Monthly Archives: November 2022

As the End Comes, Love by His Spirit and Fulfill the Law

Sermon preached at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Waseca, MN, 11/27/2022.


“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”[1]


Love, Paul proclaims, goes hand in hand with the Ten commandments – at least it seems the second table given the sampling he shared – and says that these are summed up in the one command to love your neighbor as yourself.

Some of you might be thinking:

Why though, is Paul talking about love as a debt here?! After all, as Christians, haven’t all our debts been paid? Is there not a sense in which we really and truly are free from the law?”

Good catch! Your instincts are sound.

For instance, in the book of Galatians, Paul also talks about how Christ has set us free for freedom and that anyone who tries to be justified by following the law has fallen away from grace![2]

At the same time though, note also what he says there in Galatians about the origin of this love that also fulfills the law:

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

So when Paul is saying that there is a sense in which we are free from the law, he is certainly not saying that we are free from love.

Rather, in Christ who fulfills the law on our behalf, we really know love, and we are free to love…

And to love, is indeed freedom, liberty.

For if you remain in Christ’s love you continue to love… and, paradoxically, you owe nothing… for love is the fulfilling of the law…[3]

So when Paul speaks of a debt here, he is speaking of a metaphorical debt of sorts…. :

“Realize, my friends, how God is love and you are now found in that love.





So, in the end, we can’t and won’t say, with one famous 20th century philosopher, that “hell is other people”.

For we love.

True freedom — true peace and paradise! — and being able to really express one’s self in love… go hand in hand.

And even if some in the world twist this lovely truth…. they nevertheless have some inkling of this, some understanding of this, to some degree…

This is why, for example, in the book of Galatians when discussing the fruit of the Spirit, Paul says regarding these fruits – that is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – that there is no law against such things.

There is no law against love!

And yet, just what is love?

Famously, when the Bible talks about love, it associates it closely with God Himself, it being at the core of Who He is.

We do not only say that God is loving, but that the One Who Loved the World by Sending His Only Son (that we might believe in Him) IS LOVE.

And, why shouldn’t I Corinthians 13, often read at weddings, be our go-to passage here?:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…”

And later, Paul closes: “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”[4]


So here in Romans 13, Paul is primarily saying this:

Let this love flow! Live in it!

One might think here about how earlier in the book of Romans he speaks about the Holy Spirit’s working in the hearts of Christian people:

“…hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

That is quite the picture, isn’t it?

As the love of God has been poured out into our hearts, brothers and sisters, let it flow — let it overflow[!] — to others…

At the same time, even as this love comes to us spontaneously — erupting forth from the faith in Jesus that God creates in our hearts! — that doesn’t mean that we won’t sometimes still need some guidance, encouragement, and reflection on how to best direct our activity.

That is also why in Romans 12:1-2, Paul begins this section of the book where he teaches and exhorts the Romans regarding all the ways they can show love by saying:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

And so here we are directed once again to the importance of the consistent presence and use of the Word of God in our lives….

So that our souls, our minds, might ever be transformed… renewed… and able to test in an informed way what God’s will is – and how it can best be applied by us in our individual circumstances…


As you, my friends, have been baptized into God’s family and have the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit written upon your heads…

…this topic should attract a significant amount of your attention.

God’s will will always be for us to love, and to increase in love for one another…

I think that this is why here in our reading he addresses these commandments that are so familiar to us so quickly.

In a sense, it seems like they are almost like an afterthought for him, as if they are obvious…

Again, we recall that Paul says:

“The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law…”

Here is how I read this: the Apostle is saying that of course love follows these commandments!

And love is not doing any harm — or better, evil or ill to the neighbor[5] because it – motivated by faith in Christ and thankful for His gifts to us – is so busy doing good… that is, always operating in a I Corinthians 13-fashion![6]

After all, do those who always hope and who fail to envy think coveting is good?

Do those who are patient – and who are always looking to protect – think that stealing is acceptable?

Do those who are humble, kind and not easily angered think that murder is permissible?

Do those who always persevere, who honor others, and who are not self-seeking commit adultery?

Of course not![7]


Fair enough. Love fulfills the law, we can agree.

That said, perhaps you, like me, have wondered this though: Where is love and praise to God in our Epistle reading today?

When Paul talks about fulfilling the law in love, why does he only talk about some of the second table of the commandments?

We might think, for example, about how when Jesus explains to a Pharisee what the greatest commandment is, He first speaks of loving God with all one’s heart, soul and mind, before only then mentioning loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.[8]

So here, when we think of love – that I Corinthians 13-kind of love – we might ask,

“Doesn’t the Lord first and ultimately want us to never be self-seeking… and to always trust, hope, and persevere… to always be be patient and not easily angered… when it comes to Him?When it comes to our relationship with Him?”

Certainly! – and here one thinks about the importance of things like spending time in His Word, worshiping with His people, receiving His gifts, and being constant in prayer – something He invites us to do, and to be confident that He hears and answers….

At the same time, we might also remember Jesus’ hard-hitting Sermon on the Mount from the same book.

There He says:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

So here, perhaps a bit on the contrary… it appears that Jesus is summing up the law (and the prophets) in much the same way that Paul is doing so… giving the impression that it is simply the second table of the commandments that fulfills the law!

So, what is happening here?


A couple key points.

First of all, there is a very significant sense that even when the Christian does something like regularly hear God’s word, has worship, and receives God’s gifts, God does not intend that this would be something we imagine we do simply for our own sake, but for our neighbor as well!

On the contrary, it is good that we externally and publicly proclaim God’s word in prayer and song, showing loyalty, commitment, and love to God before our neighbor!

Though we should do none of this in order to be seen and praised by men, it does us well to remember that we certainly are unable to not be seen by men either!

We can’t not be seen!

And so all of this helps to put our neighbor on notice or to remind them that the proclamation that we make — and God we bear witness to — is a highly significant and important thing indeed, the most Significant and Important Thing!

There may well come a day when we will have to meet secretly, for example, and not in this large and beautiful sanctuary. That however, is not ever something we should seek!

The second point though, is that while all of this first table stuff is also for our neighbor, it will nevertheless not be as immediately relevant to them as the good deeds that we do for them in the vocations that God has given us (as fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, teachers, students, employers, employees, rules, citizens, pastors, laypersons, etc).

