American Christianity has introduced seriously incorrect concepts into Christianity. One of the most pretentious is how “I accepted Jesus into my heart”. This idea that in the super-mart of beliefs, I was a really great guy and decided to throw one to Jesus. I often wonder if people really understand how prideful and pretentious that sounds and is.
The Holy Spirit chose me, He gave me the understanding of who/what Jesus is and how He saved me. There was nothing left for me to mess up, other than of course I could just reject Jesus, but surely the Holy Spirit would make me realize how stupid that would be.
CFW Walther took orthodox Lutheranism from Europe and brought it to the United States, established the church apart from American Christianity and enabled it to be established in the US so that it could continue to teach and preach true Christianity. In a sermon, Walther asserts the understanding of how we are chosen and don’t chose. I do appreciate his point that while there are many who are “interested” in Jesus/God, they’re not interested to the extent that it runs their life, they’re still in charge and that’s that. If Jesus is not the Lord of your life and you’re not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, you are not a Christian. It’s all about God and what He does and nothing about what we do.
“By nature, no person is capable of receiving the Word in his heart. He must be brought to it by the Holy Ghost. As often as an unconverted person hears, reads or examines the Word of God, the Holy Ghost seeks to convince him that he is a great sinner, that he does not stand in grace with God, and that God’s wrath rests upon him. If, through this divine working, the person does not resist the Holy Ghost, his heart is filled with a deep sadness and his awakened conscience provokes anxiety and even terror in him. Then, through the Gospel, a heartfelt longing for grace, help and mercy arises in the person. Oh, blessed is he who experiences this, for this longing for grace is the beginning of the true, saving faith. It begins as soon as the sinner reaches out with longing to Christ, the propitiation of all sins. If such a person remains under the cultivation of the Holy Ghost through the Word of the Gospel, he finally, in faith and confidence, embraces Christ so he can cry out with divine certainty: ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul! For I, a sinner, have found grace. I, a miserable person have found mercy.’ The person who has had such an experience has received the Gospel and come to true faith.”
Essentially, that we as evil, sinful people have no capacity to even know how to truly come to Jesus. Those who pridefully announce it, are sinning in their presumption. Do we “accept” Jesus in our pride and power? No, of course not, we are making it into a sinful effort on our part.
“…whoever has never groaned from the depths of his distressed heart for Christ’s grace and whoever still fails to recognize that a person cannot believe in Christ by his own powers but alone by the working of the Holy Ghost is certainly still without faith. The birth of faith in the soul of a sinner cannot leave him unmoved. Indeed, it is a work that transforms the whole person – from darkness to light, from spiritual death to spiritual life – and brings him out of powerlessness into divine strength.” [I think it is better that in our humility and weakness we are endowed with the power God gives us to truly know him and live our lives in our new birth, in our baptism, in Him. How could we be anything but humble and weak in order to be endowed with God’s strength?] “Luther gloriously speaks about this in the preface to his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans: ‘This is the reason that, when they hear the Gospel, they fall-to and make for themselves, by their own powers, an idea in their hearts, which says, ‘I believe.’ This they hold for true faith. But it is a human imagination and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, and so nothing comes of it and no betterment follows it. Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God’ (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Ghost … Pray God to work faith in you; else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do’ (xvi, xvii).” (translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer God Grant it Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther pp 662-663)
Knowing that it is all about what God does in us gives us the assurance of knowing that we are truly in Christ, that it’s been done effectively, correctly and for eternity. Can we decide we just don’t want this? Sure, reject God and decide to do it our way. How do you think that’s going to end up? I always find it interesting when people in such indignation complain “how could a good God send people to hell?” As you can see here, it’s about what people are doing by rejecting God. That than begs the question, who’s sending who where? Obviously people are rejecting God and choosing eternal separation and outside of God that means torment. When it’s all about their “choice”, it’s always bad, when it’s about God choosing, obviously, it’s always good and that’s what we want to go with, God’s choice, not mine.
If you watch a large national sports tournament, oh let’s take the NCAA’s Men’s Basketball championships, often referred to as “March Madness”. You will see, teams there that haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of doing anything more but playing in the first round, then watching the rest of the tournament.
