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Jesus Saves, Not Money!

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Romans Part 4

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A Found Sheep! A Found Coin! Found Sinners!

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Luke 15:1-10

“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  Yes indeed!  This is the Lord’s modus operandi.  It’s His cup of tea.  He’s the Savior of …. wait for it …. SINNERS!  For sinners, this is the best news you could ever hear!  Those of you that know you’re a sinner and your sin relish every opportunity to have Jesus receive you as a sinner in the divine service in order to bestor His Good Friday forgiveness to you.   However, if you don’t believe that you are a sinner, but that everyone else is, then this Savior-of-Sinners-Jesus makes you “grumble”  and you can just as well live without Him not only every Sunday but – forever! 

Well, Jesus goes into full-blown parable mode to illustrate His savior-ing work to save … SINNERS!  A lost sheep, a lost coin and you know the third as well, two lost sons.  The third parable isn’t part of the reading today but I had to mention it.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.   

First, a flock of 100 sheep.  One gets lost.   Now what?  Jesus asks:  What will the shepherd do? Abandon the 99 in order to find the one?  Really? Is that any way to run a sheep ranching operation? Turn your back on 99 sensible, responsible sheep to find the one lone loser?  He does! 

If you’re not smelling what Jesus is cooking with the lost sheep  parable, He rips off another one.  It’s about … wait for it … money!  Now we’re talking!  We don’t know a lot about sheep, but we all know about money!   The second parable goes like this.  You have ten coins. Each worth about a day’s wage. Ten days of wages then. You go to your coin purse, kitchen cabinet or bedroom drawer or wherever you keep your cash.  You expect to find ten.  One is missing!  It’s misplaced.  Like it grew legs and wandered off somewhere like a lost sheep!  Now what? Take a day or two off work without pay in order to tear the house apart in order to find the one lost coin? Seems kind of strange, doesn’t it? Lose a couple of day’s wages in the hopes of finding a day’s wage? Risk ninety-nine sheep to go after one lost sheep?

What would you do?  I know what I would do.  I’d write off the lost sheep and the lost coin as a dead assets. Grieve the loss. Move on. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush as they say. Straying sheep tend to stray again. They pretty much get what they deserve. Lost coins, well, they’ll turn up some day.  Of course! 

Jesus doesn’t act like that.  If the Good Shepherd had not considered one lost sheep, namely you, worth laying down His life, we would never have been saved. We’d be lost forever in a hellish maze of sin and death. We’d be as hellaciously dead as a solitary lost sheep in the wilderness or a missing coin lost underneath the couch cushions.

That’s the point of these parables. Jesus came to seek and to save … wait for it … THE LOST! Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The apostle Paul says he is the worst. The worst? Really? How about Nero? And what about all those immoral pagans who participated in orgies, were notorious for abortion and infanticide? Paul, the worst? Sure, I grant that Paul did some naughty things in his past.  He persecuted Christians and gave his approval to Stephen’s murder by stoning. Paul, however, admits that he didn’t know what he was doing. “I had acted ignorantly in unbelief.”  He thought he was doing God a favor when he did those things. And notice that Paul doesn’t say, Christ came to save sinners like I used to be. He says, “of whom I am the foremost.” Incredible! 

Now, if Paul is the “foremost” of sinners, what does that make us with our numerous idolatries? Our nonchalant but expert-like misuses of God’s Name? Our apathy and boredom with God’s Word? Our hidden or not so hidden immoralities? Do you think you are one of the ninety-nine “righteous persons” who does not need to be repented and faith-ed by the Lord? Better think again! The Good Shepherd’s attention is on the lost sheep not the found. The woman’s attention is on the lost coin, not the nine safely in her purse.

Do not forget that Jesus is in full parable mode within earshot of the Pharisees and the Bible teachers who were offended. “This man receives sinners and he eats with them.”  In the ancient world with whom you ate said a ton about you. The Pharisees and Bible teachers were very careful about the company they kept. They never hung with “sinners” – tax collectors, prostitutes, low lives of every sort. Is this the way the Messiah acts?  Is this any way to run a kingdom of God? What kind of messiah does this Jesus think He is? He receives the scum of the earth and eats with them! The religious pretend non-sinners are outraged. Offended.  Scandalized. Consequently, they purposely exclude and excuse themselves from Jesus’ table of forgiveness, life and salvation! In their indignation, in their “I’m better than” or their “I’m the exception to the rule,” they refuse to eat with Jesus because they don’t like the company He keeps!

