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Acceptable Offerings

 

Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.(Genesis 4:3-5)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

It wasn’t because of the offering itself that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s.  Both gave offering to the Lord.  But such offering given revealed the kind of man who had given it.

As a farmer, Cain gave what he did, “an offering.”  Abel, as a shepherd of sheep, “brought of the firstborn.”

Lest we think that an animal offering is greater than that of the harvest, consider that the offering of grains and produce were commended and acceptable to God, as revealed in Exodus (i.e. Exodus 29:41).

The distinction between the offerings were not the issue, though the offerings did differ.

The difference between the offering of Abel and that of Cain was that of the heart.  Had Cain believed, at the Lord’s Word, he would have repented and not later murdered his brother (Genesis 4:8).

Cain demonstrated his unrepentance by murdering Abel.

He demonstrated his disbelief with the offering that he had given, not the first of the crop, but simply “of the ground.”

On the other hand, Abel, having offered “of the firstborn and of their fat,” demonstrated faith.  We know this because God accepted the offering of Abel, but not that of Cain.

Had Abel not had faith, his offering would not have been acknowledged by God.

Though we readily look at what is given by mere appearance (and the amount), God looks at the heart from which such gift is given.

We can’t see the heart and its disposition to God.  God can, and God does.

It’s not by the offering and what we do (or don’t do) by which we become (or are) acceptable to God.  Rather, first, we are acceptable to God, and then the offering (and works) are.

Thanks be to God that this is so!

Acceptance by God is not dependent on you.  It’s founded on Jesus Christ.

“By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus(Rom. 3:20-24).

“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,(Rom. 5:1).

 

“Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone

And rests in Him unceasing;

And by its fruits true faith in known,

With love and hope increasing.

Yet faith alone doth justify,

Works serve they neighbor and supply

The proof that faith is living.”

(The Lutheran Hymnal 377 “Salvation unto us has Come,” verse 9)

 

Luther

“First he regarded Abel, the person, and thereafter the offering.  His person was previously good, and right and acceptable.  Thereafter, for the sake of the person, the offering was also.  The person was not acceptable for the sake of the offering.  Then again, he did not regard Cain and his offering.  So also, first he did not regard Cain, the person, and thereafter he also did not regard his offering.  From this text it is certain that it is not possible for a work to be good before God if the person is not previously good and acceptable.  Then again, it is not possible that a work is evil before3 God unless the person is previously evil and unacceptable…God in the Scriptures concludes that all works before justification are evil and of no use and he desires them to be justified and made good first.  Again, he concludes that every person, if they are still by nature in the first birth, are unjust and evil, as Psalm 116:11 says, ‘All men are liars.’ Genesis 6:5, ‘Every thought and desire of the human heart is always evil.’” (Luther’s Family Devotions, p211-212)

 

Prayer: God, forgive me for thinking that You accept me on account of my works and not on account of Your Son who died for me and gave Himself for me that I be acceptable in Your sight.  Help me to believe that, not by my works, but through faith in Jesus alone, I am justified before You. Amen.

 

 

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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)

 

 

 

“Worship and God”

 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”  

Exodus 20:4-5, NKJ

 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Church bodies number the commandments differently.  Though they still number them as ten, they do so in a different manner.

The passage above, from Exodus 20:4-5, Lutherans and Roman Catholics include as part of the First Commandment. Others number it as part of the Second Commandment, that of forbidding the making of idols.

The Israelites made an idol of a golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, even as God was giving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32:1-6).  The Israelites were certainly worshiping an idol, that which was not God.

Instructive are the words of Luther from his Large Catechism.

“A god is that to which we look for all good and in which find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.” (Luther’s Large Catechism, 1st Commandment)

The people of Israel placed their confidence and trust in something which was not God.  That something which was not God, or a false god, was nothing other than an idol.  Things become idols (money, power, people, etc.) when confidence and trust is placed in them rather than the Creator.  But where confidence and trust is placed in the true God, those same things are not idols.

To worship anyone or anything instead of or in place of the true God, the God who reveals Himself in the Bible in the person of Jesus Christ, worships a false God, and therefore, worships an idol, whether that false god be a carved image or not.

