• September 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Jul    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    2930  
  • Audio Sermons & Devotions

  • Recent Posts

  • Post Categories

  • Fighting for the Faith

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 561 other followers

  • Blog Stats

    • 39,464 hits
  • Advertisements

Preaching and Hearing the Word of God

The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:28

Faithfulness to the Lord in preaching is a hard thing!  It is a hard thing because many will grumble.  Many will complain.  Many will grow tired and turn away from that which gives life.  The many do this because the Word of God does not “fit” them.  The Word of the Lord does not “do” for them what they think it should.  The Word of the Lord, essentially, is not to their own liking, independent of the outer dressing in which it is delivered.  It does not scratch the itchy conscience as it wants to be scratched.  It does not tell one troubled by sin that things are not that bad, that things will only get better, and that happiness is just around the corner.

The Word of the Lord preached faithfully speaks the reality of how things really are.  The Law of God does not mince words.  It does not pull back the punches.  Like the doctor who speaks the truth about one’s condition, so the Law reveals the hopelessness of our situation.  The Law says that you are a poor miserable sinner, deserving nothing but death and eternal condemnation.

Such a message does not sit well with one who wants to be his/her own savior.  Such a message does not parallel the false hope preached so often today, that all you have to do is try harder, or “give your life to Jesus.”  The Word of God contrasts the “it is not so bad” mentality of today’s church, for faithful preaching consists in addressing the condition and not only the symptoms of sinners.  Only by doing so is the true proclamation of the Gospel clearly heard and believed.

Jesus came to save real sinners, not partial sinners (Luke 5:32; 1 Timothy 1:15)! Jesus died in order to save real sinners from real condemnation and hell.  And this is just what Jesus did, not to make the world a better place, but to give eternal life.

While many go on proclaiming a false gospel of earthly hope and worldly utopia, true preachers of Christ preach the sure and certain hope of heaven.  They teach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), for the very purpose of leading the hearers to Christ and to heaven.  They call sinners to turn from their evil ways and to believe the Good News of sins forgiven through faith in Christ Jesus.

Not all who hear this message appreciate it.  Many turn away from it.  Most reject it.  Such is the world in which we live.  But by God’s grace, there are also most certainly those who do hear, who do believe, and who do confess Jesus Christ to be Savior.  They know God’s Word when they hear it, for they are of God (John 8:47).  They hear Christ’s voice and follow Him (John 10:16, 27).  And they seek none other than the true doctrine, for in this true doctrine is true and everlasting life.  And of this doctrine they are not ashamed, for it is not their own, but God’s.  Thus do they boldly declare it, and of it are most sure!

Luther

“With Paul, therefore, we boldly and confidently pronounce a curse upon any doctrine that does not agree with ours.  We, too, seek by our preaching, not the praise of men or the favor of princes or of bishops but only the favor of God.  We preach His grace and gift alone, treading underfoot and condemning whatever is our own.  Therefore anyone who teaches something different or something contrary – we confidently declare that he was sent from the devil.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p59).

Prayer: Gracious Father, you have given us Your holy Word that we believe it and boldly confess it.  Grant us not to be ashamed of what you say, nor to depart from it all of our days.  Forgive us our weaknesses, and bring us to firm confidence in Your doctrine and eternal life.  Amen.

Advertisements

L2 Live Loud–Theologically sound?

Where are the Lutherans?  I’m not asking about those who call themselves “Lutherans.”  I’m asking about those who genuinely are Lutherans, not only by their words, but who confess the Lutheran faith, the Christian faith, by their practice.

To a larger degree today, it seems, more and more are calling themselves “Lutheran” only with their words, whereas their practices strongly indicate otherwise.  Their confession of doctrine and practice are greatly inconsistent.

Take for example the joint youth gathering of the North Wisconsin, South Wisconsin, and English Districts, dated for November 11, 2011, entitled, “L2 Live Loud.”  Highlights include a worship band from the LCMS national youth gathering, Bob Lenz (see here about Lenz, Lifest, and The Shack), and youth “testimonies.”

Interestingly, “worship bands,” and youth “testimonies” are not historically Lutheran practices.  They have as their foundation a different theology, a theology which places greater emphasis on the sinner and less on the Savior.

“Worship bands” often (though not always) play music that drowns out the lyrics (the beat becomes more important than what is actually said).  Also, the content of the songs which are sung often lack theological substance and don’t always clearly confess the truth of God’s Word.  Rather than glorify God as “contemporary songs” claim to do, many profane God’s Holy Name by not rightly confessing that which is according to Holy Scripture.  Indiscriminant use of such lyrics and songs by negligent pastors (and worship leaders) indicates less attention to Word and Sacrament (what God is doing) and more on what man is doing.

