• The Holy Bible is God’s Holy Word

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Is Mormonism Christian?

Though “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” might wish to omit the latter part of their name[1] for false appearances and to mislead, and do indeed use Christian terminology, speaking of God, Jesus, salvation, etc., they are not Christian, nor are their doctrines and practices Christian in any way, contrary to popularly accepted opinion. Even their abstaining from alcohol and caffeine, as well as their practice of mandatory tithing, are not Christian.  These practices and others might have the appearance of piety and holiness, but no ruling body has the authority to establish practices which are neither forbidden or commanded by God, and then declare that such practices have are from God himself

The current climate of our day might seem to preclude any such debate whether Mormons are Christians are not, but such climate reveals the negligence of many within the church (i.e. Joel Osteen) to make proper distinctions.  But such distinctions are to be made, even in the public square, and especially within the church.

Such distinctions of doctrine and practice between Mormons (and other groups) and the Christian Church is the distinction of truth from error, Christianity being of the truth and Mormonism (and other groups) being of error.  Proper (godly) distinctions are to be made because such distinctions concern God and His Holy Word.

Writing to Timothy, St. Paul says, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).  The doctrine of which Paul speaks is that which is of God, even the saving doctrine of sins forgiven in Christ, the saving doctrine of Jesus, “true man and true God.”  Get these wrong, and your immediately outside of Christianity and have no salvation.

Not only here do the Mormons differ with what is of the true doctrine.  The Mormons have as their authority, not only The Bible (as it is correctly translated and as they understand it), but The Book of Mormon (which has no historical evidence even to substantiate its claims), The Pearl of Great Price, The Doctrine and the Covenants, and the Leader(s) of their fellowship.

Though Jesus says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32), the Mormons, by their twisting of Holy Scripture and their use of other authorities for their doctrines and practices, they neither do abide in Christ and His Word, nor are they Jesus’ disciples.  Therefore, they also do not know the truth, but according to their Father, they speak lies.  Mormons are not of God (John 8:42-47).

This must remain clear, lest the ignorant be deceived and the Church further become complacent instead of increasingly more vigilant.  Mormons have a different God, Jesus, Savior, salvation, doctrine, fellowship, and authority than the Christian Church, and therefore, contrary to beliefnet and religioustolerance (and others, political or not), Mormons should not be affiliated anywhere in proximity to Christianity or Christian denominations.

It might also be said that many fellowships which claim to be Christian are not consistently so.  Any doctrine/teaching which is not of God is also not of the true, Godly doctrine.  Therefore, any false teaching mixed with the true teaching is detrimental to the faith[2].  The fact that Christians can be found in erring church bodies (i.e. ELCA, UMC, Episcopal Church, Roman Catholicism, PCUSA, etc.) is not due to the false preaching, teaching, and ungodly practices found there, but only on account of the fraction of God’s Word that may still remain. In spite of numerous errors, where Christ’s Word is at least read, there will be Christ’s church, as little as it might be.

Of course, this is not reason for one to remain in an erring fellowship.  This is all the more reason to seek a church which seeks to be faithful to God’s Word in all it preaches, teaches, and does, for the Christian seeks to hear God’s Word and nothing else.  The Christian seeks to live according to God’s Word, and therefore, seeks God’s mercy in Christ.  Erring fellowships do not offer such comfort and confidence of God’s mercy in Christ.  They turn the hearer to another other than Christ alone for help and refuge.  Where they do speak the truth, we thank the Lord.  Where they do not, we must discern. “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).


[1] Of Latter Day Saints

[2] Corinthians 5:6-7: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.”

Do we know our theology?

Recently, I came across the following statement, “We in the LCMS, frankly, were always taught it’s ‘all about theology,’ and theology is one of the bases which hold us together, for sure.  But most of us know our theology inside/out.  We are ‘experts’ in that area!  But what can often be improved in the LCMS is ‘relationships.’”

