You are in Christ or you are just not
First St Johns Jaunary 26, 2014
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son … All those who know that salvation is only in the Name of Jesus Christ said … AMEN
We should be grateful to the Corinthian church, if there was a way to mess it up, the Corinthians were spot on finding the messiest way. Paul has certainly taken the example of the Corinthians and addressed their issues. I get the feeling that he had to do more then just write two epistles, and I’d be willing to bet he had to do it over and over again. Paul examined, and we have the benefit from his epistles, the discussion on communion. Paul very forthrightly, maybe even a little graphically, conducted the discussion with the Corinthians and from that we we are to understand and conduct the Lord’s Supper.
In today’s issue, Paul is taking the Corinthians to task on the issue of church division. That certainly is a timely discussion for us. I get the feeling from Paul’s letter that it borders almost on embarrassment. Guys come on, how can you be part of the church of Christ and have these kinds of divisions, I mean really “I follow Paul or I follow Apollos or I follow Cephas and then last, almost incidentally, I follow Christ?” Come on, you can’t put me in a position where you are more concerned about following me? If someone came up to me and said “hey Jim, you’re great! I’m following you brother!” I’m telling you here and now, I would probably come close to dropping dead from embarrassment and I almost get that sense from Paul, maybe for the same reason. Here I am, I’ve been preaching Christ, Him crucified for your sins, He whose perfect sacrifice made it possible for us to be righteous and sanctified before a perfect, holy God and what you got out of that is; “yea, you’re great man, I’m following you!”? Really ?! Paul asks the question, “woe there, was I crucified for you?” “Were you baptized in my name, or Apollos’ or Cephas’ names?” No! You were baptized, you were made clean, you were sanctified in the Name of Jesus, the only way you could be sanctified and made clean, the only way that you could be saved, the only way you could be assured that Jesus is your Lord, now, at your death and to eternity. I certainly don’t want to go to someone who is dying and hear them saying; “Pastor Jim, I am so grateful that you have helped me and did what was necessary, because I know where I am going.” If they add in there because you pointed me to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then praise God, thank you Lord that this person will soon be in your presence, but only because the Holy Spirit used me in order point this person to eternal life in Christ. I am only the instrument in the Lord’s hands. The only reason I am here before you is because of the power of Christ, there is no other power in creation that would have put me here. So please don’t ever say it’s because of this evangelist or that pastor that you know salvation in Christ unless you go on to say because they were used powerfully by Christ to save you.
This is a huge issue and has been since the Reformation. One thing that the leaders in the Roman church were right about is saying that because of what Dr Luther did, the church would be splintered all over creation. But that was never Luther’s intention, and the way it played out even in Luther’s time, was something that he regretted.
Sometimes division is necessary, the Reformation was necessary, but Dr Luther even regretted that this new church took on his name, his intention was to move people back to the revelation of Scripture, to move the church out of the secular and back into being the bride of Christ.
The church today is more splintered, more out of control, more out of touch with true revelation then ever. We see so-called Christian churches all over the place and that is on the momentum of what Christianity has been going back to the time of the Corinthian church. I’m sorry, but if people were really honest with themselves, they would not be saying “I follow Christ”, they would be saying “I follow Mary Baker Eddy, I follow Joseph Smith, I follow Jehovah’s Witnesses”. These are people who’ve taken one little part of Scripture and tried to make it the whole revelation. People have put entirely too much trust in so-called Christian leaders and have uncritically followed teachers who were telling them what they want to hear and not what they needed to hear. Too many people have convinced themselves that it is all about their works, what they do in order to be saved and so they hear this from Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, The prosperity churches, and even what seem to be orthodox Christian churches and that is where they fall. Problem is this and we see it all over the landscape, is that when, not if, but when, they figure out that what they’ve been taught is wrong, doesn’t save them, who do they blame? Rightly so, the church! But the problem is this, they won’t accept the fact that they are partly to blame themselves. Did they ever ask themselves, “woe, wait a minute, is this what God really wants from me? Is God powerful enough to save me without my works, and my jumping through hoops? Well, yes! But no, I just can’t trust Him enough to do that, so I need to do, this or that in order to help God out, in order to show Him how sincere I am, in order to prove that I really am worthy and then God will have to accept whatever I throw out in front of Him and He will have to save me”. Is that the way it works? Can any of you here, do enough, be worthy enough? Be sincere enough? Be pious enough, to make God sit back and say “wow, that Jim Driskell, boy, he is such an A-J squared away guy, well by-gum I’m just going to have to save him, because he just stacked right up? Is that ever going to happen, in a million-zillion years? I don’t care what you sincerely believe, people have sincerely believed a lot of bizarre things for centuries, I’m telling you right here and now, it doesn’t get them anywhere. Remember the Comet Kahouteck deal, people sincerely believed that if they committed suicide at just the right time, that they would be spiritually lifted up to this comet and whisked away to eternal bliss. Do you think that worked? Of course not and if that doesn’t have the stink of hell all over it, I just don’t know what does. Today, there are much subtler and still just as deadly beliefs out there. Now you can get all horrified and dignified and give me the “oh but my God wouldn’t condemn someone like that, my God would save all those sincere, worthy, hard-working people” and you fall in the same trap as the Comet Kahouteck or Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, Arminians, Modalists, Platonists, Pelagians on and on all through the centuries. Folks all this stuff you hear today has been pedaled going back to the very beginning, people love to tell you how they’ve found this new way and package it all up as if it’s just brand/spanky new and it simply isn’t. The same deadly poison has been pedaled for centuries, but because it’s wrapped in new shiney paper it’s supposed to be different and now it’s effective? Sorry, it’s still the same messed up message, it still separates you from God.
