Category Archives: Christian

Tell it to the Church Matthew 18

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, we take this time to remember those who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and for the comfort and peace of their families in at this time. We all joined together and said … AMEN!

We lift up in prayer all those in Florida, in the path of the next hurricane, we pray they are kept safe and that minimal damage is done. We thank you Father that the people in Puerto Rico were spared serious damage. We also remember Houston and pray that they continue to recover. Most of us remember well the attacks of 9/11, we certainly know of the war that continues in Afghanistan, although we may not know of a lot of the other activity that has occurred to stop terrorism and to break up and bring to justice those who would murder and destroy for their own purposes, for their own glory and do it in the Name of God. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit does not inflict violence. Only the love of the true God which moves us to know and grow in Him and for those who do not know Him, He continues to move them to focus on Him and His true life here, salvation in heaven and eternal life in the resurrection. Help us to know Him in His love and relationship to Jesus, His Church and His people, in true, everlasting life and love.

Dr Martin Luther writes: “The amaranth is a flower …[which] is easily broken off and grows in joyful and pleasant sort… being sprinkled with water, becomes fair and green again, so that in winter they used to make garlands thereof. It is called amaranth from this: that it neither withers or decays.

I know nothing more like unto the church than this flower, amanranth. For although the church bathes her garment in the blood of the Lamb and is colored over with red, yet she is more fair, comely, and beautiful than any state and assembly upon the face of the earth. She alone is embraced and beloved of the Son of God, as His sweet and amiable spouse, in whom only He takes joy and delight and whereupon His heart alone depends. He utterly rejects and loathes others that condemn or falsify His Gospel.[1]

A couple of times a year we step outside the walls of our stunning sanctuary. We do all we can to share this church and this great monument to our Lord Jesus Christ. To invite our neighbors, family and friends who do not know Jesus and His church. We have been given a great gift, to be saved in Jesus and in that salvation to be a member of His church. Not everyone who is saved is part of such a magnificent testament and monument to Jesus. Too many think that, by choice, a place that is simple and does not have anything to really honor Him or even remind those who are there that this is supposed to be a place to honor and worship our Lord and to show the world how important Jesus is. Too many in our culture today are more concerned with makes them happy, they’re really not concerned about honoring or worshipping Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Until such time, of course, when it’s very obvious that they need God and expect Him, and yes, His Church to be there for them. We who faithfully serve Jesus’ church know how difficult it is to maintain this place of worship and that it may not always be there.

Many love to tell us how enlightened they are because they’ve made up their mind that the church is wherever they decide it should be. The snarky remarks about worshipping on the golf course, at the beach, some have told me drinking or even taking drugs. They claim that is their form of worship. We live in a truly delusional society that thinks it’s all about them and can make reality any way it pleases them. Those are the same ones who when all is said and done; “will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) The same phrase Matthew quotes Jesus as using in Matthew 13:42, 13:58, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30. “Omaha” Jesus makes it plain the fate of those who reject Jesus and His Church. It is a combo package, you can’t have a church that doesn’t accept Jesus, it’s not a church that will save you. Likewise you can’t have Jesus and not the church. The Church is the Body of Christ on earth, to be in Christ is to be a part of the Body of Christ which is saved to the eternal resurrection. You have to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church.

In two places Jesus refers to His church. “ESV Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And in today’s reading: “ESV Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Despite what today’s culture likes to think, it is plain that Jesus’ purpose was for His church to do His will on earth. Not for everyone to have their own little worship of whatever I want or makes me happy. In today’s reading Jesus makes it very plain that, yes we are to judge. Not in a pharisaical, harsh way, but in a way that is trying to get the person back into a right relationship with Jesus and His Church. That is what excommunication is about. Not to be punitive or flex ecclesial muscles, but to make it plain that someone’s lifestyle; abusing others, undermining Jesus’ church and ministry, sexual sin, coveting after the things of the world, abusing God and His Name, murder, stealing, lying, that all these things are not acceptable in the Church of Jesus and won’t be tolerated. That the person committing those sins isn’t being judged, as much as condemning him or her own self by their actions. The church’s job is to call them to account on their sin and if he refuses to listen to a brother or sister in Jesus, then to three or more, then as Jesus says: “…if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt 18:18) The church is given the power to judge, as Jesus goes on to say, what we call “the keys of the church”: “whatever you [meaning the church body] bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Whatever you as the church, truly functioning in good faith, good intentions, truly trying to redirect those who by their actions and rejection of My, Jesus’, Church, won’t listen “even to the church”, note the emphasis. Ok, it’s one thing not to listen to your neighbor, or maybe 3 people from the church, but when the entire church, that you won’t listen to the entire church! Ok, then the church in My authority as Lord of the church, tell you that you should treat this person as a Gentile and tax collector. In the context of the time the most damning condemnation one could make. The lowest person in Jewish society at the time was a Gentile or tax collector. Don’t have anything to do with them, except that you reach out in prayer, love and compassion, always doing what you can to restore them to the church.

