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Month: November 2017

God of Comfort

The WORD

16“…and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:15-16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

What are the devil, death, and all things over against the eternal, almighty majesty of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who want to be and are our Comforter? For if He who is sent is called a Comforter, then both He who sent Him and He by whom He is sent must be the same Comforter. Then there is surely no God besides Him who is a Comforter. And henceforth he who wants to know God aright and name Him appropriately must call Him “Comforter” or, as St. Paul terms Him in [reftagger title=””]Rom. 15:5[/reftagger], “the God of Comfort,” namely, for those who are frightened and have no other comfort. They must not conceive of God otherwise than as a Comforter of the wretched and troubled. They must give the lie both to the devil, who threatens with God’s wrath and with hell, and to their own heart, and say to the devil: “You are a false spirit of lies!” and to their heart: “You are a false, foolish heart!”

Thus the prophet David declares in [reftagger title=””]Ps. 42:11[/reftagger]: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted in me?” As though he were to say: “Why do you torment me without cause?” And then he quickly shakes off his dejection, takes comfort, and says: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my Help and my God.” “Your notions,” he wants to say, “are falsehood and lies; for you transform God into a terrible judge or jailer for me, while, as a matter of fact, He is a friendly Father and a consoling Lord. Away with your anger and terror! Go to the ungodly tyrants and others who are so smug that they do not care about God! That is your proper place. Do not confuse me; for I believe in my Lord Christ, who died and rose again for me and who both asks for and sends me the Holy Spirit and Comforter from the Father. Therefore be undaunted, no matter what happens. Even though everything were to collapse, though lightning were to flash and thunder to crash, let it all fall and tear and crumble. Where my Lord and God stays, there I, too, will abide.”

Blessed is he who knows and can do this. But here there is still a deficiency. The devil is too powerful among us, the world is too strong, and we see so many obstacles and temptations before us that we forget and cannot comprehend the comfort God sends into our hearts. We feel only that which hurts us. It is so strong that it fills man’s whole being and erases these words from his mind. Therefore Christians should rise above all fear and sadness, all anxiety and woe, and say with the prophet: “Why are you so sad?” Christians know how to do this. Christ says: “I know this very well, and for this very reason I am telling you about it in advance. You should not be guided by such feelings or believe your own thoughts; you should believe My Word. For I will ask the Father, and as a result of My plea He will surely give you the Holy Spirit to comfort you. Then you can rest assured that I love you, that the Father loves you, and that the Holy Spirit, who is sent to you, loves you.”

Your heart will counter: “You have not been living right; you are full of sin.” Unfortunately, this is all too true. What is the result? “Oh, you must go to hell!” says the devil. No, that is not the will of God. Begone, devil, you and the evil world; for my Lord Christ says no to you, He tells me that the Father is not angry with me but will give me the Comforter, who will come to me in answer to His prayer. They concur in this, that they do not want me to be frightened and sad, much less rejected and condemned, but comforted and happy.

Behold, that is why Christ befriends His Christians so faithfully and diligently. It is His desire to give them the firm conviction that they will have comfort in abundance, and to acquaint them with His and His Father’s heart and intention. They should have no other purpose and should wish for nothing else from Him than that they be comforted. He tells them that the work and office for which He has been sent by the Father is nothing else than to comfort them and bid them be unafraid. And when they are comforted through God’s Word, they should regard and accept this as comfort that surely comes from the Holy Spirit and is also comfort from God the Father and the Lord Christ.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 113–115). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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Oh Give Thanks!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I hold and believe that I am God’s creature, that is, that God has given me and constantly sustains my body, soul, and life, my members great and small, all my senses, my reason and understanding, and the like; my food and drink, clothing, nourishment, spouse and children, servants, house and farm, etc.

Besides, God makes all creation help provide the benefits and necessities of life—sun, moon, and stars in the heavens; day and night; air, fire, water, the earth and all that it yields and brings forth; birds, fish, animals, grain, and all sorts of produce. Moreover, God gives all physical and temporal blessings—good government, peace, security.

Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, “Explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed”

 

John 14:16 Another Helper

The WORD

13“…and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:15-16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

The world lives freely, smugly, and riotously, without fear and anxiety, and heeds neither God’s wrath nor His grace. Besides, it is giddy and reckless, and does not stand in need of comfort. But the few who are called to believe, are baptized in Christ, and remain loyal to Him are in dire need of a Comforter to strengthen and preserve them, that they may be able to endure and bear all things.

“Therefore since I am about to depart from you,” says Christ, “and can no longer be with you visibly, and since your sufferings will now begin, I will not leave you forsaken and without comfort. Until now, to be sure, you have joy and consolation in Me, but this has been only physical and temporal comfort and had to end anyhow. For I cannot remain with you forever this way if I am to enter into My glory and spread My kingdom through you. And in order that this may happen soon, it is necessary for Me to die, ascend to heaven, and leave you behind. But you shall not be forsaken; you shall take comfort in the knowledge that I will ask the Father to give you another Comforter, who will remain with you not only for a time, as I am doing, but will stay with you forever and will comfort you far more effectively than I have done by My physical presence. And this shall begin soon after My death and resurrection, and it shall not cease until I take you to Myself.”

Thus Christ now begins to preach about the Holy Spirit, who is to be given to Christendom and will preserve it until the Last Day.

We must learn to know and believe in the Holy Spirit and as Christ depicts and describes Him, namely, that He is not a Spirit of anger and terror but a Spirit of grace and consolation, and that the entire Deity reflects sheer comfort. The Father wants to comfort, for it is He who grants the Holy Spirit; the Son likewise, for He prays for this; and the Holy Spirit Himself is to be the Comforter. Here, therefore, there is no wrath, threat, or terror for Christians; there is only a friendly smile and sweet comfort in heaven and on earth.

Why is this? “You already have hangmen and jailers enough who terrify and harass you,” Christ wants to say, “simply because you believe in Me, proclaim and profess Me. The devil will not desist from frightening and plaguing you. The world will also take a hand in this, seize you by the throat, and assassinate the one and exile another. You will have devils enough even without all the devils and the torments of hell! In addition, you will have your own heart and your conscience, which will lie prostrate and groan: ‘Alas, I am a poor sinner, and I did not live and act as becomes a Christian!’ These I will not give you, nor will I pray for them. On the contrary, I will pray that an eternal Comforter, who is to be the Holy Spirit Himself, may be granted to you against all this, to strengthen and aid you in all your sadness, fear, and need, so that you may overcome this and be delivered from it.

“This is what you are to look for and expect from the Father and from Me. If, as Christians who believe in Me and hold to Me, you suffer or are assailed, whether it be by the devil or by your conscience, then the Holy Spirit will be your Comforter and will address Himself to your heart as follows: ‘Be unafraid, and do not fear; for you are baptized, and you believe in Christ. Therefore you need not be frightened either by the devil with all his angels in hell, by your own thoughts, or by your anxiety about your relation to God. No, do not think otherwise than that God’s anger and all hell are totally extinguished. For that is surely true for believers, even though they still feel sin and weakness.’ ” It is for this very purpose that the Comforter is promised and sent to them, to fortify them against such terror and fear.

Neither should you fear the world, tyrants, and all who want to rob you of honor and goods, and even of your life, because of Christ. For even if they do deprive you of all this, here you have a greater treasure, which the devil and the world will never take from you. And since this Comforter, together with the Father and Christ, is yours, you have all you should desire. Therefore let your heart be of good cheer. Despise boldly everything that assails you, and say: “I will remain undaunted even if the devil and all the world were far worse than they are.”

Christians must be proficient at this, for this message is addressed to them alone. As to the others—the coarse and malicious multitudes who disregard God’s Word or persecute it with malice aforethought and, on top of this, are smug—it would be better for them if they were frightened enough to flee from a rustling leaf.

