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Concerning a “Virginia Pastor Who Defiantly Held Church Service Dies of New Chinese Coronavirus”

 

via Virginia Pastor Who Defiantly Held Church Service Dies of New Chinese Coronavirus

 

Christians are not immune from the effects of sin, including troubles of this life, both physical and spiritual.

Christians are not immune from sin’s consequence of physical death, either.

This is important to note!

God’s people are defiant of sin’s tyranny and hold—because of Christ—Who Himself died on the cross and “rose again on the third day” (2nd Article of the Apostle’s Creed).

It was St. Paul, inspired of God, who wrote, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14 NKJ).

A little bit later in the same letter of Paul to the Romans, he writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1 NKJ).

This reference to Romans 8 in no way disassociates the Christian from the flesh and spirit reality in which he lives. That “according to the flesh” Paul is speaking of doesn’t have to do with the physical body, but of the way of the flesh, that is, with reference to and concerning the desires of the flesh, which are at odds, even at enmity and war, with the way of the spirit, the things of God.

In Galatians, St. Paul writes, for example, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:17-23 NKJ).

St. John the evangelist also writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life– is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17 NKJ).

All of this is to draw attention to the truth that Christians are simultaneously body and soul.

The physical does not cease being physical because of the spiritual, or vice versa.

This has import concerning not only how Christians live, but also their proclamation.

The Christian Church preaches “Christ crucified” (i.e. 1 Cor. 1:23).

Such a Jesus died bodily, according to His human nature. But this does not at all imply or indicate that the divine nature of our Lord did not at all participate, even as Jesus is both God and man in one person.

What this means regarding the current topic is that, just as preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (i.e. 1 Cor. 2:2) is not to say that only “half” of Jesus died and therefore, insignificant and not worth our attention. So also, when Christians preach of salvation through faith in Christ, overcoming sin and death, this does not at all imply that the effects of sin in the world and crucifying the sinful flesh are somehow now obsolete, as if Christians somehow live only spiritually in the world and not also bodily.

Jesus does say, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26 NKJ).

Said another way, faith in Christ and confidence in the Lord’s salvation does not now mean that we no longer live in the world, suffering due to the consequences of the first sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3).

God disciplines His children, whom He loves.

Referencing Proverbs and commenting, Paul writes, ” ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives’ (Proverbs 3:11-12). If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:5-11 NKJ).

God forgives the sin of sinners. This is true!

The hope of the resurrection of our bodies is certain, just as Christ is risen from the dead (1 Cor. 15).

Nonetheless, Christians do not deny the truth that we live in the fallen world and are at God’s mercy as we live in it.

Christians do not lay claim to being above death or the effects of say, a virus.

At the same time, however, it is important to clearly state that the Bible clearly teaches that God is above these.

Though we suffer, as God wills, suffering does not indicate that God is less than, or not God, because we suffer.

The article referenced above may be advancing the view that Bishop Glenn was wrong to declare that “God is larger than this dreaded virus,” because if God were larger than the virus, then Bishop Glenn would not have died.

Glenn’s death, even after stating what he did, does not disprove God’s authority over sickness, or death.

What Glenn suffered demonstrates the hold of sin and death upon all people.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

We ourselves are not in authority over it. Only God is.

Yet, God in the flesh, Jesus, having authority over it, submitted Himself to His heavenly Father and Himself died (Phil. 2:5-8).

Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.

Could Bishop Glenn not have died as a result of the virus, even as he expressed God’s “largeness” over it? Most certainly!

The account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego may here be directive.

When commanded to bow down to a statue of the king, these three refused.

They were threatened with death.

They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18 NKJ).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego believed that God could save them.

Such salvation, they also believed, was not up to them.

Additionally, they believed in God regardless of a momentary deliverance in the face of trial.

God was God, independent of the outcome.

Such is what true faith does. It believes according to the Word and promise of God. Either way, whether of temporary deliverance or of suffering in faithfulness to the Lord, God remains God.

Such words may seem to be of fantasy by the world.

What God would not save those who claim to be His and claim Him to be God?

The God of the Bible contrasts with the God of our own making and intellect.

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD’ ” (1 Cor. 1:27-31 NKJ).

The God of the Bible reveals that through the death of Christ is eternal life; through trial and tribulation—peace; through sorrow and grief—joy; through lack and emptiness—abundance and fullness, in the Lord Jesus.

