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While He was yet speaking, a crowd came. And he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:47-48

“Do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” This is the question Jesus asked of Judas as he led Jesus’ enemies to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and then kissed Jesus to point Him out to those who would arrest Him and lead Him away to crucify Him.

This was a fitting question for one who used a sign of friendship and affection to betray Jesus into the hands of those who would condemn Jesus to death and then turn Him over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified! But what about you and me? Are we also guilty of betraying Jesus with a kiss?

If asked today, “Do you love Jesus?” would not all of us say, “Yes, we love Jesus”? Indeed, we all profess our love and devotion to Jesus. But when it comes down to following Jesus in our daily lives, how often do we not betray Him with a kiss by saying that we love Him and then doing the opposite of what He would have us do?

We draw near to Jesus with our mouths and lips, but our hearts are far from Him, as Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 (cf. Isa. 29:13): “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”

Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And we say that we love Jesus, but do we keep His commandments? Do we truly love Jesus and devote ourselves to Him? Do we continue in His Word as Jesus said in John 8:31-32: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’”

And, do we follow Jesus wherever He leads? Do we profess His name and the truth of His Word in this present adulterous and sinful generation? Jesus said: “If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His own glory and in the glory of His Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26).

We can be thankful that the love of our Lord Jesus for us goes far deeper than any outward sign of affection and friendship! Our Lord Jesus “loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5). “While we were yet weak, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Rarely for a righteous man will one die. Yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).

Jesus did not betray us but, instead, went to the cross and paid in full the punishment due us for our sins and the sins of the whole world. “Jesus Christ the Righteous One … is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

Though we have oft betrayed Him, Jesus did not betray us! Rather, He gave Himself for us that we might have forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting through faith in Him!

Dear Jesus, forgive us for so often betraying you with a kiss — for saying we love You and then sinning against You. Thank you for so loving us that You gave Your life a ransom for us. Graciously keep us trusting in You alone for forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.

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

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What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to him who works, wages are not given as a gift, but as a debt. But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:3-5

How was Abraham righteous in God’s eyes? Was it by his own works and devotion to God? Or was righteousness graciously credited to him by faith?

Many look at Old Testament saints like Abraham and draw the conclusion that they lived a righteous and holy life and, therefore, God loved and accepted them as His own. Yet, when we look at the life of Abraham, the Scriptures reveal flaws and mistrust.

He more than once called his wife Sarah his sister out of fear that he would be killed so that another might take her. He listened to Sarah when she gave him Hagar as a concubine to bear children rather than trust fully that God would do as he promised. Though Abraham was certainly a man of faith who sought to walk in the ways of the LORD, he was not perfect and without sin.

So, how was Abraham righteous before God? St. Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6: “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

The apostle Paul explains further: “Now to him who works, wages are not given as a gift, but as a debt. But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5).

If Abraham were righteous by his own works, righteousness would not have been credited or imputed to him; it would have been earned by him and his own by right. But the Scriptures say that Abraham believed God’s promises and that righteousness was credited to him by God.

Notice, too, that David, in Psalm 32, speaks of the blessedness of the one who confesses his sins and receives in faith God’s mercy and forgiveness (Rom. 4:6-8). David, as well, speaks of God’s forgiveness and the imputation of righteousness as God’s gracious gift received through faith and not earned by our own works.

How then are we righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes? By our own works? Or, by faith?

Though many assume the way to be righteous before God is by our works and our obedience to God’s commandments, the Bible teaches us that we have all come short and that even our best righteousnesses are like defiled, unclean rags in God’s eyes (cf. Rom. 3:9ff.; Isa. 64:6).

The only way for sinners like you and me to be righteous before God is through faith in Christ Jesus. When we believe the Word of God which tells us that Christ fulfilled all righteousness for us and then was sacrificed for us to make full atonement for all our sins, God credits it to us for righteousness. He forgives all our sins for the sake of Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross, and He imputes and credits to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 3:21-28; 1 John 1:7 — 2:2).

It is as the Bible says: “But to him who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (v. 5); “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law” (Rom. 3:28; cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:6ff.; 3:26-29; Phil. 3:8-9).

Grant that I cease attempting to be counted righteous in Your eyes by my own works, O LORD, and place my faith in Christ’s perfect righteousness and in His atoning sacrifice on the cross for my sins that I may be counted righteous and holy in Your sight through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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

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“Pray that you may not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:40

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13a

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus directed His disciples: “Pray that you may not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40). And, yet, His disciples did not pray (cf. v. 46).

What about us? Do we pray that we would not enter into temptation? Remember that “our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

Either, like Simon Peter, we are so self-confident in the powers of our flesh that we will not fall into temptation and do not see the danger and need to pray, or the temptation appeals to us in such a way that we do not really desire to resist it.

One place in which we do pray that we not fall into temptation or be overcome by evil is in the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, the Lord’s Prayer. Though our hearts may not always be in it, we at least say with our lips: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13a).

