In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Just as He is so also are we in this world. (1 John 4:17) He, Jesus, is the beloved Son of His Father. (Luke 3:22; 9:35) You may not feel it. You may not look like it in the circumstances of your life. But you have come to believe it. (1 John 4:16a) Beyond what your eyes see and your senses tell you, you have come to believe that God—who is love (1 John 4:16b)—loves you. That His esteem rests on you, remains with you, therefore you rest in Him. (1 John 4:16c) So that on the Day of Judgement you won’t be embarrassed but will stand before your Father and king proudly speaking of His love for you. (1 John 4:17)
Remember the old “what will you say to St. Peter when stand before the pearly gates” idea? You won’t say before the Lord on Judgment Day, “I was a good guy,” or even, “In faith I did what you commanded.” Such trusting in yourself leads directly to Hades. The Underworld. To torment and flames. (Luke 16:23) You will instead say—since you know this now and abide in His love for you NOW (1 John 4:16, 19)—“My Father loves me. I am His beloved child. Adopted in His Son Christ Jesus. Purchased at the cost of His holy, precious blood. For just as He is so also are we in this world. (1 John 4:17) He is the Father’s beloved Son. (Luke 3:22) And so AM I.”
That’s bold. That’s confident. (1 John 4:17) In order to say it you have to believe it. To have the freedom and wherewithal to say that on Judgement Day… that is truly bold faith. Faith that abides RIGHT NOW in the love of the Father for you.
But think of your life. Think of your sufferings. I’ve been chanting through the psalms lately. There are a lot of Psalms that describe life as though the life of the Christian is like Lazarus. (Luke 16:20-21) Just a poor beggar. Thrown down on the street at the doorways of not merely the rich, but the doorways of those who cheat and persecute the poor; who do unrighteously and yet never seem to suffer; those who delight in all the world has to offer and never have a pang of conscience; never have anything go wrong; never suffer what I am suffering. Yes, beloved children of the Father, we are Lazarus. As believers, we see our suffering, our sin, our wretched estate. And we see the World either ignoring that suffering, delighting in it, or blaming you for it. In fact, the World will delight in causing you, O Christ’s beloved, to suffer. Because the self-made World has no use for the Lord. After all, the self-made World has “picked itself up by its boot straps.” It has no use of those who are the hit and runs of life like Lazarus—and it makes no difference to the World whether they are merely hit and run by circumstance, or by their own bad decisions. Worldly successful folks credit themselves no matter how much luck or how many hand-ups they were given by others. But the Christian recognizes that—certainly spiritually, but even in all circumstances—we are merely beggars before the Lord. That all we have comes from Him. Even our hard work and our family circumstances that gave you a leg up, even your success, is all a blessing from the Lord. So that you confess that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But in all circumstances, blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)
And lets be clear, Lazarus did not go to heaven because he had suffered. He went to heaven because he heard the word of Moses—the prophecy of the saviour to come—and he believed it. And the Lord in His mercy reckons that to you as righteousness! (Gen. 15:6) That’s why he was a son of Abraham. For he believed the promise of the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness. A son of Abraham is not a son by genetics, but by faith. (Gal. 3:7) Anyone who believes in the Promised Seed of Abraham in whom all families of world would be blessed (Gen. 12:3, 7) is a son of Abraham. But you can’t see faith can you? That’s why Lazarus was laying right there at the gate of the rich man. And all anyone saw was someone they assumed was cursed by God. Someone down and out dying in a ditch. How can such a one be loved by God? How can they be a child of God? Meanwhile, the rich man—who is never named—is no son of Abraham. He won’t believe the Word of the Lord. (Luke 16:29, 31) Abraham believed the Word of the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:6) For as Jesus is so also are we in this world. (1 John 4:17) By faith. Not by works. (Gal. 3:2-6; Eph. 2:8-9) The rich man seemed to have all the right works. He was successful. Clearly God had blessed him. He was a Jew. A genetic son of Abraham. Clearly he was a chosen person. But there was no faith which trusted in the Word of the Lord in him.
He was surprised to find Lazarus laying in the lap of Abraham and himself in torment. (Luke 16:23) He had 5 more brothers. (Luke 16:28) One for each book of Moses. He was the 6th son. 6 for mankind. (Gen. 1:26-27, 31) 6 for the unbelief of mankind. But those 5 brothers, he knew how to help them. Send Lazarus back from the dead to preach to them. They will believe it if someone comes back from the dead. (Luke 16:28, 30) No they won’t. (Luke 16:29) Faith comes by hearing. (Rom. 10:17) If they won’t hear Moses and all the prophets the Lord had already sent they won’t believe even if one should come back from the dead. (Luke 16:29, 31) And one has come back from the dead. But who has believed His preaching?
You have. You have become convinced that God loves you in Christ Jesus. (1 John 4:16) That His sacrificial death on your behalf is all the reminder you need of God’s unending love for you. That on the Last Day you will have that faith which is bold to speak of the Father’s love for you in Christ. (1 John 4:17) That you are a Son of the Father (Luke 3:22) and a son of Abraham (Luke 16:22) by faith in the Lord’s promises to you. (Gal. 3:7) Beloved of Your Father. (1 John 4:16) A beloved Son just like Jesus. (1 John 4:17; Luke 3:22) An inheritor of His kingdom. For as He is so are we also in this world. (1 John 4:17)
And that drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) That makes a difference in your life. You are loved of your Father just as Jesus is. (1 John 4:17) For you are declared fully righteous. (Gen. 15:6) Just as Jesus is fully righteous. Punishment has nothing to do with your life with the Father. Not just raw punishment of evil. There is discipline which the Lord works in your life BECAUSE THE LORD LOVES YOU. (James 1:2-3; Prov. 3:12) But there is no punishment (1 John 4:18) for you are loved by your Father. And His Son said, “it is finished.” (John 19:30) The punishment of sin is done and He loves you.
And His love casts out your fear because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) A person who loves you can be very clear about boundaries with you. It may come across even as aggressive or harsh. But because you know you are loved such appropriate boundary maintenance isn’t a problem. It doesn’t cause fear because you know they love you. Love casts out fear. You see it most clearly with parents or teachers of young kids. They have to maintain boundaries all time and sometimes they have to be pretty harsh with the kiddos for the kiddos’ own safety and the parents’ sanity, but when the teacher or parent loves the child it is not an issue because complete, perfect love casts out fear. And such healthy boundary maintenance isn’t about punishment it is about their love for you. About their concern for you.
And so this love which the Father has for us causes us to stand in His presence to speak of His love for us. (1 John 4:17) And it changes you. So that when you love the Father it convicts you of your lack of love for your brothers in Christ. (1 John 4:20) Your uncharitable attitudes towards people who sit in the pews with you. For the Love of God comes in both Law and Gospel. The Gospel which is His perfect love which casts out fear. And the Law which maintains His expectations. So that you desire to meet His expectations. You see how those expectations are best for everyone. And you want what is best for everyone. So that when you find yourself hating your fellow Christian you are convicted of it. (1 John 4:21) Because you are loved by the Lord and you know it. (1 John 4:19) And you know they too are loved by the Lord. So how can you hate them? So you repent and turn to your loving Lord who loves you all more and comforts you with His love in Word and Sacrament. So that you know that just as He is so also are we in this world. (1 John 4:17)
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.