The writer of such words was commenting about a past LFL National Conference held in Dallas earlier this year.  Though it is certainly true that we in the LCMS can always seek to improve with concern to ‘relationships’ (Love towards neighbor, 2nd table of the Law, Commandments 4-10), I would beg to differ with the belief that “most of us know our theology inside/out.” (Love towards God, 1st Table of the Law, Commandments 1-3)

If knowing means simply to use certain words and say that one understands the theology (generally), I would partially agree.  Many in the LCMS are indeed able to use LCMS theological words and phrases.  Some have even coined the phrase, “Christianese.”  You might even be able to speak of “Lutheranese” as well.

We can talk the talk.  Even nominal Lutherans “know” their theology.  I was recently told of a “Lutheran” who knew her catechism “inside and out,” with the ability to recite the various parts, yet rarely attended church, has not had her out of wedlock baby baptized, and has not repented of her sins.  If this is “knowing” our theology inside/out, then this is not knowing.

Nor is it “knowing” the theology when pastors confuse Law and Gospel in their preaching; when laypeople fail to hear the Word preached by the pastor because they do not like how he preaches or because of how he says.  It is not knowing theology when we hear the bitterness of the Law and seek to avoid and excuse ourselves from confessing our sins and seeking the Good News of the sweet Gospel; when we give lip service to the Christian faith and judge others, yet fail to see the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:1-5); when we put our own desires and opinions, feelings and experiences, above God and His Word.  When we seek, not what God says, but what would make us feel better about ourselves, our church, our whatever, this is not truly knowing our theology.

If we in the LCMS truly knew our theology, there would be unceasing repentance, bold confession of Jesus Christ, unwavering confidence of God’s mercy, and fixation on only the true doctrine for faith and life.  The life would then truly follow.

Where there is the assumption that we know our theology “inside/out,” there is nothing but danger of losing that which is true, even losing Christ.

In the past, and even today (i.e. Rick Warren), there is the declaration, “Deeds, not Creeds,” as if deeds (what we do, our action) supersede creeds (the faith).  Such emphasis endangers the true doctrine, for it places the foundation on man, not on God and His Word (upon which the Christian faith is founded and based).

Such presumption that “We in the LCMS know our theology inside/out” and “are ‘experts’ in that area” implies that now we can move on to “other things,” (like relationships), as if we have mastered the teachings of our faith.

However much we “know” of our theology, we will never outgrow the need for doctrine to continually be at the forefront of all that we do, for the doctrine of which we speak is not man’s, but God’s.  Of this we must be vigilant, otherwise, the temptation to complacency will soon overtake us, as it has already for so many in our beloved church body, for many call themselves members of LCMS and LCMS congregations (even pastors), even using the theological words, but grievously are not.  They honor God with their lips, but their hearts (and their theology) are far from the Lord (Matthew 15:8).

From the preface of Luther’s Large Catechism

(para. 5-13)

5 Besides, a shameful and insidious plague of security and boredom has overtaken us. Many regard the Catechism as a simple, silly teaching which they can absorb and master at one reading. After reading it once they toss the book into a corner as if they are ashamed to read it again.  6 Indeed, even among the nobility there are some louts and skinflints who declare that we can do without pastors and preachers from now on because they have everything in books and can learn it all by ourselves. So they blithely let parishes fall into decay, and brazenly allow both pastors and preachers to suffer distress and hunger. This is what one can expect of crazy Germans. We Germans have such disgraceful people among us and must put up with them.

7 As for myself, let me say that I, too, am a doctor and a preacher — yes, and as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. 8 I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly. These dainty, fastidious fellows would like quickly, with one reading, to become doctors above all doctors, to know all there is to be known. Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the people’s souls, yes, even God and his Word. They need not fear a fall, for they have already fallen all too horribly. What they need is to become children and begin learning their ABC’s, which they think they have outgrown long ago.

