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.

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.
Down in my heart!
Down in my heart!!
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.

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


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.

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. †