Tag Archives: discipling

Rebuke, Exhort! Don’t minimize and “tolerate”

St Paul wrote the largest amount of the content of the New Testament. Certainly the Gospels are specifically about the life and teachings of Jesus. But on the road to Damascus Jesus personally knocked Paul off his donkey and made Paul focus on who Jesus is and what being a Christian is all about. From there the Holy Spirit took Paul in hand and led Paul to be one of the greatest missionaries of Christianity and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Christian teacher. Many people like to minimize doctrine, but without Paul’s writings on doctrine we would have very little understanding of our Christian faith, a lot of what we accept as normal Christian practice, we would have to guess about, without Paul.

Paul founded a number of churches during his mission trips and he spent a lot of time and ink teaching people the important aspects of being a Christian. His “epistles”, letters, were written to people in Corinth, Thessalonica, Rome, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Colassae, and undoubtedly other groups in the Roman Empire. These were to address issues the churches were dealing with, or to pass on to them important aspects of being a Christian. In addition to Paul’s epistles to the churches, he also mentored, at least two pastors, Timothy and Titus. His letters to them were how to be pastors and how to lead congregations in the difficult times that these churches, all Christians, were going through at the time of Paul’s letters. Much of what Paul writes about is directly applicable to the Christian church and Christian pastors today.

Paul was not a shrinking violet, he had to contend with an immense amount of adversity during his ministry which culminated in being beheaded. As I said, Paul was probably the greatest missionary and pastor in Christian history. But if you really read Paul’s writings most Christians today, would be taken aback by Paul’s straightforward, even abrupt pastoral style. He wasn’t playing around, things had to be done in the church and in confronting a pagan and hostile society. Again so much of what Paul had to deal with we see today. While I’m not telling people to go out and be contentious, look for fights, or not try to be winsome and inviting, I am saying that there will be many times where you have to be straightforward in proclaiming the Gospel and not worry about who will be “offended”, or upset. As Christians and certainly not pastors we are not here to patronize people, or play to the crowd. As a pastor I took vows, to my death, promising to proclaim the Gospel. Many will be offended as Jesus tells us in KJV Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” The adolescent whining you will often hear while proclaiming the Gospel is just a convenient way for people to not deal with the truth. They will be held accountable for their silly little posturing, but we can’t let them intimidate us into shutting up about Jesus and that’s what they’re shooting for.

Believe me if they had interacted with Paul, they would think that someone like me is a little candy cane. Paul wanted to make it clear to churches, like Corinth and Thessalonica, that the Gospel is not about kid gloves. It’s about people’s eternal life, that is the ultimate issue, even if people don’t recognize it. It’s not up to us to candy-coat it or treat it like entertainment. It’s up to us to proclaim it with great knowledge, great compassion, integrity and urgency. Treat the Gospel in a way that is with utter respect as to its importance, not the way most people treat it which is a secondary issue and why worry about it, God will work everything out. I get that attitude all the time and it is just not true.

 

Paul writes to Timothy, one of his disciples who he is mentoring as a pastor. Timothy is in Ephesus, he is a young preacher and it would seem that he was contending with a lot of different people who were teaching false doctrine. Paul tells Timothy: “ESV 2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Paul is telling Timothy you know what is important, you know what you need to do, don’t stop doing it just because there are some people who are opposing you and trying to shut you up. We see that in too many young pastors today, “I don’t want anyone to get mad, I don’t want to offend anyone”. I look at it in terms of; “am I worried about upsetting this guy here, or God”? If it’s a choice, I’m sure not going to upset God. Paul makes it clear that it’s about what is in Scripture.

To underline that he goes on to write in the strongest terms: “ESV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul is serious and he’s telling Timothy; by all that we hold as holy, you need to go out and teach that. Don’t pull punches, don’t tell people what they want to hear. That’s not your call, your call is to tell people what God has given us in Scripture. Anything else would be to “suit their own passions”, which isn’t God’s intention, is it? Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort. These are not make nice words. Paul’s words are telling Timothy to make sure people understand these words are serious. Don’t let people get away with it if they’re trying to sell nonsense. We see that today with so many false teachers, it’s no less today than it was 2,000 years ago. Today when you’re faithful to Paul’s teaching you’re going to catch all kinds of flak as to how mean, judgmental, unloving, whatever phobic and whatever other adolescent prattle you hear from people who don’t want to hear God’s word and want to wallow in their nasty little sin. But they still expect God to come through for them and save them, do things their way. Bizarre, but people today truly expect everything their way and that includes God. After all, to quote the prattle from false teachers, God just wants us to be happy! Huh!? God wants us to become mature Christian disciples. That’s much more than “happy”.

