent us from speaking of Jesus and making known the plan of God for the salvation of the world — that great mystery which has been revealed to us in the coming of Christ Jesus and made known to us through the Word of God — let us pray that God would give us opportunities to speak of Jesus and of the forgiveness and life He won for all, and that we hold nothing back, but speak as we ought to speak, that others, too, may know Him and trust in Him as their Savior!

O Spirit of God, we thank You for making known to us the mystery of the Gospel — for revealing to us that Jesus is God the Son in human flesh and that He has made full atonement for all our sins by His holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world. Open doors that we and all your called ministers may make known the mystery of the Gospel. Give us boldness to speak as we ought to speak, testifying against unrighteousness and sin but proclaiming divine mercy and forgiveness through faith in the crucified and risen Savior, Christ Jesus. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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