Also, through humility and humbleness before the Lord, glory and exaltation.

 

 

“He is not here, for He has risen,” Matthew 28:1-10

 

For audio, go here.

 

Readings: Psalm 16; Acts 10:34–43; Colossians 3:1–4; Matthew 28:1–10

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

 

In the Name of the risen Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jesus.VictorJesus is risen, as He said.

These words bring joy to the ear this morning and always.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The great joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and did not see our Lord in the tomb is also our own.

By God’s inspired Word, we know that our Redeemer lives.

Christ is victorious over the grave.

He who had authority to lay down His life also had authority to take it up again (John 10: 15, 17, 18).

This Jesus did on the Third day, the very day that He rose bodily from the dead.

We are not here speaking of some spirit who now lives, as if the body of Christ remained in decay.

Christ in His body is living.

“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Sin is real.

It is doing what God does not command and not doing what He does command.

Death too is real.

It is a real consequence of sin.

Sin brings about physical death, of which all must face, sooner or later.

Sin also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from Another who overcomes sin and death.

This is what Christ did by His resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.

So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren,  who we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

“Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The death of Christ was real.  On the cross Jesus did die.

His resurrection is just as real and true.  This is how you know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.

The Lord’s resurrection also means your resurrection.

Christ being raised from the dead means your rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of your sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.

Christ’s resurrection means your resurrection, your resurrection unto life.

Christ says through the Apostle Paul, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In another place, Paul writes, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Jesus Himself says, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Here, our Lord makes distinction.

Scripture teaches that all will rise from the dead, both believers in Christ and nonbelievers.  But only those who have done good, only those who have faith in Christ’s goodness, forsaking their own, only these will be with the Father unto all eternity.

On the other hand, those who have done evil, those who do evil by not taking Christ’s Word and work as their own, these will rise to eternal death.  Having not believed the promises of the Lord while in the world, these will receive the due reward for their unbelief.

Those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them all fulfilled here and now, these “Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As for Jesus only spiritually rising from the dead and not bodily, which some contend happened, Jesus ate and drank after being raised.

 As it is reported in Luke’s Gospel, “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? ‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” (Luke 24:36-43)

A spirit does not eat. A spirit does not drink.

Jesus did these very things, right in front the disciples.

From the virgin birth to Christ’s bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgment day, do not trust what you think, what reason tells you, or what our current scientific establishment tells you to be true.

Trust in the Lord and what He says.

There will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgment and forgiveness, death and life, hell and heaven:

What God declares to be so in His Word is for your salvation.

It is not just for anyone and everyone.

It is for you.

Believing that the Bible is true is a good thing.

Believing that there is a god is good thing.

But ‘a god’ doesn’t save.

Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world won’t help you.

Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.

But His death and resurrection does not save you unless it is also yours.

By means of His own death, Jesus Christ put your sin to death.

If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection won’t profit you.

You will bear your own load and come to judgment; the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

In Christ alone is your sin fully forgiven.

Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.

Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  These are yours—in Christ.

The Lord does not lie.

Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that He fulfills and will fulfill, and does and will do, all that He says.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.

Before that Good Friday, Jesus had clearly declared to His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).

 A few other times, too, Jesus spoke of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is your surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as you hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.

The joy of Christ’s gifts are yours.

Christ is risen, just as He said.  Your Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect of the Day for The Resurrection of our Lord)

 

For audio, go here.

 

 

Thoughts on “A Response to Martin Noland” (Congregations Matter)

 

via Response to Martin Noland – Congregations Matter

 

Noland-Fake News, rev.jpgI find the “Response” by Congregations Matter a very curious one.  I find it curious because Congregations Matter claims that, “The facts don’t support Noland’s point of view regarding Congregations Matter and only reveal his bias.” In order to support the claim, it’s not enough simply to state that this so.  Yet, the article by Congregations Matter does just this, providing no substantial factual information with the intent of convincing or persuading.

The letter written by Noland offers support for his conclusions. Congregations Matter, in a number of articles that I have seen, frames the narrative to suit their own conclusion. This “Response” follows an identical pattern.  Rather than directly address the “observations,” clarified in the letter, Congregations Matter advances its propaganda for the purpose of persuading convention voters to vote for another president than the one currently serving (Pres. Harrison).

