Tag Archives: salvation

A Spirit Not of Fear but of Power Matthew June 25, 2017 First St Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who trust Jesus and are overcomers said … AMEN!

I’m sure many of you have had this discussion with your parent, to the effect, “But dad I don’t want to because I’m afraid of this person”. The response was to the effect “you have more to be afraid of me, then of aforementioned person.” I’m sure you’ve had the same thoughts in terms of “I don’t want to do this because I’m afraid of the reaction I’m going to get from someone else” and then come to the realization, I’d better be a lot more afraid of what God is going to think or do then the big monster I’m afraid of will do. I was afraid, [Rodney voice] I grew up in a tough neighborhood, the local restaurant only had broken leg of lamb on the menu.[1] On my street, the kids take hubcaps – from moving cars.”

Jesus makes it pretty plain, sure bad things can happen if you get someone in the world angry, but that’s not going to be anything compared to making God angry from failing to be faithful to His will. In fact whenever I’m in that quandary, after all is said and done, when I look back, I realize that the person/ thing/situation that I was afraid of, was nowhere near as big, bad or ugly as I thought. Furthermore, trusting in God usually results in an outcome I never expected, would never planned. I’m not giving you a Harry Potter incantation or Joel Osteen everything’s going to work out because God has a great plan for your life. He does, but not some Osteen formula. It’s according to the only words that matter, Holy Scripture.

Jesus talks about the one who has “endured to the end who will be saved.” While too many “Christians” have a rainbow and unicorn perception of Jesus, as we see in this passage, through the Gospels and particularly the Book of Revelation, to quote another writer: “The Bible teaches Christians to recognize that the world is a battleground, not a playground.”[2] To take Mr Dangerfield’s quotes, we all grow up in a tough neighborhood. We certainly have the assurance that Jesus will be faithful, that when we trust in Him we will be delivered. It might not seem like it, people do die, people do suffer tragedy, or, at least what we perceive as death or tragedy. We know many cases where we might think that someone has been treated unfairly, but what God has lead that person to do in that trial, that tragedy has, in fact, resulted in genuine blessing for that person, for others that they have served, have inspired, have reached. As Christians we know the ultimate tragedy is to be lost for eternity. While we may suffer in this life, and the reality is that we all suffer in one form or another. That we all have a cross to bear, ESV Luke 14:27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Arthur Just explains: “These are catechumens who have heard the Word, have left family and understand the costs of discipleship. But as they travel with Jesus to Jerusalem, they begin to encounter rejection and persecution…[this] corresponds to the seed that fell on the rock and withered because of lack of moisture, like those who receive the Word with joy but have no roots and fall away in times of temptation, which can include persecution.”[3]

It’s never my intention to, create fear in people. The words we see in the Bible emphasize being aware and faithful. Jesus told His disciples in this passage; “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.” We are saved, we are protected, we are baptized, we eat the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of Christ, we are very much a part of Him, in the sacraments, in the Keys of the Church, His Body that we are very much a part of. We don’t, ultimately, have anything to fear. The same writer: “The Greek word most often translated “overcomer” stems from the word nike which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “to carry off the victory. The verb implies a battle.” You probably remember the Nike missile, Nike sports gear. Needless to say in war and in sports, the point is victory. To take the simile a little further, the Nike slogan is “just do it”. I wish we, as Christians, understood that motto in terms of our witness to Christ instead of being fearful of rejection and embarrassment. Embarrassed for Jesus? hmmm, sort of where He says: “ESV Matthew 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” When we are unfaithful, and put our trust in the world, and the things around us, just chose to punt, to give in to the world, Jesus is under no obligation to be faithful to us. If by our lives and our witness we demonstrate that Jesus is not important in our lives, why would we have the idea that we should be important to Jesus? Why should He stand up for us for eternity, when we won’t stand up for Him for just a moment in a world that is so temporary, so fleeting, so transitory? I have seen it so often, I chose not to stand up, I chose not to bravely confront and deal with a fraudulent world, but then expect someone to stand up for me and they are outraged that they’ve been left completely exposed. The world loves to set people up, as false witnesses, as Paul writes “to be slaves to sin … for the end of those things is death” (Rom 6: 20..21)