By the way that is precisely what hell will be like. Hell is for the “righteous,” pretend non-sinners, who have no need to be repented and to be given Jesus’ merciful forgiveness. There’s no rejoicing in heaven over them. There’s only sadness. What an absolute hellacious tragedy! All they needed to do was drop dead to their religious righteousness, tell the truth that they too were sinners and identify with the lost, like Paul, the “foremost of sinners.”  

The heavenly banquet is open to all, won for all, by Jesus’ own death that embraced every last and least loser in this world. But you come in as a loser, not a winner, as a lost sheep, a lost coin and in the parable of the prodigal son that you all know so well, a lost son.

Jesus came to save real sinners, not pretend ones, of whom you, I and Paul are foremost! No doubt you noticed that joy is the ending of these parables in Luke 15. The shepherd rejoices over finding the lost sheep. He gives it a free ride on his shoulders. When he gets home he gets out the red solo cups and throws a party.  The woman who finds the lost coin calls her friends and neighbors, uncorks several bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon like Penny, Bernadette and Amy Farrah Fowler, and throws a party to celebrate, which probably cost a heck of a lot more than the coin she found. The father who welcomes his wayward son back home slaughters the fattened calf, barbeques it on the grill, strikes up the band and celebrates with great joy.

God’s joyous partying over His repenting and faith-ing (finding) sinners like you and me is excessively over-the-top. After all, the joy of Jesus over your salvation was exceptionally enormous. He endured the cross and scorned its shame. This is the joy of having you back. This is the joy of embracing you as a child of God the Father and as His sibling.  His Good Friday death gives Him the enormous joy of forgiving you and making you His own. This is a seeking love that is restless to find the lost.  This love of Jesus FOR YOU leaves no rock unturned. His Good Friday love goes the extra mile and toils the extra day!  It stops at nothing until you or me, that wayward sheep, is safely on His shoulders and the lost coin is deposited in the bank and the lost son is safe and secure at home again.

It was Jesus’ seeking love that brought you to the baptismal font in which He branded you, His sheep, with His divine and saving Name.  Your baptism bears fruit daily in your life as the Lord repents, faiths and leads you in holy living so that you are given place at the banquet table where the angels and archangels rejoice over your being here.  Yes, the angels in heaven rejoice over you, over me, over one sinner who tells the truth that he is lost and who hungers and thirsts for Jesus’ forgiveness. 

What joy! A lost sheep is found; a lost coin is recovered; a son returns. Sinners are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. The dead are raised to life. And you and me, chief of sinners though we are, are the object of God’s seeking, saving love in His Son Jesus.  You’ll hear it in the Sacrament where He receives sinners like you and me:  “given and shed FOR YOU for the remission of your sins.”  Feeding us with His salvational Good Friday Body and Blood!   Again.  What incredible joy!  It’s the best news a sinner could ever hear!    

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Count the Cost! Jesus Did — FOR YOU!

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Romans Part Three

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Blessed Are the Dead Who Die In The Lord From Now On!

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What A Jesus! What Good Use He Has Of You!

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Hebrews 13:1-17

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

The best news a sinner could ever hear is that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Yes, indeed, for you who are burdened, crushed or troubled by your sin – who recognize your sinful condition – I am here to tell you that Jesus, who is the absolute essence of salvation, the only Savior of sinners, does not change. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world in His Good Friday death.  This doesn’t change.  Jesus’ Good Friday all atoning sacrifice on the cross counts once for all time and once for all people.  So that means that you and I, as sinners, qualify! 

This is why the preaching and teaching here at Trinity doesn’t change. The message is the same: repentance for the forgiveness of sins the Name of Jesus the Son of God.  It is why above the altar is the crucifix —  the visible reminder that Jesus died on the cross FOR YOU!  FOR YOUR SALVATION.  To atone for all your sin!  This is why we baptize because Peter says in Acts 2 that it is for the forgiveness of sins.  It is why the pastor speaks the absolution and preaches the gospel.  This is why the Lord’s Supper is offered every Sunday in which the crucified, risen and reigning over-all-things-Jesus promises that His Good Friday Body and Blood are given to you with the bread and wine FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS!  What He achieved and won on the altar of the cross He bestows at this very altar here at Trinity!  What joy for you who believe this!  

From Hebrews 13 we are given a few exhortations or instructions from the Lord for living a self-sacrificial life as a Christian.  In Romans 12 Paul speaks of it this way: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.”  It’s the life lived in and from your baptism as well as your life lived in and from the absolution given and gospel preached as well as the Lord’s Supper where Jesus’ Good Friday forgiveness has its way with you. Or to put it another way Hebrews 13 speaks of the Lord’s very good use of you in the church to be His hands and mouth for the sake of your fellow Christians.  And you want to do that.  Right!  Of course you do.    

