Tag Archives: Confession

Confession of sin is good for you

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!

Confession and Absolution July 25, 2018 by Gene Veith

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7/25/2018 Confession and Absolution
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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
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2018/07/confession-and-absolution/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Evangelical… 6/17
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
individual sinner.”
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

Sin is sin, trust in your pastor and quit thinking you know it all

I am still pretty much of a rookie pastor. I try to listen more than yap when others who have more experience, more education than I do, so that I will be a better pastor. Can’t say that everything I hear or am told is correct, that I should follow it. I do have a lot of life experience, so there are times when someone is telling me something that is just wrong. Just because someone else has been making mistakes for years, doesn’t mean that I should make the same mistakes.

Dr J Vernon McGee was the pastor of one of the largest churches in California. He also had a world-wide radio ministry, wrote a bunch of books, etc. He went to be with the Lord in 1988, but his radio ministry is still alive and well.

One of the observations I’ve made as a pastor is that people continue to try and impose their sin on me, as a pastor, or they expect me to endorse their sin, often due to their tortuous reasoning. I’m sure we all know which types of sins that people are finding all kinds of justification for. My overall favorite is “the church is full of hypocrites so who is a pastor to tell me I’m sinning, and so therefore I can continue to pursue my personal sin.” Yeah, like I said, those in the world live a very delusional life.

Let me make one aside, for those who recognize their sin, struggle with it, lift it up to the Lord for forgiveness, continue to ask God to deal with their sin and overcome it, “…If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins…” (1 Corinthians 11:31) God does forgive, will help us and is not there to beat us down on something that we are genuinely trying to deal with and conform to His will. Christians do not live deluded lives, our sin is sin. We’re not kidding ourselves that our particular sin and circumstances are justified, that, for those simple minds in the world, is what hypocrisy is. Maybe you ought to look into your own heart and be a little genuine. For those in the world, get over all your petty little justifications, get real and deal with your sin issues and be a part of a genuine Christian church that will help you in this area.

As a rookie pastor, I have had the experience where people pretty much confront me and demand that I justify their particular sin. Really! Yea the world really does bully and thinks that most pastors are entirely lacking in integrity and genuine biblical faithfulness, that you (me the pastor hears) just don’t know what you’re talking about at all and those in the world will be happy to set me straight. The hypocrisy, naivete, bullying, and straight out ignorance is just breathtaking.

Dr McGee had a wide breadth of experience and accomplishment for the Kingdom, a very accomplished pastor and these are his words: ” “What if there’s a sin in the Christians’ life that he/she won’t deal with, reveal it, confess it? … it’s amazing the number of people who are in sin, who come to a pastor and what they really want, is for the pastor to approve of their conduct and they become very much incensed if he does not agree with what they are doing or with their solution to the problem. When he attempts to put the Scripture down on their lives, why they wince under it and they get angry with the pastor and they say ”my he’s cruel, very unkind, he’s not the kind of pastor he should be, he’s not as sympathetic as he should be.” A lot of pastors know what this is because so many people will not deal with their sins. Now when they won’t, God will deal with them at the judgment seat of Christ and a great many people are going to find out, though they were busy down here teaching Sunday school classes, being the president of the missionary society, singing in the choir, leading different groups… yet they were disobedient and they would not deal with the sin in their lives, they won’t receive reward, they refused to deal with sin in their lives.” (Dr J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible” Broadcast Dec 26, 2015)

I’ve had this experience. The person doesn’t want to discuss, they are going to tell and if you don’t listen and get it, then you  have a problem you’re wrong and I’ve had people tell me how lacking I am in what they consider to be the proper pastoral characteristics. No, I don’t get too spun up over it. I’ve had a lot of life experience (usually more than the person who’s telling my how it really is) and I get it, people are often not going to really think it out. They’re sure they know what it’s all about and they’re going to make sure that they give you the benefit of their “knowledge”.