If you’re reading this and don’t know who Congregations Matter, Dr. Noland, Pres. Harrison, or The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are, your likely not alone.

You might or might not know the names, organization, or circumstances, but you likely do know the “playbook.” We find this in discussions about the Bible, especially about the Bible and matters of faith.

Two parties are in discussion about the Biblical text (pick one).  One says what the Bible actually, in print, says. The other responds and says, “That’s your opinion.”

The one is merely speaking the truth, saying what the Bible says.  The other merely argues from his/her own “perspective,” because what the Bible says he/she doesn’t agree with.

Such a response is neither persuasive nor one with integrity and honesty.

Saying, “That’s your opinion,” similar to, “That’s your interpretation,” is a response, but demonstrates a bias and opinion by the one making such a claim, too.

Integrity and honesty in debates and discussion calls for addressing the points being made, not by merely claiming bias and opinion (on either side), but by actually showing where such statements are not accurate.

Engaging the real issues is more challenging than making accusations of interpretation, bias, and opinion of others with whom we might not agree.

It’s easier to cast labels and make assumptions, in the hopes that readers/listeners will simply accept what they read/hear as gospel truth, without questioning and without further evaluation or investigation.  Such might be the way of society and many who don’t want to know the truth as it is, but standards in the church ought to be higher, but maybe this is just my opinion, too.

 

“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’

for we are members of one another.”

(Ephesians 4:25)

 

 

 

Observations/Reflections on a recent pastor’s conference, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Apologetics”

“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Apologetics”

Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense

 

swd-logoA recent pastor’s conference (Oct 2016) of the South Wisconsin District (a district of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, LCMS) offered participants the opportunity to hear from Dr. Horvath (of Athanatos Christian Ministries) and Dr. Peter Scaer (an Exegetical Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne, IN).  Both presenters, in my opinion, offered insightful reflection on numerous challenges currently faced within in our society and by the church.

Dr. Horvath founded Athanatos Christian Ministries (AMC, Inc.) a group “to equip Christians to defend the Christian faith through the arts and literature, in addition to using evidence and argument.”  Much of his presentation consisted of “connecting the dots” for what is currently going in Christendom, with reflection on the rise of the “religiously unaffiliated.”

For example, Dr. Horvath noted that in the early 1990s, the religiously unaffiliated (i.e. those having left the church and not returning) were in the 5% range of the U.S. Population.  Yet, in 2016, that percentage jumped to 25%.  In the span of around 20 years, the number of religiously unaffiliated jumped 20%.  Commenting on a reason for the rise in the number, Dr. Horvath observed a connection between the effects of the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s and the growing divorce rate that followed.  The increasing number of religiously unaffiliated from the early 1990s to 2016 reflect the consequences of acm_1120x198parental divorce and the effects of such divorce on the children, including growing disbelief and disconnection (even atheism) in relation to the Christian faith.

Divorce has consequences.  Sin has consequences.  Horvath suggests that challenges the society and church are now facing have been influenced by actions of the past.

Another insightful connection concerning the direction of our culture is that of information gathered about communications related to the need for population control (i.e. in affiliation with the Center for Family Planning Program Development, 1969 [The Technical Assistance Division of Planned Parenthood-World Population, Frederick S. Jaffe]; Too Many Americans, L. & A. Day; and Public Health & Population Change, Sheps & Ridley, 1967).

Though “dated,” the following (partial list of) “proposed measures to reduce fertility, by universality or selectivity of impact in the U.S.” are eerily being fulfilled, with many, also within the church, oblivious to such an agenda, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood:

Restructuring of family: a) Postpone or avoid marriage b) alter image of ideal family size (i.e. from greater to lesser)

Compulsory education of children

Encourage increased homosexuality

Encourage women to work

Payments to encourage contraception

Abortion and sterilization on demand

Allow harmless contraceptives to be distributed nonmedically

Make contraceptives truly available and accessible

Improve maternal health care, with family planning a core element

Though many migsin12ht view such occurrences, not as fulfilling an agenda, but simply as our “progression” as a society, recognizing the influences of the past upon our own day can help us in the church to better understand and respond to our current, and continual, challenges, moving us to repentance, also for our silence, and to steadfast faith in our Lord, who is the Head of His Church and faithful, even though we be faithless (Colossians 1:23; Colossians 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:13).

