Sunday, December 20, 2009

Got Ya Covered.

The bad news: Due to the fact that every infant conceived and born into this fallen world has a heart turned against his or her Creator. This infant is enslaved to sin and cannot through any action he or she takes get free from this enslavement. This bad news is appalling and is in much dispute for that reason. However, no matter what ones opinion is of a particular teaching of scripture it is true and it is seen daily in the lives of each of us. Each of us, when we are honest even with ourselves, knows how far we have fallen from the glory of God.

So what of this bad news? Does one live in denial? Spend our lives in the wringing of our hands? Will God be pleased merely with the emotion of disappointment and worked up sadness over it? Do we work hard to mend our ways in order to hopefully curry God’s favour?

The good news: No, God did it for us!

Galatians 4:4 4:1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ESV

Jesus came to earth as a conceived infant. This way we are covered all the way back to our conception. Our inherited guilt is covered by Jesus’ perfect life. An infant will cry when wet, dirty or hungry. He or she will also cry for no reason then wanting attention. This is one way the baby demonstrates original sin later he or she will find other ways of proving it. As an infant Jesus communicated need by crying, unlike the away in a manger song says, but never in a sinful way.

Jesus’ heart was pure and at all times turned toward God his Father from his conception as recorded:

Hebrews 10:5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

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.

Jesus came in the form of a little baby in order to be sacrificed for our sins. We are covered through our entire life with his holiness. Our sins are paid for on his cross. The fruits of his cross are delivered to us in our baptisms. Jesus preceded us into death and because of his promise that we will join him in his resurrection unto life eternal that is covered as well.

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By 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.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. ESV

In the name of Jesus. †

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Much Closer Relationship

Some of the parables Jesus taught has led many to think of God only as a slave owner, employer or some other demanding task master. Such a parable is found recorded in Matthew 25: 14-28. This is usually called the Parable of the Talents. Perhaps a better title would be The Absentee Property Owner. It is not a hint on successful business or how to be a good trustee. When examined living solely under the law those teachings will be understood in that way. Two faithful slaves went out and did business and were rewarded. The unfaithful slave hated his master and hid the trust in order to save his neck lest he lose it in poor business dealings. The point being is that the unfaithful slave did not understand his master as being kind and forgiving.

However in Jesus we have a much closer relationship with God:

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ESV

Not because we go after it. No thanks to what we do or do not do. We have a Heavenly Father by birth. Rebirth actually. Adoption through water and Spirit. We have a loving Heavenly Father not a task master who will hold us to account at the last day. So many do not have this peace because of the faulty teaching that God expects a certain level of effort from each of us. These will say we are not saved because of works but we will lose something if we don’t get a move on it. The teachers of the law state we must work hard at making Jesus Lord of our life not just to trust in his finished work on the cross. As if one could add any value to what Jesus did in his perfect life in active obedience to the law. And the whipping, torture of the cross and finally, which we cannot understand, his being separated and forsaken by his Father. How can one God be separated like that? We do not have the answer but what a wonderful gift we have been given to have our eternal debt paid.

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ESV

This is one of the places Jesus summed up the requirements of heaven. Not only perfection from this time forth but to have always have been perfect. Our Father looks at us through Jesus and his righteous life is credited to us. This has been referred to as the happy exchange. Jesus takes our sin and gives us his holiness. Now how can anyone add to that?

In the name of Jesus. †

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christian Life is More Than Merely Forgiveness of Sin.

The response in the title came during a conversation with a professing Christian about what he referred to as the demands of the Gospel to stop sinning. It appears to be quite a bit of false teaching that still maintains that now we are saved we have power to stop sinning. This sounds reasonable and it would be grand if it were true. After all who would be in gratitude to our Saviour and want to keep on sinning? And isn’t God powerful enough to keep us from sinning?

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Many times we will hear believers use vv 5& 6 to show that we have to quit sinning to be honest about our faith. It is thought that walking in darkness is sinning up a storm and no one that sins each and everyday can say truthfully that he or she is saved. But one should keep reading to find the close context to clarify what is meant by not walking in darkness.

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

So walking in the light we can see to walk in fellowship with other believers. In this way one is never wanting to do the oneupmanship so common among people. We see clearly our sin and need of the perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and we are all in this together. For to live in denial of our sin has this result:

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ESV

Lying to ourselves is to cast out the truth of scripture which clearly teaches that no matter the outward sins we forsake which is needful and we will forsake them We still have sins of the heart which are just as damnable. We now have forgiveness through Jesus even before we ask. This confessing is in contrast to living in denial of sin. We have the promise that God forgives and forgives and forgives. Instead of seeing scripture accusing us of covetousness and thinking but I gave up something else we say yes Lord I’m an idolater forgive me in the name and for the sake of Jesus. This sets us free indeed. Merely forgiven? Lord have mercy!

Psalm 32:3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

In the name of Jesus.†

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trailed by Good Works

Of course good works matter to our Heavenly Father. Many times the charge that those of us who believe teach and confess one is saved apart from works we also state that good works do not matter. These good deeds matter so much that those works follow us into our eternal rest.

Revelation 14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” ESV

This verse tells us the proper position works are in relation to the Christian. These works do not proceed us into glory but rather follow behind us. This is the position that they should be in life. Rather than looking at these deeds to determine our salvation or how much better a believer we are now than in the past we look to Jesus. In his perfect life, death, burial and resurrection he took care of the laws requirements for us and paid for our sin debt.

Luke 17:7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” ESV

Jesus tells us how we are to see our good deeds. We are not to parade them around for others to admire. In addition neither should we lift them to our Master to admire, tell us thank you and reward us for doing our duty. Yes we will be rewarded for the works produced in us by the Holy Spirit but that is a reward in grace not debt.

So what qualifies as a good deed? It can be feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and other such prescribed deeds. In addition, as Jesus mentions, working at our vocations whatever God has supplied to us. In these varied vocations we serve our neighbour and are the means whereby things on earth are done that our Creator wants done.

*Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22

From the small catechism of Martin Luther. Table of duties. Duties? Yes duties. Many believers in Jesus complain about the tedium of daily work whether at home or on the job. Still others moan about unappreciative supervisors and ever increasing goals. And most everyone is concerned about the future because of the hits pensions and other retirement vehicles took recently. Patient endurance in these trials and faithful carrying out of our vocations are recognized by our Father as good deeds. We don’t have to look for invented activities to please our Father. Merely do what is our duty and in Jesus they are good works. Wow!

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All the Promises of God 4

“How do you know you are saved?” Oh that I had a dollar bill for every time this question was asked of me or heard it asked of another person over the years. It is a fair question when you are speaking with someone who has certainty of salvation. No question in his or her mind that he or she has assurance of eternal life. We are instructed in scripture to always be prepared to give an answer when asked to defend the hope we have in us. 1 Peter 3:15.

Answers will vary from a time when a life change happened. Another person will know that they know that they know that they are saved. Still another will talk of this burning joy that is within them. I would not have any reason to doubt the sincerity of those responses. However, each of them are subjective. No one can prove a years ago life change, inner knowledge in another person or the burning sensation and prove it to another person. Each of those emotions can be had by anyone in any religion and will do nothing in witnessing to another.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” ESV

Scripture is the only real place to point another person for assurance of salvation for it contains the strong promises of God. In the above passage the very same St Peter was answering the question of some terrified persons whom he just told they were guilty of killing their Messiah. It was to agree with the charge from our Creator and be baptized. In this way receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.

Here we have a gift which cannot be taken away. This gifting comes totally from the outside and is passively received. When one is baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at that time those promises are theirs. This also works many years after the fact. We should never think of our baptism as an event in the past but also brings the promised gifts to us daily. Recalling these promises, in faith, gives us assurance we are baptized in the Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and we therefore can go forth in a new life knowing we are God’s child in our daily vocations. We also have the assurance of the resurrection which will give meaning to our lives of service and suffering are not in vain. What a marvelous bunch of promises contained in those promises associated with baptism! Wow!

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All the Promises of God 3

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. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” ESV

When we receive the true body and blood of our Lord in the Sacrament of Holy Communion we receive the tangible Gospel. As Jesus promised that the bread is his body and the contents of the cup is the blood of the new covenant. We actually receive, according to the words of Jesus, his body and blood for the forgiveness of sin. Yes that is correct! We have our sins forgiven in the eating and drinking the Sacrament.

This revolts the mind that wants to measure everything which happens by common experience. To the senses what we receive is bread and wine. Just a bit of bread and a sip of wine? How can the infinite God be present truly in the finite? Think of conceived by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary. At one time the Creator God was smaller than the size of a pin head. He was no less God as a zygote than he was playing with his friends as a child. Helping his guardian Joseph. Being hungry, tired and thirsty while being plagued with temptations from Satan. And dead on a hunk of wood for the sins of the world. Yes Jesus, the Creator of matter has no qualms whatsoever of employing it to do his bidding.

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 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

This is how we flee from idolatry. We take the words of Jesus and say amen to them rather than submit them to rationalization. St Paul also here teaches that when we receive the Holy Supper we receive 4 items. Bread and wine, body and blood. Believe it or not. Like it or not. We have Christ’s strong promise of his coming to each of us in his Holy Supper. Don’t fall victim to the world, flesh and devil by rejecting this promise based solely on not making sense. Look at all the things in the Christian faith we believe without question.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Saturday, November 7, 2009

All the Promises of God 2

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” ESV

Another way that one can hear the gospel proclaimed is to go to a worship service where there is a confession that we are by nature sinful and unclean. Therefore we can never keep God’s law and are justly deserving of his punishment here and in eternity. After this confessions the pastor will say that God in his mercy sent his son to die for our sin and in the stead and by the command of his Lord, Jesus Christ, he forgives us all our sins. In the name of the Father † Son and Holy Spirit. In addition when one meets with a pastor who adheres to the promise of Jesus the troubled sinner will again here the Gospel and the forgiveness of sin.

What takes the place of it in churches which do not believe a man is commanded to forgive sins in the name of the Triune God is some kind of you can do better speech. Or perhaps an understanding talk about all people have those temptations and sin. The main difficulty with that is the sinner retains his sin in his mind. Either no comfort of the removal of the guilt or a sin in thinking in pride the sin can be muscled up against and defeated by his or her effort. This falls short of the promise that Jesus has given and is in plain denial of it.

And what is more when one is approached by another who has wronged him or her as a baptized child of God we can forgive that person in the same Triune name. Being part of the priesthood of believers we have that wonderful privilege as well. And when the person who did the wrong we can pray that God grant them true repentance and full joy and assurance in Jesus. We may never hear a word of apology from that person but we have forgiven them as Jesus commands and as we pray in the Our Father.

Many will object to this promise. It has been said that because of his or her faith in Jesus he or she does not need nor desires sins forgiven by another. The biggest problem with that objection is that Jesus wants you to have it. He is your Saviour and knows what is best for your faith. This is a direct way for a minister to not only proclaim the Gospel but to directly assure the sinner his or her sins are indeed forgiven. This is a fallen and dying world and as time goes on it is not getting any better. These promises are given for our benefit and offers the peace that passes all our understanding.

In the name of Jesus, Amen. †

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All the Promises of God

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. ESV

In scripture we see God making manifold promises to sinners. These promises find fulfillment in Jesus perfect life, death burial and resurrection. The greatest promises God gives is the forgiveness of sin. Back throughout history it was this promise that has been the focus of the faith of all God’s people from Adam and Eve forward.

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 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. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” ESV

Does this forgiveness and being right before God come about by trying harder? Does it come about by thinking good thoughts about oneself? How about by doing good for the neighbour? This is what all the world’s religion with a personal deity teach the adherents as to the road to having favour with God. All except Christianity. In Christianity we have God working hard for us. He came in the flesh to do what we could not do. Lived a life under his own law. Stood trial where false accusations were made and was condemned to a most shameful death. After which he was buried and rose again the third day for our justification.

