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“Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.” Luke 14:16-17 (Read Luke 14:15-24)

You have been invited to the greatest banquet of all! Even though you are a sinner and deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law in your stead and then to suffer and die on the cross and bear the full punishment for your transgression and sin. God calls you through the preaching of the Gospel and invites you to receive His pardon and forgiveness and to be a part of His everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). It tells us that “Jesus Christ … loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5); that “in [Him] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7); and that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

And, the risen Lord Jesus even now is preparing a place for all who believe in Him, in the mansions of His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Through the preaching of this good news, God calls you to come to Him and receive the everlasting blessings of His kingdom.

Even now, as you read these words, God’s Spirit calls you to “come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17); and to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Jesus told the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24) to admonish His hearers for rejecting the salvation God was providing for them in His Son.

The Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures, which promised eternal salvation through the coming Messiah and Savior; but when Jesus, God’s Son, came into this world to accomplish the salvation God had promised of old — when the Gospel invitation went out: “Come; for all things are now ready” — the Jews excused themselves for various reasons. They were too busy with the things of this world to come to Christ Jesus and receive from Him forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. One bought a piece of land and wanted to go and see it; another had bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out; and another had just gotten married and could not come (cf. Luke 14:18-20).

What about you? This same Gospel invitation has gone out to you: “Come; for all things are now ready.” Do you have time to come to Jesus and learn of Him and the eternal blessings He has won for you? Do you come to hear His life-giving Word and learn of God’s offer and promise of forgiveness for all your sins and of the everlasting joys of heaven? Or, are you too busy with the cares and concerns of this life?

What is your excuse? Are you too busy checking on land or property? Do you have to try out that car or truck or tractor? Do you have to try out that new tool or toy? Are you too busy with work or school or business to come to Jesus? Have you married a wife and become too busy with family concerns to take time for church services and the hearing of God’s Word? What is your excuse?

The excuses in Jesus’ parable angered the man who made the great supper (v. 21). He said, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (v. 24).

Will God accept your excuse? Is not this a warning to us not to become so busy with other things in this life that we neglect that “one thing … needful” (Luke 10:42)?

Jesus admonishes us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). And Jesus warns: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb. 2:3)?

What did the master of the house in Jesus’ parable then do that his house might be filled with guests? He sent his servants out into the streets and lanes of the city to bring in the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And, when there was yet room, he sent them out into the highways and hedges (where the poor often camped) to compel those there to come in (Cf. Luke 14:21-24.)

It is by the grace of God that we have heard the Gospel of Christ and come to trust in Him for forgiveness and life (Eph. 2:4-9); “and yet there is room” (v. 22)! Our Heavenly Father sends His servants out into the streets and lanes, and to the highways and hedges, to compel them to come in — to call upon all, whether rich or poor, healthy or handicapped or sick, to come to Christ Jesus in faith and partake of the blessings of His kingdom.

Jesus commands His disciples to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). They are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). They are to say: “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). And, Jesus tells us: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Dear LORD God, our Savior, grant that we not neglect and excuse ourselves from partaking of the salvation so graciously provided for us through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Jesus Christ. Fill us also with Your love for lost sinners that we may obey Your command and send men into all the world with Your saving Gospel and compel them to come in! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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

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And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the LORD thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 20:1-2

What right did God have to give these commandments to the people of Israel? Why should they listen to God’s commandments and obey him? God tells us the answer.

He says, “I am the LORD thy God.” He is JEHOVAH God, the Creator of all things. He is the Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the only true God! He also redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt. In fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God brought the people out of Egypt and was leading them to the land of Canaan, where He would fulfill His promise to send the Seed of Abraham — the promised Messiah and Savior — through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed (cf. Genesis 22:18).

This is why God had the right to give these commandments to His people. He is the LORD God, their Maker and their Redeemer! And this is why God’s people should have listened to God’s commandments and gladly and willingly obeyed them.

God has every right to demand that we, too, obey His commandments; for He is the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer — we belong to Him! He created and formed each one of us in our mother’s womb (Cf. Psalm 139:13-16). He made us for Himself — to live for Him and to serve Him.

But instead of loving Him and serving Him, we love and serve ourselves. As fallen sinners, we do not and cannot keep God’s commandments as He requires.

Because of His gracious love and mercy, the LORD God also redeemed us and won salvation for us by sending His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and to die upon the cross for our sins and then rise again on the third day!

We are the LORD’s — and doubly so! He made us, and even though we have come far short of keeping His commandments, He paid the just penalty for our sins, redeemed us and made us His own again by bringing us to know and trust in Christ Jesus for pardon and eternal salvation! He delivered us from our bondage under sin and is leading us to the promised land of heaven, which is ours entirely as His gracious gift!

Therefore, the LORD God has every right to give us His holy commandments and to expect obedience! And, as His redeemed children — having through faith and for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins and failures — we have every reason to gladly and willingly obey Him!

O LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer, we give You thanks that You have both made us and, by Christ’s shed blood, redeemed us. Help us to gladly and willingly obey Your holy commandments. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), Copyright © 1994 by Deuel Enterprises, Inc.]

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“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Matthew 18:6-7

Sad to say, offenses — those things, whether it be false doctrine or a sinful life, which cause people to fall into sin and unbelief — come! People, as a result of their own rebellious and sinful natures, cause others to join with them in their unbelief and sin and often bring about their eternal ruin.

That is why Jesus has such strong words for those who cause others to sin and to turn away from Christ and His Word. And this is especially so when it comes to harming the faith of children and new believers.

Jesus said: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Thus, we must say with Jesus that it is a most serious matter when parents do not teach their children to know the LORD and His ways or when they deny them baptism and keep them from their Savior. And it is a grievous offense when one causes another who has come to believe on Christ and to hear His Word to turn away. As Jesus said, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” It would be better to be drowned in the sea than to stand before the LORD God on judgment day responsible for the eternal ruin of souls. “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

This is also why it is so important that, when we have erred or fallen into some public sin which could be a cause of stumbling for others, we give God the glory and acknowledge our own sin and wickedness and turn to Him with a penitent heart, seeking His mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. The way to remove an offense is not by hiding it or covering it up. It’s not by justifying or excusing our own sinfulness. It is by taking our sins to the foot of the cross in faith and having them washed away and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb who suffered and died for the sins of the whole world.

Offenses will come, Jesus said. We can expect, as long as we are in this sinful world, that there will be those who cause others to sin and who lead weak believers away from Christ and His Church with their lies. There will always be those who fight against Christ and the Gospel of forgiveness and life in His name. And we must say, Woe to those who cause offense and destroy souls redeemed by Christ’s holy and precious blood!

And lest we offend, let us also continually examine our own faith and life, agreeing with God’s Word, confessing and acknowledging our sins and errors, and looking in faith to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for mercy and forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:7 — 2:2). And let us then follow Christ and heed His Word. He alone is our hope and salvation, and His Word is our only true light!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Amen.

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

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The Work of the Good Shepherd podcast

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday and we consider the ongoing gracious work of Christ Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us, His sheep, and is now risen again. And, the Scriptures speak of Christ’s work as a shepherd in many places.

In Ezekiel 34:1-6, 15-16, we read: “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourself with the wool; you kill those who are fed without feeding the flock. The diseased you have not strengthened, nor have you healed that which was sick, nor have you bound up that which was broken, nor have you brought back that which was driven away, nor have you sought that which was lost. But with force and with cruelty you have subjugated them. They were scattered because there was no shepherd. And they became meat to all the beasts of the field and were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains and upon every high hill. Indeed, My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and no one searched or sought after them. … I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek that which was lost and bring back that which was driven away and bind up that which was broken and will strengthen that which was sick. But I will destroy the fat and the strong. I will feed them with judgment” (cf. all of Ezekiel 34).

God lays much of the blame for the fact that His people of Israel had turned away and came under His judgments upon the shepherds who should have been feeding and nourishing God’s sheep with His Word.

Had they been preaching and teaching God’s Word, admonishing and bringing back those who were erring and wandering from the fold and comforting those who were overwhelmed with guilt and the problems of life, God’s flock would not have been scattered and carried away by their enemies. Instead, those who should have been shepherds to God’s people were busy feeding themselves and taking advantage of the sheep under their care.

The same, of course, is true today in regard to the pastors who have been given a charge to shepherd God’s flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers (cf. Act 20:28). Instead of shepherding the flock and using God’s Word and His Sacraments to feed and nourish the souls entrusted to their care, pastors take advantage of the sheep and seek worldly gain at the cost of those they should be nourishing. Instead of watching over the flock and protecting it from false doctrine, pastors are often the ones advancing false doctrine and erring views that destroy faith (cf. Rom. 16:17-18). Instead of admonishing the erring and giving God’s comfort to the penitent and suffering, pastors say nothing against the sinful lifestyles of our day and offer false comfort to the impenitent and erring.

What does God say He will do? “I will save My flock, and they shall no more be a prey. And I will judge between one sheep and another. I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even My servant David. He shall feed them himself and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and My servant David shall be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken” (Ezek. 34:22-24).

God promised to send His only-begotten Son into the world, born a descendant of David, of the Virgin Mary. He would be the Good Shepherd who would gather God’s sheep from all the nations where they had been driven. He would give His life for the sheep to redeem them and restore them to God’s flock. He would feed His sheep with His Word and Sacraments and protect them from the assaults of those who seek to destroy and devour God’s flock, and He would judge the shepherds who took advantage of God’s flock and failed to be true shepherds to them.

In Isaiah 40:10-11, we read: “See, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; see, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

In Jeremiah 23:1-4, we read: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds that feed My people: You have scattered My flock and driven them away and have not visited them. I am about to punish you for the evil of your deeds, says the LORD. I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries wherever I have driven them and bring them again to their folds, and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will also set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they will fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor will they be missing, says the LORD.”