God calls His people to wariness and to preparedness (Luke 21:36; 1 Timothy 6:12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), as well as to boldly confess His Name.

On an information table for Athanatos Christian Ministries at the pastor’s conference was a brief information sheet entitled, “Know thy Enemy,” which consisted of quotes from Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, and reference to her book, The Pivot of Civilization and a Plan for Peace (1923). Compare the following quotations:

“The emergency problem of segregation and sterilization must be faced immediately.  Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class, should be segregated during the reproductive period.  Otherwise, she is almost certain to bear imbecile children, who in turn are just as certain to breed other defectives.”

Margaret Sanger, in The Pivot of Civilization, 1923

“…the state must act as the guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit.  It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge.  It must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it on. And put this into actual practice.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925

The above quotes of Margaret Sanger and Adolf Hitler indicate that both wanted to either segregate or limit certain “types” ofsanger_and_hitler people.  What’s amazing is that Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, included blacks as those who were “feeble-minded” and “of the moron class.”  Where is the outcry today against such racist and prejudicial comments, even by African Americans, who also make use of and advocate for a group such as Planned Parenthood whose founder sought to limit the population of certain people and groups in order to establish a society based upon her own ideology?

The second presenter, Dr. Peter Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary also offered insightful reflection of challenges that we face as Christians and encouragement for the body of Christ.  Similar to Dr. Horvath’s presentation, Dr. Scaer spent some time reminding us of earlier generations and their influences upon us in our day.  He mentioned, for example, Lawrence Lader, who was influenced by Margaret Sanger, who spoke of the need for limiting the size of the family.  Dr. Scaer also mentioned H.G. Wells, whom he referred to as an “eugenicist.”

Additionally, Dr. Scaer also spent time informing us about the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, whose idolatrous agenda was rebellion against men and against God, who divorced her first husband, was involved in numerous affairs, and ironically, said that women don’t need men.  Dr. Scaer had also observed that Sanger had used (coined) the phrase, “Every child a wanted child” (emphasis mine).

Dr. Scaer’s presentation also included a critique of how the LCMS has responded in the past to Planned Parenthood and abortion, noting that Concordia Publishing House had published a book by Rehwinkel entitled, Planned Parenthood, which essentially “sold” Planned Parenthood to Lutherans.  What was quoted of this work, and others, would be disturbing to those concerned about life in general and about the Christian doctrine in particular, since a great emphasis was placed, not on what God says, and what He says about life (i.e. 5th Commandment, “You shall not murder”), but on the individual circumstances (i.e. of the pregnant woman) and the challenges that she would face if the child was born, or the “solutions” offered if the baby was not born.  In other words, Rehwinkel and others offered the counsel that the life of the baby was ultimately the woman’s choice and that she determined the continued existence or death of another human being.

In contrwhobrokethebaby-gartonast to Rehwinkel and others, Jean Garton, author of Who Broke the Baby, was a healthy critique to the genocide of the unborn, offering insight and commentary on the ideology and practice of abortion, which both run contrary to the Word of God and what God reveals about life and its gift.

Dr. Scaer offered more than commentary reflecting end-of-life issues like abortion.  He also asked the question whether we can talk about marriage (i.e. 4th & 6th Commandments) outside the church?  He answered, “We must!”  Same-sex “marriage” is the great challenge for today’s church, Scaer commented.  As this practice is more greatly accepted, society and the church more greatly suffer.  And, as Dr. Horvath had earlier noted, sin has consequences.  The effects of homosexuality (rebellion against God) destroy society.  This is something that “the left” know, but don’t want to admit.  “Where (natural/traditional) marriage works, society works,” said Scaer.

Rather than retreat to the shadows, claiming that little can be done, Dr. Scaer offers encouragement.  Politically, laws can change, and even little laws can help.  In contrast to the thought, “Laws can’t change,” Scaer responds, “Laws can be changed” and that “Man’s law is changeable.”  “They change all the time.”  In other words, in the secular world, there is still something that concerned citizens can do.

james1-12God calls the church to be faithful to the Lord who bought her, the same Lord Who Himself was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4-5, NKJ).  God is God, and Christ is Head of His Church.

This Lord is the same Christ who is the “bridegroom,” (Matthew 9:15; John 3:29) who “loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27, NKJ).

