Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rejoicing God! Rejoicing Angels!



It is interesting what brings rejoicing to God and his angels. When we sin, which is all the time, admit to it and confess it to God to receive forgiveness is a cause of great joy in heaven. This is one of the ways that he shows his mighty power because of the perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus he forgives us all our sin and looks upon us as dear holy children.


Luke 15:8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” ESV


This is a beautiful picture isn’t it. We are such treasure to Jesus that he came searching frantically for us. So much desiring to restore us in communion with him that he removed all the justly deserved penalty for our sin. And gives us the robe of his righteousness as additional gifting so we need not worry how our efforts at being holy fall short. In return we confess our sin of good deeds which is further rejoicing.


What a wonderful gift that we do not have to sit in wallow in our sin. We do not have to justify our actions by blaming others are our parents did in the garden of Eden. Rather we can go forth in joy to serve our neighbour in peace knowing that performing the tasks of our various callings is pleasing to our Father in heaven for the sake of Jesus our Lord. No more need to play one ups with other believers for we all have the righteousness of Jesus as our gift. Rather give all thanks and glory to God for the wonderful gifts he gives us.


Let us believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers.


In the name of Jesus. †

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Promise to the Devil Kept



One knows that he or she can trust another who keeps promises. God is the ultimate promise keeper. After the fall of man into sin God promises, to of all persons the devil, the coming of Jesus.


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 eatall 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

It is fascinating that God would warn the devil ahead of time what would happen. This gave the devil plenty of time to fight against it and try to stop it. This shows that God’s thoughts are indeed different than ours. The last thing you do is to inform your enemy of how you intend to defeat him. In the older testament we have the record of how our adversary tries to destroy the Christ. Starting with Cain killing his brother Abel. All throughout the law, the writings and the prophets we see how antichrists were raised up to try to stomp out the lineage which would bring forth the Christ. In each circumstance God was faithful in preserving a remnant faithful to him down to our Lord’s Nativity.


We are by nature in the kingdom of the devil. For by our nature we are constantly sinning. It is who we are.


Mark 3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. ESV


During the life of Jesus the devil had his antichrists to resist him. In this passage we see Jesus entering into the devil’s kingdom to plunder it. We are the goods he came to plunder and to save us from the one who wishes to see us perish eternally. We can be eternally thankful that God keeps his promises even when made to the devil.


In the name of Jesus. †

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ours Right Now!



How long do we have to labour under a load of sin? How much effort does it take to shed our guilt before God? Massive!


1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,


To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:


May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
ESV

On the cross Jesus groaned under the weight of all our sin. Some sadly do not believe this way. It seems too good to be true. Surely there is some catch. We must have something to work on. Something left undone perhaps? No! God can only accept perfect obedience which is why we receive obedience to Jesus through the Holy Spirit.


John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ESV


For a sinner to claim what he or she does measures up to Jesus is the height of arrogance. One can hope it is a misunderstanding in his or her mind rather than a firm belief of the heart. It is truly a horrible act of unbelief to trust in one's own work as having some merit. Much better is to trust totally in the receiving through faith of the righteousness of Jesus. This declaration of God is as real as the earth we see around us. The very same God who spoke all this into existence is doing the same to us. Taking what is Jesus’ righteousness and gifting it to us. What a wonderfully radical truth indeed.

We can rejoice when Jesus comes to us in the bread and wine of his Supper as the delivery of the forgiveness of sin. And daily return to our baptism as clothing us with Christ. Trusting in the promises associated with these gifts in spite of what little sense it makes to us.
Let us live in the peace this offers.


In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good mourning to you! And me!



Matthew 5:4Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ESV


Mourning. What do you mourn about? Have you lost a loved one? Lost a career due to the cycles of the economy? Has a friend or loved one turned on you? These are all things common to the human experience each and every day. But those things do not happen to each of us every day. Thankfully.


However, a Christian should be mourning each and everyday. Why is that? Because we sin in thought word and deed by what we do and leave undone. Each and every one of these sins nailed our Beautiful Saviour Jesus to the cross. Each of these falling short of God’s glory is proof we deserve nothing but God’s wrath both in our life and for eternity.


This mourning needs to take place so that the comfort can come. When we are deeply saddened by our sinful state and inability to free ourselves from these sins each and everyday we can return to the knowledge of our baptism. In this we receive the promise of the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are truly washed clean by the sacrifice of Jesus and have this physical means where to look when we have nowhere to look in us for this comfort.


1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ESV


Each of us can see ourselves in that list. Certainly we have not acted out on each of those sins but have in our heart. And this is proof that we do not by nature inherit the kingdom of God. But look at the comfort we have in present tense that we were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of ht Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. Totally and complete forgiveness of sin in the water that testifies on earth.


1 John 5:5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is he who came by water and blood Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. ESV


Let us believe this good news and live in the peace and comfort it offers.


In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blessed Bankruptcy!



From time to time one will hear from a professed believer in Jesus what a wonderful job he or she does in combating sin in his or her life. Granted we are given the ability to see some temptation before we fall to it. This is a wonderful gift in we receive by having the Holy Spirit indwelling us. This fruit is goodness, the desire to be good and rejoicing in goodness and truth. As long as the recounting of this is in rejoicing only one thinks it would be an encouragement to others. However, some of the hearers of this perhaps are struggling with nagging sin and cannot, no matter how hard they try, free themselves. This is the way sin of the heart is. The law against covetousness will kill every time. In addition the law against murder and adultery when it comes to the thought life are pervasive indeed.


Matthew 5: 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ESV


No matter how the Christian’s life seems to be going it is always necessary to know that we are all bankrupt when approaching God. Even the joy we have in the goodness he grants to us can become pride and arrogance. This perhaps is not the intended outcome to appear to be putting others down but that can be the result.


