Saturday, November 6, 2010

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 14


While discussing the atonement and people trusting in Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection the following phrase came up from one of my Calvinists. This is presented in order for them to prove Jesus’ work is limited to believers rather than for all people.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me,

Two things are remarkable about this phrase being presented as proving limited atonement. First it is an assuring promise that those the Father gives Jesus as his sheep will be saved. No ifs ands or buts about it. Against the decision Theology model where it depends on you making the right choice and sticking with it is not the issue. And also those who say by our behaviour change we both prove our faith and maintain it also is shown to be false. But how is it limiting which is terrifying rather than promising which is assurance?

Second we have a partial verse which should be finished to get the entire impact of what Jesus is saying:

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
ESV

It is not only bad form to interrupt a person mid sentence and comment but we also see from the remainder of the sentence quite the modifier. The first part can lead, and does lead many, to believe that Jesus is limiting the number of ones who can come. Instead of the terrifying thought; “Have I been given to Jesus?” we have the assuring statement of Jesus not casting anyone off who comes to him. So we can once again look to Romans 10:9,10 and believe this good news and live in the peace that it gives. No questioning necessary!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.†

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wassamotta U from TULIP


One other feature of our fallen human nature is to try to figure out how God is to blame for man’s failures. The U of the acrostic TULIP is an example of that blame laying. It stands for Unconditional Election. Which on the first glance does give God credit for doing the Salvation job fully and without merit. However, there is the another more sinister part of the teaching:

Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself, not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would "accept" the offer of the gospel. God has elected, based solely upon the counsel of his own will, some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15,21). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8).*

*http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/index.html

In the mind of many so called 5 point Calvinists God is ultimately responsible for people remaining outside of Jesus and spending eternity separated from all goodness and light of our Creator. Let us examine scripture to see if the lost are lost due to God not wanting to save them.

In the above definition Romans 9, or rather two verses from Romans 9, is referred to in teaching God elects some to hell. When one brings up Romans 9 and reads the full context one is hard pressed to see that speaking of the eternal destiny of anyone. We have reference to Israel and his brother Esau and Pharaoh. So the election has to do with the ancestor of our Lord Jesus and the exodus of Israel from Egypt. No mention of anyone either enjoying the Trinity in eternal bliss or spending eternity languishing under his wrath. The destruction mentioned refers to the languishing Edom faced in this world rather than the success usually enjoyed by the first born son. In addition the hardening of Pharaoh caused him to pursue Israel, after the plagues, and the destruction of his armies. God reserves the right to use persons in their sinful acts to accomplish his will and then to save them as he did Saul of Tarsus on his way to persecute Jesus‘ followers.

Ephesians 1:4-8 in no way teaches our Father electing anyone to hell. Rather it teaches the true view of election. Election and predestination always refers to those in Jesus. The Bible also teaches about predestination in Acts 13:48, 2 Thess. 2:13-14, and 2 Tim. 1:9. The "elect" are mentioned in Matthew 24:31, Mark 13:22, Luke 18:7, Romans 8:33, 11:7, Colossians 3:12, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, I Peter 1:2, 1 Peter 5:13; 2 John 1:1, 13.

Due to the fact that there exists no scripture teaching a double election it must be read down on top of scripture in order to defend it. This is abuse of the wonderful gift of scripture and should be cast aside preferring to read scripture as written. This will not satisfy the idle curiosity of humans as to why some are saved and others lost but it is what we have from God on the subject. Jesus lived his perfect life, suffered death on the cross and resurrected for sinners. Better to believe this good news and live in the peace it gives us.


In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The T Fom TULIP Is a Strange Brew.


The acrostic TULIP is an easy remember way to summarize Calvinistic doctrine and view of the Christian religion. The T stands for Total Depravity as you will see in this definition describes some of the natural estate of man:

Total Depravity (Total Inability)
Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as "totally depraved," they are making an extensive, rather than an intensive statement. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality -- his thinking, his emotions, and his will. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to his entire being.

The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5).*

* http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/index.html

As far as this definition goes no problem whatsoever. That man is fully incapable of doing good and measuring up to the glory of Jesus is needful so that we have Jesus being 100% to credit for our salvation. However, this teaching does not go far enough, as the more ancient teaching of original sin, which shows us as being much worse throughout our person. We do not even want to measure up to what Jesus does or has done. What we do should be enough in our expectation. We have no desire to love God fully nor our neighbour as ourselves. We have been, will be and must be self seeking because of our weak and fallen condition. Due to our being subjected to sin, death, disease, futility and decay to totally ignore our needs we would be unable to fully serve our neighbour and seek his good. To do that would be sin as well for it would not be good stewards of what gifts the Lord has given us.



Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. ESV

So strenuous and high is out Lord’s commands Jesus came to fulfill this requirement. Being God who became flesh he was fully able to empty himself and spend himself for us. He had no need to seek his own good but was not subjected to the futility and decay with which we are subjected due to sin. And because of his grace this fully spent character is granted to us through faith and has totally finished from the greatest to the smallest requirement our need in the sight of God.

Romans 5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

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. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
ESV

May the name of Jesus evermore be praised for his gracious provision of not only what we lace in righteousness but also paying for our sinfulness on the cross.

Jesus, your blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Mid flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.**


**Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness
By: Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Getting The L Out of Here.13


One thing that is always surprising but should never be is the arrogance with which the flesh rebels against God. The bible clearly states that God desires all to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4, but all are not saved. Our Lord has not seen fit to explain this in his word so the flesh wants to fill in the blanks, make things up and generally put words in God’s mouth.

Romans 9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” ESV

First we have an as it is written here. We have another place to look to see what this phrase means.

Malachi 1:2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!” ESV

So we have a clue it is due to pride that God hates Esau. Or more specifically Edom his descendents. But were not the children of Israel proud? Yes but God never looks at the person or his or her behaviour for a choosing but rather it is a choosing of grace. That is the whole point of the prophecy of MalachI is that Israel has been rejecting God all along. Fallen and finite humans by nature reject God and are his enemies who do not see the love and care he has for us.

Second we are to understand what Jesus said about the scriptures testify of him. John 5:39. God told Abraham that in Isaac his seed shall be called but there were twin boys born to Isaac. Esau was first so by law and tradition he should have inherited the blessing and all else. Our Lord can operate under his law or no law at all if he so desires. So in this way the elder will serve the younger which is Christ. When the emphasis is moved off Jesus and on to the sinners involved all bets are off. This is how we end up with a horrible doctrine that teaches Jesus died for less than all humanity which leaves us to wonder if we are died for individually.