This is, again, why Paul so confidently states that the fruits of the Spirit – love being the foremost – have no law against them.

God truly calls us to love all of our neighbors in the Name of Jesus, and He means for us to increasingly do this from the heart, as it is truly to His glory.

For it is to the glory of God to be known in the creation as the God who is love, the One who sent His Son into the world to sacrifice Himself for it that the world would be saved and not condemned!

We are His messengers, and we show this love by living as His people, following our Shepherd, in thought, word and deed…

And this is all by God’s design.

He also knows that our neighbor is not wrong to expect, at some level, that we are called to love them…

Hence, to them it will make sense that God is concerned to emphasize the second table of the commandments here too…[9]


This, however, can go very, very wrong as well… and it has.[10]

We need to remember, after all, that even if Satan does not trust God, He still knows God’s word well — and will exploit it.

For the last three hundred and fifty years in particular, sinful man, fooled by the devil, has made two very significant moves we should be aware of. 

First of all, using a passage like Romans 13 or Jesus’ statement about the Golden Rule, the first table of the commandments has increasingly been chased out of public life.

Don’t ever focus on that first table stuff about loyalty to God! We like the second table commandments where it talks about people being good persons! That, Christian, is what religion is for! Not loyalty to any particular God or church!

That is the first step. The second step is like it.

Using passages like I Corinthians 13, where Paul says something like “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast… but do not have love, I gain nothing”, one might wrongly promote the idea that good internal intentions – and never what one ultimately does with their body – is what really matters.

So… in history, as we have seen, what eventually didn’t matter that much was whether one really followed things like the second table of the ten commandments either!

As long as one was a loving and good person on the inside, they should do what they wanted to do… following their heart.

So much for Jesus’ observation that our hearts are evil!

Of course now we are seeing the fruit of this in a myriad of ways…

Just recently, some 60 United States Senators voted to make Gay Marriage legal in all 50 states, just in case the Supreme Court decision Obergafell, were to fall like Roe v. Wade.

Why did they do this?

Because, as people say today, “love is love”. Many of those involved in promoting their homosexual “lifestyle” believe they are being themselves… being truly authentic.[11] How dare anyone suggest – or worse, assert – that their actions are somehow intrinsically, that is by nature, disordered or harmful.

How dare anyone decry or even just challenge their assertions that “love is love” and that “if the hearts fit, the parts fit”!

Nevermind that homosexual activity harms both the individuals participating in them and the society that they are a part of.

We must, they tell us, not even suggest this as a possibility.

So, now, because of the rise of this thing we call “authenticity”, the “authenticity” of a “Sovereign Self” and individual, things are seen as love which are in fact, not love…[12]

Where will things go from here?

Well, we are seeing that become clearer, day after day, aren’t we?…[13]

Garbage is increasingly shoved into our faces and we are asked to eat it and say we like it.

And even though I, as a vicar, might say all this, you may want to think twice about what you say at your job, for example!


In any case, all of this naturally leads us into the end of the Epistle text today…

…where Paul guides, encourages, and helps us see clearly what God’s will is for us again as regards walking within His law, walking in love….

As we read it, more recent generations of Christian believers may have found it jarring that Paul would bring up the sins that he does [!] as potential temptations for Christians…

We should not be so shocked. Insofar as we are in this world, the Christian is continually both saint and sinner.

Though we are genuinely new creatures in Christ who have truly begun to desire the good gifts and will of God, we also will have our “old nature” or “old Adam” around our neck until we die.

So, what does Paul say to us? What kind of timeless guidance does the Holy Spirit think we Christians need?:

“…the hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Make no provision for the desires of the flesh”.

What Paul is saying here is this:

You are a Christian, you have known and know God’s mercy and peace. You are a member of His household, so put your body to good use.

No plan B! Put on Christ and kill old Adam! Cut off your evil desires in their tracks!

And by the Holy Spirit that lives within you… love always the Ten Commandments!

You — follow them, both externally and internally.

In other words, run in the way of love more and more, and love one another ever more deeply!

In this way, you will honor your Father in heaven, and glorify His Name.

the One who died for you, so that even now, this morning, you might know He forgives you for all your sins and be at peace with Him…

For He is the One who died for all — and desires that all persons know Him… and be saved to the uttermost… be fully glorified in Him!

God grant this conviction… and corresponding love – this corresponding action – to each one of us!


[1] Started this way:

 “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed…”

– Romans 13:1


Do what, more specifically, understanding the present time?

When we wake from our slumber… because our [final] salvation is nearer now then when we first believed… what is the Apostle Paul expecting us to do?

Well, he does go on to say more here, but we will be most helped if we first go back to the previous few verses…:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

And love, Paul also proclaims, goes hand

Love, Paul proclaims, goes hand in hand with the Ten commandments – at least it seems the second table

[2] Let me, for instance, read you a portion from Galatians 5:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?…”

He goes on to say: “That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!””

As the Apostle Paul talks so much about freedom from the law here – certainly with the focus on things like circumcision and other ceremonial practices the “Judaizers” were attempting to force on the Galatian Christians – note what what he says here about the origin of this love that also fulfils the law: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

[3] More from the Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary:

[hath fulfilled] The perfect tense conveys the thou C ght that such “love” at once attains the fulfilment (as regards principle and will) of the precepts of the “Second Table.” It does not move from one to another by laborious steps, but leaps, as it were, to entire obedience. By its very nature “it has obeyed,” ipso facto, all the demands.

It is obvious that St Paul is not concerned here with the fact of the actual incompleteness of the obedience of even the holiest Christian. He has to state the principle; he takes the ideal, at which all sincere effort will aim.”

Bengel’s Gnomen:

Romans 13:8. Μηδενὶ, to no man) From our duties to magistrates, he proceeds to general duties, such as we owe to one another.—ὀφείλετε, owe) a new part of the exhortation begins here.—ἀγαπᾷν, to love) a never-ending debt. Song of Solomon 8:7, at end of ver. If you will continue to love, you will owe nothing, for love is the fulfilling of the law. To love is liberty (italics mien). The Lutheran commentator Lenski concurs, speaking of this paradox.

