Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Holy Evil Deed.

Although the works of God always seem unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits. The Heidelberg Disputation of Martin Luther. May 1518

Nothing can cause more controversy than the cross of Jesus. The unbelievers will say “What does that have to do with anything?” It is offensive. It is even offensive to many believers. In order to attract new members many churches have removed the cross from off buildings and from inside the sanctuary. These are crosses with no corpus. Imagine what these folk would think of a crucifix. They would say it is an idol and should not be allowed anywhere near a place of worship.

Genesis 3: 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field;on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." ESV

Perhaps these pastors and those who listen to them and do not challenge these decisions are unaware that they are squarely in the devil’s camp. Even though the cross is horrible and the most heinous of deaths it is defeat of the devil. Our inner brat encouraged by our enemy will resist thinking on this as anything to do with our daily lives.

Yes it can offend the sensibilities of sinners. The dead Jesus shows to us the horribleness of sin. Oh how one loves to excuse it. “Sure I was unkind to that person but do you see how he or she treated me? I feel justified in my actions!” What a faith killer is a statement like that. A refusal to repent will of course open the door to further self justification. This has caused many to forsake finally the faith due to not thinking they need Jesus.

The cross indeed shows us plainly what our rebellion looks like to God. The smallest of sin in our eyes nailed Jesus to the tree. Not the earning of this salvation or the paying back for it constrains us to fight sin. Sin must be hated and resisted at all times out of love and gratitude toward Jesus for His great gift of Himself. When receiving His body and blood He delivers this to us in a real and tangible way. It is at once heart rending and glorious.

May the Name of Jesus evermore be praised. Amen †

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Evil Good Deed.

Popular teaching again tells us that we can please God with our works. God indeed expects Christians to do good works. God expects all people everywhere to do good deeds. These commands are misunderstood to be ones which can be completed by us. Surely we can do good things for others. However, does God accept those actions as holy?

Isaiah 64: 5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you;for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. ESV

The above section speaks not of breaking God’s law but of purposeful good deeds. Things done by persons which society would approve. From time to time one will see or hear reports of individuals which give vast sums of money or time in alleviating suffering. This brings applause of men and perhaps it should. Everyone likes to hear applause and be appreciated. In the civil realm this is all good stuff. But the accolades received by those doing these feeds the ego and disqualify these things as eternal merits before God. Even if those deeds go unnoticed and the only congratulations come from one’s own mind it turns what appears good into a plate full of rotting meat before God.

Although the works of man always appear attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins. The Heidelberg Disputation of Martin Luther. May 1518

These deeds anger God. He does good deeds for His creation and does so out of care and love not to feel good about Him self. He pronounces those deeds as deserving of punishment when many would expect Him to reward those deeds. Pride and arrogance is the stock and trade of the sinful nature in all of us.

8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ESV

The proper attitude which the Christian will have is humility. Anything we do is not to be looked on in pride but rather thankfulness for the opportunity to serve. The idea to do something comes from God. The resouces with which to do it comes from God. So all praise and glory belongs to Him in the doing. This is impossible to do completely for we are by nature sinful and unclean.

Jesus promised us the Comforter who would lead us into all truth. He also gives us the perfect righteousness of Jesus because we cannot do anything with proper attitudes and motivations. And the guiltiness we all have due to not meeting God’s requirements He bore in His own body on the cross. Yes. Jesus died for our good deeds as well.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save at the death of Christ my God. †

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eyes on Jesus please.

The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness but rather hinders him. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end. The Heidelberg Disputation of Martin Luther, May 1518.

The other evening in conversation with some friends and acquaintances the subject of obedience to the law of God came up. Many in attendance to this discussion were of the mindset that a Christian has the ability to obey the law of God. Part of this is of course due to the old nature, the inner brat, in all of us who at all times overestimates our holiness. The real culprit in this circumstance is the lack of laying the law down in all its severity. Much of modern preaching no longer or very seldom is centered on Jesus crucified for sinners who by nature are guilty of breaking the entire law of God. What will take place rather are recipes for being a better person.

Matthew 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ESV

Certainly one should always attempt to live according to what would please his or her heavenly Father but at the same time remain in sorrow and true repentance for not doing so completely. The above section Jesus speaks of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and ours must be greater than theirs to enter heaven. Many have looked upon that as saying those men were sinners in the sight of society. On the contrary. Their entire life was given over to law keeping and observing. But the law they were on about keeping was diminished in such a way that it appeared they were keeping it. In addition they would teach the law to the people so it appeared they were keeping it as well.

The same thing happens today in far too many Christian churches. The pastor will instead of show we have no possibility of keeping the law will adjust it so that it appears we do. This is very popular for it strokes the ego of the listener. However, it is a very short lived good feeling if that person is in the habit of prayerful study of God’s word. It does not take much meditation on the law of God to see where one falls short. This will lead to being crushed in spirit and raise much doubt as to even being Christian.