The above facts of history are all true and quite provable for all the witnesses who saw Jesus’ life, death burial and the resurrected Jesus. Any attorney would weep for joy over all the eyewitness testimony of these facts in a trial. In fact I have heard attorneys state that with all that eyewitness testimony at his or her disposal trial would be a waste of time. So do the historic facts forgive sin? If one gets a person to admit to the historic facts of Jesus does that save him?

No it does not. There are many caught up in false “Christian” cults who admit to the facts and will say it is for our sin. Many in true Christian churches believe these facts and are yet condemned due to the guilt and stain of sin. What is missing in all this? Tragically these lost dear ones are not repenting of sin and receiving the forgiveness of sin through faith. This is helped by soft peddling the law as something that we can pull off.

Jesus said that repentance and forgiveness of sin are to be proclaimed in his name. It is through this preaching of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sin is how one received this forgiveness by faith hearing. Romans 10:17 This is crucial for those of us who were raised in the Holy Christian Church to hear at all times as well as those who have never been in the Christian Church. We are sinners not because of what we do but who we are as descendents of Adam. Like our first parents we seek to be our own god and saviour and will lose sight of Jesus each and everyday. Let us encourage every pastor we know to continue to preach repentance of sin and Jesus crucified as the only answer for our sin.

In the name of Jesus. †

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 8

Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. ESV

What we see here is a comparison and contrast between two men. From the lesser to the greater we have our father Adam the first man. He embodied all of humanity so when he fell into sin we all fell with him. This is in a nutshell the Doctrine of Original sin. Therefore we are by nature sinful and unclean and deserve our Creator’s wrath both in this life and in eternity. The second man is God and man. In his perfect obedience, the cross and his resurrection he embodied all of humanity suffering the just punishment for all our sin. In that act all of humanity is reconciled. The debt is paid. The books are balanced. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 By faith we receive the fruits of that sacrifice. Romans 3:28 So those who go into everlasting perdition do so for not believing and receiving this gift. John 3:18

Our reformed want to claim a Limited Atonement. Saying Jesus died only for those who would believe They have a huge problem in Romans 5:18-19. Clearly it states that the righteous act of Jesus leads to justification and life for all. The many not the few. The other part of the huge problem is that if the first Adam embodied all humanity the second Adam embodies all as well since it is from the lesser to the greater. As the old saying goes “You cannot have it both ways.” Either not all are guilty for the transgression of Adam and are free and need no Saviour or they are guilty and need one. There again if it is true for the lesser than it is true for the greater.

Radical! By letting go of the L one can look upon the perfect life, death burial and resurrection of Jesus with full assurance since it is for all humanity. This is something which our reformed who buy fully into the L cannot do. I encourage all those stuck in this ambiguity to “Get the L Out.” Stop looking to your self for assurance and look to Jesus alone.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where is True Assurance of Grace and Salvation?

Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter XVIII

I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

In a previous blog post we looked at the Canons of Dordt’s teaching on assurance. Now we see the Westminster divines had a similar idea. More morbid introspection. This again is needed due to the teaching of Limited Atonement by they Calvinists. One cannot hold to that doctrine consistently and point only to the death of Jesus for assurance. If Jesus did not die for everyone then the cross of Jesus is off the table. What does the scripture say? Don’t you know?

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By 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

We see that a person who has been baptized into Jesus was baptized into his death. The fruits of the cross of Jesus are transferred to the person baptized. This is not just an historic fact but a person, such as myself, remains baptized 40+ years in the future and for the rest of life.

ERomans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. ESV

Daily we can recall the promise that we have been united with him in death and will be resurrected as Jesus was resurrected. This is how, biblically, we can be assured we are in the state of grace rather than trying to work up this assurance by spotting our own faith, love for Jesus and trying to do good deeds. These things will naturally flow from the person, being fruits of the Spirit, who is in Jesus but not something we can use to have assurance. Our measurements of these items will always either be exaggerated or may entirely escape our notice. It is a firmer foundation to trust in the strong promises of God where he has located himself for our forgiveness and ongoing assurance. We can tell our false or erring brothers and sisters that we are baptized so keep your false accusations to yourself. We can make the sign of the Holy Cross invoking the Triune name of God so to drown our flesh daily putting it once again to death on that cross. And we can tell our old adversary, who daily falsely accuses us, “We are baptized! What of it?"

Baptized into Thy name most holy,
O Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among Thy seed, Thy chosen host.
Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
Thy Spirit now shall live within."*

*Baptized Into Thy Name Most Holy"
by Johann J. Rambach, 1693-1735
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Assurance of Election.

I have been asking a question to those who believe in Limited Atonement. "How, if Jesus did not die for every person, do you know you are died for?" The answers are numerous but all involve some type of inward peering. A fellow Lutheran reminded me of an article contained in the Canons of Dordt which shows this inward peering to be quite consistent.

Article 12: The Assurance of Election
Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word-- such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

The problem with all this turning into oneself for assurance is that oneself is where the problem sits. Either one will notice the absence of the above mentioned fruits of election and be cast into despair worse than before. On the other hand a person may notice these things or set about to work them up and be filled with pride and arrogance toward others who have not worked up these items. What a dreadful place to look since we are such dismal failures that we need saving by another. Why should we look to ourselves for any assurance?

Mark 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ESV

We see in the above statements of Jesus inward peering is the last thing we should be doing. Deceit and pride come out of the heart of a sinner. This is why we must always be looking outside ourselves for salvation and assurance of the same.

This is where Jesus points us for assurance:

John 6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread [3] the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus [4] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. ESV

We see here a tangible way in which Jesus comes to us for the forgiveness of sin. Receiving the true body and blood of our Lord gives us the assurance we are forgiven and have eternal life and will be raised on the last day. In these promises we have Jesus located to bring the fruits of his life, death, burial and resurrection. Coming totally from outside us. No maudlin or prideful peering inwards to do spiritual measuring which are never accurate due to our sinfulness.

Lord may your body and your blood be for my soul the highest good! Amen. †

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Promises Broken. Promises Kept.

In this world, seems especially in this day and age in the USA, one is constantly hearing and making promises. Promises are wonderful things to hear. Men and women are elected based upon promises. The covenant of marriage is based upon promises. Prospective employees promise a good days work for pay and benefits. Employers promise in return for a good days work pay, benefits and fair treatment will be enjoyed by the employees.

Alas in a broken and dying world filled with sinners promises are made to be broken. Some are broken because when made there was no real desire to keep them. The others are broken because we do not have the ability to keep them. With all good intentions we may wish to live by these promises but fall far short.

In either case we need the Eternal Promise Keeper:

Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ESV

Behold all the promises in the above section. Wow! What a wonderful section filled with the assuring promises from the One who keeps promises perfectly. Even in the reading of it one may think that it cant be all that easy and good. Others will object and start thinking of people who confess with the mouth but do not live the life. Or at least that is the unrighteous judgment of the person judging the life of the other.

So what are you going to do? Toss doubt at everyone who sees these promises and latches hold on them with full assurance and faith? Or will you give this to a terrified sinner in the hour of doubt due to his or her failings in what he or she has done or left undone? Remember what the righteousness based on faith says both to you and the other sinners in your life. What we do is of no consequence in this equation. Rather in whom we place our trust for salvation.

This is the radical done didness of the Gospel of our Lord. Salvation based solely on his perfect life, death, burial and resurrection. The deeds are done. The price is paid. Death is conquered. Eternal life secured. What is left for us to do?

In the Name of Jesus. †

Sunday, September 27, 2009

God, Water and Word Equals Wow!

When God interacts with water fantastic and devastating things happen. The very first chapter in Holy Scripture shows God the Spirit interacting with H2O.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. ESV

A swirling chaotic mass covered the new earth. We see here an early on God using a created item to bring forth an everlasting good. We have the water, and the word of God working this creative miracle. When he finished creating the universe, earth and everything in them he said they were operating in a good fashion.

The fall came. Man chose to try to fall upward and to be his or her own God. Things deteriorated drastically to where God was so angry he decided to destroy mankind with a flood. Rather than wiping out the entire human race he chose to see Noah as holy in his sight. So the ark was built and the flood came and took away all the unbelievers. After this washing our Lord told Noah to depart the ark into the new recreated world. Once again thru water, the Holy Spirit creating faith in Noah and the word of God the world was a new creation. St Peter refers to this flooding as symbolic of baptism which now saves us. 1 Peter 3:20-21.

The above shows us how that in the past God has shown himself gracious in using water to effect changes. Today is no different he is still showing us his grace by means of water.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ESV

So we again see a mighty act of God using water to show himself gracious. We have the mightiest act of God with the least amount of water. In this we have The promises of God throughout the scriptures since the first Pentecost baptism. Once again water, the Holy Spirit delivering the goods and the word together in one place in a rebirthing of a new creature. This time it is the delivery of the fruits of the perfect life, innocent, bitter sufferings and death and resurrection of Jesus. We can remember each day we are baptized into these works of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Predestination: A Doctrine of Radical Comfort 2.

Romans 8 is one of the most assuring passages in scripture. It starts out with no condemnation for those who are in Jesus with no strings attached. Then ends with assurance of God’s never ending love from which nothing can separate us. Towards the end of the chapter, while working up to the climax we see:

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. ESV

Radical! Promised Spirit is aiding us in our prayers and that all things that happen God will work together for our good no matter what happens. The reason for all this is that he knew us beforehand and has predestined those in Christ Jesus to be like him. This causes suffering. Jesus when on earth suffered and told his disciples then and us by extension we will be hated and rejected as well. However, all these God works together for our good. He is also faithful in calling those foreknown and predestined. In addition he justified those whom he foreknew, predestined and called. And has glorified all whom he foreknew, predestined, called and justified. Radically comforting!

What is missing in this chapter is any mention of those outside of Jesus. Some would argue that because of necessary inference we know that those outside of Jesus were predestined to be damned. There again we see where the double predestination idea is forced on scripture. All this will do is rip the sweetness out of the text for a believing sinner either wondering about him or herself or a loved one. We have, therefore, the radical comfort of looking at the crucifixion of Jesus as for us. No need to examine our works or shakiness of our trust at times of being attacked by false and erring brothers, our sinful flesh or the devil.

What also is missing is anything that those in Jesus have decided, exercised anything or did any other work we have done. This further shows the radically comforting knowledge that Jesus is 100% Savior and we have nothing to do with it. Christians under the false impression that it has something to do with them are forever questioning whether they were sincere or if anything they have done measures up. The answer to the former is probably not and the latter definitely not. Let me repeat myself. You have absolutely nothing to do with your salvation. Radical!

In the Name of Jesus. †

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to Kill Sin in Your Life?

Dr John MacArthur, Grace to You Ministries, wrote an article entitled How to Kill Sin in Your Life. First off it is refreshing to see someone speak against the sins of the heart as treated as not being all that bad. The sin usually addressed is the gross outward acts which destroy the person doing it and those around them. Whereas sins of the heart are not known to those around the believer unless he or she makes them known. These are sins which God can see and finds as repulsive as the most heinous murders.

As loving children of God we desire to rid our lives of sin. We are constantly at battle with it in our lives. Sins which are outward actions or words spoken are relatively easy to control. An unbeliever with proper motivation can curb the desire to say inappropriate things, obey the speed limit, not steal from his or her employer and to be a faithful spouse. A believer when he or she curbs those actions does, by the grace of our Father in Jesus, have proper motivation. As far as sins of the heart is an entirely different matter. Yes we are to resist those as well but can one kill them?

Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By 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.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. ESV

We see from the above passage that we do not kill sin but rather we are crucified with Jesus in baptism and are dead to sin. We were crucified with him that the body of sin be brought to nothing. So we have no desire to sin and when we, as always, fall short of the glory of Christ it seems like death to us. That is the one crucial thing missing from the article. Jesus crucified for us. This is what destroys sins power over us is to repent and receive forgiveness for sin. This is given freely with no strings attached but rather out of love and gratefulness to Jesus we strive daily against sin. However in Jesus we are dead to sin and that with no effort from us but we receive it passively. Instead of having to put sin to death Jesus puts us to death and raises us to walk in newness of life.