Romans 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. ESV

The above verse puts an end to speculation on for whom Christ died and wants to save. This is close context and aids in understanding what came before. Jesus died for all and wants all to be saved. We cannot have it both ways where on one hand some are died for and the rest are unwanted and un died for. What a horrible thing with which to subject yourself and others. Behold the Lamb slain for the world from before the foundation of the world. Believe this good news and live in the peace that it delivers through the means of grace.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jesus Delivers For You. And This Time He Makes It Personal!


Last evening we were in conversation with a group of Christians. The subject was “If Jesus died for only a few how do we know, objectively, he died for me?” A following question was asked similar to this; “Where do we find the Gospel so personalized and what importance is it?”


1 Timothy 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. ESV

We see here the personal confession of his sins by St Paul. These were not sins of Timothy, Barnabas, Peter or any other person alive during his life. These transgressions of the clear law of God were Saul of Tarsus’ and his personally. So with personal sins laid to his charge he needed a personal payment laid to his account. Every sin we commit is personally chargeable to our account and we too need a personal payment laid to our account as well. If we refuse this payment then our only ending is to suffer in this life under the wrath of God and eternal separation from the source of all good and light.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. ESV

The above words are familiar to all Christians. Another participant, Bruce, continued to quote these words as assurance of personal payment for each person’s sin. This served to drive these words home to this relatively new Lutheran although I know them so well. What a wonderful gift to have the fruits of the cross of Jesus delivered to each of us personally. How much more personal can you get than a piece of bread in your mouth and a sip of wine in your belly? That is Jesus delivering these gifts for you for your sins.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Friday, October 15, 2010

Jesus Delivers For You.


As my children and grandchildren are aging, which hints at me aging as well, the promise of the resurrection Jesus has in his word become more and more needful. And during times of illness it was on my mind as well. That brings a person to questions as to how do I know it is for me this resurrection to life? Clearly scripture teaches a general resurrection of all persons on the last day. John 5:28,29 So how does Jesus deliver this promise to those who believe in him? Do we have to peer in our hearts to see it? Do we examine our works to see if there is enough holiness for God to admire? No. Our Creator, Victim, Priest, Lord and Saviour has another way.

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 the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. ESV

All other gods of the world religions require to be fed and cared for by the followers. This is another way that Christianity, biblical Christianity, differs. With the Lord Jesus feeds his followers of himself. In feeding us he delivers to us forgiveness of sins as he promised when he instituted the Supper. In the above section we have much more detail in the benefits one receives in the Supper. So the Real Presence of our Lord in the Supper is much more than just an academic discussion. It gets right down to brass tacks on whether we can actually take Jesus at his word or not. Jesus in some mysterious way has located himself in the bread and the wine so that when it touches our lips and tongue forgiveness, life, salvation and resurrection is received at once.

Some object to this because people receive these gifts and yet are lost. I get that. Really I do. However, this does not interrupt the promises of God as St Paul said in Romans 3:3 that unfaithfulness does not nullify the faithfulness of God. Yes forgiveness, life, salvation and resurrection were won for us back nearly 2000 years ago by Jesus. He brings that forward and delivers it to you in the bread and wine which is his body broken and blood shed for you. Rather than doubting these strong promises let us believe this good news and live in the peace it gives us.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Righteous Judgment



“How can a person who believes that way be a Christian?” Oh to have a dime for every time I have heard that one. Many times it will be said by a person who has experienced a change from one doctrinal viewpoint to another. In this case it came from a gentleman who used to believe in Decision Theology. This is actively taught by many in the Christian church that a person becomes saved by deciding to follow Jesus and to believe in him for salvation. Although this can sound good to the ego that we play a part in salvation it is false in the fact one can find it nowhere in scripture. It is therefore a false teaching to believe that we are active in salvation for it would be in reward for a correct decision and a work. However, is this false teaching and the misunderstanding mean that the believer in the perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for salvation is eternally damned? Do we have the ability or even the Lord’s permission to make that judgment?

Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ESV

The above teaching of Jesus is most unpopular with those who think they have a special calling to judge the salvation of others. When presenting this to the self appointed judge he or she will claim it is taken out of context. When asked to put that back into the sermon and point out the additional verses needed to make it say we are to judge it cannot be done. The person who has read more of the scripture and more often will say something about we are commanded to use righteous judgment. The following is the only passage found where we have men commanded to use righteous judgment. The other sections have to do with God doing the righteous judgment.


Deuteronomy 16:18 You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. ESV

Having served on a jury I have also received a command from a judge to judge according to the law. As a Christian we too are to use judgment using the law of God. We find a brother caught up in an offence it is very appropriate to use the law of God to point out the sin in order for the Holy Spirit to convict and we can give the blessed Gospel to him for his salvation. That is in order for him to be restored to faith not to lord it over for us to feel more holy than him. We are to never use this as an occasion to pass final judgment upon the individual as if we know what the eternal destination for him will be. That is Jesus’ job and we are to leave the Lord Jesusing to the Lord Jesus.


John 5:22 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. ESV

Using personal opinions to judge another person has horrible consequences. It will take away any peace that said person has in the Lord. They are confessing with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in the heart that God has raised him from the dead. Instead of taking the conclusion the Apostle give in Romans 10 that one is being saved the opposite happens. Doubt is cast upon the confession spoken rather than giving the peace that it offers. We can never tell what the person truly trusts in the heart. God alone places it there sees that and judges it. Let us busy ourselves rather to build each other up in the true faith by patiently referring to the word of God and not do the work of the devil, the world and the lust of our flesh.

Because all judgment was given to Jesus what the person is ultimately doing is breaking the first commandment against having other gods in the face of God. This is also taking the name of Jesus in vain for he or she is misusing the teachings of our Lord that are meant to comfort and using it rather to terrify. This is much more serious for Jesus said that if one should offend one of the little ones who believe in him it would be better than a millstone be hung around their neck and cast into the deep. This is not a prescription for punishment but a threat of eternal damnation if it is done impenitently. Nor can one stop doing it on his or her own. It is another sin which needs to have its back broken by confessing it and receiving the forgiveness that was purchased on Calvary.

Lord Jesus, grant us true repentance for the grievous sin of idolatry by judging falsely. Amen †

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jesus Gives Us His Father To Be Our Father.


The law does strange things when mixed with our fallen human nature. On the one hand we will think that we can do this. In this way we believe we are able to curry God’s favour and get more out of him by obedience. On the other hand we will protest against it and look for ways around the command and in that way disobey in thought, word and deed.

Luke 11:1And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
2And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
3Give us day by day our daily bread.
4And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
KJV

Question 120. Why has Christ commanded us to address God thus: "Our Father"?

