Second Article Gifts
Sixth in a series of Ten, “What We Believe, Teach, and Confess”
Isaiah 7:10–17 // Colossians 2:8–15 // Matthew 1:18–25
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today includes all the texts read, in fact, it includes all of the text of the Bible from beginning to end.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In these weeks, we’re continuing to meditate upon What We Believe, Teach, and Confess. Last week, we worked through our First Article Gifts, how God the Father gives us all we need to support this body and life. He gives them to us by means, and still he takes care of us. Today, we turn to our Second Article Gifts. Last week, we understood the Creed as a statement of faith. When you’re saying the creed, I’d invite you to do what I’ve invited confirmands to do: confess your faith. Picture yourself in a courtroom responding to the question, What do you have to say for yourself? Stand with one foot back and one foot forward and state what you believe.
First, the creed is a statement of faith. AND it is also something else. It’s a roadmap. It shows us what’s important and helps us navigate everything else by that which is important.
So, what is it that the Creed calls important?
For the Christian, the most important thing about you and your identity has to do with Jesus Christ. Listen to the explanation that Luther gives: Jesus Christ, true God begotten from the Father before eternity and true man born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. We confess that Jesus is Lord.
Now, the title Lord by itself might not mean a whole lot to you and me. We don’t call our powerful leaders Lord; they have titles like General or President or Senator or Governor or CEO or billionaire. But in the New Testament world, the title of Lord was for the powerful. When you proclaimed Jesus as Lord, you were giving him the title that Caesar claimed. In other words, by claiming the title Lord, Jesus is claiming to be your president, your boss; when he is Lord, he has more claim over your actions than the law of the land does. He claims your allegiance more than any other pledge.
And more than that. That’s already a broad, sweeping claim, but there’s even more to it. The word Lord, it’s also a way to say the personal name of God. I AM WHO I AM. YHWH. The First Commandment, You-Shall-Have-No-Other-Gods God. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is the LORD who is my LORD. He is the LORD who is LORD over all and is not only over all, he is in all and with all. He the God above all who becomes as Isaiah and Matthew say, Immanuel, which means God with us. God in our midst. God by our side.
So, does that mean that God is always on our side? Does that mean that anyone who opposes Pastor Muther’s views is an unchristian pagan and should be condemned? Does that mean that since Jesus has more claim on me than laws, I have to pray that Jesus tells me how fast to drive before I can get in my car and go? Well, no. But if you have these questions, come to Bible study and ask.
Then we get into the narrative of salvation. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died and was buried. He descended into Hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.
That’s the bulk of the Apostle’s Creed because the narrative of salvation is the most important thing we confess. Luther again, He redeems me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy and precious blood, with his innocent sufferings and death.
Jesus redeems you. He redeems you from slavery. He redeems you from slavery to everything we explored in the Ten Commandments: coveting and false testimony and stealing and murder and adultery and slavery to authority and work and idols, slavery to sin. That’s how Jesus takes you from being a lost person and makes you found. That’s how Jesus takes you from being a condemned person and gives you salvation.
Now notice this second point because Jesus wins the gift of salvation for us through means. The Father provides for us all we need to support this body and life by means of miracles but also through doctors and nurses and pastors and farmers and clothing makers and government officials. The Son wins the gift of salvation for us by means of his holy and precious blood and innocent sufferings and death.
He wins salvation for you and me by means of taking on our humanity. He is God made man. He is the infinity of God contained in finite man. He is the author of life humbled to the point of death, even death on a cross. He wins salvation for you and me by means of suffering our death for our sins for us. That is particularly and peculiarly Christian. No other religion on the face of the planet claims this.
And then we get to the “so that” clause. So that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. As a result of what Christ has done... and first I’ll tell you what it’s not. He’s not saying, “Now that I’ve freed you from your slavery to coveting and stealing and murder and forgetting the Sabbath day, feel free to go on being enslaved to those things. I’ll drop you off here and pick you up on the last day.” He’s not saying that! He’s saying instead, since I have loved you into salvation, be free. Be free to follow the Ten Commandments—to serve him in righteousness—be free to live as those declared “not guilty”—to serve him in innocence—be free to suffer gladly for the sake of the Gospel—to serve him in blessedness.
So, what I am asking you to understand? No less than four thoughts for today, all having to do with how the Creed is a Roadmap.
First, know that the Creed is a Roadmap. Last week, we understood the Creed as a statement of faith, and that is absolutely true. This week, we understand the creed as something else, as a roadmap.
The Creed is a roadmap. It doesn’t show us everything. No map should do that. Instead, it gives us a bird’s eye view of what is important about our faith and thus how we navigate our life.
Second, that means that the most important thing about you isn’t about you at all. The lodestone that helps you navigate the rest of your life comes from outside of you. Christ and his work help you make sense of all the unknown that you’ll face out there.
So then, since the creed is a roadmap and since it helps us navigate the rest of life, where do we sit on the map? Where do we live within the creed? We are living between when he ascended into heaven and right now as he sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and before he comes back to judge the living and the dead. That is our present reality.
Fourth (and finally), that means if we are facing the unknown (and in these days we most certainly are), then the best thing that we can do for our own sanity is .... to study the map. Look at your compass and reorient yourself, especially when you’re off the beaten track. Get back to the known so that you can venture into the unknown. Study your Bibles. Remember what it means to confess and forgive. Receive the strength of your Lord in His Supper.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town full of folks that have found their identity solely in Christ. Especially in the face of the known, they seek to remember what is most important: Christ crucified for you and for me. In the face of great weakness in their land, they find their strength to be in their savior. Even when they feel lost, they look back to the map and see that their Father in Heaven has sent his son to chase them around and to bring them home.
Amen and Amen.
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