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As some of you know, I hit the big 6-0 this past week. And Iâ€™m starting to feel it. And Iâ€™m also starting to see it. Over the past several years Iâ€™ve been having a growing problem with mirrors. The older I get, the less I like them.
I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m aging, but the mirror says otherwise. And mirrors donâ€™t lie. They show you what YOU REALLY LOOK LIKE, not what YOU THINK YOU LOOK LIKE. Mirrors show me things Iâ€™d rather not see. A new wrinkle here, an age spot there, and the hair thing, when did that happen? The older I get the less I like mirrors.
The law of God is like a mirror. When we look into the law of God, we see ourselves for what we really are. And we never look as good as we think. One look into the mirror of Godâ€™s Law and we shriek, â€œWoe is me! For I am undone.â€
â€œYou shall have no other gods besides me,â€ says the Law of God. But weâ€™ve got a legion of other gods besides the one, true God. Money especially. But thereâ€™s also my carrier and my hobbies and my friends. And the truth is, when push comes to shove, I put them all before God. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
â€œYou shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vainâ€ says the Law of God. I thought looked okay because Iâ€™m not one of those people who use foul language and I donâ€™t like it when I hear others use that GD talk. But neither do I use Godâ€™s name the way I should, â€œto call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks,â€ to witness to my neighbor who doesnâ€™t know Christ. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
â€œYou shall remember the Sabbath day and keep it holyâ€ says the Law of God. â€œWe should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.â€ â€œWell Iâ€™m here arenâ€™t I?â€ That should make me look good before God. But I can hardly hear His Word for all of the other thoughts running through my head. And as for holding His Word sacred, the truth is, I hold a lot of OTHER WORDS more sacred that Godâ€™s Word. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
â€œYou shall honor your father and motherâ€ says the Law of God. â€œYou shall not murder.â€ â€œYou shall not commit adultery.â€ â€œYou shall not steal, or bear false testimony against your neighbor, or covet what belongs to your neighbor,â€ says the Law of God. And before you can count to 10, Iâ€™m a bloody mess because I live as if it were â€œevery man for himself.â€ THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
On the outside we may think we look so pretty good before God, but God sees the inside of us. And He gave us His Law so that we might see the inside of us too. And when we honestly look into the mirror of Godâ€™s law, we see our heart the way God sees our heart and it is not a pretty sight.
â€œNow we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.â€
The Law of God is like a mirror so â€œthat every mouth may be stopped.â€ If you take an honest assessment of yourself according to the Law of God, you realize youâ€™ve got nothing to say except â€“ â€œGUILTY.â€ The best thing you can do is to keep your mouth shut. Because the more you try to defend yourself the deeper you dig the hole. â€œMy circumstances, my environment, my parents, the governmentâ€¦ â€ Nothing works.
Not even comparing ourselves to others. â€œHave you seen what is going on OUT THERE LORD?â€ â€œYou should be glad to have me on Your side.â€ â€œGod, I thank you that I am not like other men â€“ robbers, evildoers, adulterers â€“ or even like these DRUG DEALERS, CHILD MOLESTERS AND BEHEADERS.â€ â€œI say my prayers and go to church and give my money and I even brought a nice Jello-mold in the shape of Martin Lutherâ€™s head for the pot-luck supper today.â€
â€œAnd the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, â€˜God, have mercy on me, a sinner.â€™ (Luke 18:11-13). One look into the mirror and the only thing there is to say is, â€œKyrie, Eleison.â€ The whole world is accountable to God.
â€œFor by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.â€
Which doesnâ€™t mean that we should stop looking into the mirror. It doesnâ€™t mean, â€˜if it makes you feel bad about yourself, ignore it.â€™ Which seems to be the prevailing attitude towards Godâ€™s Law. Godâ€™s Law makes us LOOK BAD, so weâ€™ll ignore it and write new laws that make our sinful, decrepit lives look good – at least TO US.
No, keep looking into the mirror. The first of Lutherâ€™s 95 Thesis said, â€œWhen our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, â€˜do penance,â€™ He willed that the WHOLE life of the believer would be one of repentance.â€ You never stop looking into the mirror of the law of God. As soon as you do you forget what you really look like and you get up off your knees all proud of yourself and start boasting to God about how good you look.