So right out of the shoot is this counsel:  “Let brotherly love continue.”  When you’re a faith-er in the Lord Jesus Christ, you want to love your brother or sister in Christ.  You want to help.  You want give.  You will even correct or call out a fellow believer when he/she errs and above all you will forgive.  “Love is patient and kind,” Paul teaches.  “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Cor 13:4-7).    Love was the trait of the early Church. “This is how the world will know you are my disciples,” Jesus said, “that you love one another,” (Jn 13:35). Brotherly love is what flows from faith in Jesus. You don’t have to like each other here at Trinity. You get to love one another as the family of God in Jesus Christ.

A faith-er’s love stretches out to fellow believers that you’ve never met.   “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.”  Again, to repeat, the “strangers” of which the text is speaking are Christians.  We learned last week from Hebrews 12 that the angels and archangels worship Jesus with us. But there’s more. Perhaps some believers in Jesus may knock on your door this week who need some kind of help.  You’ll invite them in.  Offer them a meal.  Pour them some ice tea or coffee.  And if they need a place to stay for a few days, you offer them your spare bedroom.  Kind of like an ad hoc bed and breakfast!  When you help those fellow Christians, the text declares, “some have entertained angels unawares.”  Just like Abraham did in Genesis 18.

More of the Lord’s good use of you as a faith-er is:  “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.”  We are all one body in Christ even if prison bars may try to separate us. This text is not talking about doing “prison ministry” to just anyone in prison.  Instead, it is speaking about members of the congregation who have been arrested and imprisoned simply because they worship Jesus.  Remember John the Baptist?  Rotted away in prison and then made shorter by a head thanks to Herod.  Remember Acts 5?  All 12 of the apostles were arrested because they preached Jesus!  Remember Acts 12?  James was murdered. Peter was jailed.  Remember Acts 16?  Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail.  Then later Paul was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28).  Knowing that he would soon be put to death, Paul begs Timothy:  “do you best to come to me soon,” (2 Tim 4:9), even as Luke is there with Paul (2 Tim 4:11).  Remember the Book of Revelation?  John wrote it from a prison cell on the island of Patmos (Rev 1:9).

Yes, Christians sometimes get locked up simply because they are Christian.  It happened in the early church. It happens today in many parts of the world: China, India, Egypt, Sudan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, to name just a few places. Nothing much has changed. This may be news to you but freedom of religion is a very recent idea in the history of the world. God has given us this freedom in America for almost 250 years.  However, I fear the freedom to be a Christian in this country is in serious jeopardy.  So don’t be surprised.  You may have the opportunity to visit Pastor Kuhlman or a fellow member(s) of Trinity in prison one day.  We’ll be singing hymns, reciting Scripture and asking the prosecutors and jailors if they would like to believe in Jesus too! 

Even more of the Lord’s good use of you as His believer is:  “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled.” Honoring marriage and keeping the marriage bed pure means no shacking up. No hooking up. No fooling around. No porn on the internet and all the other things we do that profanes marriage and adulterates the marriage bed. Marriage is holy.  Sexual intimacy between a man and a woman is reserved only for holy marriage.  Sex is not for single people!  It is for married people.  Adam and Eve were both naked but not ashamed (Gen 2:25).  Why?  Because they were married!     

Hebrews, like all of the Bible, calls out sexual sin.  Why?  Well, because sexual sin is carcinogenic to the soul; it contaminates and poisons our lives spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, as well as physically.  Paul teaches the following:  “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body … Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body,” (1 Cor 6:13, 18). “God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous,” the text says.  God’s heavy hand of discipline rests on the sexually immoral and adulterous, for our own good and protection. Brothers and sisters, your bodies were bought with the price of Christ’s Good Friday-ly crucified body on the cross. Consequently, Jesus expects you to glorify Him in and with your bodies.  You glorify Jesus by being chaste outside of marriage and being faithful inside of marriage.  Where Christians sin in this matter, they are to use Jesus properly for the forgiveness of their sin, especially sexual sin, and then lead a holy life according to this Word of God from Hebrews 13 and the rest of the Bible.    

There’s more of the Lord’s good use of you as His trust-er or hanger-on.  Check it out.  “Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have.”  Notice it’s not having money that is the issue.  It’s the love of money that causes discontent.  Why?  Because the opposite of contentment is coveting.  Coveting is a form of idolatry. When the heart doesn’t fear, love, and trust in God about all things, it relentlessly clings to things. Money represents the power to buy and own things. “The love of money,” Paul says, “is the root of all kinds of evils,” (1 Tim 6:10).  So, how are you to use money properly?  Use it as a gift from the Lord and generously use it to help others. God knows what you need. He is your helper. He has staked His claim on you. God promises: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” No amount of money can bring you that kind of peace.

