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“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Numerous Old Testament priests and prophets cried out, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). Today, too, ministers and preachers say all is well when, in fact, it isn’t.

You see, there can be no peace between God and man without atonement for sin, and there will be no peace between men and God without repentance on man’s part. And so, the preachers and prophets who seek to assuage troubled but impenitent consciences with words of peace may give a little false comfort to consciences but not peace, for man can have no peace with God apart from godly sorrow over sin and faith in God the Son’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

While the world goes about seeking peace and comfort of heart in all the wrong places, the believer in Christ Jesus knows true peace; for Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the whole world and won peace between God and man — the peace of atonement made and sins forgiven for the sake of Jesus’ holy and precious blood shed upon the cross for all.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:13-18: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and He came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

That is why, when Jesus was born, the angels glorified God saying, “On earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Jesus paid for the sins of all and won God’s favor and peace for all mankind.

The Bible tells us, in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, paid in full the just punishment for the sins of all when He suffered and died upon the cross. His resurrection is proof (cf. Rom. 4:25). God pleads with us to be reconciled with Him by acknowledging our utter sinfulness and receiving in faith His pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the sacrifice of His Son in our stead.

Jesus shed His blood to make peace and has appeased God’s just wrath against sinful man. When we, by the gracious working of God’s Spirit through the Word of God, see and acknowledge our sinfulness and failures to keep His commandments and place our faith and trust in the perfect life and innocent sufferings and death of Messiah Jesus in our stead, then we know peace — peace between God and man — and fellowship with God our Father.

This peace (shalom and eirene in the original languages) is a perfect peace for Jesus has paid for all our sins and, when we look to Christ in faith, they have been removed from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Nothing can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). “If we confess [homologomen — to say the same thing as God about] our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

This is the peace of God which is to rule and govern our hearts. This is the peace to which we and all believers in Christ’s body — the church — have been called. This is the peace for which we have every reason to be thankful.

We were enemies of God, rebelling against Him and His commandments and going our own way. There was no peace! But Jesus paid in full for all our sins — for the sins of the whole world. In His grace and mercy, God reaches out to us, offering to us pardon and peace. When, by the gracious working of God’s Spirit through the Word, we are brought to see our own sinfulness and also to see and trust in His forgiveness and peace for the sake of His Son, Messiah Jesus, then we know peace!

O LORD God, heavenly Father, You have graciously given to us, and all who look to Christ in faith, peace through the forgiveness of all our sins for Jesus’ sake. Grant that this peace — this assurance of Your forgiveness and acceptance — rule and govern our hearts, driving out all fear of wrath and punishment. Thank you for granting to us and all believers Your peace in Jesus. In His name, we pray. Amen.

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

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“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” Luke 7:13-15 (Read Luke 7:11-17)

Travel to any city, town or community and you will likely find a cemetery filled with headstones marking the graves of those from that locale who have died, whose bones or ashes are buried there. In fact, many times, the cemetery is the first thing you will see because they often lie on the outskirts of the city or town. And when funerals take place, the processions often lead from a church or the funeral home out to the cemetery.

When Jesus arrived at the city of Nain with His disciples. He encountered just such a procession. Luke tells us: “Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her” (Luke 7:12).

This was an especially sad funeral because the man who had died was still a young man, and he was the only son of his mother, who also was a widow. What a tragedy! How sad! Imagine the loneliness this mother must have felt, having lost her husband in the past and now her only son. She was, no doubt, heartbroken, and probably also destitute.

And death is sad and tragic! It is not natural. God created us for life but, as a result of sin and disobedience to God’s good commandments, we have brought the curse and condemnation of God’s law upon ourselves and have brought upon ourselves death!

The Bible tells us, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”; and “the wages of sin is death” (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23).

To Adam, God said, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:17-19).

Notice that Jesus didn’t try to comfort this woman with words about her son being in a better place. He didn’t tell her to think about all the good times they had together, and He certainly did not tell her that she would always carry her son with her in her heart! Jesus knew and recognized that this young man’s death was the result of sin in the world and that death is sad, devastating and tragic.