And we heard Jesus’ words today in John 10:11-16: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. But he who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and runs away. So the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because he is a hired hand and does not care about the sheep. ‘I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and am known by My own. Even as the Father knows Me, so I know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep who are not of this fold. I must also bring them, and they will hear My voice. There will be one flock and one shepherd.’”

What does this Word of God say to us today? To pastors, it is a stern warning to shepherd God’s sheep with God’s Word. It is a warning not to abuse or neglect God’s flock but to preach the whole truth revealed in the Bible and to faithfully apply God’s Word to recover the straying, to admonish the indifferent, to comfort and bind up the weak and injured and to gather the lambs to their Savior. Those who don’t fulfill their duties will be held responsible for their failures to shepherd God’s sheep, but those who do the work entrusted to them will receive a reward (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2).

Peter writes (1 Peter 5:2-4): “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, take care of them, not by constraint, but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly. Do not lord over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that will not fade away.”

And to the sheep, it is a reminder that the Good Shepherd continues to watch over our souls. He feeds and nourishes us with His Word and Sacraments. His Word reveals to us our sinfulness and comforts us with the good news of forgiveness and life through faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

And, indeed, He gave His life His sheep! Isaiah 53:6 tells us: “All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way, but the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Jesus gave His life for us and with His Word, He admonishes us when we go astray, He comforts us when we repent and look to Him for pardon and peace, He encourages and comforts us when we are weighed down with guilt and overwhelmed by the troubles of this life.

His Word tells us in 1 John 1:7 — 2:2: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 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.”

When His called ministers are faithfully doing their duty, God commands us in Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account. Let them do this with joy and not complaining, for that would not be profitable to you.”

And, of course, the ultimate goal is that we, God’s sheep, dwell with the Lord Jesus forever. The goal is that expressed in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Word and Sacraments, we are preserved in the true faith and trust in Christ and His cross alone for pardon and for life everlasting!

“Savior, like a shepherd, lead us; much we need Your tender care. In Your pleasant pastures feed us, for our use your fold prepare. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, You have bought us; we are Yours. Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, You have bought us; we are Yours.” Amen. (Lutheran Service Book, Hymn No. 711, Verse 1.)

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

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So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 (Read John 20:19-23; Cf. Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 18:15-18.)

Jesus has fulfilled the Scriptures. He has suffered and died for the sins of all and is risen again! Now He gives to His church a mission — an assignment and duty. He said to His chosen disciples, “As My Father has sent Me, even so I send you.”

He gave to His disciples the Holy Spirit and a task to carry out — to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Jesus’ name “to all nations,” beginning right where they were, in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47; cf. Matt. 28:16-20).

And God’s called ministers today are still to forgive the sins of those who repent and turn to Christ Jesus in faith and to retain the sins of those who do not repent. As Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.”

Jesus is not here giving to any person, or to a church, the power to forgive and retain sins according to their own whims or choosing. Rather, He gives to the church and its ministers the duty to preach and proclaim that all should repent and turn to Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life. To those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus the church proclaims God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. Psalm 32:1-5; John 8:11; 1 John 1:7 — 2:2). To those who are impenitent and continue on in their sinful ways the church, through its ministers, proclaims God’s wrath and punishment upon their sins! Cf. Matt. 18:15-18; John 8:24; Hebrews 10:26-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

Thus, when God’s ministers rightly apply and proclaim God’s Word and counsel, forgiving the sins of penitent sinners and retaining the sins of the impenitent, their words are as certain and true as if God Himself had spoken them from His throne in heaven! Cf. Luther’s Small Catechism, explanation to the Office of the Keys.

What is genuine repentance? It is not simply going through the motions of acknowledging that we are sinners, asking God to forgive us, and then continuing on in our sinful ways (cf. Luke 3:7ff.)! Rather, it is acknowledging and sorrowing over our sinful ways, turning to Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for forgiveness, and then (as a fruit of repentance) seeking God’s help and aid to amend our lives and live for Christ Jesus, who died for us and rose again (cf. 1 John 1:7—2:6; 2 Cor. 5:15, 17; Psalm 51).

God would have each of us live in continual repentance, examining ourselves in the light of God’s pure Word, being genuinely sorry for our sins and trusting in Jesus’ shed blood for forgiveness, and then continually seeking (in God’s strength) to live our lives according to God’s Word.

Are you genuinely repentant? If so, you are in Christ and have complete forgiveness for all your sins (cf. 1 John 1:7ff.). But if, on the other hand, you are unwilling to give up your sinful ways and turn to God for forgiveness and life in His Son, Jesus Christ, you remain dead in your sins and under God’s wrath and judgment! Cf. Mark 16:16.

Dearest Christ Jesus, we have sinned in thought, word and deed and have failed to live in accord with Your perfect will. Forgive us for the sake of Your holy and precious blood, shed for us upon the cross, and grant us Your Spirit and give us a genuine desire to please You always. 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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