Tag Archives: Martin Luther

God places us in our vocation

C.F.W. Walther was the first president of the Lutheran Church in the United States. The following is from a collection of his sermons from Concordia Publishing House. He talks about how we are placed in and used by the Holy Spirit in the vocation we are in for a reason. Dr Martin Luther made vocation an important part of his issues with the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church had been teaching that those who are in “religious” vocations are on a higher level than the rest of the worldly vocations. That somehow priests, nuns, monks, do work that is more important. Luther took issue with that in that we are all placed in our vocation by God for His purposes. Therefore since we are in those vocations at God’s behest, we are serving Him to the best of our abilities in that vocation.

As a good Lutheran pastor, Dr. Walther certainly is in tune with Dr Luther’s views. The following is from a sermon he gave based on Luke 5: 1-11:

“In today’s reading, we encounter Saint Peter working diligently in his earthly calling. He explains to Christ that he has worked patiently through the entire night. Although he has caught nothing [no fish], he does not give up the difficult vocation of fishing to seek something more rewarding. Instead, we find him the next morning washing his nets with his partners and preparing to try again.

Every true Christian will work diligently and untiringly. He will not leave his chosen vocation without real cause, recalling the words of the apostle Paul; ‘So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God’ (1 Corinthians 7:24). This is not, however, a distinguishing mark of the Christian since unbelievers can also pursue a vocation with dedication and endurance. In some cases, a non-Christian may even surpass a Christian in his devotion to his work.

How, then, does the true Christian show himself to be such by his earthly work? The first thing we notice from Peter’s example is that, although he was very industrious, he laid his net aside and carefully listened to Jesus as soon as He began to preach. Moreover, he permitted Jesus to use his boat as a pulpit when the people on the shore crowded Him from all sides. Finally, when Jesus called him to be a fisher of men, Peter immediately ‘left everything and followed Him’ (Luke 5:11)'”

In the midst of his earthly work, a true Christian shows that it is not the principal activity of his life. Indeed, he places his heavenly calling above his earthly one. He seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He does not let his bodily work be a hindrance in caring for his soul. He would rather interrupt his bodily support than be without nourishment for his soul from the precious Word of God.

Today’s text tells us even more about Peter. When he let down his net and caught such a great number of fish that the net tore, he did not in any way attribute the success to himself, his diligence, his wisdom, or his worthiness. Instead, ‘he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ (Luke 5:8). He regarded his great success as a blessing of Christ alone that he did not earn. Here we see the second way a person reveals in his earthly work that he is a true Christian. He does not believe he can preserve himself by his work, his diligence, and his wisdom. but only be awaiting his daily bread from God’s faithfulness. He does not lose heart if his worked proves fruitless, but instead places his reliance upon God. If his work is crowned with success, he receives it as a gift of grace from His heavenly Father. He does not bind himself to earthly things, but separates himself from them that he might be drawn to Christ all the more.

There is one more way in which Peter demonstrated in his work that he was a true Christian. When Jesus had stopped speaking, ‘He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch”’ (Luke 5:4). His command was completely contrary to the rules of fishing and Peter’s own experience. The best fishing is not in the depths of the open sea but close to shore; it is also not during the day but at night. How does Peter respond? ‘And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets'” (Luke 5:5). This is how all true Christians work. They are motivated by God’s command because His Word says, ‘By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread’ (Genesis 3:19). Christians therefore daily say, in the conviction of their heart, ‘But at Your word I will let down the nets.”‘

“And gently grant Thy blessing That we may do Thy will, No more Thy ways transgressing, Our proper task fulfill, With Peter’s full assurance Let down our nets again. Success will crown endurance If faithful we remain. Amen (The Lutheran Hymnal p 544:5)

(Translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer “God Grant it: Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walther” pp 551-553)

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.

Servir a Dios en sus dones nos 1 Corintios 12: 1-11 Primera Saint Johns 17 de enero 2016

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

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo, y todos aquellos que utilizan lo que Dios les dio para servir a los demás y su iglesia dijo … AMEN!