And, because we are sinful human beings who have not measured up to God’s holy law, we too will face death. Our souls will be taken from our bodies and our lifeless and decaying bodies will be laid in the ground to return to dust. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Unless Christ Jesus returns soon, none of us will escape. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We will all die and then stand before the judgment seat of God.

But what did Jesus do? Luke 7:13-15 says: “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.”

Jesus had compassion on this woman in her hopeless and helpless situation which was the result of sin. We are not told that this young man’s death was the result of some sin in this woman’s life or that it was the result of some particular sin in the life of her son, but it was the result of sin in the world and in them in the same way as we must all die because of the sin which infects us all (cf. Ps. 90:3ff.).

Jesus told this woman to stop crying because He had a solution to this tragic death. He intervened by stopping the funeral bier and saying, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” Luke tells us that this young man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

What does this have to do with you and me today? you might ask. Everyone in the history of the world, with the exception of Enoch and Elijah, had to die, and Jesus only called a few people back to life — we think of this young man, Lazarus, the daughter of Jairus and those raised by His prophets in the Old Testament and His apostles in the New.

Though Jesus does not intervene at every death and call the dead back to life, He has intervened for all of us in a much greater way.

Remember that the cause of death is sin, and sin brings about not only physical death but eternal death and damnation! To be raised back to life in this sinful world is not a lasting solution — as far as we know, this young man has since died. So has Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus.

Jesus had compassion on us in our hopeless and helpless situation and tells us to stop crying because He is our solution. As God promised in the garden the Seed of the woman who would undo the work of Satan, Jesus is that promised Seed, our Messiah and Savior.

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

The Bible tells us: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them”; and, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:10, 13; cf. Heb. 2:14-17).

Jesus Christ, God the Son, intervened by taking on a human body and soul and being born of the Virgin Mary — true God and true man — and He fulfilled all the demands of God’s law perfectly in our stead and then suffered our punishment, the just punishment for the sins of all mankind, when He was crucified and died on the tree of the cross. And He rose again from the dead on the third day, proving that the debt of our sin is paid in full, that God accepted the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3ff.; Rom. 4:23ff.; Isa. 53:6ff.; 1 John 2:1-2).

And Jesus intervened by raising us up from spiritual death and condemnation to spiritual life and justification through faith in His name (cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21ff.; 2 Cor. 5:18ff.). He did this by sending His servants to preach and proclaim to us the Gospel and to assure us of pardon and forgiveness through faith in Christ by means of our baptism into Christ and our partaking in the Lord’s Supper of Christ’s body and blood which were given and shed for us for the remission of our sins.

Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:24-26; cf. Eph. 2:1ff.; 2 Thess. 2:13-14).

How much better this is than the temporary intervention of Jesus when He raised this young man in Nain and restored him to his mother! This young man was raised up yet a sinner in a sinful world. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, all who trust in Him will be raised up from death to life eternal with Christ where there is no more sin or death! Cf. 1 Cor. 15:20ff.; Rev. 21:1ff.

Because Christ Jesus intervened, all who repent and look to Him in faith have God’s pardon, forgiveness and everlasting life (cf. John 3:14ff.; Acts. 3:19ff.); and believers don’t have to sorrow like the rest of this world which has no hope, for Christ will come again with the souls of those who have died trusting in Him and will raise up all the dead and give to all who have trusted in His name everlasting life! Cf. 1 Thess. 4:13ff.; John 5:28-29; Job 19:25-27.

God grant to us such faith in Christ Jesus so that death becomes for us the gateway to life everlasting for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

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

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“And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Colossians 3:14

A mark of the new nature created in the heart of believers by the Holy Spirit is “charity” — not just as we think of the word today, but in its older meaning: selfless love — the kind of love that God showed toward us in giving His only-begotten Son to die for us and redeem us.