Though a “weeding out” take place, the faithful will become more visible.  The Church confesses Christ.  In Him, she lives.

“I have my faith”?

Therefore, having been justified by faith,

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:1

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

There is much talk about faith these days. Recently, I heard one numerous times in discussion say, “I have my faith.” Yet, such talk about faith is quite vague. It seems to emphasize the “me,” of faith, and doesn’t really get to the object of the Christian faith, which is Christ.

MyFaithChristian faith doesn’t exclusively speak in the way of “me” or “my” kind of faith. Rather, Christian faith confesses Christ, front and center.

Remember the words of Jesus. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

Remember the words of St. Paul, too. “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

These words also apply to Christian faith, even our own faith, which is neither self-derived or self-chosen, a personal decision or a choice. Rather, the Christian faith is the God-given faith.

The Bible teaches such truth, for as Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Speaking of the flesh, St. Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8).

According to God’s Holy Word, which is what the Bible is, “those who are in the flesh” are not of faith. This applies to all people, as all people are born through the womb. Naturally, such people are in need of a Savior since the Fall of AdaBorn-of-God1m and Eve (Romans 5:12). Dead in sin, from conception to physical death, a spiritual birth is needed. One must be reborn.

Such rebirth cannot and does not happen by choice or personal decision. That which is dead cannot do anything of itself. It is God, through His Holy Word, which gives life, new life, abundant life (John 6:63, 10:10). Thus do we have Christ, who speaks life, that we be born anew, even through water and word (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21).

Similar to the account of Jesus calling dead Lazarus from the tomb (John 11:38-44), so Jesus calls us from death to life by means of His Word, even His Word preached today (John 6:63). Where His Holy Word continues to be preached today, He continues to bring forth the hearers from death to life.

The preaching of Christ’s cross does not make Christians either lazy or unproductive (Ephesians 2:10, Galatians 5:6). Instead, the preaching of Christ’s cross, of His death and resurrection, enlivens true faith. Evangelicalism here gets it wrong where they empty their preaching of the Gospel and instead preach only what you must do of yourself and how to live, yet apart from faith in Christ. They also get it wrong where they emphasis personal faith over and against objective faith, which is the faith given by God through the hearing of Christ and His holy Word (Romans 10:17).

This faith, and this faith alone, that which is of God and His Son Jesus Christ, wrought by the Holy Spirit, is that faith which does not seek its own, but glories in Christ, clearly confessing Him to be Savior.

Rom01.16,4The Christian faith does just this, and unashamedly (Romans 1:16). This faith confesses Christ, giving Him and Him alone all the glory. So, more than speaking of “my faith” and taking comfort in what “I personally believe” (subjectively, as in “I have my faith”), the Christian faith speaks of Christ and what He has done for me, according to Holy Scripture. Instead of confessing, “I have my faith,” the Christian boastfully confesses in who that faith is—Christ.

My faith” does not save me. Christ does! Thanks be to God! Amen.

“For the faith that takes hold of Christ, the Son of God, and is adorned by Him is the faith that justifies, not a faith that includes love. For if faith is to be sure and firm, it must take hold of nothing but Christ alone; and in the agony and terror of conscience it has nothing else to lean on than this pearl of great value (Matt. 13:45–46). Therefore whoever takes hold of Christ by faith, no matter how terrified by the Law and oppressed by the burden of his sins he may be, has the right to boast that he is righteous. How has he this right? By that jewel, Christ, whom he possesses by faith. Our opponents fail to understand this. Therefore they reject Christ, this jewel; and in His place they put their love, which they say is a jewel. But if they do not know what faith is, it is impossible for them to have faith, much less to teach it to others. And as for what they claim to have, this is nothing but a dream, an opinion, and natural reason, but not faith.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p88-89)

Prayer: Father in heaven, give us faith which takes hold of Christ and no other. Preserve us in this faith by the means which You freely give and deliver, and keep us from despising Your free gifts of Baptism, Word, and Supper, that we remain yours, and, denying ourselves, follow you. Amen.

Scripture Alone!

ScriptureAlone-Peters

A Lutheran response to Joel Peter’s booklet,

“Scripture Alone?  21 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura”

 

Introduction

 

Sola Scriptura is one of the “solas” of the Reformation of the 16th  century.  It was not, and it is not, an obsolete teaching or doctrine.  Nor was it a novel invention of Luther.