[4] The full quote: “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

[5] Just any neighbor? More from the Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary:

They were, indeed, quite as truly bound to “love their enemies;” but the love in the two cases was not exactly of the same quality. The love of benevolence is not to be confused with the love of endearment.—For such special entreaties to Christian love see e.g. John 13:34; John 15:12; John 15:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 3:14; and particularly, as a strictly parallel passage here, Galatians 5:13-14.

[6] Expositor’s Greek Testament:

Romans 13:10. ἡ ἀγάπη … κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται. This is all that is formally required by the law as quoted above (οὐ μοιχεύσεις, etc.): therefore love is πλήρωμα νόμου, law’s fulfilment. Of course love is an inspiration rather than a restraint, and transcends law as embodied in merely negative commandments; but the form in which the law actually existed determines the form in which the Apostle expresses himself. It is apparent once more that νόμος is the Mosaic law, and not law in general; it is from it the prohibitions are derived on the ground of which the Apostle argues, and to it therefore we must apply his conclusion, πλήρωμα οὖν νόμου ἡ….

[7] One recalls what Martin Luther said about how the faith that God gives us in Jesus Christ naturally flows into love! In his preface to the book of Romans, he said the following:

“Faith is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1). It kills the old Adam and makes altogether different people, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Spirit.

Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. And so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are good works to do, but before the question rises, it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them.

He who does not these works is a faithless man. He gropes and looks about after faith and good works and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all His creatures.

And this is the work of the Holy Spirit in faith. Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace.

And thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers, who would be wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools.

Therefore, pray to God to work faith in you. Else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do.” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, Trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), xvii.)

So far Martin Luther. But notice what he also says here also about love and praise to God: “Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace.

[8]Yes, we might recall events like those recorded in Matthew 22 where a Pharisee, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

How does Jesus reply?

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

[9] Again, from the Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary:

They were, indeed, quite as truly bound to “love their enemies;” but the love in the two cases was not exactly of the same quality. The love of benevolence is not to be confused with the love of endearment.—For such special entreaties to Christian love see e.g. John 13:34; John 15:12; John 15:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 3:14; and particularly, as a strictly parallel passage here, Galatians 5:13-14.

[10] One way this happens is when we rightly know others should love us but we are wrong in what we expect from others. See the footnotes here: ; and here:

[11] “So how did all of that happen? I think the author Meic Pearse gives us a nice summary.

First, he tells us why obedience is the cardinal virtue among “premodern” societies:

“The codes of morality which, throughout history, have upheld social order and fended off primal chaos from Cathay to the Congo and from Cuzco to Catalonia, have all emphasized external acts: those that are to be done, and those that are not to be done. In most religious codes, salvation (or a better karma next time around) was accorded to those who did well, damnation (or perhaps reincarnation as a slug) to those who did not” (52, Why the Rest Hates the West, 2003).

Next, we hear about how the Western world and beyond has, in fact, come to be under Christian influence:

“….what the [Lutheran and then Protestant] Reformation did achieve was a long-term stress on the idea of integrity and inwardness that has become a leading feature of Western culture and which remains long after the religious motives which thrust it into prominence have been discarded by an ever-more-secular society. Its diffused, secularized form has become the inheritance even of the historically Catholic regions of the West so that it is today a key differentiation between “the West and the rest.” (54)

As early as the beginnings of the 1600s, he says we detect the shift to the secularized form he mentions: “The first shift had[, in the wider society,] radicalized traditional morality by internalizing it; the second shift radicalizes interiority and discards traditional morality…”: “The psalmist’s ‘truth in the inner parts / …wisdom in the inmost place’ (Ps 51:6) gave way to Shakespeare’s ‘To thine own self be true.’” (57)

One last shocking paragraph:

“Because stress on interiority had long been part and parcel of moral discourse under the first shift[, popularized by the Reformation], it was possible for advocates of the second shift to borrow its language and to sound more ‘moral’ than those who opposed them (because they were [the ones who] were more ‘honest,’ less ‘hypocritical’ and so on)—even as they cut loose from morality as traditionally understood. In the Romantic worldview of Rousseau, the individual is intrinsically good, while society is evil. For him, there is no question of people needing to put ‘chains on their own appetites’ but rather to break the shackles that society imposes on individuals: ‘Man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains.’ It is society that drags people down into badness; so the way to a better individual is by freeing them from the ‘chains’ of social constraints—and letting them be ‘true to themselves.’ By the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such thinking had spread beyond the narrow circle of intellectuals and been absorbed by the wider middle classes; it was beginning to affect popular thinking about morality….” (58)

Now, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day – people like Nicodemus – believed in traditional moral codes in their full rigor.

And so, when Jesus talked to him about coming into the light and not hiding in darkness: the idea was twofold:

Not only will God’s children embrace me, God’s Gospel incarnate in human flesh, but they will embrace me as I fully am, as the One who fulfills God’s Perfect Law, that is, who is the embodiment and fulfillment of traditional morality

…living life as it is meant to be lived to the full…”


[12] See footnote above.

[13] Well, a couple weeks back I heard about a woman named Aella. She is at once a political scientist (she is a libertarian), an amazing numbers-cruncher/data scientist, and a prostitute.

She recently did a survey to find out who is interested in bestiality, and a surprising amount of people responded positivity. Of those who were into it, the largest group was the male-to-female transgenders. Strong interest also correlated with sexual assault as a child. 

“Love is love”, they say, but soon, if not already, you will be said to be unloving because of your beliefs. And new laws will be made.

And Libertarians like Aella might well say to you “Doesn’t God say we fulfill the law if we just don’t harm folks?”, as they fail to see that we don’t harm folks not so much because it is in our own interests to not do this (with what we consent to and legal contracts and the like), but because true love – a love that goes hand in hand with the 10 commandments an that they have rejected – is at the core.