The radical nature of the Gospel is that we are such beggars we needed a Jesus who lived the life of goodness which was not self centered. A Jesus who bore all our sins on the cross to pay for the deserved eternal separation from our God that our goodness deserves. And a Jesus who resurrected for our justification so we know that God will not hold our good deeds against us. Rather that we rejoice quietly in those victories that God gives us then to parade them before others so not to cause that person to stumble in faith. Keeping our eyes upon our Holy Lord Jesus will always remind us we are all beggars.


Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. ESV


Thanks be to God. †

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The World's Absolution.



Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. ESV


So much in modern Christianity point people to themselves to determine whether he or she is forgiven. This may come in the form of works. Have you sent your kids to private Christian academies or home schooled them? How about spending enough time in churchly activities? Are you successfully combating sin in your life or are you still struggling never able to gain the upper hand?


It may come in a feeling or some other self exam of searching it out. Do you feel close to God at all times? Do you remember a drastic lightening bolt conversion? Can you rehearse for us where you were, the time of day and date this happened?
At times listening to these type of sermons or Christian conversation one wonders what Jesus lived, died and rose for. It can even be worse when one thinks that Jesus only died for a few rather than all. What objective measurement can we use to determine whether we are one of the lucky ones for whom he died?

"For God has already forgiven you your sins 1800 years ago when He in Christ absolved all men by raising Him after He first had gone into bitter death for them. Only one thing remains on your part so that you also possess the gift. This one thing is—faith. And this brings me to the second part of today's Easter message, in which I now would show you that every man who wants to be saved must accept by faith the general absolution, pronounced 1800 years ago, as an absolution spoken individually to him." C. F. W. Walther, The Word of His Grace, Sermon Selections, "Christ's Resurrection—The World's Absolution" Lake Mills: Graphic Publishing Company, 1978, p. 233. Mark 16:1-8.


Jesus perished for the entire of humanity. Why are not all saved? They refuse to believe. This may take the form of denying that one is all that sinful. Many preachers exist which will lead you to believe you have the ability to perform works worthy of God’s admiration. This will create secure sinners who may think they only need a dead and risen Jesus for a time or to fill in what they fall short on.


Others are perhaps more honest when they say they are not through living yet. Which is to say they are not finished living for themselves only. They want to push it off long enough to get some more sinning done. This is also taught to them that to be a Christian one has to be self righteous, strait laced, do not drink, smoke or chew, nor hang around those that do. They observe Christians who think the only good work that needs doing is to brag on how they used to be and now are much better. Those around them can tell a different story of course.


Romans 4:23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. ESV


That is the radical nature of the Gospel. As one of my favourite bible teachers, Dr Norman Nagel, says “It is the done didness of the Gospel that saves us.”


In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fruit of Repentance and Faith


Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ESV

Serving of the neighbour. This is what the Christian is to be about in his or her daily rounds. We go worship our Lord to receive his gifts of the forgiveness of sin in both word and in his body and blood. From that we are to go out with thanksgiving to serve others. This can take many forms many of which are included in our daily walk. The many and various duties each has connected to our vocations as parents, children, employers, employees, citizens of society and many other duties. All these contribute to serving the neighbour.


A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.


Martin Luther was never at a loss for words. The above quote has been taken from his On the Freedom of the Christian. (1520). We are set free from the law in order to do it. We need not spend time in concern over how much we are motivated by love for the Lord and neghbour and how much is self motivated. It matters not because we are declared holy and justified in Jesus and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit we are producing fruit which is all that God can admire. It would be a waste to try to figure what percentage is which and we could never come to the conclusion of that investigation.


1 Corinthians 9: 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ESV


And in thanksgiving to God we also bring the Gospel to our neighbour in service. Through conversation the Lord sees fit to create faith in others. What a wonderful gift to be involved in God's work in this way.


Thanks be to God. †

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Loving Money instead of God?



In the past few weeks of financial upset it is so easy to be distracted by the goings on. Stock Market volatility. The fear of what the new administration with the new congress will do with taxes. And the list goes on and on. This all comes and goes which is why it is a good thing to hold onto the provisions of God for us with a dead hand grasp. This is the natural state of human nature to be always tempted to curve inward. "What will happen to me?"

Philippians 4:10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ESV

We see a great comfort from our St Paul in the promise that in Jesus we can do all things. This is another example of how we are to be in bible reading, prayer and receiving his gifts on a regular basis. Thereby nourishing our faith in his good gifts. Through these means God has promised to be there for us to strengthen and to ensure that nothing happens in our lives will rob us of our faith. This faith is again nourished through the means of grace as promised in scripture. This is why those means are under such attack from our enemy and the unwary Christian falls victim to the doubts raised because it sounds so reasonable.

“What can it profit to the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men, and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.” *



Matthew 6: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ESV

These promises given us by Jesus sets us free. We do not have to have a strangle hold on money but rather use it to serve our neighbour as befitting our calling. God grant us repentance from the idolatry of trusting in our wealth rather than in his promises.

In the name of Jesus. †


*Martin Luther: "On Christian Freedom" (1520)


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why A Body? Why A Cross?


A recent sermon of a well known preacher who would otherwise be considered orthodox, conservative and one who trusts totally in the inerrancy of scripture contained a glaring statement which was cause of much concern. I have been told by others that perhaps he was misspoken in his delivery. Yes I can see how that happens. The minister was saying God the Father looking on the crucifixion of Jesus as being payment for sin completed. The minister objected to this teaching he found in a book in Germany. He went on to say that Jesus was crushed by God which was the actual punishment. This is true Jesus did suffer beyond what we could imagine in addition to the cross. This is one of the either/or questions to which the answer can only be yes. Jesus was crucified in public shame and under ridicule as well as being forsaken by the First Person of the Triune God. The one can be imagined and the other could not. How can two distinct persons be One God along with a third and be forsaken by the First as well?

