Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"Merry Christmas"—John 3:16–18

Sitting in my easy chair one evening, the thought came to me: A devotion for Christmas Day is really a special opportunity (for me) to present a devotion on my favorite passage of Scriptures. It is probably the first passage I committed to memory as a child, and I keep referring back to it in my devotions, sermons, and occasional papers. I’d like to share it with you (again) because it is the reason for my becoming a pastor, writing my sermons and devotions, and simply because I feel like it. It is also one of the best known passages of Scripture. So, here it is as a reminder of who our God is, and what He has done for us and our everlasting salvation.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

God is a just and holy God who hates sin and blesses true good. He defines “good” as doing His will, and “evil” as breaking His commandments in thought, word, or deed. He applies this standard equally to all people, including His own Son Jesus, who willingly took on human flesh and blood so that He could do for mankind what mankind was incapable of doing. Verses sixteen and seventeen of our reading tell us this: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We, sadly enough, have not been “good little boys and girls.” We have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and the things we have left undone; so, we need what God gave on that first Christmas. We need to hear time and again what Jesus said in verse 18 of our reading: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” So, we return to verse 16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

With this, I wish you all a joyous, forgiving holy-day! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

"Baptism"—Titus 3:5–8

In the Christian Church there has been more than just a little controversy and conflict over Baptism and when it should take place and how it should be administered. Should candidates for Baptism be infants, or young adults able to answer for themselves, or people on their death beds (as was the case with Roman emperor Constantine)? Should the candidates be washed, sprinkled, or immersed? Should Baptism ever be repeated or renewed? These are just some of the questions I have encountered during my forty years of ministry, and I am sure other pastors have had to deal with other questions, too!

In his Small Catechism the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther answered the question of what baptism is with a brief statement: “Baptism in not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.” What Baptism is, simply enough, is water applied in God’s name and according to Christ’s command. This is evident in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Here Jesus, as He was preparing to return to heaven after His resurrection from the grave, said to His disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….” Jesus’ command is simply that water be applied in the name of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the third portion of Luther’s consideration of Holy Baptism, he cited our text, Titus 3:5-8. Here, St. Paul, the author of the letter to Titus (a young pastor), wrote:

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, He washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.  (Titus 4:5-8)

St. Paul had it right: these things are excellent and profitable! Lord, grant that we will learn and live by them, In Jesus’ name. Amen.

"Why Did Jesus Come?"—Hebrews 10:5–10

The question many people ask is a simple one: Why did Jesus Christ take on human flesh and blood and then come into this world the way He did?

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews gives us an answer. In verse eight of our text, we read: “When he (talking about Jesus) said …. "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (Heb. 10:8a) Then, in the next verse where Jesus said: “I have come to do your will." (Heb. 10:9) We ask a simple question, what is God’s will?

The answer shouldn’t surprise us. God desires that all people should love and trust in Him and willingly obey His desires in their thought, word, and action. God desires that every person love his or her neighbor as himself. But simply put, people don’t do these things. Not in their thinking, not in how and what they say, and not in what they do. Instead, the full spectrum of human depravity is revealed in their misdeed, emotions, and motivations. Every human being is colored and tainted with sin.  Sexual sins are common. Acts of violence and greed against family members and total strangers are not unusual.

The scariest thing about this is that this sinfulness condemns every person to an eternity in hell.  It condemns—that is, until Jesus entered the picture. Beginning in verse nine of our reading we read something different. Jesus added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Heb. 10: 9–10)

This is why Jesus came into this world: to seek and save sinners like you and me. This is why we will shortly celebrate the Christmas holy day. This is also why I wish every one of you a truly blessed and happy Christmas!

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