Titus was probably an older man, another of Paul’s disciples and he was the pastor of the church on the island of Crete. Ever hear the expression “Cretans”? Not a flattering expression. Titus apparently had to deal with some pretty crude actors.

Paul gave Titus the same direction. Don’t be bashful, preach the truth of the Gospel: “ESV Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” The last part “Let no one disregard you.” Don’t be brushed off or ignored, don’t let people patronize you, and wow you see a lot of that in the world today dealing with Christians. No! This is the truth, you may not like it but don’t be cavalier about it either, this is serious, treat it as such.

Paul goes on to write: “ESV Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Yes doctrine does matter, don’t play around or minimize it, preach it. “7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,” Have Christian integrity, stick to what you know is the truth, be faithful and strong. But do it with dignity too. Don’t look silly and get all emotional and flakey. Assert the truth and move on. People too often don’t treat Christians seriously, make them take you seriously know what you’re talking about. Now more than ever we need to take those words seriously and stop putting on shows of “tolerance” or accommodation. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) There is no other truth! You may disagree with me, but you have to take Jesus’ words seriously.

As Christians we get a lot of just straight out stupid messages from the world. Too often we make the mistake of trying to dignify them, of being too gracious. Paul, Timothy, Titus and us, we don’t have that luxury. We need to be serious strong disciples and evangelists and witness in a way that we will be taken seriously. It’s not always going to result in conversion, but, Paul told both his disciples, don’t be bashful, rebuke wrongful teaching. Don’t get defensive about someone telling you you’re being judgmental. Say what you want and try to use weenie words to avoid the truth, I’m telling you the truth, and it is judgmental. If you disregard the truth of Jesus Christ : “ESV John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” I’m telling you the truth, if you chose to ignore it or minimize it you’ve “judged”, “condemned” yourself, not me.

I am holding on to you John 16 First St Johns May 1, 2016

[please click on the above for the audio of this sermon]

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 know that the great I AM is holding on to them said … AMEN!

I AM holding on to you, I AM holding on to you, in the middle of the storm I AM holding on I AM. For those who are convinced that I’m a stodgy fuddy-duddy, who just can’t get contemporary Christian music, I assure you that is completely inaccurate. I will compare my library of “contemporary” Christian music going back over twenty years to yours any day of the week.

One of the newer artists is David Crowder, the last Winter Jam we went to he was there and he really is great. I think he gets it a lot better than a lot of Christian musicians and yes, sad to say, there is a lot of junk out there.

One of his newest songs is titled “I Am”, if you listen to the song without really “hearing” it, it will sound as if me, you, the desperate sinner whoever that is, is almost frantically proclaiming that he is holding on. Sort of like me on a real roller-coaster. I don’t like roller-coasters, and when I am on one, I am probably thinking about how much “I am holding on”. But that’s not the point of the song and it is a really good illustration about our relationship with Jesus.

When Crowder says I AM holding on to you, who is the I AM? …  Yes, Jesus. In the middle of the storm I AM holding on to you. We have that assurance all the way through as to who it is that is really holding on. Jesus says, in our reading, “…whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you.” Now that is a huge assurance that in Jesus when we ask we will get what we need. More than that, when we think we’re asking in Jesus’ Name and we’re not, we’re asking for something that is not going to build us in Jesus or glorify Him or witness to the world for Him, we won’t get it. Why? Because He is holding on to us, even when we have a bad idea or motivation, He is holding on to us to protect us from ourselves and the world. Between John 6: 35 to 51, Jesus refer to Himself four times as “I AM the Bread of Life”. I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the door, I AM the water of life over and over. The people listening to Him all knew exactly what He meant, Yahweh told Moses that His Name is I AM. They understood His reference to the bread that Yahweh provided for their ancestors in the desert. They understood their need for that physical bread, and also the bread that “strengthens and preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.” That Jesus was saying I AM the bread. He was telling them that He is God the Son, the only one who could give them what they need to preserve them in their daily lives, but also for spiritual nourishment, to strengthen, preserve and prepare them to life eternal in the resurrection, as He was going to be shortly resurrected. The difference being our resurrection will be in the perfect world of the eternal earth.

Crowder writes “this is my resurrection song”, saying again that it’s about what Jesus did, He who died in order to save us from our sins, who was perfect, perfectly holy and God the Son, the only One who would be sufficient to pay those sins and in doing so gave us the hope and promise that we need in order to know that we are saved. Not just saved but also given the very visible, tangible evidence of our salvation. The perfect Son of God, tortured, mocked, humiliated, killed so that our sins are completely paid for. Not what we did, but entirely what He has done and continues to give us the assurance that He has provided everything necessary for us to live in this world in Him, and as it says in the Revelation reading: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” That is, we will be in the very presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the resurrected, perfected, eternal world.