This section of St Paul’s letter is wonderful soaring stuff. So, it may seem, to keep us from fooling ourselves that we will become more and more perfect as time goes on we see later what the Christian life is like.

Romans 7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ESV

There you have it. The Christian life with all its warring inside and also the cure. So it is not using our will power, the words of Jesus as a help, hours of prayer seeking to know our sin or any other such flexing of muscle but rather the finished work of Jesus. As always it is not about you but rather Jesus for you.

Praise to you O Christ. †

Monday, September 7, 2009

Predestination: A Doctrine of Radical Comfort.

One of the most comforting doctrines, when rightly understood and taught, in scripture is predestination. On the outset this can sound harsh and unfair of God to predestine to salvation those who believe. It is assumed that if there is predestination to eternal life therefore those who are damned are predestined to be so. That is reaching around scripture and connecting the dots behind it in order to find explanations which God has not given to us.

Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

We see in the above scripture that those who heard the message from St Paul and St Barnabas rejoiced to hear this and some were appointed to eternal life. This is a wonderful truth that God does all the saving and does not leave anything to chance in a decision we have to make or a full understanding we must grasp. It is a total gifting of salvation and all that is needed to receive this gift and trust in it. No need for personal inward gazing to determine if all the ducks are lined up or whether one was sufficiently sincere.

Then we see the effect an unbelieving heart has. It will not only disregard the preaching of salvation but will in response persecute those bearing the good news. We by nature wish to be our own Savior. That is the result of the fall upwards toward trying to be God. This manifests itself in the church by disbelieving the clear promises of God. It also is seen when one is not satisfied with the answers God has chosen to give and ventures off trying to peer into that which God has hidden from view.

We have his written word which gives us plenty to contemplate. This word gives us plenty with which to keep us occupied and presents to us and brings to us salvation. This word reveals God to us in the person of Jesus who after living perfectly for us bore all the sins of humanity to the cross rising on the third day for us. Radical!

In the Name of Jesus. †

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yes! The Gospel Can Save Even Christians!

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 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. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” ESV

Above, in v. 47, we have what Jesus wants preached in sermons. Often you will hear conservative Christians criticize the preaching of Joel Osteen and other popular television preachers. Topics usually surround what we can get out of God. Name it and claim it sermons have no room for conviction of sin and forgiveness found only in the Gospel.

In listening to several sermons from some of these Christian’s favorite preachers one has to listen to several until one hears Christ crucified for sinners in these as well. At times we are treated to a grand bible study from the pulpit. Nothing incorrect is taught. Perhaps some interesting historic information on first century Christians is shared. Perhaps the doctrinal stance of one of the reformers or other theologian is spoken on and scripture given to either back it up or dispute it. But bible studies and preaching are two separate acts.

Certainly sin is preached on but it is often the sin of others. How that this church body or that one is dropping the ball where we are not. Where impenitent sinners out there need to hear the law to convict them and the Gospel so they can be saved. However, the law is never executed on the person sitting in the seats listening to this sermon. This is very comfortable if one never reads the scripture for him or herself and have the law executed on them from the pages of scripture. They never are taught how that those condemning words from a Holy God is on them as well. Perhaps he or she has quit some gross outward sin and is able to avoid other temptations as well but in the heart and mind is covetousness, spite, anger towards others, grudges and all the other sins that manifest themselves in our hearts and minds. Each of these sins of the heart and mind justly deserves God’s present and eternal punishment as well as all the sins we see those on the outside of our circle do.

One can almost understand why a person like Osteen really does not want to preach that from a his pulpit. He would lose attendees by droves. No one who is seeking his or her own end wants to hear about how far short they fall and that suffering maybe all the experience to be had in this life. But what excuse do the men have who should know better. If one is a supporter of a more traditional preacher on radio or sermon audio he or she should encourage that man to preach Christ and him crucified. The preacher in the pulpit of the church should be encouraged to do so too. Years ago that was the case no matter the sign in the church yard. Christ crucified was preached from the pulpit into the ears of sinners each week. That is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith. 1 John 5:4

Jesus is Lord of the church. He purchased her for himself by his own innocent sufferings and death. It is his desire that repentance and the forgiveness of sins be preached into the ears of sinners. Bible studies are great and a necessary part of a Christian’s life. However, proclamation times, sermons, are for the executing the severe law and giving the sweet Gospel. As Christians we remain full blown children of Adam and need to hear this as often as we can. This is the only way to overcome sin is by repenting and receiving forgiveness of sin. Yes the Gospel can save even a Christian.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Creator for You.

One can understand people searching out God. There are so many gods on the market that one can miss the True and Living God. In the Holy Christian church much disagreement and confusion exists about this God with whom we are to deal. But should there be such confusion?

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ESV

We see in the section from the letter to the Colossian Church that Jesus is the revealed God. Using means, as God is always wont to do, he took on human flesh to reveal all that we need to know about God. How that God is kind, compassionate, forgiving and giving. So much is God this way that he had himself nailed to a cross carrying the sins of the entire world with him and paying its penalty.

This is highly unsatisfying to the unbeliever. The Jews are offended and the Greeks stumble at it. Imagine our Creator submitting to that treatment and not taking vengeance there and then. So much not taking vengeance that he actually prayed for his crucifiers that the Father would forgive them. No this problem with the crucifixion of Jesus that the unbeliever has is quite understandable.

What is terrifying is to see the disregard some Christians have toward the cross. Many will go to churches where the preacher will seldom mention the cross. Instead of repentance and the forgiveness of sins preached in the name of Jesus will be a law presentation and a warning that if one does not stop sinning he or she is in for it. On the other side of the spectrum law is preached that if one obeys properly health wealth and happiness is a guarantee with great parking thrown in for good measure. Still further in that direction law is preached to those who care about righteousness are sinning by not liking what impenitent sinners keep doing and still call themselves Christian. All these focus on what the Christian has to muscle up against and nothing about what Jesus has already done.

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. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” ESV

Yes indeed as loving children of our Father we are to fight sin. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can lay aside obvious vice. However, we still fall far short of the glory of our Sinless Shepherd. He is the standard isn’t he. This is why Our Lord stated that repentance and the forgiveness of sin be proclaimed in his name. We need it!

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

The Lord's Prayer: Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting The L Out of Here. Part 7

Matthew 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

“There you have it! This verse proves Limited Atonement.” Oh that I had a dollar for every time a statement such as that has been made about that verse. Like always we want to paste this back onto the context to see if meaning of the passage follows suit with that assumption.

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.”

This parable is a ridiculous story. No one dared turn down an invitation from a king for a wedding feast. One the one hand it is a great honor to be invited. On the other hand one turned down this invitation to his or her own peril. Not living in an age of sovereign kings we cannot relate that each and every whim, if not obeyed, could bring about forfeiture of everything one owned and perhaps his or her life. This is speaking of the treatment God’s prophets received from his people when they came telling about the judgment and deliverance they would find in YHWH. However we see the ultimate reaction of the king was to invite everyone without exception.

Most guests show up in the provided wedding garments with the exception of one guest. He thought his garment was appropriate. These garments represent what we receive by faith. The robe of Jesus’ righteousness is received by those who believe and is what we wear when we go to the Lamb’s High Feast and what we wear in that eternal feast of victory in glory. Those in unbelief will not receive that righteousness preferring to trust in his or her own good works. This garment is never appropriate for it is tainted with sin although it may look holy.

So this passage refers not one bit to who is died for and who is not. The call goes out to all. Our Father does not play the game where he would call those for whom Christ did not die to repent for they would not have the price paid. This is placing our thoughts and ways as finite fallen humans onto God. And it is also submitting v 14 to an idea cooked up outside of scripture and again read down on top of it. The understanding is not complex at all. Those who are in Christ are chosen for he is the living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious. To the unbeliever Jesus is the rock of stumbling and offence and they will not receive his gifts. Those who believe do receive him and become a spiritual house and a royal priesthood. 1 Peter 2:1-9

This is a horrible playing with scripture to tell others Jesus did not die for all of mankind. That teaching takes the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus away as objective evidence of sin paid for and tosses the sinner back on him or her self to try to hash out an answer. This answer will never keep a person in the true faith over the long haul. We are constantly under attack and accused by false and erring brethren, the world, our sinful flesh and the devil. The last place we need to look to for assurance is the seat of the problem which is ourselves. Rather look to the finished work of Jesus and how we receive the benefits won by him through preaching of the word, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. For you.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Getting The L Out of Here. Part 6

Double Jeopardy! This is the response one gets from those who believe, teach and confess Limited Atonement. The thought behind it is that if Jesus died for the sins of every person then to send the unbeliever to eternal hell is to punish them a second time. This would be unfair to our fair mindedness but God is free to operate under his own rules or none at all.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.ESV

However, we see in the above section that because of Jesus’ perfect life, death, burial and resurrection God is no longer counting trespasses against anyone. One will object and mention that people still go to hell. Those who go into everlasting punishment do not end up there because of sin but rather unbelief. John 3:18.

Each and everyone of us are by nature sinful, unclean and an enemy of God. In loving kindness Jesus came and bore the entire curse of the law for every person ever born. This gift is received by faith and is reject able by those who either do not see the need for saving or rather try and do it for themselves. St Paul addressed this type of unbelief in his letter to the church at Galatia. So horrible is this and terrifying he uses extremely harsh language later stating that those who seek to justify themselves have fallen away from grace and are severed from Christ:

Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. ESV

When we trust solely in the finished work of Jesus we have nothing to fear. The fact that he paid for all sin we do not have to fear that he did not pay for us. Rather we can look with confidence that our sin was nailed to the cross and paid for entirely by Jesus who was later raised so we also shall be raised. We can hear with confidence the good news that Jesus died to redeem us. This is probably why John Calvin was so unsure when teaching on the sacraments. One cannot have firm trust in baptism and the Lord’s Supper when one is convinced Jesus did not die for everyone for how can you know these gifts are for you? Jesus died for each of us! We can trust the promises associated with baptism and the Lord’s Supper not doubting that it is for us! Is that radical good news or what?

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Getting The L Out Of Here. Part 5

Even though I spent many years with Calvinist beliefs it is unclear why Limited Atonement is needed in the mind of a Calvinist in order to have the Gospel. A dyed in the wool Calvinist as I was at one time will argue till the last breath that Jesus did not die for every person but rather only those who would believe. One of the verses that those who believe in Limited Atonement have attempted to hang their hats on is Matthew 25:13. The person will say “See Jesus does not even know the unbeliever!” Well lets paste that verse back into the context and see to whom that verse refers.

Matthew 25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.ESV

Notice that all 10 were invited to the wedding. Those who were foolish did not provide for the late arrival of the bridegroom not really believing he would come at any hour. The wise ones came prepared with extra oil for they believed he would come regardless of the hour. So the foolish were representing unbelievers who do not trust the promises of God to do what he says he will do. Placing that verse back into the context we see that it does not teach Limited Atonement at all. Parables are sayings of Jesus which admittedly are not clear at times. So we take clear passages to understand what is meant by the unclear.

We read in Ephesians 2:1 that we are dead in trespasses and sins. Dead not in the way that we are not breathing or moving about. Dead in this sense is being separated from God and his enemies. Those with faith later on in chapter 2:4-7 were made alive in Christ so we are seated in the heavenly places with him. Those who are outside of the faith are not seated with Christ and have no part of him. So the fact that he states he does not know them is explained by the fact of not being in Jesus. Those of us in Jesus are known and loved as sons and daughters of our Father. So yes it refers to those outside of Christ but in no way says they are outside of Jesus because he did not die for them.

So we see once again that Limited Atonement must be cooked up outside of scripture and in this passage once again read down on top of it to make scripture teach it. We should never seek to peer into the eternal decrees of God any further then he has given us scripture. Reason is a wonderful and needful thing to get through this fallen world. But it is a horrible practice to use it to try to figure out how God has ordered things.

By reason of the faith we are given we receive the benefits Jesus earned for us on the cross when he suffered the forsakenness of our Father in heaven for the sin of the world. What a horrible thing that is and so unnecessary for their sins were paid for by Jesus objectively but did not receive it by faith to their subjective justification.

Thank you Holy Spirit for the faith you have given us. Grant true repentance and faith to those we care for and others we do not know who are still outside of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales 6.

Many Christians are under the misconception that one is under some obligation when one is a believer in Jesus. This is a Grim Fairy Tale for it is another way that the believer’s eyes are taken off Jesus and placed on his or herself. This is totally unnecessary for the scriptures are quite specific as to the contents of the Law and contents of the Gospel .

Leviticus 18:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. ESV

So there you have it. If one was able to fulfill the law and all its requirements he or she would be saved. God nowhere in there says make a good go of it. Neither does he give any outs in it or a mulligan where we start a do over for better luck next time. Yes the promise is that ‘if a person does them he shall live by them’. Wow it would be grim outlook for one will never know if he or she did enough. Plainly speaking of course enough is never done.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ESV

The above section contains the promises of the Gospel in stark contrast with the law. In the Gospel Jesus did all the doing and thereby has made us alive, raised us up, and mysteries of all mysteries has seated us with him in heavenly places. None of this is done by the sinner. The done didness of the Gospel is so sweet to the sinner who is deeply troubled by his or her sin.

Good works do play a part in salvation but only in response to being a child of God. Jesus’ good deeds were prepared before hand to do for us in his active obedience. We receive that holiness as a gift and when doing our daily work which God has given us it is indeed holy in his sight. Some object to all this good news which is why the Grim Fairy Tale of mixing the two.

The concern is that some, after hearing this good news, may get the idea they can live anyway they feel like with no regard for Christ. I personally have never met and doubt the existence of a true believer in Jesus who has that opinion. No one who loves Jesus and believes in what he suffered on his or her behalf will want to live in sin. By the mere fact of having this faith good works will follow. Our Comforter is quite capable to ensure that we do these things. He is God after all isn’t he?

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales 5.

Well then back to the Grim Fairy Tales.

One can hear many sermons which are meant, I am sure, to be encouraging. In it will be either explicit or implicit statements that a real Christian will never be afraid. It is the thought of many that being afraid is a sin. While it is true that one sins while being afraid due to having an identity of a descendent of Adam being afraid is not in itself sin. But it is a Grim Fairy Tale to say that being afraid itself is a sin.

Luke 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. ESV

Here we have the account of Jesus praying to the Father to remove what he was about to endure from him. Jesus was so in agony and yes even afraid that he was sweating what appeared to be blood. Now would we say that Jesus was sinning being in that state of mind? Not at all. It was a reaction to being in a fallen world. In addition he was enduring that for others. There was no self centeredness in Jesus everything he was about was for others. In answer to his prayer an angel came and strengthened him however, for our good he went on to endure the beatings, ridicule, shame of the cross and being forsaken by his Father while bearing the sins of the world.

Psalm 56:1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Living in this fallen world each of us will experience times of being afraid. In times of economic turmoil where it appears that those in government and business is out to get us, and they are, financially the future can appear very dim. The enemy is always seeking our hurt and has many people who delight in attacking those who love Jesus. As I said previously we will sin during times of being afraid. Thoughts will be of ourselves. Perhaps self pity and questioning God. “What did I do to deserve this?” But then as the psalmist said we will trust in God. Placing trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus we will cease being so captivated by our being afraid.

Reflecting on the promise of forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit in our baptism we can venture forth in confidence. We can know we are protected and that our Comforter is in us to guide and direct. We can also reflect on the last time we received Jesus’ body and blood to know that he is there strengthening our faith and leading us to life everlasting. We can read in his word or call to mind that he is working all things together, somehow, for our good and will not allow our faith to leave us.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Our God Who is Forsaken by Our God for You and Me

I am taking a little break from Grim Fairy Tales.

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ESV
God forsaking God? How can this be? We are not told except that it happened while Jesus hung on the cross paying for the sins of the world. This is the required price to pay for sinfulness. Forsakenness by God for all eternity is the price to be paid by impenitent sinful humans. However, God taking all these sins to himself and having himself nailed to the cross with them took care of it.

From before time God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had this great love for each other. This is how we can say God is love. He did not need but desired to have a creation in which there would be persons created in his image to love. In Adam all of us rebelled and told God what we thought of him and that we could carry on quite nicely thank you very much. You can see that in the lives of the unbeliever. No thought whatsoever of God in his or her daily round. He or she only has trust in what they can do. Sadly Christians are not immune to that rebellion as well. We are always wanting to be our own provider taking credit for the gifts God has so graciously given. That is the old temptation “you can be like God”.

Fallen humanity makes a revolting god. A god who is self seeking and self centered. All curved in on him or her self with no concern for others unless it serves his or her purpose. The true and living God is giving. God the Father gave us his Son Jesus to live for us, bear our punishment for us on the cross and give us justification by rising again. God the Son took on human flesh, gave himself for us suffering rejection by those he came to save and bearing our sins to the cross. God the Holy Spirit gives us the forgiveness Jesus paid for in preaching of the word, baptism and the Supper of our Lord. All this is for you.

Holy Trinity! What a debt we owe you! All we can do is respond in praise and thanksgiving! Amen! †

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales 4.

Introspection. This is encouraged in many conservative congregations. Many will use a verse out of St Paul’s second epistle to show this is what we are to be about in our daily rounds. This is a Fairy Tale most grim.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! ESV

Unfortunately many think that being in the faith means a constant upswing in personal righteousness and downswing of sin. Indeed after one comes to faith the outward acts that once held an attraction to the new believer are forsake. Out of love for Jesus and what he did on the cross one cannot help but see outward acts of lust, debate, crude talk, reading books and magazines which hold explicit sexual material, movies and TV shows which are degrading to the human person etc. will over time be less and less appealing. These are outward acts of an inward condition of being a sinner. When a person is adopted by God and is a new creature still remains a sinner. This status of sinner does not change although outward acts have changed and we are also 100% saint in the sight of God. One is constantly falling short of living a life that Jesus lived. Jesus was sinless and God in human flesh. It is totally impossible to never have an idle thought, say an unkind word or always do everything right. That is part of the grimness of this Fairy Tale. This falling short of God’s glory is known by God of course which is why he came in human flesh to tabernacle among us and do the doing for us. And after all that doing died on the cross to pay the penalty we justly deserve for being full blown children of Adam and the actual sins we do.

