Let’s start with some questions this morning. Keep the answers in your head and keep score on your fingers. Okay? Alright, here we go:
How did you do? Get them all right? You should have. Those are questions for third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. I mean, 10-year-olds can answer those questions. You already learned those answers in fifth grade! Aren’t you smarter than a fifth grader?
That exercise proves that what was once learned can be forgotten over time. You may give wrong answers instead of the right answers. You can create some very incorrect answers. You forget what was learned. Knowledge must be renewed and reinforced.
During this past education year, you have had many opportunities to increase your knowledge, understanding, and application of God’s Word. Now, Retain What You Have Gained! Sell the excuses. Buy the truth.
Sunday School, you gained new knowledge and added to ‘old’ knowledge. Remember Adam and Eve? The first two people in the world. They play all the time, never fall down and scrape a knee, never get into trouble. Then, they ate fruit God told them not to eat. You might go in timeout when you do something wrong. God did not put Adam and Eve in timeout, but said they could no longer live in the Garden of Eden. From there, people do not get nicer, they get meaner. It hurts God. So, he covers earth with a flood. Noah builds an ark, brings two of every kind of animal inside, and floats safe. After the flood goes away, Noah had a big family. Some people in his family are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham (for example) was Jesus’ [52-times ‘great-] grandpa (Matthew 1:17). Remember what things Jesus did? He heals sick people. He stops a bad thunderstorm. He dies on the cross for our sins. God wants Pastors like [missionary] Paul (or myself) to tell you this good news. In Sunday School, you learned ‘new’ things about God; you remembered stories learned last year.
Adults, you may remember these Bible lessons from your Sunday School days. Each year you added ‘new’ knowledge. Sometimes you added ‘new’ information to existing knowledge. You gained knowledge.
You gained even more knowledge in catechism class. As a teenager, young adult, or a little older, you opened your Bibles and learned God’s teachings. You explored three ways God the Father cares for you. You pondered why Jesus had to be both true man and true God at the same time. You learned what the ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ keys are, when they are used, and who uses them. Catechism class has a purpose. You explore God’s great love for you and how he keeps you in faith. You can explain what you believe. You can defend your faith. You gained knowledge.
Now what? Well, standing at the end of another year of Bible classes, Retain What You Have Gained! That’s what our Proverb says: Buy the truth and do not sell it… Continue adding new Bible accounts to life; continue connecting Bible teachings to life’s many situations. Because if you do not gain truth, you will sell it. Sell— like ‘reducing inventory,’ ‘subtracting possessions.’ You can sell what you have learned; you can let Bible stories fade or minds subtract from Scripture’s true teachings.
Maybe you sit here, arms folded, chest puffed, scoffing: “Ah! That will never happen to me! I know so much about the Bible! I can never possibly lose my great knowledge!” If so, then congratulations! You are a stronger Christian than Peter, who denied Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). You are a more faithful disciple than the Twelve, who abandoned Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56). You are better than Jesus Christ— because we know that even Jesus worshipped each week (Luke 4:16). You are so advanced in your Christian life that you do not even need this proverb: ‘Buy the truth and do not sell it’! (That is sarcasm.)
That sarcasm is meant for some honest reflection. In my short ministry, I have encountered two types of students: (1) those who listen and (2) those who talk. (1) Listeners realize they still have much to learn. They might be lifelong Christians, but they still pay attention in worship and see how Christ intersects in life. They desire to drink in more knowledge and find even more answers to life’s questions. They may have read the Bible several times through, but still pay attention in Bible Class, cling to every word, and take it to heart. (2) Yet, talkers think they know everything about Christianity! Catechism students brag that they can recite all the books of the Bible, as if this is really what Jesus came to teach us. Some are more interested in telling me what they think Baptism and the Lord’s Suppers means, instead of letting God, in his Word, teach them. Even fellow believers refuse to read devotions, read a Bible chapter, attend Bible Class simply because they think they know every point of Scripture. Talkers sell the truth; they create a myriad of excuses to keep the Bible shut.
I have also learned that the use of God’s Word reveals its priority in our hearts. If we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37), then nothing would keep us out of worship, out of a devotion-life, or away from studying the Bible in Class, Catechism, or Sunday School. Yet, excuses abound:“I have fair season, I have ballgames, I have reunions, I have vacation. I am too busy… too tired… too focused on the kids. I have no time.” That is another way of selling the truth; excuses literally reduce your time with God’s Word.
