Friday, July 16, 2010
Gifts of Assurance.
In times of trial and temptation we really need to look outside of ourselves for assurance of Our Fathers love and concern. We need some tangible witness that our sins are forgiven. Many groups of Christians today will look at experience in order to find evidence of these gifts. Some will look to the repeat of pleasant feelings or perhaps ecstatic gifts of tongues or healings which are not promised in scripture. Or will mistakenly think that good works are sufficient evidence of forgiveness of sin. God is fully capable to provide these feelings and gifts. It is true that good deeds happen although all tainted with sin. What we have, instead, are the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ESV
We see that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us that we are children of God. Therefore as children of our loving Heavenly Father we can expect all things to be for our benefit even if suffering is involved. How do Christians, all of them, have this witness made sure in this veil of tears? By the sure and certain promises located in God’s holy scriptures. One thing is consistent within the entire Holy Christian church. Each of us are baptized into the Name of God upon entrance into it. Whether this happened as an infant in the vast majority of Christian traditions or as a confessing older child or adult the same promise is associated to being baptized.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ESV
Washed, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. This is tangible and objective evidence that one can reflect on in the deepest and darkest hours of temptation. This can never be taken from us by our sinful flesh, the world which includes false and erring brothers or by Satan himself. Baptism is not merely a one time long ago event but rather a continual renewing of the promises of God which is available at all times. When one evokes or hears evoked the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we have available the recollection of that promise which was delivered to us personally. We were placed under the cross of Jesus in baptism. As a long standing practice many Christians will make the sign of the cross upon themselves. Some will say that is not commanded in scripture but should realize we are physical persons so physical actions will aid in driving home this promise as actually belonging to each of us. This is rejected in favor of a waterless baptism of the Holy Spirit. This baptism is found nowhere in scripture and is assumed for some come to faith prior to baptism. This is easily understood because of the older testament faithful who lived prior to Christian baptism instituted by Jesus. The day to day tragedy in rejecting the strong promises in baptism the Christian is left with nothing tangible to know he or she is a child of God. Instead one is left with a fading memory of a past decision he or she made and an ever searching for good works or ecstatic gift to prove faith.
Luke 24: 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” ESV
Jesus’ desires that through proclamation that his Christians receive repentance and the forgiveness of sins. So from the outside resource of the voice of the pastor disturbing air molecules and having them bang into eardrums we know we have forgiveness of sins. The larynx, air molecules, eardrums and brains to properly interpret the vibrations the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the loved children of God. It should be no surprise that the Creator of all things can use matter to do his bidding. It seems ludicrous that some of the same Christians who will fight tooth and nail with atheists about God creating all things have a problem with the same Creator being comfortable with matter. Rather than trusting the firm promise of Jesus he or she will say it is his or her understanding or step of faith that secured forgiveness. And others will credit the great teacher he is who delivered the message. Christ have mercy!
Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”ESV
The third way the forgiveness of sins comes to us objectively is in the Sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood. Notice how clearly we are to drink of the cup which is his blood for the forgiveness of sin. What wonderful joy it is to have such a gift and to know what is delivered in it! Again too many doubt the forgiveness of sins are delivered in the Sacrament. How tragic! To doubt our Savior’s clear words forces one to look elsewhere to know sins are forgiven. People will look somewhere to themselves such as feelings or a changed life. Yes the feelings of gratefulness are real but over time they will dim and sometimes be absent. Lives do change after coming to faith but when one looks at the perfect law of God and is honest he will have to admit he is still a strong sinner and cannot free himself.
In scripture we have strong promises indeed. The Holy Spirit is promised to be located in baptism and indwells the baptized bringing the forgiveness of sin. The Holy Spirit is also located in the word so that when it is preached faithfully not holding back on law for repentance or qualifying Gospel for forgiveness of sin the gift is delivered. And Jesus has promised to be located truly present, in a mysterious way, in the bread and wine of Holy Communion for the forgiveness of sin. Let us believe these wonderful promises and live in the peace they offer and deliver to us.
In the name of Jesus. Amen. †