9 Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake, to get it into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think. I implore them not to imagine that they have learned these parts of the Catechism perfectly, or at least sufficiently, even though they think they know them ever so well. Even if their knowledge of Catechism were perfect (though that is impossible in this life), yet it is highly profitable and fruitful daily to read it and make it the subject of meditation and conversation. In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly. This is according to Christ’s promise in Matt. 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

10 Nothing is so effectual against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy oneself with the Word of God, talk about it, and meditate on it. Psalm 1 calls those blessed who “meditate on God’s law day and night.”6 You will never offer up any incense or other savor more potent against the devil than to occupy yourself with God’s commandments and words and to speak, sing, and meditate on them. This, indeed, is the true holy water, the sign which routs the devil and puts him to flight.7

11 For this reason alone you should eagerly read, recite, ponder, and practice the Catechism, even if the only blessing and benefit you obtain from it is to rout the devil and evil thoughts. For he cannot bear to hear God’s Word. God’s Word is not like some empty tale, such as the one about Dietrich of Bern,8 but as St. Paul says in Rom. 1:16, it is “the power of God,” indeed, the power of God which burns the devil and gives us immeasurable strength, comfort, and help.

12 Why should I waste words? Time and paper would fail me if I were to recount all the blessings that flow from God’s Word. The devil is called the master of a thousand arts. What, then, shall we call God’s Word, which routs and destroys this master of a thousand arts with all his wiles and might? It must, indeed, be master of more than a hundred thousand arts. 13 Shall we frivolously despise this might, blessing, power, and fruit — especially we who would be pastors and preachers? If so, we deserve not only to be refused food but also to be chased out by dogs and pelted with dung. Not only do we need God’s Word daily as we need our daily bread; we also must use it daily against the daily, incessant attacks and ambushes of the devil with his thousand arts.

Deliverance from this Present Evil Age

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 1:3-5

The Bible does not speak highly of the world, nor of the age in which we are living.  For example, through Isaiah the prophet God says, “I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible” (Isaiah 13:11).

That the world and its ways are indeed corrupt and evil (though not originally so) is a truth that is nearly forgotten.  Rather than seek to live separate from the world, in the world but not of the world, we immerse ourselves in the ways of the world and attempt to justify our ways before God.  We seek signs and evidence of God and His ways without and within, apart from His gracious Word.  And yet, Jesus Himself says that “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 12:39).  And in another place, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

Not without reason, St. Paul writes,  “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.  Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:6-10).

By yourself, you will remain and continue digressing in the ways of the world, attaching yourself to that which is not God-pleasing and in opposition to the world’s Creator, regardless of how hard you might try.  The ways of the world and the devil and your sinful flesh are too great for you or anyone even of stature.

There is One Deliverer who has overcome the world, and who does and will indeed “Deliver us from this present evil age.”  That One is none other than Christ, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Because of this One Deliverer, you do have hope, a hope that cannot and does not fail, the hope that is everlasting, the hope which is eternal, the sure hope that is yours through faith.

Jesus’ prayer for His disciples is also His prayer for you, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:14-17).

God’s word is truth, and by that Word are you sanctified, set apart to be the people of God.  Remain in Him.  Remain in His Word.  Do not neglect the truth, but embrace it and hold fast to it.  The world and this evil age will remain such and worsen before the Lord returns.  But know this; Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  Therefore, do not fear (John 16:33).  Though you live in the world, you serve Another.  You serve He who has conquered sin and death and gives you life through this age and into eternity.  Rest in Him, all you who labor and are heavy laden (Matthew 11:28-30).  And remain confident of His deliverance.  Amen.