Sola Scriptura remains today as one of the “solas” of Reformation churches the world over, not because it was a teaching of Dr. Martin Luther, but because it is the very teaching of Scripture itself.  Because this is so, it is necessary to properly distinguish what Sola Scriptura is from what it is not, especially in light of current attacks on said  doctrine.  The charge that Sola Scriptura is a “new creation” or that it has no basis in the church is not according to the text of Scripture itself.

In responding to the charges made by Joel Peters against Sola Scriptura in his little booklet entitled, Scripture Alone?  21 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura, I wish to clarify what is true from what is not.  I also wish to defend Sola Scriptura, not only from Roman Catholic misrepresentation, but also from other similar characterizations.

In the next section, I will define Sola Scriptura, as well as distinguish what is regarded authoritative in much of Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church.  I use the term Protestantism, not in its historical sense, but in its general usage today, meaning non-Roman Catholic churches of the Western church (in distinction from the church of the East, the Orthodox).

Some might genuinely ask if such an apologetic in response to 21 Reasons To Reject Sola Scriptura is necessary.  I believe it is, not so much because everyone accepts Peters’ claims, but because a number of his claims against Sola Scriptura are accepted as true by many Roman Catholics, Protestants, and nonChristians alike.

The Necessity of True Doctrine

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.

1 Timothy 4:16

 

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, writes what he writes with a purpose in mind—the purpose of encouraging Timothy to remain in the true doctrine.  Contrary to the world, remaining in the true doctrine is not at all of insignificance.  It does matter, for “doctrine is life.”  I am not talking about man’s doctrine (i.e. Mark 7), for man’s doctrine only alienates from God and hardens the sinner against God.  God’s doctrine, in distinction, does give life, just as Jesus says, “My words are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).  Depart or stray from these, and there is nothing but death.  Continue in the very Word of the Lord Christ, and you are truly His disciples and “will know the truth” and will be set free by that truth” (John 8:31-32).

Such does God’s Word, The Truth (John 14:6), do.  It gives life, raises that which was dead, and also preserves one in the truth by that same truth.

To the Galatians, St. Paul writes, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain?  Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Galatians 3:2-6)

Not by man’s doctrine and not by man’s doing were the Galatians being made perfect and complete, but by the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), by hearing the Word of Christ.

The doctrine/teaching is important.  Get this wrong, and you get Christ wrong.  Getting Christ wrong leads to eternal death, not eternal life, for outside of Christ Jesus, there is no forgiveness and no peace with God.  But in Christ Jesus, there is nothing but forgiveness and the peace that surpasses understanding, which the world cannot ever give (Philippians 4:7)

The world and those of the world will go their own way, claiming that you cannot know the truth or that it is not found in the Bible.  But Christians believe differently, for the Christian faith is not of the world, but of God, revealed through the Holy Scriptures, and centered on Christ, and Christ alone!

 

Luther

‘Let every faithful person work and strive with all his might to learn this doctrine (of the Gospel) and keep it, and for this purpose let him employ humble prayer to God with continual study and meditation on the Word.  Even when we have done ever so much, there will still be much to keep us busy.  For we are involved, not with minor enemies but with strong and powerful ones, who battle against us continually, namely, our own flesh, all the dangers of the world, the Law, sin, death, and the wrath and judgment of God, and the devil h9imself, who never stops tempting us inwardly with his flaming darts (Eph. 6:16) and outwardly with his false apostles, so as to overcome some if not all of us” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p65).

 

Prayer:

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your word; Curb those who by deceit or sword

Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son And bring to naught all He has done.

O Comforter of priceless worth, Send peace and unity on earth;

Support us in our final strife And lead us out of death to life.  Amen.

(Lutheran Service Book (2006), “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word” 1, 4)

Signs and Promises of God

 

 

Of the sign of the rainbow, Lutheran reminds us that:

“This sign should remind us to give thanks to God. For as often as the rainbow appears, it preaches to the entire world with a loud voice about the wrath which once moved God to destroy the whole world. It also gives comfort, that we may have the conviction that God is kindly inclined toward us again and will never again make use of so horrible a punishment. Thus it teaches the fear of God and faith at the same time, the greatest virtues… Let us, therefore, be reminded by this sign to fear God and to trust Him, in order that, just as we have escaped the punishment of the Flood, we may also be able to escape the punishment by fire.” [Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14, (Genesis 9:20)]

“The Defender’s Guide for Life’s Toughest Questions”–some observations

The Defender’s Guide For Life’s Toughest Questions

(Ray Comfort)[1]

Some observations

Ray Comfort, in the preface of this book, writes, “Most of the questions and objections in this book come from those who call themselves ‘atheists.’  Many have placed their faith in erroneous information…and because of it have hardened themselves against God and Christianity (Romans 1).  They ask questions but don’t really want answers.  My hope is that you are open to reason, and that you will find that that the answers will give you another perspective” (7).