It brought to mind however, an error which has captured many conservative congregations. It is the question could Jesus have paid for our sin in any other way than the cross? For example if he were paying for our sin these days, depending on his location, the execution could range from beheading to laying on a bed and toxic chemicals being introduced into his veins. Would that have sufficed?

Psalm 22: 14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;

15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet

17 I can count all my bones
they stare and gloat over me;

18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
ESV

In Psalm 22 the crucifixion was foretold. None of the aforementioned modes of death would have sufficed to pay for the sin of the world. God is not inclined to explain the reasoning behind this so we need just take his word. The cross is dirty business indeed. It is a scoffing tool to those who refuse to believe in this all sufficient sacrifice which is understandable. But to those who love Jesus it is what he has done for us. When we behold an artists rendition of the Crucified the thought must be “For you.” Like that which Jesus said when he broke bread and proclaimed it to be his body and the cup his blood.

1 Peter 2:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.ESV

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sanctification by Work


Popular in Christian bible studies and sermons today as in the past is to focus on our involvement in salvation. It is taught in conservative Bible believing ministers that we are saved by grace through faith alone. This is something in which to rejoice abundantly. However, it is then taught that in response we must get to work in order to perhaps show God we are serious, others that we have true faith and to comfort ourselves that we are truly redeemed. This is what is termed sanctification or sometimes progressive sanctification.


Hebrews 10:8 When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
ESV

What we see in the above passage is that one is sanctified, in past tense, through the perfect life, holy and innocent suffering and death of Jesus. We are saints of God due to this work of Jesus on our behalf. So the question remains what role do we play in sanctification? It is a passive role for we do the receiving only. In verse 14 the writer states that we are perfected for all time and uses the phrase “who are being sanctified.” That is passive terminology such as a person being 5’ 10” in height. That person did nothing but grow into that height neither by adding anything or even worry about how tall he or she will be.

This is a glorious reality that this too is received by us so that we do not have to worry about how to become sanctified by our own efforts. As believers we will indeed change as time goes on. This change can take the shape in our minds and sight as not progress toward being more holy but rather seeing more sin in our lives. This sin may take other forms however, it is not less sinful because one trespass of the law leaves us guilty of all the law. Through the hearing of the accusation of the law we will become more and more dismayed at our seeming lack of progress. This is why it is crucial to each week attend a worship service where Jesus is forgiving sin through proclamation of the sweet Gospel. This is truly how we receive victory over sin by repenting and receiving the gift of the forgiveness of sin anew.

We are indeed sanctified by work. Jesus did the work.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Saturday, October 18, 2008

You Have What? Where? Really?



The questions relate to a little song sung by many children in Sunday School, Children’s Church and Daily Vacation Bible School.

I got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.
Where?
Down in my heart!
Where?
Down in my heart!!
Where?
Down in my heart to stay!

There are several other verses but I prefer not to post them. Now an objection can be raised about what difference does it make for children to sing a harmless little song? The answer is that it forms the understanding of the Christian faith on into adult hood. How many times can you ask how a person knows they are a Christian but they will answer “I know in my heart!”

Matthew 15:10 And he called the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" 13He answered, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit. "15 But Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." ESV

This section tells us what is really in the heart. It is the seat of all evil and so it is the last place one should look for assurance of salvation. And this old sinful nature cannot be improved on or taught to obey. So what one has to look at is what is from outside him or her. This is received by the gift of faith and from that moment on the battle rages. This battle can cause a person to have many doubts and will blind her to any and all improvements that may take place.

Notice also how Jesus refers to those who do not understand this saying. How that they are blind and fall into the ditch and lead other whom they lead. We must be very careful to whom we listen. If the person is preaching law as a means of getting right with God, getting closer to God or as confirmation of your faith in Jesus what you have is a blind leader. He will lead his followers into the same ditch as he himself is falling.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ESV

The water of baptism comes from without and through this act God delivers to us the benefits of the crucifixion of our Lord. This is all the evidence that we need to carry us through the dark times in this vale of tears and death. The promise that we are indeed walking in newness of life and in the resurrection of Jesus. What a glorious gift that we have in this sacrament!

In the Name of Jesus. †

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Be All That You Can Be!


Disobedience to the Lord has consequences. That is an axiom one would think would resonate with all. After all God is Almighty which is demonstrated in creation, in his mighty acts recorded in the scriptures and in the forgiveness of sin. This is something the old Adam in each of us will never bring to mind. This original sin nature will never be informed of God nor will seek after him nor learn of or from him.

Exodus 14:16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." ESV

You have got to be kidding! After all the mighty and awesome plagues which came upon Egypt during the preceding period of time while Moses sparred with Pharaoh they would pursue in a divided sea after them? It would seem a rational person would stay on shore and bid them good riddance. However, the greed of having another accomplish work and the power of having slaves do your bidding will out weigh any rational thought.

In addition to have God actively remove any fear of consequence and there is absolutely no hope of sparing oneself of judgment. This is not God making a person do what he or she does not want to do. The old nature wants to rebel. It wants to have the level of godhood where no matter the action no repercussions will be felt.

Okay, one might say, the Egyptians were not the people of God. This is why they rebelled in such a way and brought upon themselves destruction. But we as Christians have the Holy Spirit. We would never fall that far from God. Would we?

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

"Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said,
'They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.'
11 As I swore in my wrath,
'They shall not enter my rest.'"

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.15As it is said,

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
ESV

This epistle is written to those who are believers. To those who were tempted to have Jesus the way in which they wanted Jesus. They wanted to return to the good old days of ceremonial law keeping. They had the Holy Spirit and he spoke to them in this manner. Not to toss away the rest they have in Jesus.