This arrogant attitude we have today, really idolatry, that is making oneself the object of worship when you claim that “oh I worship on the beach, the golfcourse”. The attitude being that worship, if any, is going to be on my terms, my time, place, emotion. As if God’s supposed to follow you around like a puppy dog hoping that you will deign to privilege Him with your attention. Doesn’t work that way, that is arrogance, self-worship, quoting CFW Walther: “…pious speech without a living and believing heart in one accord is nothing before God except a hypocritical abomination. Christian fellowship is founded on the promise from Christ Himself, as our text makes irrefutably certain. No Christian can say: ‘I prefer to remain alone. Why should I have fellowship? I derive no blessing from it.’ Whoever speaks like this contradicts Christ and questions His faithfulness.”[2] Clearly Jesus means that when two or more are gathered, no one is entitled to set their own rules of worship, and that more than two are intended to come together in true worship.

Dr Luther writes about the church of Jesus Christ: “…She grows and increases again, fair, joyful and pleasant. That is, she gains the greatest fruit and profit thereby; she learns to know God properly, to call upon Him freely and undauntedly, to confess His word and doctrine. She produces many fair and glorious virtues… the church will by God be raised and wakened out of the grace, and become living again. The church will everlastingly praise, extol and laud the Father our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, His Son and our Redeemer, together with the Holy Ghost.”[3]

It is only in the church that there will be everlasting praise of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only those who have praised, extoled, lauded God in life, will be there to do the same in heaven, and even more so in the resurrection, where we are restored in our bodies to everlasting life in the perfect world that God originally intended for us, to live our life the way we were supposed to live it. Satan, the world will tell any lie to keep you from Jesus’ church, but as Jesus promises: “ESV John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Nothing and no one can give you any hope or promise that truly matters except for Jesus and He does that in and through His Church. Quoting Luther: “…I am not troubled that the world esteems the Church so meanly; what care I that the usurers, the nobility, gentry, citizens, country people, covetous men, and drunkards condemn and esteem me as dirt? In due time, I will esteem them as little. We must not suffer ourselves to be deceived or troubled as to what the world thinks of us. To please the good is our virtue.”[4]

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom        He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] Martin Luther Table Talk Bridge Logos edition p 242

[2] C.F.W Walther quoted in God Grant it Daily Devotionals from CFW Walther edited by Gerhard Grabenhofer p 545

[3] Martin Luther Table Talk Bridge Logos edition p 242, 243

[4] Ibid p 241

Idols hmmmm, really? Tells me to remember who’s really in charge!

I am the pastor of First Saint Johns Church in York, Pa. First Saint Johns (FSJ) was completed in 1875, as you can see from the featured image, the altar, and the rest of the sanctuary are very nice and very reverent.

There are those who I have showed the sanctuary to and felt that there was just “heavens, too much idolatry”. Rather amuses me. I’ve been in a lot of sanctuaries where you might truly wonder what the space is actually used for. By looking at this picture, there should be little doubt what or, better, Who this space is about. It’s all about Jesus and the people who built his sanctuary 140+ years ago knew it.

The altar is especially interesting in that it shows the most important aspects of who and what Jesus is all about. Underneath the flat part, called the mensa, is a lamb, shows that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next is a crucifix, reminding us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Next is Christ ascending to glory in heaven. The top stained glass window shows Jesus as Lord of all creation, at the right hand of God the Father.

The stained glass windows on the sides have various Christian symbols and at the top is one of the apostles.

People have actually told me how idolatrous this is??? Yet I can go into an old Quaker, Calvinist, etc churches and honestly wonder what’s going on there. I can go into a lot of “community”, “independent”, etc and see no indication that I’m in what purports to be a “Christian” sanctuary. There is a lot of symbology on the altar and on the stained glass at FSJs. A lot of visual reminders of what we believe and Who we hold important. Over the ascending Jesus is the motto “Sola Deo Gloria”, yea wow, “To God only the glory”, yikes that’s a first commandment buster, right?

Why do people really object to this? Why do they prefer to have a “church” that is essentially void of anything that is Christian? I would submit that especially with all the “big-box” non-denominationals, that it’s really more about those in the church preferring to kind of push aside all the Jesus stuff. Yea, they sing about Jesus and kind of preach about Him. But it’s not really about Him, if it was why is there a problem about having a lot of visual reinforcement.