The real emphasis in the real language Jesus uses over and over again, is very much in terms of one who stays faithful, the one who endures, the one who while they are afraid, still endures. Many have the idea that the “brave man” has no fear going into danger. That would infer a really high level of stupid. I’ve seen plenty of brave men and women, people who’ve had to face actual, physical danger. They are acutely aware of the danger, and they are by no means stupid people. By the same token, they realize that they have to overcome and trust their fear because others are relying on them, trusting them to do what is necessary. As Christians we should always trust Christ in the face of danger. We have the guarantees, we have the lock, we know how the story ends, we are going to feel fear, BUT, we are certainly called to overcome. How do we overcome, do we overcome in our own strength? NO! We know the Holy Spirit is with us to strengthen us in those times when we face any challenge and certainly that includes up to and including death. Our trust is this, that what we do for Christ will never be wasted. Too often people talk about someone they perceive dying prematurely or being seriously injured as waste. They only see the here and now and don’t wait in faith for how Christ will use this. If that person has rejected Christ, has actually wasted their life, then we can see the reason why they might have died. I’m sure you can imagine many who simply wasted what they were given. By the same token those who have endured, stayed strong, overcome the trials that were given and still pointed to Christ as the reason, we certainly know and will witness to others and we know the Holy Spirit will use that to glorify Jesus and bring others to Jesus. The Christian church in China will be the largest church in the entire world in about 15 years. This in spite of horrendous persecution and suffering. Those who suffer are very real witnesses to others of the truth of Jesus’ church, of the Christian church and that it does save and they become Christians because they know that they have the promises of Christ of their resurrection to eternal, real life, life and life more abundant! The world cannot come close to such a promise, but takes those who fail to persevere, who will not stand in the strength of Jesus and the world toys with those people, gives them empty promises, kicks them to the curb and walks away laughing. “Overcomers are promised that they will eat from the Tree of Life (2:7), be unharmed by the second death (2:11), eat from hidden manna and be given a new name (2:17), have authority over the nations (2:26), be clothed in white garments (3:5), be made a permanent pillar in the house of God (3:12), and sit with Jesus on His throne (3:21). Jesus warned that holding fast to Him would not be easy, but it would be well worth it.”[4]

Jeremiah’s words have to lift you and inspire you, the promise of who God is and what He will most certainly do: “ESV Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.”

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

He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

[1] source: http://www.jokes4us.com/peoplejokes/comedianjokes/rodneydangerfieldjokes.html

[2]

[3] Arthur Just Concordia Commentary Luke 9-24 p 581

[4] https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-overcomer.html0

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.

Whatsa mattah wid you Galatians?

I guess I just didn’t get it. I just started reading the epistle to the Galatians again and just realized how much grief and aggravation Paul had to deal with. Paul gave both of these churches the straight scoop and both of them just kind of gratuitously blew him off. I guess I need to give both churches a little slack. There wasn’t a lot of history, writing/teaching, they were just getting Paul. Having said that Paul certainly was in a position to know what he was talking about. Sure both churches couldn’t readily know that, however. They chose to give a lot of others a platform and seemed to exercise little if any discernment as to whether the others were for real or pretty much making it up. Seems that they should have known they were not getting the correct story.

Having said that, I can readily identify with Paul. Here Paul is giving them the straight story and, as we see with many “churches” today, seemed to think that this was more in terms with what they liked/didn’t like, versus who here is really giving us the consistent narrative of God’s word. They all seemed to agree that it was about Jesus, but…. the others seemed to ignore the Christ’s full atonement of all sin and, like most other Christian churches today, seemed to tie it to the things that were still necessary. Jesus’ sacrifice was good and got you up to the finish line, but then, well you just had to add a little to it to push you over the line of salvation.

Yes, we have the consumer mentality, not so much what is right, what I need, but what I like, make me happy. Either that or follow the crowd, as if God saves you in Jesus according to the polls.

