Full of Light, Eyes Aright

Luke 11:33-36

We are Christ’s lamps. He is our light and He has enlightened us. He is our sanctification, first to last. He sanctifies all of us. There is no part of us dark. Our whole body is full of light.

In the ancient world you set a lamp in a prominent place, high, so that it could cast as much light as possible. There was no light switch to hit, no study lamp. The point of a lamp was to give light.

Christ is our light. We are His lamps. Christ who dwells in us shines through us. We are not called to summon some light in ourselves. There is no dark place in us precisely because Christ fills it with light. He casts out all sin. He kills and makes alive, buries and raises. And so we shine, with His light.

Our eye is to be healthy, set on the right thing. In Christ, we have single vision, not double vision or distracted vision. Our eye is set upon Christ, and with our eye so set, we are free. By His light, we see our neighbor, not as a means to an end, not as a way for us to score some sanctification points, as a tool for our religious striving, but as our neighbor, even as Christ Himself. And so our light, Christ, shines through us and for others. We are set high, given perspective, liberated from the schemes of human religion.

When the eye is bad, the body is bad. We know that well. Sin often starts with the eye. We set it on the wrong thing. As with Eve in Eden, evil begins to look good and good evil. The forbidden fruit, whatever it might be, starts to appear pleasing to the eye, good for food. And so we need Christ. We always needs Christ. He casts out that darkness and fills us with light, all of us.

You have that Christ. As we sing, He is the world’s light. He is our light. And He enlightens all of us. He forgives all of us. He sets all of us apart. Shines through all of us. Each day anew. Each day in Him.

“If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” In Christ our whole body is full of light. Apart from Him is darkness.

Christ, give us single vision, eyes aright, full of light.

Wade Johnston

For more content like this, check out the podcast, blog posts, and devotions at www.LetTheBirdFly.com.

You can listen to our latest episode here. You can listen to our Epiphany episode from last year here. You can find our latest installment in the Wingin’ It series on Luther here

For more writing by Wade, you can find his books here and more blog posts here.

Eternal Life You Have

1 John 5:13

Isn’t it easy to forget it, that we have eternal life? We often don’t feel like. In fact, we sometimes feel like we’re already in hell. We don’t always look like. We don’t need other people to remind us how far we fall short, if we’re honest, but because we fall short in honesty as well, God does send people to remind us. He sends us preachers. And these preachers remind us we fall short, of course, not to leave us in despair, but to give us true hope, to get to the absolution, to proclaim to us an eternal life that we already have in Christ, to put an end to our striving and searching for it in ways and places God has never promised to give it. Continue reading “Eternal Life You Have”

Baptism of Our Lord (II)

This is the second part of a two-part series.

Luke 3:15-17, 21, 22

When Jesus was baptized he was inaugurated, in a way, into the office of Christ. Think of the Presidency of the United States. It is an office. Not the Oval Office, of course, but a position that is filled by a person. And this person is inaugurated into this office with a certain level of pomp and circumstance. Jesus of Nazareth is inaugurated into the office of the Christ with some pomp and circumstance. And, as is his way, it is lowly pomp. He is put under the water by a mere man, and a scraggly one at that, John. But there are also dignitaries there as well as the masses, the Father and the Spirit. Heaven opened up and the Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove. Jesus truly was the Messiah, the anointed one, anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Father was also there. He bellowed from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” In case anybody was still wondering, Jesus is the Chosen One, the Son, the perfect Son in whom the Father is pleased. He receives the ultimate endorsement, the Father and the Spirit.

This inauguration is really a commissioning, an ordination, and a coronation because this office of Christ is threefold: Prophet, Priest, and King. It is, of course, true that Christ is always these things, he is King of all forever, but here in the waters of Jordan it is announced to the world. In each of the three parts Jesus of Nazareth is the only person who could ever occupy the office and fulfills the office in a unique way. He is commissioned as Prophet, ordained as Priest, and crowned as King.

A prophet speaks the Word of God. He is preacher and we need a preacher. Many Old Testament prophets could predict the future, but at their hearts they were preachers, and we need preachers. Humanity was created with word, we are sustained by word, we communicate with God and each other with word, and God wants us to take him at his word. Words, words, words. And so preachers preach words. But not just words about something, but words that heal. “For you” kind of words. I forgive you. Jesus died for you. This is all for you.

