Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It doesn’t matter to God how bad you are. Jesus died to pay the price for your sins. Even if you are the worst sinner, the most wretched sinner ever, it doesn’t matter. Nothing you have thought, said, or done is beyond the redemption of the blood of Christ. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how sinful you really are, Jesus died for you. It doesn’t matter to God how good you are either. Even if you say the right words, you don’t earn your way to heaven by being good. Your Old Adam still believes God will like you better if you’re good. Your sinful flesh believes that if you’re well-behaved, God won’t let bad things happen to you. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus forgives all your sins. He even forgives you for thinking your good works make you a good person.
So the real question is, are you in Christ? Outside of and apart from Jesus, there is nothing in you but sin, death, and the wrath and judgment of God. In Christ, where His Word has declared you forgiven, there is nothing in you but righteousness, innocence and blessedness. This is what the Jews who believed in Jesus didn’t get. And you have trouble with this too. The Jews refused to believe they were slaves of sin. If you sin, you’re a slave of sin. Jesus sets you free. But sin isn’t just doing bad things. It’s also thinking your good things make you a good person. You tend to think of sin in terms of doing bad and evil and wicked things. But your real show of unbelief is thinking that any good things you do balance out the bad. Unbelief is thinking you don’t deserve eternal death and judgment. But Jesus says plainly: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And that’s exactly what He does by His death for you. Jesus was sinless, perfectly obedient. But He was also the worst sinner ever. All the sins of the world are His, carried to Calvary. He bled and died to pay their price. The death and resurrection of Jesus sets you free…once and for all and forever.
So how do you know whether you are in Christ? Your sins would have you believe that you cannot be in Christ. After all, someone who is truly in Christ wouldn’t sin, right? On the other hand, you cannot believe your good works either. Those might persuade you that you don’t really need Jesus that much. So how do you know you are free? How do you know the Son has made you one of the family? You know because He keeps His promises. Jesus made you part of Himself at the font by water and the Spirit. He keeps you part of Himself when forgives your sins through the mouth of His called pastors. He keeps you part of Himself when He gives you His body and blood to eat and drink. These gifts—water, word, body and blood—these gifts tell you what God has to say. Your goodness or badness doesn’t matter. What matters is Jesus: what He did and what He gives.
It doesn’t matter to God how bad or good you are. But it still matters. It matters to your neighbor. Loving or not loving your parents or spouse or the people around you doesn’t save you. But it matters to your parents or spouse or the people around you! So today’s final bit of good news is that Jesus lives in and through your works. The Holy Spirit dwells in you. God works through you to love and care for others. You could pause and wonder how you love and care for others. But then you would either say, “I don’t do a very good job,” or “Yeah, I’m pretty good at that.” Jesus loves others perfectly in you. And you, through the Christ within you, love others perfectly. In Christ who perfectly obeys the will of the Father, you keep the commandments. This really is what Jesus means when He says He sets you free. He has set you free from worrying, calculating and measuring. You no longer have to ask, “Have I done enough?” You are free from sin. Jesus has set you free. And when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. 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.