Old Hat Gospel

Before I get to the news, I wanted to share with you something from my morning devotions. Maybe you remember that I read from Luther each morning, and each of the readings focuses on a particular text from God’s Word. This morning, the text was from Isaiah 53:4, which reads: “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Luther offers so succinctly in connection: “These are powerful words. The sufferings of this king are our griefs and sorrows. He carries the burden which ought to be ours forever. The stripes and bruises which we have merited, namely, that we should suffer thirst and hunger, and die eternally, all this is laid in Him. His suffering avails for me and for you and for us all; for it was undertaken for our good.”

Luther has a way of cutting through any fog we might have when it comes to God’s Word. He’s right. The words are powerful. In a very short sentence, we are told that as Jesus suffered and eventually ended up on the cross, all our burdens were His to carry—both the natural consequences of a world coming undone in sin, but also the very real punishment we deserve because of our active disobedience. Jesus didn’t shrink from these things, but He embraced them, taking them into Himself and paying the price in our place.

This all sounds like old-hat Gospel, but each time I hear it, most especially before venturing out into a world wracked by these realities, it changes me. It changes my perspective on the people I run into, the people that I serve and the people that, in some ways, serve me. It helps me to realize that each and every person was on the Divine mind while He hung on the cross. It’s impossible to fully comprehend, but He was thinking of you. He was thinking of me. He was thinking of the people around us.

God willing, Lent is helping to calibrate our thoughts in such a way—that is, to know the actual cost for sin and death, so that we might be made ready to rejoice—to be truly joyful—in the Easter victory. This has been my prayer for you, and I know that God hears the prayers of His people.

The Throes of Lent

We are in the throes of Lent.

“I don’t like Lent,” one person said. “There’s too much doom and gloom.”

I get it. I really do. But Lent is in place for such comments as this. Lent keeps such a perspective from becoming the regular pace of the Christian life. Lent makes sure that we know the measure of the cost, and the significance of our inabilities in the face of that cost so that we don’t lose sight of the wonder of the cross and the empty tomb. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard me say this before… if you do not know the seriousness of the bad news—if your church and her preachers and teachers shy from the topics of Sin and Death and the stranglehold of Satan for the loftier clouds of spiritual sentimentality—you will be robbed of the joy and depth of the good news, the Gospel. Lent feels heavier than Epiphany. It feels heftier than Christmas and the Trinity season. Just know that while we may dodge this kind of stuff the rest of the year, it’s nearly impossible to do so during Lent. Each Sunday in Lent, you can count on hearing from the heavy hitters of Scripture—the texts that really clobber us—sometimes leaving us feeling as though we may be getting a lot more Law than Gospel. This coming Sunday is one of those Sundays. The Gospel reading is one that takes stamina to get through; that is, if you are really listening.

But not to worry. As far as it concerns me, the Gospel will always be there in the preaching. Yes, you will hear the bad news, but I won’t keep the Good News from you. If you hear of Jesus’ death and resurrection for your rescue, you’ve heard the powerful Gospel, and that message has the power to convert and convince the heart and bring a joy unequal to anything else this life has to offer.

Listen for it. I promise it will be there. I can make a promise like that because God has already promised and implanted it in His Word. I just plan on giving to you what He’s already given.