Como cristianos tenemos un montón de “vocaciones”, a menudo algo de la vocación como una especie escuela de comercio de cosas, pero lo que realmente significa la llamada. Nuestra muy poco estudio de la Biblia que hacemos miércoles por la mañana, se trata de nuestras diferentes vocaciones como cristianos, la forma en que servimos en esas vocaciones como un cristiano. Utilizamos un libro por el Dr. Gen Veith, luterano, que tiene una visión muy Luterana de vocación o llamado de un cristiano. Dr. Veith hace hincapié en que estamos llamados a vivir nuestra vida cristiana en nuestra vida laboral, como ciudadanos, como padres, hijos, vecinos, nuestra iglesia, todo para la gloria de Dios. Dr. Lutero tenía una visión muy diferente de la vocación / llamada entonces la iglesia romana. La iglesia de la época e incluso ahora vio vocación cristiana en un sentido muy limitado, sólo las “vocaciones” que fueron considerados como “religioso”, eran un llamado válida, es decir los sacerdotes; de la parroquia a un obispo, cardenal, papa, monjes, monjas, otros tipos de auxiliares de los funcionarios de la iglesia. Estas personas tenían una vocación cristiana y por su vocación, que estaban sirviendo directamente a la iglesia y por lo tanto la iglesia vieron esas vocaciones como “santo”. Todas las demás vocaciones eran seculares y no tan importante. La palabra vocación viene del vocatio latín o voces, que significa “llamar”. Lutero vio toda vocación en términos de nuestra vida cristiana. Usted puede ser un plomero, pero como cristiano estáis llamados a esa vocación por Dios, usted es para servir como un plomero cristiano.

Una de las discusiones que el Dr. Veith tiene es en cuanto a los cristianos que sirven como agentes de policía, militares, jueces, funcionarios de prisiones. Es posiciones en la que alguien podría tener que usar la fuerza letal para obligar a alguien a presentar o puede imponer la muerte de otra persona. Enseñanza luterana es muy clara en este ámbito, si estamos sirviendo a los que están, habla secularmente, víctimas inocentes, los que esperan la protección del gobierno, entonces, como cristianos, con el fin de obligar a la sumisión / cumplimiento, podemos usar la fuerza letal. Eso se aplica a aquellos que no hayan sido nombrados a puestos de seguridad pública, y ciertamente se aplica a los ciudadanos estadounidenses que pueden utilizar la fuerza letal para proteger a alguien que podría ser sometido a la fuerza violenta o mortal. Lutero realidad elogia a aquellos cristianos que están dispuestos a servir en las ocupaciones que podrían resultar en la muerte o lesiones graves. Esas sectas cristianas que se niegan a reconocer este principio son sólo mal. Afirman que los cristianos tienen prohibido matar a otro ser humano, que no es simplemente verdad. El sexto mandamiento nos dice que no “asesinato”, que es tomar la vida de alguien que es, de nuevo, inocente, no nos lo quiera tomar la vida de alguien que está tratando de dañar a otra persona. Apuesto a que si un terrorista está tratando de encender una bomba en una multitud que está y un oficial de la policía o de la persona militar mata para evitar que el terrorista de matar a otras personas, mujeres, ancianos, niños, usted no va a estar allí y menear el dedo en esa persona y decirle que son malos para el rodaje. Hay cristianos que van a hacer precisamente eso y no saben lo que están hablando. Dios tuvo ningún reparo decir figuras del Antiguo Testamento como Debroah, Josué, David a tomar a alguien que amenazaba a su pueblo.

