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.

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?

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. †