The Bible clearly tells us: “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither does He tempt anyone. But each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed” (James 1:13-14). Therefore, we are not, in this petition of the prayer which the Lord Jesus has taught us, asking God not to tempt us; for He “cannot be tempted with evil; neither does He tempt anyone.”

Rather, since we are tempted when we are drawn away by our own sinful longings and desires, we ask our Father in heaven to lead us in such a way through our daily lives that we are not tempted — to be led on such a path where we are kept safe and protected from our own sinful longings as well as from the enticements which the devil and the world put before us.

The Bible also assures us: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, and He will not permit you to be tempted above what you can endure, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). The question is: Do we seek to escape it? Do we look to Scripture to reject it, as Jesus did when He was tempted (Luke 4:1ff.)?

Though God does not send temptation to evil, He does permit temptations to come. Yet, He limits the temptations and provides us a way out so that we may be able to endure and overcome them. Thus, we ask our heavenly Father to lead us in such a way that, when temptation does come, He would lead us safely through it and give us the victory.

Connected with this petition to our heavenly Father is the prayer that He would also deliver us from evil.

Again, the Bible tells us that we are to “be sober and watchful, because your adversary the devil walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him firmly in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).

The devil — or Satan — is the father of lies and the deceiver. He seeks to keep us from God and His truth (cf. John 8:44).

Like the roaring lion who stalks his prey and seeks out one that is weak or straying, so the devil watches for our weaknesses and attacks us when and where we are most vulnerable to his ploys. He seeks to keep us from God our Father and life everlasting through faith in Christ Jesus by causing us to doubt God’s Word and by leading us into a life of disobedience and sin.

And, again, remember St. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6:10-18: “Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

Therefore, we are in constant need of the protection and deliverance of our Father in heaven; and we humbly pray: “but deliver us from evil.”

And included in this petition, we pray that, when we do fall into sin and disobedience, God would graciously, for Christ’s sake, deliver us from the grasp of the devil and bring us back to repentance. We pray that we would acknowledge our sin and disobedience and turn to the LORD God for His mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead.

The Bible says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you, so that you do not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

When we repent of our sin and turn to the LORD for His mercy and forgiveness in Messiah Jesus, He delivers us from the grip of the evil one and brings us back into His eternal kingdom for Jesus’ sake.

And, as believers, we take heart in the words of St. Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:18): “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me for His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Dear Father in heaven, lead me through life in such a way that I do not fall into temptation and sin; and deliver me from the attacks of the evil one upon my soul and upon my salvation in Your Son, Jesus Christ. And, Father, when I do fall, mercifully bring me to sincere repentance and faith, and preserve me for Your eternal kingdom. I ask this for the sake of Jesus’ blood shed for me. Amen.

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

Go to dark Gethsemane

Author: James Montgomery

Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.

Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.

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“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it goes through dry places seeking rest. Finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house, from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and furnished. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26

What happens when we, by our own resolve and efforts, clean up our lives and rid ourselves of some vice which had dominated or controlled us? What happens when we determine to kick the habit and end a bad behavior or addiction which in many ways controlled our thoughts and lives?

Jesus tells us the answer: “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it goes through dry places seeking rest. Finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house, from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and furnished. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

And so it is with self-help religion — when people, out of fear of consequences, whether civil punishments or other detrimental effects, determine to quit an evil behavior or addiction. They cast out the demon and seek to clean up their lives, but their hearts still long after evil. They may quit drinking or taking drugs, they may quit viewing pornography or halt an adulterous relationship, they may stop going to wild parties and quit participating in sexual immorality; but their hearts still long after the feelings, the high, the sexual excitement, the pleasures.

And what happens? The old demon is missed and comes back. He is even welcomed back! And, finding the house empty and swept, he brings with him seven more evil spirits (or vices) more wicked than himself and takes up residence in the person’s heart, making that person’s last state worse than the first.

Haven’t we seen it happen before? People clean up their lives and appear to do well for a time, but then they fall off the wagon, so to speak; they give in to the longings of their sinful hearts and their last state is worse than the first. They become totally dominated and controlled by their evil longings.

What’s the answer? If we are incapable of truly cleaning up our own lives by resolutions, lifestyle changes, or following the 12 steps, what can free us from the evil spirits which so easily control and possess us — which are so often welcomed into our lives by our old sinful flesh?

The answer lies in the regenerating work which only the Holy Spirit can work in us through His Word and Sacraments.
Through the Law of God, the Holy Spirit reveals to us our sinfulness and the utter sinful condition of our hearts. He reveals to us that our self-help methods are not enough, that we stand condemned by the Word of God which tells us that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20; cf. Rom. 3:9-20).

And through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, God the Son in human flesh. It reveals to us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16); that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4); that “in Him we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7); and, in Jesus’ words: “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

The Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word of Law and Gospel, convicts us of our sin and brings us to trust in Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for forgiveness and life. And the Holy Spirit, through the waters of Baptism, joins us to Christ in His death and resurrection and regenerates us and gives us new life and a new nature which loves God and gladly seeks to walk according to God’s will (cf. John 3:3-6; Tit. 3:3-7; Col. 2:11-15; Acts 22:16). In the Lord’s Supper, He assures us as we partake of Christ’s sacrifice that the blessings Christ won for us when He gave His body into death for us and shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins are our own (Matt. 26:26-28).