In 2018 the Long Island University Blackbirds were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round, what’s actually a kind of you’re the last two seeds and only one can proceed round. LIU comes from a small conference won a championship, got to the NCAAs. No problem, just to say I’m sure they were thrilled to be there, played as hard as they could, and just didn’t have the firepower of bigger schools with a higher level of programs.
I just recently had my own comparable experience in triathlon. USA Triathlon has Olympic distance (.9mile swim, 25 miles bike, 6.1 mile run) national championships and this year it was held in Cleveland, Oh. I managed to place in a group category in a race in Rock Hall, Md, Waterman Triathlon and thereby received an invitation to the National Championships. I placed last year in a race in Wheeling, WV “Faith in Action Triathlon” and that earned me a place in the championships in Omaha, Ne. that year, which I couldn’t go to.
I’m sure much like the LIU team to be on college basketballs biggest stage, I know I was thrilled to be on, one of at least, USA Triathlon’s, ok, we’ll say bigger stages. But it was the biggest one that I will probably ever be on, at least in terms of sports.
This was my principle race, my target race for the year, without any pretense that it would be anymore than get there, do the best you can, be happy with the results. But it was still stressful, especially the closer I got to the date. The “what are you doing?, what makes you think you can do this?, Don’t you know this is going to be a lot of trouble which nothing good will come of?” You know, those kinds of thoughts. Trying to be conscious of what I ate, how I worked out. Still over weight from last year by about 5 pounds, stressing out over how that is going to affect my race. We’ve moved from the hills of York, Pennsylvania. Is the terrain here in Maryland going to help or not be enough of a challenge to be in good condition? And of course the ever present, why? you’re not going to make it, you won’t finish, … On and on.
If the trip there was any indication, I should have listened to “thoughts” and stayed at my son’s house. We left the eastern shore of Maryland at 8am, with no doubt that there was plenty of time to get to Cleveland by 5pm, 9 hours, no problem. Yeah, well, there were a few problems. About 3 hours sitting in traffic, which I, frankly am shaking my head even as I write this. And it rained, so hard, that again, just had to slow down. So what should have taken less than 6 hours, well it resulted in taking 10 hours. So could not get all my stuff for the race the next day. Wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get it and be in the race the next day.
Saturday, my son and I get up at zero dark thirty and I was able. My son dropped me off at about 5:30 and I, somehow, found my way in the dark to the right place, got my bag, Timothy showed right back up to help me get organized the rest of the way and I found myself on the beach on Lake Erie with time to spare and much relieved. My wetsuit got left in the car, and no one was going back for it at this point, but as it turned out, that might have been a good thing. The water temp was at about 78, it was a mildly hot day. The more I think about it, it seems that being in the wetsuit would have left me over heated for the rest of the race and while my swim time was, to put it mildly, horrible, I’m not sure, based on some other issues, that it really would have made any difference.
The bike part was mostly through downtown Cleveland. This was my 60th race, which I completed just before I turned 60 years old, and I had never really done a race in a straight up urban environment. It was great and I’m glad I had the experience. I’m not sure a lot of the people in the downtown area we went through saw it that way, those who were trying to otherwise live their life, but I appreciated it.
I was ok, stronger than I thought I’d be on the run. Don’t misunderstand, doesn’t mean I was strong, just better than I thought.
Finally finished and I only put this on here as a matter of record, ‘cuz it sure weren’t anything to brag about
hey, I still maintained my “I haven’t finished last record”, and I did finish. Got the medal, got the t-shirt.
It is to say that despite all the tension, anxiety, it still happened. Believe me, it is all glory to God! Certainly not for the actual performance, because that was mine to louse up. But that I did get there, I did start on time, I did do the swim, the bikethe run and to the glory of God, did acceptably and had a great experience in a different environment, did my first race in a city setting, my first race on a Great Lake (Lake Erie) and certainly the first time I’ve done a “National championship” of anything. I’m going with I may have finished very near the bottom, but it was near the bottom of the best in the country. So I’m going with that and again, giving all glory to God and thanking Him for giving me such a tremendous experience. I do want to thank USA Triathlon too, they did a great job organizing this. They provided the atmosphere for a “championship event” that I was eligible to be a part of, albeit circumstantially. But I’ll take it.