And for those who like to make the New Testament all goody, sweet and sparkly, we see Paul lighting up the Galatians, as he did the Corinthians. Here are some of Paul’s comments to these shallow end of the pool, listeners:

ESV Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-ESV Galatians 1:7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. ESV Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ESV Galatians 1:12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

ESV Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. [Put another way, “what’sa mattah wid you, you stupid or something?”]
Are you really going to believe these snake oil salesmen, risk your salvation just because they’re telling you a more appealing story? I’m not interested in what you like, I’m telling you what you need to hear in Jesus.

Paul’s not exactly using gentle words, wasn’t being our smiley, good-time Charlie, pretty please pastor of today. Now,  now, you shouldn’t do that, but Jesus still loves you. Ya Paul is the direct approach, “cut the nonsense and you need to cut it out now, we’re not playing, this is for real and you better get yourselves together and get with the true ministry of Jesus and not what these other guys are trying to dissemble and embellish. I’m telling you the way it is, I got it straight from the source, this is what Jesus wants you to know!

Paul was angry, frustrated, and I believe genuinely fearful of the lack of discernment on the part of these people and frightened for their eventual fate. Paul cared what happened to these people, to the Corinthians to all the many people he ministered to, helped build churches with. Not telling them what they wanted to hear, but telling them what they needed to hear and having no compunction to push them if they were choosing not to get it.

That is a real pastor, not the sickly sweet posing we get today. I can hear Paul saying, I am desperately in fear for you, that you drift so far away from Jesus that you end up on the nice smooth, wide road and gently drift into hell, to death, eternal separation from Jesus. I’m going to do everything I can think  of to prevent that and if it requires yelling or whatever, I can’t let you keep drifting down. That is a pastoral heart, not worried about whether he’s liked, popular the true pastor is scared to death that one member of his flock ends up lost to eternity. The pastors of today should take note, they will have to answer and I do not want to explain why I just waved goodbye with a smile to someone who was condemning themselves. Take the pastey smiles off, the nice guy “I want everyone to love me” attitude and note what Paul had to do with the Galatians and Corinthians and no doubt a lot of others. Focus on what you’re doing and get over your desperate need to be loved. There will be plenty of that in the resurrection from people who wouldn’t be there if you hadn’t been so determined to be used by the Holy Spirit to effect their salvation.

Simul Justus et Peccatore 2 Samuel 11:26 Luke 7:36 First St Johns June 12, 2016

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

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 the grace and joy of forgiveness and forgiving said … AMEN!

Don’t misunderstand what David did was completely repugnant. There is no acceptable reason for what he did. Bathsheba wasn’t totally innocent either. There are those who like to point out the failings of the Old Testament, the vengeful, angry God stuff. By 21st century American standards there are things that we just would not countenance in this day and age. But there is certainly a good deal of hypocrisy with those who make such judgments, a lot of what the critics do are just not acceptable and certainly not by the standards of Israel in 1,000 BC. Those critics certainly never seem to be concerned with what the peoples around Israel did which were just abhorrent. One big difference was the accountability of their leaders, especially their kings. For the rest of the world at that time, the king was the highest authority and could pretty much do whatever he pleased. Take any woman, put anyone to death, take whatever they wanted and could do it with impunity. As the king of Israel David was responsible, as any other person in Israel was to Yahweh, his position didn’t make any difference, if anything he was held more accountable. When he was confronted by Nathan the prophet, any other king of that period could have just ignored Nathan, put him in prison, executed him and no one would have said boo about it. David was always responsible to Yahweh, he did have multiple wives, wasn’t supposed to and especially not a Gentile wife, Uriah was a Hittite and so presumably was Bathsheba. But David did and was forgiven, along with his adultery with Bathsheba and his treachery toward Uriah. But Yahweh was still faithful to David in his sins and is faithful to us in ours. We, by comparison, are graceless to those who offend us, quick to take anything and everything personally and like the Pharisee in our Gospel reading, quick to reject and condemn those who don’t follow our every whim, right down the line.