Nosotros como cristianos estamos llamados a un número de vocaciones. Dios nos llama a esas vocaciones y Él quiere que nos servimos en esas vocaciones para su gloria. Así que si usted es un plomero cristiano, usted tiene tan santo un llamado como pastor de la iglesia. Si usted está llamado a ser un contador cristiana, no estás solo regulado bajo FASB, también están regulados en la medida de lo que Dios espera que usted sea como contador cristiana. Estoy seguro de que usted sabe que eso significa para un nivel mucho más alto que otros que son fontaneros, contadores, agentes de la policía, los militares, los titulares de cargos públicos, en un sobre. ¿Qué hay de nuestros jóvenes? “No estoy en la iglesia, estoy en mi aula de séptimo grado, por lo que no necesito para obtener todos atrapados en lo que Dios me llama a hacer como un estudiante.” Mi respuesta: “Wrongo, aliento tiza”, si usted está sirviendo a Dios como un estudiante, qué Él no tiene una razón y un plan para que usted pueda estar en esa clase en particular, el estudio de este tema en particular? Si usted decide, “eh, la historia no es tan importante, que puede perder el tiempo y aflojar en esta clase”. Una vez más, Wrongo. Dios te tiene en esa clase por una razón.

Si estamos fielmente sirviendo a Dios, los que nos rodean deben saber que, deben saber que somos cristianos. Sí, debemos profesar nuestra fe, decirle a la gente acerca de nuestra fe y lo que Jesús hace en nuestras vidas. Esa es una razón por la que tenemos “momentos de intercambio confesionales” al final de la adoración. Para que nos cuentes cómo te has compartido tu fe, y creo que todos entendemos que el Espíritu Santo nos puede llevar a hacer eso en el lugar de trabajo, el aula, el equipo de softbol, ​​el Elks Lodge, etc, etc, para nunca interrumpir lo que está pasando, pero en un momento en que usted sabe que debe, decirle a alguien acerca de Jesús, especialmente en el contexto de lo que ellos y / o que se trata de en el momento. Pero desde los que te rodean probablemente saben que eres un cristiano, pero también sabe que usted es perjudicial, poco fiable, no haces bien tu trabajo, o estudias bien, en general, no luchas por lo que es mejor y glorifica a Dios, crea problemas a los que te rodean. ¿Cómo crees que van a ver los cristianos y especialmente en términos de Dios. “Wow, ¿cómo puedo tomar a Dios en serio, cuando los cristianos a mi alrededor me digas que es todo acerca de Dios, y sin embargo, son pésimos estudiantes, inútil, incluso perjudicial en su trabajo?” Ellos no van a pensar mucho en Dios porque usted los ha demostrado que ser cristiano y su relación en Jesús no es grave en términos de toda la vida. Hemos de mostrar a la gente que somos serios acerca de nuestras vocaciones, que nuestro llamado no es sólo para hacer un buen trabajo, pero también para mostrar que todo lo que estamos haciendo, lo estamos haciendo para la gloria de Dios. Todo lo que hacemos debe ser para la gloria de Dios, y debe ser de una manera que realmente muestra la excelencia, trabajo en equipo, lealtad, honradez, y mucho más. Cualquier cosa menos shows otros que Dios no es realmente vale la pena conocer.

Usted podría pensar que es bastante limitado lo que nuestros llamamientos son. Para la mayoría de personas en el mundo que ver a su “vocación” como su empleo y que nosotros, como cristianos, sin duda tienen una vocación en la vida 9-5 trabajo. Esa vocación no es sólo en términos de aparezco, hago lo que tengo que hacer, perforar, ir a casa y eso es todo. Como cristianos estamos llamados a un nivel mucho más alto. También tenemos que entender que en términos de “servir”