Jesus too preached. He too used words. He even predicted the future. He is, no doubt, a prophet of God. He preached in his hometown, Nazareth. But Jesus is no ordinary preacher. In Nazareth he preached “Today!” After reading the prophecy of Isaiah predicting the Messiah’s actions here on earth, Jesus preaches “Today!” “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” You see, he isn’t just the preacher, he is the content of the preaching. He speaks the Word of God and he is the Word of God. There is no other preacher like him. And yet our preachers today follow in his footsteps even as they stumble. For the message is the same and the forgiveness is the same. It is as if Jesus said the words himself, “I forgive you your sins… this is for you! Today!” Jesus’ baptism is, in a way, his commissioning as Prophet and it is for you.

A priest mediated between man and God. There is a gap that needs to be covered, a gap between righteous God and unrighteous man. In the Old Testament a priest mediated this difference with a sacrifice. The average person could not approach God. There were barriers in between. In the temple  there were a series of courtyards, a closed off building only priests could enter, and then a curtain that separated two rooms in that building, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, into which only the High Priest could venture but once a year. And the way to cross these barriers? Blood. So sacrifices were made on behalf of the people by the mediating priest.

Yet these were only symbols of the real deal. Those countless lambs were a mere shadow of the Lamb of God to whom John pointed. So again we see Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of the office. He is both priest and sacrifice. Those others priests offered endless sacrifices for sin but they never stopped and the sacrifices of animals were only a picture of what was to come. But when the High Priest offers himself, that’s it. Sins are paid for. The job is completed. And the temple curtain tore in two. So we who were distant from God are reconciled to God. The average Israelite could get close to the mediator, the priest, but not to God. Since Jesus, our High Priest, is God, we are close to God, for we are close to the Priest who is God. The barriers have been broken down. We even dine with him as he is both host and meal at the Supper. There is no gap anymore. Jesus’ baptism, in a way, was his ordination as Priest and it was for you.

A king rules. Israel wanted a king, begged for a king, cried for a king. They were desperate in the age of the Judges before Saul, the first King of Israel, was anointed. They saw other nations with kings and equated those nations’ strength with a monarch, a centralized power, while they ran around as a disorganized bunch of rag-tag tribes. And they were right. But they already had a King, God. They didn’t listen to their Monarch and tragedy followed them year after year. God said no to their request at first. He knew what an earthly king would be like. But finally he relented. The Kings of Israel did not disappoint God’s low expectations.

The Jews of Jesus’ day wanted a king too, for similar reasons. They would get their King but he would disappoint their expectations. Yet Jesus is the ultimate king both in power and in mercy. What other king boasts as much power as Christ the King through him all things were made, who rules at the right hand of Father. But what other king intimately serves his people on such a personal level? This King came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. We have a king who is both the most powerful being around and one who serves us. Christ the King is the ultimate king. Jesus’ baptism, in a way, was his coronation and it was for you.

So Jesus of Nazareth, the one baptized by John, is inaugurated into this threefold office of the Messiah, the Christ, and it is all for us. And then, to top it all off, as we talked about in yesterday’s devotion, we are baptized into Christ.


Now having gone through this baptism with our King, who serves us, even being baptized himself…

Now having gone through this baptism with our Priest, who sacrifices himself on the cross for us…

Now having gone through this baptism with our Prophet, who preaches to us and is the content of that preaching…

What could possibly separate us from his love?

Michael Berg

For more content like this, check out the podcast, blog posts, and devotions at www.LetTheBirdFly.com.

You can listen to our latest episode here. You can listen to our Epiphany episode from last year here. You can find our latest installment in the Wingin’ It series on Luther here

Together with our colleague and a guest on the show, Kerry Kuehn, Mike is offering a practical apologetics course, open to all, in the summer of 2019. You can learn more and register here.

Baptism of our Lord (I)

This is the first part of a two-part series.

The Baptism of Our Lord Part I

Luke 3:15-17, 21, 22

The baptism of Jesus is a curious thing. Even for John, the one who baptized Jesus. The obvious question is “Why?” It is the question John asked of Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Clearly John knew something was going on with this water and word. It wasn’t just a tradition. Jesus, of course, gives John and us a cryptic answer, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Well, what does that mean?

The Baptism of Jesus is his official entrance into the office of Christ. This office is a three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. We’ll talk more about that in tomorrow’s devotional post. For now we want to answer the obvious question, “Why would the sinless Christ need to be baptized?”

It cannot mean that Jesus was sinful and needed to be saved, perhaps the reason for John’s hesitance. We can explain the reason in a few different ways, but they all come down to this: Jesus is the true Messiah who takes our place by fulfilling the law. He was putting himself in our place. We who have sin go into baptism and come out clean; Jesus puts himself under the law and becomes our sin at the cross. A great reversal of sorts. John’s baptism of Jesus announced the man from Nazareth as exactly that, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.