One of my beefs with the so-called “contemporary” church is this emphasis on making church so common, you get the guy who gets up front and he either has the $1,000 Armani suit, or the torn up jeans and t-shirt, oh yeah kumbya, it’s all about us and what makes us happy. I heard one of them, on the radio taking a shot at the other contemporary manifestations of the church. The churches that feel it’s all about happy talk, creating elaborate productions but never really talking about Jesus as Savior. Hey why bother, we’re all “good” people, what do we need to be saved from? Or the churches that promise that since you are here and we’re all on the same page, well Jesus will just bless you for that and make you wealthy, pretty, smart and successful. Or the churches that teach the Bible, but it’s because we’re just all regular people and we know the Bible. Or you have a church where Jesus is preached, where we all understand that we are here for a reason, that we all suffer from the same deadly malady, that we are all sinners, that we cannot do anything for ourselves, that we need God to be our Savior, right from birth we are sin filled and depraved. Do I tell you that to beat you down, because I get some jolly out of telling you that you are a lost sinner? Noooo! Because brother and sister, I’m right there with you. As Luther said, I am a beggar that is just showing other beggars where to find bread. By no virtue of my own, God put me in this pulpit to preach His Law, which condemns, all of us, and to preach His Gospel which saves, but only saves those who have been saved, by Him, in Christ Jesus. I’m not here to play to you, to tell you what you want to hear, I am a minister of Christ, He has told me what to do through His Word, the Father has given us a way to be in a saving relationship with Him, He gave His only Son in order to save us, and that is the only way we are saved. That same radio preacher took a shot at the liturgical church. Interestingly he noted that more and more young people are coming back to the style of worship of candles, incense, liturgy, his words, the intimation being that we somehow feel we are saved because of the ornamental, the processional. No! We are saved one way, through the strength and work of Jesus, why do we do the other stuff? Not to make it a parade or somehow be superficially pious, we do this to honor Him. We understand our worship isn’t about entertainment or deep thoughts or telling us what we want to hear or our works, we understand that we are saved. We come before God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit and do the things we do to honor Him, to show the world that we are serious about worshipping God. He gives to us over and over in worship, we do receive in worship, and because of that in our feeble ways, we do the things we do to be reminded of what He has done for us and to honor Him in worship and praise, to recognize that only through Him we are saved, we are truly sons and daughters of the living God. Paul says: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” I hope no one leaves here today saying to the effect; “wow, Pastor Jim really preached great words and thoughts, boy I’m just so saved in everything he preached.” It’s not my words, it’s the words the Holy Spirit gave me and for one reason, to point you to the cross of Christ, to point you to the crucified and resurrected Savior, only through Him and His sacrifice we are saved. The Words you hear today are intended for only one reason, to focus on God’s Law, that we understand that we are all, everyone in the whole wide world, are condemned under His Law, we have all sinned, we have all broken the Law, following the Law cannot save you. Maybe you have been absolutely perfect, great for you, but that only means you didn’t break the rules. If you did it outside of Christ you are still an unsaved person who somehow managed not to break the rules. If Jesus doesn’t save you, you are still lost. Is there such a person out there? No, of course not, so please quit getting in my grill and telling me there is. There may be some people out there who have made up their own rules and didn’t break them and feel that God should honor that, but what matters is God’s Word and we have all fallen short, none are righteous, no not one.
The Father did not leave us crushed and condemned, He didn’t create a lot of hoops and rolls, a lot of barriers to hurdle, He gave us His Son, He showed us all that His Son died for us, that because of that sacrifice we are saved. What more convincing proof could you possibly have? He gave you His church so that in baptism, in His preached Word, in His Body and Blood, you would know week in and week out that you are saved, that you are in relationship with Him and that you will be in His presence when you die and you will be raised up like His Son, in the Resurrection in that new and perfect world, where there will be life and life more abundant, then anything we could ever begin to approach in this sin-filled, dead world that we are in now.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.