Finalmente servir quiere decir que lo mejor de nuestra capacidad en la iglesia. Recuerde, nosotros servimos, porque Dios es el que nos permite servir, en muchos sentidos, y después nos guía en el servicio que Él quiere que nosotros realizamos. Tenemos muchos aquí en la iglesia que ponen su tiempo, talento y tesoro en el servicio a Dios, a la iglesia. Dios les ha inspirado para estar donde están, haciendo lo que están haciendo para su gloria. Cuando estamos fielmente le seguían, le servimos a la medida de nuestras posibilidades, no sólo sentarse y dejar que otros llevan la carga. La mayordomía es una parte muy importante de ser un miembro de la iglesia. Es un tema que se me incluyo en mis sermones de ahora en adelante. No quiero hacer la administración de una serie de sermones cinco semanas. Pero sí quiero asegúrese de entender cómo Dios te está guiando a servir a su iglesia por el mejor uso de sus ofertas financieras, los talentos y habilidades que Dios te y el tiempo y la salud ha dado Dios te ha dado para dedicar a su iglesia . Mirar por encima de nuestra lectura en 1 Corintios. Pablo escribe que hay una variedad de servicios, actividades y dones que Dios nos da: “. A cada cual se le otorga la manifestación del Espíritu para el bien común” (12: 7) ¿Cómo desobediente es tener un dado por Dios, regalo , el talento, el tiempo, y mantenerlo por completo a ti mismo, dejar de hacer nada con ella con el fin de servir a su iglesia, su pueblo y la gente que te rodea? Nos gusta pensar que lo que tenemos es del todo porque estamos tan maravilloso, gente especial y nos merecemos todo lo que tenemos. Como cristianos, mejor sabemos mejor que eso! Lo que tenemos que se ha dado a nosotros por Dios y ciertamente podemos disfrutar de ella, se benefician de ella, crecer en ella, pero no se les permite acumular y no utilizarlo en servicio a los demás. La gente ha acumulado sus dones, y en algún momento Dios simplemente tira de esos regalos lejos de ellos. Podría ser dinero, podría ser un talento, podría ser su momento. Si mal uso de ella o no lo usa para la gloria de Dios, no podría decidir tomar de nuevo, otorgar en alguien a quien Dios puede confiar para utilizarlo para la construcción de su Reino en la tierra.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, guardará vuestros corazones y vuestros pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Amin y Shalom

Serving God in His gifts to us 1 Corinthians 12 First Saint Johns January 17, 2016

[for the audio version of this sermon please click 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 use what God gave them to serve others and His church said … AMEN!

As Christians we have a lot of “vocations”, we often thing of vocation as a trade school kind of thing, but it actually means calling. Our very little Bible study that we do on Wednesday mornings, is about our different vocations as Christians, how we serve in those vocations as a Christian. We use a book by Dr Gene Veith, a Lutheran, who has a very Lutheran view of a Christian’s vocation or calling. Dr Veith emphasizes that we are called to live our Christian life in our worklife, as citizens, as parents, children, neighbors, our church, all to the glory of God. Dr Luther had a very different view of vocation/calling then the Roman church. The church of the time and even now saw Christian vocation in a very limited sense, only those “vocations” that were considered to be “religious”, were a valid calling, that is priests; from the parish to a bishop, cardinal, pope, monks, nuns, other auxiliary types of church servants. These people had a Christian vocation and because of their vocation, they were directly serving the church and therefore the church saw those vocations as “holy”. All other vocations were secular and not as important. The word vocation is from the Latin vocatio or voces, meaning “calling”. Luther saw every vocation in terms of our Christian life. You might be a plumber, but as a Christian you are called to that vocation by God, you are to serve as a Christian plumber.

One of the discussions that Dr Veith has is in terms of Christians serving as police officers, military, judges, corrections officers. That is positions where someone might have to use deadly force to compel someone to submit or can impose death on another person. Lutheran teaching is quite clear in this area, if we are serving those who are, secularly speaking, innocent victims, those who expect the government’s protection, then as Christians in order to compel submission /compliance, we can use deadly force. That applies to those who are duly appointed to positions of public safety, and it certainly applies to American citizens who can use deadly force in order to protect someone who might be subjected to violent or deadly force. Luther actually commends those Christians who are willing to serve in occupations that could result in death or serious injury. Those Christian sects which refuse to recognize this principle are just wrong. They claim that Christians are forbidden from killing another human being, that is just not true. The sixth commandment tells us not to “murder”, that is to take the life of someone who is, again, innocent, it does not forbid us from taking the life of someone who is trying to harm another person. I’ll bet if a terrorist is trying to ignite a bomb in a crowd you’re in and a police officer or military person kills to prevent the terrorist from killing others, women, elderly, children, you’re not going to stand there and wag your finger at that person and tell them they’re bad for shooting. There are Christians who will do just that and they don’t know what they’re talking about. God had no compunction telling Old Testament figures like Debroah, Joshua, David to take someone out who was threatening His people.

