Ready for Advent

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From the Word

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Luke 21:25–28, RSV

From Luther

The signs preceding the judgment day are many and great. They will all be fulfilled, even though none or very few men take note of or esteem them as such. Two things must take place according to the Word and prophecy of Christ and the apostles: first, many and great signs will be made manifest; second, the last day will come unawares; the world will not expect it, even though that day be at the door. Though men see those signs and be told that they are signs of the last day, still they will not believe. Some, indeed, will see it and it will be those who least expect it. That there will be such security and indifference among men we prove from the words of Christ and the apostles. Christ says: “Take heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly as a snare, for so shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of the earth.”

From these words it is clear that men in great measure will give themselves over to surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that, drowned as it were in these things, they will rest secure and continue to dwell on the earth as if the dreadful day were far away. For were there no such security and heedlessness, that day would not break in unawares. But he says it will come as a snare by which birds and beasts are caught at a time when most concerned about their food and least expecting to be entrapped. In this figure he gives us clearly to understand that the world will continue its carousing, eating and drinking, building and planting, and diligently seeking after earthly things, and will look upon the day of judgment as yet a thousand and more years off, when, in the twinkling of an eye, they may stand before the terrible judgment bar of God. Whatever other signs may appear before Christ’s coming, I know that, according to Christ’s words, surfeiting and drunkenness, building and planting, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage and other cares of this life will be in evidence.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 418–19.

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Spiritual Knowledge

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From the Word

9 And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

Colossians 1:9–11, RSV

From Luther

The apostle’s words are “be filled,” that is, not only hear and understand God’s will, but become rich in the knowledge of it, with ever increasing fullness. You have begun well; you are promising shoots. But something more than a good beginning is required, and the knowledge of God’s will cannot be exhaustively learned at once on hearing the Word. “Knowing the will of God” means more than simply knowing about God, that he created heaven and earth and gave the law, a knowledge which even the Jews and Turks possess. When this point has been reached further enlightenment is necessary if man is to be saved. He must know the meaning of Christ’s words: “This is the will of my Father, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.”

This spiritual knowledge, or confidence, is not so easily learned as other things. It is not so readily apprehended as the knowledge of the law written in nature. Indeed, that more than anything else hinders the Christians and saints from obtaining the knowledge of God’s will in Christ, for it compels the heart and conscience to plead guilty in every respect and to confess having merited the wrath of God; therefore the soul naturally fears and flees from God. Then, too, the devil fans the flame of fear and sends his fiery arrows of dismay into the heart. The wicked world eagerly contributes its share of hindrance against Christians as a people of the worst type, condemned enemies of God. Our flesh and blood is a drawback, making much of its own wisdom and holiness and seeking thereby to gain honor and glory or to live in security of life and wealth, pleasure and covetousness. Hence on every side a Christian must be in severe conflict, if he is to succeed in preserving the knowledge of God’s will. Verily, there is need of earnest and diligent use of the Word of God and prayer, that Christians may not only learn to know the will of God, but also to be filled with it. Only so can the individual walk always according to God’s will, and gain strength to enable him to face fears and terrors against the devil, the world, flesh and blood.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 417–18.

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Day to Day Faith

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From the Word

20 Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” 23 The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. 25 But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 

John 21:20–25, RSV

From Luther

Christ teaches us a beautiful and touching lesson. Notwithstanding the examples and lives of all the saints every person should attend to the work entrusted to him and guard the honor of his calling. This is truly a needed and wholesome teaching. Many persons are found like Peter, looking around to the saints Christ loved, and turning their backs to the commission and calling to follow Christ. As no one now is without some commission and calling, so no one is without some kind of work, if he desires to do what is right. Every one therefore is to take heed to continue in his calling, look to himself, faithfully do what is commanded him, and serve God and keep his commandments; then he will have so much to do that all time will be too short, all places too cramped, all resources of help too weak.