Only in the God who makes Himself known through Christ, who was “born of a virgin, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried” and who rose on the third day do you worship the true God.  Only through Him do you have sins forgiven and true and everlasting peace.

All other so-called “gods” are not gods, and do not give that peace which the Lord Jesus alone gives. Worship that is substantive is not worship invented by man, nor worship in what is invented by man, but that which is given and revealed by God—through His Son, Jesus the Savior.  Amen.

 

Luther

“There would be no harm in carving a statue of wood or stone; but to set it up for worship and to attribute divinity to the wood, stone, or statue is to worship and idol instead of God.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p92)

 

Prayer: Father, keep me from fearing, loving, and trusting in anyone or anything above you.  Amen.

 

 

 

Devotion: “Father, into Your Hands,” Luke 23:46

 

Daily Prayer, Early Evening LSB 297

Devotion on Psalm 100, Luke 23:46, 3rd Petition

 

The words of our Lord from the cross we know.  We also know what happens after. Jesus died.

In the conclusion of both Luther’s morning and evening prayer, these words are prayed, “Into your hands I commend my myself, my body, and soul, and all things.”

On the surface, these words say what they mean.  In the midst of experience, they are exhaustive and include everything.  Everything.

To say such a prayer, only the Christian can pray. This prayer reflects only what a Christian can pray. When all else seems lost, the Christian continues to have hope, and to be hopeful.

Such hope and such hopefulness does not rest in our decisions, but in the Lord who establishes in the faith, and feeds that faith with and by none other than Christ and His precious gifts.

As God’s children, purchased “not with gold or silver but with Christ’s holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death” (Meaning to 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed), we have, really, nothing to fear.  As our hope is in Christ, so is our confidence that all will be according to God’s will, in His time, and in His way.

God sustains and will keep a people for Himself, by means of His Holy Word.

What things might look like in time to come, doing what we are able with the blessings God continues to freely bestow, as His people, we entrust ourselves into His care and keeping, certain of His promises, which are “Yes” in Christ, and unto eternity (2 Corithians 1:19).

Uncertainty might remain with reference to how things will be on this side of heaven, but there is the certainty that God’s church will always remain His church, for it is His, not ours.

Also are we not our own.  We belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).

Let these words sink in.  “The Lord, He is God.  It is He who made us, and not we ourselves.  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3).

We are His.  The Church is His. His will be done.  And it is, and will be, as He “breaks and hinders” the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, and “when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”  So He does.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasPrayer: Lord, you have your church to proclaim the good news of sins forgiven in Christ, to faithfully confess your name, to speak the truth in love to those who would hear it and to those who will not. As we your children petition you to guide and direct our conversations and thoughts, so do so, that we reflect Christ and be ever confident in your unmerited and abundant mercies.  Help us to know that whether we have less or more, true contentment is found in you alone.  Amen.

 

 

“The Separation of the Righteous from the Wicked,” Matthew 25:31-46

 

matthew4.jpg31[Jesus said:] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46, ESV)

 

YouAreForgiven.jpegThe central teaching of the Christian faith is that God alone, in Christ, saves sinful man.  Sinners do not save themselves.  You do not contribute at all to your salvation.  You do not make a choice to be saved.  Your works, nor your neglect, do not add to or subtract anything from God’s promise to you in Christ.

With reference to God’s grace, you are recipients, not the active agents, of eternal life.

This is good news!

God gives full confidence, and the blessed assurance, of complete and total forgiveness on account of Christ Jesus, apart from your works, distinct from what you do.

This is the Gospel, and woe to the one to whom the Gospel is not preached.  No faith is given apart from the hearing.  To the one who hears the good news of sins forgiven but doesn’t believe, the certainty of eternal death remains.  But to him who hears and believes, the hope of everlasting life is the sure promise from the God of all grace.

This is so because of Christ’s cross.  Christ died to save you from your sins.  Jesus fulfilled all that the Heavenly Father gave Him to fulfill.  This means that there is nothing for you to do for your salvation.  Christ has already done it all.