Which leads me into another observation, Mr or Ms “I’ve been successful” in my world. They’re going to tell you how you should successfully run this church. I have news for you Mr Successful, God bless you that you’ve achieved some success in an area, I wish you the best. What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand, despite their obvious smartness in their success, is that success in one thing doesn’t necessarily translate into success in another thing. Not that I’ve achieved any level of success, but we certainly see that in so many individuals who have presumed that their success in one thing should ipso facto, translate to success in another.

Sorry Mr Success “so you should listen to me”, if you were as smart as you think you are you would know that. I have no problem whatsoever listening to others suggestions, direction and assistance. Frankly I find myself kind of begging for that. Having said that, it does not mean that I can always use and apply the input. Often times part of the problem is that the input just does not conform to the proper functioning of a Christian church. I think the church has done itself a great deal of damage in the last maybe 100 years, because it has allowed the world to dictate to it, instead of doing ministry in accordance with Scriptural direction. When pastors fold up and function according to the world, the world and the church realizes he as a pastor, or a Christian, that is not to be taken seriously.

It is amazing how much hypocrisy there is in the world and the world is the first to wag it’s finger at the church to criticize it for hypocrisy. The world’s hypocrisy really does border on the delusional and is absolutely breathtaking to see in action.

I hope that 1) people start to deal with their sin honestly. I’m not saying that because I’m perfect because, I’m not. On the other hand, I don’t try to delude myself into thinking that I’m above all that, if it’s my sin then it’s really not sin, it’s just A Skippy OK.

2) To Mr/Ms I know it all. I know that you don’t know it all, I can tell. You’ve been in church for decades, but I know that you don’t have even the most basic Christian/Scriptural understanding. You’ve been sitting in church because you think you should, just waiting to tell everyone how it should be.

The truly smart people who I know, recognize when others know more than they do about a particular subject. I really try to make sure, that when I can tell someone obviously has a grasp of something that I should shut-up and let them talk. I inevitably learn something and am thankful that they shared with me. Mr and Ms I Know It all, you might actually get smart and rely and trust those who actually know more about something. That doesn’t mean blind submission, that does mean realizing your limitations, recognizing someone else’s expertise and listening. That’s the smart thing to do and if you were really that smart you’d understand that.

Confession or separation and from whom

Unconfessed sin isn’t fooling anyone. God certainly knows, and come on those around you? They know. Unconfessed sin also separates us, from each other and from God. God knows, but since you have chosen to suppress, conceal, downplay, dismiss, your sin separates you from a perfect, holy God. Hasn’t a child, spouse, someone close tried to ignore unconfessed sin with you? Can’t you sense a very real separation from that person until you come to grips with that person and their sin. As a fellow sinful being we can kind of understand that, and God certainly understands and forgives, but can’t you still sense the distance, separation, even barrier it has created?

Mark Buchanan points out in Peter love covers a multitude of sins. Sure we get it, you are forgiven, Jesus died for that sin. Pastor Buchanan points out “Love can’t cover over what pride or shame covers up.’ He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.’ (Proverbs 28:13) (Your God is too Safe p 170) Last I checked pride is sin, aren’t we compounding the original sin or subsequent sin? Sin does create separation and barriers: “If anyone is going to love you and if you are going to love anyone the way Scripture exhorts and commands, you’re going to have to show someone the real you. The real you will have to stand up. You’ll need to confess.” (Ibid)

I really like how Pastor Buchanan expands on what this separation and barrier of unconfessed sin creates. Are we Christians, loving not just each other, but those who may even actively oppose us? And not this phoney, shmaltzy, cheesey love. Love is genuine put it on the line, up to the point of sacrificing your life for the best and betterment of someone who truly needs you to stand up for them? How can we truly be the Body of Christ, to trust our lives, to truly be a part of the integrated Body of Christ, if we let sin, pride separate us. We still need to use discretion, as I pointed out in my last blog, there is someone who you should trust with high confidence. Your Pastor. At least as a Lutheran, your pastor has a high level of training, is under the seal of the confessional, which is still recognized under secular and canonical law, who cannot discuss anything with anyone else that you discuss with him. As you grow in relationship with other Christians, sure you should be much more open with them. But remember your pastor has a lot to offer, including: “as a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ I tell you, for Him, that you are forgiven.” You want an authority figure on the matter, who is better suited than your pastor?