Then there is instruction on how to live with the pastors God gives you.  “Remember your leaders [pastors], those who spoke to you the Word of God.” That’s verse 7.  Then there’s verse 17.  Obey them and submit to them as they speak God’s Word to you. Why?  Well, because they speak in the stead and by the command of Christ. To hear the pastor when he faithfully teaches and preaches is to hear Jesus Himself (Luke 10:16).  Like any steward, pastors will give an account for their stewardship of the mysteries of God. You can help, the text says, by making the pastor’s work a joy and not a burden by gladly hearing and learning God’s Word that he preaches.  Even today.  Especially today when it’s not so easy.

So, if you’re picking up what the text is laying down today, your Christian life is a life of self-sacrifice. Living not for yourself but for others.  Considering others better than yourself. You recognize that the Lord Jesus gave His life “outside the camp.” In other words, Jesus was reviled and rejected. Spat on and brutally abused. The world didn’t like Jesus then. It doesn’t like Him today. The same Jesus, the same cross, the same persecution. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and so are His detractors as well as the world that would rather keep Him dead and not worshiped by you as Lord. 

We, the baptized, live as strangers in this world.  Our citizenship is in the heavenly Jerusalem. To quote the beloved hymn:  “I’m but a stranger here.  Heaven is my home!”  We have no lasting city here. Earthly cities are all destined for destruction either through war, decay, or disaster. What lasts forever is the city that God builds, into which you have been baptized, the city that is founded and grounded on Jesus, the rejected Rock.

No matter how much the world around us changes – and very, very rapidly and adversely — Jesus Christ is the same – yesterday, today, and forever. He died for you.  He rose for you. All your sin is forgiven in Him.  He put His saving Name on you in baptism.  He feeds you with indestructible His Body and Blood.  Consequently, your life in Him is the same – yesterday, today, and forever.

Therefore, “through Him [Jesus], then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name, and lives that do good for others and share in what we have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  What joy!  What a privilege!   

In the name of Jesus.  Amen

Romans Part Two

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The Divine Service Is The Only Game In Town!

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Hebrews 12:4-24

There’s so much in this text. We could be here all day frolicking in Hebrews 12.  Instead, I’ll spend about 10-15 minutes with it in order for repentance, faith and holy living.  Ok?  Good!  Let’s get started. Verses 22-24 extol and encourage the divine service by telling us what we “come to” when we attend. More on that in a few moments.  Why such talking up the divine service?  Well,  because many of the baptized Christians in the congregation are no longer coming to the divine service. Abandoning the sermon.  Not eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood any more.  Jewish Christians especially are dumping the Christian divine service, quitting Christianity and returning to Judaism.   

Why?  Many of these early Christians had doubts like: Was Jesus really the Messiah?  Could He really be trusted?  Is His Good Friday death the all sufficient atonement for every sin and every sinner?  They became apathetic to the Christian faith and were easy prey for false teachers and Satanic lies.  In addition, these early Christians experienced discrimination and persecution. In those days, being a Christian was not a feather on their cap.  Confessing Jesus brought prejudice, unfairness, bigotry and intolerance.  Being a Christian, to use the language of today, got you censored. Cancelled! De-platformed!  So, discouraged and disheartened, they began to quit going to the divine service. For many it was easier to go back to their Jewish roots, give up on Christianity and no longer go to church.

Imagine what it would be like if Christianity were illegal.   Think what it would be like to be arrested and treated as a criminal for simply gathering to hear God’s Word preached, to baptize your children, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, to own a Bible or use a hymnal!  Imagine what it would be like if your neighbor called the authorities to snitch on you:  “He’s one of those! A Christian!  A Christian Nationalist!  An enemy of the state!  An insurrectionist!” Imagine a police officer pulling you over on a Sunday morning to interrogate you.  “Where are you going?  What are you going to do?” 

Imagine, in this time of deep economic recession, that it was perfectly permissible and lawful to discriminate against Christians so that you couldn’t get a job or buy what you need to feed and clothe your family.  Imagine losing your job; envision your children not being allowed to play a sport in high school or a club or select team; imagine losing your citizenship and your civil liberties simply because you confess that Jesus is Lord and go to the divine service to be served heaping portions of forgiveness, life and salvation by Him in Word and Sacrament. Hebrews was written in that kind of climate.  We too are beginning to face this in America.    