Answer: That immediately, in the very beginning of our prayer, he might excite in us a childlike reverence for, and confidence in God, which are the foundation of our prayer: namely, that God is become our Father in Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of him in true faith, than our parents will refuse us earthly things.



What we see in the above quote from the Heidelberg Catechism is an approach to the prayer Jesus gave us to pray. The reward for praying in this fashion? That we may get things our way. The qualification is that we do this in true faith. One does not have to ask an awful lot of things from God until one notices the lack of response. The reason would be in the mind; “I must not have asked in true faith.” The response would be either guilt within ourselves and distrust praying to Our Father or anger that he did not accept our offering of this service. In the prayer Jesus taught us we ask for our daily needs. These are firm promises found in scripture that God will supply all that is needed. We are repeating back to God his words in this prayer. We do not have the promise of a new house, furniture, vehicle and a perfect child. God gives us what we need and that may be an old house, torn furniture, aging car and a brat who constantly breaks our heart. So many Christians have been hurt by the churches who teach, as above, that if we ask in true faith we will have everything we want. The world, our own sinful flesh and the devil will seize these opportunity to attempt to lead one from the faith.

Is Jesus here laying down a law or is it a gift? When a law is given there is an adjoining penalty for not obeying it. This is true in our daily walk. A speed limit is established there is a penalty that joins it when it is violated. Even a common ordinary law such as that will excite in us the desire to push the limit. If it was strictly enforced no doubt our local government would not lack money. Due to concern for the uproar from citizens, normally, it is enforced with a lax hand.

God’s laws are either obeyed perfectly or disobeyed completely. There is no laxity with God. Either you obey perfectly or death is the penalty. Taking that into account we not only have to worry about not getting what we want from God in exchange for our praying in true faith we have to worry about eternal punishment. No this prayer must be considered from a different angle in which it is good news not damning law.

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?--Answer.

God would thereby [with this little introduction] tenderly urge us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.


In his Small Catechism Martin Luther would rather teach us that this is a tender urging or gift from Jesus to us. He is giving us his Father to be our Father. Not just a stern Father but a dear Father who loves us so that he gave us Jesus to bear our sins to the cross and in faith we are his dear children. Okay so if we have this approach to God will he therefore grant us everything we request? Of course not! Many of the things we want would not be good for us. We are inclined to be self centered and will in turn rather be greedy and grasping when having our stuff.

Luke 11:11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
KJV

We have the promise of what we need shall be provided by our Father in Heaven. In addition he will give us the Holy Spirit. We receive the Holy Spirit in order to guide us in being thankful for what we have, grant us repentance for coveting what we don’t have and true faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Being baptized into Jesus we have his righteousness lived in his holy life given to us as a garment. As the Father was well pleased with Jesus at his baptism we walk as well pleasing children in the righteousness we have by baptism through faith. Let us therefore with grateful hearts address God as Our Father which art in Heaven….

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Walking In The Spirit. Sinlessness?


The way some bible teachers have it is that if you are walking by the Spirit you are not sinning. Conversely if you are guilty of sinning in a given day you are therefore walking in the flesh and not the Spirit. And if you are walking in the flesh according to this section of scripture you will not inherit the kingdom of God. So on Monday thru perhaps Tuesday you don’t recall any particular sins so you are inheriting the kingdom of God. But on Wednesday you lost your cool and tore another person’s face off with a real good tongue lashing. That would be considered strife or at least a fit of anger. And perhaps it takes you a few days to cool off because it was a reaction to someone’s real trespass. If you die in those days will you go to hell?

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ESV

Notice St Paul is not saying that walking in the Spirit is being sin free. Rather due to the fruit of the Spirit which are attitudes and motivation we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. The flesh not only desires to sin but takes delight in it. I am sure you have heard an unbeliever brag about lashing out at another. He or she really let the other person have it and cannot wait to do it again. And he or she will keep on doing it again as until the next victim happens to cross his or her path.

The desire of the Spirit, on the other hand, will bring that person to realize the sin which he or she committed and grant them true repentance and forgiveness of sin. The only promise that can be made to our Father is that we will do that sin again and other ones in addition. We never outgrow our need each day for the perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism we are clothed with him so we can live before our Father in a holiness which is not our own. Those who are walking in the Spirit freely admit he or she has no righteous of his or her own but only the one we have by faith. To assure us even more Jesus comes to us in his body and blood to strengthen us and keep us in the true faith to life everlasting. In these ways we never have to depend upon some progression of holiness for assurance you cannot become more holy than Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jesus At Work. Don't Be Angry.


Nothing will cause more anger among Christians than Jesus doing his Jesus job. One would expect anger from the Jews in Jesus’ day who had formed the idea of whom the Messiah would be and what he would be about. And one is right. Also one would expect the unbelieving world to be totally ticked at his actions. And one would be right about that too. Humans are, after all, in rebellion against God which is why we need a Saviour to reconcile us to God. But we are by nature unwilling to be reconciled and think it is God who has the problem and needs to be appeased. Such is the dilemma with the following section.

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

Two main groups of Christians are angry about this section. First we have the Arminians who teach that one must make a choice to believe. The first 5 verses indicate that Jesus came in the world to bring light to all persons, as creator cares for all creation, was rejected by the unbelievers and all one has to do is believe. If they even refer to the last verse is where the anger comes in. “It is not fair!” they will say because it is taught it is God’s will that saves the believer. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus is 100% Saviour in this salvation business they do not seem to want to get over the idea we have no part in our salvation.

The second group which get upset at it is our Calvinists. In order to protect God’s Sovereignty they will tend to either ignore the first verse or spend days trying to redefine what it means to enlighten everyone. After all how could Jesus be here to enlighten everyone if God has chosen some for damnation and others for salvation. The answer, of course, is that God has never chosen specific persons to be damned. At least one cannot find that taught in scripture when read in its entirety and plainly.

Rather than something about which to be angry this is another comforting section of scripture. First, for my Arminians. It is not up to us to make a choice to believe in Jesus. This is good. In dealing with the public one realizes a constant: People are forever changing his or her minds. It would be terrifying to trust one’s own choice or judgment in salvation. We have a cornucopia of salvation programs out there from which to choose. One is presented, believed for a time and than rejected when a more attractive program presents itself. True salvation was planned by God before the foundation of the world. It is delivered to us through his means of grace the preached word and the sacraments by which we receive faith and are maintained in the true faith. If one can get over oneself this is fantastic news.