Satan stokes pride and misplaced priorities in order to reduce our time with the Word. The less we use the Bible, the less we strengthen faith. The less we strengthen faith, the less Bible teachings we get right. The less Bible teachings we get right, the less we see a need for Jesus. Eventually faith shrivels up, Jesus is reduced to a good person, and my confidence for heaven is set in my moral behavior. If I sell the truth, I will sell my Jesus.
Dear friends, there are sections of Scripture where one simple sentence leaves an eternally profound impact. This is one of those places. Retain What You Have Gained! Sell the excuses. Buy the truth.
Buy—like ‘hold to what you have,’ ‘acquire new knowledge,’ ‘add new insights to what already exists.’ Buy the truth.
Here’s the truth: God is not content with our excuses. God does not ignore a proud know-it-all attitude. God will not tolerate our critiques of his teaching. God does not buy our excuses of busy-ness. God demands a heart that holds him always as the foremost priority— and he finds that heart in Jesus.
Here’s the truth: God loads our proud, detestable excuses on Jesus and hangs his Son on the cross. There, God rips off each excuse one-by-one. He throws away the know-it-all attitude. He destroys the critiquing of his teaching. He rejects excuses. God sells Jesus to death— yes, death, punishment, suffering for our proud excuses. Jesus’ pure life is more than enough to buy this splendid truth: ‘Forgiven. Restored. Redeemed.’
That, dear friends, is a truth that never grows old. In fact, that is truth you can keep buying forever and you will never reach a point where it becomes ‘old’ or ‘unneeded.’ You have gained: you have gained faith— a trust in Jesus as Savior. You have gained eternal life. You have gained peace and comfort and happiness. You already hold this. So, Retain What You Have Gained! Keep holding to your gift. Keep it in your heart, in your mind, in your life. How?
Buy the truth… get wisdom. True wisdom acknowledges the poisonous devastation sin wreaks on the world and sees Christ as the antidote. Yes, you already believe this. So, build on it. (1) Hold to what you have, (2) acquire new knowledge, (3) add new insights to what already exists. You will see forgiveness continually drown high school regrets. You will see the Jesus who calms wind and waves still control Oklahoma tornadoes. In a constantly-changing world, you find a never-changing Jesus. Yes, sin saturates this world, but faith sees Christ as the antidote. Keep the Word central in life and gain wisdom.
Buy the truth… get discipline. Remain in God’s Word and you will grow. Discipline corrects bad behavior and strengthens good behavior. The purpose behind discipline is to save life. So, someone might ‘discipline’ you. A parent tells a still-maturing child, ‘I know you want to stay home Sunday, but that will not help you. For your eternal good, we will worship today.’ A child might ask her mother, ‘Why are we not at worship?’ or ‘Why do we not attend Bible class?’ Those words steers the heart to Godly behavior.
Sometimes you may ‘discipline’ you. You may force your hand to turn off the television for just a few minutes so that you can concentrate on a devotion. You may shake off a nap so that you make it to Bible class. You may find new ways to remember one key point from the sermon each day during the week. You may tell the coach: “We’ll be a few minutes late. We have church.” You may tell mom: “We’ll be at dinner after worship.” On vacation, you might be far from a Wisconsin Synod congregation, but you can still pack Meditations [Devotions]. Discipline corrects bad behavior and strengthens good behavior.
That discipline does something for you: You add to what is already there. As God’s Word remains central in life, excuses to push it aside decrease. More than that, your heart and mind will delight in hearing God’s great love for you.
Buy the truth… get understanding. To ‘understand’ is to apply knowledge to life’s situations. As you remember the three things God the Father still does for you, you will take that knowledge and live confident that he has created all things, still provides for you bodily, and will send his angels to keep you safe. You will see how Jesus is true man to obey for you—every single temptation you faced too—but he is without sin—and as true God, his life covers yours! You know the ‘binding key’ refuses forgiveness and the ‘loosing key’ grant forgiveness. What a delight to know heaven remains open to those who confess wrongs!