Luther

“Let these words of Paul stand just as they are, true and accurate, not painted or counterfeit: this present age is evil. Do not be dissuaded because there are many fine virtues in many men or because hypocrites make a great pretense of sanctity. But pay careful attention to what Paul says. Out of his words you may boldly and freely pronounce this sentence against the world: that the world, with all its wisdom, righteousness, and power, is the devil’s kingdom, out of which only God is able to deliver us by His only Son.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p41).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, do not forsake us to the world nor its ways.  Help us to resist the temptation to succumb and give into doubt, despair, and further corruption.  Strengthen us in the true faith and give us a confidence, not in the world changing, but in your abundant mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Greatest Commandment

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

The Giving of the Ten Commandments

34When the Pharisees heard that [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

      41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44“‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’?  45If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:34-46

With these words, Jesus sums up the entire Law of God.  Indeed, as noted elsewhere in the Bible, Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).  Love God and Love neighbor are the two tables of the Law.  This is what is taught in our confirmation classes.  The First Table, Love for God, has to do with Commandments 1-3, Having no other god before the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Not misusing God’s Name, and not despising the preached Word.  The Second Table, Love for Neighbor, has to do with Commandments 4-10, Honoring Father and Mother, Not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, and not coveting.

But by keeping these commandments of God, summed up with that word, Love, we are not saved.  So St. Paul writes, The law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them’ (Galatians 3:12).  He also says, As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:10-11).

To be saved by the law, you would have to be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  Such you are not.  And neither am I.  By the law is not salvation, but condemnation.  By the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).  Salvation must come another way.  It comes by way of Christ.  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:13-14).  By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Law shows us our sin.  And just by those few words of our Lord from our text, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  And You shall love your neighbor as yourself, our Lord convicts us all, even the Pharisees to whom He was speaking (Matthew 22:37, 39).  If it was just a matter of outwardly doing what God says, that would be one thing.  This is what the Jews of Jesus’ day and the Sons of Israel thought.  They believed that just going through the motions of sacrifice and giving lip service that they were doing their good works to God.  It was as Isaiah the prophet writes, These people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men (Isaiah 29:13).

There is such a thing called ‘civil righteousness’, which all are able to do.  By civil righteousness, I mean the ability to follow the outward doings of human law, like keeping the ordinances, statutes, and laws of the local, state, and federal governments.  But by these we are not saved.  Doing them is a good thing and serves our own interests of not being punished for doing what the law requires, as well as serving society and keeping order.  But before God, just ‘doing the doing’ is not sufficient for eternal life.

To some extent, too, we are able to keep God’s law, at least the external side of side of it.  A number of years ago, surveys revealed that most people believed that they would be going to heaven because they’ve done just that, that is, kept the law outwardly; they haven’t murdered, they have stolen, and they haven’t committed adultery.  But by this way of thinking, they were greatly mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the nature of God’s law.  It is true that they might not have done those things outwardly, but it is not true that those people have done those things inwardly.

Not committing adultery also means having chaste and decent thoughts.  Not murdering also means not hating.  Not stealing also means not wanting something that is not yours.  When God says, Love your neighbor as yourself, He means love others as you would like to be loved.  This includes the heart, not only the show of love.  God even goes further and tells us to love our enemies.  He says, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).  It’s easier to love someone who loves you back.  But here, God would have us love even those who don’t love us.

By ourselves, this is impossible, but as we look to Christ, we see Him loving us, even as fear, love, and trust in Him above all things on our part be lacking because of our sinfulness.  But even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  It is of God who shows mercy, not because of any merit or worthiness in us, but because of who He is (Romans 9:16). Our God is a God a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth (Psalm 86:15).

Because our God is these things towards us, though we deserve them not, so His Word also takes root in our hearts, and thus we are so towards others, in Christ, even as St. John writes in his first epistle (letter), Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)

Love others we begin to do because of God’s love towards us.  And though our love be imperfect, God’s love towards us is not.  In Christ, full forgiveness is ours.  He paid the penalty for all of our sinfulness.  No sin is left remaining against us on account of Christ.  Though we don’t love our neighbor, all who around us, even within our own family, as we should, on account of Christ, these sins are not held against us as we cling to God’s Son in faith.  This is not, however, reason to forsake God’s law.  We should not keep on sinning because we are forgiven.  Nor are we to continue in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1).