For my Calvinists. It is great and comforting to know that Jesus did not make a special group for eternal damnation. That he came into this world to complete the requirements of the law, to die and pay for the sins of the entire world and resurrect for all of humanity’s justification. If Jesus came only for a limited group we would be cursed with always having to look inside ourselves to see if we have true faith or at our changed lives to know if we are truly saved. Whatever “truly saved” means. What a terrifying life to have to constantly question one’s salvation. On the other hand some will become comfortable with sin by minimizing the accusation of the law in order to have sufficient pious works to rely upon. Nothing is a faith killer like relying upon works to be saved or to know one is saved.

So much better it is to read in scripture about our wonderful Saviour who came to fulfill the laws demands for us. After the law fulfilled for us he bore our sins to the cross for us. And after going into death and the grave for us he resurrected for our justification for us. The much used for us in this last section was on purpose for that is the Gospel. For us men and for our salvation as is stated in the Nicene Creed written so many years ago to summarize the gift of eternal life. Let us believe this good news, live in the peace it delivers and not be angry.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jesus Delivers His Cleansing,



Where is the water in Baptism in the Epistles? This is the question asked by those who want to have a waterless Baptism which is secret to the eyes and where one receives the Holy Spirit. Here it is my doubting friends:


Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. ESV

Some have said in response to this. “That is only one verse!” For the first 1500 years in the Holy Christian Church there were no major disputes about whether Baptisms included water. It was only at the time of the Reformation that we had a group wanting to cast off historic doctrine because it looked and sounded too popish. To do this one has to see the bible as a wax nose to twist and shape into any desired form. This is truly a mishandling of the word of God and is why we have such a mess yet today 500 years later. Sinners never being satisfied are always looking for new moving of the Spirit to hit them.

In baptism we receive the glorious cleansing of the connection of water with the word of God. In this promised gift Jesus cleanses us from all sin so that we are presented, in Jesus, totally clean without spot or wrinkle. This ends all the foolish strivings humans do in Christianity to move up a ladder in holiness. Certainly some changes happen to old habits. They, due to the love and gratitude to Jesus, become loathsome to the believer. When confronted with the remaining sin repentance is granted as well as forgiveness. When confronted again with this sin repentance happens and again the forgiveness of sin. This is a constant in the life of a believer and is the first purpose of the law in church. However, one remains clean and without spot or blemish is the promise we have in baptism.

How, it is asked, can water do this? The real activity is not in the water, the baby being baptized, the older child or adult submitting to baptism nor the minister applying the water. It is the combination of water and the name of the Triune God. We see clearly that it is Jesus who is actually doing the baptizing. Since this is Jesus’ powerful work for us we need not doubt its power. What wonderful assurance we have in this activity of Jesus. No longer do we have to examine our own holiness to know we are in Christ. No longer do we have to try and remember an inner experience from years ago. No longer do we have to wonder if a decision we made was sincere enough. When the accusations come we can say to the world, our own sinful flesh and Satan “I am baptized!”

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 12


Charles Spurgeon in the following quote summarizes the challenge one faces when discussing Limited Atonement with an adherent:

I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be added to it. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 70)

On first glance I would have to agree that I would rather believe in Limited Atonement than to have to add the work of an unbeliever to grace in order to obtain salvation. This would clearly be adding works to Jesus in order to bring about salvation. Whenever I find myself in conversation with a Calvinist this argument always raises as if he or she believes Lutherans teach free will due to denying Limited Atonement. This was one of my early delights when coming into Lutheranism! I can have a Jesus dead on the cross for the sins of the world as the scriptures clearly present. In addition I do not have to trust any decision I made in salvation to which my Arminians would point.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ESV

Yes, my Calvinists, Lutherans also like verse 14. Pasting that back into context it shows once again that God is doing the saving work without the help of man. That we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to deliver to us the forgiveness of sins and to instruct us in making judgments. However, nowhere in this section 1 Corinthians, the rest of the letter nor anywhere else in scripture does it say that the unbeliever is not atoned for. So it is not about what we would rather have, Mr. Spurgeon and my Calvinists, but what does scripture clearly teach. It teaches we have a Jesus who took the entire weight of God’s wrath for the entirety of mankind. We cannot have a Jesus who, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, reconciles the entire world so that the sins are not held against them and have a Jesus who only does reconciling for some of humanity. We have only one Jesus who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The salvation of men is God’s business. It is impossible to understand why some are saved and others lost. What it cannot be is that it is due to that person’s lack of decision which is not taught anywhere in scripture. It also cannot be that God did not desire the salvation of that person for scripture contradicts that idea. It is best to leave off speculating of the why and wherefore of this issue and believe the promises of God and live in the comfort they give.

pax domini. †

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Sovereign Adopting Father.



One of the most comforting teachings in scripture is that of the adoption of sinners by our Heavenly Father. Adoption is the closest relationship one can have with a parent apart from being begotten. We see in Romans 8:15 as adopted children of God we call out to God as Abba! Father! This is again repeated in Galatians 4:6. This is the same terminology by which our Lord Jesus called out to him just prior to his crucifixion.

Mark 14:36And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” ESV

Wow! We have the privilege to address the Creator of all things in the same manner as his only Begotten Son addressed him. No other religion has its adherence as adopted children. The best analogy we can use to describe relations with God in all other religions is the follower as employee or slave and God as Employer or slave owner. We are members indeed of the family of God and no longer a slave, employee or servant to God. Jesus calls us friends, brothers and adopted children of God

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. ESV

We receive this adoption by faith in the waters of baptism. Not the secret baptism so many in evangelicalism teach. This unknown baptism delivers nothing to no one to which one can look for assurance that he or she is loved by God. There is only one baptism taught in scripture and that is the one where water is going on in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Sprit. That is the essence of adoption is to have a new name placed on you. A sinner brought into the loving relationship of the Holy Trinity! Why do so many reject this in favor of the unknown? Perhaps that it is too fantastic for the human brain to contemplate. Part of our fallen nature is to assume that if one cannot measure or totally understand something it cannot be true. That leaves a person in a horrible state for nothing makes sense to us in the Gospel. In the entirety of God’s word nothing about him makes any sense due to it being outside our experience.

Or do you not know, St Paul writes to us in his epistle to the Roman church, that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? In baptism we are plunged into the death of elder brother Jesus. Somehow, which we cannot understand, Jesus has instituted baptism for the purpose of transferring the fruit of his cross to us. We cannot return to the cross for it occurred nearly two thousand years ago. Jesus gave us this gift to know we have the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit in a tangible way. This is evidence of actually being the temple of God. We are the temple of God even though we may not feel like it or look like it. We don’t have to search our works or our level of trust but rather believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers.