I agree with Comfort’s observation that many atheists have placed their faith in erroneous information.  The same, however, could be said of many groups, including some who call themselves Christians, for not all who call themselves Christians exclusively use the Bible as the “rule and norm” for faith and life.  Again, I agree that some atheists really don’t want answers, that is, the truth that the Bible provides.  Similarly, there are others who follow suite, not wanting the truth at all, but only evidence that seems to support their conclusions.   This applies not only to atheists, but to all people, including Christians as well.  None are immune to the deficiencies and limitations of human reason.  And none perfectly resist the temptation to defend only that which benefits oneself.

These are dangers for which all need to be aware—trusting erroneous information and not really wanting the truth.  These do not lead to honest and forthright investigation at all, but only intensify the divide between the two or more contrasting positions.   Incorrect information only leads further away from the truth and may further confuse the issues.  Not wanting the truth but only that which supports one’s own position really only demonstrates an unwillingness to consider the truth at all, not as anyone sees it, but as it is—the truth.

Such a comment certainly does assume that absolute truth does indeed exist.  However, truth exists, not because I or anyone else believes it to exist, but because truth is truth, regardless of my own presuppositions or assumptions.  In the words of Comfort, “unbelief or belief doesn’t negate reality” (p48).

John 3:16, for example, as all of Holy Scripture, is true, even if I don’t believe it.  Whether I believe or not doesn’t make something less true.  It only means that I don’t believe it.  I can believe that gravity doesn’t exist should I jump out of the plan while in the air, but that won’t at all change what is true, that gravity will result in my falling to the ground.

In the same way, the Bible is God’s Word and is therefore true, whether I believe it or not.  Only Christians take this truth seriously.  Others may joke about the Bible and act as if it means nothing at all, but their attitude does not change the true and faithful Word of God  (i.e. Psalm 119:89), nor what it is or what it says.

Comfort’s belief that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word is welcome and encouraging.  Christians can give reasonable explanations to the many questions and statements of the day as posed by atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and others.  They can do this, not only using their God given reasoning abilities, but Christians also and especially have the Word of God.  Christians can not only address faulty logic and false conclusions.  They can also say what God has said.

Should the “scientific evidence” seem to contradict the Word, Christians can rightly question the evidence and the assumptions held concerning the evidence, and therefore, get to the deeper conflict that the nonbeliever has with reference to sin and grace.

In five chapters, Comfort addresses these topics:

  1. Humanity: Rights and Suffering
  2. The Bible: Biblical and Theological Issues
  3. Science: Scientific Thought and Evolution
  4. Philosophy: Beliefs and Worldviews
  5. Religion: God and Atheism

Throughout these topics, Comfort often points to man’s inability to keep the law.  He exposes the error of false belief and seriousness of the human condition.  For the most part, Comfort does a fine job addressing many of the issues between the covers.

However, in certain responses, I believe that he could have answered more charitably.  In some places, he seems to write with a bit of sarcasm and/or what may sound as derision.  It seems to me that he does not entirely stick with the issues at hand.

Overall, I found this work to be of benefit for two primary reasons.  The first reason is that Comfort does present a number of arguments, comments, and questions by mostly nonChristians.  These are beneficial in that they present the Christian with a greater understanding of what is being said about Christianity and what Christians believe concerning matters of faith and life.  Secondly, Comfort can help Christians consider answers to the critics based on the Bible and sound reason.  Sound reason will not convert anyone, but it may give critics reason for considering their position.  God’s Word creates faith (Romans 10:17).  Man’s word does not.  Nevertheless, Christians are to use the gifts God has given them, in service to the Gospel, and directed by God’s Word.

