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. †