Yes, we stand at the end of another Christian Education year. You have explored the Amish way of life. You have studied the parables of Jesus. You have learned about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus. You learned the terms ‘Verbal Inspiration’ and ‘Real Presence.’ You have gained much. Do not stop there.
Retain What You Have Gained! You (and I) will constantly encounter the slippery temptation to think there remains nothing left to learn. You (and I) will be tempted to believe things that are not true. You (and I) will be pulled to put our Bibles down. What is the purpose for those temptations? Never, never for your good. Sell the excuses, for excuses have no value. Buy the truth-- a truth that saves. Retain What You Have Gained!
Are those words getting old yet? I mean, Easter was four weeks ago. Twenty-eight days. The Easter lilies are fading. Easter hymns are transitioning into hymns specifically about trust, prayer, faith, and so on. Even our Scripture readings find Jesus and the disciples outside that locked room and in public. The few chapters of the Bible reporting the first Easter eventually give way to many, many more chapters of life after Easter. Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed? We should probably start talking about something different.
At least, that’s how our culture treats Easter. We celebrate Easter in spring. Late-spring we observe Mother’s Day. Starting today, you have graduation season. In another week, it’s Memorial Day (the unofficial start of summer). Our minds tend to look forward— and with Easter day behind us, our minds can leave Easter’s lasting impact in the past too. Is that acceptable?
We can treat Easter like a one-time event reserved primarily for the spring season. But it is not. Each year we celebrate Easter, it is not as though we are celebrating something new or reenacting the old. What happened long ago still impacts life today. Easter Makes All Things New! The resurrection changes your future from death into life. The resurrection changes your present from fear into certainty.
Remember, [the book of] Revelation reveals two major themes you, the Christian, can expect (1:1). (1) A world hostile to Jesus will live hostile to followers of Jesus, but (2) Jesus wins. That last point is not always so easily seen, is it?
The first truth is. (1) A world hostile to Jesus will live hostile to followers of Jesus. Society stubbornly rejected him, tormented him, killed him(!)— and that timeless attitude will reject what you hold dear. You may feel ashamed or weak because you are the only one in your circle of friends who worship. You might feel stupid for admitting you believe in a God you cannot see. You may feel defeated and outnumbered because more and more drift from what God calls ‘right.’ Those you were confirmed with do not worship anymore, and, well, their life looks pretty good. So, you wonder: ‘Why am I here?’ You may even think (or act as though) God just lacks the power to silence those who hurt you. Revelation makes clear: (1) a world hostile to Jesus will live hostile to you, the follower of Jesus. That is not a pleasant reality by any means. Yet, if all you see is a dark, uncontrollable future, then you are forgetting Easter.
Because Revelation is not simply revealing something you know and experience. It takes the events of Easter and connects it to your present-day life. That is its overarching truth: (2) Jesus wins! On Easter, Jesus regained physical life; he did the one thing no one else in the world has ever done— and it only reinforces the truth that Jesus holds supreme power. In that power, Jesus descended into hell and told Satan: ‘My life has freed sinners from hell’s gloomy dungeon. My life gives believers eternal life— and there is nothing you can do to change that.’ (read 1 Peter 3:18-20; Colossians 2:13-16). When Jesus finished pounding that news to those forever condemned to hell, he then leaves the tomb and shares his victory with you!
He is doing that here [Revelation 21:1-6]. Easter Makes All Things New! The resurrection changes your future from death into life. Because Jesus lives, you know what the future holds. A world hostile to Jesus will live hostile to you, but nothing will lock you out of heaven. You will not die and remain in the ground. You will not die and be forgotten somewhere. You will not die and go to hell. Jesus wraps his arm around you and, with his other hand, pans the future. You see a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. ‘New’ is what he makes. Now, it may mean God will create a new heaven and new earth out of nothing. It could mean the present world will be wiped clean and God will replace the ‘old’ with ‘superior.’ The Bible does not give precise details about this ‘new heaven and new earth.’ What the Bible does make abundantly clear is that God replaces ‘old’ with something superior. Every single matter that causes pain, heartache, and sorrow has its end.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. In order to have a city you need people. God sees ‘people,’ but not any group of ‘people’; he sees ‘holy’ people. People whose sins the Lord no longer counts against him (Psalm 32:2; Romans 4:8). People who have been washed, cleansed, and given citizenship (1 Corinthians 6:11). Simply put, God sees every single believer of all time from every corner of the world gathered together in heaven. God sees you there already.