My answer. In the world today it’s all about me, what’s good for me. Well Jesus is good for you, the only and ultimate good. But too many people don’t see it that way. Today’s culture says: I don’t want to be reminded of all that Jesus stuff, if I’m here I’m worshiping what I want, “ooo that gory crucifixion stuff”. Well that’s a whole big subject, and well we just shouldn’t have to do that, just make me happy God. I showed up, I should get the big payoff. Doesn’t work that way folks. It is all about God and not about you. That’s why we have all these reminders to reinforce that in us when we are in true worship, lifting up and praising God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

People who built these great old churches understood that and when I stand in front of the altar here I know exactly what and especially Who it’s all about. It’s why we at First Saint Johns are serious about what we do and why we do it, it’s for Jesus who sacrificed all for us and we will be His for all eternity. So instead of mouthing silly platitudes and not thinking about what is important, let’s all do some serious thinking about what and Who is ultimately important. I have all these beautiful and compelling reminders here, maybe it’s time for you to think about why this is all important.  Sanctuary 140th anniversary

The word endures CPH blog site Dear Girls: He is not your savior Heidi Goehmann   Apr 5, 2017

 

Long before Jerry Maguire uttered the words “You complete me,” we as the human race have had a penchant to search for fulfillment in anything but Jesus. We look to achievement, entertainment, wealth, glory, excitement, and people to fulfill us, to build us up, to make us feel valued and worthy of our role and place here on this planet.

While chasing excitement and building achievements can leave us in a whole mess of hurt, there is an epidemic I see among young girls, young adult women, and women of all ages and stages that is quietly but aggressively crumbling the foundations of our relationships.

Our need for men is killing our relationships with men.

In Genesis 2:18, God declares that Adam would be complemented by a helper.

The LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.”

                                                                                                Genesis 2:18

Life is richer with someone to share it with. It’s why most of us seek marriage. Even as strong, confident women in the Lord, many of us long for someone to share life with. That’s a natural yearning set in us as God molded dust and dirt to create man, and opened Adam’s ribs to create woman. We were created in perfection for the mutual benefit of one another. What a blessing to have a companion, a friend, a lover! God gives us the gift of someone to share our hopes and dreams with, our joys and sorrows. Someone to lean on in the dark of night and to jump for joy with in the light of victory.

But just because it was created by the Lord doesn’t mean we need it.

In the very next chapter of Genesis, we see the damage sin causes in our ability to enjoy life together by acknowledging the weight we apply to the relationship in the struggle with our sin:

Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.

                                    Genesis 3:16 (NIV)

Sin in us creates an internal desire to be filled up by a man. The endless searching for the perfect boyfriend, the reducing of relationships to casual sex, the cultural obsession with how to turn his eye is the same creepy crawling of the snake that fooled Eve long ago. Girls, let us not be fooled.

The only man we need is Jesus Christ.

That first Adam, our boyfriends, our good friends, our fathers, our husbands, or any man were meant to be a complement in this life. They cannot fulfill our hearts, our minds, or our lives.

Jesus came into the world to fill it. His light breaks forth in the darkness of sin and death, sorrow and destruction. He is the light no darkness can overcome (John 1). When He is present in our lives through our Baptisms and His Spirit, we have all we need; the rest is just a bonus.

Because of this, the men in our lives do not have to hold the weight of our daunting expectations. That weight is a burden they cannot bear. When we seek for man to fill us, to make us feel good about ourselves and our lives, the pressure on the relationship is like a pop bottle closed too tightly. The struggle and pressure may be contained for a while with the lid, but either the pop explodes out when we open it, sopping our pants and notebooks in too-sweet stickiness, or all the air leaks out over time and you end up with flat pop, gross and a shadow of what it was originally.

The lovers in our life will never fully please us until we know the One who is the lover of our souls.

We know we are in need of salvation, as women and as people. We hurt. We want to trust. We long for someone who cares for us tenderly, who takes our broken pieces and makes us whole.

Jesus is our Savior. He is the Savior of your heart, of your soul, and of your very life.

Run to Him. He is already seeking you, chasing after you with His grace and affection. In His arms, we are free to enjoy the gift of human relationships with men. We appreciate the boundaries God has placed on those relationships, and the weight of fulfillment is lifted, making way for enjoyment in serving Him as Lord together.

The Gospel for you today: He is not your Savior. Jesus is.

HEIDI GOEHMANN

I love my husband, my kiddos, post it notes, Jesus, red wine, dark chocolate, Star Wars, and new ideas…not necessarily in that order. If I could pour time and energy into anything in this life it would be loving God and the people around me, even when I’m hangry or slangry. ?

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Leaving it all on the course for Him Matthew 5:21

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have left it all on the field for Jesus said … AMEN!

You’ve heard the interviews after an athletic contest, one of the most common phrases; “I left it all on the field”, basically I gave everything I had in order to win. It can get a little cliché, but by the same token, I have no doubt that each person who says that truly believes it. At the end of that contest; a race, basketball game, matholympics, I gave everything I had, physically, mentally, emotionally in order to win, or at least to do my best. I’ve done races where I expected it to be a little more challenging and at the end upset with myself that I was holding back too much and I could have pressed harder on the bike or the run. By the same token I’ve seen people sprinting to the finish line, giving everything and as soon as they crossed, going off somewhere and literally getting sick right after they finished. No question they exceeded their normal physical ability in order to find that tiny little bit that they had left in order to finish as well as they could.