This is the result of Jesus’ finished work for us in His perfect life, death, burial and resurrection not being central to the sermons preached into the ears of sinners. So in this day many will say that Christians need to move on to bigger and better things than that. Lord have mercy! What is bigger and better than God doing all this for us? True maturity in the Christian life one will see how short one falls from achieving law obeying and will instead keep looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..

God’s peace. †

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting the L out. Part 3

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! ESV

One thing that is a certainty when you meditate on God’s word is that changes happen. At times totally unexpected and many times unwanted. When we started attending Lutheran services limited atonement was still a strong belief. Several folks assured me that no one is burned alive or even tarred and feathered over such an idea. That fact and my honest faith in Real Presence, Baptism and the forgiveness of sin one receives in them I had no problem continuing on in the Lutheran faith. Howver, I had absolutely no intention of getting the L out of my Christianity.

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world.
Have mercy on us.

Grant us peace!

Chanting the agnus dei each and every service of Holy Eucharist did much to minimize the importance of limited atonement in my mind. Some reformed friends have told me that it is mindless repetition to do such a thing in worship. If it were a statement written by a human such a mantra would be mindless. And if one repeated it by rote without considering prayerfully the words then it would be mindless. However, the Holy Spirit inspired those words both out of the mouth of Brother John the baptizer and being recorded in scripture.

The fact that Jesus answered for the sin of the world certainly goes against the limited atonement category. All one is left with is universal grace which still makes me shudder at times. Old habits die hard I fear. But it is glorious to no longer wonder if Jesus died for me.

1 Timothy 1: 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. ESV

Amen Father Paul! Me too!

Glory to Thee O Christ! †

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Four Points of Holiness. Part 4

Fear is a Christian motive and attitude. We should fear that God will judge us and chasten us. In fact, in this life God deals more seriously with sin in believers than in unbelievers. If we're growing, we will hate sin more but not because of consequences (everyone hates it when it brings bad consequences) but because God hates it. If God isn't dealing with sin in our lives, then we aren't His. Let's deal with our sin so God doesn't have to!

Every religion out there has an angry God who needs appeasement. Either they through so called holy living or sacrifice, attempt to please this God. Unfortunately what passes for Christianity teaches this as well. Even some who would teach justification by faith alone. After justification sanctification which is taught as a responsibility of the believer. The above statement is the last of a four point teaching on holiness. The text for this teaching was the first chapter of St Peter. Looking at the section in previous articles one would see the teacher was extrapolating all this from the command to “Be holy as I am holy.” Yes that is a real command with real consequences for those who do not accomplish this. Because we cannot reach this goal we are all damned to eternal hell with no hope for parole. God’s judgment is final in this, we are toast.

Isaiah 12: 1 You will say in that day:"I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me,your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
2 "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."

The prophet saw how true the fact is that God is angry with sinners over their inability to be holy as He is Holy. We too, with a faithful reading of any part of the bible will see how that God is angry with us. However, He has turned His anger away and comforts us. God Himself has become the salvation for those with who He is justly in hot anger. The true and living God of Christianity is vastly different from the false idol of other religions. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He came not to abolish the law, minimize its harsh and eternal condemnation on us or to show us how to do this for ourselves. He came to fulfill the requirements on our behalf.
After the law requirements were fulfilled we were left with the problem of sin and our identity as sinners by nature. So He had Himself nailed to the cross after a horrendous trial in which He was falsely accused and beaten beyond recognition. While on that cross He lost contact with the Father in something we cannot hope to understand. This was all done in the presence of those for whom He died and they looked upon Him with hate and fiendish delight. In spite of all that going on He had grace upon another who was being crucified justly along side of Him and promised that criminal would go to paradise with Him.

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. ESV

This is the response we are to have for all that Jesus has done for us. The penalty for our sin has been paid. Yes either we deal with our sin, unsuccessfully and perish eternally, or receive the gifts Christ won for us. In baptism we receive from the water of life the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is reassuring to the utmost when we see in scripture how we fail constantly to achieve holiness. In reflecting on this daily we draw water from the wells of salvation.

He also delivers the goods to us in the Holy Supper in which He comes to us with bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sin. No longer do we have to wait for Jesus to return or somehow magically lift our selves to Him. He repeatedly utilizes matter which He created to interact with us and strengthen us. With broken hearts and crushed spirits we receive these gifts with thanksgiving.

"Wir sind alle Bettler. Hoc est verum." Martin Luther on his deathbed from German and Latin. Translated: "We are all beggars. This is true."

We praise you O Christ. †