Saturday, February 23, 2008

Growing in Grace

Luke 5: 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. ESV

Indeed when God shows His power in an obvious way it can cause fear. Ask anyone who has escaped certain death in war, car wreck or illness. That was St Peter’s reaction to Jesus telling them to cast nets one more time after a night of fruitless work. Some have dared suggest that perhaps he did not believe in Jesus at the time and came to faith later. To prove this point the next section of scripture is used:

John 21: 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. ESV

So what could have made the difference? We are dealing with the same sinner and the same Saviour. In fact this second occurrence happened after St Peter messed up big time with denying Jesus on the night if His crucifixion. In the second account St Peter was bold in approaching Jesus so much that he did not want to wait for the boat to arrive at the shore. The difference is St Peter found out what a complete sinner he was and what a complete Saviour is Jesus.

This can happen and should to all those who trust in Jesus. For certain when one comes to understand the original sin of which we are all guilty it is an amazing grace we behold. However, when afterward we continue to screw up, repent, receive forgiveness and realize no matter how hard we try all we can do is promise to sin again we see what a much greater Saviour we have. So we too with Simon look forward to being with Jesus more and more as time rolls on. Like a little child looks forward to seeing a loving and accepting adult we look forward to seeing Jesus.

Luke 7: 41"A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly." 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." 48And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?" 50 And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." ESV

Praise to you O Christ. †

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Raging Hordes of Enthusiasts. Part 3

Genesis 3: 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" ESV

Did God say that? Did He really mean it? This is the oldest doubt cast upon God’s word and we still face it today. In the Holy Bible we are faced with some incredible claims by God. Not the least of these made by our Lord Jesus Himself.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. ESV

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." ESV

The Enthusiast believes teaches and confesses that God works in a non tangible and ill defined manner in our lives. In the above recordings of the words of Jesus He states that one is born again of water and Spirit and that baptism makes disciples. The Enthusiast will contradict this vehemently. “How can water save anyone or make a disciple? That only makes a person wet.” These questions about the word of God are quite similar to the one the serpent made to Eve at the temptation.

A real danger to the faith of the believer is set in motion when the word of God is made subject to human reason. Reason is a gift of God to help us muddle through this world from day to day when His word is silent on a matter. “Which job should I take?” “Which car should I buy?” These are both decisions which God will bless in the life of a Christian. Reason will aid in making these decisions about the economy and comfort of the car and the prospects for earning a living in the employment. When it comes to something about which God has spoken specifically reason is to play a servant role to the word rather than the teacher.

In the case of baptism reason will learn about it by looking at what the rest of God’s word teaches to see if it matches up or if it indeed teaches one is only getting “wet for Jesus.”

Ezekiel 36:24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. ESV

These are sure promises of God. Notice who is doing the action. God will take us from the nations. God will sprinkle clean water on us, His people, to cleanse us from uncleanness and idols. God will give us and new heart and spirit; God will remove the hard from us and make it flesh.

Father, thank you for your word which you have given us to know You and the promise of adoption in baptism. Forgive us for times we harden our hearts against what you have clearly promised in Your word. Jesus, thank you for believing the word perfectly for us and dying for our guilt for not believing it like our parents and transferring these to us in baptism. Holy Spirit, thank you for Your presence in baptism. Please make our hearts tender to those things in scripture which are for our good and our peace. Amen †

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Raging Hordes of Enthusiasts. Part 2

Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ESV

The above passage was the text for a sermon a friend asked me to review. It was preached by a Baptist minister and was available on Sermon Audio. Salvation by grace through faith is something historically the Baptist get right. Not one of them would ever say that a person is saved by what he or she does. And this man was not an exception for he plainly states that nothing we do can save us. In addition he made it clear that it is the finished work of Jesus on the cross which paid the sin debt for us. These are points for rejoicing that there are still men out there in Baptist Churches proclaiming these truths.

While preaching he stated that the Sacraments have nothing to do with salvation. This is a long held belief by the Baptist’s view of salvation. This teaching proclaims that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are an ordinance of the church to be observed and obeyed. His reference to this was in speaking against the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of justification by works. While one can agree with his assessment of that error the Roman Church does not teach trust in the Sacraments either. In that body it is taught those are actions taken by people in order to please God. They are referred to as obligations to perform. Performance of them often enough and with sufficient fervor one can hope to add to and make withdrawals from the treasury of merits of Christ and the Saints. Unfortunately we see a correspondence between what that minister was stating and what is taught in Rome. Both would teach it as the work of sinners not the Saviour.