Through all of our readings today, it is being made abundantly clear, who’s we are and in Whose hand we are and will always be.

Luke tells about Paul who is headed east, toward Asia. The Holy Spirit gives Paul a dream of a man in Greece, Macedonia, asking Paul to cross from Asia Minor to bring the Gospel message to Greece. Paul’s journeys have been entirely in faith to Jesus who knocked him off his horse on the road to Damascus. While Paul was taking the initiative to spread the Gospel, it’s obvious when we look at all he had to endure that it was the great I AM who was holding on to him, guiding him in his ministry. Paul had the things that he was told by the apostles in Jerusalem, by men who had been Jesus’ disciples during His incarnational ministry. He had his encounter with Jesus, he certainly had his experience of being raised to the third heaven. But the Holy Spirit was leading him into places that had never heard of Jesus. Paul didn’t have a New Testament to show people and help them to see who Jesus is. But Jesus was holding on to him, even in new places where Paul had to trust entirely in Christ. There were no churches, no clergy, no funds to live on, no Bibles, no radio, internet or television. Just Paul and maybe Timothy, Barnabas, Mark, maybe Peter caught up to him. Much more powerfully it was the great I AM who promised to hold on to him, did hold on to him and lead him to where he needed to be to build those churches, establish the Christian leaders who would be the catalyst of Christianity to grow around the entire world.

Finally He gives them the ultimate hope and promise; “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” It’s not up to us to overcome the world. We’re not going to be able to overcome the world, Jesus will. The world will ultimately become so corrupted, sin-filled, beyond the possibility of any kind of rehabilitation or redemption that it will be destroyed. Yea, I guess many people would wag their finger saying how mean that will be of God. “Why can’t God just leave us alone and let us be happy?” You hear people regularly ask. Because the world they envision, filled with destruction, despair, anger, intolerance will become an intolerable place to live, even to those who think that complete independence from God will form some kind of utopia. It won’t, the world today, all around us, is filled with despair, hopelessness. We see people substituting that hope with greed, drugs, sex, alcohol, things that separate us, divide us, even cause us to confront each other in anger, violence and destruction. The only thing that will unify us, bring the world together is the peace and hope of Christ, who through Him all creation came into existence. Jesus’ promise in our reading that yes, we will have tribulation, but in the things that He has promised us, we will have peace, we will have true life and life more abundant, our life in this world and especially in the life of the resurrection. The great I AM is holding on to us.

Crowder’s song may sound like the desperate floundering of someone who is just barely holding on, but it really is about the assurance that no matter what we’re going through, being led to some unknown to witness to Jesus, to serve others, going through the storms of life, that the great I AM is holding on to us and not the other way. He holds on to us even when we try to pull away, when we ask in His Name He is faithful to keep holding on, always for our good in Him.

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

Will God really bless you’re being MIA from the real church?

Since I’ve been in ministry over five years, I think I can make some valid assessments. Especially being in a downtown/inner city church. While it is inner city and there are violent incidents, I can honestly say that there has been very little impact while I have been there. We’ve had a couple of incidents of material vandalism, but these were isolated, no one really even around. A couple of incidents of people who needed to be confronted, one physically removed. But I frankly don’t believe it’s anymore than any other church. We all have our unfortunate incidents, a downtown church is not immune from that. I grew up and lived in a larger city for over thirty years. There’s nothing in York that is really impressively violent. It’s certainly not parts of Boston, Detroit, Baltimore etc. While I can’t give you hard measurements, it seems that if anything, at least for the area surrounding First Saint Johns, things have improved, since I’ve been here.

Another observation I’ve made is the number of “realists” who think that their uninformed opinion and their life in general is just A-J squared away and that they have some compulsion to share it. Part of that is this disregard for the importance of the serious Christian church, especially in the urban area.

At First Saint Johns, there is a faithful group of people, who genuinely want to be part of the community. Now, that has been somewhat stunted because of some negative influences among the membership. More and more that is being pushed aside and the church is more and more being a part of the community.

But we still have many outside of the church who seem to think that it is all about them (and yes, there certainly is that element in the church), that the church is there solely to meet their needs. It’s as if it’s some kind of social service agency that is just there to meet their needs and then leave them alone.

For those outside of the church, I’ve had many over and over who show up and expect people to just hand over things. People showing up around worship is a regular routine. Apparently the scenario is that I’m too busy to really deal with them, so I’ll just hand over what they want, they seem to think that I don’t want them there to begin with. Seems that they may be a disruption and I don’t want to deal with that. Yea, I’m just not going to rise to that bait. My standard procedure is to tell them to go to worship and then I’ll have time to talk to them afterwards. We have fellowship time after worship and they’re certainly welcome to share. I know that doesn’t go over big with some people in the church, but again I’m not there to play to those who have been there decades and expect that I’m supposed to be on their script. In five years there’s been a couple of people who’ve stayed and it gives me a chance to see a little of what they’re about and, maybe, help them. For the most part, when they see that the their plan isn’t going to play out the way they want, they unceremoniously leave.