We as Christians are called to a number of vocations. God calls us to those vocations and He wants us to serve in those vocations to His glory. So if you are a Christian plumber, you have just as holy a calling as a church pastor. If you are called to be a Christian accountant, you are not just regulated under FASB, you are also regulated to the extent of what God expects you to be as a Christian accountant. I am sure that you know that means to a much higher standard than others who are plumbers, accountants, police officers, military, public office holders, on an on. How about our young people? “I’m not in church, I’m in my seventh grade classroom, so I don’t need to get all caught up in what God’s calling me to do as a student.” My response: “Wrongo, chalk breath”, if you are serving God as a student, does He not have a reason and a plan for you to be in that particular classroom, studying that particular subject? If you decide, “eh, history’s not that important, I can mess around and slack off in this class”. Again, wrongo. God has you in that class for a reason.

If we are faithfully serving God, those around us should know that, they should know we are Christians. Yes, we should profess our faith, tell people about our faith and what Jesus does in our lives. That’s one reason why we have “faith- sharing moments” at the end of worship. For you to tell us how you’ve shared your faith, and I think we all understand that the Holy Spirit can lead us to do that in the workplace, the classroom, the softball team, the Elks Lodge, etc, etc, never to disrupt what is going on, but at a time when you know you should, telling someone about Jesus, especially in the context of what they and/or you are dealing with at the moment. But since those around you probably know you’re a Christian, but they also know that you’re disruptive, unreliable, you don’t do your job well, or study well, in general you don’t strive for what is best and glorifies God, you create problems for those around you. How do you think they will view Christians and especially in terms of God. “Wow, how can I take God seriously, when the Christians around me tell me it’s all about God, and yet they’re lousy students, unhelpful, even harmful in their work?” They’re not going to think much of God because you’ve shown them that being a Christian and your relationship in Jesus isn’t serious in terms of your whole life. We are to show people that we are serious about our vocations, that our calling is not just to do a good job, but to also show that whatever we are doing, we are doing it to the glory of God. Everything we do should be to the glory of God, and should be in a way that truly shows excellence, team-building, loyalty, trustworthiness, and much more. Anything less shows others that God isn’t really worth knowing.

You might think it’s pretty limited what our callings are. For most people in the world they see their “vocation” as their employment and we, as Christians, certainly have a calling in our 9-5 work life. That calling is not just in terms of I show up, do what I’m supposed to do, punch out, go home and that’s that. As Christians we are called to a much higher standard. We also have to understand that in terms of “serving”

Finally serving does mean to the best of our ability in the church. Remember, we serve because it is God who enables us to serve, in many ways, and then guides us into the service that He wants us to perform. We have many here in the church that put their time, talent and treasure in service to God, to the church. God has inspired them to be where they are, doing what they’re doing to His glory. When we are faithfully following Him, we serve Him to the best of our ability, not just sit back and let others carry the load. Stewardship is a vitally important part of being a church member. It is a subject that I will be including in my sermons from now on. I don’t want to make stewardship a five week sermon series. But I do want to make sure you understand how God is leading you to serve His church by the best use of your financial offerings, the talents and skills that God has given you and the time and health God has given you to devote to His church. Look over our reading in 1 Corinthians. Paul writes that there are a variety of services, activities and gifts God gives us: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (12:7) How disobedient is it to have a God-given, gift, talent, time, and keep it entirely to yourself, fail to do anything with it in order to serve His church, His people and the people around you? We like to think that what we have is entirely because we’re such wonderful, special people and we deserve everything we get. As Christians we better know better than that! Whatever we have has been given to us by God and certainly we can enjoy it, benefit from it, grow in it, but we are not allowed to hoard it and not use it in service to others. People have hoarded their gifts, and at some point God simply pulls those gifts away from them. Could be money, could be a talent, could be your time. If you misuse it or don’t use it for God’s glory, He could decide to take it back, bestow it on someone God can trust to use it to the building of His Kingdom on earth.

