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. †

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Keeping the Main Thing as the Main Thing.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen

When listening to sermons from various brands of modern evangelicalism we see something is lacking. Some of the sermons are more of a behaviour modification seminar than a Christian sermon. It is true we have specific things that God our Father expects from us. Being loving children we all would love to behave in ways that would please Him. Even when the sermon is laden with scripture it is presented in such a way as to be about the Christian rather than the Christ.

Another popular subject is end times. Whether the preacher is in his mind Premillenial, Post millennial or Amellenial the main emphasis is proving the point of where we are in history and what happens next. This is all very interesting and makes for great seminars and bible studies but is not Christian preaching.

Still another popular subject, especially around Eastertide, is proving through evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The evidence is compelling and will leave no doubt in the honest brain that Jesus did indeed rise again from the dead as promised. However, that type of sermon is information not proclamation. You can speak to many an unbeliever and many will agree that Jesus rose from the dead. But it does not mean that person trusts this truth for a saving reason.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. ESV

We see in the above section what Jesus said is the main proclamation. No matter the part of the bible being preached it is about Christ crucified and resurrected. The Gospel is not merely the facts surrounding what happened to Jesus. It is the promises associated with his finished work which makes up the Gospel.

Yes indeed the law must be laid down in all its crushing force. There should be no wiggle room for any sinner to escape its condemning diagnosis. And after the diagnosis is pronounced and the death sentence given then the sweetness of the Gospel can come forth into the ears of the sinners. By this hearing we receive the forgiveness of our sins. This Gospel is received through the waters of baptism when God’s name is placed on us and we become new creatures risen with Jesus, We also receive this when we take in the body and blood of our Lord into our mouths as he promised. What wonderful peace is ours after a week, in all honesty, we knew coming into worship we have been defeated by our own fallen and sinful nature.

And this is to be proclaimed in Jesus name to all nations. This includes the 21st century USA to believers in Christ. The objection is raised that as believers we all ready know this. In deed we do but we get sidetracked and therefore leak faith. In this world one gets ahead by trying hard and being faithful. Those are laudable actions and the duty of those baptized into the name of the Triune God. However, that is not how we get ahead as far as our relationship to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has proclaimed us ahead by granting repentance and the forgiveness of sin. We receive this good news by faith and live in the peace that it offers. In addition we can know we are set free to do the things that please Father because of His grace and the robe of righteousness we also receive by faith in baptism.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen †

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fruit Inspection 2.

1 John 3:6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. ESV

Many times the above section of scripture is used for judging another person or oneself is in the faith or not. From the initial appearance it does seem to be a proving text for settling the question. This however, comes from a not making the distinction between law and Gospel. To make this clearer one needs to use the context in which this passage is placed.
The nearer context is backing up to the first verses in the chapter:

1 John 1:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. ESV

God the Father has called us his children. It is by His pronouncement that we know this. The difficulty presents itself when we see sin in our lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters. The statement is often made that we and should know better than to act a certain way or to serve our neighbour more fully. When one keeps on reading it shows that we are children of God now not in the sometime future when we have personally resisted all temptation. This promise is to be looked at for the assurance not what we see with our own eyes. The further promise is that it will appear what we will become. This refers to the time after we depart this veil of tears and trouble. These promises also serve as a motivation to resist temptation when we see it coming and serve those in need when we see it. This is done throughout our daily rounds in our vocations as family member, employee, employer and citizen.

If a person finds him or herself not loving another brother or sister as earlier in the letter confess his or her sin and God will cleanse of all unrighteousness. The law always accuses and never gives strength to overcome sin. In this way the law serves the Gospel by pointing us back to our Triune God. So where would one find this strength?

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. ESV

What we need to hear again and again is how we are loved by God. How that this love was such that He sent His son into the world so that we may live through Him. God loved us first, dwells in us by his Spirit so that we love one another. This again is the fruit of the cross of Christ and not something we muscle up from within ourselves. We receive this fruit at our baptism when we are born of water and Spirit. Again all glory to God alone.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Friday, July 4, 2008

I'm With Him

Imagine that! Friends with the Creator of all that is seen and unseen! Every being created is a servant of God. By nature we are servants who are hostile toward God and are worthy only of His present and eternal punishment. We all know this don’t we. This causes much fear in people that they either deny the existence of God or form one whom they can manipulate into loving them.

Jesus came in human flesh to accomplish what we cannot even dream of doing. He came to make us different by declaration. He calls us His friends:

John 15: 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. ESV

In a recent conversation with some Christians it was mentioned that a few of them do not believe only in one Day of Judgment. Rather what is hoped is that Christians are taken out of this world in a special move of God prior to the last day. This view goes by the name of Premillennialism. The bothering part of the single Day of Judgment taught clearly by Jesus is each time the statement is made about being judged according to our works. This causes much fear in many Christians about the final judgement. This is one of the reasons for the wishful thinking about seperate days when Jesus takes the church home and judges the lost. When we are honest with ourselves we have to admit we fall short on a continual basis. So how can we survive this last Day of Judgment where works are going to be examined?

In a sermon a while back the following illustration was used by Pastor Wm Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights California:

A person I know got an invitation from a friend of his, who happened to be the director of the San Francisco Bach Society, to come to a rehearsal of the San Francisco Orchestra. He got to tour backstage and see the side of the concert hall that usually only the musicians saw. One of the security guards saw him wandering around backstage and questioned him. “What are you doing here,” he asked. “I’m with him,” the man said, pointing to his friend. I imagine that’s what Judgment Day will be like, when the Law says, “What are you doing here?” and the only response will be to point to Jesus and say, “I’m with Him.” *

So we can lay aside our fears that the law generates in us about meeting Jesus on that day. He fulfilled the laws requirements for us. In addition Jesus paid for our transgressions of that law with His holy and innocent sufferings and death. As those who are baptized into the Name of the Holy Triune God can know we have this promised to us as well as in this life we are no longer hostile servants but truly His friends.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

*Used by permission of Rev William Cwirla. His podcasted sermons are linked at the right of this blog.