When someone like that actually does want to talk, one thing I emphasize is what they’re going to do in order to pull things together. That being a part of a church community is probably one of the few places in our world today that you can build a genuine human face-to-face relationship. I try to impress upon them that people are much more willing to help and help in a meaningful way, if they will make the first step to become part of that community. I have seen it work. Too often, the subject person just won’t give it a legitimate try and walks away in scorn. But for some who have really done it the right way, I have seen them grow and begin to pull a real life together. Not saying it’s perfect, but I think and I’ve been told, that it has made a real change.

This is the more obvious example, but everyone out there needs to build genuine relationships and of course the most vitally important relationship is with Jesus. There is simply no way to build that relationship unless you are in a church body, the Body of Christ, with genuine, faithful, orthodox Christian believers. Sure other non-Christian churches do build personal relationships, but they are not building people to relationships in Christ.

My question is: Does God bless someone when they are MIA (Missing In Action) from his genuine, evangelical, Law and Gospel preaching church? Have to tell you, the answer is a genuine no. I’ve had it happen a few times, most recently when we were doing an outreach, right out in front of the church for a large road race that goes right by the church. A man stops who’s asking me what’s the difference between our church and the local big box church, which of course he thinks is all that and a bag of chips.

I told him, First Saint Johns is genuine worship. We’re not there for entertainment and amusement and feel good Christianity. We are here to be genuine disciples. Jesus tells us in Matthew: [ESV Matthew 7:22] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'” And Jesus replies to them: “[ESV Matthew 7:23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” Sorry, but there are too many “pastors” out there who are playing to the crowd and too many crowds expecting to be entertained and patted on the head, who both think that what they’re doing is genuine worship. Not only that, but I’ve had this a few times, people who have had nothing to do with a genuine church, but when real life happens (as compared to big-box churches who generally will tell you that everything is just hunky-dory so long as you have faith), they expect a genuine church to swoop in and give them the comfort of Christ in their tragedy. Sorry, but the big-box churches won’t do that, to them, any kind of trial is on the person being subjected to trial, they obviously didn’t have enough faith. But please, showup and tell me about your nice earth toned building that entertain you once a week, or whenever you show up, but does little in terms of growing disciples and genuine outreach to serve those in genuine need.

Let’s look at the Acts church, a genuine church. Now let’s put aside all the charismatic stuff. Because I’m sorry Pentecostal churches, the Acts Church was not dancing around making the Christian life all fun and games and miracles. Yes, there were miracles, but this was the church in its infancy, the Gospels hadn’t been written yet. The moving of the Holy Spirit discipled them, and that’s fine. But for subsequent churches, they were discipled by men who had been genuinely taught and trained and could teach from the writings of the Gospel writers. Faith was based and is based today on what we are taught and led by the Holy Spirit. Not some fatuous, pretentious claim of speaking in tongues, healing, prosperity, but genuine Christian discipleship. There are genuine Christians out there who don’t speak in tongues, who are unhealthy and who are not financially well off. There are too many phoney Christians out there who are pretty sure they know more than everyone, they can buy or work their way to salvation (I refer you to Donald Trump’s recent comments) and that it is according to their script. This ladies and gentlemen, is the Pharisaical philosophy of the big-box church. This was the Corinthian Church as compared to the Acts Church.

The Corinthian church had a bunch of pretty well to do members who were pretty sure it was all about them. They would tolerate gross sexual immorality, they would bring in their big feasts, send the poorer members out to the kitchen to forage what they could, while they enjoyed their big feasts with their fellow Pharisees in the stately dining room, of course befitting their position, opposed to those poor Christians in the kitchen.

The Acts Church was nothing like that. In fact Paul was out raising money to support the church in Jerusalem. The church had nothing to speak of, its members had nothing to speak of and basically every one lived hand to mouth. Living not for themselves, but for each other feeding each other, caring for each other, helping each other through the trials. The Corinthians would have pooh-poohed such a pathetic situation. Sound familiar? Now objectively looking at both, which church would you really say demonstrated genuine faith?