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

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.

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/

Freedom is only Jesus, Reformation 2015 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

This was such a great writing on All Saints Day and Reformation Day that I just had to add it to my blog site – Jim Driskell

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

October 31 at 4:00pm ·

HOMILY FOR THE FESTIVAL OF THE REFORMATION

By 1520 the storm he’d stirred up was threatening to become a tsunami engulfing all the Western Church. He still didn’t seem to have the first clue about the threat he’d proven to be to Church officials and he thought that if the pope himself just heard of this joy that was now his, all would come out okay. So he pens a little book and dedicates it, of all things, to Pope Leo X from his dutiful servant, Martin Luther. And as he thought how to encapsulate everything he’d been rejoicing in, it came down to two statements that sounded contradictory but were in fact completely complimentary.

The Christian is perfectly free, lord of all, subject to none.
The Christian is perfectly dutiful, servant of all, subject to all.

The opening lines of Luther’s monumental The Freedom of the Christian. And that work remains to this day the classic statement of the joyful “aha” that resulted in the Lutheran Reformation and which, I would suggest to you, people loved by God, is the reason why being Lutheran still matters and why almost five centuries later, the Reformation remains vitally important for the Church today.

It was and it is all about freedom. God doesn’t want slaves. He renounces the way of coercion. He seeks children who serve Him freely and in joy and not cringing in terror and fear. You hear it in today’s third reading. Our Lord says “If you continue or abide in my Word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom is what He came to bring! Freedom was His gift. Not like folks think of freedom these days, meaning: “I can do whatever I want whenever I want to.” Live like that and you’ll soon find out that it’s not freedom at all; it’s the way to end up a slave to your own passions, appetites and desires. Your Lord came to free you from that dead end way of living.

But to promise and deliver freedom, that requires owning up to bondage, and this is exactly what the Jews in the Gospel or even the Church in Luther’s day, couldn’t stomach. “Free? What do you mean set us free? We aren’t slaves. We are children of Abraham and have never been anyone’s slaves. What do you mean we shall be set free?”

Similarly the hierarchy in those days: We are the CHURCH! What do you mean blathering on about this freedom? What’s important is that YOU knuckle under and do as you’re told. Who do you think you are?

Luther’s joyous answer, of course, was “Me? I’m a perfectly free Lord of all; oh, and a perfectly dutiful servant of all. Sent to be a servant of other’s joyful freedom. In the service of the Master who came to make free children of God and no slaves.”
The Jews had their laws that they thought MUST be upheld, obeyed, and it was in the obedience to them that they focused their zeal and placed their hope of salvation. DOING the bidding of the God who had taken them as His own people through Abraham was their duty and their calling.

But the God of Abraham is the God of freedom and the God who desires children, not slaves. That’s why He had TAKEN them out of slavery in Egypt and why He had given them the divine worship and promises. And the Law itself. A gift given. A gift given to show them their real slavery from which they could never themselves free no matter how hard they strove.

They wouldn’t see it, though. And so Jesus speaks the hard word: “Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave doesn’t continue in the house forever.” Sin isn’t something you DO, Jesus says. It’s far, for more insidious than that. Sin is a force. A power. A domineering power. A power that enslaves.

You know its path. You know how it goes. You know it entices you. Try it. It can’t hurt. Everyone’s doing it. No biggy. And how the very taste of it is seduction and the seduction becomes addiction. You fight. You pull back. But you also want. You want the experience again. And again. And even after it has long since ceased to satisfy. Still you go back. Like the dog to its vomit. The vomit it calls and you find yourself unable to turn away. Disgusting, yes. But isn’t it true, people loved by God? Isn’t that the path? The way it works? Sin snares you, and once it has you, you can’t break free by any effort of your will. You can try with might and main, but you know as surely as I’m standing here before you, it HAS you. You are slave.