Sound real? Nope— not if my attention only dwells on what I see on earth. Not if I rely on my emotions. That’s why Jesus has to reveal these things. He points us past what we see to what he has done. He uses two words in verse 2 to stress that point: ‘prepared’ and ‘adorned.’ Literally, those are actions you did not do. You did not prepare heaven; you did not choose to be forgiven. Someone else prepared you; someone else adorned you. That Someone is God. He washed you in baptism. He used water and attached a promise: You who have been baptized have clothed yourself with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). Then, he keeps those robes white. In the Lord’s Supper he says, ‘Take and eat, take and drink. Do this, be assured your sins are forgiven (Matthew 26:26-28).
Easter Makes All Things New! The resurrection changes your future from death into life. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying (that’s Jesus’ voice [Revelation 21:6]) “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” That ‘dwelling place’ pictures a tent, or better: a ‘tabernacle.’ The Old Testament tabernacle served as God’s dwelling place among people. God literally lived among the people, in the camp. People even saw it. Here, Jesus says, ‘I will literally live with you forever.’
Easter declares sin forgiven. Without sin, you (and I) have a full, unhindered access to him. This will last forever. Easter Makes All Things New. The resurrection changes your future from death into life. The resurrection changes your present from fear into certainty.
It helps keep this in mind: Jesus is not expressing a wish. He does not share his hopes and dreams. He is not explaining how these things happen. He simply pulls back the curtain and says: ‘Look.’ See the events happening now. The devil cannot push Jesus back into the tomb; death cannot hold him down. Jesus lives—and that shapes our outlook on life now.
Yes, we still live in this world affected by imperfect sin, but we are heirs who already hold our inheritance. You see what is to come. Jesus will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Here is your certain future. Bodies will never age and wear out. Never again will family hurt you; you will never be disappointed by friends. No crying in grief or anxiety. Never again will leaders fail you. Homework will not push you to tears. Frustrations will be gone. No more broken bones, emotional distress, or aches and pains. Since you know what lies ahead, you have answers. You can point at a gravesite and say, “She will rise. He will rise.” Your wife who died with cancer does not have that cancer anymore. Christians fed to lions, insulted for Jesus, attacked for faith no longer cry because the world hates their God. Heaven does not have terrorism, it does not have uncaring teachers, you will not fall down and scrape your knee. All that which causes pain is lifted away. Knowing what lies ahead makes you certain of your present.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Are they? Well, what are the other promises God made? He said to Eve, “Your offspring will crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). Isaiah said that Jesus would be punished for our wrongs and heal us with his body (Isaiah 53:5). King David said that Jesus would not remain dead, but would rise to life (Psalm 16:10-11). Did God keep his Word? He sent Jesus at the right time. Jesus conquered sin, death, and the devil on the cross. Then he ascended into heaven. The God who has kept every promise will keep his final promise to bring you home. That removes fear now.
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” ‘Alpha’ is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; ‘Omega’ is the last. Jesus stands at the beginning of time and at its end. He has no age, he does not change. What he said then stands true today and will remain true always. (1) A world hostile to Jesus will live hostile to followers of Jesus, but (2) Jesus wins. The resurrection changes your present from fear into certainty.
Easter might be behind us, but its effects resonate every day. One time, Martin Luther got quite depressed because an event did not turn out the way he wanted. Maybe he hoped the Catholic Church recognized its false teachings. Perhaps a parishioner believed something false. Maybe Luther was sad that God’s clear teaching was not embraced by everyone. We do not know why he was sad. His wife might not have known the reason either. That did not stop her from wearing black funeral robes.
Luther noticed. “What has happened?” he asked.“The dear Lord is dead,” she replied. “What nonsense,” he said. “You know that God lives and cannot die.” “Is that possible?” she asked. “I thought surely He must be dead since you seem so distressed.” Luther smiled and said, “You are right. I should not be so sad, because God – who has been, is, and will be – is always the same, loving God.” (https://www.lhm.org/dailydevotions/default.asp?date=20040416).