Referring back to those Pharisees who come and tell me how everything should be, “I’m going to share with you everything you need to know to do things right” types. (Really I swear these people think I just fell off the tuna trolley.) This type of person is an interesting study, they will tell you how smart they are, yet, not smart enough to know what they’re talking about, or who they’re talking to. They simply don’t let the facts get in their way. I would compare education, life experience, work ethic with any of them, but they simply are not interested in getting the full story, they just want to make sure they know that I know they know it all, and that I’m incredibly naive to think that anyone needs a genuine Law/Gospel, discipling Christian church. Hey, here’s a thought Mister know it all, I might actually know things that will help you, I can give you real ministry, trained, experienced, genuine, doctrine that’s been around for 500 years and has guided millions of people to Christ. You might actually get something out of a genuine Christian church and know what it truly means to be a Christian.

Now this applies to both those who are coming in demanding that I hand over what they want, so they can leave and buy their booze, drugs, sex etc. And to those who are quite sure that because of their blessings that they are all that and a bag of chips and if I were smart like them (heaven forbid) I should listen to them and they’ll get me all straightened out. I submit, that if you would give me the opportunity, you might finally realize that the poorly trained pastor (most barely have a “Bible School” training. The Lutheran Church generally requires a Masters Degree) at your pretty happy-clappy-earth toned theatre, (ya, hardly ever a real church, usually built like a theatre for entertainment versus a genuine sanctuary. And you’re never going to see a crucifix, and probably not any type of cross or other meaningful Christian symbol. Because hey that would just harsh everyone’s buzz). Contrast with the “pastor” who really has no life experience, no real education, thinks that being a Christian (like to much of the world is entertainment and a handful of nice cliches, which are not usually even biblically based), mostly because he/she is immature and has never lived any life yet, but hey at least they make you feel good.

But when you want true Christian ministry, because you are now confronted with genuine crisis, genuine trials and you realize the “churches”, Christian mantras and “feel good”/prosperity prattle really doesn’t help you to cope in life, you may not have a church to come back to. You may find that genuine Christian ministry doesn’t have time for you. Does God really bless and support you when you’ve rejected His real church for decades? That you’ve failed to raise your children in a real church? That you’ve made it all about you and nothing about Jesus who died as a payment for your sins? That you expect an already overworked, extended pastor, who has been doing genuine ministry, for people who have been leading a genuine Christian life, that pastor is going to drop everything and jump through hoops for you? You, a person who expects people to jump through hoops and yet you make little if any sacrifice from your own life? That’s the sin of “simony”, when Peter told the sorcerer Simon that he should perish with his money. Do me and a lot of genuine pastors out there, a favor, keep your money. My integrity is only in Christ and what He did for me. Show some real integrity on your part and start supporting a genuine church of Christ. Are you genuine or do you just talk a good game? I know for most of those people who want to tell me what it’s really all about, they talk a good game, but they wouldn’t know genuine Christian ministry and discipleship if it bit them in the  nose. I’ve seen a lot of types, in different areas of my life, who have managed to do well in life, by doing very little except talk a good game, but not really know what it is to be a new creation in Christ.

Too many out there need to pick the real team, get back in the real game. Great things are happening here at First Saint Johns Church. To be sure God is going to work His blessing, with or without you. For once in your life, listen instead of presuming to know what is really going on. For those who have been truly serving for so long in God’s church, they need others to step up as genuine Christians to begin to do genuine Christian service and ministry, in a place where it really matters. If you’re really all that smart, show us how real Christian ministry can lead others to eternal life in Christ and genuine service in the world, true disciples.

Call me intemperate, over the top, but it’s way past time for many to step up and take real responsibility for their role in Christ’s church and to support genuine ministry and not ministry that is solely about entertainment and tickling your ears. I will be working my butt of supporting genuine ministry to genuine Christians, those who have been there for Jesus’ church through all the trials, tribulation and celebrations. I owe them my time and I will give as much time, talent and treasure as God leads me to do, day or night, 24/7. How do I know that? Because that’s what I’ve been doing. But for those who expect to drop in then drop out, you may not have a place to go. My time, talent resources are genuine, they’ve been given to me by God to use in His service and the priority for those resources are going to be for the benefit of those who have served and been disciples in Christ’s church. For those who think that the church is their for their convenience and just don’t seem to get true ministry, they may well have to wait. Let’s see real Christian men jump into the true fight and not sitting patting each other in your pretty little earth-tone churches.

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.

We are called to constant Reformation John 8 Community Reformation Service First Saint Johns Nov 1, 2015

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.

My sermon subject last week was, do we need a new Reformation? We are in Jesus. We do not live static, boring, stagnant, uninspired lives. We are children of the King, Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, all creation. We shouldn’t be waiting for a new Reformation, Reformation for us should be a continuous, exciting, challenging life full of new experiences, new opportunities, yes new adventures. Do you really believe we should be sitting around waiting for a new Reformation? Do we really see our Lord Jesus waiting? Not the Jesus of the Bible. He was always pushing, always entreating, exhorting and rebuking. Change is a constant in the Christian life. We were not given new life in Christ to go and hide from the world. If anyone honestly thinks that, they have no concept of one of Jesus’ great commandments. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Does anything in that statement imply sitting around and waiting? Do we need a new Reformation? OK, but starting right now, and until the time that we are called to be in the presence of the Lord, that Reformation should be continuous, joyful, exciting, provocative, a new daily experience.

I will grant you that yea, it sounds challenging, maybe even exhausting. Is that a reason to quit, not even try? I’m not going to try to sell you some idea that faithfully living the Great Commission means you charge right back out into that world and expect everything to fall right into place, exactly as you expect it to in Jesus. Did it for Jesus? No! Look at the rich, young ruler. Jesus gets right up in his grill, right where Jesus knew it would hurt that man the most and said “that’s great, you’re going to be one of my followers. Now you just run along, sell everything you have, turn it over to those who are truly in need and then you trot right back here and follow me. How’d that work out? Jesus said “you have to eat my Body and Blood…” what happened with the thousands who were listening? A large percentage of them picked up and left. “Hey we like this free food and all these nice platitudes, but come on, that’s just weird, eat His Body and Blood? See ya, I’m outta here.” Jesus didn’t chase after any of these people, begging them to come back to Him. The church does that today. Oh heavens, have someone walk out of church. Hey pastor you better run after that person and get them back, we have to keep up attendance numbers.

I would never say ignore anyone who rejects Jesus. Certainly they do need pastoral attention and care. But on the other hand, there will be those who have been in church for the wrong reasons. We can appeal to them and help them to understand. But in the final analysis, it’s always about what the Holy Spirit does. We faithfully follow and do what the Spirit leads us to, to those who don’t know Christ or who have rejected Him. But on the flip side, Reformation doesn’t mean conform to the ways of the world in order to somehow keep our numbers up. It does mean to continually look for the leading of the Holy Spirit and certainly Dr Luther did just that. He appealed to the world. When he posted his 95 Theses on that door in Wittenberg on the front door of the Castle Church. He wasn’t looking for a confrontation, he wasn’t trying to pick a fight. As a highly educated monk, a college professor, Luther had been looking at Scripture and comparing it to the actual practice of the Christian church at the time. He struggled mightily with this. He was a faithful part of the church, he was a highly regarded clergyman in his community. He had no reason to pick a fight. But more importantly than all that, he faithfully followed Christ. The Holy Spirit guided Luther in his study of Scripture and Luther knew that God’s word was right. How could it not be? Should he trust the church of the time to truly live according to Scripture? Obviously he didn’t and he was led by the Holy Spirit to point out where the church was wrong. He only wanted to bring it to the attention of the church. He trusted that the church had strayed into wrong doctrine and practice by accident. He wasn’t pointing the finger and accusing. He was sincerely lifting up questions and asking for an honest dialogue and to be genuinely led by the Holy Spirit to identify and correct the bad practices of the church. We can certainly say that Luther was probably naïve in the ways of the world, but as Christians, in some ways, we should only trust in Christ and not get caught up in the ways of the world. Does that make us look naïve? So be it. Jesus tells us:  ESV Luke 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” He is telling us to be shrewd and smart, but by the same token Jesus tells us: “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Should we trust the church? Yes, but as always there’s a limit. There are “Christian” churches out there who have gone way off the rails. The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, has stayed faithful, however that doesn’t mean blind trust there either. As I said, we are called to stand up, to challenge, to push, to continually live in Reformation. So can we always trust the church? No! There are churches who call themselves Christian who have lurched way off on the other side of wrong. Just recently there was an article about two women pastors, United Methodist and Episcopalian, who led a prayer rally to bless an abortion clinic.[1] Can the church be wrong? Oh yeah! Do we sit passively by and let the errors go? No, way! Luther certainly didn’t. But we better know what we’re talking about and we better accept, that just like Dr Luther, we are going to be subject to a lot of fire and flak. Too many times people see attacks on themselves as somehow meaning that they are wrong. Luther was attacked constantly through the rest of his life after 1517. Did that mean that he was wrong? No, obviously he was right. But when we challenge the church to Reformation, whether it be “Christian” churches who tell us that we need to have faith and if we do we will be pretty, smart, wealthy, happy, successful, or Christian churches that tell us that abortion and homosexuality are just A, skippy OK, we better know what we’re talking about. We are called to be those disciples that Jesus told us we need to be in the Great Commission Matthew 28. Was he sending them out into the world where everything would just fall into place and be nice and easy: “ESV Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Obviously not. Did he send Luther to make a nice easy, clean overhaul of the church? No! He became a marked man, there were people who would have happily burned him at the stake as they did with John Huss a hundred years earlier. Was Huss wrong, was Luther wrong? No! Obviously not, so when I say that Reformation should be a constant part of our church life, I am not saying that it is going to be clean and easy. What I am saying is that you better know what you’re talking about. Did Dr Luther know what he was talking about? Absolutely and he struggled with it mightily. When he says he was attacked by Satan I don’t doubt it for a minute. If you stand for the truth in Christ you put a target on your back and don’t think for a minute that Satan won’t take shots at that target. And believe me those shots will hurt, as well as the shots that you will receive from a world that thinks it’s ok to bless abortion clinics and call itself the church of Christ. You will! Is that a reason for you to stop standing up for the true church of Christ? No, but again you better know what you are talking about and what you are doing.

How do you do that? You need to be strong in prayer. Faithful to the true church. Take the true Body and Blood of Jesus faithfully and see that the sacraments, the preached word and the true church are faithfully living in Christ. Hold your pastors and your fellow Christians accountable. ESV 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” We are called to be faithful, to continually be in Reformation, to continually remember that it is about Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. That we preach, disciple and live Jesus’ words, in our Gospel reading: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”(John 8: 31-36) To truly be His disciples requires us to be faithful to His word.

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

[1] http://www.lifenews.com/2015/10/12/united-methodist-and-episcopalian-church-clergy-lead-prayer-rally-to-bless-abortion-clinic/

We are His saints, enriched by Him Matthew 5 All Saints Day First St Johns Nov 1, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon please 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 are saints in Christ said in a spirit of celebration and joy … AMEN

I am going to paraphrase Paul: “To the church of God that is in York, Pennsylvania to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 2-6)

Paul goes on to say to his brothers and sisters in Corinth as I would like to express those same sentiments to my brothers and sisters in York: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1: 7-8)

As His Saints we win and we didn’t do anything. Because He’s overcome, we have overcome. We have overcome the world. We have overcome death. We couldn’t do any of these things ourselves. While we like to think that we are so strong that we can achieve whatever we are confronted by, deep in our hearts we know we can’t. Why do you think that there is so much fear, anger, angst around us? All of these people who know perfectly well that they just can’t confront the world. They hear the lies of the world all around them and they try to believe them. They have to. Why? Because there is nothing else for them to believe. So they accept that they are somehow gifted, strong, personally endowed with some skill that is going to enable them to make it. But when you ask them what that looks like, how did they get there and for that matter, where is there? You get bewilderment, you get frustration. They don’t know. The world’s told them a lie, that they are somehow special. But they don’t feel special, they say they are. Students in the United States today rank way below the rest of the world in math, language, science. But they do rank first in one thing, in self-esteem. They feel good about themselves. But when you confront them with the reality of what that means, they have nothing. They are somehow special, but special how? They don’t know. Those around us today can’t perceive, or maybe more accurately don’t want to perceive anything past the next event. “Well let’s see what happens after the World Series. Let’s see what happens after the next election. Let’s see what happens after the next Federal Reserve meeting. Sure we wait to see the outcome, then what happens? Pretty much where we were. Nothing much has changed. We cling to the latest stock market numbers, and then we watch as our IRA’s, our financial future drop again. We think we have a way to make money on the stock market, we might even have a little success, then the market closes and we just spent money without lifting a finger. That affects the Christian and the non-Christian. But we have Jesus to cling to. He has overcome the stock market, the housing market, the GNP, the President and the Congress.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That’s us! Ours is the kingdom of heaven. It might not “feel” like it right now. Another thing that separates us from the world? It’s not about our feelings. It is about what Jesus has done, what He continues to do. It’s His promise of heaven and eternity. Things might not be that great for you right now. We all know perfectly well that there are Christians all over the world who are very much suffering for their witness to Christ. You see that last verse in our Gospel reading? “…for your reward is great in heaven…” We have all had days and will have days, when we don’t feel so great, when everything’s going wrong, the future looks doubtful. Are there times when we’d like to give up? Sure! But because we are saved the Holy Spirit doesn’t give up on us. Why? We are His, we aren’t allowed to give up and we won’t because the Holy Spirit saves us from ourselves. The world does not have that promise, believes Satan’s lies and gives up, gives up in the form of drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power. They honestly believe this will save them, but we all know, and they know deep inside too, it will make them slaves and condemn them.