To speak, teach, or believe differently than this is to step outside of the Word of God and to walk by sinful reason, instead of going the Lord’s way of revelation.

Any who teach that what you do earns you heaven teaches falsely and leads away from Christ and is outside the parameters of the Christian faith.

Any who teach that what you do keeps you in the faith misunderstands God’s working. It is most certainly true that you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ your Lord or come to Him.  So we confess by the words of the 3rd Article of the Creed.  It is also most certainly true that it is the Holy Spirit who calls you by the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit who keeps you in the true faith, and not you yourselves (i.e. Galatians 3:3-9).

God keeps and preserves you in the true faith, according to His good and gracious will, by means of His Holy Word.  Here, He directs you to Jesus and away from your own self-righteousness, and away from your sinful pride.

Away from these and to God’s Means of Grace the Lord directs you, where you findMeans of Grace-window-round1.jpg refuge and shelter from the attacks of the world, strength to resist temptation and the evil one, and rest for your weary souls (Matthew 11:28-30).

By means of His Word and Sacrament, God keeps and preserves you a people for Himself, a people who live by faith, yet a people who also live in the world.

What God gives in Word, Baptism, and Supper, are the very means by which you live.  Without these, you would be as the nonbeliever who sees Christianity as only one religion among many.  All religions, except Christianity, teach ways of getting right with God by what one does.

Only the true Christian religion teaches that God saves sinful man through the suffering and death of the God-man Christ, and that God works through visible means of water, bread, and wine, and that in these, according to divine revelation, God gives forgiveness, life, and salvation. This the nonbeliever cannot fathom.  He believes himself to have to do ‘for God,’ rather than say the ‘for me’ of faith.

In truth, God needs nothing from you.  You need everything of Him.  His forgiveness, grace, mercy, kindness, favor, help, provision, and supply you cannot do without, lest you despair of God in your own sinfulness or rest in the false confidence of your wayward flesh.

Either way, whether falling into despair or having a false sense of security before God, you are sinners in need of God’s rescue.  The Lord will come to judge between ‘the living and the dead.’   And when He does, He will come in all of His glory, with all of His angels, and will then sit on His throne.

Sedes-ad-dexteram-Patris.jpgOnly for Christ’s sake, when Jesus does come to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff (Matthew 3:12), and the believer from the nonbeliever, will you not be the nonbeliever, nor the hypocrite, the chaff, or the goats, to whom He will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, ESV), but those to whom the Lord will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34, ESV).

In the parable from St. Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord says of the righteous that they had given Christ food and drink, welcomed Him, clothed Him, visited Him when He was sick, and came to Him in prison. Then the righteous answered, “When did we do these things?”

In other words, the righteous were not aware of doing the very things that the Lord had said of them.  From their hearts they did what they did because they didn’t believe in their works, but in Him through whose works they were acceptable to God.

The righteous are called righteous, not because of any self-righteousness, virtuous living, or upright morality, but because of Him who declares them to be righteous, good, and holy, not of themselves, but of the good and gracious God who gave His One and Only Begotten Son, that all would live through Him (John 3:16).

Being righteous has to do with Christ, and having faith alone in Him, whose holiness is counted as your own through faith and not apart from it.  Of yourselves, you are nothing but sinful and unclean, in desperate need of Christ.

Any and all who would deny this truth of Scripture, that you are sinners and remain sinners in need of God’s forgiveness, diminish Christ and throw Him out, regardless of how often and how frequently the name of Christ might be mentioned.

The ‘happy preacher,’ Joel Osteen in Texas, and the popular Joyce Meyer of TV and radio fame are such who give lip service to Christ, but don’t know Him in their teaching.  When they say that you need to stop calling yourselves sinners and move on, they deny John’s First letter which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).

They and others in Christendom have said that churches and congregations that confess their sins ‘every’ Sunday need to stop this needless bringing down of its members and speak of the sanctified life, for we no longer sin.

Such optimistic words of the human condition are far from true.  Being a Christian does not mean that you stop sinning.  Nor does it mean that you need less forgiveness.  The maturing Christian finds just the opposite to be the case.

