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. †