In our readings we certainly have a stark contrast. We have David who has committed truly abhorrent sin, he has committed adultery and against a man who was probably a friend, or at least a close associate. Uriah is listed among the renowned mighty men of David’s bodyguards, 37 men in all, a sort of elite military Secret Service, these men were all in close contact with David, so David certainly knew Uriah and had to know Bathsheba. David is certainly taken to task for the absolutely repugnant things that he did. The big surprise? He was still forgiven. Doesn’t mean God was justifying or somehow rationalizing David’s sin and as always, when we commit sin, there are usually consequences. David was made to suffer, although you could certainly wonder why his baby son was the consequence. Nevertheless, David was penalized and he knew it deep in his heart. We even have his repentance look up Psalm 51:  A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” David knew the deal, he also knew he was forgiven. Yahweh had been so gracious to David and David knew that he failed, he knew that he had seriously failed God, who had faithfully stood by him. We have all done this to one degree or another. Served faithfully and also let down someone who had treated us with graciousness and generosity. There are people who I remember through my life who treated me kindly, were selfless in helping me and being there for me, and I was not considerate in return. Certainly I have let God down on many occasions and He has faithfully forgiven me. There were penalties and consequences. Often people have told me that they knew they sinned, that as David put it “have done what is evil in your sight”, but on the flipside, turn around and complain that God treated them badly, they resent the fact that their sin caused them unpleasant consequences. We’re really quick to sin, really quick to accept forgiveness, but equally quick to forget that there are consequences. “I asked forgiveness, God said He forgives, so why did these bad things happen to me after I asked forgiveness.” We are forgiven and should be grateful for God’s forgiveness, but instead of copping an attitude because of the inevitable consequences, we need to remember Psalm 51, be grownups go back to God and acknowledge where we’ve sinned, that we’ve failed God and accept, without bitterness, the consequences of what we’ve done, move on in our life, trust that God is going to provide and get over the attitude. It truly astounds me in ministry, there is no room for disagreement, forgiveness, grace, it’s all or nothing. Yes, that’s the way it’s become in our society, but for a people who are forgiven, we Christians seem to have little idea of how to forgive, of how to be gracious, of how to put the best face on things. We just do not seem to understand that we will not always agree, and instead of taking our ball and bat and going home, understand that the ball game is going to proceed and God expects you to play out the game and not just desert because you didn’t get your way. There is no way you could function in business or the military with that kind of mindset, but that is certainly how people in the church seem to feel.

God graciously forgave David and didn’t break off His relationship with David. Imagine if God had the same attitude we often do, “well Jim, you didn’t do what I wanted you to do, so I’m out of here, see you later, you’re on your own.” We couldn’t function with such a fickle God, we would all be lost and condemned. God doesn’t do that. Just because He gives us consequences doesn’t mean He deserts us and leaves us to go it alone, He sticks with us. That is grace! For those who profess to be Christians, they expect grace, from everyone, but they’re quick to pull the trigger on others and ignore the whole grace thing.  As I said, our readings today are a stark contrast. We have David who just messed up royally, pun intended, was forgiven, suffered the consequences, moved on and remembered that God had been faithful to him and he needed to trust God that David would continue to be faithful in return to God. In our Gospel reading we see a woman who is unquestionably guilty, Jesus never tried to deny her guilt, He admitted she had sinned much, but He treated her with grace when the legalistic Pharisee characterized her faults and by extension Jesus’ faults for allowing her to be so loving toward Him. That’s the love of grace, being so thankful that Jesus would be gracious to her, even in her sin, and essentially offering her worship for Jesus’ grace. The Pharisee sitting in judgment of both of them, devoid of grace and forgiveness and as Anthony Cook describes: “…illustrates the woman’s expression of love was in direct proportion to her cancelled sin. She is forgiven much, loves much and he who is forgiven little, the Pharisee, loves little. She is being hospitable to an extreme, while Simon failed to show Jesus the simplest of common hospitality.”[1] Jesus didn’t cut the woman off because of her lifetime of prostitution, the woman is convicted of her sins, shows her gratitude to Jesus, while Simon the Pharisee, sits in bitterness and judgment on both Jesus and the woman. After Jesus forgives her, her sin, Simon and the rest of the men become more angry and judgmental: “who is this guy who presumes to forgive?” Seems like something we all do, Jesus had more than proven who He is and should have been acknowledged as the Messiah. Instead these men immediately jump to condemn Him, God the Son, again.