â€œSo, then what becomes of our boasting? Itâ€™s excluded.â€ â€œFor by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sightâ€¦â€ â€œFor all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of Godâ€¦â€ NO EXCEPTIONS. And NO BUTS ABOUT IT. Except for this one.
â€œBUT NOW, the righteousness of God has been made manifested APART FROM THE LAWâ€¦.â€
The best news you will ever hear is summed up in those two words. â€œBUT NOW.â€ The entire Gospel of Jesus Christ, His passion and suffering and death on the cross, His resurrection on the 3rd day, His ascension into heaven, His coming again on the Last Day, is all compressed into those two words – â€œBUT NOWâ€¦â€
â€œBut now,â€ God is doing a NEW THING. He has established a â€œNEW COVENANT.â€ â€œFor I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.â€ (Jer.31:34).
Here we are, trying so hard to look good before God according to His Law â€“ â€œlook at what Iâ€™ve done, look at what I didnâ€™t do.â€ But as it turns out, God doesnâ€™t judge us by the law. He judges us â€œAPART FROM THE LAW.â€
â€¢ Itâ€™s not â€œthou shall and thou shall not.â€ â€œBut now,â€ itâ€™s â€œLOOK WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU WHILE YOU WERE STILL SINNERS.â€
â€¢ Itâ€™s not â€œthis do and you will be saved.â€ â€œBut now,â€ itâ€™s â€œThis believe, you have been saved.â€
â€œThis righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.â€
The great but nowâ€ that echoes throughout all creation, for all who have ears to hear, is that God put forward His Son Jesus Christ to stand in front of the mirror. â€œGod put Him forward as a propitiation by His bloodâ€¦â€
He is the perfectly obedient One â€“ who has kept the law perfectly. Not only outwardly according to the letter, but inwardly with a sincere and upright heart.
â€œBut nowâ€ â€œGod put Him forwardâ€ to bear our fallen image. You want to know what we look like before God according to His Law? Just look at Christ cursed and crucified with YOUR SIN. Look at Jesus hanging from the cross, rejected by God and forsaken with YOUR GUILT. â€œGod put Him forwardâ€ to stand in front of that mirror that accuses us â€“ to be accused FOR US.
Itâ€™s not by your keeping the Law that you look good to God, but by Christâ€™s keeping the Law ON YOUR BEHALF that GOD IS PLEASED WITH YOU.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His works not yours that God is pleased with.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His wounds, not yours that heal you.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His cross, not yours that bears your awful load.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His death, not yours that has paid the ransom due.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His righteousness not yours that makes you righteous and holy before God.
So it turns out there is a distinction. All have not sinned. There is One who has not. â€œThere is only one who is good.â€ And itâ€™s not you. Itâ€™s Jesus Christ. Itâ€™s not about what you must do or have done. Itâ€™s ALL about what He came to do and has done FOR YOU.
Actually, this is just what the LAW AND THE PROPHETS BORE WITNESS TO all along, if only we had listened we had listened more and not been so preoccupied with boasting about ourselves.
â€¢ When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God sacrificed innocent animals and covered their shame and guilt with those skins. That was Christâ€™s skin that covered Adam and Eve and that now covers you.
â€¢ When Abraham took his son Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him â€“ God provided a ram to be sacrificed in Isaacâ€™s place. And Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of his son, that ram was Christ who was sacrificed instead of you.
â€¢ When Israel was in Egypt, the angel of death passed over every house marked with the blood of a lamb â€“ and that lamb was Christ, whose blood now marks you.
So, â€œThen what becomes of our boasting?â€ Do we boast about ourselves, and what good people we are or how well we keep Godâ€™s Law? Certainly not.
If you want to boast, boast about this. You are a baptized child of God; baptized into Christâ€™s death and baptized into His resurrection so that you have already died to sin and raised to a whole new life before God.
When you look into the mirror of Godâ€™s Gospel, you see by faith, a righteous and holy saint, covered with the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. You bear His image before God the Father. You are â€œradiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish…â€ (Eph.5:27).
â€œLet the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.â€ (2 Cor. 10:17)
â€œFor we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.â€