We certainly see this in so many of the people described in the Bible. King David wrote dozens of Psalms, but if you think he was all about sitting at a desk pen in hand and dreamily wondering how to compose his poetry, you would be mistaken. Most of his prose was about the different ways that he was left it all out on the field for God. David was a powerful soldier, his soldiers followed him into many different situations, they trusted him as a leader who would be there for them, do whatever it took for his men and defeat his enemy. David had no compunction going out on that field and doing what God directed him to do and pouring every last ounce he had into the fight for his men, his country and very much so for his God. David lived his life for Yahweh, there were times when he failed in that and he failed in a way that only a great king and general could fail. As Dr Luther wrote: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [or sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”[1] If King David had known about Jesus and written about Jesus, he would have understood completely what Dr Luther wrote.

In a lot of ways that is what Jesus is saying in the Beatitudes, you have to go over and above, you have to leave it all out there. There may even be a physical price to pay. The Beatitudes can be taken in a legalistic way. Jesus is not saying you have to do this, you have to do that in order to be saved. People have told me that they live by the Beatitudes. It’s not about grace, it’s about them and their performance, what they need to do, that God is keeping score and waiting for them to tank, to hit the wall, to not finish the course. If they somehow fail in one of Jesus’ directives they failed to leave it all out on the field for Jesus, they kept some back for their own pleasure, maybe cheated on the course somehow and didn’t completely live up to what Jesus directed us to do.

The fallacy is this, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that unless we are picture perfect, that we have somehow failed and therefore don’t manage to hit the finish line having left it all out on the course for Jesus. The Gospel does say that Jesus who is entirely perfect God and perfect man, something we could never be, a person that we will never be because there was only one Jesus. Jesus absolutely did leave it all out on the course and it was entirely for us, Jesus didn’t do all that He did for Himself. What’s the point? Jesus is the One through whom all creation came into existence, He is perfectly God, all He did was not for Him, but entirely for us. Nothing we can do, can add to what Jesus did for us, not one iota, not one jot or tittle.

Yet, many people are pretty sure it’s about sticking to the letter of the Law in the Beatitudes and that gets you over the line. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be obedient, Jesus said “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” But Jesus knows that we are fallible, that our obedience is qualified by our failings as sinful people in a sinful world. However, for all that Jesus did for us, how can we not strive to be obedient? How can we not strive to leave it all out on the course for Jesus?

Does a completely good, completely holy, completely gracious God want us to pluck out our eye and throw it away if we are not completely perfect in everything? In this day and age you can’t look anywhere that doesn’t offend your eye. The issue is, did you let your eye linger over that which offended? Or did you realize, “hey, this isn’t glorifying Jesus or doing me any good”, and just turn away? That’s what Jesus is asking us to do, in the Beatitudes. He exaggerates to make a point. He might say. “You really want to try to earn your way, this is what has to happen, if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. I’m thinking, none of us would truly stand that test. That does not, however, minimize the fact that we should strive to avoid things that offend our eye or what we do with our right hand, or our left hand in order to sin.

Marge and I were at Pastoral Leadership Institute immersion this past week, which, ironically is about us and our performance, and driving us higher in Jesus. It’s an honor to be asked to attend, not everyone is, and it’s recognition of the fact that we are striving in evangelism and discipleship and given the opportunity in PLI to push to the next level. It doesn’t makes us more saved, but it does push us to better serve you and the Kingdom of God as leaders of His church.

The Father is not trying to impose unrealistic expectations on us, He is trying to get us to realize that we can’t get there on our own effort. We will fail! We will have plenty of good efforts, being obedient to the things Jesus asks of us, but at some point we will fail to push as hard as we could. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost, that we should cut off our hand. Matt Popovits was one of the speakers, the overall subject was discipleship, which was great, I emphasize discipleship in my ministry. While we are called to be strong and faithful disciples of Jesus, our performance in that respect is not what saves us. The thesis was “How do I measure my worth?” For those who are so sure that it’s all about me and my “opinion”, because my “opinion” is so vitally important! I have bad news for youse, your opinion just doesn’t really matter. Heavens, how can I say such a thing, come on pastor, we all know it’s all about me! It really isn’t. I can tell myself how great and special I am, but despite what I think, it’s not going to get me diddly. Whose opinion does matter? Oh yes, God’s opinion. That is a great thing! By the way, I told Matt I was going to rip him off relentlessly here, he said “fine, go for it!”.