But Buchanan presents the perspective of a regular practice of unconfessed sin: “The first is that Christian fellowship becomes a masquerade – a game of hide-and-seek, of pretense and jargon, with no real life and no real depth. We end up investing so much in the appearance of holiness that we miss the substance of it. We end up so preoccupied with saving face that we fail to live in God’s saving grace. We walk around with insecurity and fear: If you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me. The Only reason you like me is you don’t really know me.” (Ibid)

In other words, a phoney Christian life. I have gone into churches where there’s a lot of phoniness, there’s no real Christian confession, just as Buchanan points out; “pretense and jargon” and that is just not a healthy place to be. You can almost cut the subterfuge with a knife. It’s almost suffocating. In a congregation where  confession, trust, openness, smacks you right in the face like a crisp, winter seabreeze, it’s bracing and challenging, and it’s also refreshing and just makes you want to push right in and get more.

“But confession and true fellowship are deeply joined. John in his first letter makes that explicit. He writes, ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1: 8-9).”  He goes on to note that: “…When we walk in the truth and in the light, we have real fellowship … not among perfect people, but honest ones, people willing to deal with their imperfections. Otherwise we have a country club, not a church.”

“That’s one consequence of a people without the holy habit of confession: Our fellowship becomes a shallow, gaudy, fickle thing, a nonfellowship, an exercise in faking it.” (Ibid pp 170-171) And isn’t that sin? Aren’t we called to fellowship? Aren’t we called to be genuine? It’s not easy and I doubt I will ever be “good” at it. But that’s not an excuse for me to avoid striving for it either.

Let’s do everyone a big favor, start to truly live that Christian life in confession. Let’s start trusting those clergy that God has give to us in order for us to grow closer to God, instead of all the pretense and baloney that we substitute instead. Let’s do our best to grow in our relationship with fellow Christians. Yes, we have to maintain some discretion and common sense. But at least keep pushing the boundaries. Can you get burned? Yup, but it won’t be on you, you will be living the life in Christ, it will be for that person who failed in your trust. Pray for them and for all Christians who can’t step up in maturity and move on as a faithful Christian disciple.

Confession, bone deep honest with God, with His minister

Dr Martin Luther did not post his 95 Theses and then be pursued for the next 30 odd years to have the baby thrown out with the bath water. He had problems with the Roman Church, but it was not about liturgy or Biblical practices, it was about abuses that arose from the Roman Church adding to the Bible. Communion, baptism, confession were not an issue, Luther had no problem with these because they were Biblical. He did have problems with the ways they had become corrupted, but not with the biblical principals.

However subsequent “reformers” chose to dump those practices that they just did not like. Not that they were unbiblical, they just didn’t like practices such as understanding that baptism meant new birth in Jesus. They just did not like that the bread and wine in communion, were the actual Body and Blood of Jesus, they didn’t like the idea of confessing to another person, even though the Bible is pretty clear. It frankly seems as though those who come through Reformed Christianity or other avenues that only seem to emphasize personal preferences, or personal improvement in order to further their own lives, come to the realization that the spiritual practices of Christianity do have a much more profound meaning and do what is far more important in our lives, build our relationship with God.

Mark Buchanan is very much in the Reformed Christian branch of Protestantism, an ordained Baptist minister and well known author. He also quotes Richard Foster, a Quaker, definitely not Lutheran!  In his book Your God is too Safe (p 166) “…Protestants became so scornful of the Roman Catholic practice of confession that we dropped it altogether and ended up creating churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs. This, too, bypasses the real issue of spiritual growth. Rather than bear fruit, we’ve tended to paint it on and hope nobody notices that we have no real roots or sap to grow fruit anyhow.”

