Malagasy Lutheran Church Song & Gospel Sunday XIV following Trinity, September 05-11, 2021 « Be freed from self-justification. » *

Introduction: The righteous are those who are justified, not those who justify themselves. In this respect, Jesus said: « If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true » Jn.5:31. Self-justification cannot justify men; on the contrary, it condemns them in the sight of God and prevents them from entering the kingdom of heaven; in other words, it leads to their ruin. What is needed is the justification that comes through God as is written: « [Christ] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification » Rm.4:25. Self-justification is so evil because it leads to condemnation of others, just as Adam and Eve did in Eden when they fell into sin (Ge.3:12-13). Jesus emphasized this point with the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee, who judged the tax collector next to him, praying, « God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector » Lk.18:11. Those who trust in their own mind deceive themselves and are in danger (Ga.6:3). Self-confidence is a snare; it leads to self-justification which, like leprosy, acts like a deep sickness affecting man’s heart; for it is written, « The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? » Jer.17:9. In that regard, Jesus says, « Be freed from your suffering » Mk.5:34c. The healing path that He is showing is the awareness that man should practice repentance and confess that self-justification is sin. The Holy Scripture gives us a great promise: « If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness » 1 Jn.1:9. Trust in Jesus, for He said, « I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners » Mt.9:13. So we will indeed pray, « Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved » Jer.17:14a.

Monday, 06th: God sets us free from self-justification.
« Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved » Jer.17:14a. Reading 1: 1 Jn.1:5-10. Reading 2: Jer.17:13-14. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Jer.17:14.
Introduction: Self-justification, a disease that human beings cannot cure, leads to damnation because it obstructs the justification from God. However, Jesus is ready to deliver all who come to Him, as He said, « If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed » Jn.8:36. He assures us that He justifies those who believe in Him before the Father, as the scripture has said, « But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world » 1 Jn.2:1-2.

Tuesday, 07th: Beware of self-justification.
« You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead » Re.3:1b.
Reading 1: Rom.3:9-19. Reading 2: Re.3:1-6. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Re.3:1-2.
Introduction: When men receive the blessing from God, they may fall into the trap of thinking that God bless them because of their righteousness, and that they will be righteous before Him. This is the reason why the Lord commanded the children of Israel when they entered the land of Canaan, saying, « It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you… » Dt.9:5a. On the other hand, Jesus admonished his disciples not to follow in the footsteps of unrighteous leaders, who justify themselves by their outward good work: «  »Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide … » Mt.23:5. God rejects such deception.

Wednesday, 08 th: Those who practice self-justification will not prosper.
« And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed » Lk.4:27a. Reading 1: Acts 5:1-11. Reading 2: Lk.4:23-30. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Lk.4:25-27.
Introduction: Self-righteous people do not prosper because they are so confident of their self-righteousness that they cannot receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers to sinners, as He told the Pharisees, « If you were blind, you would not have sinned. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains » John 9:41. In fact, a person who justifies himself lies to God and is judged immediately. This is how Ananias, who hid part of the price of the field he had promised to give to the Church, died suddenly when the Apostle Peter said to him, « You have not lied just to human beings but to God » Acts 5:4e.

Thursday, 09 th: Self-justification prevents one from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. « Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven » Mat.7: 21a.
Reading 1: Isa.29: 13-16. Reading 2: Mat.7: 15-23. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Mat.7: 21.
Introduction: God cannot be found in religious formalism, for He rather wants righteousness in the heart (Ps.51: 6). He knows those whose hearts are united with Him, and He makes them inherit His everlasting kingdom. Conversely, those who are proud in heart, self-confident, and who, therefore deny His salvation, will be excluded, according to the Lord’s penetrating words: « And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day » Mat.11: 23. He also said to the hypocritical Pharisees and scribes: « You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? » Mat.23:33.

Friday, 10th: God justifies his people.
“The Lord is our righteousness” Jer. 23:6b. Reading 1: Rom.5:15-21. Reading 2: Jer.23:1-8. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: Jer.23:5-6.
Introduction: God’s justification for His people does not consist only in the removal of sin, but also in a profound renewal in which He gives them a new heart and a new spirit of righteousness, as He says: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” Ezek. 36:25-26. From then on, one’s guilt over sin and weakness will be gone, according to what the Scripture says: “Who will bring any charge against God‟s elect? It is God who justifies” Rom. 8:33.

Saturday, 11th: Repentance: justification of sinners.
“If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins” 1 Jn 1:9a.
Reading 1: Ps.51:1-4. Reading 2: 1 Jn.1:5-10. Preaching 1 (free choice). Preaching 2: 1 Jn.1:9.
Introduction: God does not reject sinners who return to Him in remorse and sorrow for sins. The psalmist wrote: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” Ps. 51:17. In Jesus’ parable, God saw the heart of the tax collector who approached Him without justifying himself. He rather sought Him sincerely in humility, so that He made him worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus said: “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, „God, be merciful to me, a sinner!‟ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other” Luke 18:13-14a.

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