The Greek word translated as “charity” in the King James Version and “love” in most modern translations is “agape.” The Bible speaks of such love when it says: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

This is the kind of love spoken of in what is often called the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul calls this love the bond of perfectness (or completeness) because it is such love which God requires in the hearts of all, and it is such selfless love which moves people to obey God’s commandments.

Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10).

When asked what was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus responded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

Why is it that love for God and love for our neighbor are the greatest of the commandments and the fulfilling of the law? Simply put, love is the motivation of the heart — which God requires in us — which moves people to obey all of God’s commandments. If one loves God with all his heart, mind and soul, he will not have other gods or serve them. Nor will he neglect to set aside time to consider God’s ways and worship Him. He will gladly and willingly read and study God’s Word, listen to it and heed its message.

If one loves his neighbor — other people in this world — as he loves himself, he will not dishonor or disobey parents and authorities. He will not hurt or kill, adulterate God’s design for marriage, steal, lie, slander or covet.

The problem is that, since the fall into sin, people do not love the LORD God with all their heart, mind and soul. Nor do they love others as much as they love themselves. Thus, our lives and the lives of all people in this world are full of selfishness, rebellion against God, disregard for parents and authorities, abusive and selfish relationships, evil thoughts, murders, deceptions and thefts.

That is why God sent His only-begotten Son into the world to fulfill the law for us and to bear our punishment by suffering and dying upon the cross!

Make no mistake. The command to put on selfless love is not the gospel of salvation; it is the law of God. We sinners cannot hope to achieve God’s favor and be saved by putting on love; we put on love because God first loved us and sent His Son to die for us and win for us forgiveness and life everlasting. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Because God loved us and sent His Son, Christ Jesus, to die for us, and because He graciously brought us to faith in Jesus, washing away our sins in our baptism and raising us up to new life in Christ Jesus by the mighty working of His Holy Spirit, we seek to live for Him — indeed, to be like Him — and to love others as we have been loved by Him.

Thus, as we continually acknowledge our sinfulness and failures to love as God demands, as we put off our sinful and unloving nature which was punished upon Christ’s cross, we also put on the new and loving nature which has been created in us by God’s Spirit — a nature which loves God and others with His kind of love, a love which moves us to live in accord with God’s holy and perfect will revealed to us in His commandments.

As You have loved us, O Lord, and given Yourself to redeem us and make us Your Own, create in our hearts faith which receives Your merciful love and forgiveness; and move us to put on Your love so that we love You in return, and also love our fellowman and live our lives in accord with Your good and perfect will. Amen.

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

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“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:7-8

Many deceive themselves, thinking that they can sow to the flesh — living to gratify their own sinful desires — and still reap life everlasting. They feel that they can use their time, energy and money to gratify their own selfish ambitions and yet still grow and mature spiritually and be ready for the Day of Christ’s return and judgment. How foolish!

God’s Word warns us of the fallacy of such thinking when it says: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).

God would not have us be deceived. And, God will not be mocked. If one sows weeds, he cannot expect to harvest wheat! So it is with our spiritual lives. If we sow to the flesh, we cannot expect to reap life, but corruption.

Again, the Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Thus, if we live to enjoy the pleasures of sin, we shall die. But if we sow to the Spirit of God, who has regenerated us and brought us to faith in our Savior, He will continue His gracious working in our lives through Word and Sacrament and keep us in the true faith and graciously give to us the eternal life won for us by Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead.

How do people sow to the flesh? When they live in such a way that they gratify the will and desires of their sinful nature, when they provide opportunities for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Thus people sow to the flesh when they flirt with sin and temptation and when they give in to their own evil desires. They sow to the flesh when they go places and do things that will arouse the desires of their hearts.

How do people sow to the Spirit? when they make regular use of God’s Word and His Sacraments and support the preaching of His Word (cf. v. 6) that the Spirit of God might use these means to strengthen faith in Christ Jesus and teach men to live godly lives, when they provide opportunities to do that which is God-pleasing and to follow the leading of His Spirit. Thus, people sow to the Spirit when they regularly attend church services and Bible studies, when they read the Scriptures daily and spend time in prayer, and when they seek to live according to the counsel and guidance of the Holy Ghost given to us in the Scriptures.