Does that mean the old sinful desires are gone forever, that we will not also have longings and desires which are of the devil? No, as long as we are in this world, the devil is still at work to lead us back into sin and bind us in His kingdom (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8-9). We still live in the world which lies under the sway and control of the evil one (cf. 1 John 5:19), and we still have our old sinful flesh which has been corrupted by sin and evil and longs to gratify its own selfish and sinful desires (cf. Gal. 5:16ff.).
The point is that it is fruitless to just attempt to drive out the darkness. The only way to overcome the darkness is to turn on the light and let it shine into our hearts — revealing sin as sin and the cause of death, and revealing Christ as our only hope and the bringer of forgiveness and life! As the Apostle John says in his first epistle, to walk in the light is not to pretend we have no sin, but it is to agree with God and confess our sins and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, who atoned for our sins and the sins of all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross (1 John 1:5 — 2:2).

When we walk in the light of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit carries out His gracious and regenerating working in us, instead of having a house empty and swept and open to the devil and all his evil spirits, we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us, who is working to make our lives more and more like our Lord Jesus.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, seeing the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:17-18; cf. Rom. 8:23,29).

So, don’t just clean your house! Let God clean your house by letting the light of His Word shine into your hearts, revealing sin as sin and Christ as Your only Savior from sin! Let God’s Spirit do His life-giving work by cleansing your hearts in the blood of Christ and renewing them through God’s Word and Sacraments!

O gracious and merciful God, I am a sinner and unable to free myself from the bondage of sin. Forgive my sins for Jesus’ sake and cleanse my heart by the gracious working of Your Spirit through the Word. Amen.

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

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“Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

The Scriptures tell us that, when God created man, He formed man’s body of the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.

While few would question today that our bodies are made of dust — the very elements found in the ground — there are many who are unwilling to believe the second part of this passage: namely, that life — both physical and spiritual — was given to man’s earthly body by the breath of God and that, as a result, man became a living soul.

The naturalists and evolutionists of our day have come up with explanations (though unfeasible to the sensible) for the physical formation of organisms, but they have no answer as to the source of life or its complexity. How is it that the physical elements became complex living beings?

Those who believe the Bible know that the physical elements which make up our bodies are God’s creation and that the formation of our bodies is God’s design. But we also know that life was given by none other than God Himself! “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

When the Prophet Daniel was brought in before King Belshazzar to interpret the writing of the fingers upon the wall (Daniel 5), he told the foolish king that he had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven and not glorified “the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways” (Dan. 5:23).

Not only did the LORD God breathe into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, He formed each of us in our mother’s womb and gave us life, and He holds that very life in His hand (cf. Psalm 139:13-16).

What a great difference there is between the teaching of the Bible and the doctrines of evolution and meaningless fate! The LORD God who created the heavens and the earth specifically formed and created our bodies and breathed into us the breath of life. He holds our very lives in His hand. When He gives the breath of life, we live. When He takes the breath of life from us, we die and our bodies return to dust (cf. Eccl. 3:18-22).

Were it not for man’s sin and disobedience to the LORD God, the breath of life would not be taken from us; but, because of the sin which corrupts our hearts and minds and keeps us from wholly loving, honoring and walking in harmony with the God who made us, He takes His breath from us and our bodies return to dust.

Yet, in His love and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus, He has provided a way for us to live together with Him in righteousness and true holiness forever. He sent His only begotten Son into the world a true man (with a body made of dust like ours).

Jesus Christ, God the Son in human flesh, fulfilled with perfect obedience the righteous demands of God’s holy commandments; and He took the guilt and punishment of our sins upon Himself, suffering and dying upon the cross, and being condemned and forsaken of God the Father in heaven because of our sin and the sins of all. And Jesus, though He yielded up His breath and spirit unto God upon the cross, was raised to life again on the third day that He might give us life — everlasting life with Him in heaven!

Though the day will soon come — unless Christ first returns — when God removes from us the breath of life and your body and my body return to the dust from which they were taken, Jesus Christ paid for your sins and mine — indeed for the sins of the whole world — and God offers and extends to you, to me and to all people, through faith in Christ Jesus, a full and complete pardon and forgiveness, and a life which will never end.

“Jesus Christ the Righteous One … is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life“ (John 3:16).

Through faith in Christ Jesus, we live. And, though we may die, our bodies will be raised up again on the Last Day from the dust of the ground, and God will again give us life — life without end!

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for forming me of the dust and giving me the breath of life that I might learn of You and the glorious salvation You have provided for me through the innocent sufferings and death of Your Son, Christ Jesus, my Savior. Create and sustain in my heart faith in You and Your mercy, and grant me the gift of life eternal in Christ Jesus. In His name, I 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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