The law says, "Do this," and it is never done. Grace says, "believe in this," and everything is already done.*


In the Name of Jesus. Amen †

*The Heidelberg Disputation of Martin Luther, May 1518

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 11


1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. ESV

When speaking with my Calvinists one thing is a constant. We can never settle on the definition of certain words. One of these words is all. Almost to a person all will be explained, especially in the above section, to be merely referring to all types of persons. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus’ finished work was for the salvation of both Jew and Gentile so one tactic is to say that the word all refers only to some people’s understanding that the Jews had a leg up on the faith.

Aha, it is assumed, from the word Gentile being in the above part of St Paul’s letter to young Pastor Tim here again it is speaking against the controversy. However, one must not be too hasty to make that argument. Remember context both near and far is crucial in understanding scripture. Nothing in the entire letter is addressing the controversy of the Judaizers. Although extremely important was settling that controversy it is simply not addressed in this letter. St Paul is once again pointing out his apostleship to the Gentiles which once again amazing considering what a real Jew he was. So once again we see our Calvinists pressing their presuppositions that God does not want certain people saved therefore, all cannot mean all.

Over and over again I have been told that to believe God wants those who will perish in unbelief to be saved is a challenge to the Sovereignty of God. This is only the case when one takes the Sovereignty of God and will limit it to what is understandable. This is rather teaching the sovereignty of human reason rather than the Sovereignty of God to be something to be defended at all cost. Reason is indeed necessary for banging about here on a fallen world but should never be used to explain how a Holy and Almighty God beholds his creation nor his intention for it.

Isaiah 55: 6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
ESV

So there we have how God sees himself. Truly angered at sin both in deeds and in thoughts. But always ready to be sought out and later on shows how he sends his word out to call his created people to himself. That word was manifested in the flesh, lived the perfect life for people, suffered for their sins and was raised for their justification. How anyone can see all that effort just to refuse to save some is totally foreign to scripture. Have reason serve us well in our daily rounds and have the scripture show us our marvelous and humanly unreasonable God.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TULIP, THE PEACE STEALER 2


While in conversation with a friend who is a Calvinist about Limited Atonement he said he had a verse which would end all teaching of Jesus dying for all of humanity. I asked him to give me the verse which would end that teaching:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
FROM every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
ESV

I capitalized the word from to indicate what he emphasized when reading that verse. When a person emphasizes a word in a passage it pays to watch out. What we see here is a scene from heaven after the resurrection of the dead. This is where the church catholic is gathered from all time and all nations. Yes indeed those were ransomed from every tribe, language, people and nations. What is clearly does not say is that those who are in attendance were the only ones died for. Those who refuse to trust in Jesus’ perfect life, death, burial and resurrection do not receive these gifts. That in no way indicates that those gifts are not theirs or that God in did not want them to have eternal life.

This is a sadness. Due to his or her own stubborn refusal to believe in Jesus that instead of eternal life the unbelievers are entering into eternal death. Many believers that I have talked to have loved ones and friends who are great folks but have a steadfast refusal to trust in Jesus. What these dear ones are trusting is in his or her own goodness. That if there is a god in their thoughts it is a false god who will weigh the good against the bad and all will be swell. Still others have children who were raised in the faith but have rejected it for various reasons. This can cause hours of tears in concern and prayer for these children’s eternal salvation.

One thing the L does for some of my reformed is to give them an out. A fiction which they can tell themselves so that the sadness can be kept at bay. Others eventually will commence blaming God for the lost condition of their family or friends. “Why did you let my son and daughter be born? Didn't you have enough kindling for hell?” This is an example how the L of TULIP can steal peace. How can a man or woman with a child who rebels against Christ as many young people do not ask similar questions at least in the heart?

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ESV

God does not explain in his holy word, apart from unbelief, why that even though Jesus died for all sinners why some are saved and others lost. Father is merciful to his children so we can go ahead and pray and cry for our lost family and friends. Jesus did not die in order to send people to hell perhaps he will grant them true repentance and faith in Jesus. Let us believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers instead of telling ourselves the fiction of Limited Atonement. Sorry my friend no sale. Okay, not sorry. Instead very grateful that we can know, objectively, we are atoned for in the death of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †



Sunday, July 25, 2010

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 9


Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.ESV

“You have that verse out of context.” That was the response I received when discussing Limited Atonement with a Calvinistic buddy of mine. The word context is a lead balloon often used to quench an argument. Context is definitely needed in finding out what scripture teaches on a subject. My challenge is to show how many verses, such as the one above, one needs to make it say that Jesus did not taste separation from God for every person. Without that proof context is just that a lead balloon which is supposed to shut everyone up that disagrees with the person using the word.

Limited Atonement is a presupposition that is read down on top of scripture to try to answer the question of why some are saved and others lost. In reading this on top of scripture then sections of scripture which clearly teaches that Jesus is Savior of all men is read to say the opposite. This is an attempt to protect the Sovereignty of God for if God wants all men to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4, and all men are not saved then we do not have a Sovereign God is the fear. This fear is a challenge to the Sovereignty of God in that we once again fall upwards in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. This is fascinating that a professing Christian would refuse to affirm a clear teaching because it does not make sense to a finite mind steeped in sin.

I accept the challenge:

Hebrews 2:5 Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
13 And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again,
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
ESV

Wow! Far from teaching Limited Atonement the near context throws more incredible and incomprehensible stuff our way. Jesus made us perfect through suffering in order to call us brothers? Yes God is Sovereign. Jesus exercised his Sovereignty in being born of a virgin, suffering under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died and was buried. He was Sovereign in descending into hell and raising from the dead. And is now Sovereign at the right hand of the Father giving us his gifts through word, baptism and body and blood. All in order to call us brothers!

Now the challenge is yours my Calvinists. Put this into context to show it is for fewer than all. Or believe this good news and live in the peace it offers.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gifts of Assurance.


In times of trial and temptation we really need to look outside of ourselves for assurance of Our Fathers love and concern. We need some tangible witness that our sins are forgiven. Many groups of Christians today will look at experience in order to find evidence of these gifts. Some will look to the repeat of pleasant feelings or perhaps ecstatic gifts of tongues or healings which are not promised in scripture. Or will mistakenly think that good works are sufficient evidence of forgiveness of sin. God is fully capable to provide these feelings and gifts. It is true that good deeds happen although all tainted with sin. What we have, instead, are the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ESV

We see that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us that we are children of God. Therefore as children of our loving Heavenly Father we can expect all things to be for our benefit even if suffering is involved. How do Christians, all of them, have this witness made sure in this veil of tears? By the sure and certain promises located in God’s holy scriptures. One thing is consistent within the entire Holy Christian church. Each of us are baptized into the Name of God upon entrance into it. Whether this happened as an infant in the vast majority of Christian traditions or as a confessing older child or adult the same promise is associated to being baptized.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ESV