God’s Law, summed up by the Word, Love, is not an option, nor does the Gospel mean that God’s law can be set aside.  This might be the understanding of many within Christendom, but it is not God’s way.  Just because God is love doesn’t mean that He accepts sinful behavior.  Nor does it mean that tolerance is to be the watchword in the church towards couples living together before marriage, homosexuality, and the dumbing down of God’s doctrine for the sake of mission.  Our God is a God of love, but He is not a permissive God who lets anything and everything go.  This is not forgiveness.  Forgiveness has to do with Christ on the cross.  On Mt. Calvary is where God meeted out just punishment for the sin of the world.  By our works and according to our own inclinations we have God’s mercy not.  Only in Christ we do.

God’s Word still stands.  Being God’s people doesn’t mean that we do whatever we want, however we want, whenever we want.  Being God’s people means that, baptized into the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we live according to His Word, not our own.  This we do by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  God’s purpose for our life doesn’t have to be figured out or searched out, as is the popular thing to do among many in Christendom.  God’s purpose for you is to be found in His Word.  Christ’s words of Loving God and loving neighbor are all encompassing.  There’s nothing left for us to figure out according to these words.  Here, Christ is crystal clear.  All the books in the world, as popular as they might be, add nothing to the summation of God’s law with the word Love.

By love, I do not mean that we get right with God by us doing.  God’s commands still stand.  His Word we are to keep regardless of what we think or feel.  But loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves won’t save us.  Only Christ does.  By Him are our sins not counted against us.  And thank God that this is the case.  If it wasn’t, all would lost and for naught.

To God, we have faith and are saved.  But while we live in the world, God would have us live in love towards Him in our hearts and by what we say and do.  He would also have us love our neighbors as ourselves, even our neighbors that we believe not to deserve it.  As God loves us, so also are we to love others. Loving God above all things has to do with loving His Christ, believing in Him alone for salvation, for there is salvation in none other (Acts 4:12).  Loving God also means keeping His Word, His doctrine, pure and undefiled.  Loving neighbor means not only letting the little things go that trouble us, but also speaking the truth in love.  Loving neighbor also means bearing one another’s burdens, looking out for the interests of others, giving respect to whom respect is due and giving honor to whom honor is due (Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4; Romans 13:7).

With love towards others, we live in the world.  But by our love, eternal life is not ours.  We confess our sins for this very reason, for we have not done as we ought.  But God’s love in Christ covers our lovelessness, and by Him, do we begin to love others, even as He loves us.  Amen.

The peace that passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Mt22.34-46, Pentecost 19, 2011, Outline & Notes

Christ is No New Lawgiver

The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19:10

Christ is no new lawgiver.  The Bible is more than just a book of do’s and don’ts.  It is the precious book of salvation, as is Christ the precious Savior of the sinner.

Though Jesus does indeed accuse, convict, and condemn by the Law, so much more does He acquit, forgive, and save by means of the Gospel.  He speaks words of sins forgiven to those who are troubled and laid low by what they have done, what they think, and by their own sinful wants and desires.

Come seeking Christ to be a judge of your sin, and so shall He be.  The Law of God is too firm to be shaken, too fixed to be flexible, and too solid to be moved.  You can’t undo what undoable.  You can’t avoid what is unavoidable.  The only thing you can do before the Law is plead for God to be merciful.

Should you not see yourself as God sees you, then you will fail to see your absolute dependence on God’s mercy in Christ.  Should you not see yourself as God sees you according to His Law (The Ten Commandments), then you will surely not see your dire need for Jesus to be your Savior, and you will reject God’s abundant love towards you.

On the other hand, should you see yourself as God sees you, you will thus see yourself rightly.  And listening to His Word, you will know how utterly lost your situation is of yourself.  Nothing you do can change how God sees you.  Nothing you change can alter your standing before God.  If it were up to you, all would truly be lost!

Yet by God’s mercy, your standing before God is not up to you.  By God’s mercy, how God sees you is not up to you.

Reject Christ and His Word and before God, there is only that accusing, convicting, and condemning Word of Law which will ring in your ears.  But hear Christ and His blessed Word of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and there is only that acquitting, forgiving, and saving Word of the Gospel.

By God’s mercy your standing before God remains upon Christ.  By God’s mercy, how God sees you is how God the Father sees His Son.  Now, the Father’s words of His Son are also the Father’s words on you, “This is my son, in whom I am pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

In Christ, then, the Father finds you and saves you.  In Christ, no longer are you lost, but found.  And in Christ, your salvation is sure.

Luther

“If Christ gave Himself into death for our sins, then undoubtedly He is not a tormentor. He is not One who will cast clown the troubled, but One who will raise up the fallen and bring propitiation and consolation to the terrified. Otherwise Paul would be lying when he says “who gave Himself for our sins.” If I define Christ this way, I define Him correctly, grasp the authentic Christ, and truly make Him my own. I avoid all speculations about the Divine Majesty and take my stand in the humanity of Christ. There is no fear here; there is sheer sweetness, joy, and the like. This kindles a light that shows me the true knowledge of God, of myself, of all creatures, and of all the wickedness of the kingdom of the devil.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p39).

Prayer: Lord, help me to remain ever closer to Jesus, believing His precious promise of forgiveness to me a sinner.  Help me not falter in my faith, but all the more to seek Your abundant help in Christ my Savior.  Amen.

God’s Work in the Church and in the World

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [Jesus] in his talk. 16And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15–22)

In the world, but not of the world (John 17:11; 14-16).  This is the reality of the Christian.  The Christian is both physical and spiritual in one person.  We are flesh and blood, but as flesh and blood we also have a soul.  God promises us, right now, eternal life through Jesus Christ.  But right now, we seem Him not except by faith.  His Word gives what it says, but the world says something different.

When the pastor baptizes with water, the naked eye would tell us that water is applied, and that’s it, added is nothing more and nothing less.  Reason would say that the one baptized adds to the meaning or the significance of Baptism by choosing it and that if not, it is meaningless and futile.  Just by ourselves watching and seeing what’s going on in a Baptism, everything would tell us that nothing extraordinary is going on.  But God here speaks differently.  He says that one is to be baptized into the Name of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not any ordinary Name.  St. Paul the Apostle, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that, As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Christ Himself says, Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God and Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).  St. Peter, one of the twelve disciples of our Lord, also writes, There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

It is true that because of what God does, because of what He works and gives through Baptism, all who are baptized and believe God’s promise of forgiveness in Baptism have a clear conscience before God.  God’s Word cannot here fail.  His promise is sure and true.  Where God forgives, sin is forgiven.  Where He promises, that promise will be fulfilled.  Our conscience might tell us, even after hearing the words of absolution from the pastor, that our sins remain, that we’re not sorry enough, or that we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness.  But here, we are to heed the Lord’s Word and not our own.  Even the devil, though he continue to plant doubt within the mind, and though He try to condemn, he can judge us none.  God is the One who justifies us.  No one, not even Satan, can be against us if God is for us (Romans 8:33, 31).

God’s promises are as good as done, but heaven, where our true citizenship is, we do not fully enjoy at the present (Philippians 3:20).  In the world we have tribulation.  There is suffering, burden, and enmity, even within one’s household.  We are God’s people and eagerly await our Lord’s return, for He will come again, a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (Hebrews 9:28).  But the Lord, as long as He prolongs His coming, says, “Wait”, that is, believe in me. “While you are here, your flesh will be tried.  You will be tested. Troubles will come, but fear not, I have overcome the world.  Your sin troubles you, but from your sin you are forgiven.  Live not for yourselves, but believe in me and love one another, your neighbor, and help them in their need.