Among the weaknesses of this work is the constant refrain of “if…then” statements.  Comfort is coming from a background that assumes sinners can “make a decision for Christ.”  This is what we call “Decision Theology,” and this book is loaded with phrases that place the burden of sinners in need of a Savior, not fully on Christ, but on themselves.  Comfort does indeed articulate the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, but in many instances, this is not as clear as it could be.

Though Comfort does indeed call for the sinner to repent, and though he does speak about the depth of sin, he doesn’t seem to go far enough, for he at least implies that man can somehow “choose God,” even in his sinful condition.  The Bible, however, indicates that man is much more corrupt than this, and must be completely born again, something that Comfort doesn’t adequately address (i.e. Genesis 6:5, 21; Psalm 14:1-3; 19:12; 51:3-5; Matthew 15:18-20; John 1:12-13; 3:3, 5-6;  Romans 3:10-20; 5:6-11; 7:24-25; 10:4, 14-17; 14:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Galatians 2:20-21; Hebrews 11:6)

Because of Comfort’s inconsistency about the depth of human sin and man’s corruption, he is unable to fully declare God’s grace in Christ.  He doesn’t rightly distinguish Law and Gospel throughout.  He therefore also fails to consistently articulate man’s salvation by God’s grace through faith (salvation, God’s grace, and even faith) as pure gift (i.e. Ephesians 2:8-9).[2]

This doctrine, that sinful man is saved only God’s grace in Christ through faith, is known as the doctrine of justification.  This doctrine teaches that man can do nothing for his salvation, that God has done it all in Christ through His death on the cross.  Salvation and God’s grace, and even faith, are fully gifts of God (as is Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper).

The doctrine of justification is objective, sure, and certain.  Anything of man, even any decisions or choices he makes, is uncertain and doubtful, whereas the things of God give only confidence and certainty.

Unbelievers, including atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and any others, will not know such certainty or believe God’s grace apart from Jesus Christ.  They will not believe the forgiveness of sins without the Holy Spirit.  Christians can address the faulty and limited logic of the naysayers.  They can give rational arguments for their understanding of the evidences.  But only God, by means of His Word, creates faith to believe that Word, even that Word which is now flesh, Jesus the Christ.  It is this Word, also, that God calls His people to speak consistently and truthfully throughout, as in Jeremiah, “He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).


[1] Ray Comfort, The Defender’s Guide For Life’s Toughest Questions (Green Forest, AK: Master Books), 2011.

[2] Cleary absent from this book is any reference to baptismal regeneration.  Comfort often confuses Law and Gospel, too.

Certainty in Christ!

 

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.

Psalm 119:89

What blessed and eternal comfort the child of God has in God’s own Word!  You see this according to faith, not according to sight, for you live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But what kind of faith? The faith that believes that anything is possible? The faith that believes you can do anything you set your mind to?  The faith which blindly trusts that all things will work out the way we hope them to?

Such description of faith is not that description of faith revealed by God in His Word.  The Christian faith is not “blind.”  It trusts in God’s promises.  Such faith does not trust in worldly expectations or self expectations, but only on the mercies of God in Christ.  Such faith does not believe that anything is possible by oneself or by putting one’s mind to something.  It rests on God’s unchangeable and unconditional grace, revealed in Christ.  Also, such faith does not rest on false or misguided hopes, for its foundation is God’s Holy and faithful Word.

Such faith as the Christian faith rests squarely on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this Gospel is nothing but certain and sure, and not at all because I believe it.  The Christian faith rests upon God and His Son.  He makes it sure.  I do not add anything at all to it, but simply believe it.  This, after all, is what Christians do.  They confess Christ and believe His Word.  And they are sure that God’s Word “abides forever.”

 

Luther

“Christ and His side are weak, and the Gospel is a foolish proclamation.  On the other hand, the kingdom of the world and the devil, its prince, are strong; in addition, the wisdom of the flesh is very impressive.  But this is our consolation, that the devil with his members cannot accomplish what he wishes.  He may trouble many persons, but he cannot destroy the Gospel of Christ.  The truth may be endangered, but it cannot perish.  It is attacked, but it cannot be conquered; for ‘the Word of the Lord abides forever” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p54).

Prayer: Gracious Father, forgive me for doubting Your promises and Your undeserved mercy.  Help me at all times to trust in Your Word and be ever sure of Your abundant grace and mercy in Christ.  Amen.

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