One might rightly conclude then that the use of “worship bands” and “contemporary music,” derived from a theology which is foreign to genuine Lutheran Theology[1]  is finding greater acceptance in Lutheran circles because genuine Lutheran doctrine and practice (i.e. Christ-centered and using the liturgy and clear hymns and songs which confess Christ and the true doctrine) is believed to be somehow deficient for young people (as well as for the church), though the church is called to be faithful (and in her faithfulness to God’s Word, she is relevant; Jeremiah 23:28; John 14:21, 23; 8:31-32; Revelation 2:10).

Another conclusion one might make is that being  “Lutheran” today doesn’t mean holding to Holy Scripture (the Word of God) as the rule for faith and life and subscribing to the Lutheran Confessions because they are in accordance with Holy Scripture,  but believing and doing whatever one believes to be right (Judges 21:25).  A great lack of genuine ecclesiastical supervision over doctrine and practice remains ever prevalent in our congregations, districts, and church body.

 Youth “testimonies,” like “worship bands,” have also as their foundation a nonLutheran theology.  If testimony here meant in accordance with the true doctrine, that is, a witness or confession of that which is according to the Word, well and good.  But more often than not, testimonies are more about the person giving the testimony rather than God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness in Christ.  The center, once again, is on the one giving the testimony rather than on the Giver of all things.

Rather than attend such a youth gathering that only advocates nonLutheran theology and nonChristian practices, better to be in the Word of the living God, hear the Word preached in truth, and receive the blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s very body and blood.  Better to stay away from false teaching and erring teachers (Romans 16:17-18); better to remain Lutheran, that is, Christian, and faithful Christ, than giving up the truth for popularity and acceptance.

The Christian faith is too precious to “play” or experiment with.  True doctrine is not ours to change or altar.  It is only ours to confess, and to confess by what we say and by what we do, whether it be as God’s people gathered for worship (Divine Service) or throughout the week.


[1] Genuine Lutheran Theology and Practice centers on what Christ has done (and does) for sinners.  The center of worship (Divine Service) is Word and Sacrament, Christ giving His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Whoever Loves Jesus Keeps His Word

15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

      18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will     manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. John 14:15-24

 

 

Novelty in the Christian faith is something to be wary of.  The Christian faith is historic.  Christians have gone before us and Christians will come after us.  The one common thread is the faith of our Lord Christ, in Him who is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The objective Christian faith is this way.  It does not change as the seasons.  It does not change with the times.  It stays the same and does not because its Author stays the same and never changes.  This is great comfort!  God the Lord does not change His love and mercy towards you.  Independent of the sin and regardless of the trespass, God the Father, through His Son, gives you His entire and complete forgiveness.  It doesn’t matter how big of sinner you are.  Nor does it matter what you’ve done.  God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of your sin, whether large or small.

This is so because of Christ.  Jesus kept all the commandments of the Father ‘to the T’, perfectly obeying them, lacking nothing.  But Jesus had no need of making amends for any of His own sin.  He had none.  The Scripture says that Jesus knew no sin (1 Corinthians 5:21).  The Bible says that, In all points He was tempted as we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus did not keep the commandments for Himself.  He was already completely righteous, without sin, and entirely perfect.  But when the fullness of the time had come, God’s Son was born of a woman, and born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:4-5).

God sent His Son, not for Himself, but for you.  Christ died on the cross, not for His own sinlessness, but to clear you of your sinfulness.  This is the good news of God’s changelessness.  Christ already died on the cross, never to die again.  He already conquered death and the grave.  Because Christ has done these things, sin and death are no longer your lot.  God’s grace and His mercy are.

These do not benefit you if you refuse these gifts of our Lord.  God and His Christ do nothing with partiality.  He either forgives all your sin or none of your sin.  Your works do not add anything to what God has already done.  His forgiveness is all according to His grace, as it is written, 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 (Romans 4:5-6).

Because of Christ—this is why you are forgiven.  The promises of God are yours, for Christ’s sake.  Though you change, being confident the one moment and doubting the next, God does not.  He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  His Word is true; His grace, sufficient (John 3:33 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Through ordinary bread and wine, though these are all your eyes see, Jesus is really and truly present, for you, not because you do see, but because He declares it to be so.  For this reason, God’s Word is our confidence in faith and life.  Your understanding of it is not.