The man who shared the bit about Aella, also recently had the following to say about some of the Chritian events he had attended in Europe:

“One Christian leader said yesterday, “We all know what the problems are. We should stop talking about them, and only focus on solutions.” She’s right. Again: nobody has all the answers, so we have to work them out together. For me, though, it was so, so upbuilding just to know that I am not alone, that I have brothers and sisters in the faith who see themselves as on the same path, and who are eager to collaborate. Jan Simulčik, a Slovak historian of the underground church, who served it as a college student in the 1980s, told me that it was only when he was with the young men in his underground church activist cell that he truly felt free. I got a glimpse of that this week in Vienna. To be clear, I don’t mean to compare what we Christians today are dealing with to the grim situation that believers struggled with under Communism. Still, to share a couple of days with a highly diverse group of Christians from all over the continent, and trade stories — including miracle stories of conversion (on my Substack last night, I wrote about a young Austrian woman to whom Christ appeared, leading her to convert — helped me, personally, to feel free in a way I have not for a while…”

And what are some of the things that they might talk about in those meetings?

Well, everything that we have been talking about so far this morning would be a great topic…..

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Posted by on November 27, 2022 in Uncategorized


Leaving it All in Our Good God’s Hands


“…not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life..”

– Luke 21:18-19


Our Gospel reading from Luke this morning is not for the faint-hearted…

In that, yes, very extended reading, we see how Jesus foresees the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of earth as well!

Both appear to get blended together in this prophecy… As an analogy, think about how one looks at mountain ranges in the distance… it is not always easy to tell which one is closer and which is farther off!

Let’s first look at the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in the year 70 A.D. (not C.E.). The Jewish historian Josephus – an actual eyewitness to the event! – gives us an idea of what this was like….

First, he says that very soon before the Fall of Jerusalem there was a star resembling a sword that stood over the city, a comet that continued for a whole year, and chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were said to be seen “running about among the clouds” before sunset. He also recalls how priests in the courts of the Temple who were performing their work felt a quaking, hearing a great noise in the Temple, and finally, heard many voices saying “Let us remove hence…” (The Wars of the Jews, 6.288-300). The contemporary Roman historian Tacitus, possibly utilizing Josephus, shares a similar information…[1]

We recall Jesus spoke of fearful sights and great signs from heaven…

Josephus also tells us that Roman soldiers first marched on Jerusalem after a band of Jews took a fortress and slaughtered a Roman Garrison – and then these Roman soldiers were surprisingly defeated by Jewish insurgents! This was in 66 A.D., and at this time the Christians left the city. Eventually, more Jews across Judea, fleeing from incoming Roman legions, took refuge in Jerusalem and there fell under siege. Finally, Josephus gives us a detailed blow-by-blow account of the siege of Jerusalem: how Rome executed their win. In the end, he claims that over 1,000,000 Jews were killed during this apocalyptic event, which He attributes to God’s justice.

We recall Jesus telling His followers that as God’s judgment of Jerusalem would come, they should flee the city…

“In the first century, the historian Pliny wrote that Jerusalem was the most splendid city of the east, always full of pilgrims and tourists bringing prosperity.” The Temple, a complex administered by 25,000 staff including priests, musicians, guides, janitors, and vendors, was the crown of the city. Josephus wrote, “When strangers first saw it from a distance it looked like a mountain covered in snow with gold glittering everywhere since it was so bright white wherever it was not clad in gold.” Again, “Josephus [also] wrote that there was no doubt that this was a judgment from God,” and he believed this in part “because the Romans had orders not to harm the Temple itself, but in the fog and violence of war, it was completely destroyed.” Since the gold of the Temple had been melted after the Temple had been set on fire, all the walls and buildings except the foundation walls of the Temple Mount were pried apart[2] — each stone removed — so the precious metal would not be lost….

We recall Jesus telling His followers that not one stone in the Temple would be unturned…


In 70 A.D., the world was blown apart for God’s chosen people, the Jews. Why?

As Jesus said in our reading for this morning, “these are the days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written…”

I am guessing that you know this is not the first time that Jerusalem and the Temple of God were destroyed.

About 650 years before this, in 586 B.C., it had occurred for the first time. In those days, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar leveled and torched the city, and had also looted, leveled, and obliterated with fire the entire Temple complex. After this, he killed some of the city’s inhabitants while taking the best, brightest, and most attractive as captives.

This was a devastating time for the people of God.

In order to make sure that this would never happen again, the people of Israel had, for a long time, doubled down on following God’s law.

At least, externally.

You see, if they could obey God’s law perfectly on the outside – since no one was perfect on the inside – then they could not only be assured that God’s blessings would come their way. They could also be sure that they could control God and his anger.

In sum, if they followed his rules, he would basically be obligated to reward and not punish them… To reciprocate. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours…

But God, you see, won’t be manipulated like this. God always wants not just a contract and the fulfillment of common interests, but our hearts.

But the church forgets. In Luther’s day, the concept of “congruous merit” arose, which stated that “on the ground of equity” we could claim a reward – even the reward of eternal life! – from God for our works. 

In other words, were God not to compensate us, He would actually be committing an offense by violating that which is fitting. He would be unfairly discriminating against us![3] 

Even today, that a “Great Divorce” on God’s part would actually be justice… justified… doesn’t seem to be a possibility for many modern persons claiming Christ….

..we perpetually underestimate the depth and seriousness of original sin – and sins to boot.

As I think I’ve said before…

So much then for “we are only unworthy servants”! 

So much then for the parable of the eleventh hour! 

So much for radical grace and mercy! 

So much for “what do we have that we have not received?”! 


Throughout human history, man has tried to manipulate God. Control Him. Tame Him and put Him in His place.

Israel’s neighbors performed child sacrifice and performed fertility rites in their temples for their gods in order to bring rain and favor — and the Israelites were mightily tempted to do the same and did do the same..,

In sum, it seems to be like this: if we can learn the “laws of the supernatural”, the “principles of the supernatural”, we can actually control God where his actions are predictable because of our own worthy persons and deeds.

This is a stupid and despicable lie — and this is arguably why, more or less, God destroyed Jerusalem twice…

Today, there are still many who do this kind of thing in the church… attempting to manipulate God with their actions and feelings.

And man in general, man outside the church, is basically doing the same thing. They are trying to manipulate and control God, even if this is something they might often have little awareness of.

Contemporary man, at least our elites, often wants to be “secular” — where secular to them means “apart from God” or even takes on “anti-God” connotations.

Whereas ancient man and religious man still today is tempted to try and master the “laws of the supernatural”, contemporary secular man, in an analogous fashion, attempts to harness what they call the “laws of nature”….