“Just hold firmly to Me with your faith and confession; remain My beloved disciples, and you will suffer no want. I will comfort you abundantly. If sin, death, hell, the devil, or the world confront you, I will attend you with the Holy Spirit, who will adequately comfort you.”

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 110-113). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

John 14:15-16

The WORD

13“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:15-16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

These are all words of Him who is about to depart from His disciples and now bids them farewell. He gives them comfort and exhorts them not to be frightened and saddened by His departure. As though He were to say: “I must now go from your sight. Therefore I tell you this as My farewell and Godspeed. You must not become afraid and fearful; but believe in Me, and take to heart what I am telling you. For I will not leave you without comfort and help, even though you find no comfort and help in the world. Yes, I am going to the Father for this very reason, to assume My power and My reign and then to manifest these in you. And though I depart from you physically, I shall send you another Comforter from the Father. He will always remain with you, for I know that you cannot abide in the world without a Comforter.

“Until now I, through My bodily presence, have been your Comforter. You have taken delight in Me and have felt secure and fearless, and you would like to remain with Me. But now that you hear that you are about to lose this comfort, you are cast down and troubled. Yet My departure shall not harm you. Just remain My disciples and hold to Me, and I will compensate you richly for the loss. For I Myself will ask the Father to grant you the Comforter, who will stay with you forever; and neither the world nor the devil will deprive you of Him, no matter how they rant and rave. He will strengthen you and make you courageous and bold, far better than I can now do by My physical presence. Moreover, He is wiser and more learned than all the world. Therefore you will not lack for comfort, strength, courage, and wisdom.”

That is the comfort. But Christ advisedly prefaces it with the words: “If you love Me and keep My commandments.” The dear Lord definitely foresaw that unrest would be afoot in Christendom after His departure, particularly among the preachers and teachers. He knew that they would not remain in agreement but would be split into schisms and factions. He completely abolished Moses for His Christians, and now He does not want us to be encumbered again with the intolerable burden of the Law. For we invariably find that where laws rule, especially over the conscience, there is no end of commands and precepts. One law leads to a hundred new ones, and these hundred multiply into a hundred thousand. “Therefore,” Christ says, “I do not impose anything else on you. I ask and demand no more than this one thing, that you faithfully preach about Me, watch over My Word and Sacrament, show affection and harmony among one another for My sake, and patiently bear the adversities that this entails for you.”

These are the brief commandments which Christ calls “My commandments.” “And these,” He says, “I impose on you only if you love Me and gladly keep them for My sake. For I do not want to be a Moses, who drives and plagues you with menace and terror; but I give you commands which you can and will surely observe without coercion if you love Me at all. If love is wanting, it is useless for Me to give you many commandments; for they would not be observed anyhow. Therefore if you want to keep My commandments, see that you love Me, and think of what I have done for you. It is proper that you should love Me, who am about to give My life for you and to shed My blood for you. Do this for My sake. Live in harmony and friendship with one another. At the same time adhere steadfastly to Me in your preaching, bear with one another in love, and do not introduce schisms and factions.

“For I have richly deserved your loyalty. It is hard for Me to accomplish your redemption, and it costs Me My life. I am hurling Myself into death and into the jaws of the devil to deliver you from sin and death, to destroy the power of hell and the devil, and to present you with heaven and all that I have. I will gladly pardon you if you err and sin at times, even if you fall grossly, also if you are weak and frail, but only if you return to Me, manifest your love again, and also forgive one another, as I do you, so that your mutual love will not be destroyed.”