We have this today, unfortunately, in much of what once passed as conservative bible believing churches. These churches will in one sense cry out against the works righteousness of Rome or liberals but in almost the same breath trot out good deeds to prove to themselves and God of their salvation. This is not resting in the promises associated with the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Part of this rest is in the knowledge when doing what is given them to do in the home, neighborhood, church and workplace are all pleasing to God for the sake of Jesus. Some of the motivation for doing these things is self centered due to being a sinner. However, some is fruit of the Holy Spirit which is admired by God. We cannot nor should we attempt to cipher how much is which. This would not be entering this rest as well. May God keep our hearts softened by his law and comforted by the restful good news in Jesus.

In the Name of Jesus. †

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Victory!


We are called by God to do battle with the world. This world’s system would have us fear, love and trust in anything but the True and Living God. The long campaign for president is one indication. Many believers, unfortunately, feel that the survival of this country and even our existence is all tied up in the two men running for that office. The massive bailout of Wall Street investment banks which will tax us for many years was sold heavy to us as our only hope for financial survival.

The unbeliever will buy all this and we expect that. His or her god is money and what things it can do for them. This is idolatry and quite understandable since the unbeliever has no knowledge nor wants any of the real Creator and Redeemer. What is real amazing is the idolatry of those who confess Jesus as Saviour having open verbal confirmation of this fear, love and trust in our system of government and economy.

Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
ESV

Our only help is in the Lord the Creator. The Psalmist goes on to explain the Lord never slumbers or sleeps. We also see in scripture we are served and protected by God out of his pure goodness and for no gain for himself. How could he gain? Everything belongs to him.

How do we overcome this idolatry as baptized and believing children of God? Can we make up our mind to cease doing this sin? The law never gives power to stop sinning. If you go to the law for help in not having another God it will convict you “You shall not have other God’s in my face.” So what do we have in response?


1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? ESV

The gift of faith we receive from our Father in heaven is what overcomes the world, our flesh and the devil. This section refers to obeying commandments. The flesh will grab onto that and say “Aha! Something I can do and feel proud of!” But then St John goes on to say that our faith overcomes the world. Our trust in Jesus. That is the commandment to which St John referred. So this obedience comes about by faith which was gifted us by our Father.

Trust only in the Holy and Innocent sufferings and death of Jesus overcomes sin. Repenting and receiving forgiveness breaks even the strongest hold sin has on us. The flesh hates repenting. Despises having to own up to wrongdoing. Will do everything to try to justify it and the world lends its two cents as well. But we are new creatures who love our Father, our Redeemer and Comforter and our heart is broken when we sin again and again. The good news is that God keeps on forgiving and cleansing us from all our sin.

Thanks be to God. †

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The New Garment



To accept us we have to be appealing to God. Many wonder how to make themselves appealing to him. World Religions invent many devices and become Purpose Driven due to the fact that they believe it takes more than faith alone to please God.


Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;my soul shall exult in my God,for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praiseto sprout up before all the nations. ESV


The good news is that the Lord clothes us in the garments he desires to see. The active obedience of Jesus by living an holy life is credited to us and received by faith. Our own inventions will not do it. Isaiah seen this before even the time of Jesus. All the old testament saints were credited with this righteousness even without the vantage point of us who look back at the perfect life, innocent suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.


Matthew 22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast. 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find. 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen. ESV


In there we see that the invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven is open to all. But only those who are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus will be able to stand in the day of judgment. Thanks be to God for his clothing us in perfect righteousness.


In the Name of Jesus. †

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Real Put On.





Most of the time when we hear someone is giving us a put on we think of something not to be admired. After all we want what is real and genuine. Aren't we to be genuine? Many will use being genuine as an excuse for harshness. However scripture is filled with put ons.




Here are some:



Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ESV



So many times we wish to demonize those with which we disagree. How dare they think differently then we do? Now I’m not talking about denying the person of Christ nor his finished work. This demonizing can refer to a persons understanding of the order of salvation or thinking it is not an order at all, church government, church name or any number of issues. Each person is usually fully persuaded whatever he or she thinks is correct. If he or she sees something else is actually the truth plain thinking will cause them to change his or her mind. This comes by patient bible teaching not waging war.
How radical can you get to advise us to have compassionate hearts? Kindness? Humility? Meekness? Patience? Love?! Common brother Paul you have got to be kidding.



Oh, here we go:



Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ESV



We have died and become new creatures. We are to seek heavenly things where Jesus is seated. These things will not occur in glory. Wow that would be heaven wouldn’t it? However we are not to be so heavenly minded we are of no earthly good. V. 17 tells us to do everything in the name of our Lord Jesus and in thankfulness to our Father. Do? Oh perish the thought! These are real law not just polite suggestions. As law they accuse, inform and accuse some more. Our desire is to do these things but the more we try the more we see failure. This shows we can definitely not live apart from a crucified and resurrected Jesus. How wonderful we can repent, receive forgiveness each day and start again.



In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Monday, September 8, 2008

When Jesus Comes.



Every time we gather together to hear the word of God preached and partake of Holy Communion we do so in the name of Jesus. Jesus promised to be present when we gather in his name. Since the holy scriptures are God’s word all the words therein are the words of Jesus. When you have the words of Jesus you also have Jesus.


Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ESV


That portion shows the strong promise that when we eat the bread of the Lord’s Supper we receive the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. This is the visible gospel and due to the fact it is a promise of our Lord we have great confidence that even though we don’t understand how or when the Lord is present we know he is.


12] With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say: If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ? etc., I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger. 13] Now here stands the Word of Christ: Take, eat; this is My body; Drink ye all of it; this is the new testament in My blood, etc. Here we abide, and would like to see those who will constitute themselves His masters, and make it different from what He has spoken. It is true, indeed, that if you take away the Word or regard it without the words, you have nothing but mere bread and wine. 14] But if the words remain with them, as they shall and must, then, in virtue of the same, it is truly the body and blood of Christ. For as the lips of Christ say and speak, so it is, as He can never lie or deceive. From Martin Luther’s Large Catechism.


The words of Jesus should never be doubted no matter how mysterious.


In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Taking One on the Chin.