Is this what the bible teaches or is there different teaching in scripture? Both views are steeped in tradition but not is scripture. Scripture teaches that the two Sacraments are instituted by Jesus as gifts in which we receive the benefits and promises associated with His perfect life, death, burial and resurrection.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. ESV

Reading a little further in the letter out of which the sermon was preached we see a conflict between what he was preaching and what St Paul taught. We see that the church is sanctified and cleansed by Jesus through the washing of water with the word. It is not a regular pouring of water but it is comprehended with the word and the promise of Jesus that one becomes a disciple by receiving this baptism. Matthew 28:19-20.

1Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? ESV

There we see St Paul proclaiming that the Lord’s Supper is indeed receiving the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ESV Later, on the same night He was betrayed, when instituting the Sacrament He gave bread and the cup which He identified as His body and blood. Matthew 26: 26-28. In this meal we receive the forgiveness of sins as promised by Jesus in that institution. We can trust His word can't we?

According to that minister where do we look for the assurance of salvation? He indicated that a good place to start is emotions. That is how God communicates these things to us not through visible means. Emotions are certainly real and can be involved in a relationship to God but they hardly can be relied upon for proof positive. Emotions in the human are fickle and part of the fallen nature. More related to what is happening on any given day then how God sees the person they can hardly be trusted for any assurance. A real candid and honest reading of the standards God requires of people in relationship with Him will leave one with the emotion of despair. If I had the chance to ask this minister I would ask where we are given the promise of assurance in with and under our feelings.

God is the creator of matter and is quite able and seems pleased to use it for His purposes. So if His word attaches promises to material items, and it does, rather than fight against it we should praise Him for these gifts and live in the true peace they offer.

Lord we believe. Help our unbelief. Amen †

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Heart Rend For You

It is that time of year again. Those of us in the churches who observe the church calendar have ashes smudged on our foreheads in the shape of the cross. The minister will remind us “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” Not very exciting is it? I mean after all we have done for Jesus in the past year! We have loved Him with our whole hearts and our neighbour as ourselves haven’t we? Well except for those times when we don’t appreciate having a specific item lacking in our lives. Oh, and how about what our brother or sister said to us the other day? And they call themselves a Christian! Whoops!

Joel 2:12 "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? ESV

Those examples above show idolatry. In arrogance our inner brat, which is actually us as I was reminded just yesterday, think we know better than God. Thanks brother Andy! The pride one can feel at how wonderful one has become can really appear dirty. Oh the heart wants to be puffed up. Even in repentance one wishes to arrogate to him or herself the act of repenting. How can one tear a heart? Jesus tore His in our stead.

Matthew 27: 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? KJV

The physical torture was certainly severe. The shame of being put on display in front of your mother and friends naked, beaten and condemned. He was in the company of thieves and murderers yet innocent personally of all transgression. None of us can come near to fully appreciating this no matter if we were to tear our clothes and flog ourselves. But imagine the One that is loved with all your heart turns His back on you! What a heart rending thing! This is all done for me and you because there is no way our pride and self love would allow us to rip our hearts in humility.
Thank you Jesus for the forgiveness we have because of your broken body and shed blood. Amen †

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Raging Horde of Enthusiasts

The other day I heard a sermon in which the pastor was praying for God to speak to the hearts of those in attendance. This is a normal prayer which is prayed many times during worship services. What was remarkable is that in the prayer he said: “We know O God that Thou dost work in the hearts of your children. We are not sure how or when your Spirit works but we know He does.” This was quite surprising for after the prayer he read from God’s word. Why would he insist on reading the bible to the people if he did not in his heart of hearts believe that God works thru the word.

From the Book of Concord Smalcald Articles Part 3 Article 8: Confession
We must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one except through or with the preceding outward Word. This protects us from the enthusiasts (who boast that they have the Spirit without the Word)…

Later Luther states that the papists and Muhammad are the heresies that are protected against by this insistence. Today the list has increased of the errors brought about by those who look outside the word of God for inspiration and direction. St Paul addressed this issue to the church at Galatia.

Galatians 3: 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith. ESV

Notice that he referred to the hearing with faith two times. This was enough in his estimation to protect from the legalism being perpetrated on that assembly. This legalism was fighting against the finished work of Jesus’ perfect life, death, burial and resurrection for us sinners as completing salvation and nothing need be added.

So what of today? We see many conservative teachers which are either knowingly or unknowingly directing their hearers to Rome. This is done by not teaching the word as a sure promise of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit which undermines faith in the finished work of Jesus. Lord have mercy!

Another way it is undermined is similar to what the papist would use. “What about those who never hear the word preached how are they saved?” This question is underhanded and not very subtle in an attempt to question the validity of God’s word. We are not told the answer to that question and to seek to answer it one would fall into error. Suffice it to say that God is merciful and will always do the right thing.

Father grant us faith to hold fast to your sure and blessed promises in the Bible in these perilous times and lead us to life everlasting. Amen †