We can treat Easter like a one-time event reserved primarily for the spring season, but it is not. What happened long ago still impacts life today— and every day. Jesus lives! The resurrection changes your future from death into life. Jesus lives! The resurrection changes your present from fear into certainty. Keep looking at the empty tomb—be it spring or summer or fall. Keep looking and see Jesus wins! Easter Makes All Things New!
Chris knew it all. He knew how best to protect himself; he did not need a fence restraining him in the backyard. So, he hopped the fence. He knew how to best preserve his health; he could make his own decisions. So, he wandered in a wilderness chocked full of venomous snakes, poisonous spiders, and wild dogs. He knew how to walk, what to eat, what to avoid; he did not need supervision. Chris was so smart, so intelligent, he did not need over him. He needed no one to listen to. He could follow his gut instincts— and his instincts nearly killed him.
You see, Chris is a sheep. In 2011, he wandered into the untamed, unpredictable Australian bush. For years his wool grew. By the time a hiker discovered him, Chris’ wool weighed 89-pounds. (For comparison, Chris weighs 97-pounds). It covered his eyes. It put him at risk for infection or skin parasites. Chris’ wool was so heavy that if he fell over, he could not get back up; he would have been exposed to predators. In fact, Chris’ wild wool snared him stuck in thickets; he was going to die stuck. Chris felt no need for a shepherd— and his ignorance nearly killed him. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/03/meet-chris-the-insanely-overgrown-sheep-that-nearly-died-for-the-sake-of-our-fashion/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.90295b112d44)
Following your own opinions can kill you. You can believe something false. Jesus makes that point abundantly clear—and he makes that point so that you may live. Keep Listening to the Message of Salvation. It steers you from deadly ignorance and It delivers lifelong comfort.
The image from [our gospel lesson] John, chapter 10, captures that truth. In it, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). A shepherd has a special connection to his flock. He lives among them night and day, days and weeks, weeks and months, months and years. He learns their behavior, studies their habits, and understands their needs. In fact, his primary concern is their welfare. The shepherd guides them along safe, danger-free trails. He leads them to nourishment. His eyes constantly watch for predators. That shepherd wants his flock to live and thrive.
Sheep have a special connection to their shepherd. Again, Jesus says: My sheep listen to my voice (John 10:27). Pay attention to that. What makes this one sheep part of the flock of Jesus out of all the other people in the world is that this one sheep listens. Now, of course, ‘listening’ is more than distinguishing tones with your ears. ‘Listening’ takes in words. ‘Listening’ understands the meaning and content of those words. ‘Listening’ considers what areas of life are impacted by those words and then changes life to match what is spoken. ‘Listening’ is important because taking Jesus’ words to heart is what makes you a sheep of Jesus.
So this morning, you find two Christian missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, in a synagogue. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.” Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!
This group needs to listen because for months, many did the talking! The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus [and the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath] and they fulfilled these words by condemning him. Every single week the synagogue leader read an Old Testament prophecy. (1) Each prophecy clearly outlined what to expect about God’s coming Son. (2) Each prophecy clearly identified Jesus as God’s Son. God sends a message of salvation; he explains how his Son will save the world from death. Yet, the Jews did not listen. Instead, they allowed what they wanted in a Christ to trump the Christ who actually stood before them. Their stubbornness blinded them to the words of the prophets!
The Jews did not simply move on from Christ. They did not dismiss him. Instead, they treated God’s Son like a thug. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.
The Jews did not want to take Jesus’ words to heart, they wanted Jesus to take their words to heart. Simply put, they did not ‘listen.’ That’s a problem. Remember what Jesus says: “My sheep listen to my voice…” (John 10:27). Those who do not listen are not his sheep. Such people wander down a deadly path—whether they admit it or not.
The question is: Do you listen? Do not point fingers. At this moment we are not interested in your jerk of a co-worker or that neighbor who calls herself Christian, but never goes to church. Paul points a finger at you. Are you listening to the message of salvation? Jesus has called you out of spiritual ignorance and into life! He keeps you close by speaking, by literally giving you the Bible. Do you walk beside him as you let his Word sink into your ears? …mind? …heart? Or, do your personal desires come first?