Worldly wisdom will tell us that we deserve our day in court. We need our pound of flesh. Even if not in civil or criminal court but in the court of public opinion as well. Someone wrongs you. Accusations are laid on you involving things of which you do not think you are guilty. The natural, and especially in this age, reaction is to counter attack. After all we need to defend ourselves. Don’t we?

Romans 12: 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. 20 To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ESV

In this section we see how a believer in Jesus is to react to unfair treatment. Wow. That is different then the wisdom of the world. However, the promise is in there that the Lord will recompense. He will repay the person who wronged you. Either in his mercy the vengeance was suffered by Jesus on the cross or some other way the Lord sees fit. The benefit for us in the long run is we do not have to burden ourselves with trying to exact justice.

Seldom will many people even notice the wrong he or she has done. If one were to confront the person the defenses will go up either way. That person will go to his or her friends for a verdict so a host of others will view the dirty business. The wronged will go to his or her friends for a verdict as well. If some of those who are asked to render said verdict knows both parties and is fond of them he or she is caught in the crossfire. The backlash against those parties can be severe for they are required by both parties in the conflict and thier associates to agree. What a mess!

Those are the consequences of not letting things drop. However, that is not the ultimate motivation for letting these go of those things.

Romans 12: 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. ESV

In grateful response to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross we depend on the promise of God to sort it out. It is so rare and quite possibly nonexistent that the injured party is totally innocent in the situation. Even if the party is innocent in that situation he or she has been guilty in another event or action for we are all by nature sinful and unclean. God grant us the willingness to think of ourselves soberly instead of being drunk with self pride and arrogance.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baptism: It is all about certainty.



How to know you are a child of God? That is the question on many minds. Much of the holy Christian church teach that either through good works or some other peering at oneself one can tell if he or she belongs to Jesus. That is dreadful because we are such dismal failures in all we think, say or do. We will either overestimate or underestimate that which we see in ourselves. In fact that sin is one turned in on oneself. So it is highly doubtful that God would want us to check ourselves out for assurance. In a recent Issues Etc. the point was made by Pastor Todd Wilkin that baptism is all about certainty.


1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. ESV


Since we are unable to go back in time to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus he has instituted the sacrament of baptism in order to know we have the forgiveness of sins. This is upsetting to many who insist that baptism is nothing more than getting wet for Jesus. However, God created water and is quite comfortable using it to deliver the earth from sin as well as those who receive this gift.


Many complain that it is false comfort to look at baptism for assurance. That many will go to hell thinking they are saved which are actually lost. This is not understanding that those who do not believe are the ones under condemnation. If a person does not trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus the baptism does him no good. Neither would a wonderful law/gospel sermon. It would unfortunately fall on deaf ears although faith comes by hearing the words of Christ most definitely.


Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ESV


In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Things!





Things are useful and some are needful in this life. However, it is so easy to find oneself not owning things but rather being owned by them. Advertisers vie with each other proclaiming to have a complete and orderly life one must have their brand of trinket, gadget or soothing liquid. This is slavery of the most pernicious kind. Our adversary uses this to occupy our hearts and minds instead of what is permanent, undefiled and does not waste away.



1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you ESV



The trinkets go out of style. The gadgets break or are stolen. The soothing liquid is used up or goes stale and has to be replaced. These results will take the Christian’s eyes off Jesus and our inheritance and place them on the temporary and passing away world and its delights. What becomes of this during times of either personal or national economic upheavals? We become weary and defiled with these items and the seeking for more.



Jesus, when on earth, had no possessions standing in his way of loving God with his whole heart. He was not here for the purpose of accumulating things. We are not here for that purpose either. We of course cannot do that for we are not perfect humans much less God. How wonderful that we have his robe of righteousness dressing us so that we are credited with the following:



Matthew 6:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ESV



Our goal and motivation are clear in this section. As stated before we are incapable of divorcing ourselves from coveting luxury. There is no one so devoted to Jesus that he or she cannot be soiled by worldly prosperity. Here again is ample evidence that we never out grow our need for our crucified Lord.



Grant us repentance Lord and renewed faith and trust in your will and provision. In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hope Alive!



Many will think of the resurrection of Jesus and its benefits for us to be only in the future. Sometime after we die we will be raised again to spend eternity praising and serving God. While it is true that we will enjoy an eternity with God in his heavenly realm this resurrection also gives us benefits in the here and now.


1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead ESV

We are born again to a living hope. Hope in these days is kind of a weasel word. People will say “I hope it is a nice day for our picnic.” “Wow I hope that it rains today.” No this hope is associated with the strong and sure promises purchased by the God/man for us by his resurrection. We are born again into a new family. We appear before God as precious children in whom he delights. We are no longer under the law’s condemnation. There is no threats or vexation it can do to us. Our Father is no longer filled with wrath toward us. But he is indeed our dear Father and we his dear children in Christ.
We do not behold these blessings in fulness. This is why it is our living hope. The fulness is ours when Jesus returns to put an end to all this foolishness we endure day in and out. This is not at all on the account of anything we have done but rather because of his great mercy. Mercy which caused Jesus to become our new head, a righteous head, who gives us his righteousness. We can reflect on our baptism and go forth in resurrected assurance to face our day.


In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pillows or Bricks?



For one to be chose by God is one of the most comforting doctrines in Christianity. The fact that the child of God has been chosen and adopted. The difficulty arises when this doctrine is supplemented by trying to fill in the blanks left by God. This blank refers to those who reject the gift of eternal life.


1 Peter 1:1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ESV


In this section St Peter states those chosen by God are chosen in the being made holy by the Spirit, by which we obey Jesus and are sprinkled with his blood. This verse says nothing about one who does not believe being chosen by God to die eternally separated from His goodness.