Instead of being ‘sin-free,’ Christians find themselves fighting all the more withgospelgrid1.jpg themselves because of the sin that still clings to them.  Rather than see himself improving and getting better, the Christian sees his sinfulness ever clearer and wants to rid himself of his sinful inclinations and desires all the more.

The Christian despairs of himself and leans ever the more on Christ, through whom alone is his salvation.  The Christian sees himself decreasing, and Christ all the more increasing (John 3:30).

This is what it is to be growing in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Less and less stock do you place in your own doing.  More and more do you place in the Lord’s doing, to whom is all glory, honor, and praise.

Because the Christian believes that he has no righteousness of his own, and that He is saved completely by another, by Christ Jesus the Lord, all the more good works does He do because of the Lord who works in Him, who creates and strengthens faith by means of His Word.

It is through faith in Christ alone that you are saved, are promised heaven, and have new life.  This new life is not lived unto itself.  Nor is faith ever alone with regard to good works.  Faith is active and busy in love.  Fruits will be born unto it, even as Jesus says in the Gospel according to St. John, the 15th chapter, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5 NKJ).

In Christ, therefore, through faith, you are not fruitless.  You do bear fruit, good fruit, works that are good and acceptable to God, for only with faith is it possible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Such fruits are works which are done in faith and according to His God’s Word.

When in our text the Lord describes that judgment made upon the ‘Blessed of the Father’ and ‘the cursed’ on account of their feeding or not feeding the hungry, giving drink or not giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming or not welcoming the stranger, clothing or not clothing the naked, visiting or not visiting the sick, or coming or not coming to visit the prisoner, He’s looking at the fruits of faith or faith’s outcome.

The one who calls himself a Christian and who claims that doing these things is reason for God’s favor is no Christian.  Such a one instead demonstrates unbelief in Christ because He trusts in his own doing.  This one, therefore, will go into eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).

The one who fails to recognize the good that he’s done because of His sin, places no confidence in what he’s done, yet clings to Christ and Him alone for mercy and pardon, this one is righteous, and will enter eternal life.  This is the Christian; whose confidence and hope is the Lord.  The nonbeliever does not do these things, but trusts another.

Grace not workds.jpgSt. Paul the Apostle writes,  “To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,  just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’”(Romans 4:4-8 NKJ)

The Christian rests on God’s forgiveness for hope and salvation, not on his own works.  The glory goes to God.  He seeks to do what God says because that is what God has given him to do.  He serves others because Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

The Christian is active in good works.  By faith he is righteous.  This faith is active in serving and helping others, especially those who are of the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), the brothers and sisters of Christ, and even the least of these His brethren.

By such good works you are not saved.  But such good works are done by those who have faith in Christ. Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, keep me from believing that I contribute to my salvation.  Give me confidence that before You, because of Christ’s death on the cross, I am Yours, forgiven.  Help me to live in this forgiveness in service to others, that I continue to trust in You and in nothing that I do. Amen.

 

 

 

Brief Response to “5 types of People Attending Your Church Less Frequently”

 

https://factsandtrends.net/2018/10/09/5-types-of-people-who-are-attending-your-church-less-frequently/

 

Sanctuary.jpg

In response to the decreasing attendance, Rainer suggests, “…mention the importance of the local church.”  Yes, but also call the sinner to repentance.

 

 

“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.” (Jn. 12:26 NKJ)

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:19-25 NKJ)

Christians want to gather with other Christians, to hear the Word of God, and to receive Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.

Christianity, the Christian faith, is not a “do-it-yourself” religion, but a God-given faith (Romans 10:17).  Those who don’t want to hear Christ also don’t want Christ, his forgiveness, His peace.

 

 

Recording of “The Student Union – Ethics, Social Responsibility and Christian Witness” on KFUO

 

Mosser-Ethics&SocialResponsibility.jpg

Here is a link to a recent program I was on, discussing ethics and social responsibility (a course which I teach) in relation to the Bible and the Christian worldview.

 

 

 

 

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