Anyway, Matt talked about “Performacism”, this idea that we measure our worth by what we do, how well we do it, in and of ourselves. Performacism drives you to the following: 1) The fear of and trying to avoid a horrible outcome, a false Hell that you’ve created, that you’re running from in order to make it to an “unfulfilling heaven, that you earn the applause and approval of your peers. That heaven can’t do what you want, doesn’t fulfill your life.”[2] God’s not all powerful, it’s all about you and what you do and more importantly the way you want it to play out. It drives me nuts hearing people talk about heaven as a boring place, “why would I want to end up there”. Heaven is not our ultimate destination, our ultimate destination is the eternal resurrection. We will be put back on this earth in our physical bodies in order to live our lives the way God intended us to live, a world filled with unlimited possibilities and life fulfilling beyond anything we could imagine. Matt points out that Adam and Eve rejected the “Garden of Yes” in favor of the “tree of no”. We make that wrong choice all the time, a garden full of all kinds of possibilities in order for us to indulge in our personal besetting sin.

Matt further observes that we make ourselves a “Functional Savior” that it’s all in our hands whether or not we make it to that amazing eternity. It’s our activity, and accomplishments that save us, so that we are valued by ourselves and by others, because, heavens! in today’s world, it is all about everyone else’s who so precious opinion. We have that problem on a massive scale in our society today and something that our youth get so caught up in, but we’re all susceptible to it. Our self-image, whether our physical attractiveness is valued by others. In a world where everyone’s equal regardless, ya right! Our hypocritical world is just so full of themselves. The fight is to be as superficially attractive as possible to be of value, if you’re not, you might be patronized a little, but just not taken seriously. We see girls today going to extremes because hey the vital thing is to be beautiful, get the right guy, have all kinds of worldly wealth and live happily ever after. Forgetting that despite all our efforts, some, like me, who’ve just been ugly from birth, end up simply being dumped out the other end of life, whether we were beautiful  or not because we no longer meet the standards.

The cut to the chase is this; Jesus tells us that we can do it the hard way, by our own standards, our own worldly, wrong opinions. Or, because Jesus did it the hard way for us, we can trust in Him, that He has done all that’s necessary. Yes, we should leave it all out on the course for Jesus, because that’s what He’s done for us, but never think that is what gets you His promises.

We are so incredibly valued by the Father and there’s not one thing that we can add to that, not by anything we’ve done, not done, or done wrong, but solely who we are in Jesus, so incredibly valued because of who we are in Him and that He died a horrific death in order to save us. For such a huge price and to be adopted into true life in the Father’s family in baptism, we are, each one of us, so incredibly valued and loved. There are those of us who the Holy Spirit is moving to do big things, to serve at high levels. There are those of us who just physically can’t or who are called to do what we feel are humble things. Doesn’t matter to the Father, yes we should follow our calling, but no, we should never doubt how precious we are to the Father and what we are to Him in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Ryan M. Reeves https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/ryanreeves/2016/04/20/did-luther-really-tell-us-to-love-god-and-sin-boldly/

[2] Matt Popovits PLI seminar, Cary, NC, February 9, 2017

Do Wedding Ceremonies and Religious Beliefs Matter to God?

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Marriage in ChurchQ: I never came across anything in the Bible that says to be married in a church by a pastor. I was wondering are you able to marry spiritually in God’s eyes?

The human condition is such that we need to make a commitment before man as well as before God. Now so many people think that marriage is just a feeling of love, but love has never been exclusively a feeling. The bedrock of love is commitment. Feelings ebb and flow, but a commitment never dies. If a commitment is the foundation of your love relationship, then that commitment should be made formally and publicly in the eyes of God but with a commitment to cherish, to honor and to take care of that loved one until “death do us part.”

Q: My fiancé is a Jehovah’s Witness and I’m a Christian. What does the Bible say about mixing religions?

“Do not be unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14, ESV). This is unequivocal, clear, and direct.

A Jehovah’s Witness has a completely different Jesus. The Jesus of Christianity is the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the archangel Michael, who was during his earthly sojourn merely human, and after his death recreated as an immaterial spirit creature. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is neither the Jesus of the Bible nor is their plan of salvation a biblical plan of salvation—it’s about what you do as opposed to what Jesus Christ has done for you. Jesus Christ, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is not even the creator of all things. He was created by God and became a junior partner in the creation of all other things. Neither is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible nor their authority equivalent to the Christian Bible. The New World Translation is a perverted translation of the Bible. Christianity and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are two religious systems. One based in history and evidence and the other cultic that can never be harmonized.

I can tell you right now that if you go down that road (entering into marriage with an unbeliever) you are bringing yourself a life of sorrow.