As sheep, we love to wander, don’t we? We love to set our opinions, our incorrect thoughts over the voice of the Good Shepherd. We love to think we are always correct and we know how best to care for life. We may think God does not care about our cursing— but he does! He says so! “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10). God says honor the marriage bed (Hebrews 13:4). Still, we break marriage vows, we do not encourage marriage (like we could), we resist commitment. Why? Because we see nothing bad happen! So, we think we can wander and life will still be fine! Then, we already have in our minds what we will do, but then try to find an excuse so that our wrong actions appear better. God wants worship to be a priority, but we shrug: “Oh, Jesus understands why I must skip worship.”No! He does not!
Fellow sheep, are you listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd? Do you consider what areas of life his words impact and then change life to match what is spoken? Do you listen to him or to yourself? Regardless of what the heart wants to believe, nothing will overrule what Jesus clearly spells out: My sheep listen to my voice and those who do not listen are not my sheep. That ignorance will kill you.
Keep Listening to the Message of Salvation because It steers you from deadly ignorance. It delivers lifelong comfort.
Everyone in that synagogue needed to hear these words. Some in that synagogue may have even condemned Jesus! The point is: failing to see Jesus as Savior kills!—and it killed him.
The reason a cross is mounted to this wall is to serve as a powerful reminder that you (and I) are the reason this cross hangs here. You (and I) wandered from the loving commands of God— and Jesus, your Good Shepherd, noticed. He saw how sin grew in us, how it festers, how it harms. He knows letting your heart wander exposes you to deadly temptations. He knows being stuck in the thistles of guilt will only kill you. So, he searches for you and he finds you.
Jesus wanders in the same wilderness. He confronts devilish temptations to do wrong, but withstands. When he finds you stuck in what will kill you, he reaches into your thorny consequences. Yes, Jesus frees you (and me) from death by allowing our sin to pierce him, to cut him, to kill him. He pulls you out of the thistles of death with his life. He sets you free so that God can sheer off your (and my) immense guilt.
Jesus dies because we wander. We wander, he dies. But God raised him from the dead. Even though we caused the death of Jesus, even though our actions cared absolutely nothing about him, God raised him from the dead. He did that to make Jesus your eternal Good Shepherd. He did that so that Jesus may carry you into his flock. He did that so that you see Jesus guiding to heavenly pastures. Keep Listening to the Message of Salvation. Keep listening to the work Jesus has done for you because only this truth delivers lifelong comfort.
Let those words sink in to your ears, your mind, your heart. “Jesus is Savior.” A ‘savior’ does this work of ‘saving,’ ‘snatching from danger,’ ‘preventing harm.’ If Jesus is Savior, then it means he ‘delivered’ you from hell. What part did you play? What did you do? Nothing. Jesus did it all.
Understand this. I have heard people say: “I know God forgives, but I need to try and live better.” No. Your behavior is not dependent on your forgiveness. ‘Being better’ does not make God forgive you ‘better.’ Either you are forgiven or not; there is no ‘in between.’
More than that, you are not listening. We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. God points to this one Man, shines a spotlight on him, singles him out. He says in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ God makes clear: Follow him. Stop relying on your thoughts. Do not cherish your opinions. Listen to the Word. Shape your life around it and you will live.
Do you get it? It is all a tremendous gift. It is all meant for you. This is what your Shepherd does. You do nothing—except one thing, I guess. You live! You live with an unburdened conscience! You feed on the Word of Truth. You live happy because Jesus is the reason you have life! Keep Listening to the Message of Salvation. Keep pointing to the magnificent work of the Good Shepherd because It delivers lifelong comfort.
Chris was certain he knew everything he needed for life. So, he wandered. He relied on his own gut instincts—and those instincts nearly killed him. Fortunately, a hiker spotted Chris, called for help, and rescued him. Chris needed a shepherd.
Following your own opinions can kill you. Those opinions morph into warped views of who Jesus is, the life he lives for you, and the forgiveness he wins. Those opinions can lead you to reject his promise of forgiveness and chase after other teachings that are false. Jesus makes that point abundantly clear—and he makes that point so that you may live. Your Good Shepherd hands you his Word to hit your ears, mind, and heart. So, who are you listening to? Keep Listening to the Message of Salvation. It steers you from deadly ignorance and It delivers lifelong comfort.