Righteous or Loving?
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Most people think of God in one of two ways. Some view God as a condemning God. They usually think this because they consider themselves better than others. They worship the mighty God we see in Isaiah: the divine Punisher, ready to smite sinners and burn them to ashes. Others view God as the forgiving, merciful God—a God so loving and so caring and so nice that He would never actually condemn anyone for anything. Sometimes we try to believe in and confess both: the angry God who punishes others, and the free-love God who would never condemn anyone—or at least, not us. Both of these are false gods, and believing either way about God will lead you to eternal death.
Jesus says, "The Father did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." With these words, Jesus teaches us repentance and faith, destroys our sins, and saves us for all eternity. Jesus did not come to condemn us, to keep a record of our sin. He came to save us by being lifted up on the cross. Jesus saves us by taking our sins away. He saves us by suffering and dying for our sins, by taking our sins upon Himself and suffering death to rid us of them. Jesus came to shed His blood to wash them away. God the Father doesn't send the Son to pound the nails deeper into our coffins, but to set us free from sin and death.
So now we don't need to worry about our sins, right? Now we don't have to figure out what our sins are. We can live however we want and do whatever we want, right? After all, we're forgiven. Right? No. The Law that God gives, the Commandments, condemn us. They show us clearly and plainly how we should love God and our neighbor. And the Commandments show us clearly that we do neither. Apart from Jesus, there is nothing but the Law, and the Law can only condemn you. You can't try harder to keep the commandments to make up for the ones you've broken. And if you live as if your sins aren't sins, then you despise Christ who died for them and show you would rather be under the Law. Jesus is teaching us what the world absolutely does not want to hear. In Him, there is no condemnation. Apart from and outside of Jesus, there is nothing but condemnation. No one outside of Christ will survive the judgment against them on account of their sins. No one who is in Christ will suffer the punishment of their sins because it has been taken and laid upon Jesus for your sake.
So the question is, do we want to try to deal with the Father directly? Or do we approach the Father through Jesus? Obviously, if we will be saved, there is no dealing with the Father apart from the Son. So how do we get to God? How do we deal with the Son? Jesus tells Nicodemus that the only way into the Lord's kingdom is to be born again, from above. To be saved from our sins means being born by water and the Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism. It's not something we can do for ourselves; it's something that must be done to us and given to us by the Spirit. And He does so freely. From the font, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has rescued you. Absolution declares that you do not stand condemned for yours sins. The gift of the Supper says that Jesus' body and blood are given for forgiveness. With these gifts, you have the Spirit giving you Jesus and He brings you to the Father. Apart from Christ, there is no love of God, no grace, no mercy. Without Christ, there is only sin and death. But you are in Christ, in His church. With Him there is no sin and death, only forgiveness, life and salvation. If there's ever a doubt, ever a question, just look to the font, and there your doubts will be answered. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.