Full disclosure, I would have to concede, that even though Lutherans retain the confessional, corporate and individual confession, they don’t really practice it. When I was at seminary, graduated 2010, the seminary chaplain held confession every Wednesday. Out of about 500 students and maybe 100 professors, staff etc, he said that he had about 25 people attend confession, about 5% of the possible population. I was one of the 5% and found great benefit in personal confession. Lutherans talk confession, but actual practice, eh… not so much.

Lutherans do practice corporate confession, meaning at the beginning of every worship, we have confession, agreeing we are sinners in need of divine forgiveness and then I announce that as “a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ and by His authority I forgive you all of your sins.” So I’m sure many feel that the base is covered.

Pastor Buchanan goes on to say: ” Confession is when we quit all the deal making, the sidestepping, the mask wearing, the pretense and preening and we get bone-deep honest before God…” (p 167)

“…In order to present our real selves to God, we need to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and honest about ourselves to at least one other trusted and godly person.” 

I submit, being a person that has to learn all about the subject, has been trained to listen, has taken an oath to never discuss anything that has been confessed to him, called the “sanctity of the confessional” which is even recognized under the law and would be a reason to discharge me from the ministry should I violate that sanctity, that maybe you want me to be that “trusted and godly person.” Puhlease do not get some goofy idea that this feeds some prurient interest on my part. Nothing could be further from the truth, hearing someone’s confession is not something that I relish or look forward to. But I see it as a responsibility. As a pastor I am going to be held to a higher standard in the final judgment and I am not going to be put in the position of being asked, “it would have helped people to know that you offered regular confession, you had the opportunity to do it, why didn’t you?

While Dr Luther did not have a problem with confession, he did have a problem with how the Roman church did business conducting confession. I will readily stipulate that because the concept of confession has been undermined and frankly trivialized by the Roman church (to wit, go and say five Hail Marys and the stations of the cross, come back and I will forgive you), that has allowed most to simply dismiss it as a relic of a past church. As a baptized Christian you are forgiven, we have that assurance when we take the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. Yes you are forgiven. Jesus died for all your sins. Your works do not add to your forgiveness.

Having said that Pastor Buchanan quotes Richard Foster (please note that Mr Foster is a Quaker, again not a Roman Catholic with an agenda, or Lutheran for that matter.):

“The person who has known forgiveness and release from persistent, nagging habits of sin through private confession [that is, to God alone] should rejoice greatly in this evidence of God’s mercy. But there are others for whom this has not happened. Let me describe what it is like. We have prayed, even begged, for forgiveness and though we hope we have been forgiven, we sense no release. We doubt our forgiveness and despair at our confession. We fear that perhaps we have made confession only to ourselves and not to God. The haunting sorrows and hurts of the past have not been healed. We try to convince ourselves that God forgives only the sin; he does not heal the memory. But deep within … we know there must be something more. People have told us to take our forgiveness by faith and not call God a liar. Not wanting to call God a liar, we do our best to take it by faith. But because misery and bitterness remain in our lives, we again despair. Eventually we begin to believe either that forgiveness is only a ticket to heaven and not to affect our lives now, or that we are unworthy of the forgiving grace of God.”

I’ve had men tell me “I don’t confess my sin to men.” Well tough guy that’s not biblical, it’s just not. James’ epistle 5:16 clearly states: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Ya, you may think you have it altogether, but honestly, those are the type of people that end up with all sorts of additional problems that they allow to come between themselves and God. The manly thing to do? I did it. Sit across from someone who you can trust and say I need absolution, I need to know from someone I can trust (your pastor) that I am forgiven. If you want to go into detail I will certainly listen and help you. I do not, however, need to hear the detail. I do not even need to hear the particular besetting sin. But if you are in any doubt, or need assurance, your pastor will sit across from you and provide that. That is at least for those churches that provide for confession.