[Summary of the below section: When the world is treated as if it is a machine (Newton), it is easy to forget God… “If you know how something works you can control it, use it to your advantage, or at the very least you can harness it…”]

Isaac Newton, the 17th century scientist who we remember as discovering gravity when an apple fell on his head, was himself a Christian, and certainly changed the world when he recognized that regularities in the creation could be carefully and consistently observed and mapped mathematically, allowing for all manner of accurate predictions.

Still, he also said that “the world is a machine and a perfect one, with God its creator being ‘the most perfect mechanic of all’”

Some 150 years later we hear of the famous event when the brilliant “French Newton” Pierre-Simon Laplace (23 March 1749 – 5 March 1827) was asked by Napoleon where God fit into his mathematical and astronomical work, and Laplace famously replied “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.”

Now, Laplace was not necessarily saying that God did not exist. He was, however, saying that the question of God was more or less irrelevant in his scientific work.

The church has always said “lex orendi, lex credendi”, which when translated from the Latin roughly means “the law of prayer is the law of faith”. In other words, how one thinks, how one prays, what one does, will influence what one believes.

And so, in practice, when science is thought about wholly in terms of the “laws of nature” many felt and feel justified in methodologically excluding God from the picture and relying only on natural causes and explanations.

And, on the one hand, this makes some real sense to us. For all the times that they are wrong and we have wrongly cursed them, we also know that weathermen and women get a lot right – and we are happy that they search out things in terms of natural causes and don’t just concluded that “God is sunny and happy today…” or “God is stormy and angry tonight…”

And yet, this is also something desperately wrong about all of this, in essence, forgetting God – thinking of God’s creation — or “nature” if we want to avoid talking of the Creator — as a machine that we can understand well, control, and endlessly tweak (for again, if you know how something works you can control it, use it to your advantage, or at the very least you can harness it…).

Things get particularly bad when things like “social sciences” and then its offspring Marxism got rolling… where the fact that man has a soul as well as a body was left behind… a fact seemingly made “irrelevant” for how business gets done in the “real world”….

In my view, the brilliant Lutheran thinker George Hamann – recently discovered in the academic world – nailed the issue already 250 years ago when he, speaking of the new science that was captivating everyone, said:

“…human beings experience a regularity in the world around them, which they then improperly abstract into a concept of ‘natural law’ that excludes from serious discourse, the mystical, and the religious”.

And because so many scientists today, unlike Newton, do not know the Creator of the creation but have excluded him from serious discourse… no actual, serious science like that which Newton and Laplace practiced is in increasing jeopardy in America and the Western world today.

Nevermind the increasing lack of trust in big pharma, there is also the “replication crises” …where things that had seemingly been more or less proven and accepted as true in the past are increasingly unable to be replicated by those running the experiments again…


Many elite Americans think they still understand what good science is.

They don’t. At its best, those truly in the know recognize that there are vast differences between hard and soft sciences, know that dissent and challenge is critical to its proper use, get that striving for objectivity is key and is greatly hindered by conflicts of interest, and know enough to not claim too much for its powers…

My view is that those who have the lawn signs in their yards that proclaim “love is love”, “kindness is everything”, “no human is illegal”, and yes, “science us real” probably don’t see science the same way… (to say the least)

In fact, I’ll assert that most of these folks are actually “irrational” to the hilt… even as they use the proven rationality of truly successful science as a cover, a veneer, a patina, for both the goal of helping them fulfill their own desires… and to help them fit in with those they have come to admire in the world…

In sum, they know that claiming the authority of science for your desires, moral claims, and goals will certainly make these things appear more weighty, important…

…even as even real science continues to slip, making claims it can’t possibly support and prove…

That said, again, we can’t deny the power that men like Newton, Laplace, Boyle, Maxwell, and Einstein showed us… Rocket ships, nuclear bombs, and smart phones will do that to you, after all… And so again, knowing what really has been made possible, elite modern man wants, expects, to be in more or less full control…

Elon Musk certainly grasps science much better than the “woke” social justice warriors he decries, but he still has a lot of faith in its ability – too much faith – to offer us rational control over all of life’s problems…


At the very least, we often want to know what the weather is going to do and when…

All of us, to this or that degree want, expect, to be, in control… to manage our lives…

So enter this Gospel reading for today….

You think you are in control? More, you think you can manage Me, sideline Me, put me out of the game?

Not a chance. This world is passing away, and I, in fact, am going to blow it apart!

“There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among the nations, bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the surging of the waves. Men will faint from fear and anxiety over what is coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory…”

On the extreme left of the cultural and political spectrum, maybe many can “spin” the earthquakes and famines, tsunamis, and plagues Jesus speaks of as something that we, if we would just be good politically correct humanitarians! – could responsibly manage…[4] But the Environmentalists and Green New Dealers are going to have a bit of trouble managing these things Jesus says are coming, spinning these things, to say the least…

Meanwhile on the extreme cultural and political right, men are more likely, I , submit, to be fatalistic in a sense, thinking, for example, that wars between nations – roughly equivalent to what we would today call ethnic groups – will indeed happen… So why try too hard to be peacemakers?

And among Christians who are indeed inclined to state they believe strongly in the Bible’s authority, there is often a belief that we can know pretty specifically when the end is coming – as man’s “free will” cooperates with God’s Spirit to know the day and the hour… For if you know that after all, then you can tell people more specifically when they need to decide to follow Jesus and to submit their hearts to Him…

Men go wrong in so many ways…

But this Gospel lesson today, my friends, cannot be constrained.

It is in fact God’s law, God’s judgment, seen by us in its full force…

It makes us aware of our sin quite well, that is, what our sin deserves…

We who would seek to put our Creator in His place…


My fellow believers, God’s law is not against us having some control, some management, in our lives.

In fact, one of the qualifications of a pastor is that he is one who manages his household well! (I Tim. 3:4)

At the same time, this text this morning reminds us who God is, both literally and as it reminds us who is ultimately in charge. Many things, simply put, are out of our hands…

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

We see this also in the comfort that Jesus gives to those who are persecuted in His Name.

“Do not worry, do not plan…. on what words you will say. I will give you the words that you need when the time comes…”

Don’t worry, it is out of your control. I’ve got this. Your back.