Confession is an important part of Lutheran worship, there are two sacraments in the church, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But there is a kinda third one and that is confession, followed closely by the preached word. The last two might not be “full” sacraments, but, they are an important part of the Lutheran, the genuine Christian’s life in Christ.
Dr Martin Luther fully encouraged the practice of confession and absolution. There is corporate confession, which is what we normally do at the beginning of worship. There is also individual, or private confession which a pastor will sit with a individual and that person will present to the pastor the things that he wants to confess and to get absolution for all of their sins.
Dr Luther emphasizes the importance of confession and absolution:
“…Openly acknowledging sin decreases the immediate danger and lessens our anxiety. The heart must be helped first. Confession of sin makes it light and allows it to breathe. After this, it’s easier to help the rest of the person. Only after our conscience has been released from its heavy load and is able to breathe freely can we find relief for other areas of distress.
When God’s anger is poured out, we immediately become aware of our sin and become afraid. Foolish people cope with this situation in the wrong way. They ignore their sin and only try to get rid of their fear. That doesn’t work, so they eventually fall into despair. This is the way human reason always tries to handle the problem in the absence of God’s kindness and the Spirit. Wise people, however, try to ignore their fear and focus instead on their sin. They acknowledge their sin and try to get rid of it, even if it means that their fear will remain with them forever. They willingly accept their punishment, as Jonah did in this story (Jonah 1: 9-10).
But godless people do just the opposite. They pay attention to the punishment and are afraid of it, but they aren’t concerned about their sin . If there were no punishment, they would never stop sinning. But this isn’t what happens because punishment consistently follows sin. In contrast, godly people pay attention to their sin and are afraid of it. They aren’t as concerned about the punishment. In fact, it’s almost as if they would rather endure the punishment without sinning than commit the sin without facing any punishment.” (Through Faith Alone Devotional Readings from Martin Luther August 22)
Holding on to your sin, trying to out run it, live it down, work your way out of it, just is not going to achieve the end of relieving your stress, it’s just not. Sure penance is good, and many times is part of confession, but it doesn’t give you complete peace of mind. The only way to achieve complete assurance of forgiveness is through confession. Someone who is a genuine minister of Christ, who understands biblical forgiveness in Christ, who has take vows to protect the integrity of the confessional, to never discuss, even with the confessor your confession. If you want to talk about it swell! But if I see you the next day, I can’t even discuss that I saw you the previous day. Your confession to me is completely in Christ and in Christ I give you complete absolution of your sin. You walk out of that confessional knowing that you are completely forgiven in Christ.
Confession is important to a Christian, it strengthens that bond we have to our pastor and more importantly to our Lord who gives us the complete assurance of forgiveness and eternal salvation in Him. Lift it up to Him through His under-shepherd, your pastor, receive forgiveness/absolution than move on in your life, in Jesus’ Name. Amen!
We Christians talk about heaven as if that’s the ultimate goals. Many non-Christians, certainly the “nones”, use that as their cop out, because wow is that generation, ah heck the whole culture today, all about excuses. Doesn’t matter, what happens, happens, I’m entitled anyway, it’s all about me, yada-yada!
Well no, sorry, but your ticket is punched for hell. What you thought was reality, i.e. it’s all about me, well you will find out that it’s not true and that is tragically and eternally.
On to the actual, ultimate reality. It’s not heaven. Many will never be in heaven. They are saved, but if Jesus returns tomorrow, and you and I are around, we will never be in heaven, we go right to the eternal resurrection. For the non-Christian reading this, sorry, doesn’t apply to you, you will be eternally condemned in hell and that’s just the way it is. I sincerely do hope that the Holy Spirit uses this to save the reader who is not a Christian, but as a Christian minister, I’m required to live in the actual real world, and the ultimate reality in that world for me is the resurrection. For the non- believer, the ultimate reality is eternal condemnation and torment in hell.
