Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Before the advent of checkbook balancing software and websites provided by banks I used to dedicate one Saturday afternoon to reconciling my checkbook. This was the practice of lining up what I said we had in the account and what the bank said we had in the account. This was a frustrating and painful, head and neck ache pain from bending over the figures, experience that I joyfully no longer have endure.
We have an account with God. This account is always in deficit if we were to look at his requirements for our life and our fulfilling them. We are so far overdrawn we have no way to balance or reconcile the books. So what is to be done?
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV)
Our Lord and Savior Jesus came and more than reconciled the books for our past and present sin. The books are reconciled for any and all future sins of which we will commit. This is for each and every person who has lived, is living now and will ever live. That is what the phrase "not counting their sins against them" means.
How did Christ accomplish this? Out of his deep and abiding love for his created humans Our Father sent Our Lord Jesus to share in our human nature. In obedience to his Father he fulfilled the law for us in order to reconcile us to God as far as the law's requirements. Then to pay for our guilt for past, present and future trespasses bore all our sin to the cross, suffered and died to set us free from the guilt. We are now justified by trusting in the innocent sufferings and death of Our Lord apart from our efforts.
Many object to this and say it will encourage people to sin. In the first place people are sinners and need no encouragement to sin. In the second place if someone is kind to you in spite of your poor treatment of them will you repay this with a desire to keep being nasty to him? Of course not! Out of love and thanksgiving we desire to act like Jesus acted toward his neighbor and his Father in Heaven. Not to repay him rather out of a grateful heart.
We will blow it and always fall short. But that matters not. For as a kind father, even though he is a sinner, will love and forgive his son or daughter how much more will a Gracious, Sovereign and Loving Heavenly Father love and forgive us.
This is fantastic!
Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen†
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
I have not been called to be an Apologist. It is almost certain you are not one either. In the United States, presently, we are not hauled before the authorities to present a defense of our faith. Nor should we assume that every unbeliever out there are seeking to destroy or discredit us as depicted in the above representation of Paul before King Agrippa. Over the past 30 years or so Apologetic efforts has gained more and more popularity in some circles as the primary evangelism. Certain Bible teachers are gifted with this even in our relatively persecution free country. Certainly we have a place for this type of proclamation but should never replace the simple proclamation given the Church from Our Lord.
St Peter shows in what instances this should be used;
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
(1 Peter 3:13-16 ESV)
We see that it is when we are under attack and persecution and asked upon what we place our faith. It is a misuse to think one has to give complicated reasoning to an unbeliever when the simple and clear message of Christ is what is needed. Repentance and the forgiveness of sin is what Jesus taught was to be proclaimed throughout the world.
In contrast here is what Christ has told the Apostles those in public ministry and laypersons when they have opportunity is to be proclaimed:
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
(Luke 24:45-47 ESV)
Notice how simple is what saves us. A child can understand it. Most of the time we do not have to start people at square one and give them an extended discourse about the Christian faith. Prior to having the gift of faith, given by the Holy Spirit, he or she will never get it right. We are justified by faith not our perfect understanding of doctrine. Later on comes the teaching.
When you are privileged to speak with a person who is terrified of his or her standing with God we do not have to defend our faith rather proclaim it. The troubled heart does not need the law for it is doing its job already. Tell them to turn from faith in their own efforts to defeat sin and trust in Christ's death, burial and resurrection. Praying always for God to grant them, and us, with this repentance and faith in Christ.
Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
As time goes on and the end of life approaches many troubling things may happen. One of these things is the possibility of becoming so feeble minded that I forget Christ. Through accident, stroke or dementia it may be that I will not recall him someday. What then is my hope should this occur?
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
(Romans 6:3 ESV)
This is one of the most strong and precious promises Our Lord, through the Apostle Paul, gives us. In Baptism I have already died to sin and are no longer under condemnation for it. Through this gracious gift Our Father has placed his name upon me and all his Baptized children.
This is certainty beyond compare. Rather than false security when a person recalls that through Baptism they are received into the family of Christ it is a strong testimony of firm trust in the promises of Christ. Jesus has linked his death to us in Baptism. We can therefore walk in newness of life forsaking our selfish ways by drowning our inner brat, recalling this strong Sacramental work of Christ for us.
If accident, old age or illness robs a person of his or her recollection of this promise Our Lord certainly does not. He has taken our salvation so seriously he bore our sin to the cross thereby removing condemnation from us. We can hardly expect he would withdraw from us when we are feeble and weak and can not remember him.
Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I awoke from a very interesting dream this morning. Not a bad dream at all. Rather it was regarding the generations that will come after me. It has been a long practice of mine, dating back to High School, to pray for my children, grandchildren etc. This was started by my Christian grandparents explaining to me they prayed for me, my siblings and cousins long before we were born.
No why on earth would one do that?
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
(Acts 2:38-39 ESV)
One sees in this section that Baptism is not all about the person Baptized. The strong and precious promises of Our Lord is contained therein. This is glorious for the responsibility for the salvation of us, our spouse, children, grandchildren, etc. belongs to Our Lord. This is good news because we are unable to save them. Who else has this ability? Us? Surely not.