It’s so easy to take something personally and decide to just walk away and condemn the one you disagree with. Certainly God didn’t even when He had good reason to with David and the prostitute. Jesus certainly didn’t deserve His treatment, being beaten, tortured, humiliated and crucified, but He did it in love for us, when He could have simply decided that those who are without sin, that’s none of us, they are saved, the rest of us, well too bad, eternal condemnation. By the same token, we need to start acting with more grace and forgiveness, remember what is important, forgive the slights, real and perceived, remember the relationships and vows and move on to the Kingdom of God. Help us Father to put the best face on the things that we find offensive, realize that things are not always going to go our way, that in Your gracious will there are times when we have to deal with the things we don’t like and join together with those who we disagree with and keep Your will and purpose in our lives and move together towards the realization of the Kingdom and the eternal resurrection in Jesus.

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

[1] Dr Anthony Cook Concordia Journal Spring 2016, volume 42, no 2, p 144

God chases after us and that’s a great thing

One of the things that Lutherans emphasize, different from other, as it were, Protestant denominations is that it is all about what God does for us. It is not about what we do, or chose in terms of God. “Jesus knew that because of sin, no one naturally seeks after God. Sinful man’s inclination is to hide from God, rather than to come to him:” (Henry and Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 25) “ESV John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ESV John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. ESV John 1:7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. ESV John 1:8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. ESV John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. ESV John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (from BibleWorks) John talks about man running from the light, avoiding the light. We don’t want to have anything to do with God in our natural state. We are dead in our sins and we don’t want anything to do with the Holy. Go out and mingle in the world a little, people will tell you straight out that they are just not interested in the holy.

It’s not about you walking down an aisle and making a profession of faith. It’s all about how God brought you to Him, gave you the understanding you needed, brought you to baptism and then brought you to an understanding of what you are in Jesus, how you are saved in Him. When we have this new insight into God, isn’t it the Holy Spirit who is moving us to that insight?

Jesus’ teaching (His actual ones, not the ones the world likes to pin Him into) are impossible for evil man to understand. We are lost in sin, we have no concept of the holy.

The Holy brings you into His presence and gives you what you need to understand. That is what baptism starts in our lives. We are drowned in the water of baptism in order to be reborn as that new person in Jesus. At that time as new children in God, we now have the facilities, given to us by the Holy Spirit, to being to apprehend the holy, true salvation. “As you desire to spend time alone with Jesus, recognize that this is the Father drawing you to His Son. You do not seek quiet times with God in order to experience Him. The fact that He has brought you to a place of fellowship with Him is evidence that you are already sensing His activity.” (Ibid)

This is all a good thing. How can we presume to say “I chose God!”? We can’t begin to understand Him in our fallen, evil state. He has chosen us. If I did the choosing, what would happen? In my fallen evil state, I would somehow mess it up, or doubt it, undermine it. When I know that God has done all the heavy lifting, He has made me His son and I did it with no action on my part, totally undeserving of God’s salvation, I have the assurance, the promise of knowing that it’s done right and I am truly saved in Him. Anything else makes me the pivotal figure and that is so wrong and is so bound to dump you hard back into the world.

Know that God saved you, that it’s all about His will, nothing about Yours. When you know that God does the verbs, does all the important things in salvation, we can rest in the peace, assurance and power of God and not sweat if we did something wrong.

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

You cannot “earn” your way to salvation in Jesus, it is a gift through grace.