To our eyes, things look as they appear.  But truly the phrase, ‘there is more here than meets the eye,’ is surely valid.  This especially holds true for the church, for it is a man speaking that you hear, words you speak in the liturgies, bread and wine that you eat and drink in the sacrament.  But what does God say?  St. Paul writes, These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13).

In another place He says, And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

In Church, a man does speak and a man does preach, pages from a book are read, and bread and wine are consumed.  But more is going on here than meets the eye.  Though man speak the Word of God, it is God’s Word, no ordinary Word.  Though bread and wine be consumed, given also is the body and the blood of Christ for the remission of sins.  These things then are no ordinary things, nor is church just an ordinary place where ordinary things happen.  God is here, giving life through His Word and Sacraments.  Here is where He forgives sinners and gives eternal life.  Here is where He strengthens and increases faith, that we live out our lives in the world as His Holy people.

In this place is where God works by means of His Word.  He forces none to believe.  His Word goes out and those who believe will hear and believe and those who don’t, don’t.  God in this Kingdom of His, this Right Hand Kingdom, the Church, rules by His Word alone.  Here we have Christ, forgiveness, grace, and mercy.  Faith is the means whereby we apprehend God’s goodness and His gifts as our very own.  The one who disbelieves does not have God’s promise of help and comfort, but God’s judgement and condemnation remain upon Him.  This too may not be seen in the now time, but in the hereafter, it will be his reality.

God rules His Right Hand Kingdom, the Church, according to the Word.  By His Word He forgives sin and by His Word, He retains sin.  But in the world that our Lord rules, He rules not only according to His Word in the Church.  He rules another way, too.  He rules by means of force and with the use of authorities for the keeping of peace and order.  This is called the Left Hand Kingdom.  The Lord works through governments to bring about justice, order, and civility among its citizens.

Evidence for this Biblical teaching is given in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans where He writes, Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7).

St. Peter writes similarly where He says, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:13-17).

So also in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Herodians to the question of taxes do we have evidence for such a thing as paying taxes and giving honor to whom honor is due.  They had asked Jesus the question, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? in order to trap Him with His own words, but it was they who were silenced, not Christ.  Jesus answered their question with neither a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’.  Instead, He said what is right and true, and also the very thing that they themselves were not able to deny, Give the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God.

The taxes that Caesar demanded were Caesar’s due.  Taxes that the American government demands are also their due.  This is because the government is established according to God’s order.  This does not mean that every government will be good.  Nor does this truth mandate that every government will be godly.  What it does mean is that whether good or bad, that their goodness or badness is not the final answer as to how you are to view it.

Parents can be either good or bad.  But being one or the other doesn’t change what God commands in the Fourth Commandment where He says, Honor Father and Mother (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2).  Fathers and mothers bear the responsibility of care, love, and discipline.  That is their lot.  But the one who is in their charge has the command to honor them who have that responsibility, whether they carry it out or not.  God doesn’t judge you based on what another is supposed to do.  He judges you based on what you are to do.  And thus you have Christ, judged for you that you not be condemned eternally.

Concerning the government, you aren’t judged based on what the government does with its God given authority.  Nor are you condemned because of any misuse or abuse of that authority, unless you are the one’s bearing it.  What you are accountable for is what God gives you in His Word.  Is it lawful to pay taxes?  If the government is due taxes, yes.  Not doing so is in direct contrast to what the Lord says.  The only time when it is permissible to not do as the government demands is when the government demands to be done what God forbids to be done.  Should the government try to keep the church from proclaiming Jesus Christ, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  Should the church suffer for being faithful to our Lord, then let it be, for as Christ suffered, so will His church in the world.  But Christ’s church is His blessed Bride.  Though she look unimpressive and ordinary before the world, she is the bride of Christ, washed in His blood, precious and holy, awaiting union with her Christ.