To fill in this blank with submitting scripture to Reason takes the pillow of comfort out of the pillow case and fill it with bricks. Then will proceed to bash another person in the head with it by casting doubt at the other person's faith. If God set about choosing some for heaven and others for hell He would have given a way for one to tell which group he or she was in. John 3:18 states that one is condemned for not believing in Jesus. If double predestination were true no one can ever know in this life his or her standing with God.

No it is better to leave the blanks left by God blank and therefore have grace and peace be multiplied to us.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen †

Friday, August 8, 2008

Baptism: Whose Work is it?



Is Baptism Our Symbolic Work for God or God’s Powerful Work for Us?


By Dr. Richard P. Bucher


Does baptism do anything? Does it effect and work salvation in the one being baptized? Or does it simply symbolize the salvation, new birth, forgiveness, etc., already given by faith. Put another way, is it a "means of grace" or the confirmation of grace already given and received by faith?
Below I've listed the key New Testament passages on baptism. Read them with the above questions in mind. In these passages, do the New Testament authors attribute to baptism the power to save? Or do they speak of baptism as a rite which only symbolizes what has already occurred?


What it comes it down to is this: Either baptism is our work for God or it is God's work for us. Either it is something that we do out of obedience to God, which in itself gives nothing; or it is something that God works in us, which gives everything - salvation, new life, and entrance into the kingdom. The Scriptural evidence follows. You decide!


Matthew 28:19-20a -- Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.


Note: Most agree that in this passage "teaching" is a means of making disciples of all nations, that the ongoing work of making disciples takes place by the agency of teaching. However, if this is true for teaching, grammatically it should also be true of baptizing. For in the Greek, didaskontes, "teaching," not only has the exact same construction as baptizontes, "baptizing" (nominative, plural, present, active, participles), but both words are antecedents of the verb matheteusate, "make disciples;" both verbs are grammatically coordinate:
"Having gone, therefore, make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."


Mark 16:15-16 -- He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."


John 3:5-6 -- Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit

Acts 2:38-39 -- Peter replied, "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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Acts 22:16 -- And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

Romans 6:3-8 -- Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

1 Corinthians 6:11 -- And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 -- The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Galatians 3:26-28 -- You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 5:25-27 -- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Colossians 2:11-12 -- In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

Titus 3:5-7 -- he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 10:22 -- let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

1 Peter 3:20b-21-- In it [Noah's ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ [see Romans 6:3-4].

According to these verses, baptism:

makes disciples (Mt. 28:19)

saves (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21)

brings forgiveness/washes away sin/cleanses/takes away guilt (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22)

causes us to be born again (John 3:5; Titus 3:5)

crucifies the old man, buries him, and causes the baptized one to be raised up as a new creation of God (Romans 6:3-6; Colossians 2:11-12)

makes us members of Christ's body (1 Corinthians 12:13)

gives us the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Titus 3:5-6)

clothes us with Christ (puts on His righteousness!) (Galatians 3:27)

On the basis of these strong words of Scripture, we Lutherans have become convinced that baptism is God's powerful work by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes salvation in us. How sad, then, when baptism is turned into a pitiful work of obedience that we do for God, a work that does nothing but only symbolizes what has already taken place. How sadder still, when baptism is completely thrown aside and "dedication," which is nothing but man-made piety, is substituted. It is certainly true that often adults are converted by faith in the Gospel before they are baptized. But there is also no getting around this Scriptural evidence, that baptism is a powerful means of grace in which God (not us) works wonders. In baptism, God is the giver and we are to be the receiver (through faith).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Case for Infant Baptism



Why We Baptize Babies (The Case for Infant Baptism)

By Dr. Richard P. Bucher


Should we baptize babies? The Christian Church continues to be sharply divided over this important question. Those who answer "yes" (Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, etc.) claim Biblical support for their position. Those who answer "no" (Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, many "Bible" or "evangelical," or "non-denominational" churches) say the Bible is on their side. The pro-infant baptism churches assert that Christ commanded infant baptism. The opposing side asserts that nowhere is such a thing commanded. They hold that at best it is useless and at worst harmful. It is their practice to rebaptize adults who were baptized as babies.

The Lutheran Church has always taught that baptism is for everyone, including infants. We believe that Jesus wants babies to be baptized. We do so for the following reasons.

I - Christ Has Commanded Us

Many raise the objection: "There is not a single example of infant baptism in the New Testament, nor is there any command to do so. Therefore Christians should not baptize babies."
But Jesus has commanded infant baptism. In Matthew 28:19 He says, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit . . .." Before He ascended, the Lord of the Church commanded us to baptize "all nations," a phrase the Church has always understood to mean "everyone." Matthew 25:31-32 also uses the phrase "all nations" in this way. All nations are to be baptized, regardless of race, color, sex, age, class, or education. Jesus makes no exceptions. He doesn't say, "Baptize all nations except . . .." Everyone is to be baptized, including infants. If we say that babies are not to be included in Christ's Great Commission, then where will it stop? What other people will we exclude?

It is true that there is no example in Scripture of a baby being baptized. However, to conclude from this that babies are not to be baptized is absurd. Neither are there any specific examples of the elderly being baptized, or teenagers, or little children. Instead we read about men (Acts 2:41; 8:35) women (Acts 16:14-15), and entire households being baptized (Acts 10:24,47-48; 16:14-15; 16:30-33; 1 Co. 1:16). The authors of the New Testament documents didn't feel compelled to give examples of every age group or category being baptized. Why should they have? Certainly they understood that "all nations" is all-inclusive.