The Christian faith finds itself, not in novelty, but in faithfulness; steadfastness to Him who paid the price for our redemption with His own suffering and death. We were bought at a price, therefore, we are to honor and glorify God with our body, even with our heart, mind, and mouth (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

We were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Christ is the means for understanding today’s text from St. John, the 14th chapter.  All that has been said was said for your benefit.  In order for anyone to love the Lord, he must first know that He has a gracious God, in Christ.  It is God who first loved us.  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. (1 John 4:9-10)

To love the Lord, there must first be faith in the heart.  It is the bitter truth that apart from Christ, without faith, no one can rightly love God.  Any who think they can or are only deceive themselves, for God says, Whatever is not from faith is sin and that without faith it is impossible to please Him  (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).  Also, Jesus Himself says, Without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

It is revealed in Scripture that you lack what God demands.  This is why Christ is necessary.  Without Him, you are still in your sins.  Only in Christ does God count you righteous, perfect, and holy, not because you originally possess these qualities (of yourselves you don’t), but because what is Christ’s is counted as your own, for Christ has taken what is rightly yours—your sin, your death, and your hell.  One truly fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things only in Christ.  Because Christ was perfectly obedient to the Father, through faith, Christ’s obedience is considered as yours.

A Christian does not boast in his own work.  But he does boast in Christ’s work, acknowledging the truth that apart from Christ, he bears no goodness of his own before God, as the hymn has it, ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name’ (TLH 370, v1)..  Like Paul, the Christian too learns to say, with confidence, God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

Having said this, that Christ is your boast, He your Salvation, your Hope, and your life, the words of Christ from St. John’s Gospel are all the more relevant, for in Him do they find their proper place.  The Lord’s commandments you don’t fail to keep, because everything of Christ’s is already yours.  Just the opposite takes place.  Because in Christ everything of His has become yours, you can’t help but keep what the Lord says, both with regard to the true doctrine, for there is Christ, and with regard to life, loving neighbor.

This is so because Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).  No longer are you under this curse.  You already have God’s favor, through faith in God’s Son.  Therefore, because of Christ, you freely keep and do what God says, cheerfully from the heart, according to the new man within you.  You still contend and struggle with your sinful nature, and your flesh is still weak, but the spirit is indeed willing (Matthew 26:41).

Therefore does Jesus speak of having and keeping His commandments.  To say that you have them, but not to keep them is nothing but hypocrisy.  I’m here speaking of God’s commandments, not man’s.  Man and the world invent their own works to please God.  But these only anger Him, for they do not have His approval, for they neither come from faith or belong to His Word.

Here is where we must be careful.  Our Lord clearly says, The one having my commandments and keeping them, it is he who loves me.  By commandments, He means HIS Word. Just a little later, He says, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me (John 14:23-24).

This is how you love God, by believing the Word which He has given and remaining in it.  All who do not do this, following the dictates of their own heart and not what the written Word says, show who they truly love and who they truly don’t.  Not keeping God’s Word is sin.  This is why we take issue with wrong uses of Scripture and declare the truth of God and not the thoughts of men.

This is what Christ is talking about with regard to loving Him and keeping His Word. This is what makes it so necessary not just to believe anything that is said everywhere and anywhere, whether verbally or in print, whether in Christian bookstores or on Christian TV, or anywhere else, but to discern whether it is of God or of man.  Loving Christ means no less than paying close attention to preaching and teaching, distinguishing between what is true and right from what is false and wrong, only according to the Word, for not everything that sounds Christian is Christian.

This is how we love Christ, by keeping His Word.  This means, believing it, trusting in Christ for mercy, and not doubting His work, but placing full confidence in Him who loves us so.  Believing it, we will also live accordingly.  Though we be weak in the flesh, Christ remains our life and our peace with God.  Therefore will we ever be vigilant in good works that are according to God’s commands and doing in faith, even pointing out truth from error and suffering for it on account of Christ.  We won’t have the love of the world for doing this, but we will indeed have the love of the Father, the love of Christ, and Jesus making Himself known to us.  Amen.

The Lutheran Witness–New Look

The Lutheran Witness (LW), the “official periodical of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,” has undergone a dramatic change in just a few months.  The “From the President” article, instead of at the back, is now in the front.  Articles are substantive and doctrinal in nature, yet also practical and contemporary.  They direct the readers to Christ and Him crucified.  More is being said about the Lutheran (Christian) doctrine of vocation, the place(s) in which God’s people serve God and neighbor, a much-needed corrective to our individualistic and narcissistic society.

Check it out: www.lcms.org/witness.

What are some differences between Historical-Liturgical Worship and “Contemporary” Worship? Some thoughts from a former advocate of “Contemporary Worship.”

“The primary question in relation to any kind of worship style is to determine whether it is Christian and to what extent it is Christian…” With these words, Rev. Rippy directs the reader to evaluate “worship.” May the Lord use this to give direction and appreciation for His great gifts, and to direct us to Christ and His Word. This is what true worship is about and does. Soli Deo Gloria.

InDefenseOfHistoricalWorship.SeanRippy.pdf

Sermon Preached at Rev. Matthew Harrison’s Installation into the Office of LCMS President

Read it!!! May the Lord move us to repentance and remain faithful in the midst of today’s challenges and temptations.

ObareSermon.Sept11,2010.Harrison’sInstallation.pdf

%d bloggers like this: