You and I have now traveled together one week in our lenten journey toward the cross and our redemption. But we still have a ways to go.
For whatever reason, modern evangelical Christianity has chosen to use neither creeds nor sacraments. The creeds are statements of what we believe, and the sacraments are proof of God’s faithfulness to His promises. Remove these things from the life of the church, and all you have left is the law and the behaviors it demands.
Go into any Christian bookstore today and look at the titles. They’re all law-based and demanding: “Lose weight the Biblical way,” “10 Easy Steps that will Change Your Life,” “Christian Financial Principles for Life,” or, “How to Manage Your Money God’s Way.” I find a huge inconsistency in the lack of creeds – ie, people don’t want to be told what to believe, but they like to be told what to do and how to do it. Now, if a church body has little or nothing to offer other than the law and the behaviors it demands, how it that church different from the Jewish Church at the time of Paul, or the Pharisees at the time of Christ?
In his 1st letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote this: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” That’s an early form of what would eventually become known as the “Apostle’s Creed.” Luther insisted that every father teach his family the Apostle’s Creed, and then how to use that creed as a daily guide in their family life.
The Creed is divided into 3 main parts, the first part speaks of the Father and Creation; the second part speaks of the Son and our Redemption; and the third speaks of the Holy Spirit and our Sanctification.
Martin Luther did something quite interesting with the First Article – he made it personal. “Not only did God create the world,” he wrote, “but I believe that God made me and all creatures, that He has given me my body and soul, eyes and ears, reason and senses, and still takes care of me today.” The God Who created the world’s first day is the same loving and personal God Who gave you your very first day in this world.
In the First Article of the Creed, we learn that God has given us all that we have. In the Second Article, we learn that God has given us all that He has. Luther wrote, “He poured Himself forth completely – He withheld nothing from us.” When God gave you His Son, He gave you all that He had to give.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. 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.”
Luther, in making the second article personal, just as he did the first, wrote, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.” Do you know who your “Lord” would be if Jesus had not been willing to die on the cross in your place? Our “lords’ would be sin, death, and the devil. The fact that Jesus Christ is My Lord and Savior has nothing at all to do with anything I’ve done for God. My redemption and eternal salvation is purely the result of what God was willing to do for me; that He was willing to suffer, and die, and rise again for me.
Luther described our salvation with these familiar words, “He has redeemed 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 precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.”
In the First Article, we learn that God created us, gave us our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, fingers, and toes. In the Second Article, we learn that God’s Son Jesus, died on the cross to forgive our sins, and to free us from the power of sin, death, and the devil. But God isn’t finished yet, He still has the Holy Spirit to share with us.
The work of the Holy Spirit is Sanctification – teaching us how to live a God-pleasing life. The Holy Spirit does this when He calls us with the power of God’s Word, He teaches us with the wisdom of God’s Word, and keeps us in the one, true faith through the truth of God’s Word. God’s Word is our connection to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our connection to Christ, and Christ is our connection to God the Father and His eternal Kingdom. Through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit does all of this for you.
The Holy Spirit is always working on your sanctification through the power of hearing and telling the story of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, all that Jesus did to save you from sin, death, and the devil. Because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, a glorious resurrection and life everlasting will be yours.
You have faith in Jesus, a powerful, living, saving faith. You received your faith from the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s Word when you believed and were baptized. That’s how the Spirit works – using the Church like our spiritual mother, who conceives and gives birth to faithful believers through God’s Word and the blessed sacraments.
This church exists for one purpose: to show you Jesus, His salvation, the forgiveness of your sins, and His power over death. We also do our best to care for you body and soul, mind, spirit, and conscience, for as long as you shall live. May God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, grant this to us all. Amen.