Listen, tough guy, you want to be tough? Stand up, admit your sin, know that you are forgiven, go back into the world and truly live the life in Christ. Frankly the biggest cowards I’ve seen are the ones that can’t stand up to their sins, to those they’ve sinned against and of course that is always against God. Who refuse to know that they are forgiven and will know how to live his life truly in Jesus. Ask yourself can you really continue to live a life that is as Pastor Buchanan describes: “in churches of smiling, laughing, savvy people who are dying on the inside and too afraid to let anyone know. First Church of the Whitewashed Tombs.” Ya know, going through the motions, doing the “right” thing, knowing that you are just living a farce, never really dealing with your relationship with Jesus and your fellow man, just making it up. Wow, this is from guys who would tell me how much they can’t stand phonies. Ya, really dude? Take a look in the mirror.

Let’s all be real, strong men (and women), deal with the things we need to deal with, with someone we can trust. Get in their with your pastor, tell him what’s happening, get the assurance that you are forgiven in Jesus, maybe some objective guidance as to how to move on from a besetting sin, put it behind you and grow in your relationship with Jesus. Sorry guys, you are nowhere near as smart and tough and savvy as you think. I know that, because I know I’m not. Let’s get real together, move on as men together and do some real stuff. Then we can really smile, laugh and be savvy and show the world what it really means to be a Christian man.

Confess and pray to one another that we will be healed James 5 First St Johns September 27, 2015

[For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link]

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 trust in the Lord for healing body and soul said … AMEN!

If you have been to a healing service here, our epistle lesson this morning will sound familiar. The first verse is instructional to all of us “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. We should not just pray, but also praise.

Certainly I appreciate the faith of those who come to the healing service and are looking to God for healing. This service isn’t my invention, it is in the Lutheran Service Book and we who are brothers and sisters in Jesus know the pericopes in the Gospels that are about the many healings that Jesus did. He healed people who were suffering from demonic possession, the man with the withered hand, the woman with the flow of blood, the man who couldn’t walk etc. We know that if it is God’s will and we lift up in prayer, by ourselves and/or part of a Christian group that God will heal. I think that the line “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick” is interesting. It says the prayer of faith will “save” the one who is sick. We know that it is not always God’s will to heal. The healing service includes “we also pray that those who are suffering do not lose faith.” As much as the healing service is about physical healing, it is also about spiritual healing.

I do not give them a 30-day money back guarantee when I do the healing service. I can’t promote this service as if it’s some Benny Hinn football stadium rally in front of 30,000 people. What about the people who don’t make it on the stage in time? Too bad for them? How come Benny Hinn can’t heal everyone in the stadium, if he has this miraculous power? Seems they have to come up on stage in front of the crowd and cameras so that he can make a spectacle out of his “healing”. I very much believe in the healing power of God. I very much believe that when faithful brothers and sisters gather together to pray for healing that it is effective. I don’t believe that I should turn it into a spectacle. Because I’m special? That I just send healing requests to the Throne of God and He heals on command? “Oh was that Driskell, he needs someone healed of cancer? OK, Jim’s my boy, there ya go healed.” This is the sin of presumption. I don’t set up the stadium, have a whole lot of people show up and bibady, bobady boo, everyone’s healed on my word. That would be great, but that’s not how God works. It’s about His will and who He wants healed and, in some cases, who He wants to take home. As one wag on the internet said, if these Benny Hinn types are so great, why don’t they stop at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which specializes in the treatment of pediatric cancer in Boston and heal all the children there? Seems the people who do this are more interested in self-promotion and the spot-light.

This is one of the ways the world sees Christians as gullible, superstitious, and presumptuous. Because of this many dismiss Christianity as silly and fatuous. They dismiss the Lord Jesus, He who died to save us, to be our redemption for our sins, to put us in right relationship with the Father. Yes our earthly life is important, but our eternal life in the resurrection is so much more important. That is all dismissed by the world because they don’t want to be one of those silly, easily influenced Christians. It does make me wonder: “OK, you don’t believe that Jesus can heal, what do you have that’s better?” I never get a straight answer, but the attitude seems to be, that they are too dignified, just plain too full of themselves to believe in silly Christian superstition. It really is kind of a metaphor of the world. I’m not going to believe what Jesus did for me for the sake of my dignity. There is no other solution, so I’m going to make my pride, the important factor, reject Jesus and be eternally condemned. OK, whatever? I can relate to the feeling that there are too many out there who try to make a side show attraction out of healing, which never seems to help the sick person and just makes Christians look silly.