Moreover it is a common plague that no one is satisfied with his own lot, so that the heathen say: How does it happen that there is always better fruit in another field, and that the neighbor’s cow gives more milk than our own? How does it come that no one is content with his own state and thinks that of another is better than his own? If God allowed one to change his lot with all his will, even then he would be like every one else, would become more tired and at last stay with his own. Hence one ought not to think of changing his lot, but of changing his spirit of discontent. Cast aside and change that restless spirit, then the lot of one will be like that of another and all will be prized alike.
To overcome such unrest, discontent and disgust in one’s self, faith is helpful and necessary — a faith which is of the firm conviction that God governs all alike, places each one in the lot that is the most suitable for him. This faith brings rest, contentment and peace; it banishes the tired spirit. Hence we see how faith is needed in everything and how it makes everything easy, good and sweet, even if you were in prison or in death, as the martyrs prove. Without faith all things are difficult and bitter, though you possessed the pleasures of the whole world, as all the great lords and wealthy prove, who at all times lead the most wretched lives.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 416–17.

Today's video was made in 2021 so references in the video to days and dates may be askew in the year in which you are listening. However, the Luther reading is, indeed, for this day in the year.

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Kept in Fear

Today's video was made in 2021 so references in the video to days and dates may be askew in the year in which you are listening. However, the Luther reading is, indeed, for this day in the year.

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

8 Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. 11 To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 

1 Peter 5:8–11, RSV

From Luther

The devil does not sleep; he looks around and exerts himself to exterminate the pure doctrine in the Church and will finally, it is feared, bring it to this, that should one pass through all Germany he would find no pulpit where the pure Word of God is preached as in former days. He tries with all his might to prevent the pure doctrine from being taught, for he cannot endure it. To escape from the enemy is most difficult. He lurks and watches everywhere, and pushes his affairs so hard that even the learned fall and the elect stumble, as did Moses, Peter and the other apostles. We think we are safe and permit matters to drift. We should pray and call on God to maintain the gospel and cause his holy name to be proclaimed more and more widely; but no one cares, no one prays for the advancement of the gospel. The consequence must be that God will overthrow both us and Satan. The end will be that our rashness and indifference shall bring us into great misery.

The heart must thoroughly grasp this idea, that although we may feel secure concerning a matter and have Scripture for it, and be prepared and fortified in the best possible manner with clear proofs, it is after all the will and power of God that protect us and defend us against the devil, our adversary and most bitter foe. But this occurs only when God awakens us and keeps us in his fear, so that we may always be concerned and cry: “Lord, increase our faith.” Our hearts should always be in a condition as if we had only begun to believe to-day, and always be so disposed toward the gospel as if we had never before heard it. We should make a fresh beginning each day. Our faith must constantly grow and become stronger. Man is a poor, weak creature. Paul says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” This treasure is the gospel. An earthen vessel is easily broken and its contents spilled. When the devil notices what a treasure faith is and in what a poor vessel it is kept he rages and storms in his wrath to shatter the vessel and spill the treasure. Man is a poor, weak earthen vessel; if God would permit, Satan would soon utterly destroy the whole vessel.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 414–15.

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Commending Ourselves to God

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31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Matthew 25:31–34, RSV

This will take place publicly in the presence of all angels, men and creatures, and before the whole rabble of an ungodly world, that it may be seen who have been pious, honest Christians, as well as who have been hypocrites. Such a separation cannot take place in the world until that day, not even in the assembly which constitutes the Christian Church. The good and the bad must remain together in this world, as we learn from the parable of the wedding guests, or as Christ himself had to tolerate Judas among his apostles. Christians are much grieved that they must remain in the midst of a crooked, perverse, ungodly people, which is the kingdom of Satan.

While Christians have their sufferings here upon earth, they will also have their comfort on the coming day of judgment, when Christ will separate them from the other flock, so that after that day no false, ungodly men, nor death, nor devil can ever touch them or offend them. Christ will pronounce the verdict in the very words in which he has already prepared it and set it forth and will certainly not change it. Therefore see to it that you are among those who are kind and merciful here upon earth for Christ’s sake, or who even suffer for his sake, then you may joyfully await the last day, and need not be afraid of the judgment; for he has already selected you and placed you among those who shall stand at his right hand.

We who are Christians should hope for the coming of this judgment and desire it with our whole heart, as we pray in the words: Thy kingdom come; thy will be done; deliver us from evil; so that we may also hear the glad and welcome words: Come, ye blessed, into the kingdom of my Father. This is the verdict we await; for this we are Christians. For we must constantly see and hear the maliciousness which Satan and the world practice against the gospel. There is so much misery upon earth that we ought to be tired of this life and cry aloud: Come, dear Lord, and deliver us. For there are certainly souls who are joyfully awaiting the judgment of Christ with a good conscience.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 413–14.

