Be Reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5-6)
- Liturgical Date: Ash Wednesday – February 18, 2015
- Order of Service: Ash Wednesday with Divine Service 4
- Hymns: “Old Rugged Cross”, LSB #435, 637, 450, 428
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
In the darkness of our sins, we seek to be reconciled to God. We seek this because there is a hole in our soul. We seek this because God commands us: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” But how can you, a sinner, be reconciled to God?
On this Ash Wednesday, we turn inward. Not seeking answers. Acknowledging our sinfulness. Declaring our need for God's forgiveness.
When we turn inward, we see nothing but sin. We see no answers to the question, “How do I reconcile myself to God?” The answer is a simple one. You can't. You can't reconcile yourself with God. God reconciles you to Himself.
God reconciles by sending Jesus. Jesus came in the flesh to offer Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice of reconciliation. Jesus reconciled you by becoming your sin. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
God promises through the prophet Isaiah, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Paul says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
This is the favorable time. God hears us when we cry. We cry because we return to God in faith. We come as sinners seeking forgiveness. We come with fasting, with weeping, with mourning. In this repentant stance, God hears us poor sinners because we have rent our hearts. Not just our clothing.
We fast because the Bridegroom is no longer with us. We fast because we wait for His return. When we will need no longer to fast but to feast. The annual Lenten fast reminds us that we are waiting. Waiting not only for Easter to end the fasting. Waiting for the final Easter when Jesus returns.
We fast in faith. We fast by Jesus' command: “And when you fast...” It's not a question, if a Christian fasts. A Christian fasts, following Christ's example.
Although we go without on this earth, we have no fear of going without in Heaven. We follow our Savior's example. He fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Tempted by the devil. But He overcame each temptation. Not by His divine power. His divine Word. His Word gives us the strength to endure the fast, knowing there's an end.
We weep and mourn because our sinfulness overwhelms us at times. God hears our tears and grief. He comes to us at our weakest moments. He answers with His comfort. Comfort given through forgiveness. Forgiveness in His reconciliation through His Son.
Reconciliation delivered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus says this about the Holy Spirit: “And when [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. He points out your sin. That you fail to believe Jesus. Not necessarily that you don't believe in Jesus. But that you don't believe what Jesus says. Jesus says, “You shall have no other gods.” But we place ourselves as God when we follow our own feelings and desires. We place ourselves as God when we belittle or change what God says in His Word. We place ourselves as God when we take of the forbidden fruit of fleshly knowledge. Fleshly knowledge seeks to gratify the flesh. Spiritual wisdom seeks to glorify God.
The Holy Spirit convicts everyone that they seek after fleshly knowledge instead of spiritual wisdom. The Holy Spirit convicts everyone that they need their mind and their heart reconciled to God.
The Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness. He convicts of righteousness by speaking words of reconciliation. Reconciling sinners plagued with original sin to their holy, Creator God. The Holy Spirit comes to sinners and conveys God's Word to them. Not only condemnation of sin. Forgiveness of sins for those who repent. Those who fast with weeping and mourning.
The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of righteousness. Convicts them with proper knowledge of God. That God “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.” The Holy Spirit comes through the Word. A Word of reconciliation between God and sinner. A Word that blows the trumpet in the Church. That consecrates a fast in a solemn assembly. That gathers together the congregation and her pastor to dispense this Word to everyone, regardless of age. The Holy Spirit comes to convict everyone, even the children and nursing infants. Everyone is able to believe in this gracious, merciful, longsuffering God. The God who reconciles you to Himself through convicting you or righteousness.
The Holy Spirit convicts of judgment. This is the conviction that looms over the world. Conviction of sin often gets overlooked. Sin feels good. Sin is enjoyable. The Holy Spirit's conviction gets displaced because it is inconvenient to our sinful flesh. But the conviction of judgment. This sits in our conscience. This sits in that still, small voice that warns us that our sin is wrong. The Holy Spirit uses this voice to convict us that judgment is coming.
Jesus will return as the Judge of the living and the dead. But this conviction doesn't lead to fear in Christians. This conviction leads to hope. The hope that you have been reconciled to God. God has reconciled you through the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin and righteousness. You know your sin. You confess your sin. And your sin is forgiven. You are purged with hyssop. Washed whiter than snow. Your sin was horrible. All sin is horrible in God's eyes. But it is all washed away in the blood of the Lamb.
You sit here this evening, assembling together with God's children, because you have hope in your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His “old rugged cross” is the solid Rock your hope is built upon. There, on “Calvary's holy mountain,” the “glorious battle” was fought for your soul. Buried with Christ, washed in the blood flowing from His pierced side, you sit with hope because you will not be condemned. You will be exalted as God's “good and faithful servant.” Hearing the wonderful “Well done!” as you will when you approach the altar. When you “draw near and take the body of the Lord.” Receiving from His “sacred Head, now wounded,” His reconciling grace. Amen.