The old country preacher was holding a healing service and he invited anyone to come up for healing. Billy comes up and says “Pastor I need help for the hearing.” Preacher raises his hands up in prayer, puts his hands over Billy’s ears, sticks his finger in Billy’s ears, loudly pronouncing and appealing for healing. Finally he stops and looks at Billy and asks can you hear? And Billy says I can hear fine, I need prayer for the court hearing next week. Yes that was a Chuck Swindoll.

Even the secular world has come around to the fact that there is power in faithful, prayer. Dr Harold Koenig, MD, was a professor at the Harvard Medical School for many years, and one of the things that he taught on was how prayer, faithful Christians have helped many people. Much research has shown that people who are prayed for actually do have better recoveries, fewer complications. Even more compelling those who know they’re being prayed for have even better results than. We have our prayer list that we pray over at every worship, at the prayer group that meets Sunday after worship, and at our prayer breakfast. You are encouraged to take the list in your bulletin home with you and include it in your daily prayers at home. When people ask me to put someone on that list, I ask them to give me the persons mailing address so that I can send them a postcard telling them they’re being prayed for. Sure I do that partly because I’ve seen the research that shows they will have a better result when they know they’re being prayed for and also I do it in faith for what St James tells us, to pray over the person, and our healing service is an effective way to pray over a sick or ailing person. But it’s always in trust that regardless of the outcome it is according to God’s will.

Dr Koenig is now the director at Duke University’s Center for spirituality, theology and health. We’re not talking about Bob Jones University, we are talking about very secular institutions of higher learning, Harvard and Duke have both come to recognize man isn’t just a physical machine, we are also spiritual beings that can be healed through the power of prayer that St James tells us about.

An article in Web MD states: “Research focusing on the power of prayer in healing has nearly doubled in the past 10 years,…” Dr Mitchell Krucoff states: “All of these studies, all the reports, are remarkably consistent in suggesting the potential measurable health benefit associated with prayer or spiritual interventions.” The article quotes other research: “These studies show that religious people tend to live healthier lives.  In fact, people who pray tend to get sick less often, as separate studies conducted at Duke, Dartmouth, and Yale universities show. Some statistics from these studies:

  • Hospitalized people who never attended church have an average stay of three times longer than people who attended regularly.
  • Heart patients were 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not participate in a religion.
  • Elderly people who never or rarely attended church had astrokerate double that of people who attended regularly.

Also, says Koenig, “people who are more religious tend to become depressed less often. And when they do become depressed, they recover more quickly from depression. “[1]  We are told to raise up prayers to God and to ask Him for prayer. I would never, ever tell you not to pray for healing. But our prayer has to be in terms of trusting God, relying on His will. His will is not always to heal, but He often does and when it happens it is staggering. But we don’t do it in a prideful, presumptuous way as if God performs services on demand. It is about the faith God gives us and His will, His plan. His will is always, better than ours. Even at the times when we don’t see it that way, we realize later, that whether God chose to heal or not, it was the best result and God uses that healing or lack thereof to His glory, not making it a spectacle. Clearly, as St James tells us: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

We lift up prayer here at First St Johns for a reason. We are not here to make gratuitous gestures, go through the motions, we are a people of faith and we trust when God tells us to pray for those who are sick. Yes, the secular findings are interesting, but regardless, we trust God’s word to heal or to take a loved one home. We trust His will and we will continue to be people who take prayer seriously. Not just for physical healing, but as Dr Luther tells us, as a pastor I am a seel sorger, a “soul healer”. I want to be involved in physical healing, but also in the healing of the spirit. Healing of the spirit is certainly for life in this world, but our Lord Jesus has given us the ultimate healing, the forgiveness of our sins, our reconciliation with God the Father who heals our soul that we will live in the eternal perfection of the resurrection.