—Hank Hanegraaff

Justified and sanctified in Jesus

I have been asked on a regular basis if Lutheranism is Christian. For all the denominations and “independents” and so many of these faux attempts at Christianity, YES! All of these other denominations and other presumed attempts at Christianity came from Martin Luther. In fact if your non-denominational “pastor” has any training at all (so many don’t and just presume to hand out a shingle calling themselves a church) but if he has any grounding in genuine Christianity he will, on a regular basis, quote Martin Luther. Dr Luther is the one who called out and broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman’s were right on one score, you open up Christianity, and you risk having a lot of presumptuous people thinking they know the drill who will pose themselves as “Christian” teachers and preachers. On the other hand the Roman Church was so wrong on many counts and we see those errors seeping into Reformed Christianity. Mainly in terms of “works-righteousness”. That is the idea that while Jesus saved us, you still have to do a few things to get you over that line into salvation. Make no mistake, we can reject our salvation. But as one Concordia seminary professor puts it, “God does the verbs”. That is God does what is necessary for us to be saved, there isn’t one thing we can add to what Jesus did for us to have salvation. It’s either all about him and nothing about me, or salvation doesn’t happen. There is also what is called antinomianism. That is that the Law doesn’t have any effect on Christians, we can go about and do just whatever we want and because of the grace of salvation, we’re forgiven of everything while we just flout God’s Law. There is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for. That doesn’t mean we can just go off and do whatever we like. There are consequences to our sin and at some point God decides that you really don’t have the fruits of the Spirit and that you’re just not really saved.

The point of this blog, though, is about the Lutheran teaching in terms of how our salvation is worked out. So for you who like to play at being a Christian, take some serious note here. We are saved because we are justified in Jesus. Justified, coming from the root word “justice” that we are completely innocent, completely guiltless because Jesus paid the price of our sin by dying on the cross. He took the punishment that we should have in order for us to be free of the guilt of our sin.

We are also sanctified, from the Latin “sanctus” completely holy, set apart, totally God’s man or woman. Again, that is only because we have been clothed in the holiness of Christ because of His sacrifice for us. If we are not completely justified, if we are not completely sanctified, and the only way that can happen is in Jesus, then we can not be saved. We cannot die and come into the presence of a completely holy and innocent God, God the Father of Jesus Christ.

One of the greatest Lutheran teachers, was C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church in the United States. I’ve started a book by Concordia Publishing House which is a collection of Walther’s writings in a daily devotional, translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer.

Walther writes: “Justification happens in a blink of an eye. As soon as a sinner, in despair, recognizes his sin and desires grace and redemption, God speaks a word in heaven and justification takes place.” ( p 670) Walther wrote in the mid 1800s and I really like the style of writing from that period and Walther doesn’t disappoint. Likewise, he doesn’t pull any punches.

While we are immediately justified in Jesus, there is a process of sanctification, of growing in holiness. “Sanctification, on the contrary, does not happen suddenly. It occurs gradually and it continues until the end of our life. Justification is immediately perfect. Each one who is justified instantly receives the full forgiveness of his sins, the complete righteousness of Christ, and a new status as a child of God. Sanctification, which follows justification , begins weakly and grows until death, but it never comes to perfection.” ( pp 670-671).

Having said that I would point out that while we are, hopefully, always growing in sanctification, when we die as directed by God, the Lord of our life, we come into His presence completely justified, completely sanctified, completely righteous, but not due to anything we’ve done, only due to what Jesus has done for us. In baptism we become that new child in God, therefore we become completely justified. Baptism is the “new birth” in Jesus. We become completely saved in Jesus. Yes people are baptized, then become as lost as anyone else in the world, through their own bad choices. But not because God failed them in anyway, they chose the way of the world, and the way of the world is sin, death and eternal condemnation in Hell. Sure, lots of people would like to amend that and make it according to their own plan, but this is God’s plan and that’s just the way it’s going to happen. You can continue to live in your little world of denial or realize that the only Lord of life is Jesus and He has revealed salvation to us and that’s the way it’s going to be.

Walther writes: “Perfection for the Christian is the clear recognition that he is imperfect in himself, but nevertheless perfect in Christ Jesus”. For those who think that they’re “all that and a bag of chips”, don’t need Jesus, ok, how’s that going to work out. While you’ve made an idol of yourself, because you think you know what it’s all about, the only way to eternal life is through Christ. You can make it up, but it’s pure fiction and you’ve basically told God “yea, not really happy about your way, I’ve got a better idea”. You may think it’s better, but without anyway to save yourself, again eternal condemnation. Harsh? Not really, we want to know how to be saved, but when we get God’s way and decide it just doesn’t work for us, well it’s God’s way or no way and you’re not god, deal with it.