Some will object to this due to the fact that some of their children may reject the Gospel. My answer to this is we do not doubt a promise from God due to the unbelief of others. How is it that we will see a child forsake the church and wander off will never be granted true repentance and the forgiveness of sin in the name of Jesus? Certainly we train our children in the faith in order to keep this from happening but sometimes our hearts will break along with our child's break with the church.
As demonstrated by the innocent sufferings and death of Our Lord on the cross we know he takes the salvation of the sinner quite seriously. It is of great difficulty for a person, upon whom Our Lord has placed his name, to apostatize eternally. It has happened recorded in the letters of the Apostles but it is of heroic effort to accomplish this leaving.
Rather than spend hours and days examining others and whether we can see if they are in Christ we cling to the promises we have in Jesus and live in the peace they give us. Amen. †
Sunday, June 15, 2014
"What did Jesus do this for?" I have had this question asked of me many times. Depending upon whom a person asks one will get varied answers.
From the Calvinist's leaning person one may hear Jesus did it solely for the Glory of God. While certainly God was glorified in the Crucifixion of Jesus, as spoken in Jesus' prayer recorded in John 17, Our Lord is far from being stingy in what he does. We see in his life he was constantly about his neighbor.
From a person of a Methodist background one may hear it is to make salvation possible. That we must respond to this gracious invitation before it is ours. While we do receive this gift of eternal life through faith this faith is not of our doing. It is not something we work up in ourselves. Rather it is a gift of God and not of any decision or desire on our part. Ephesians 2:8-10
From a person of Roman Catholic training one may hear that he died to get us a jump start toward salvation. That we must complete this salvation through our efforts at works of charity. While works of charity, love, are definitely necessary in the life of a believer they do not add anything to our salvation. Rather they are done as obedient children for a Loving Heavenly Father. Ephesians 2:10
What does Our Lord say, through St. Paul, was the reason for his Crucifixion?
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:6-8 ESV)
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
what wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
Let us trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen †
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
It is commendable and expected that one be passionate about one's belief. This is especially true when resisting evil doers in government, business, health care etc. However, we have a kind of passion which is not righteous at all. Peter speaks of this passion:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)
These sinful passions of the flesh seek only to ridicule in an unkind manner those who are promoting wrongdoing in order to do something right. This takes the form of gleefully promoting political cartoon and other forms of speech which only destroys the person at whom it is directed. Nothing good can come of these expressions, The only thing they do is cause those who are backing the persons at whom they are directed to dig in the heels and not listen to reason. This is what those held captive to the flesh will do anyway to get his or her point across.
For a believer in Jesus to engage in these activities commits violence against our souls. Both those who are making these things and promoting them and those who see them knowing it is a fellow believer doing it.
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
(Acts 26:2-3 ESV)
Here we see the grand example of St Paul before sinful and unbelieving King Agrippa. He is not railing against him. Rather he defends himself in an honorable fashion giving him the respect due his vocation as king. Later on when Festus accuses Paul of being out of his mind Paul calls him excellent Festus.
If we were honest with ourselves we must admit we have found perverse joy seeing a political cartoon, listening to a talking head's sarcastic personal attacks and have used this destructive speaking ourselves. This is breaking God's command to honor father and mother referring to those Our Lord has called into office. This fleshly response deserves God's temporal and eternal punishment.
But we have good news. Christ came and perfectly obeyed the commandments perfectly and his holiness is given to us as a gift. For the sake of the innocent suffering and death of Our Lord we have this trespass removed from us. Jesus' resurrection is also for our justification.
Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †
Saturday, May 3, 2014
The life of a Christian is the most free of any other person. Luther wrote :
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all*
Our Lord delivers us from bondage to sin as it enslaves others around us. Thus we are free from being slaves. Yet Our Lord sees fit to place sinful men in leadership positions over us. This is one of the many quandaries in which the Christian finds in life.
St Peter wrote the following;
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
In this we see great freedom but it is also a great challenge. When Our Lord puts into office those who only seek to do good by doing evil it is hard to remain respectful of this leader while beholding his or her wicked deeds. Peter understood this. Our Lord foretold of how he was to die which was similar to how Our Lord died.
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
(John 21:17-19 ESV)
After this prophecy by Jesus Peter still had the faith to write such a thing to those who would be persecuted by the same emperor's subjects. Yet we are the most free. How is this to be understood? Unlike our neighbor who does not believe in Jesus he has enslaved himself to thinking this life is all he has. We who believe in Christ are not under that horrible thought.
We know that Our Lord has purchased us for himself and is our True and Holy Emperor. We also know that the wicked leaders we have are subject to him and will either be granted repentance and forgiveness or face the Righteous Judge in condemnation. With this knowledge we can actually pray in honest concern for our leader's salvation rather than to cruelly speak of this leader which so many in the world do. It is tempting to join in but it is not pleasing to Our Father in heaven and we must always seek his pleasure.
If we are honest with ourselves we must admit we fail miserably with this directive. But we have good news. Christ came to live in perfect obedience to the law and has fulfilled it and it is ended because we are justified by faith due to his death and resurrection.
Let us trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †
*THE FREEDOM OF A CHRISTIAN
1520 by Martin Luther written to Pope Leo X