Washed, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. This is tangible and objective evidence that one can reflect on in the deepest and darkest hours of temptation. This can never be taken from us by our sinful flesh, the world which includes false and erring brothers or by Satan himself. Baptism is not merely a one time long ago event but rather a continual renewing of the promises of God which is available at all times. When one evokes or hears evoked the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we have available the recollection of that promise which was delivered to us personally. We were placed under the cross of Jesus in baptism. As a long standing practice many Christians will make the sign of the cross upon themselves. Some will say that is not commanded in scripture but should realize we are physical persons so physical actions will aid in driving home this promise as actually belonging to each of us. This is rejected in favor of a waterless baptism of the Holy Spirit. This baptism is found nowhere in scripture and is assumed for some come to faith prior to baptism. This is easily understood because of the older testament faithful who lived prior to Christian baptism instituted by Jesus. The day to day tragedy in rejecting the strong promises in baptism the Christian is left with nothing tangible to know he or she is a child of God. Instead one is left with a fading memory of a past decision he or she made and an ever searching for good works or ecstatic gift to prove faith.

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

Jesus’ desires that through proclamation that his Christians receive repentance and the forgiveness of sins. So from the outside resource of the voice of the pastor disturbing air molecules and having them bang into eardrums we know we have forgiveness of sins. The larynx, air molecules, eardrums and brains to properly interpret the vibrations the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the loved children of God. It should be no surprise that the Creator of all things can use matter to do his bidding. It seems ludicrous that some of the same Christians who will fight tooth and nail with atheists about God creating all things have a problem with the same Creator being comfortable with matter. Rather than trusting the firm promise of Jesus he or she will say it is his or her understanding or step of faith that secured forgiveness. And others will credit the great teacher he is who delivered the message. Christ have mercy!

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

The third way the forgiveness of sins comes to us objectively is in the Sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood. Notice how clearly we are to drink of the cup which is his blood for the forgiveness of sin. What wonderful joy it is to have such a gift and to know what is delivered in it! Again too many doubt the forgiveness of sins are delivered in the Sacrament. How tragic! To doubt our Savior’s clear words forces one to look elsewhere to know sins are forgiven. People will look somewhere to themselves such as feelings or a changed life. Yes the feelings of gratefulness are real but over time they will dim and sometimes be absent. Lives do change after coming to faith but when one looks at the perfect law of God and is honest he will have to admit he is still a strong sinner and cannot free himself.

In scripture we have strong promises indeed. The Holy Spirit is promised to be located in baptism and indwells the baptized bringing the forgiveness of sin. The Holy Spirit is also located in the word so that when it is preached faithfully not holding back on law for repentance or qualifying Gospel for forgiveness of sin the gift is delivered. And Jesus has promised to be located truly present, in a mysterious way, in the bread and wine of Holy Communion for the forgiveness of sin. Let us believe these wonderful promises and live in the peace they offer and deliver to us.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Poison



Preachers of holiness of the Christian life seem to have a point. Most certainly as a Christian one should desire to put away all manner of sin. Any sane and rational person in society would wish to do this as well. This way he or she can live peaceful and productive life. He will be well thought of by relatives, neighbors, friends and business acquaintances. She will be sought out for council by her peers. Through these means of self motivation God uses to control evil behavior, in the temporal realm, out of fear of punishment or hope of reward. In this way he keeps sinners from consuming one another on a daily basis. What would be proper motivation for a believer in our Lord Jesus? Sadly the before mentioned preachers of self holiness state that you know you are saved by keeping the law.

Galatians: 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. ESV

We see by the above section that preaching of the law to “know” you are saved would be like having to ground all children confining them to their rooms to prove they are members of the family. The law is much more than a set of guidelines for behavior. It is a prison. It is a killer. It kills all hope we have to be in relationship with our Father in heaven by our own efforts. The standard is perfection pure and simple. No grading on the curve. No Mulligan to do it again. No good old college try. Perfect holiness from conception until death is the requirement. Death itself proves we cannot please God on our own. Death is the wages of sin so no matter how nice Auntie was she died because she was a sinner.

So why preach the law in this false way. One reason would be that many churches do not teach the Sacraments. The view of baptism in these congregations range from a rite of passage into the church to a work we do to show our faith in Jesus. Both instances take the work of baptism out of Jesus’ hands and places it into man’s hands. The real danger exists in that this style of obstructing the strong promises Jesus makes in baptism and focuses it entirely on the sinner. The faithfulness of the pastor and congregation one is joining with to show fidelity to Jesus is in view. Or perhaps the dedication one feels toward his or her Savior. Either one of those points can wax and wane over time. It is much more needful to keep the strong promises found in scripture in view with regards to baptism rather than the efforts of sinners to remain faithful.

Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. ESV

Sadly many Christians have not been taught and therefore deny the strong promises associated with baptism. The above verse shows the gift we get of the righteousness of Jesus put upon us. For this reason the believer who does not understand this will gather to him or herself all sorts of self holiness preachers in order to weigh whether the self holiness they demonstrate is sufficient to know how God regards them. That because of our baptism Our Father beholds us as holy children in Jesus. Why is it assumed that our Father in heaven is a worse parent then we had on earth or then we are for our children? Who would tell a child “Because you did not obey me perfectly you are no longer my child.“ If a parent would have that attitude he or she would be branded an abusive parent and should have the child taken away. How, ultimately could one trust in our Heavenly Father if he is perceived in this fashion? He would never reject one who is in Jesus for we are clothed with Jesus’ righteousness and are therefore holy in Our Fathers sight.

This false doctrine changes the focus of our gaze off Jesus’ finished work and places it solely on the believing sinner. This is to as much as to say Jesus left some of the Jesus job undone for us to finish. Many will labor under this delusion and some will even forsake the faith because it seems so hopeless. Christ have mercy!

C.F.W. Walther, first President of the Lutheran Church Missouri synod, speaks to the poison of false doctrine in the following text taken from his lectures. These lectures were given over 100 years ago but are still quite relevant to our present day.


From what has been said you can gather how foolish it is, yea, what an awful delusion has taken hold upon so many men’s minds who ridicule the pure doctrine and say to us: “Ah, do cease clamoring, Pure doctrine! Pure doctrine! That can only land you in dead orthodoxies‘. Pay more attention to pure life, and you will raise a growth of genuine Christianity.” That is exactly like saying to a farmer: “Do not worry forever about good seed; worry about good fruits.” Is not a farmer properly concerned about good fruit when he is solicitous about getting good seed? Just so a concern about pure doctrine is the proper concern about genuine Christianity and a sincere Christian life. False doctrine is noxious seed, sown by the enemy to produce a progeny of wickedness. The pure doctrine is wheat-seed; from it spring the children of the Kingdom, who even in the present life belong in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and in the life to come will be received into the Kingdom of Glory. May God even now implant in your hearts a great fear, yea, a real abhorrence, of false doctrine! May He graciously give you a holy desire for the pure, saving truth, revealed by God Himself! That is the chief end which these evening lectures are to serve.

