Jesus Christ said, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25). Why would anyone want to accept that challenge? The cross meant death, a horrible, humiliating death, preceded by excruciating pain and suffering. Why would anyone want to follow Jesus?
Our Lord Jesus bore His cross. On that cross He became the sacrificial Lamb to “take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Because of His death for our sins, and His resurrection, He offers life, eternal life, abundant life, for all. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, called out, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man (Jesus) standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56), and as he was being stoned, prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (7:59,60). So it was with the Christians of Rome on whom Nero placed the blame of Rome’s burning. They went to their death in the Coliseum as fodder for lions and human torches, singing as they went. They took up their crosses knowing the life Jesus gave them.
To this day in Egypt churches are being burned, Christians driven from their homes, many killed. Reports of the same sort of violence against Christians come out of Iraq, countries of north Africa, Malaysia, Pakistan. The people know what it means to “bear a cross and follow Jesus.” They, and we, do so only by the power of the Holy Spirit, who keeps their eyes fixed on Jesus and the life He gives. Come to Peace Lutheran Church. Sunday service time is 10:00 a.m.
“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The liturgical response is, “But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This repetition in the Divine Service teaches us to admit we have sinned against God. No member of the Lutheran Church would deny being a sinner. However, when it involves specific sins, many find it hard, if not impossible, to say, “I am guilty!” Addiction to pornography, drugs, and alcohol are among these, as well as laziness at work, cheating in school, failing a grade, failing in my marriage. Blaming someone else, lying, and deceiving are attempted “coverups”. “The one who covers his sin will not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13). “The truth is not in us.”
The second part of that liturgical response also teaches, “But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” These words are hard, if not impossible, to believe. They must be repeated in the hymns, the sermon, the prayers. This is the Gospel through which the Holy Spirit works faith to really believe that God forgives our sins. “Whoever confesses and forsakes them (specific sins) shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7-9). Come to Peace Lutheran Church for the Divine Service on Sunday, 10:00 a.m.
In answer to the question, “Are there few who are saved?” Jesus replied, “Strive to enter the narrow gate” (Luke 13:23). The Universalist would have answered, “All will eventually be saved.” The Multiculturist would say, “All religions are good. They are just different roads to the same place.” The average Joe on the street will say at the funeral, “At least he is in a better place.” Most people want God to be very generous in taking everyone to heaven.
But Jesus speaks of the gate as narrow. It is as narrow as our Lord Himself. In Jesus Christ God fulfilled the promise of ONE redeemer, provided ONE Savior, offered ONE sacrifice for sin. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). The Apostle Peter speaks to the Jewish leaders, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we may be saved” (Acts 4:12). The gate is also narrow because no one can enter carrying the baggage of sin. No unrepentant person, no unbeliever, no pretender can enter.
Yet that gate is wide enough for all people to enter: “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29). For those who recognize their sin and need for a Savior He promises, “He who comes to Me, I will not cast out.”
Come to Peace Lutheran Church. Sunday service time is 10:00 a.m.