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.

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. †