Third Evening Lecture: Walther’s Law and Gospel September 26,1884

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, May 30, 2010

But May It Never Be



The church at Galatia did not have the problems of the one at Corinth of a man living with his stepmother in sin. They did not have one-up-man-ship treatment of the gifts of the Spirit. Nor did it appear that they had the letting go of sin problem of Corinth. So what was the big thing about which St Paul says this?

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. ESV

Since the church in Galatia did not have all the outward evidence of being sinners what was St Paul threatening against? They have deserted Christ not to chase after outward and gross sins. They were deserting Jesus to work on their own self righteousness. They did not seem to understand that Jesus did the whole righteous living job. Specifically the ceremonial law of circumcision. This ceremonial law was no longer a requirement to be a true God worshipper as in the older Testament. This had been replaced, by the institution of Jesus, with water and Spirit baptism.

One may say that this letter is out of date. Personally I have never heard of a church that teaches one has to be circumcised to be a true Christian in our day. Does this mean that the epistle to the Galatians is someone else’s mail? Tragically no. Legalism, knowing one is a Christian by deeds, is not far away at all. Unfortunately many preachers in otherwise sound bible believing churches teach people that there is no assurance of salvation other than continual moral improvement. They teach if one is constantly sinning each day there is no way he or she is a true believer. Granted that after a time in the Christian faith one would not expect a Christian to partake in former gross outward acts of a lustful life. The biblical approach in that type of sermon is to preach repentance and forgiveness of sin rather than to try harder not to sin.

However what about sins of the mind and heart. These are totally not in control. An errant thought. A glance toward a desired object which causes momentary lust or covetousness. Or you meet up with a person you think did you wrong and you would like nothing better than to either make or hear of that person suffering. In addition the actual sin of unbelief that Jesus did the whole Jesus job and needs our help to get it done. All these things show that a Christian is by nature far from God deserving eternal damnation.

So where is this moral progress to be seen? It is not to be seen nor is it to be boasted on. Rather the boasting is to be on the promises Jesus won for us on the cross.

Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified unto Me, and I to the world. ESV

The subject of the boasting is cross of the innocent suffering and death of our Jesus. This is where you sins were pinned with Jesus. He endured the wrath of God instead of it being endured by you. Do yourself and those around you a huge favor stop bragging on your supposed self righteousness. That does much more harm than good for it sounds like you have forsaken Jesus in favor of your own efforts at righteousness. Rather speak of how Jesus took all you sins with him to the cross and delivers that to you when you hear the Gospel preached and partake of his glorious holy Supper. This is most certainly true and can aid others in his or her trust in those same promises.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Of Sanctification



The Third Article.

Of Sanctification.

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?--Answer.

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.*


Much wind is used. Much ink is spilled. All in the hopes of showing the Christian what his or her part they have in sanctification. This is incorrect for we see in scripture who does the sanctifying.

1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure. ESV

Yes the believer does good works. Due to the working of the Holy Spirit he brings us into and keeps us in our Lord Jesus. Without his working the words of scripture read and preached would bounce off of deaf ears for we would never be able to receive it. The words of St Peter later in his letter “baptism now saves you also” become meaningless. And Jesus’ words “This is my body and This cup is the new covenant in my blood” are as equally ridiculous.

For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves. **



Holy Spirit, Praise your name for delivering to us the benefits of the cross of Jesus. Grant to us true repentance for our slowness of hearts to believe all that you have for us. Amen †

* Small Catechism of Martin Luther Article 3 of The Apostles’ Creed

** Martin Luther’s Large Catechism Article 3 of The Apostles’ Creed

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When was Your Conversion Experience?



When were you saved? On what day and in which hour did your life change? Well you know that if you cannot recall a day that you became a believer you cannot know that you are saved, don’t you? These questions can plague a believer to the point of distraction and doubt about salvation. They are based upon some concern for others by those who believe he or she had some part in salvation by making a choice. Some, who will deny free will, maintain there must be a point of time to which one can point for proof of salvation.

We are not to look back to our conversion for assurance, but we must go to the Savior again and again, every day, as though we had never been converted. My former conversion will be of no benefit to me if I become secure. I must return to the mercy-seat every day, otherwise I shall make my former conversion my savior, by relying on it. That would be awful; for in the last analysis it would mean I make myself my savior. -- C. F. W. Walther, *Proper Distinction* p. 207

In the above section Walther explains something which the bible teaches plainly. It is not just a one time looking to Jesus but a daily owning up to sin and fleeing to Jesus lest we become too secure and take our eyes off Jesus. This is especially true if one is raised in a Christian home where the word of God is read and taught. From infancy these words were heard and taken in. So that when a question is asked of the child instructed in the faith the response can be one of faith and assurance in the strong word of God.

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

From the above St Paul did not hold St Timothy to a conversion experience but rather pointed to the word of God being sufficient to bring one to faith. So under the common evangelical exam one could walk away form St. Timothy doubting his conversion since he probably did not have a huge life change as did St Paul. However, nowhere in scripture do we find the requirement that one have a big life change experience. Granted those converted from a life of hedonism will see some rapid change. The sin which once so enthralled him or her is now repulsive. After a time all the outward vileness will be gone. What will come with maturity and years of Jesus leading and walking with us is we will in fact see sins which were before hidden under more obvious actions. We do remain full blown children of Adam for as long as we are bashing about here in this fallen world.

The gift that carries us through is baptism and its promises. When we are constantly repenting and receiving forgiveness for sins such as covetousness or anger with a brother we can rest assured of the promises of our baptism.

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. ESV

And our God is so gift giving he has also willed that repentance and forgiveness of sins be proclaimed through all the earth. And if those two gifts were not enough he also gives us his body and blood to eat and drink. After years of remembering God placing his name on you. Hearing Jesus died for you and you receive forgiveness life and salvation for you in the Supper no doubt casting brother in Jesus, your flesh or the devil can totally cast you into doubt.

Good Lord Jesus. Thank you for all the assuring promises in these your gifts. May they keep us in the true faith unto life everlasting. Amen †

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Unexpected.



