“But, secondly, he [John the Baptist] was an example by his honest confession to all the children of God. They too are tempted to exalt themselves and be something in their own eyes, instead of being something to the praise of the Savior’s grace. They are enticed by the pleasures and riches and honors of the world, and are but too prone to grow weary in their Christian pilgrimage when the roads are rough and the storms are fierce. But too many shrink from the confession of Christ when it costs them something. Our poor human nature wants to bear no crosses, but seeks only to wear crowns and live in luxury and affluence. Even the confession, ‘I am not the Christ,’ we are slow to make in all its depth of import.
“Brethren, has not the thought sometimes entered your own hearts that you could do something to render yourselves acceptable to God? Have you not now and then given ear to the suggestion that, after all, a man must acquire some righteousness of his own before he can be accounted righteous in the court of heaven? Has not occasionally the idea entered your mind and been entertained, that the holiness in which you purpose to live in the future will make some amends for the sins committed in the past, and that God will cancel the accumulated guilt in consideration of the acquired merit?
“The self-righteous thought and feeling finds such easy access to our souls, that if we are not constantly on our guard it will take possession and banish all claims of grace. And when a man thinks that he can be his own savior, when his own work seems to him sufficient to atone for his sin and render him acceptable to God, does he not refuse to confess that he is not the Christ, but rather claim that he is the Savior that takes away his own sin, and deny that Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world?
“Let us follow the example of John, desiring no honors for ourselves, especially making no pretensions to be the Christ, but as sinners trusting in the Savior adopt the saying: He must increase, but I must decrease.
From Loy, Matthias. Sermons on the Gospels for the Sundays and Chief Festivals of the Church Year. Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1888. This rare book from the beloved teacher and professor was a generous gift from a reader and is now available to you in print or ebook form: Sermons on the Gospels