Go ahead and plan, go ahead and speculate a bit here and there, but always hold such things lightly

Perhaps you see or think you can prove that there are more earthquakes or plagues or tsunamis than ever before… and so this escalation shows the time is nearer still… but don’t forget that Jesus is telling us here to always be ready for the end to come…. the fig tree is always at least a little bit green…

You have the grace of God, grace that will keep you as His faithful witnesses – even unto death and the end.  He will make you ready for the slaughter at any time, even as you are ready to share God’s mercy – in its manifold forms – with your enemies.

So baptized children of God, in these last days where the church’s faith and love and mission focus is weak… be who you are, be who you were always created to be… live a Christian life! This is what you have been called to…

This is about being those whose trust is increasingly not in one’s self and one’s own strength, but in Christ.  For the sake of our neighbor. Like Paul, in Christ, we become less concerned about ourselves (see Rom. 9:1-5)..

For your neighbor’s sake, be actively seeking to be where He is at – about His Father’s business in the world… For you this means your various vocations: husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, layperson, employer, employee, citizen, neighbor, etc. It is all for His glory so, whatever is at hand, do it for His glory!

For your neighbor’s sake, strive with all your heart to increasingly live within (not by) the 10 commandments according to their positive applications…

(the possibilities are endless!) For your neighbor’s sake, strive to consistently discipline your “old man” by fasting, praying, and giving alms…  And above all, for your neighbor’s sake, seek to sit at your Lord’s feet more and more that you might grow in your understanding and realization of every word that proceeds from His mouth…

Yes, seek to know and do God’s love more and more – unto the perfection that we will only know on the last day….

Like the Christians who fled falling Jerusalem, flee all idleness, carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life!

…and manage yourself, your time, your talents and treasures wisely…

Even as you remember He is in control because of His love for the world… for you.

In this alone is true peace and freedom and confidence found…


The fall, the end, of Jerusalem, was terrifying.

The fall, the end, of the world, will be terrifying.

But know that all things work out for the good of those who love Him…

Because He loves the world, coming ultimately to save it and not condemn it…

Remember this is the Jesus who said on more than one occasion: “How often I wanted to gather you together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”

Jesus foresaw the coming destruction, and He mourned over this….

He mourned because He knew that because of their impenitence that in 70 A.D. the world was going to be blown apart for God’s chosen people, the Jews.

For “these are the days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written…”

And as Jesus lamented over the Fall of Jerusalem, I believe Jesus laments over the Fall of the world.

But don’t think that He won’t go through with the final judgment – or with sending the condemned, the damned, to Hell…

For those who will not have this Good and Fearsome God will not have His people either…. eventually. So He will rescue His people from their enemies forever and ever.

There will be a gulf forever separating the sheep and the goats, with the latter being unable to molest the former…

So when you read:

“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Again: Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near!

Do not be terrified, but Rejoice!

Not a hair on your head will perish, for Jesus means to for your life in the fullest sense, your soul, to be with Him forever.

Our text talks about believers enduring here… note that this is speaking about something more passive.

We patiently receive that which God sends to us, both afflictions, and the power to endure the same, secure by faith in His Son and the forgiveness He brings!

So, you… be out of control!

Unlike this fallen and perishing world, recognize your Maker who still makes the events of all our times…

…and who will never give us more than we can handle…

For things that are not under our control but wholly in His good hands should always be our comfort….

So cling to Him through this coming ride, and you shall win your souls…


Image complements of

[1] 12 1 The temple was built like a citadel, with walls of its own, which were constructed with more care and effort than any of the rest; the very colonnades about the temple made a splendid defence. Within the enclosure is an ever-flowing spring;​40 in the hills are subterraneous excavations, with pools and cisterns for holding rain-water. The founders of the city had foreseen that there would be many wars because the ways of their people differed so from those  p197 of the neighbours: therefore they had built at every point as if they expected a long siege; and after the city had been stormed by Pompey, their fears and experience taught them much. Moreover, profiting by the greed displayed during the reign of Claudius, they had bought the privilege of fortifying the city, and in time of peace had built walls as if for war. The population at this time had been increased by streams of rabble that flowed in from the other captured cities,​41 for the most desperate rebels had taken refuge here, and consequently sedition was the more rife. There were three generals, three armies: the outermost and largest circuit of the walls was held by Simon, the middle of the city by John, and the temple was guarded by Eleazar.​42 John and Simon were strong in numbers and equipment, Eleazar had the advantage of position: between these three there was constant fighting, treachery, and arson, and a great store of grain was consumed. Then John got possession of the temple by sending a party, under pretence of offering sacrifice, to slay Eleazar and his troops. So the citizens were divided into two factions until, at the approach of the Romans, foreign war produced concord.

13 1 Prodigies had indeed occurred, but to avert them either by victims or by vows is held unlawful by a people which, though prone to superstition, is opposed to all propitiatory rites.​43 Contending hosts were seen meeting in the skies, arms flashed, and suddenly the temple was illumined with fire from the clouds. Of a sudden the doors of the shrine opened and a superhuman voice cried: “The gods are departing”: at the same moment the  p199 mighty stir of their going was heard.​44 Few interpreted these omens as fearful; the majority firmly believed that their ancient priestly writings contained the prophecy that this was the very time when the East should grow strong and that men starting from Judea should possess the world.​45 This mysterious prophecy had in reality pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, as is the way of human ambition, interpreted these great destinies in their own favour, and could not be turned to the truth even by adversity. We have heard that the total number of the besieged of every age and both sexes was six hundred thousand; there were arms for all who could use them, and the number ready to fight was larger than could have been anticipated from the total population. Both men and women showed the same determination; and if they were to be forced to change their home, they feared life more than death.

Such was the city and people against which Titus Caesar now proceeded; since the nature of the ground did not allow him to assault or employ any sudden operations, he decided to use earthworks and mantlets; the legions were assigned to their several tasks, and there was a respite of fighting until they made ready every device for storming a town that the ancients had ever employed or modern ingenuity invented.

[2]The southwest portion of that wall is exposed today, and is called the “Wailing Wall”.