II - Babies Need Forgiveness

The Bible teaches that infants are born sinful and are in need of forgiveness. Scripture says nothing about an "Age of Accountability" that begins at the age of reason. Its message is that accountability begins at conception. David confesses in Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." The Bible teaches original sin, that the corruption and guilt of Adam's sin is passed on to every human being at conception. Jesus affirms this teaching when He says, "Flesh gives birth to flesh" (John 3:5). Paul takes it up in Romans 5:18: "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

Furthermore, Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). According to Jesus, ANYONE who does not believe in Him will be damned. Jesus makes no exception for infants. Babies will not be saved without faith in Jesus. Parents who think they are placing their children under God's grace by "dedicating" them are deceiving themselves. The only dedication that the New Testament knows of is the "dedication" that take place via baptism. That is why infants should be baptized. Like everyone else, they desperately need forgiveness. If infants die before they believe in Jesus, they will be eternally condemned. They, like everyone else, need to be baptized so that they can be born again. Jesus said, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). We believe that baptism is God's special means of grace for children by which He causes them to be born again. To keep them from baptism is to keep them from forgiveness and to endanger them with damnation.

III - Baptism Replaces Circumcision

God's covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-14) demanded that every male child was to be circumcised when eight days old. By circumcision, the baby entered into a covenant relationship with the true God.

St. Paul teaches us that in the New Testament baptism has replaced circumcision. "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism . . ." (Col. 2:11-12).
Given this fact, it would have been natural for first century Jewish believers to baptize infants, since they were accustomed to circumcise their male children at eight days old. It is also logical that if God regarded eight day old male babies as members of His covenant people through circumcision, He will also regard newborn babies to be members of His kingdom through baptism, the "circumcision made without hands."

IV - Infants Can Believe

The most frequent objection to infant baptism is that babies cannot believe. They do not, says the objection, have the intellect necessary to repent and believe in Jesus.

If this is your opinion, Jesus disagrees with you. Luke 18 tells us that certain parents were bringing infants (Greek - brephe) to Jesus, that He might bless them. The disciples rebuked those who brought the babies. Jesus' response is well known: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it" (Luke 18:15-17). Some have objected that it is "little children" and not infants that Jesus speaks of here. Yet the very little children that the disciples were forbidding were infants. The infants are the focus of the passage. Clearly on this occasion Jesus had babies in mind when He said what He did!

Does this passage speak of infant baptism? No, not directly. It does show that Jesus did not raise the objection that so many do today about babies not being able to believe. According to Jesus, these babies had what it took to be members of the kingdom of God, feeble intellect and all! "Do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God."

Now Jesus does not contradict Himself. The central message of His ministry (the Gospel) was that there was only way to enter God's kingdom. There was only one way to be saved. "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Repeatedly Christ taught that faith in Him was the one way to become a member of God's kingdom (cf. John 3:16-18). Therefore, when He says about babies, "for of such is the kingdom of God," He is telling us that babies can believe (for how else could they enter the kingdom?!).

So if Jesus maintained that babies can believe (though their faith is very simple), who are we to deny it? And who are we to deny baptism to those who can believe? For those still stumbling over infant faith, remember: it is purely by God's grace that any person, adult or child, can believe. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit as much for the adult as for the child (see John 6:44; 1 Cor. 12:3; Eph. 2:1-4). When the adult believes in Christ it is only because the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel, has worked the miracle of faith in his heart. So with the infant. If faith, then, is always a miracle, why can we not believe that God would work such miraculous faith in a baby?

Someone might ask, "If babies can believe then why do they need baptism?" Answer: it is through baptism that faith is created in the infant's heart. Baptism, far from being the empty symbolism that many imagine it to be, is the visible Gospel, a powerful means of grace. According to Scripture, baptism "washes away sin" (Acts 22:16), "saves" (1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16), causes one to "die to sin, to be buried, and raised up with Christ" (Romans 6:3-4) causes one to be "clothed with Christ" (Galatians 3:27), and to be a member of the body of Christ: "for by one Spirit, were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). It bears repeating: baptism is a special means of God's grace by which He gives faith, forgiveness, and salvation to the infant.

V - The Practice of the Early Church

Those who deny infant baptism have a problem. They must explain why the fathers of the Church's first centuries speak of infant baptism as a universal custom. The Fathers is what we now call Pastors who led the Church after the death of the apostles. When we examine the writings of Irenaeus (d. 202), Tertullian (d. 240), Origen (d. 254), Cyprian (d. 258), and Augustine (d. 430), we see that they all spoke of infant baptism as accepted custom (though Tertullian disagreed with it).

Irenaeus remarks, "For He came to save all through means of Himself all, I say, who through Him are born again to God, infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men" (Against Heresies, Book 1, Ch. 22.4).

In his commentary on Romans, Origin writes, "The Church has received from the apostles the custom of administering baptism even to infants. For those who have been entrusted with the secrets of divine mysteries, knew very well that all are tainted with the stain of original sin, which must be washed off by water and spirit" (Romans Commentary, 5.9).

Cyprian writes, "In respect of the case of infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man... Spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision... we ought to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins - that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another" (Letter 58 to Fidus).

And in his Enchiridion, Augustine declares, "For from the infant newly born to the old man bent with age, as there is none shut out from baptism, so there is none who in baptism does not die to sin" (Enchiridion; ch. 43).

Conclusion

For completeness sake, I have listed five reasons why Christians should baptize infants. The first reason should have been enough. Jesus has commanded His Church to "make disciples of all nations baptizing them . . .." Christ made no exceptions. Infants are part of all nations, as are every other age group. We do not have to prove this. The burden of proof is on those who deny that infants are to be included in "all nations." To deny the blessing of infant baptism because you can't find the words "infant baptism" in the Bible makes as much sense as rejecting the teaching of the Trinity because you can't find the words "Trinity" or "triune" in the Bible.

As to babies not being of the age of reason and therefore not able to believe, I have shown that Christ disagrees. So in a sense, the teaching of infant baptism reveals who your Lord is. Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us to baptize all nations, has declared that everyone who dies without faith is damned, and has taught us that infants can believe by God's grace working through baptism. Lord Reason says, "I don't understand how a baby can believe, therefore I reject infant baptism. It makes more sense to me to do it my way." Which Lord will you obey? Will you obey Christ and baptize "all nations," including infants, even though you don't understand it? Or will you obey Reason and reject infant baptism because you don't understand how babies can believe? Which Lord will you obey?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Fruit Inspection 3.