“When a person is justified, God generally lets him taste the sweetness of His grace in order to draw the sinner from the world to Himself. At this point, many a beginner in Christ thinks he is rid of the world, sin and Satan. but if that were truly the case, it would not be long before such a person became secure and proud. Therefore, our faithful God removes the sweet feelings of grace and power from most of His believers and from that time on, He bestows such blessings meagerly and allows His Christians to grow in humility. When a person becomes truly poor, he must daily beg God for everything and adhere to Jesus’ word of grace so he is not lost. He also comes to realize that God’s work of grace in sanctification is revealed in the fact that his spirit continues to struggle against his flesh. If he feels that sin rages in him, but something else in him prevents sin from gaining dominion over him, this moves him to prayer and to the word of God.If he succumbs to sinful temptations, he goes to Jesus and prays to Him for forgiveness. Such a person is not dead, for a dead heart no longer beats.”

“We have been reborn into true life in Jesus in our baptism. We were dead in our sin with the rest of the world, now we have true life. When we are given that new life, we become completely righteous in Christ and as a new child in Jesus we begin the journey of Christian maturity in our sanctification in Jesus.” (pp 671-672)

This is what is truly important about being saved in Jesus. We can get into a lot of mushy, pointless, emotionalism, or we can understand that we are sinners, that our only salvation is in Jesus and only through Jesus do we become justified and sanctified and truly fit to be made a child of God and to be in His presence and to live in the resurrected, eternal, perfect world that God had always intended for us.

A sense of urgency in Jesus Luke 12, August 14, 2016 First Saint Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have a sense of urgency in Jesus said … AMEN!

In the OT and NT passages today, there is an obvious sense of urgency. This idea that “everything is beautiful” that we just mosey on down the easy path, always tomorrow, just chill, the world’s perspective on things is not the Biblical perspective. In Jeremiah, Yahweh is telling Jeremiah to push on His people. “Behold the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked…” Does that sound like a nice mellow, just take life easy attitude? For most of us, life here in our insulated part of the United States is easy compared to pretty much the rest of the entire world. But that certainly doesn’t give us any guarantee that it will always be that way, for us individually or for all of us. The things we take for granted, kid ourselves into believing that the world is all just nice and placid and no need for me to get all spun up about it. We are incredibly blessed, living as we do and where we are. So many right around us are not, not just in terms of their soci- economic status, but many are confronting death, dealing with serious illness, many are facing the day to day hopelessness of being lost. They don’t know Jesus, they simply struggle on from day to day, thinking that something is going to happen to just spill all over them, make their life oh so different, and it’s just not going to happen. The drugs, alcohol, murders, sexual, greed, sin of pretty much anything you can think of, the compulsion to want and want, take and take, any of this is supposed to give people some sort of hope or long-lasting pleasure, and it doesn’t. All the things that are going on in the inner city between the residents and police. We have been blessed right here in York because we aren’t seeing a lot of that turbulence, maybe our leaders, our police, our residents, a combination thereof are all able to keep it a little real and not feel entitled to or justified in perpetuating the violence here, although there certainly is violence. Jesus told us there would be division, that the world would hate Christians because the world hates Him. Clearly there is division, there is no “god” according to too many people right around us, so the only thing to do in the world is to contribute as little as possible and to take as much as possible, and it doesn’t matter one bit who it hurts; spouses, children, parents, siblings, neighbors, so long as, of course, it doesn’t hurt me. The division that Jesus talks about is quite plain, for those who trust in Jesus and look to Him to provide, as we talked about last week, for those who are in Jesus not to worry, not to take what isn’t theirs, that is the Christian perspective, it is not the world’s perspective. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 24: 9-10: “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” How many times a day now do we hear how someone is heavens to Betsy “offended”, it’s use is so juvenile and pervasive that it’s become trivial and not even worth the time to talk to someone, they are simply not intellectually able to discuss something and they hide behind phoney clichés. The division is quite obvious, those who have the hope, who want to talk to others with hope, passion, an agape servanthood, the desire to genuinely give hope and promise to so many in the world, and those on the other side who only see hope in the next check, in the next meal, sexual partner, in the next home, vehicle, job, and after years and years of their pointless pursuits wonder why they are so lacking in hope, why they are further away than ever of achieving any true hope, peace and feeling of true love and assurance in their life. Therein lies the division, those who have that hope and promise in Jesus and those that don’t. We know there are all sorts of people who just can’t stand to see someone else be happy or achieve, just be content to be where they are. It drives them really crazy when they see Christians serving and trying to take a genuine interest in someone else. How can they do that? Don’t they know they’re supposed to be grasping and grubbing for everything they can, that is supposed to be miserable and wracked with envy and greed. Yet they will look you in the face and try to tell you how Christians don’t know how to have fun. They have no clue how destructive and just really nasty their “fun” is, and what the difference is between fun and “joy”. Paul tells the Galatians: “ESV Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” the world would read that in terms of grasping, self-love, greed, impatience, happy. For too many of the world who have so much and have decided that they’re uninformed world view is superior to God’s Word in Scripture, they have chosen what C.S. Lewis describes as; “…the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones without signposts.” What so many in the world let themselves get lulled into, the idea that it will all work out and they can live in their evil and that will be OK with God, despite Jesus’ clear words and warnings. Robert Schmalzle who wrote the 7 Habits of Jesus, wrote: “Some of [Jesus’] teaching on forgiveness and peace may have given the impression that he was spreading a soft gospel. Jesus assures his listeners that Christian discipleship is costly, even causing division in the family. The Gospel challenge is clear.”[1]
So when Jesus says: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on the earth? No, I tell you rather division,…” You can hear the incredulity in Jesus’ voice; “You all hear what you wanted to hear, you haven’t heard what I’ve said” and we have that to this very day. These men were Jesus’ disciples, but they were not mature in their faith, we see them arguing and scrabbling with each other right up to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. They were trying to make Jesus into a nice little fairy tale, the Davidic King who comes in and wipes away the Romans and the Pharisees, scribes, lawyers, Sadducees, all the bad people. All the good people, at least themselves and some of the other disciples, along with Jesus, would then roll right in and take over, the new heavenly kingdom would be there with each disciple, no doubt, thinking that Jesus will be wise enough to pick him to be at his right hand and things in the world will be all straightened out. Jesus is telling them: “oh no, there is so much more to happen, so much strife and difficulty, so much more that you are going to have to contend with and you better get over this idea right now that it’s going to be just a nice easy slide into the heavenly kingdom. No way? Things are going to get much more difficult before everything is destroyed and then the world restored to the way my Father and I had intended it at creation.

