I tried a little surf fishing on Friday.  All I caught was a crab that had grabbed hold of my bait with its pinchers and wouldn’t let go until I pulled him out of the water.  Anyway, I was standing 15-20 feet into the surf on level sand.  Except every time a wave came in and the water rushed out, the sand under my feet would wash out, and it wouldn’t be level anymore.  And then I’d have to kind of reposition myself in order to brace for the next wave.  

On what are you standing in your relationship with God?  On rock or on sand?  An extremely important word in the Bible is “justified.”  Its meaning, again, is to declare “not guilty, or “not subject to punishment”.  Most people today believe they are justified before God.  But on what are they basing their hope?  Actually, for them it isn’t a hope, it’s a certainty.  But why are they certain God isn’t angry with them and will give them heaven someday?  Their answer, “God is love”, which of course He is.  But then they’ll add that, because God is love, He understands how people feel about things, and so things He used to say are wrong, He now says are okay, because times have changed.”

Here’s the latest example.  If someone believes the government is wrong about something, a person has the moral right to do whatever it takes to change the government, including lying, defaming, ridiculing, and breaking the law.  In other words, “the end justifies the means.”  Only a false prophet can say that.  God says: Everyone must submit to the governing authorities.  For no authority exists except by God, and the authorities that do exist have been established by God.  Therefore the one who rebels against the authority is opposing God’s institution, and those who oppose will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2   God says these things, BECAUSE He is love, and in the big picture of things He’s always knows what’s best.

Another basis on which many trust God has justified them, is they accept that God’s law doesn’t change, but because Jesus died for them, God doesn’t hold their little sins against them, and so it’s okay to repeat them every so often, as long as person doesn’t get too wild. Only a false prophet could say such a thing.  When we have the mind of Christ in us, we want nothing to do with sin, whether they’re big or little!  And now here’s what I mean about having the mind of Christ in us.  

The Bible teaches us that we are by nature dead in our sins and deserving of God’s eternal condemnation.  Yet, even before the creation of the world, God knew us and cherished us.  For this reason, He also pre-determined all the ways He would protect us in order to bring us to faith and keep us in faith, and help us to grow in faith and live our faith, until we live with Him in heaven.  Having the mind of Christ means that His love for us is moving us to want to be like Him in every way.  Also, whenever we fail to be like Him, remembering His shed blood for us puts us back on track, for another day or another hour or minute.  On the other hand, to not care about sinning, is the same as not caring that God has made us His own by grace alone.   

This brings me to one more false basis for people thinking they’re right with God.  They don’t believe in grace.  Grace offends them.  Rather, they believe their good so far outweighs their bad that they deserve heaven.  Our text reads: Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and drive out demons in your name and perform many miracles in your name?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.” – Matthew 7:22-23   Attending every worship service doesn’t save us.  Tithing doesn’t save us.  Telling others about Jesus so that many more join our church doesn’t save us.  Volunteering our time for New Hope to serve others doesn’t save us.  Getting paid and working 70 hours/week doesn’t save us either.  Thinking that any of these things do save us is forgetting that God loves all people unconditionally for Jesus’ sake.  Furthermore, we can’t earn extra favor from God by the things we do, because whatever He enables us to do is only by His grace.  Paul put it this in Ephesians: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10   This last phrase really captures the Greek.  Doing the good God has planned for us in eternity is to be our whole passion in life, and it’s our passion, again, not to make ourselves good in God’s eyes, because through Jesus we already are.  But we pursue the good, because a son or daughter, spouse, neighbor, or co-worker needs it!  

And now let’s jump ahead to our last day of life here on earth.  I hope I’ve made it clear, that when we’re standing before God, as we all will, we dare not be trusting that God has changed His standards of holiness, or that our little sins don’t matter anymore, or if they do matter, that our good makes up for them.  Sinking sand!  That’s what all that is!  Now, sand will support us, when waters are calm, and there aren’t any waves coming toward us.  But here are some huge waves that are coming and we need to brace ourselves for.  

Satan is an accuser.  At times for the testing of our faith God let Satan accuse us with everything he’s got.  And Satan’s got a lot on each of us.  He’s see where your eyes turn.  He knows God doesn’t buy it if we say that we’re just looking at someone for their beauty.  Satan also hears every word that comes out of our mouth, and He knows God’s threat that He will not hold guilt anyone who misuses His name.  What Satan will do, then, is he will shout our sins to God, and he will shout our sins at our conscience, so we never forget them and fear that God won’t either.  That’s what Satan did to King David.  God forgave David his sins of adultery and murder.  But every time David experienced some new consequence for his old sins, Satan would be right there shouting, “See?  God is still angry with you!”  Or, whenever David committed another sin, Satan would shout at him that this sin was the last straw and God was done with him.  Satan shout things like this at us too, doesn’t he, especially when we see death building up like a wave about to roll over us.  

At such times, what is the solid rock on which we may take our stand?  Christ alone!  But we may say, “I already know that!”  Well, are you familiar with the term, muscle training?”  Whether you’re shooting hoops or playing a musical instrument or texting on your phone, by repeating an activity again and again, we train our muscles, so that we get better and better at it.  In the same way, the waters of our life may be calm right now.  But by confessing our sins in our worship, and by hearing the words of forgiveness, and also by repeating the basis of our forgiveness in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed, our faith muscles are being trained.  And then when our life’s water gets rough, we’re able to stand firm on the Rock of Ages, and know that we are forgiven and we have peace with God and He is with us, until we are with him.  

But what if some really big breakers start coming our way?  Well, we can’t make ourselves stronger, and we can’t make ourselves stop fearing that this time around we’re going to get knocked over.  At such times, we need to remember what God did for us through our baptism.  He put a watermark on us that signifies we are adopted into His family, which means that the eternal forgiveness Christ won for all is ours personally. And so, Satan can shout about our sins all he wants, but God’s not going to listen to him, and neither should we.  Instead, let’s listen to the Spirit, who works and strengthens faith in us through baptism, and who finishes what He starts, not because we deserve it, but because His is faithful.

Now, this is not to say our life’s waters will get smooth, and temptations will cease, and Satan will stop shouting out our sins.  Yet through the Word, and by relying on the blessings of our baptism, which are re-enforced for us in the Lord’s supper, we are building on the rock.  And the only way we can lose out, is if we stop building on the rock, and muscle train our faith by listening to evil, and go back to trying to build our security and our happiness for this life and the next on ourselves or on what we do.  

What I just shared with you is true doctrine.  In contrast, all so-called Christian doctrines that really focus on what man wants, what man decides, and what man does, are false.  But someone might say I’m being arrogant in saying this, and that my interpretations are just my interpretations, and someone else’s interpretations are equally valid.  On the surface this sounds reasonable, but it’s not reasonable.  It’s not reasonable to stand on sinking sand against the lies and accusations of Satan.  It’s not reasonable to stand on sinking sand against the seemingly impossible needs that are all around us.  It’s even less reasonable to stand on sinking sand against the holiness and justice of God.  

On the other hand, when our interpretation of the Bible is based on word meaning in its context and we’re paying attention to the grammar and figures of speech, and we’re comparing one passage with another, when they’re both talking about the same thing, guaranteed we will not end up with man, man, man.  We will end up with Christ, Christ, Christ.  O people of God, children of the Heavenly Father, build your life and your hope of heaven on nothing less than everything Christ has done for us, and everything He has revealed to us, and nothing else.  In His name.  Amen.

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