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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grim Fairy Tales.

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ESV

This is a very familiar scripture to those who go toe to toe with others who would add the writings of men to the scriptures as doctrine to be accepted by all Christians. Indeed the scriptures are what God has given us to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus. And through those scriptures we competent and equipped for every good work. Most assuredly one can also benefit from the bible studies and commentaries of learned men on what they found while pouring through the scriptures. However, one must always hold what these men write and speak to the scriptures like the Christians at Berea did with what St Paul was preaching. Acts 17:11.

The word of God is indeed complete but it does leave some open questions. Since we are sinners, and never really content with what we are given from God, we are always tempted to answer these open questions. These answers differ depending on the viewpoint of the person and to which extreme he is attracted. One question which is not answered is why are some saved and others lost. In order to keep away from the extremes one must not predict or assume things that remain a mystery.

When one is attracted by the extreme in theology which teaches humans make the first move toward God have said that we will spend some time, in heaven, mourning people in hell. Or perhaps Jesus will hold us accountable due to the fact we did not “sell” them on the idea of being saved. This is a prediction and assumption which has no basis in scripture. The grimness of this fairy tale is the idea that heaven will be a place of punishment or sorrow over failures. Jesus paid for all sin on the cross. God also grants faith through preaching of the word and his gifts of the sacrament. In addition this removes the responsibility of the sinner to repent and moves it to a believer he or she knew in life. Revelation 21:1-4 shows us what eternity will be like. How it is that some of our friends and loved ones not being with us and not interrupt our bliss is a mystery. This is a promise based on the fact that while on earth Jesus completed all necessary mourning for us and we receive by faith this benefit.

The other extreme in theology which teaches that Our Lord chooses who will go to hell has its own grim fairy tales. One of those tales states that those in heaven will have a big party and enjoy seeing the misery and despair of those in hell. This first reason that makes it an absurd fairy due to not being located in scripture. Scripture teaches that those who are saved are predestined to be saved but does not teach that those lost are chosen to be lost. Romans 8:26-30 indeed we see that those saved are chosen but the claim that the lost are chosen to be lost is absent. The second reason is that scripture teaches God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked so it is certain we in his image completely at last will not either. Ezekiel 18:21-32, 33:10-11. Indeed we will not be in sadness but certainly not gloating over those who are suffering the punishment we justly deserve.

Both groups would affirm that scripture is the only revelation given by God. Both groups would claim that the Roman Catholic is in error by elevating the writings of men to the level of scripture. However, to attempt to fill in personal opinion and bias in sermons, commentaries and bible studies to be proclaimed as truth is a similar error. Our consciences are bound solely to the word which is Holy Spirit breathed not the fevered imaginings of our fellow Christians. These will only serve to enslave the Christian and threaten the faith of those trusting in Jesus. Indeed it is possible to serve as a messenger of satan when one is well meaning but not careful.

Thanks be to God for his sure word and promises. Amen. †

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Promised Holy Spirit and His Promised Gifts

The person and work of the Holy Spirit. He indeed is a bearer of gifts. He is the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and Son and who spoke by the prophets. Some Christians are taught to expect the gift of speaking in tongues. Others perhaps expect the gift of being happy most of the time. Still others expect the gift of healing being given curing his or her ills. Most certainly God the Spirit is fully able to do those things and much more spectacular things most of which we cannot hope to imagine. One may at times feel happy. There have been reports of healing taking place which was extraordinary. Unbelievers feel happy at times and have out of the ordinary healings. However, as unbelievers he or she is not the temple of the Holy Spirit. Even though God is to be credited with all healing these events would not be considered gifts of the Spirit. And what if a baptized child of God feels anything but happy? What if the lifelong disciple of Jesus has a long illness that eventually ends that person’s life? Would we then doubt that person’s faith or whether God even loves them? That is the trap into which this thinking can and often does lead. We live in a fallen and dying world in which we have no promise in scripture that believers in Jesus will have it great here. On the contrary Jesus promises us suffering some of which looks like what everyone else is having.

Still others believe teach and confess the Holy Spirit as a holiness trainer. Or I have heard him described as a sort of steroid where with proper exercise one can fully expect to muscle up against sin and beat it every time. They think that because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit we can expect to become more and more holy as time goes on. Certainly as a person matures he or she will recognize the same old temptations approaching. This is because our adversary has no new tricks to pull on us so we can tell the old tricks. However, what if there are sins which we are so easily beset by. Perhaps temper whether displayed or hidden can at a moments notice cause an unrighteous thought or word escape. Does this mean this person is a cast off and God has removed himself from them? An unbeliever with proper motivation can modify behaviour however, this would have nothing to do with fruit of the Sprit and is mortal sin. This is another trap thinking about what God can do rather than doing what is promised.

These are a couple of misunderstandings that happen when a person contemplates what God is capable of doing. As Creator by mere speaking all things into existence would be able to do whatever he desires. However, we have what he has promised to do to count on rather then trying to determine the possibilities. In the above examples we see some possibilities of which God is fully capable which are not promises. Therefore we should consider a promises associated with the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

John 16:12 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ESV

Jesus has promised that when the Holy Spirit comes he will declare unto us that which Jesus has for us. This would be the forgiveness of sin. When we have this forgiveness preached into our ears that is the Holy Spirit working through the preacher pointing us to the cross and the promises associated with Jesus death and resurrection. When it is pointed out to us that the forgiveness of sin is also located in the Sacraments of Baptism and of the Lord’s Body and Blood this too is the Spirit’s work in locating that forgiveness where it is promised and delivering it to us. In these ways receiving the Holy Spirit’s promised gifts we are comforted by looking outside ourselves for forgiveness and its assurance instead of inside us or at our works. Neither view will do anything but either terrify the sinner or cause the sinner prideful assurance of a Pharisee. Neither focuses the persons view on Jesus nor brings glory to his name which is one of the purposes of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.*

*The third article of the Apostle’s creed. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.