When Dr Martin Luther started to raise issues with the Roman Catholic Church (remember he was an Augustinian monk), he wasn’t trying to undermine the church, he was trying to reconcile his Biblical studies and the teachings of the church. The church emphasized what we are supposed to do in order to be “worthy” of salvation. Dr Luther said, No! What can we add to what Jesus did? He was the sacrifice that paid for our sins. What else can we add through anything we could do to Jesus’ full payment for our sins? Are we fully forgiven in Jesus? Yes, we know Him as our Savior, we are baptized into new life in Jesus, we take His Body and Blood, we hear His preached word, we are saved. We are led to salvation by the Holy Spirit, not by anything we do. All of these things are given to us as part of the Body of Christ, His church. We receive baptism, we receive His Body and Blood, we receive/hear His preached Word. Nothing we did, all of what He did.

Dr Luther tries to lead the Christian church back to the original understanding that we are only forgiven and saved in what Jesus does, nothing that we do. Do we do good works? Absolutely, but these are works that are done through us by the Holy Spirit. Any works we do don’t get us any more saved. When we are baptized, the old/dead man is drowned and we are born again, we are a new creature in Jesus. We are now children of God the Father and are His. Nothing that we did, everything that Father, Son and Holy Spirit did for us.

So there were new Christian churches, teaching and preaching that we are wholly saved by what Jesus does and nothing about what we do. But along comes these Americanized Christians who decide that there must be something that we need to add to Jesus’ works in order to assure us of our salvation. “Yet with salvation comes the responsibility to work out our salvation.” (Henry, Richard Blackaby Experiencing God Day by Day p 205). This is referred to as “works righteousness” in other words, it’s our works that make us righteous in addition to what Jesus did. There has to be both what Jesus did and what we add to that.The Blackaby’s are great Christian brothers, but there are too many in Christiandom that continue to try to stress what we do and undercut what Jesus has done and does do for His people. The extreme examples being Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who try to put our salvation entirely on our efforts and try to undercut Jesus entirely. I’ve always wanted to ask one of them, what if I am just not capable of doing anything? Then what? Too bad for me?

In the July 17 devotional (p 199), the issue is that not only are there works that need to be done by us, but we also seem to achieve almost sinlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I am not preaching antinomianism (the belief that since we’re saved in Jesus, then we can pretty much sin at will because our forgiveness is already assured because of our redemption in Jesus). Reality is this, we are never going to be sinless, we just aren’t. Sure I hope that in Jesus the Holy Spirit is going to make me completely pure, holy and sinless. I am completely righteous through Jesus! But I’m not through me, or some bizarre idea that I have achieved sinless perfection. I’m just never going to make that level

The Blackaby’s say “It is exhilarating to be set apart by God, knowing that God observes your consecrated life and is pleased with what He sees.” Sure, absolutely! I do want to lead a God pleasing life and I should not be committing gratuitous sins. But the fact of the matter is that I will be. At the beginning of every Lutheran worship we start with Confession and Absolution. Well if we have just been perfect in our selves for the past week, what do we need that for? Because the reality is that we need forgiveness, as often as possible. We aren’t going to make it through a week without sin. Sure sometimes they’re acts of omission vs commission, but sin nonetheless and we want to be absolved, to be forgiven and not by virtue of having “a special place in God’s heart!” We do! By virtue of what Jesus did, nothing we’ve done. Not by virtue of our works or our sinlessness, solely through redemption in Jesus’ sacrifice.

I’ve talked to many people who have experienced Reformed Christianity (various types of Calvinism, Arminianism), that feel they’ve had to jump through hoops to be “saved”. There’s of course the “accepting” Jesus, Walking down the aisle during worship to declare that you have some how “chosen” Jesus. Ya…, no! “You didn’t chose me, I chose you.” Jesus tells us. Martin Luther put it forthrightly, you are saved by grace, sola gratia, nothing you did, everything Jesus did. Stop fretting whether you’ve done enough works, or too much sin. Jesus died for your sins, you are saved in Him. If He has chosen you to be saved, you are saved! Done deal, lead pipe guarantee, nothing you did, everything He did. That should be incredibly reassuring. If God has done it, it’s done! If part of it is up to us, oh boy, that is a problem! It’s not, you’re saved in Him. Not in you. Praise God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for that! Sola Fide, Sola gratia, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christi. If you don’t know what that means drop me a message.