Tag Archives: St Paul

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are saints in Christ said in a spirit of celebration and joy … AMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] Alcorn, Randy   Heaven  pp 7-8

Being aware of your environment Ephesians 6: 10-20 First St Johns August 30, 2015

[Click on the above link for the audio of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father, and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are aware of the world around them in Jesus said … AMEN!

We should be familiar with; “those who are in Christ are in the world, but are not of the world.” Jesus’ priestly prayer for His disciples John 16 and 17, Jesus stresses “ESV John 17:16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

We are Jesus’ disciples, we are in the world, but we are not of the world. We are His, Jesus is our Lord, our Savior. We also know the things that are constantly around us. St Paul’s quote reminds us that we are of a different mind then those who are in the world: “ESV 2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Despite the words of Jesus, of St Paul, we still have many in the church who believe we can somehow reconcile this and be at peace with the world. That’s certainly not Jesus’ idea, “ESV John 17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” The world will do whatever it can to separate those who are in Jesus from Him and influence us into anything, so long as it’s not Jesus.

We should all be very aware of the influences that surround us and defend ourselves against them, not give into them. Many of those influences are very tempting, often they’re made to look like “ehh, not such a big deal”. But it’s the little bad influences that can keep affecting us, impacting us, slowly separating us from the truth that is in Christ Jesus. Do these bad influences “defile” us? Jesus says no in today’s passage. The Greek word koino,w means: “1) to make common 1a) to make (Levitically) unclean, render unhallowed, defile, profane 1b) to declare or count unclean.”[1]  Jesus is telling us loud and clear in our Gospel reading No! The things that are around us, don’t make us unclean. You find something on the Internet or on television, or happen on something in your travels that makes you feel unclean. I’ve seen things that made me want to run and take a shower. Let’s face it a lot of those things make you feel “defiled”, kind of violated. But in Christ those things don’t make us unclean, if they do, turn them over to Him, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a spiritual hose down… AMEN ?? But don’t feel as if you’ve become unworthy or so unclean that you can’t take it to Him, to be a part of His church.

But that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of being aware, of just avoiding the things that do make us feel that way, that do make us feel violated and separated from Jesus. Today more than ever, one of the most common things you will hear in the military, police work and other areas that require interaction in the world is the warning to “be aware of your surroundings, of your environment”. For most of history war or crime was pretty straight forward. There’s the enemy, there’s the bad guy, go and get him and restore control. On Sept 11, 2001, an unremarkable Tuesday morning, the biggest issue for most people was summer was over and dealing with the reality of the coming fall and winter. No one in their wildest imagination would have thought that at the start of their day at the World Trade Center that the building would come crashing down around them and many would not be home that evening. There was no apparent threat, no reason to be aware, another day like so many others they had lived through. And yet, out of no where, came a very real, very deadly threat.

We have spiritual threats like that all around us, day in and day out. Television, the internet, so much in print, there are spiritual threats at the flip of a switch.

So we agree, we live in a dangerous world. There’s no question that our physical safety can be of concern too. But frankly, more importantly our spiritual lives can be even more readily destroyed, temptation to degrade our spiritual lives is all around us, right in our homes, much nearer than what could kill us physically and this is the case even more so now than ever in the history of mankind. We agree we have to be readily aware of the fact that spiritual danger is all around us and we have to be very aware of our surroundings. That doesn’t just mean walking down a city street, being in a crowd, but the surroundings in our own home. What do we keep right around us that can negatively impact us, can spiritually kill us? We agree on these things, but what do we do about them? Paul tells us that we continue to trust in God and what He has given us, has already done for us.

We are told that our strength is in God, in His might. That we put on the whole armor of God. I don’t pull my helmet out of my helmet bag, my Kevlar vest out of my closet, our greatest enemy is “cosmic powers … spiritual forces of evil”. What do we have to defend us? Paul tells us: the belt of truth. When the world tells us what we should do we know the truth, it is right there around our waist. The breastplate of righteousness, protects our heart, soul, the things that do corrupt us. He gives us the shoes of readiness, not just to protect what supports us, our feet, our stability in the Word, but also to move us into the world to proclaim Christ, against the evil that is around us. We have a shield, the shield of faith what God gives us to protect us against the attacks of the world, the many attacks of the world. The helmet of salvation, reminds us of what is really important. We can get all involved in the evil and temptation of the world, or we can remember that our true life is in the resurrection, the world that God saves us for, the way God intended for us to live. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, the Bible. This is what we bring to thrust God’s Word into the world. It’s not enough to just stand there and take the hits from the world, we have God’s Word and He calls us to bring His Word into the world. Being aware of your surroundings isn’t just to be defensive, but it is to pro-actively go into the world and proclaim God’s Word, to push back against the darkness with His Word, the Bible, the Gospel. AMEN??