[3] Even if, strictly speaking, as God, He was under no obligation and violated none of our rights in doing so…

[4] From:

“For twentieth-century fascism and communism, science supplied the best justification, whether socialist science or race science. Today’s justification is humanitarianism.[…] Impassioned hatred of enemies]” Still, even if humanitarianism is now the justification, it is nevertheless also supported by the idea that science itself indicates to us that this humanitarianism is best. We talk about morality now more therapeutically and medically now, in terms of being unhealthy (“toxic”, “polluting”) and healthy, not good or evil…

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Posted by on November 13, 2022 in Uncategorized


True Purity that Endures Forever


“…we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. ….everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

– I John 3:2b-3


I recently read a crazy story[1] about a man who drove with his German Shepherd to the grocery store on a summer day. He left the window down, quickly popped into the store for a minute to grab a six-pack of beer, and came out to find himself confronted by an approximately 45-year-old woman who immediately said to him:


He asked her what she was talking about and she said, “IF YOU EVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A HOT CAR AGAIN I WILL FIND YOU AND CALL THE COPS. YOU’RE AN ABUSER.”

He responded, “It’s only 80 degrees out. The AC was blasting before I went in, so the car is cool. I was only in there for a minute. And also, the windows are down. Look at my dog. She’s totally fine.”


The man: “Cars don’t just randomly heat up super quickly with the windows down. We’re not in a record heat wave or anything, we’re in a sunny summer day with a breeze. You can’t get mad at someone just for having their animal outside during the summer.”


On and on the evidently true story goes. He gets in his car only to be trailed by the woman. Deciding not to go home, he pulls into a dirt road and she skids her car lengthwise across the entrance to the road, blocking him in so he can’t escape. She then gets out of her car and screams and swears at him… again.

When she threatens to call the cops and he tells her to “Do it. Bring them here”, she pauses for a minute, maybe contemplating how bad things might look for her. So instead, she takes a picture of his license plate, shouts “Got it” and leaves with tires screeching…

The man continues: “I knew for sure she’d call the police, so once I was home (making sure I wasn’t followed) I did too. I called the department number and told them about the incident, my side of the story, about her reckless driving, and they told me a cop would call me back. Which he did, quite promptly.”

From there we learn that “the woman [had] stormed down to the police station to file a report in person” and the cop who took the report was the one he was speaking to. A K-9 officer, he said he kept waiting for her to get to the part where the he had done something wrong. The cop actually apologized to the dog owner, and they were able to have a good laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation.

Commenting on the incident, the author talks about how it was so important for him during this whole situation to keep his cool (he mentions he was an emergency medical technician in college), and then makes the point that this woman, even though she showed a very ugly and even evil side of human nature, probably really believed that what she was doing was for the good… She was no sadist, who enjoyed causing harm and pain and misery to other people…

So, what to make of all this? What this story reminds me of is any person who has a fanatical devotion to an idea of moral purity and loses touch with reality…

We might sometimes get a kick out of this fanatical and misled devotion to purity… but we also know such things are not always funny…


Our text today also talks about purity, but in a good way… in the right way…

“…we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. ….everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

I’m going to try to unpack this Scripture this morning by speaking about 3 themes:

  • God’s final purification
  • How we are made pure
  • Living in that purity

First, God’s final purification

Again, our text for this message comes from I John 3:

The pure in heart—that is God’s people—will “see him as he is…” — and hence, fully be like Him!

And the immediate context for this Appearance, this Meeting, this Seeing God, is the end of the world!

Man certainly makes his own attempts at purification, but of course God’s purification, His final purification, stands out!

The Moon the color of blood,

the sky being rolled up like a scroll,

the veil being removed!

…a loud trumpet,

and Angel armies accompanying the King of Heaven and Earth, riding on a White Horse.

The Great Last Judgment of the sheep and the goats.

These are the kinds of things the church talks about now, at the end of the Pentecost season: the “Last Days”… the end of the world!

Here, though, remember: God’s people are ultimately not to be afraid, but encouraged!

Again, when this day comes you, the “pure in heart,” are told to “Lift up your heads!”

You are not to fear this judgment, for this judgment is one for your enemies…

The True Judge of Heaven and Earth comes to save those who trust in Him, the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the persecuted,

The pure.

The time for those who hate us is not long… we will be rescued by our Conqueror when He comes again.

Perhaps it will even be something like the scene in the story the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe — where the royal priesthood of believers wield swords and participate in the final battle….

This battle where The Evil One will be defeated forever….

With the result being that people from all tongues, tribes and nations – will be saved by the Rider on the White Horse, Faithful and True, the Son of God.

It will be “Back to the Garden of Eden…. And more

“Let them praise his name with dancing

and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

For the Lord takes delight in his people;

he crowns the humble with victory[!]”

So we read in the Psalm appointed for today.

How can we not rejoice?

For this world, the empty way of life… all which opposes the goodness God brings… is indeed passing away.

Much more awaits us.

And so:

“…we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

Now, if you are like me, perhaps you think at this point “Have I ‘purified myself’?

I mean, it seems kind of important.”

As Lutherans, we don’t really talk this way, right?

So what does this mean?


Yes, how are we made pure?

And, well, first, what does it mean to be pure?

Have you heard the phrase “pure as the driven snow”? Driven snow is snow that has been blown by the wind, into drifts and such.

The kid in me concludes that it’s the kind of snow you can eat.

In any case the expression isn’t used as much these days, but it is used to speak, sometimes disparagingly, about things like moral purity, chastity, and virginity.

(also rarer terms these days).

And of course in our everyday language, pure means something that is uncontaminated.

There is no defilement or spoliation. And to purify something means to bring it to this state.

And if a person has been purified, is pure, this evokes the idea of not only outer, but inner cleanliness… to the very center of one’s being. Through and through.

How, then, does the Bible say this takes place? It says that true purity, purity that lasts and is never faked, is rooted in God.

Only God, after all, is truly good… truly pure.

So, when it comes to us poor sinners, being pure, in the most simple sense, means to believe and hope in God, as opposed to the world, false in its love, which rages against Him.

In I Peter chapter 1, the Apostle says “you have purified yourselves.” How?

By submitting to what you heard: you believe, Peter says, the words of testimony about Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.

And glorified!

And revealed in these last times for our sakes!

And it is because of this wonderful truth, Peter says, that you have true love for each other.

Therefore, he says “love one another deeply, from the heart,”

This is what it means to be pure.