Kind of separate, but interesting how our Christian holidays have become more about who we are in Jesus. The world is all about Christmas because it’s me-me-me, all about me, and that’s what the world is about. As Christians we know the deeper meaning and can still celebrate and observe Christmas in a genuine way. For genuine Christians (by that I don’t mean the people who call themselves that, because they grew up in that culture, went through the motions, but really have no clue, and live very much in the world. Too many of those people are in churches, don’t get it and don’t care. Like those in the world, they’re entitled, and well God has to come through for them.) Moving along, Easter is where it’s at if you are genuinely in Jesus. Easter Sunday and every Sunday we remember the resurrection, that is what being a Christian is all about. The new-perfect-eternal life in the new world. The world will look very familiar, but it will be perfect, no evil, no sin, no death, no illness, full of genuine life, of infinite potential. We will have the whole picture, understand completely what God did in creation, in history, in salvation and will understand that it was and is completely perfect and understandable. We will see what a truly evil, debased world the world around us was. We will see the spiritual warfare that went on around us, the constant attempts to undermine our relationship with Jesus and tear us away from Him to eternal condemnation. The Holy Spirit and all the spiritual warriors all around us fought hard to keep us focused on Christ and fit for eternal salvation in the resurrection.
Certainly one way we resist in this spiritual warfare that is going on around us is through prayer. Continual prayer on our part keeps us connected to the spiritual, to God’s guidance to the beings around us that are protecting us. We are tuned into God’s direction, guidance, what He is doing in our life. Failing in prayer is to cut yourself off from God, to be tuned in only to the world and its direction. The world is condemned, and if that’s where you are tuned, you very much risk being condemned. Prayer doesn’t save you, that’s not the point. None of our works save us, we are only saved in what Jesus did and does for us. But if we are not connected to what God is doing in, for, through and around us through our prayer, we lose that connection, we eventually just buy into the constant blah-blah from everything around us in the world, decide that it’s the world’s message that’s most important and fade off into eternal separation from God.
The resurrection is the ultimate destination, the Holy Spirit guides us there, Jesus makes us fit to be there by His righteousness imputed to us and the Father assures us of that eternal life in the resurrected, perfect, eternal new world, New Jerusalem.
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7/25/2018 Confession and Absolution
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has just issued a major study of the doctrine and practice of confession and absolution. The report by the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations establishes the Biblical and theological basis for confessing your sins to a pastor and receiving
forgiveness from his words of absolution.
This may sound strange to you Protestants who are not Lutherans. What do you do with John 20:21-22? “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with
you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy
Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.’”
Lutherans are like Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans in retaining confession and absolution. While the Lutheran practice looks like what Catholics
do, like other seeming similarities, it is quite different. Confessing your sins to a pastor is strictly voluntary, not necessary for forgiveness as it is for
Rome, and it is not necessary to enumerate every sin specifically before it can be forgiven. And Lutheran pastors require no “satisfaction”–that is,
works to atone for your sin–as required by the Catholic rite of penance. The forgiveness applied by Lutheran pastors is simply the good news of the
Gospel, that Jesus has atoned for your sins on the Cross, giving you forgiveness in His name.
Most Lutherans do their confession and receive their absolution corporately, at the beginning of the Divine Service. After a time of reflection on our
sins and a corporate prayer in which we admit that we deserve God’s “temporal and eternal punishment,” we hear these words from the pastor:
Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of
you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
But only Christ can forgive sins! Right. And He does so by means of vocation. That is to say, “calling.” Just as God gives daily bread by means of
the farmer and creates new life by means of parents, Christ gives His Word of forgiveness by means of pastors. According to the Lutheran doctrine of
vocation, God is present in and works through ordinary human beings whom He has called into various realms of service to their neighbors. This
“calling” is at the heart of what pastors do. (“As a called and ordained servant of the Word. . . .and in the stead and by the command of my Lord
Jesus Christ. . . .”)
This happens every Sunday, but private confession and absolution has fallen into disuse. It is, however, a powerful weapon in the arsenal of pastoral
care, allowing pastors to cut deeply into the heart of a sinner, eliciting repentance and a sense of great personal comfort from the Gospel. Currently,
there are efforts to bring back the practice of individual confession and absolution.
Here are some excerpts from the CTCR document, Confession and Absolution. To download the entire report, go here.
The two words “confession and absolution” are worthy of some clarification. “Confession” occurs in more than one setting or context.