Of course Paul ends with “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplications. The church’s most powerful weapon is prayer, us lifting up our prayers to the Father and the Father guiding us in our prayers so that we will be in His will. In five years of being ordained, I’ve seen God do some amazing things in answer to the prayer of His faithful people. So we put on the whole armor of God, all the things that protect us while we maintain “situational awareness”, and we lift up our situation to God in prayer and trust that He will answer and He will also lead us to where He wants us to be, for His best interests and ours. Our safety, our family’s, those we love, our awareness, is in Him and the armor that God has given us to stay in Him. Physically we may be hurt and suffer, but that is only for a time, our real danger is in the eternal life, letting the world drag us down because we were not aware of our surroundings and we let them influence us and not God’s protection. Spend some time this week in your journal to really work out where you need to improve in the use of the equipment God gives you.

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

[1] Strong’s in BibleWorks

“Predestined to a great inheritance in Christ” First St Johns July 12, 2015 Ephesians 1: 3-14

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

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been pre-destined in Christ from the beginning of the world said … AMEN!

Christians are starting to get a little too much of a “bunker mentality”, I’m going to stay in my own group, I’m not going to share Christ with other people, I’m just going to treat it as my viewpoint and not try to get anyone involved.” That we are essentially under siege, many would claim that Christians in the world are oppressed and yes there are many who are openly persecuted. So we take on this attitude of being beaten down, forced to shut up, sort of like a beaten dog and just keep a low profile. A radio preacher really drove home the point, though, that sure, maybe we are getting a little beaten into hiding. But can we really justify that when we talk in terms of who we are in Jesus? Can we really justify a persecution complex, the “everyone’s picking on me poor, poor pitiful me mentality”, because I’m in Jesus and let everyone know about it? The Concordia Self-Study Bible points out: “Divine election is a constant them in Paul’s letters [the note describes 33 verses in Paul’s writings, from a number of citations in Romans, Colossians, first and second Thessalonians and Titus], in today’s periscope, “…it is emphasized in the following ways: he chose us, he predestined us, we were also chose, having been predestined”[1] Based on the fact that we are chosen, God has “pre-destined” us to salvation, that we are in His Lordship of our life, are we really justified in thinking that we are some kind of a victim?

It’s sort of like professional wrestling. How does it work in professional wrassling? The hero goes out and takes a beating, he gets taken down, it all looks hopeless and then …? Right? He gets off the floor, and eventually rallies to give a beat down to the Undertaker or the Iron Sheik, or whoever the bad guy of the day is. Not all the time, but I think under the circumstances of today, that’s kind of how we feel. We might take a beat down for Christ and as I’ve said before, for us here, it’s really not so bad. But we certainly know Christian brothers and sisters who are paying a heavy price for being Christian disciples. But because we are saved in Jesus, because we are baptized children of the Father, how can we really think that no matter how much persecution we endure, that we’re oppressed?

The fact of the matter is that we are saved. We know we are saved because of the tangible signs that we’ve been given. We are baptized into new life, we do take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we do hear His preached Word and read His written word. We know, just like the wrassler, I have been a big fan of Killer Kowalski, we do know how this ends, we do know where our eternal life begins. To be sure, life here matters. I’m not trying to downplay our earthly life. But we are so much more than that, and we certainly can’t justify thinking of ourselves as victims. We’re not! Sure we may get a metaphorical bloody nose once in awhile, get the short end of the stick. But for what it matters we have been chosen, we have been predestined to eternal life in Christ. For me that is enormously reassuring. I’m not saved in anything I do, for that matter, I can’t accidentally mess it up. I am saved, I am forgiven, I am predestined by the Creator of the Universe, God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to life eternal. To life “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) We are the victors in Jesus! We are Hulk Hogan in terms of Christ, we are His. He gives us true life, not just in the resurrection, which considering that is eternal life in Him in the perfect, unlimited, exciting life in our perfected bodies, the way we were meant to live life as a Christian. But also that we have abundant, fruitful lives because Jesus is the Lord of our life in the here and now. Sure we might take some hits for it, but when you really look objectively at what the rest of the world thinks of as “living”, we are so blessed to have a life in Jesus that is about the truly important things in life. We get to live a life that is meaningful and is not all about the sin that we see that is all around us. We are free in Christ, not like the person who is enslaved to lust, or greed, anger, bitterness, drugs, consumerism, violence, the list goes on and on. Even someone who is so caught up in the world, like Bob Dylan is quoted as saying “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.” For those in the world, they are enslaved to those sins, that is what “life” is to them. For them to feel as if they are “living” they need to constantly have an increased amount of the newest things, the most popular life, more ponography, more substance abuse, they are slaves to their things. We should have pity and compassion on those who are in the world, because they are caught up in such hopelessness, things that make them dead now. Do Christians struggle with those things? Yes, they do. But unlike those who are enslaved to the world, we know that we have been saved from those enslaving things, we know that we do have true freedom and true deliverance. We are not tied to those things, we know that the Holy Spirit continues to save us from the things that dominate other’s lives. It is not through our efforts that we are saved, even in the midst of struggle we have the Holy Spirit to turn to and guide us away, make a way possible to overcome. Sadly for those in the world who somehow think they have the upper hand, they don’t have that choice, they are victimized and snarled in their sin.  Others in the world try to help them overcome, but it is remarkable how ineffective and even more deadening when others use the methods of the world. Often it leaves people even more victimized. But over and over we see how faith based methods of saving people from sin work in astonishing ways.

