On “Delivering the Goods…”
In the upper room on Easter evening, when Christ told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until God had “clothed them with power from on high,” Jesus also “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…’” (Luke 24:45-47).
In the same vein, Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
The core of apostolic ministry is the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.
The matter of first importance is the delivery to others of what we have received – Christ’s death and resurrection for us.
In our family, when talking about sermons, I’ll some times ask, “Did the preacher deliver the goods?” Did the sermon deliver what God promises? Or was he just talking about the Gospel? In other words, what was the real goal of the sermon?
You see, I believe that whatever the goal of your sermon or lesson, whether it is a “faith goal” (that the hearers/learners might grow in faith) or a life goal (that the hearers might grow in living the Christian life), nothing good will happen unless you truly “deliver the goods.”
The Gospel is more than happy talk about Jesus and God. The Gospel is preaching and teaching that actually brings forgiveness of sins, life and salvation in Jesus’ name. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus personally applied to dying sinners.
Where the Law has exposed the cuts and wounds from living in a sinful world, “delivering the goods” means applying the healing medicine of forgiveness in a personal way: “Your sin is forgiven!” Indeed, when the Law has killed us by exposing the fact that sin is not only “out there” but also “in here” – in my heart, my life, my being – “delivering the goods” means bringing to dead ones the living Word of the God who raises the dead. Jesus is alive! In water, in Word, in Body and Blood, He makes you and me alive.
So remember, you are called to speak the Word of Christ, and His Word does what it says. “Peace be with you!” said Jesus (John 20:19), and His Word actually brings peace. “Because I live you will live also” (John 14:19b), Jesus told His disciples. And His promise brings what it says – life! When you have prepared to preach or teach – go back, look it all over and ask, “how do these words bring life, the life of Christ, to my people, my students?”
My fellow colleagues in ministry, think of it! You have the privilege of actually delivering God’s life-giving promises to people when they need it most. You are the delivery person in your pulpit, your classroom, wherever God takes you. Let every word always serve this goal – to bring life, to “deliver the goods!”
What a high privilege! What unending joy! Jesus gives LIFE, and He uses you and me!
Peace be with you!
First Vice President – LCMS
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