Now it is our turn. We are baptized. There is no need to question the purpose of these baptisms even if you were a cute little baby when you went into the saving waters of baptism. We were helpless sinners. And this baptism is a violent thing despite all the joy. It is a dying of the sinful nature. A crucifixion even. A violent way to die. “Don’t you know,” says St. Paul, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” We die and rise with Christ.

This is not easy, of course. How could a crucifixion and burial ever be easy? John declared that he baptized with water but Christ would come with fire and the Spirit. With that description who would ever want to be baptized? But it is exactly what we need. While John’s continued description of the wheat being separated from the chaff is an illusion to the believers and the unbelievers being separated on the Last Day, it is also descriptive of how we are treated. The chaff is burned. We die. We die in Christ. And we are made new. We are resurrected. We are resurrected in Christ.

Now having gone through a baptismal death and resurrection with our Lord, we have no reason to fear. What could be more terrible than a crucifixion? What could be better than a resurrection? We have already done both with our Lord. And our Lord is an all-encompassing Lord. The prophetic preacher of beautiful words to us by which we have faith. The High Priest whose sacrifices ends all doubt as to where we stand before God. The King who rules all and who rules all for our benefit. What possibly could get us down now?

Yet we struggle. Don’t we? The sinful nature which was drowned in the waters of baptism rears its ugly head. It hates God. It despises good. It fights against righteousness. And worst of all, it is not an “it”; it is me. But I tell you today, you who struggle, that your baptism is a fact of history that cannot be undone. Just like any other fact of history, Word War I, elections of presidents, last night’s basketball game, cannot be undone, so your baptism cannot be undone. Nor can the baptism of our Lord. He went into the Jordan and he did it for you. And you went with him to the cross in baptism where your sinful nature was killed. And you rose with Christ too.

So you can get up every morning knowing full well that you are a sinner but also that you have already died and rose with Christ. So get up tomorrow and say to the world “Whatever you have for me today, disease, heartache, failure, even death, you cannot undo my baptism into Christ. You can give me your worst, world, but you cannot undo what Christ has already done for me at the cross. My Christ, my Prophet, Priest, and King. He did it for me.

And even when death comes your way, you need not fear. In fact, it is old hat for you. You have already died. You have already been crucified. You have already been buried. You have already rose. You have already been through it all even if you do not remember it. You have already been through it all in the waters of baptism. Christ got you through that and he will get you through your earthly death as well with a resurrection on the other side. And this time the old sinful nature will stay dead, drowned and gone, no longer to haunt you.

So as we contemplate this curious event in the Jordan River, John baptizing his Lord, we see why very clearly: it is our Lord, our Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King plunged into the water for our benefit, for our eternal benefit. This is how he fulfills all righteousness. He lives a righteous life and then gives it to us. All so that we can stand clean and pure before the Father.

Michael Berg

For more content like this, check out the podcast, blog posts, and devotions at www.LetTheBirdFly.com.

You can listen to our latest episode here. You can listen to our Epiphany episode from last year here. You can find our latest installment in the Wingin’ It series on Luther here

Together with our colleague and a guest on the show, Kerry Kuehn, Mike is offering a practical apologetics course, open to all, in the summer of 2019. You can learn more and register here.

Spiritual People

1 Corinthians 2:14-16

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit because the natural person does not receive them. The natural person is not a gospel person. Gospel people are made. God makes them, creates them. The natural person, the person on whom the gospel has not yet gone to work, who has not yet been caught up in the good news, considers the good news folly. He or she calls a good thing evil and an evil thing good. They do not get the logic of the cross because the cross runs counter to natural logic. There is a reason human courts can run on forgiveness. The Spirit must make the cross make sense, which the Spirit does through the cross and the proclamation of the crucified One. This is not to say that natural logic is all bad, that we should do away with it. It just means that natural logic is not a path to heaven, is no way to find salvation. Continue reading “Spiritual People”

Free for Our Neighbor and the World

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God didn’t call us because of who we are. God called us. God didn’t choose us because of who we are. God chose us. We aren’t righteousness, sanctified, redeemed, because of who we were, but that is now who we are, because of Him. We are in Christ Jesus. He is our wisdom from God. He is our boasting. He is the basis of our election. We are called through His death and resurrection to new life, the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong. Continue reading “Free for Our Neighbor and the World”