And there is NOTHING so uncertain as the place of the slave. Sin wants to use you, to trample on you and torture you and then to hand you over to death. Eternal death. “The wage sin pays is death.” A taskmaster, no friend. A tyrant, no freedom. Do it again and again and again, as sin mocks your helplessness.

BUT into this world came the one in whom sin couldn’t get its claws. Into this world where everyone serves sin in some way or another, tortured and helpless, caught in the snares of their own desires, into this world came one who was truly FREE. And free because He was the Son. His place in His Father’s house didn’t depend for one second on what He did or didn’t do. His place was assured because of who He was. And because He was free and Son, what did He come to do?

He came to serve! No one is so free as the One who serves, whose delight and joy it is to be able to serve the captives by setting them free from their bondage, free from their chains, and inviting them into His relationship with the Father. So free that He could even take all the sins that master and torture and torment you and lift them off you and bear them in His own body. In His own FREE body where they could never bend Him to their will and so destroy them there forever.

Behold, the cross! Behold the blood of the free Son, freely poured out so that sin would lose its mastery over you and you be forgiven, adopted, brought into the freedom of the children of God.

He came forth from the Father one free Son, but He goes back to the Father bringing with Him the fruits of His labor. Not a pile of slaves. Not a pile of cringing and fearful hirelings who have no clue how long they’ll be tolerated before God finally is fed up with them and tosses them out. No. He comes back with free children of God. Freed by the Words He spoke. Free indeed. Sins no longer able to accuse them, to master them, to make them come when called. Sins blood covered and forgiven. Death no longer the fate to which their sin hands them over when it’s done with them. Death rather with a resurrection sized hole blown right through its stinking belly through which they will pass with Him. Free children. So completely free that all of the faith has come to them as GIFT. They see it all as GIFT. Nothing about what we earn or deserve. Only gifts given lavishly and freely. The Father gives the Son. The Son gives the Spirit. The Spirit gives you faith that binds you to the Son and the Son rejoices to present you to the Father. All gift.

And so Christianity to be seen in its true light must never be thought of as rules and laws and a frowning God just waiting for you to step out of line so He can wallop you one and torture you forever. Nor is it about the freedom to live in your broken shackles and sin’s crumbled prison holds. That’s not freedom! It’s the freedom to leave that prison forever and be a child. A child in the house of the Father. It is to realize that the standing you could never achieve for all your struggling against sin’s chains is the very gift God gives you in His Son that crushes those chains forever.

Easter triumph! Easter joy!
This alone can sin destroy!
From sins’ power, Lord, set us free,
Newborn souls in you to be.
Alleluia!

HERE is the Reformation gift to the whole Church. This is why Lutheranism stands and will continue to stand. We remind the world that the Son’s gift to us is freedom. And that our faith isn’t founded in, let alone shored up by, rules and regulations. Holy days of obligation and fasting from certain foods at prescribed times. Going to communion at least once a year and only after having made confession of your sins to the priest. Do you see what all of that is? Bondage! Not freedom!

BUT the Reformation was so free that it realized that what the law couldn’t guard or preserve, this was God’s free gift. “If you abide in my Word” our Lord said. Why Sunday? Why gather? Not to keep some law, but to receive the gift of freedom! Why receive the Sacrament? Not to fulfill a duty, but receive the gift of freedom! Why observe the Church calendar? Not to be religious, but to let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as it gives its gifts of freedom and lifts you by the Spirit to the freedom of the children of God.
Reformation still matters because freedom still matters. It matters to God, who would have you not be a servile and fearful, simpering cowering slave, but would have you be a royal son or daughter, a true child of the King who fears nothing at all.

Late, late in his life, Luther reflected on this great joy. It was during an Advent sermon only a couple months before his death. He preached: “It is well with a man who belongs to an eternal kingdom. He can dance through life forevermore!” You and me too. We can dance through life. For we are children of the King, and sisters and brothers of the Son of God, and to us all, and I mean all, is gift. Happy Reformation, people loved by God, happy feast of freedom! You have been set free. Amen.

– William Weedon, Chaplain

Photo credit: The Town and Parish Church of St. Mary’s on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Wittenberg, Germany. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford