Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
A man of God with a gift for gab, laid it on the line: the gift of gab is not a proof of Christian faith. Preachers who are eloquent are not automatically Christian. Neither exotic languages nor inspired preaching prove faith in themselves. Here good impressions and even good intentions are not enough. God is not impressed with good intentions, and people cannot be satisfied with good impressions. Eventually, it becomes clear to everyone: without love for God and love for people, preaching and teaching -- no matter how Christian they may be or pretend to be -- are worth very little.
Sacrificial acts do not automatically validate the doer as a Christian. Unselfish and even heroic steps in helping the poor or the dying are impressive and significant, but they are not automatic evidence of Christian faith. Sacrificial acts done for Christ are a thing of the heart, not looking for praise, or even notice. Only God knows the motives of the heart. Christian people who act out of love are not puffed up, do not seek their own. They are not out to get something for themselves, and they are willing to accept whatever their actions may bring, even misunderstanding and disapproval. In this care, love conquers all, even the temptation to boast of one's own accomplishments.
What you see in Jesus Christ is both the justice and the love of God. In Jesus Christ everybody can see how the justice of God works. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. In Jesus Christ everybody can see how the love of God works. For the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died, the loving God forgives people who do not deserve forgiveness. To make that forgiveness sure and real for everyone to see, the loving God raised His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead and declared Him to be the Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead. In His resurrection, there is forgiveness and life for everyone because He died for everyone. He was delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification.
Love for God, for Christ, and for others around you never fails and never ends. It is the first and the last -- a thing of joy from beginning to end. It is love like His who for the joy set before Him endured a cross, forgetting the shame, and now look at Him: He sits at the right hand of the majesty of God, forever and ever. Amen.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, it is Jesus all the way -- the Founder, the Perfecter, the One who alone is true and righteous. Let us never lose sight of the example You have given us in Your Son. In His Name we pray. Amen.
From "Forgetting the Shame" a sermon excerpt from Oswald Hoffmann, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
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