In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Scribes were right. No one can forgive sins but God alone. (Matt. 9:3, 6) And since all men are sinners God’s removal of your sins—His remitting of them, sending them away from you, taking them off of you, forgiving them—is the greatest treasure on earth. It is like a well of water gushing forth in the barren wilderness. To have the presence of God near you, not in judgement of you, but in order to remove your sins from you and clothe you in His holiness—uncontaminated by sin and its stain, able to stand in Holy Lord God’s presence—this is a blessed thing. And dear friends what the Scribes did not know, and what you may not know either is that God is here in this place: to forgive your sins and clothe you in His holiness. (Gen. 28:16-17; Matt. 9:6)
Indeed, when Jacob encountered God by a vision he was afraid. (Gen. 28:17) When he woke, he bowed down and said, “The Lord is in this place and did not know it.” (Gen. 28:16) He was afraid. Terrified that he’d been in the presence of the living God. That he had seen Him seated upon His throne in heaven. (Gen. 28:13) Jacob had simply stumbled upon this place and fallen asleep (Gen. 28:11), but upon waking he knew that the Lord had established His throne on the earth, in that place. Establishing that place as a point of contact between heaven and earth. So that falling on his face he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven.” For there God had met him. There the Lord had promised that the nations would be blessed in his Seed. (Gen. 28:14) And that Jacob’s offspring would broaden out and increase to the West, South, North, and East. Across the earth. For in this Seed of Jacob all families, all nations of earth, would be blessed. For this Seed of Jacob would be the One who would take the sins of mankind off of mankind. He would clothe Himself in our sin. So that we sinners—coming to Him who was clothed in our sin and nailed it to cross—would by Him be able not to climb up the cross to heaven, but have heaven come to earth. So that the Lord would be present amongst us. Not in terror, but in mercy. Not in judgement, but with the full authority to forgive sins on earth. For Jesus our Lord, came to earth, so that God would be in this place: to forgive your sins and clothe you in His holiness.
This means that our Lord Christ, in His flesh is the presence of the Living God on earth. He is the ladder to and from heaven. The place where heaven touches earth. The place where you can know and see God. Where you can hear His word of promise and blessing for yourself. For in Jesus God is not judging the world as condemned by her heinous sins, but as forgiven of that wickedness. (John 3:17) And don’t you fool yourself. Your sin stinks to high heaven. You are not immune from the same wickedness which fills this earth making so much of history and human existence hell on earth. By the blessing of good training, Godly parents, and continually being immersed in God’s word, maybe your sins are mostly only in your head and heart, not actually bursting out in your actions. Maybe you by prayer and faith crucify your flesh day by day, putting off the old man and sinking into and being clothed in the new man which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 4:22-24) But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are some how less filled with the same basic instinct to sin that the most evil people on earth have. Given the right circumstances the same wickedness which is so rampant in our world would pop forth from you too. There is an emerging body of research which suggests that PTSD in many cases, not all, but many is not a problem of what has been done to a person, or even of what they have done, but a problem of them not having thought such things were possible. That they could not do them, or that people would never be so intentionally wicked as to do these things. So when such malevolent evil pops up in their life they are traumatized, shattered by the fact of it. For you, dear Christian, are capable of the greatest evil. Which is why you confess: I am sinful in thought, word, and deed. Sin is an ever present possibility as long as you are on earth. It is only the word of the your Lord Jesus Christ in your life that restrains it in you and His word of justification that removes it from you. For by your baptism God is in you to forgive your sins and clothe you in His holiness.
And a great blessing you have in midst of your life here on earth is that Jesus—the place where heaven touches earth to bring blessing—has authority on earth to forgive sins. (Matt. 9:6, 8) Moreover, though He Himself has ascended into heaven, to the right hand of the Father, He has established on earth His very gates where heaven touches earth with that very authority. For on the day of the Resurrection He appeared to His disciples and established an office with that same authority when He said, “As the Father sent Me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) To do what? To do this: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:23) This means that when a validly called and ordained pastor of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 3:1-7), authorized by our Lord (Rom. 10:15; Acts 6:1-6), forgives you your sins this is just as sure and certain even in heaven, as if Christ our dear lord dealt with us Himself. For by the word of forgiveness proclaimed in His name God is in this place to forgive your sins and clothe you in His holiness.
And by that forgiveness at work in you Christ, the seed of Jacob (Gen. 28:13-14; 12:7; Gal. 3:16), expands to the East and West, North and South. (Gen. 28:14a) For through that word you who are dead in sins and transgressions (Eph. 2:1-2) are raised to life in the first resurrection (Eph. 2:5-6; Rev. 20:6) having been called out of your dead-in-sin state into the state of life and salvation in Christ Jesus. Which means the Church expands. North, South, East, West. Into all nations. (Matt. 28:19) To the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Into your family. (Gen. 28:14) Your nation. It is expanding. And while we here in North America seem to have little use for His forgiveness, for we are blinded by our wealth (Rev. 3:16-17), fixated on our first world problems, titilated by the screens and entertainments we always have at hand, we think we have no need of the Living God in our midst. Until that Day comes (Phil. 2:9-11) when He will stand upon the earth (Job 19:25) in judgement declaring forgiveness over those who believe in Him and judgement over those who by unbelief did not know Him. (John 3:17-19) But in many places, the Church expands. China is on track to have the biggest Christian population of any nation in the world within 13 years. Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, Eastern Europe are all teaming with those whom Christ is putting off their former self, the old man, and clothing them in the new man, who is renewed in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 4:22-24) So that the former “Killing Fields” of Cambodia and the atheistic wastelands of Siberia and Russia are teaming with those who have been raised to new life, justified in the truth which comes from Christ our risen Lord. For God is in this world by His Word forgiving your sins and clothing you in His holiness.
So do not despair little flock. For the Father’s good pleasure is to give you His kingdom. And He comes to you through His Church, in His Word, forgiving your sins and clothing you in His holiness. So that you simply need to remain where you are, in order to be a beacon in the darkness, the city on a hill which can not be hid (Matt. 5:14-16), so that when our wanton materialistic culture falls apart—as it will—when the wheels fall off the bus, those around you may know where to turn and to find a God who is with us, forgiving their sins and clothing them in His holiness.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock