Tag Archives: life in Jesus

Justified and sanctified in Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed to share Jesus’ blessings Mark 10: 17-22 First St Johns Oct 11, 2015

[For the audio 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 share God’s blessings with others said … AMEN!

Today’s reading should seem obvious to us, this is of course Mark’s take on the rich young ruler. To most of us today, we see charity as pretty much of a given, especially in the church. We do things here at First St Johns like the Food Bank, Panera Bread that we give to people on Monday mornings, helping people in job search, distributing clothing. A very few people give towards an “alms fund”, those funds are given to me and I use them to help people who are in genuine need. We do other things on a pretty regular basis. For the first century Jewish person, that kind of charity really wasn’t a given. There were those who were blessed because for some reason God obviously chose to give them great wealth and so they must have some virtue that they deserved to be especially blessed by God. Jesus makes His well known observation of the rich young ruler: “’Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19: 23-24) What was Jesus saying here? Today we kind of nod our head, in agreement, yea you go get him Jesus, those rich people who hoard all that money; George Soros, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Rockefellers, Bushes. Ya, the problem is that when we sit there and say that, we’re kind of being disingenuous. Jesus is identifying a very obvious issue here, this man is obviously wealthy and obviously devoted to His wealth. The Concordia Self-Study Bible notes: “In his listing of the commandments, Jesus omitted ‘Do not covet’. This was the rich man’s main problem and was preventing him from entering life.”[1]

Now do you think Jesus just forgot about that one? Or just wanted to give the rich young ruler a cursory overview of the commandments? … We are like little children to Jesus, the oldest and wisest of us, don’t even scratch the surface of the depth and breadth of what God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit know. Have you ever taught a little child to count … One, two, …. Three? Don’t you think Jesus was trying to get the rich young ruler to come up with his own answer. In Matthew’s version Jesus says: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” The rich young ruler replied “Which ones?” I have to interject my opinion as to Jesus’ reaction … What???? Are you somehow of the opinion that the commandments are some kind of smorgasbord? Pick from this one, don’t like that one. Have to tell you, that’s pretty much the consensus today. Ya, the commandments, some of them are good, some of them … nah, n/a, not applicable, at least not to me. Jesus leaves which commandment out that would apply? … Do not covet, number ten. Rather lengthy one too, seems that God wanted to make sure that we understood, we don’t covet anything. Yet here’s this guy who seems to come off as very devout, maybe expert on the commandments and he seems to have a very distorted view of them. Look around today’s world, it is clear the world has a very distorted view of the commandments, much like the young man. The world also seems to add some of their own commandments. One of course being “judge not lest ye be judged”. That seems to be a big favorite today. And other commandments, ya not so important; Have no idols, taking the Lord’s name in vain, Sabbath day, honoring mother and father, false witness, coveting? You can really see why the young ruler wanted to be clear on which ones, I would be willing to bet that first century Israel was much like 21st century America. Pick and choose, which one’s important, which one isn’t. They’re the Ten Commandments, not suggestions!

Let’s look at the Amos reading, we need to be a little fair here. It has almost become accepted today that if someone is wealthy, they had to have done it by either receiving it, or through dishonesty. I got mine honestly, but that guy with the bigger house, bigger car, bigger big screen TV, he must have taken advantage of someone to get all that. No, that is not true, I prefer to believe that most have done it through hard work, sacrifice, being smart. Are there people who achieve wealth in a way that lacks integrity? Yes! In the Prophet Amos’ reading, Amos is certainly saying on God’s behalf that many, seems even most, are acquiring wealth dishonestly: “For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins, you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.” (Amos 5:12) At this time in history, Israel/Judah, the kingdom has been divided by then, has become very corrupt. That is what prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah are warning the people about. God is not going to continue to tolerate this. And yet there is the recognition of the fact by Amos: “They hate him who reproves at the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.” (Amos 5:10). The men of a town would gather at the gate to the city where people would bring law suits or accuse someone of breaking the law. It was where people expected justice. For those who did act justly, according to God’s will, they were not appreciated, especially by those who held some level of wealth and power. They expected those who were judges to just roll over for them. They would cheat someone, be accused and the judge was supposed to turn a blind eye, that is why Amos refers to those who “afflict the righteous, who take a bribe.” I have to play by the rules, but apparently the guy who has money and power, he doesn’t, he gets his way regardless. I have to believe that while the rich young ruler talked a good game, which we see many today do, he really didn’t play by the rules. Remember Zaccheus, with Jesus? He offered, without prompting to repay any he might have not dealt fairly with. The rich young ruler didn’t. Much like people today and then, he seemed to have bought into this belief that because of his wealth that was his golden ticket in. That was not what Jesus was about. “Jesus looking at him, loved him…” I think Jesus felt compassion and pity. Jesus knew that the rich young ruler was too tied to his riches and while he said the right things, they were not where his heart was. He had bought into the world’s view that wealth meant he was blessed and had a stairway to heaven. Referring to the Led Zepplin song, clearly even in the 1960s and I think as much if not more so now, “there’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” Peter doubts Jesus’ words too, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”(Matt19: 27) Jesus replied: I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, [the resurrection] when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt 20: 28-29) Oh Peter, because of your faithfulness and the faithfulness of all who will follow, what that man has will look like petty cash compared to what you will receive, paraphrasing Jesus.

Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to live life as a man on earth. He sacrificed to be one of us and more than that, He sacrificed all He had in the torture of the cross, His very life, God the Son, perfect and holy, sacrificed to pay for our sins. God gives us what we need, we pray for our daily bread and He faithfully provides for what we need to live the life that He wants for us. That does not mean that we ignore His will and go out and grab for all that we can, to dishonestly enrich ourselves. For that matter He wants us to use some of the gifts He has given us for those who are in need, to provide for His church so that collectively we can reach and provide for those who are in physical need, and so they can also hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To not just live in the world today, but hear the promise of life and life more abundant in the eternal, perfect world of the resurrection. So, yes, take out that journal, take time in prayer. Are we too much about the world’s message? Or are we about the message of the Gospel. Do we believe that because we have much in the world, that God has blessed us to wealth, and yes, pretty much all of us here are pretty wealthy compared to the standards of Jesus’ time and of the rest of the world’s standards today. Do we live the life that Jesus wants for us by sharing our abundance? Or do we live the deluded life of the world that says our life should be plentiful here and also buys us a stairway to heaven?

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

[1] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1477

Giving Life

For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link or copy and paste into your browser


Giving Life
First St Johns May 11, 2014

We pray to our Father, because our Lord Jesus told us to start our prayer “Our Father…” mothers give us life, but to all of us who are in Christ, we have life and have it more abundantly. You are everywhere Father, yes you gave us mothers to give us life, to be there for us, to encourage, to comfort, to belong. We thank you for our mothers who gave us life, but true life is only in Jesus, eternal/abundant life is only in Him, Your Son, our Lord. Man, woman, mother, father, child, we are all sheep to Him who is the Good, the Great Shepherd. He is the Door to eternal life, He protects us from the stranger, the accuser, the liar. Satan knows he does not have eternal life, he knows that he is doomed to damnation and because of that He sees us, Your children, and hates us because we are secure in Jesus. But he continues to try to move us away from life, if he has to suffer, he wants all of us to suffer. Misery does love company and he is a miserable, bitter being. Thank you Father for our mothers, for those who sacrifice so much of their life for us, but more importantly thank You for the Good Shepherd who sacrificed for us eternally and sacrificed all for us. 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 thank God for life in a faithful mother and for an eternal Savior said… AMEN!
Happy Mother’s Day, we have some small gifts for you and we hope that you enjoy your day. A woman recounts: “she had just returned from renewing my license at the County Clerk’s office. When asked to state an occupation she hesitated. The clerk explained, ‘Do you have a job, or are you just a …?” “Of course I have a job the woman snapped, I’m a mother.” “We don’t list ‘mother’ as an occupation … ‘housewife’ covers it’, said the clerk emphatically.
“I’m a research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused, looked up as if she didn’t understand. I repeated the title slowly as the clerk wrote my pompous pronouncement on the questionnaire.
“Might I ask, just what you do in your field?’
She heard herself reply, ‘I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t) in the laboratory and in the field (normally I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for a Masters (the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters).
I often work 14 hours a day. But the job is more challenging than most run of the mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.”
She writes: “As I drove into our driveway buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants ages 13, 7, and 3, upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (six months) in the child development program…
I felt triumphant. I had gone down on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘”just another …. Home what a glorious career. Especially when there’s a title on the door.”
Moms are definitely a vital part of God’s plan for the world, God’s plan of life, of the ultimate perfect world. I was just reading some research, that found that the person who has the most influence on a man to become part of a church family, is his wife, usually when she becomes the mother of his children. Wives give life to the children and also, in many cases, open the door to spiritual life.1
It’s one of those tough ministry calls, it’s Mother’s Day and it’s also “Good Shepherd Day”, might seem to be a conflict, but actually they complement each other. We take time to remember mom, but we are together here in the Body of Christ and so we remember He who is the ultimate life giver. In our reading today in John 10 we read my favorite line in Scripture, Jesus telling us “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” To be sure mom gives us life in the flesh but remember Nicodemus’ confusion when Jesus tells him he must be born again: “Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4) Jesus replies: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3:5) God gives us physical life through our mothers, and we have life for a few decades, but through Jesus we are born again, born in God the Holy Spirit and we have life eternal.
Having life and life more abundant, does start in this life. Our life in Christ, Jesus who is the Lord of our life, who saves us in life from the slavery of sin that we see all around us. The deceiver tries to convince us that the so-called pleasures of life in the world are what is important. But in Christ we have no doubt that these pleasures result in sin, sin is pain, it is slavery, it is death. It looks good on the surface, but the result is always misery and loss. It is eternal loss, versus eternal life. The Greek word zwh, yes, you might have heard that as a girl’s name, is a word that Jesus uses so emphatically. It has such an emphatic meaning throughout the New Testament, it is used to mean “…eternal life, i.e. that life of bliss and glory in the kingdom of God which awaits the true disciples of Christ after the resurrection.”2 The promise of life should give us a great assurance, we trust that Jesus secures eternal life for us, that we will live forever, that we won’t just all of a sudden simply disappear. Our soul rebels at the idea that we will be here one moment and then gone the next. But our soul can’t reconcile that conflict, the worldly person can’t see any way to escape this. They don’t know Jesus’ promises of eternal life, there just has to be another way they rationalize, a way that will be on their terms and in their plan, but they will never be able to do that, they live with this constant struggle in their soul. We as Christians are called to show them the promises of Christ, to turn to Him for the peace that they see in us. Let us have Christian compassion and help them in their rebirth into the peace, mercy and eternal life in Christ. We take time in daily prayer to come before Him who gives us life more abundantly and we come to be a part of the Body of Christ every Sunday to worship Him, to give Him thanks for our eternal life. But it’s not some eternal life that is some kind of grayish/ghostly existence that pagans believe in. He promises abundant life. The Greek word perisso,j which means extraordinary, remarkable, profuse, beyond measure.”3 I’m sure you wonder why I refer to the Greek so often, but when Jesus is talking to us, He is using words that we hear in a mundane sense, but that He intends for us to understand in a sense that is extraordinary, His words are intended to be wondrous and assuring.
He gives us moms to give us love, assurance, that warmth that is only an inkling of His abundant love and promise. Dr Luther makes this observation of the devil and the world: “…who takes pleasure in shaming us most miserably and embittering us among ourselves, causing nothing but murder and misery and tolerating no peace or concord between brothers, between neighbors or between husband and wife.”4 That is what the world knows. It knows the love of mother, but in too many cases even that “love” is misery, it does not bring peace, but continued conflict and difficulty. We are thankful Lord for those who know what it is to be a mother in Jesus, we pray Lord that more mothers will come to know the peace, love and life that is in Jesus and bring their children to know life and life more abundant in Him. Eve has taken a lot of hits throughout history, but we need to remember her and all mothers in Todd Wilken’s words: “Eve’s creation is unique in all creation. Eve is the only creature made from another creature. She is made from Adam.
Adam calls her what she is, Eve: “Life, the Mother of all the Living.”
An afterthought? Far from it! Eve is the genesis in Genesis. Without her there is only Adam. With her, there is humanity.
Moreover, without this woman, there is no “woman’s seed;” there is no Jesus. With her, there is Jesus, the new Adam, the New Creation.
Eve, you’re not an afterthought. You’re the Mother of the Promise.
Jesus is the Promise, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Good Shepherd who guides us, protects us from the “stranger”, inspires us, gives us eternal, abundant life.
We are thankful to you Father for mothers who are used by You as you give us physical life, who sacrifice so much of their life to make us men and women in Jesus. We are thankful to You Father for a great Savior who gives us life eternal, abundant, beyond measure. After the stroll through the street fair over on Market St and the gifts and the dinner, this evening when you are home, take some time to remember the giver of life, how He has chosen you, man or woman, to give physical life and how you can be not just a good father and mother to the children you have given birth to, but how you can be a good “spiritual” mother or father to help in the birth of children in Christ, true life in Him, who do you know that the Spirit is leading you to, to be used by God to give birth in eternal life. What does abundant life mean to you and how do you live abundantly today and through all eternity?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.