She was brought to Jesus in order to tempt him. This woman caught in adultery. Was she guilty? Without a doubt! Caught in the act she was and worthy of death according to the civil laws of the day. However, it was not about her sin which those who brought her to Jesus were concerned. They wanted to put Jesus on trial. He was constantly congregating with sinners such as she. This did not sit well with the clean churchly. Those who had all their Theological ducks lined up neatly. We all love our ducks lined up and to be outwardly clean. But oh how that can build ego! While building ego it blinds to ones own sin doesn’t it? They expected Jesus to condemn her. As we expect Jesus to condemn others but not us.

John 8: 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ESV

After Jesus did some writing on the ground Jesus asked for any of them who were without sin throw the first stone. Then he wrote some more. Many have speculated he wrote accusations against some of them or all of them the sins of which they were guilty. Some have given other opinions about writing the law. We don’t know what Jesus wrote. But the most important thing he did was the unexpected. He forgave her. And this forgiveness brought new life. A life free from bondage to her sin. Jesus was there for her like no other man was there for her.

I heard many times over how some think the Gospel is both good news and bad news. Good news for those who believe it but bad for those who do not. This is false teaching. It fails to consider that we are all in the same condemned boat outside of Jesus. That those who believe were never condemned somehow apart from the general run of humanity. And that God chose some to damnation along with choosing the redeemed. This is moving the focus off Christ the Chosen Lamb to be Slain and looking at which sinners are saved and which are lost. Not focusing on Jesus leads to all sort of error. When Jesus is the focus in the choosing these issues fade from sight. Those in Jesus are chosen for eternal life.

John3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” ESV

We see here the Gospel of Jesus does not condemn nor is it bad news to the unbeliever. The good news, the gift, is for all. Even those who will not turn to Jesus due to evil deeds which they want and appreciate. The forgiveness is theirs. Such a pity to love the temporary pleasure of this life and self righteousness which will end when we are resurrected. An eternity of continual dying instead of eternal life with he who is Life.

“Holy Spirit, grant true repentance for those loving darkness. I think especially of family and friends who have estranged themselves from you. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy!”

In the name of Jesus. †

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Reason to Fear


Why should one fear the Lord? Many answers abound for that question. The Lord is our Creator. He has the ability and right to send us to eternal damnation. He is mysterious.

Valid reasons all. However, how does our Triune God want to be feared. All the above reasons will terrify. These come about by having improper sermons preached at us. Ones that center attention on the divine attributes. Or how that now one is a Christian one has the ability to totally conquer sin in his or her life. God locates himself in coming to us in gentleness not in terror. A loving Heavenly Father who is reconciled to us. The Good Shepherd who in his death reconciled us. The gentle Holy Comforter who creates faith to receive that reconciliation.

Psalm 130:3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
ESV

Imagine that! A holy and almighty God who does not mark, keep a record, of our iniquities. Has he gone soft on sin? Does he give us a Mulligan so we can take another run at holiness? Not at all! But the sacrifice of our Good Shepherd has paid for the sins of the entire world. So then why all the noise about having to become Holy as God is Holy? There again Jesus covered that with his entire life from conception on being Holy for us. Why are not all people going to live eternally in the Presence of God? Unbelief pure and simple. The natural man is God’s enemy and will not trust him. That is not a satisfactory answer however, that is the only answer we are given.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. ESV

There you have it. Plain, simple and so sad. Sins are all paid for a person but he or she rejects it and spends eternity separated from the source of life. “Heavenly Father, grant repentance and the forgiveness of sin through your word to our friends and family that still reject you as well as all others in the world.” In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Conformed to The Image of Jesus.




Romans 8:29 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

Cant beat that can you? We will be conformed to the image of the sinless God the Son! Christ coming again to judge the living and the dead. Jesus loved so much by believers both young and old. Yes Jesus has all those items and a whole lot more. While on this dead and dying world he was, for a time, a very popular preacher. But only for a time.

As finite humans we tend to see what we want to see. And it does not help to have many preachers who will itch the ears and pump us up toward looking forward to a triumphant existence. What we have, in those befuddled minds, are mountain top experiences with no limit to the amount of sin we can defeat. After all Jesus is sinless so we in his image would be sinless too. Some so called preachers teach we will not have daily pattern of sin. If one has a daily pattern of sin surely that person cant be saved. Most certainly God is strong enough to keep his people from sin. I want to ask preachers like that “How is it going for you? Did you sin yesterday? Today? Will you sin tomorrow? Do you see a pattern there?” So goes the Theology of Self Glory.

Several items the Theologian of Self Glory fails to consider. Jesus was despised and rejected so badly that those in his home town of Nazareth want to pitch him off a cliff for what he was saying. He was constantly under attack from Satan, his hordes of demons and followers who tried to trip him up at every turn. Being God the Son of course he never fell to the temptations and his holiness is transferred to us by grace. Finally betrayed by one of his disciples and deserted by the others he was nailed to the cross. This, then, is the Theology of the Cross of Jesus.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. ESV

Putting those previous verses back into context we see the real Theology of the Cross. The epistle to the Romans really needs to be left in tact for if one just pulls selected verses he or she will always have it wrong. Kind of like pulling a block out of a wall which weakens the entire wall. Pull out enough of them it comes crashing and hurts all those who are nearby. The hurting happens when a listener to this type of false teaching is troubled by no visible progression in holiness. Long gone are the visible and gross outward sins. What is left are sins of the heart. Those sins of the heart are known only to the individual Christian but are revealed to him or her in scripture. So even if listening only to the Theologian of Self Glory he or she will be struck with despair when exposed to the glaring light of the law of God in scripture.

These sins show us our daily need to flee to the Crucified Jesus and cry out for mercy. His faithfulness and suffering for us is good news. But none of us are the only begotten of the Father so we will not fare so well during times of temptation and desertion. We are destined to be conformed, more or less, to the suffering and dying servant. That was the image of Jesus on a dying world subjected by him to futility and despair. He endured all that without sin for us. When we do not endure it sinless we still have a righteousness not our own so we can stand before our Father in heaven.

Then come the times of being rejected. Now one expects rejection by unbelievers and those who were never raised in the Christian faith. However, the cross we are given to bear daily will include rejection from fellow Christians. Erring brethren who have a false conception of Jesus as a Divine vending machine. Enter a prayer and out pops a blessing. One attempts to correct that misunderstanding and in turn may have a friendship end. He will indeed shower us with blessing but that blessing may be painful to endure such as our spouse rejecting us because of Jesus. Or the rejection one may experience when lovingly rebuking an erring adult child who is wondering away or refusing to stop living in open rebellion against our Father. Now these are sufferings, which are related specifically to the cross of Jesus, will deeply trouble and try the tender hearts of those who love Jesus. But we keep our eyes on our crucified and risen Jesus and off our selves and circumstances for we know we will be raised by him on the last day.