As a saint, as one who is saved in Jesus you are saved, you have the promises of Jesus, you have new life in Jesus, you are a special, holy, sanctified person, completely saved in Jesus and the Father’s special child and you didn’t do anything to be any of that. God chose you, He saved you, He recreated you in baptism, He lifted you up from the waters of baptism a new creation in Him. He gives you His own Body and Blood. His ministers share His saving, life restoring word with you. You received all this. You should praise and glorify God for what He’s given you. But none of that is yours because of your praise or worship, it’s yours because God gave it to you in your baptism in Jesus. Randy Alcorn writes: “What God made us to desire, and therefore what we do desire if we admit it, is exactly what he promises to those who follow Jesus Christ [His Saints]: a resurrected life in a resurrected body, with the resurrected Christ on a resurrected Earth. Our desires correspond precisely to God’s plans. It’s not that we want something, so we engage in wishful thinking that what we want exists. It’s the opposite – the reason we want it is precisely because God has planned for it to exist. As we’ll see, resurrected [saints] living in a resurrected universe isn’t our idea – it’s God’s[1]

For those He has separated, not our choice, His decision. That’s something that we take to the bank. If Jim makes a decision for God what does that mean? Well did I do it the right way, did I do it at the right time? I’m fallible did I make some kind of mistake? It isn’t on me, I am hagios I am holy, separated. You and I are made to be a completely new and different being because Jesus redeemed you and me, He died for you and me, He paid for all of our sins and now we are made perfectly clean and holy. I am made to be completely acceptable to God because of Jesus. The Holy Spirit led me to be baptized and in that baptism I am cleansed from the sin I was born in and the sins I have committed in my life and made to be that new creature, His saint. Then as a part of His church, the Body of Christ, I am given His Body and Blood to strengthen me in Body and Spirit, to be newly cleansed of my sin, renewed in my Spirit. All because of what He did for us, nothing of what we did. We therefore have that assurance that because God did it that it’s done, completely right, totally in His power and none of it in ours. There can’t be a mistake, because of that we have complete assurance that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, in this worldly life and in the true life that is eternal and perfect in the resurrection. Journal about it for the next week, what does it mean to you to be a[gioj completely clean in Christ, how does that compare to what you see in the rest of the world, why is this a reason to give thanks, to praise and glorify our Savior Jesus Christ?

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

[1] Alcorn, Randy   Heaven  pp 7-8

Suffering as a Christian, supported by the Body of Christ, the Church

Despite what others say and might think it’s supposed to be, quite often becoming a Christian does mean that you are going to experience, at least, challenges, if not more. Now before you go running back to your little hiding place, where you’ve been hoping the rest of the world will just pass you by, I ask you, do you have a better idea? I don’t care if you’re a big tough guy, or a little woman, you all have your hiding places, thinking no one will see you and just pass you by. If you just let things alone, pass from life into death, you might just get through life without much difficulty. It is a lousy way to live the life that God has given you, but I guess you managed to get through without having your prissy little sensibilities hurt.  Good for you, you had a sad little life, you’ve sinned against God by piddling away your life and ignoring Him and since you did it all your way, and ignored God, well God has ignored you and let you condemn yourself to eternal separation from Him and eternal condemnation in Hell. You sent yourself there, God did permit it, goody for you, you had your free will.

For those who are in Christ you will experience challenges, there will be difficult times. It stands to reason, if you put yourself out there and are serving others you are going to take hits, you just are. In fact if you consider yourself a Christian and have just been cruising through, you might want to take a serious look at your relationship with Jesus, been a little too much about you and not really much about Him? I would question if you are still in relationship with Jesus and have slipped into the nice, cozy little world of condemnation.

My theme, lately, has been about the Body of Christ and how we all seem to feel like free agents, it’s all about me and Jesus and forgetting that it’s really about Jesus and His Body, His Bride, the church. All those fellow believers who are all experiencing challenges. Doesn’t it make more sense to turn to and rely on Christian brothers and sisters in times of trouble? Who else would know better the attacks of Satan and the world then someone else who has undergone those attacks? A brother or sister, someone who is in the Body, who also hurts when another part of the Body, you, me, brothers and sisters, has been hurt, we should be there to support others and know they support us.

We certainly have the Holy Spirit who is watching over us, we are protected, although we will stay take shots and hits in the world. But doesn’t it help more to have a flesh and blood brother watching over you and you watching over him? To build each other up and support each other? that other person may not be in the same church. I may not totally agree with him, but if he is genuinely in Jesus, we need to have each other’s “six”.

Whether you are new or been a long time in the Body of Jesus, you will experience adversity in the world. If the world rejected Jesus, it will challenge and reject you. That’s why you have the church and brothers and sisters. For those guys who think they’re so tough and can do it on your own, don’t be surprised when you are chewed up and spit out and leave yourself condemned to hell also, it will happen, I see men and women like that all the time. Tough guy, know it alls who end up flat on their back looking up at the sky and then expecting someone else to pick up the pieces because they were smart guys. If not for yourself, be there, at church, daily lives of Christians, for others to help them. I will bet an enormous amount you will be blessed and start wondering how you ever survived without brothers and sisters in Jesus.