[read Ezekiel 36:22-28] “……………………. 25I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my just decrees…………………………”
You Are Saved FROM and FOR and FOR THE SAKE OF.
You are saved from ____(what?)___ and for ____(what?)___. For the sake of __(whom?)__. What are you saved from? What are you saved for – toward what end are you saved? You are saved for whose sake?
God forgives all your sin by the death of Jesus on the Cross. God forgives all sin of all who repent and believe. But does God ONLY forgive sin? Is that the fullness – the whole package – of your salvation? Thanks be to God that He pardons our transgressions of His Law. But, does God only pardon? Or is there more to the full gift of salvation than that?
A God who only forgives the sinner is like a governor who pardons a man’s crimes but then leaves the man still locked in jail - “I forgive you, but nothing more.” What good is the pardon, if still no freedom is offered?
A God who only forgives your offenses is like a doctor who only tells you the good news that there is a cure, but then fails to administer the cure effectively. What good is a cure if it doesn’t make you better? What good is a pardon if you’re still left in chains?
God is a full Savior. He saves to the uttermost. God’s full work of salvation not only pardons your sins but also gives you freedom from them. God not only forgives you but also makes you a new you. This is the full promise, the full work of Jesus.
Today is the Seventh Sundar of Easter – we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior Jesus. In the Easter season, especially, we can answer our question: You are saved from ____(what?)___ and for ____(what?)___ -- You are saved FROM sin & guilt. You are saved FOR true freedom & new life in Christ. From sin, for New Life. All the gift of God. All the full work of Jesus’ death and resurrection for you.
You are saved FROM sin and FOR new life. You are saved FROM a SINFUL NATURE and FOR a NEW HEART. On Good Friday all your GUILT against God’s Law nailed to the cross, put to death, put away from you once-and-for-all and forever. It is no longer charged to your account [Colossians 2:13-14].
On Easter, Jesus was raised alive to give New Life. Your sin was put to death with Jesus on the Cross. Your New Heart was raised up with Jesus in His Resurrection. Sin put to death. New Heart, New Life brought to life. How? Because by BAPTISM you’ve been buried with Jesus and raised with Jesus [Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12].
Let’s hear this again from our Old Testament reading: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my just decrees.” [Ezekiel 36:25-27]
Jesus died and rose to save you from uncleanness and give you clean life. Jesus died and rose to save you from your old heart of stone and enliven in you your new softer heart of flesh. Jesus died to forgive you for walking against His commands and rose to give you a new spirit and cause you to be men and women who are careful to walk according to His commands and just decrees.
In Ezekiel’s day, the Old Testament people of God, the people of Israel, were a people in captivity. Because of their many transgressions, because of their faith and trust in false gods, because they did not truly fear, love, and trust in God above all others, because of their immoral and unclean lives, and because of their impenitence (their failure to repent) – because of their sin – they were judged. The people of Israel and Judah, through a course of events, were taken captive by enemy armies and dispersed by force into foreign lands. This was God’s just judgment – and is mild compared to the judgment to come. Yet even in their captivity and dispersion, God’s people continued to give God a bad name by the way they lived before others.
But God is a God of His Word and a God who honors His Name. God honors His Name by keeping His promises. And God honors His name in the world by making a people for Himself who, as people bearing His name, will live honorably in the world.
God told His people, “Not for your sake am I going to save you, but for the sake of my name.” “I’m not going to save you because you are worthy of it (you’re not). I’m not going to save you because you deserve mercy (you don’t). I’m not going to save you for any reason in you. I am going to save you FROM sin and FOR the gift of New Life for the sake of my name.”
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God brought honor to His name by keeping His promise to work salvation for fallen mankind. After those many centuries, He kept His word. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus God has brought honor to His name by making for Himself, by that death and resurrection, a people who are new in heart and life.
You, brothers and sisters, are baptized. You are baptized in God’s name – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19-20]. Through you, the people who now forever bear God’s name, God’s name is honored in the world. God’s name is honored in the world when you, now bearing His name, walk according to the New Life, the New Heart - according to His commandments.
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father who art in heaven, HALLOWED BE THY NAME.” Which means, “Let Your name be kept Holy among us.” God’s name is kept holy among us “when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity” among us, and when “we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it.” (Small Catechism).
You can’t do that. I can’t do that. But Jesus can do that in and through each of you (and me). How? Because, by His death and by His resurrection, He saved you FROM Sin & Guilt and FOR a New Life & New Heart, all FOR THE SAKE of His HOLY NAME. You are fully forgiven now. You are being made new. Jesus has done this and is doing this in and for you. Jesus will not fail but will finish the good work He has begun [Philippians 1:6]. Thanks be to God, and Hallowed be His Name. Amen.