So how can we say we are victims when we have the assurance of being saved, no matter how bad we might mess things up, we know that the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to turn to Him? We know that what Jesus did and does for us brings us life more abundant in the world, and in eternity. As I said, how can we whine about some temporary imposition, when so many around us, are tangled in their sin, completely addicted to their sin and lost to eternal separation and punishment because they rejected God’s salvation in Jesus? They are victims, we should have great pity and compassion for them. And we who have been pre-destined from the beginning, who know what our life is here and eternally, how can we really feel as if we are the victims?

Father, help us all to know in our hearts, to the depths of our souls, the riches in Jesus that we have been given and that we are pre-destined to receive in Jesus. We are comforted constantly in prayer, in trial, in the constant reassurance that we have, that we are truly holy, sanctified, set apart in Jesus. He took all of our sins on Himself, and on the Cross He paid the price for all those sins. Because of that He gave us the promise that through Him we are sufficient to be in the presence of our holy, perfect, just, gracious God to life and life more abundant here and in the eternal world of the resurrection. Take out that journal and write about the ways you have been delivered, about the assurance we have in Christ of being saved from the evil in the world and that we are pre-destined to life eternal and more abundant in Jesus.

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 1804

We are of good courage as His children 2 Corinthians 5: 1-17 First Saint Johns June 14, 2015

[For the audio version, click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are courageous in the Lord said … AMEN

“At our daughter’s high school graduation, I couldn’t help noticing a young man sporting a long bleached blond ponytail sprouting from the top of his otherwise shaved head. A heavy link chain hung around his neck, and one ear displayed several earrings.

I had to smile when I heard him say to his friend, “Man, I feel so out of place. I’m the only guy here not wearing a tie.”

There is such a thing as clueless courage, hey God bless him, frankly, it seems to me that there’s a lot of clueless courage in the world. It’s somehow “courageous” to be in favor of things that the Bible clearly calls sin, but because it’s what everyone else does, it’s somehow courageous.

When I was a boy, we moved a lot, seemed I was always the new kid on the block. Well you know how the “new kid on the block”, gets treated. I always found it amazing how these guys would pick a fight and think they were being courageous picking on me with six of their friends standing around. There’s just a whole lot of that today, everyone likes to think they’re a tough guy until they look and realize their posse isn’t around them.

Paul put up with a lot of bullies, people who would abuse their authority by abusing Paul, or people who would just try to bully him into shutting up. There’s a lot of that today. Those in the world love to think that they are so marvelously open minded, it’s rather shocking how rigid and close minded people are today. They will criticize anything a Christian says as “judgmental” and then turn around and judge them by telling them how judgmental they are. There is one big difference between a Christian and those in the world. When I say something and tell someone what they’re doing, or teaching or selling is wrong, I’m not making it up, or at least, as a Christian, I better not be. Anything I say to anyone better be something I can back up in the Bible. Part of the problem in that is that even those who are regularly part of the church, really don’t know the Bible. For most, they may have a knowledge of the Bible, but not sufficient to feel confident about sharing it with someone else.

Much as I’d like to think that I’m an absolute expert, I’m not, and there are times when I am witnessing to God’s will and I feel like I’m on shakey ground. I have to trust that the Holy Spirit put me in front of someone in order to witness to them. Matthew 10:19: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” Jesus is, of course, saying, that the Holy Spirit will guide you in what He wants you to say. It does take courage, we often summarize courage in that Christian word we call “faith”. Permit me to give a little longer quote from Dr Luther, because what we as Lutherans think of as faith is very different from what those in the world think of and actually, even most Christians: “Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.”[1]

It’s interesting how we think in terms of being “pious” to have “faith”, whereas both Luther and Paul say, it’s not so much being somehow so humble, bashful, even restrained, sure we aren’t called to be obnoxious, but when we are witnessing to God, we are called to be assertive, positive, uplifting, but in no way bashful or pulling our punches. Many might see being reserved as being somehow so much more “Christian”, but I have yet to have anyone show me in the Bible where Jesus, Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, the Old Testament prophets were somehow piously quiet or bashful. Plenty of people thought they were more than sufficiently obnoxious. But they weren’t, they were being courageous.