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

[1]http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal

Church is important Douglas Morton of Institute of Lutheran Theology

This is a big issue to me, I hear so much nonsense, to the effect “I’m too smart for church”. Yet when someone needs it, they expect the church, the people, the worship etc, to be AJ perfect, even though they haven’t done anything to contribute to it. It is important to be a part of the Christian community and that culminates every Sunday morning in worship. For too many people in our society today, it’s the only time when (at least Lutheran worship), it’s about God and not about them.

There  is so much to be done, and there is nothing more important than witnessing to the love, strength, comfort, power of Jesus Christ and the eternal life of the resurrection that He promises. But to be in communion with Christ, you have to be in communion with His Body which is the church. We are His for eternity beginning with being part of His Body in worship and service. The following is from Douglas Morton, take some time to consider what it is to be part of the Body of Christ in worship, service and the prelude to life and life eternal and abundant in Jesus.

Institute of Lutheran Theology, Douglas Morton
Yesterday at 11:06am ·
“You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian?”
True. Nor do you have to breathe to be human. However, we know what happens when we don’t breathe.
The Gospel is the message of sins freely forgiven in Christ. This Gospel gives us life. It’s also what we are to find and breathe in when we “go to church.” Below are four ways this Gospel comes (or should come) to us with its fresh air in the church service.
First, in “church” we come in contact with the word of God. If this doesn’t happen in your congregation, then find another. I’m not saying the church service is the only place we come in contact with God’s word. What I am saying is that the church service is the important place for this to happen. Here we listen to the Scriptures. God’s word often permeates the hymns. The pastor proclaims this word to us in the sermon. We hear both law and Gospel; the law to show us our sins and the Gospel to show us our Savior, who freely takes away our sins. We can get the law in many places. God has even written it on our hearts. However, the Gospel is foreign to us. It must come to us from the outside, in a word from God. Thus, “church” is a great place to hear this Gospel.
Second, in “church” we come in contact with two visible ways (often called “the visible word”) God proclaims his forgiveness for us. In Baptism, we meet the God who puts his name on us – “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” – and marks us as his own. In the Lord’s Supper, we meet the whole Christ in his body and blood broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Third, in “church” we hear God’s audible word of pardon for our sins. This voice comes not in an “immediate voice from heaven,” but in the voice of another, our pastor. Certainly we can hear this absolution elsewhere, from other people. However, many church services begin with a confession of sins. Here we admit before God that we have sinned and need his forgiveness. Then comes absolution, where God speaks his word of pardon to us through the voice of our pastor.

Finally, in “church” we gather with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We share with each other God’s love and forgiveness in the Savior. This sharing is called the “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.” There is something wonderful and refreshing about being around others who share with each other the Gospel of sins forgiven in Christ.
The Gospel word is the only word that gives us breath, and thus spiritual life. We live in a world that often suffocates our faith in Christ. In “church” we gather around the fresh air of the life-giving Gospel. The Holy Spirit uses this Gospel to create and sustain our spiritual breathing, thus sustaining our spiritual life.
By the way, “I’d much rather use the words “Worship Service,” or better yet, “Divine Service,” than “church” or “church service.” The “Church” is God’s people. These people come together in the service. Here God serves each with the Gospel that creates and sustains faith. And in faith, we respond with thanksgiving and a life of service.
The Gospel of sins freely and totally forgiven in Christ is the most important air we will ever breathe. Find a Christian congregation that proclaims this Gospel in all of its wonders. Gather regularly with others to breathe in this life-giving word of forgiveness in Christ. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot of fresh air to inhale.
Douglas V. Morton, the writer of the above article, is the Director of Certificate Programs and Director of Communications at the Institute of Lutheran Theology, an Independent Lutheran Seminary, in Brookings, South Dakota (http://www.ilt.org). He is also Senior Editor of the school’s magazine, The Word at Work and on the Faculty in the Certificate Programs. He is coauthor of From “Vesper Chimes” to ‘The Way International” and The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way Word. He has also written for the Journal of Pastoral Practice, The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, and for The Word at Work. You may contact him at dmorton@ilt.org.