God will not be mocked. If we spend our time courting the pleasures of sin, if we live to carry out the sinful desires of our old evil nature, we will reap what we have sown: spiritual corruption and death!

On the other hand, if we devote ourselves to Christ and His Word and read and study the Scriptures and partake of the Sacraments that the Holy Ghost might strengthen and preserve us in the true faith, we will reap of the Spirit life eternal in Jesus Christ our Lord!

O Spirit of God, grant that we sow, not to our flesh and its evil desires, but unto Thee, that Thou might graciously grant unto us the everlasting joys of heaven for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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

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“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:12-13

As the elect and chosen of God, holy and dearly loved children of God through faith in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead (cf. Gal. 3:26-27), we are called upon to put on the image and likeness of Christ Jesus.

We were baptized into Christ. All our sins and our old sinful nature were crucified on Christ’s cross. We have been raised up to new life by the gracious working (operation) of the Holy Ghost (Col. 2:10-15). We daily — through repentance and faith — put off the old sinful nature and put on the new (Col. 3:5ff.). And so we are called upon to be like Jesus in our dealings with others, and especially with our fellow believers.

We are to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

From our innermost being — from the heart — we are to be merciful and kind toward others. Why? Because we know God’s mercy and kindness toward us. Even when we were spiritually dead in our sins and living in rebellion against God, He showed mercy to us and sent His only-begotten Son to die in our stead and redeem us (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16). Even though we continually sin and come short in our lives, He shows us mercy and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood (1 John 1:7 — 2:2).

When we remember how Jesus humbled Himself, not appearing in a display of all His divine glory and power but living humbly as a man and even permitting His enemies to crucify Him that He might redeem all of fallen mankind, certainly we have every reason to live humbly and not usurp ourselves or our position over others. In the same way Jesus lived in this world as a servant to meet our needs and win our eternal salvation, so we ought to think and live as servants in this world to meet the needs of others and bring to them the message of God’s redeeming love.

Longsuffering and forbearing with one another means that we are to be patient with others and put up with their failings and shortcomings — we suffer much and long and are yet patient. And, indeed, when we consider the patience, longsuffering and forbearance of God toward us, we again have every reason to show the same longsuffering and forbearance toward others.

Again and again, each of us fails to live as God intends — we go our own way, think we know better or just neglect to listen — and yet God doesn’t cast us off or condemn us. He continues to deal with us in mercy and patience.

And, instead of holding another’s sins and misdeeds against him, we are called upon to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. And, indeed, if we consider the great debt of sin which Christ has forgiven to us — even going to the cross and shedding His holy and precious blood to pay our just penalty — what is the small debt of sin against us by others? Jesus shed His blood to redeem all and to win pardon and forgiveness for all; how can we not forgive as He has forgiven?

The Apostle Paul wrote the same things to the believers in Ephesus: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:31-32).

We must remember that it is our old sinful and fallen nature — our nature which was condemned and punished on Christ’s cross — which would have us be unmerciful, impatient, unkind, proud, haughty, quick to condemn and unforgiving. The new nature, created in us by the Holy Spirit when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, seeks to be like Christ: with “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.”

Once again, we see our own sinfulness and failures to live as God’s redeemed children and we turn to Him in faith for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the shed blood of Jesus, who died for the sins of all and rose again in victory. In Jesus, we find mercy and forgiveness. His blood cleanses us from all our sins (1 John 1:7). And, in Jesus, we find help and strength to amend our sinful ways and to live each day for Him as God’s elect and chosen children.

Dear Jesus, forgive me for living according to my old evil and sinful nature. Wash away my sins in Your holy and precious blood and give me a heart like Yours, full of mercy, kindness, patience and forgiveness toward others. Amen.

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

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