God’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).  Your citizenship is in heaven.  But in the meantime, you live in the world.  Christians are not hermits, nor do you live in communes as if to separate ourselves from the world.  You live in the world as God’s people.  It is true that you abide by man’s rules, giving honor here where it is due.  But it is also true that God is the ruler of all things, that He rules in the one kingdom using even physical means to bring about order, working through the established authorities to serve justice and providing help and sustenance to all people.  This is why police officers carry guns, batons, and other means of protection, not only for themselves, but also for others.  This is also why parents discipline, teachers correct, and judges judge.  Through these, our Lord works in His Left Hand Kingdom.

But through the Right Hand Kingdom, God works and rules through different means than force.  He works through words, Words declaring forgiveness to penitent sinners, sinners who are sorry for their sin; and words declaring no forgiveness to impenitent sinners, sinners who are not sorry for their sin.  Here in this Kingdom, God works through preaching and proclamation, through absolution and Sacrament.  Those who deny these deny also our Lord.  But those who hear and believe, these are given the very things that the Lord declares: sins forgiven, eternal life, and peace with God.

Honor is given God through believing His Word and living in the world through your respective callings, your vocations given by God, serving one another in love, and giving to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, as well as giving to God the things of God, hearing His Word, believing His promises, and receiving His blessing in the Sacrament of the Altar.  God’s Word, His promises, and the Lord’s Supper point to Christ, who truly and fully gave to God His Father that which we could not.  Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient and completely kept God’s command to love God and love neighbor for you, not so that you don’t do what God says, but that you do, rightly, through faith in Him who did.  Jesus was obedient, not for the reason that He needed it, but for the reason that you did.  Christ fulfilled the law for your sake.  For your sake He died and rose again, that you live forever with Him, even now, in your bodies, in the world, but through faith in God’s Son.  Amen.

The peace that passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Mt22.15-22, Pentecost 18, 2011A, Sermon Outline & Notes

Many are Called, Few are Chosen

1Again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

      11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1–14)

In Dr. Luther’s explanation to the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, he writes, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

By means of God’s Word and Sacrament, God’s Kingdom comes among us as His blessed Word is received and believed.  It is here, where God creates faith via His means (not ours), that God’s people gather and are to be certain of His Kingdom coming.  It is also here where God’s people are certain that Christ is truly present.

God’s Kingdom, synonymous with Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven, does not only refer to the time when our Lord Jesus returns in all of His glory.  God’s Kingdom also refers to the here and the now, present tense; not only the Word which is to come, but the Word that comes now, as St. Paul says, “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

 Now is not the time to delay, wait, or sluggishly ponder concerning the Lord’s Word and His Christ.  Nor is it the time to make excuses concerning the God’s Kingdom here on earth where Word and Sacrament are freely given for the sake of God’s people.

All too often, people stay away from where God would have them be for the most insignificant of reasons.  But there is no significant reason to keep away from God’s Holy Word, even that which condemns (The Law) and that which saves (The Gospel).

Some might not like the preacher or the preaching, but even this is no reason to abandon God’s Kingdom where God’s Word is rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15).

The calling of repentance goes out to the many.  All is ready.  The meal is prepared.  Yet few do come, for they reject God’s Christ and His forgiveness, believing that they need it not.

Sadly, those who reject the preaching of God’s messengers (Called and ordained servants of the Word) also are rejecting Christ and His Word of forgiveness and eternal life (See Luke 10:16).  Because the Jews rejected Christ, they received their due punishment and the Gospel was taken away from them.

Beware, lest the Gospel be taken from you!  Do not give in to the popular notion that it does not matter from whom you hear the preached Word.  Nor follow the examples of the invitees in the text, who for the love of the world and their own life refused the invitation of the King himself, condemning themselves to the punishment to come.  Instead, heed the Word of the Lord.  Believe His promises.  Deny yourselves.  Wear what the Lord gives, even Christ’s robe of righteousness, in which you are clothed through faith, for only in that are you acceptable among the guests in the King’s court.  Amen.

Mt22.1-14, Pentecost 17, 2011A, Outline & Notes

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