Jesus is very unhappy, I’d dare say angry. He simply cannot believe how clueless his disciples are. Do you honestly think that Jesus would be any happier with His church today? There certainly is division in the church today, much of which is created by people who simply want their fairy tale Christianity and ignore Jesus’ words in Luke 12, Matthew 24, and so many other passages. Yes He does love us, He does want what is best for us, but for too many in the world, they decide what is best for them. They don’t really know, but they’re pretty sure that it has something to do with more and more, give me what I want, indulge my definition of happy, because after all I really am my own idol and I know far better than anyone else and just provide me, with my poorly informed ideas of “happy”, and we will all be happy in our denial of what real joy and contentment is in Jesus. Yes we all have those times when we slip into the world’s idea of “happy”, but we grow in knowing what true joy is in Jesus and not delude ourselves in the world’s paradigm. That we can even as brothers and sisters in Jesus, begin to grasp what is true joy in Jesus. The division is that we know our eternal life in the resurrection, the perfect world is in Jesus. The world believes that their life and happiness is here in the world as it is now, a world full of sin, evil, death, destruction, greed, envy. There has never been true joy in the world and it will never be realized in the world unless it is in Jesus and that joy will not be perfected until we are all resurrected into the new world, the world that God had always intended us to live in. There are plenty who call themselves “Christians”, churches that claim to be “Christian”, who have divided Christianity, who have caused conflict and dissension in the church. They ignore God’s word in the Bible, decide that they know better than God, because He is just so vengeful, so mean and they teach things contrary to His word, because they have that fairy tale idea of Jesus. They ignore Jesus’ clear teachings and then accuse others of hate and ignorance who are faithful to Jesus’ clear words. There is an undivided church of Jesus, it is made up of Christians from many different denominations, it is the invisible church that Dr Luther taught. That church does not try to make the Bible just one of many teachings, that church does not try to make evil good, that church has a very clear understanding of the evil in the world and that in the end those who make up their own world paradigm, “Christian” or not, will be condemned along with the rest of the world, regardless of their opinion or what they call themselves. Is our dependence, trust and faith in Jesus, or is it in other teachings that try to “rationalize” His Word and turn it into a self-serving attempt to justify our sins and evil life style so that we can be happy according to our word?

The writer of Hebrews tells of so many who ignored the lies of the world and accomplished so much through the strength and insight God gave them, many of them who served God’s will in the world. Many who died because of their faithfulness to God: “Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb 11: 36- 38) So many today who are persecuted and martyred because they faithfully follow God’s Word and not the world’s or those who presume to be Christian.

We know that the Holy Spirit is with us and if we get out of His way guides us 24/7. The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us the hope and promise in Jesus: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12: 1-3) We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have an entire cheering section of the great, cloud of witnesses, we have our life in Jesus Christ, we have no need of the opinion of a dying and lost world and we need to run the race that has been set before us by our Lord who did all that was necessary to save us. There has to be a sense of urgency to run a race, Jesus’s words urge as to remember what we will be facing and in the faith He gives us we have our strength to continue to deal with the division in the world and continue to confront the world. The writers of Hebrews tells us that we will have all the support we need in the support of that cloud of witnesses and keeping our eye on Jesus, but we can’t be cavalier about it, we need to reach out to the world in hope, promise and with a sense of urgency.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Robert Schmalzle 7 Habits of Jesus email  Aug 8, 2016