The root word from the New Testament is ὁμoς, [homos] “one and the same.” The basic meaning of the related Greek compound noun
ὁμoλoγἰα is “an agreement” by which two parties say the same thing, and the compound verb ὁμoλoγέω is similarly used as “to agree.”
Thus, “if we confess our sins” (1 John 1:9), we are saying the same thing that God is saying about our sin. We are agreeing with what
God reveals about us and our sin. We are admitting (acknowledging) that the Lord’s judgment upon our sin is right and true.2 The second
word, “absolution,” is a synonym for forgiveness. Lutheran theology dictates that in any discussion of “confession and absolution,” it is
this second word that requires emphasis. . . .
7/25/2018 Confession and Absolution
Luther speaks of confession of sins in three settings: 1) private confession to a pastor; 2) confession to God alone (as we find it in the
Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:12); and 3) confession made to a fellow Christian (James 5:16). . . .
First, no one should assume that a different kind or quality of forgiveness from Christ our Lord is given in the context of individual
confession. All of the Means of Grace — Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, preaching — convey the same forgiving Gospel. In this respect,
there is no difference between private confession and absolution and that which is conducted on Sunday mornings in public worship. One
Lutheran theologian put it succinctly: “Private absolution is neither more nor less than the absolution the whole congregation receives in
the gospel. Rather, it is nothing other than the gospel the whole congregation receives, specifically applied to the circumstances of the
It is our goal to explain why, even though the same Gospel is given through the various Means of Grace, private confession and
absolution may be a considerable aid to all Christians, and especially useful to pastors, who share in the burdens of their people and who
are susceptible to unique temptation and discouragement. It is first of all necessary, however, to clearly establish the biblical foundation
for confession and absolution. . . .
Along with these developments came the threefold understanding of “penance” in the Roman tradition. Penance had three parts:
confession, absolution, satisfaction (or four parts if contrition is included before confession). The absolution pronounced in the indicative
was still conditioned on the works of satisfaction outlined by the priest — your sins are forgiven, but you must still do the works
demanded of you to avoid penalties in purgatory. This served as the launching pad for confession and absolution to be viewed as
something related to making amends. In the period leading up to the Reformation, Rome officially formulated its position at the Council
of Florence in 1439 that established what poenitentia (penance) consisted of: contritio (contrition/ sorrow over sin), confessio (confession
necessarily made to a priest) and satisfactio (the satisfaction or works of penance adjudicated by the priest).
Luther believed this was a fundamental misunderstanding of the gift of absolution and strove to bring it back to its biblical foundations.
For Luther and the other confessors, the keys convey the Gospel (in the broad sense as both Law and Gospel), by condemning, in God’s
name, self-assured people of their sin and by assuring the contrite of their forgiveness. The binding key, however, is for Luther only a
means to an end. The ultimate aim of the keys is the forgiveness of sins. . . .
The preceding material indicates that the authentically Lutheran view of individual confession and absolution is largely unique,
occupying a middle ground between Rome and evangelical Protestantism.44 Unlike most Evangelicals or other Protestants, Lutherans do
not repudiate private confession before a minister and steadfastly uphold the propriety and efficacy of the pastor’s absolution in the name
of Christ.45 Unlike Rome, however, Lutheran teaching and practice makes private confession entirely voluntary, rejects the notion that
one must (or even can) enumerate all one’s sins before a confessor, and rejects the addition of satisfaction as confession’s third element.
Lutheran teaching upholds the absolution above all else and affirms its great comfort for the individual penitent.
Illustration: A woodcut to Article XI of the Augsburg Confession by Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Yes, I’m reblogging Dr Veith, yes that is PhD, spent his professional life in academia, retiring as the provost of Patrick Henry College in Virginia. For all of those who love to bellow “I only believe in science, hard facts”, more and more that’s not the case. Instead you believe in a faith system that more and more is becoming more doctrinal, like evolution (real scientists really don’t believe in Darwinian evolution anymore), and just want an impersonal universe that is completely material with no consideration allowed for the spiritual. Just not going to work and is in no way “scientific” or objective. Scientism is more about doing the study the way you want it to come out and less about scientific objectivity, hence the faith system “scientism”. Just more people trying to create their own reality. It’s God’s reality, He created it and He sustains it through Jesus Christ.