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That We May Stand

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From the Word

31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats

Matthew 25:31–32, RSV

From Luther

Had it not been told us we should be inqusitive beyond measure to know what would happen on the last day, and what Jesus would say and do on that day. Here we are now told of and have set before us, first of all, death, which no one can escape; but after that the day of judgment. Then it will come to pass that Christ will bring together by means of the resurrection all who have ever lived upon earth; and at the same time he will descend in inexpressible majesty, sitting upon the throne of judgment, with all the heavenly host hovering around him; and all the good and bad will appear, so that we shall all stand exposed before him and no one will be able to conceal himself.

The appearance of this glory and majesty will immediately become a great terror and pain to the condemned, lest they shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might. Even if there were no more than a single angel present, there would not remain in his presence one fickle, wicked conscience, were it possible to escape, any more than a thief and a rascal can bear to come before a human judge. If he could escape he would much prefer it, if only for the purpose of escaping public disgrace, to say nothing of his being compelled to hear the judgment passed upon him.

What a terrible sight it will be, when the ungodly shall see not only all of God’s angels and creatures, but also the Judge in his divine majesty, and shall hear the verdict of eternal destruction and hell-fire pronounced upon them forever. This should surely be a powerful admonition for us to live as Christians, so that we may stand in honor and without fear at the right hand of this majestic Lord, where there will be no fear, nor terror, but pure comfort and everlasting joy. Whoever is not moved and aroused by these words can certainly never be moved by anything.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 412–13.

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Striving to Be His

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From the Word

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 1:7–2:2, RSV

From Luther

Since we are unable to keep the law, Christ came and stepped between the Father and us, and prays for us: Beloved Father, be gracious unto them and forgive them their sins. I will take upon me their transgressions and bear them; I love thee with my whole heart, and in addition the entire human race, and this I will prove by shedding my blood for mankind. I have fulfilled the law and I did it for their welfare in order that they may partake of my fulfilling the law and thereby come to grace.

Thus there is first given us through Christ the sense that we do not fulfil the law and that sin is fully and completely forgiven; however, this is not bestowed in a way or to the end that we need not keep the law in the future, and may forever continue to sin, or that we should teach, if we have faith we need no longer to love God and our neighbor. But the meaning is that the fulfilling of the law may now for the first time be successfully attempted and perfectly realized, and this is the eternal, fixed and unchangeable will of God. To this end it is necessary to preach grace that man may find counsel and help to come to a perfect life.

But the help offered us is that Christ prays the Father to forgive us our sins against the law, and not impute what we are still owing. He promises also to give the Holy Spirit, by whose aid the heart begins to love God and to keep his commandments. God is not gracious and merciful to sinners to the end that they might not keep his law, nor that they should remain as they were before they received grace and mercy; but he condones and forgives both sin and death for Christ’s sake, who has fulfilled the whole law to make the heart glad and through the Holy Spirit to kindle and move the heart to begin again to love from day to day more and more. Thus begins in us not only love, but also truth, a true character, as the law requires. Christ is full of grace and truth, and through him grace and truth grow in us.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 411–12.

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Preaching for Christ’s Sake

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From the Word

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Luke24:44–48, RSV

From Luther

The gospel is the preaching of repentance and remission of sins. It should not be preached in a corner, but before all men, whether it be received or not, for it is to spread even farther that it may be heard and bear fruit. We are not to be offended though few receive it, nor say it has been given in vain. We should be content that Christ has commanded us to preach it in all the world, that he who will may receive it.

By repentance Christ means a change for the better; not what we have called repentance, when one scourges and chastises himself and does penance to atone for his sin, or when the priest imposes this or that upon any one for penance. Scripture does not speak of it in this sense. Repentance signifies a change and reformation of the whole life; so that when one knows that he is a sinner and feels the iniquity of life, he desists from it and enters upon a better course of life in word and deed, and does it from the heart.

But we should preach also forgiveness of sins. This signifies that the gospel should be preached, which declares unto all the world that in Christ the sins of all the world are swallowed up, that he suffered death to put away sin from us, and arose to blot it out. All this he did, that whoever believeth should have the comfort and assurance that it is reckoned unto him even as if he himself had done it. This continues as long as we live until the day of judgment.