Bear fruit or else! That is a common theme from preachers who do not understand the distinction between law and Gospel. Sadly even some who should know this distinction. Perhaps it is born of frustration with seeming inactive, fat and lazy Christians in his congregation. Granted whoever follows Jesus will bear fruit. Jesus said so recorded in John 15. Perhaps an examination of what fruit is and who it is seeing it can shed light in these seeming dark and threatening corners:


Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. ESV


What we see is that fruit, rather than works done by the Christian, is actually attitude and motivation by reason of presence of the Holy Spirit. This is contrasted by earlier reference to fruit of the flesh and the warning that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. The promise is that those who are inheriting the Kingdom are also not doing the fruit of the flesh. Later we will see who would see that fruit.


However, the natural theologian of glory in each believer will always spot what looks like our activity. Aha, says he, if a believer does not crucify the flesh he or she will not bear fruit. This person will not be living or walking by the Spirit. But the whole action of attempting to prove to him or herself that he or she is bearing fruit aplenty is a desire of the flesh. So how is one’s flesh crucified with its passions and desires?


Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ESV


It is in our baptism that our flesh is crucified. A baptized Christian is crucified with Christ. This is why we must always remember our baptism each and everyday and especially when times of doubt creep in. These times come when the law approaches us and accuses us. Or we hear an unfortunate sermon by a frustrated pastor can also toss a person into a season of doubt. That is why it is very important to pay close attention to the type of preacher one is listening to. We should listen to only those who draw proper and clear distinctions between what we do and what Jesus has done for us in his life, death, burial and resurrection. That our trust will remain in that which saves us.


Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? 40 And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. KJV


Now we see who it is that is the real fruit inspector. On the last day those in Christ will have a public pronouncement of that which was purchased for them by Jesus and given to them graciously. Notice the fruit was not even known by those who are blessed in this way. They had no idea they were bearing this fruit. This is why it is vital, as mentioned earlier, we are careful to not listen to a lot of sermons. These unfortunate ramblings will do nothing but cast doubt rather than to encourage us in the promises given to us.


This fruit is not the reason these are entering the Kingdom but rather the evidence. And this evidence is hidden from our eyes because of sin. We carry on our daily rounds with absolutely no hint that fulfilling our tasks each day is fruit pleasing to our Father in heaven. Perhaps it is the best for our flesh surely would seek a way to take credit for these activities.


Now about the fruit of the flesh. God also is the one who inspects that. Rather he sees the lack of fruit of the Spirit in the unbeliever. The unbelievers are told they did not do these things. The unbeliever does not love Jesus so how could he or she do anything for him? Neither does the unbeliver have the Holy Spirit bearing fruit one of which is faith. Perhaps they fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited people in prison but only out of self motivation. To either feel good about themselves or to impress others. We see that all the time when a rich person will call a conference to announce a large gift to charity or serve in a soup kitchen. He or she has the only reward that will earn. The fleeting recognition from the world until it moves onto something better.


Notice also the word inherit. We inherit the Kingdom we do not earn it. It is ours from before the foundation of the world. How comforting is that? Let us believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers.

In the name of Jesus. †

Saturday, July 26, 2008

...with impatience and personal opinion



A few days ago the subject came up when speaking about those who have false doctrine in his or her church affiliation. This could range from something extremely serious such as the Deity of Jesus to something comparatively minor as cessation of the ecstatic gifts of the Holy Spirit to free will acceptance of Jesus as Saviour. This topic ran along the course of trying to determine whether these folk were even saved. The discussions with those who hold to false teaching usually go pretty bad and certainly causes the one in error to dig in the heels and any hope of conversation ends. This is tragic and is not at all what scripture presents as the way to handle error.


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. ESV

Indeed we are to take false teaching seriously. Due to being sinner and saint a true believer in our Lord can fall easy prey to false teaching. These teachings do endanger the soul of the believer. The more serious doctrinal errors can lead to huge despair and a wandering away from the faith. Even if a person stays in the faith, and many do, throughout the rest of his or her life they will certainly not enjoy the fullness of peace our Lord has for them. But to look down our noses at them and tell them they must agree with us or be lost is not the way to go about it.


However, the Christian is also a new creature. A new heart was placed inside this person which never sins and always has sound doctrine. Through patient bible teaching this person can, with the Holy Spirit using the word, begin to see the fallacy and embrace the truth. This can happen quickly or over a long period of time. This may follow sharp responses and sometimes a loss of relationship which can be heart rendering especially if the person is a close friend or family member.

Matthew 12:18 Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope. ESV


We see prophesied in the above quote from Isaah how Jesus was to handle false teaching in the lives of His believers who were trapped in the false religion of Judaism. This was not the fear of Isaac of old as the false teachers claimed but was as perverted as too many parts of Christianity today which also teach that thru our effort we can become a Christian, remain in the faith or gain greater reward in heaven. Indeed the teachers of these false religions received harsh rebuke but it was laden with scripture not with character attacks.


Those trapped by these teachers received gentle teaching. How many times did the disciples not get it before Jesus was crucified and after his Ascension? The bible is loaded with reports of it. Jesus did not take the chance of breaking weak faith nor snuffing out smoldering faith. His whole purpose was to call sinners to repentance and faith in the promise associated with his perfect life, crucifixion and resurrection.


The Holy Spirit is not waiting in the hallway for us to generate high drama in order to work. He works through the word in the ears of those who have received faith. Let us not appeal to the flesh with this type of behaviour but learn scripture to teach in context to show our brothers and sisters what a wonderful faith we have been given. We are given tasks to perform not things to accomplished. If the Lord so desires we will see the light dawn in these people’s lives and nothing is a precious as that. It is all in his hands and thankfully not in our hands.


In the name of Jesus. †