So if St Paul is not teaching Christians to worry about not being in the faith because of falling short of the glory of God to what is he referring? It is a call to repentance and faith in the finished work of Jesus. In the previous verse he refers to that work.

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them— 3 since you seek proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. ESV

We see here that he was not referring to individuals who are distraught about their failings. But rather he is referring to those who are proud of their sin. These are impenitent sinners who refuse to forsake the deeds of the flesh to whom he referred to earlier. In addition these have attacked St Paul for his efforts which is the normal fallen human reaction to one who is seeking to correct them and restore repentance and faith in Jesus. To continue on in impenitent sin flying it in God’s face is making a move toward forsaking Jesus’ finished work in favour of the deceitful pleasures of worldliness.

2 Corinthians 12:19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved. 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. ESV

No we do not have to live lives of morbid introspection. Yes we sin. When sin is brought to our attention by the law of God preached into our ears or read in daily readings we lay claim on it. We confess this sin before God. And because he has forgiven our sins in the death of Jesus we can walk on in peace knowing we are reconciled to God and he holds nothing against us.

The other grimness lies in the fact as full blown sinners we are often blind to these sins and actually may be convinced we are pulling off living righteously under our own steam. In a conversation the other day with a couple of professing Christians I was told that they were no longer sinners. They are only concerned, of course, with blatant outward acts not the sins of the heart of course. People of this mindset need to be taken to the sermon on the mount to show Jesus unpacking the law and showing that even thoughts are sin. This can be carried so far in a person’s life they may be tempted to tell Jesus they can do it from now on. This is in addition taking one’s faith out for a real stabbing and is as equally alarming as a professing Christian living in open impenitent and public rebellion against God’s law.

Lord Jesus on every hand we are tempted to remove our eyes from you. I am yours my God. Save me! In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales 3.

Have you repented? This is often heard from Christians when confronted with another Christian concerned about his or her sin. What qualifies as repentance? The stock answer in many circles is “Are you sorry I mean really sorry for your sin?” ”Are you going to stop sinning in that way?” The answers to both those questions is more than likely not. How can this be? The first one forces one to introspection. This takes our eyes off Jesus and his one time atonement for our sin as the objective reason for justification in the first place. The second takes our eyes of Jesus who in his active obedience fulfilled all the laws requirements for us. Both these are received thru faith not in return for working up enough sorrow or promising to never do it again. This indeed is a grim fairy tale which can either lead to much grief or faith killing self righteousness.

2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. ESV

We see here that self generated grief produces death. The granting of repentance is from God as well as the salvation is of God alone. So what does this repentance look like?

Luke 15:4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. ESV

So when Jesus finds the lost person he carries him rejoicing to his fold. That is true repenting seeing Jesus as God and Saviour not the idol of one‘s thoughts. One thing that is obvious is that the joy in heaven is always related to what God has done. Nothing is said about the lost sheep whether he was worried or sad about his condition. Actually he was dead in trespasses and sin The Good Shepherd gives him life making him part of the Kingdom of God through his gifts of word and Sacrament.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen. †

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales 2.

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ESV

One day you will stand before God, and he
will do an audit of your life, a final exam,
before you enter eternity. The Bible says,
“Remember, each of us will stand personally
before the judgment seat of God. . . . Yes, each of
us will have to give a personal account to God.”35
Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test, so
he has given us the questions in advance. From
the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us
two crucial questions:
First, “What did you do with my Son,
Jesus Christ?” God won’t ask about your
religious background or your doctrinal views.
The only thing that will matter is, did you
accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn
to love and trust him? Jesus said, “I am the way
and the truth and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through me.”36 God wants you to
get to know, love, and trust his Son, Jesus,
whom he sent to earth to show us what God is
like and to forgive and save us.
Second, “What did you do with your
life?” What did you do with all that God gave
you—all your gifts, talents, opportunities,
energy, relationships, and resources? Did you
spend them on yourself, or did you use them
to fulfill God’s purposes for your life?

The above quote is from “The Purpose Driven Life” pg 26 by Rick Warren. Many panned this writing as if he came up with something new. Many times sitting through sermons, in conservative and bible believing Churches, one will hear some sort of appeal to good works. It will be stated by using the above scripture that it is up to the Christian how much reward he or she will receive. If you spend lots of your off work time in Church work such as teaching and witnessing you will have more then your counterpart who merely earned a living and cared for family. That is indeed grim for that is the calling of a husband and father to care for family. Indeed it would be neglecting of the vocation of a head of household to leave off caring for his family in order to increase church work and build a career at the same time.

Indeed there will be greater rewards in heaven for some over others. However, we are not given the laundry list of activities which would earn them or the level of activity which would gain them. God has for us work to do by serving our neighbour. If we were to do this service only for the hope of greater reward that is using the neighbour as a means to an end and as our servant. To add to that grim outcome we are slapping the face of our Crucified and Risen Lord as if his good deeds for us need adding to. The reward we have in heaven is given to us by grace not out of payment for service.

In addition nothing we do ever measures up to God. We are constantly falling short. What a grim thing to constantly examine oneself to try to determine what is and what is not reward worthy. What God does admire and reward is his work in us. The fruit of the Spirit love, joy, peace etc are all attitudes and motivation. We can never hope to measure those things in ourselves let alone in others. Suffice it to say that as children of our Father in heaven we do what is given us to do. Our response to anything which presents itself to us about which we should be proud should be repentance for the self centered pride.

Luke 14:7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” ESV