Forgiveness is so great and powerful that God not only forgives your past sins, but forgives also the sins you will yet commit. He will not condemn us for our daily infirmities, but forgives all, in view of our faith in him, if we only strive to press onward and get rid of sin. Repentance in his name is done when in those who believe in Christ God through that faith works a change for the better, not for a moment, nor for an hour, but for their whole life. A Christian is not perfectly nor instantaneously cleansed, but the reformation and change continues as long as he lives. Nothing will be accomplished except in Christ’s name. That alone has power to save.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 409–10.

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When Tempted

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From the Word

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments! 11 I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 Blessed be thou, O LORD; teach me thy statutes! 

Psalm 119:9–12, RSV

From Luther

A man may be familiar with God’s Word, yet if he walks in self-security, concerned about other matters, or perhaps, being tempted, he loses sight of God’s Word, it may easily happen that he is seduced and deceived by the secret craft and cunning of the devil; or of himself become bewildered, losing his wisdom and being unable to find counsel or help even in the most trivial temptations. For the devil and reason, or human wisdom, can dispute and syllogize with extraordinary subtlety in these things until one imagines that to be true wisdom which is not. A wise man soon becomes a fool; men readily err and make false steps; a Christian likewise is prone to stumble; and even a teacher and prophet can easily be deceived by reason’s brilliant logic. So there is need of understanding, of careful, keen discernment, that wisdom be not perverted and falsified, and man be deceived with its counterfeit.

Man is prone to stumble and to fail in understanding when not watchful of his purposes and motives, to see how they accord with the wisdom of God’s Word. Particularly is his understanding unreliable when the devil moves him to wrath, impatience, dejection, melancholy, or when he is otherwise tempted. Often they who have been well exercised with trials become bewildered in small temptations and uncertain what course to take. In this one needs to be watchful and not go by his reason or his feelings, but remember God’s Word, or ascertain if he does not know what it is, and be guided thereby. Man cannot judge aright by the dictates of reason when he is tempted. Therefore he ought not to follow his own natural intelligence, nor to act from hasty conclusions. Let him be suspicious of all his reasoning and beware of the cunning of the devil, who seeks either to allure or to intimidate us by his specious arguments. Let him call upon the understanding born of his wisdom in the gospel, what his faith, love, hope and patience counsel, what God’s will eloquently teaches every one and under all circumstances, and let him strive and pray to be filled with such knowledge.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 408–09.

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The Golden Year of God’s Word

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. 

Ephesians 5:15–20, RSV

From Luther

The time is unquestionably good as long as the gospel is faithfully preached and received. At the same time, even to-day the world is filled with evils, factions, false theories and bad examples of every sort; much of this wickedness is inherent in ourselves. With these things the Christian must always contend; the devil pursues, and our own flesh discourages and allures us from recognition and observance of the divine will. If we strive not against it, we shall soon lose sight of God’s will, to our own injury, even while listening to the gospel. For the devil’s strongest fury is exerted to befoul the world with fanaticism, and to draw from the pure doctrine of faith into that evil even those who possess the gospel. Being flesh and blood we are always self-secure, unwilling to be led by the Spirit, indolent and unresponsive in relation to the Word of God and to prayer. In the outward walks of life, obstacles and evils meet us everywhere, impeding our spiritual progress and impelling us to suppress the gospel and to rend the Church.

Let no one, then, expect to enjoy an era of peace and pleasure here on earth. Although the present time is in itself good, and God bestows upon us the golden year of his Word and his grace, yet the devil is here with his factions and followers, and our own flesh supports him. He corrupts the blessed days of grace at every possible opportunity, and so oppresses Christians that they must contend against him with their utmost strength and vigilance if they would not, through the influence of evils and obstacles, be wrested from the gospel they have received and would persevere therein to the end.

Wherefore we have the best reasons to adapt ourselves to the present time in the best possible way; to walk wisely and circumspectly, showing all faithfulness to the will of God; obeying it while we have opportunity — while still in possession of God’s Word, his grace and his Spirit. Being opposed and obstructed by the devil and our own flesh, we must be wise and careful and guard against following them. So, then, we are to understand by “evil days” the allurements that lead us away from God’s Word and his will.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 407–08.

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