Our text in I John says much the same thing and throughout his letter in fact John has a lot more to say:

  • If we walk in the light as He is in the light we have fellowship with each other, and His blood cleanses us from all sin!
  • Keep His word, His teaching, His commandments, abide in Him… [by this, the love of God is perfected in us…]
  • You know the love of the Son of God who laid down His life for us. So, beloved, let us love one another!
  • Do not love the world, or the things of the world: the lust of the flesh, of the eyes, the pride of life… Even if they hate you because of the paths of righteousness in which you walk!
  • As the Son is, so we are in this world! We love because He first loved us.
  • If we abide in the Son and in the Father, we have the promise of eternal life.
  • And we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming….

Again, this is what it means to be pure. These things have to do with being pure…

Our full text for the day is in many ways a great summary of all these things… I think the King James version said it the best:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”


As a bit of an excursus here, the world knows nothing of this great love that makes us pure…

Instead, not having the love of God, it can only try to purify the world with its power…

We see it in the story I told about the woman determined to punish the German Shepherd owner, futile quest though it may have been…

And we certainly see it in contemporary politics, where passions sometimes seem to rise to a fever pitch…. Election day, as I am sure you know, is coming up…

Contemporary skepticism about our elections aside, attitudes towards elections, I think, often deteriorate such that they become, in microcosm, a sign of “the world’s quest for purification”…

Four years ago, when things were also crazy but nevertheless still far more sane than they are today, I was reminded that down in Texas, one candidate was saying “Y’all means y’all” while in California another chose a more direct approach to communicate roughly the same thing: “we stand united against hate”.

In either case the message actually mimics biblical themes of purity: those who understand what is good, what is righteous, will “resonate” with these themes… they will unite with us… against the hateful, the evil, the impure…

Others, of course, take some real offense here to such affirmations and counter with their own slogans, seeking to gather enough actual voters to give them a majority…

And then, if we pay attention to international news or even just history, we see can see how if politics and political systems fail we will be in danger of war…

And here, the German military historian, Carl von Clausewitz, said that war is simply politics by other means. Expanding on this, “The political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.”

The “political view”, of course, is often not only the defeat, but the humiliation and punishment of the opponent. The impure enemy.

And devotion to ideas of moral purity and what must happen to those who are impure can get pretty ugly… and sometimes, people don’t even get a chance to raise an army and fight…

We might think about the Nazi death camps, Stalin’s purges, Ruwanda, or the Cultural Revolution that took place in Mao’s China…

And it might be very easy for us to be led to hate here as well, hating those who are against us or who we hear do such kinds of evil…

Even as we often might also develop our own exaggerated ideas about the evils of others… perhaps about the “inhumanity” of those who commit such atrocities….

Perhaps with the cartoonish Disney villains we knew as children in our minds, it might be hard for us to realize that people who do really bad things often also really do mean well…

Devoted to what they consider a noble and pure vision – they find themselves led into awful evil… into heinous acts….


How can we avoid getting caught up in this ourselves? And how should we respond to those who hate us?

By recognizing that we are God’s saints, and that we are here to be a Sign of Contradiction in the world…

He calls us saints by Christ’s blood, and He, by love, continues to make us conform to His Son’s image….

So how can we Live in Purity? How can we “Keep yourselves pure…”  as the Apostle Paul urges in I Tim. 5:22?

The question of living in God’s purity has to do with what God’s purity and holiness is.

It is this:

He, and He alone, is the One who is Good – and the Love which burns through Evil en route to rescuing those lost in the darkness.

In Christ’s work — completed through a foolish cross no less! — we see the charred remains of sin, death, and the devil.

He did this for us.

And so when it comes to us… the implication is that we have – and we create – spaces and places where this message can be heard, believed and lived.

The mission we have is never about God’s people being intrinsically superior to others… this is about True sight, True seeing…

Being blessed to know not only where the bread is which we share – the Forgiveness of sins which heals and nourishes… but also knowing where True Life is in Fullness.

What is that?

There is a King we know who is simple.

Who loves His people, who is loyal… but who does not let sin go unpunished….

Who will not allow us to live in our lies, our lusts, our pride and selfishness….

He is ready to Refine us again, and He will stop at nothing to make us more His…

So don’t say, for example, “am I my brother’s keeper?” They are all your brothers!…

You are to love your brethren in Christ first of all,

…and in this world you must look to provide for family first,

…but all are your brethren, God’s “offspring” all, they are all men and women for whom Christ died…

The Christian life never has as its goal alienation and cutting one’s self off from others, but we call people — even our enemies who might still listen — into our spaces, into our places, to participate with us “in the life that is truly life”.

Though He has hard words, demanding words, damning words, Jesus’ default orientation is not to condemn, but save,

…and His heart is now ours. Where He is, there also will His servant be…

This is the life to which he has called us….with these truths we must practically wrestle, in the church… and beyond…

And this will also, on occasion, require a love that is tough and maybe even a real fight… Where hard actions that are absolutely necessary must and will be done…

And here, we look to our faithful Lamb to shepherd us through such difficult decisions… as He rightly channels our desire to see His divine goodness and justice reign…. 

Always remembering that even our best-hearted attempts to purify what we all know needs purifying will nevertheless always be infected with the leaven of sin that remains in our hearts!

As Paul says: “ Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” For as we talked about last week, even the Christian’s good works remain to some degree tainted by our sinful desires and loves, and will be in need of the blood of  Christ…

And He is indeed is always eager to forgive us, to cleanse us, to purify us…

So know that, believe that, and be at peace saints of God!

Whoever desires, let him take the water of life – this pure water – freely!

Anyone who is thirsty…

With Him, we’re ready.

We’re in the clear, clean and pure…

We were washed and we ARE baptized, belonging to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with His Name firmly affixed to our heads…

We are His. So come Lord Jesus, and Purify…


[1]  “Karen” in recent years has become a term of derision for a kind of certain kind of stereotypical “middle aged woman”. The Urban Dictionary tells us she is “typically blonde, [and] makes solutions to others’ problems an inconvenience to her although she isn’t even remotely affected…” I was unaware of how charged this particular idea/meme had become, finding these articles as well:;

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Posted by on November 6, 2022 in Uncategorized