I even hear Christians say this: “Well you don’t want to impose your beliefs on others.”????? Let’s understand this right off the bat, I’m not imposing my beliefs on anyone! If I can’t back up something I say in a very straightforward and unambiguous way from the Bible, then I should not be saying it. If I am faithfully and yes, courageously, speaking and witnessing for God, if I’m being led by the Holy Spirit to share Christ with someone else, how is that imposing “my beliefs” on someone else? They are “my” beliefs to the extent that as a temple of the Holy Spirit, I am faithful to Jesus Christ my Lord and I certainly have been imbued with those beliefs, but where did those beliefs come from? Me? No! They are what Jesus taught, God the Son, they are what He expects us to live by and to actively share and live by with others. Just like my faith, how I know to live and serve as a Christian is because the Holy Spirit has guided me and you, to live and serve and speak that way to the world. We need to faithfully follow what Jesus tells us and to stop living by the world’s uninformed opinion. More often than not when I am sharing Christ with someone, they don’t even know why they believe what they believe or even what they believe. They’ve heard someone else say it that criticizes Christians and they simply accept what they’ve heard.

We are called to “always be of good courage”. Paul goes on to say, “we walk by faith, not by sight”. That does make us very different from those in the world. They have no faith, they have no discernment, they accept what the world imposes on them and they expect others to just shut up and listen. If what you say is opposed to them, you’re wrong and will be slapped with however many nasty, intolerant labels those in the world will impose on you. While the Holy Spirit guides you to speak, Matthew 10:19 ; “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.”  While we have the word of God in the Bible to tell us God’s will, while we have the preached word, teachers who are there to help you understand God’s will and word, the world has only what’s been made up. The world will ignore God’s word, tell you what the real “truth” is, and has no basis for telling you anything.

Faith is the courage the Holy Spirit gives us in order to stand against a dark, sinful, ignorant world, the courage to tell the world what God’s will is. The world likes to think it’s will is important, in the end those opinions change, are proven wrong and are just ignorant of the facts. God’s will has been what matters and has been consistent for eternity. The world’s opinion lasts for a season and then is completely different a short time later. The world’s “truth” can’t be counted on for more than a few months, God’s truth has been and will be forever. Luther says: “Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you

freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace.”[2] These aren’t your words or actions, they’re God’s, you’re not “imposing” anything. God is giving you the faith and courage to tell those around you the truth. If they want to treat you rudely, bully you, impose their groundless beliefs on you, that becomes their problem. You have courageously, faithfully and strongly pointed to the truth that God Father, Son and Holy Spirit guide us in. You’ve done your part courageously, not imposing, now we leave it to the Holy Spirit to do His part. If that other person can’t, won’t accept it and continues to act like you’re wrong, they’re the ones that will pay the price. You have been faithful and courageous in sharing Christ and He will tell you “’Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21) Take out your journal, how can you be more faithful in the courage God gives you to share the truth of God’s will and with whom will you share it?

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

[1] Rev. Robert E. Smith Walther Library Concordia Theological Seminary

http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/luther-faith.txt

[2] Ibid

Dealing with trials so that God can use you to witness to others to Jesus

The Blackabys point out how Paul used his circumstances to continually witness to Jesus (Experiencing God p 177)  When someone gives me the “prosperity Gospel” nonsense, Paul is the first person I refer them to. If Paul isn’t the greatest Christian in history he’s in the top five. Yet Paul suffered a lot during his ministry. He was regularly jailed, beaten. He often went without food and water. He was shipwrecked and just generally subjected to harassment and abuse. But he didn’t lash back about those circumstances but used them to demonstrate his faith in Jesus and what Jesus did through Paul. He witnessed to mobs who wanted to abuse him, he witnessed to others jailed with him, to those who were judging him. Paul really never tried to defend himself when Festus was judging him, only witnessing to Jesus to the point where Festus says that Paul almost had Festus convinced of Jesus.

Certainly our witness is much more effective when people see us living our life in Jesus. Sometimes they’re not always seeing the best, but maybe they need to see that side also. Maybe they need to be assured that to be a Christian does not mean that you have to be perfect. Let people see Jesus in you and what that means in real life, wether that is as Paul points out in prosperity or in need. How is God going to use the circumstances that you are dealing with in order to bring someone to salvation in His Son Jesus Christ? What better service could you do then be God’s instrument to bring someone else to salvation?