Hebrews 12 reminds all of us and these early Christians that they have not yet suffered to the point of shedding their blood for being a Christian.  What is more is that all the suffering and inconveniences they’ve experienced up to now is nothing else than the loving discipline of their Father in heaven who loves His children enough to give them a severe swat on the rear end every once and a while.

Yes, that’s right He does that.  Our heavenly Father disciplines the children He loves. You are His baptized children. So, like all fathers, He protects you from yourself. Sometimes it is with a firm hand that seems very painful at the time. But in the end it turns out to be a wonderful blessing.

Hebrews warns the early Christians and all of us against complacency, bitterness, immorality and everything that distracts, deflects, and otherwise messes up our running the Christian race of faith set before us.

Then, as I noted at the beginning, verses 22-24 praise what goes on in the Christian divine service.  This is a huge issue because Christianity is absolutely distinctive in the smorgasborg of world religions. In all other world religions, you have to reach up to your god and serve him/her/it and you have to offer your god stuff so he/she/it will give you special treatment in return.  Quid pro quo.  Tit for tat.

But Christianity teaches that in the divine service, God the Father comes to us in Jesus His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s DIVINE SERVICE!  The Triune God comes to you to serve you the sinner!  To give us the benefits of Jesus’ Good Friday death.  So, when God comes to serve us in the divine service, eternity and time overlap. Heaven and earth join together. And the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit bless us with forgiveness, life and salvation in the absolution, the gospel preached and the eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood. 

For those remaining in the congregation who were thinking about going back to Judaism and abandon the Christian divine service, today’s text reminds them of what Mt. Sinai in the OT was like. In a word, TERRIFYING! Untouchable! Burning with fire. Loud blasting, ear piercing trumpet and voice from God that made everyone plug their ears and beg that God shush up. No one but Moses was allowed on Mt. Sinai. Even an animal that set foot on the mountain was stoned to death.

Mt. Sinai is not the mountain you, as a baptized believer, have come to. Hebrews says that you have come not to Sinai, the mountain burning with God’s wrath, but to Zion, to God’s city, to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the Jerusalem that comes down “from above,” from heaven. The city of which God is the architect and builder. So when you, as a baptized believer in Jesus, come to the divine service, you’re not coming to experience God’s hellish wrath, but to God’s heavenly city where you are one of its free citizens.

You also come to angels, countless angels in joyful festal gathering. How can this be?  Well, in the divine service as the Triune God serves us all of heaven is there with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Millions upon millions of angels are present too in the divine service. Just as we say in the liturgy at the end of the Proper Preface right before Holy Communion: “with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.”  During the summer months when everyone is on vacation or just being lazy it is easy to be discouraged when attendance is way down here at Trinity.  However, ponder this: that in the divine service what you see is not all that you get. In fact, a whole lot of action is going on in what we don’t see.  In the divine service the angels are praising and giving glory to the Holy Trinity as they worship with together with us every Sunday.  It’s why we have two angels on the altar here at Trinity! The angels bowing in reverence to the crucified Lord and Savior on the cross visibly remind us all of what’s going on here Sunday after Sunday.  It’s why Hebrews says:  “You have come to innumerable angels in festal gathering.”  

You’ve come to the assembly of the first-born, the congregation of the elect whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And your name is among them! You are coming to God, who is the judge of all, not to be judged guilty under the law, but to be judged “not guilty,” “innocent,” perfect, blameless, and even holy not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus has Good Friday-ly done for you!

You have come to the spirits of the justified, the righteous made perfect. Those are all the believers who have died ahead of us and are now “with the Lord.” Where Jesus is, there His saints are, for they are saints only in Him. That means that the closest we can be to those who have gone before us, including our own Christian loved ones, is in worship, in the liturgy of the divine service, in the gathering where Jesus comes to us and the Spirit gathers us as one body around Jesus Himself .

You have come to Jesus. Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, in which God forgives and forgets. He forgives our iniquities and He remembers our sins no more. Moses came with books and a bookkeeping spreadsheet – the Ten Commandments. That’s how you keep book on your sin. Jesus came with no commandments. Yes, He preached the commandments to their sheer undoability and to reveal our sin to us.  But then He died under the same law, shedding the blood that the law requires. And you have come to that sprinkled blood, the blood of Jesus that cleanses you from all sin, the blood shed on the cross for the sin of the world, the blood of the new testament poured out FOR YOU into the chalice of the Lord’s Supper for the remission of your sin.

Now, when you see that Christianity as well as the divine service not as something you do for God but rather what God in Jesus does FOR YOU– His heavenly city, His righteousness, His covenant, His blood – then you will never want to miss out let alone give up on Christianity.  It’s really the only game in town!   

In the Name of Jesus. 

Romans Part One

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