Christ begins this admonition here; but later He will extend it and stress it more, in order to impress this on their minds for the hour of His departure. For He knew very well, as I have said, that there would be many who would adorn themselves with His name and boast of being His disciples and preachers of the Gospel but would set their own reputation, glory, and honor above Christ’s blood and death. They would not esteem Christ’s grace and ineffable love and all that He did to accomplish our redemption highly enough to jeopardize or surrender their own pleasures or honor or power for it. They would not deprecate their own knowledge and cleverness, because their reputation for smartness, wisdom, and learning is of greater consequence to them than Christ and the pure doctrine of the Gospel.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 101–103). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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John 14:13-14

The WORD

13“Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;14 if you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:13-14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

By telling His disciples to pray Christ wants to point out that of and among themselves they do not have the power to do such great things—things which He calls greater works than those He Himself has done. They will experience weakness, all sorts of trouble and want, opposition and hindrances in their calling, life, and acts. He lets this happen to them to forestall pride, presumption, and self-reliance, as though they now had everything and no longer needed Him. They should remain humble and continue to be aware of their own impotence. Then they will exercise their faith in Christ all the more by prayer and petition, and will experience His power in weakness and in suffering the more surely, because they will be impelled to call upon Him and implore Him. Thus He said to St. Paul in [reftagger title=””]2 Cor. 12:9[/reftagger] : “My power is made perfect in weakness.

With these and the following words Christ also demonstrates what constitutes a Christian’s true office and function, and how necessary the exercise of this is in Christendom. The prophet Zechariah refers to this when he says ([reftagger title=””]Zech 12:10[/reftagger] ) that Christ will pour out and grant the spirit which is called “a spirit of compassion and supplication.” For in all Christians He will effect and produce these two things: First, He will convince and assure their hearts that they have a compassionate God; secondly, He will enable them to help others by their supplication. The result of the first is that they are reconciled to God and have all they need for themselves. Then, when they have this, they will become gods and will be saviors of the world by their supplication. Through the spirit of compassion they themselves will become children of God; and then, as children of God, they will mediate between God and their neighbor, and will serve others and help them attain this estate too.

For once a Christian begins to know Christ as his Lord and Savior, through whom he is redeemed from death and brought into His dominion and inheritance, God completely permeates his heart. Now he is eager to help everyone acquire the same benefits. For his greatest delight is in this treasure, the knowledge of Christ. Therefore he steps forth boldly, teaches and admonishes others, praises and confesses his treasure before everybody, prays and yearns that they, too, may obtain such mercy. There is a spirit of restlessness amid the greatest calm, that is, in Gods grace and peace. A Christian cannot be still or idle. He constantly strives and struggles with all his might, as one who has no other object in life than to disseminate God’s honor and glory among the people, that others may also receive such a spirit of grace and through this spirit also help him pray. For wherever the spirit of grace resides, there we can and dare, yes, must begin to pray.

Therefore Christ wants to say here: “When you believe in Me and have received the spirit by which the heart is assured of the grace of God (Christ had said above: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”), then you will certainly be constrained to pray.” For prayer is the true work characteristic only of Christians. Before we become Christians and believe, we do not know how or what to pray. And even if a man prays most fervently, the spirit of grace is not yet present. Then the heart is still disposed to say: “Dear Lord, I ask you to regard my life, my intense suffering, or the merit of this or of that saint, the intercession and the good works of pious people.” This is not faith in divine grace and mercy through Christ. Moreover, the heart always remains in doubt and cannot conclude that its prayer has certainly been heard. It insists on dealing with God on the basis of its own holiness or that of others, and without Christ, as though God had to humble Himself before it, have His grace or assistance wrested from Him, and thus become our debtor and servant. This means deserving wrath, not grace; this means mocking God, not praying to Him.

A genuinely Christian prayer must issue from the spirit of grace, which says: “I have lived my best; therefore I implore Thee not to regard my life and my conduct, but Thy mercy and compassion promised me in Christ, and because of this to grant me the fulfillment of my prayer.” Thus our prayer must, in real and sincere humility, take no account of ourselves; it must rely solely and confidently on the promise of grace, in the firm trust that God will hear us, as He has commanded us to pray and has promised to hear us.

Therefore Christ distinctly adds the words “in My name.” He wants to teach us that no real prayer is possible without faith and that without Christ no one is able to utter a single word of prayer that is valid before God and acceptable to Him.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, pp. 87-89). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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