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We preach Christ

 

We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block

and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks,

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24

 

Foolishness!  It is utter foolishness—to preach Christ and Him crucified!  It is a stumbling block!  Who wants to hear such things?  It doesn’t “grow” the church.

Such is the way many perceive the preaching of Christ.  Of course, we should expect nonbelievers to take such a position, as St. Paul the apostle describes.  They do not believe in Christ.  They seek their own way, their own means of salvation.  The salvation of God they deplore.  But within the church?  How could this be?

Within the church, there is a battle going on.  Many would like to deny this and say that “all believe the same thing.”  But is this the truth?  Should we ask, “What is the Bible?” various answers will be given.  Should we ask, “What is the purpose of the Bible?” not all would say the same.  Should we ask, “What is Christianity?” we would hear a divided, not a united, response.

These “differences” demonstrate, not a unity, but a disunity.  They are not positives, but reveal the sinfulness of man, for if true external unity did exist, we would all say the same thing and be saying the same thing.  Our doctrine and confession would be one.  But as it is, we do not all confess the same doctrine.  Nor do Christians everywhere teach the same thing.

These things are so, not because of so called “interpretation” as many presume, but because not all take Christ at His Word—not all believe what Christ did and how He works.  Not all believe what God says.  It is a question of belief vs. unbelief.

Christ crucified is a stumbling block and foolishness because His way is not according to our way.  God saves by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone.  Reason and human nature would lay salvation on us somehow.  But God speaks differently.  He reveals life in death; strength in weakness; wisdom in folly; and honor in what is despised.  Thus do we see Christ, God in the flesh, dying for the sinner; strong, yet weak; wise, but foolish; honorable, yet despised.

God and His ways are opposite from our own ways and the ways of the world.  And thanks be to God that this is so, for those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God!

Luther

“True Christian theology does not present God to us in His majesty, as Moses and other teachings do, but Christ born of the Virgin as our Mediator and High Priest.  Therefore when we are embattled against the Law, sin, and death in the presence of God, nothing is more dangerous than to stray into heaven with our idle speculations, there to investigate God His incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty, to ask how He created the world and how He governs it.  If you attempt to comprehend God this way and want to make atonement to Him apart from Christ the Mediator, making your works, fasts, cowl, and tonsure the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall, as Lucifer did (Is. 14:12), and in horrible despair lose God and everything.  For as in His own nature God is immense, incomprehensible, and infinite, so to man’s nature He is intolerable.  Therefore if you want to be safe and out of danger to your conscience and your salvation, put a check on this speculative spirit.  Take hold of God as Scripture instructs you (1 Cor. 1:23, 24): ‘Since, in wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, it please God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’  therefore begin where Christ began – in the Virgin’s womb, in the manger, and at His mother’s breasts.  For this purpose He came down, was born, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and died, so that in every possible way He might present Himself to our sight.  He wanted us to fix the gaze of our hearts upon Himself and thus to prevent us form clambering into heaven and speculating about the Divine Majesty.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p29).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us from presuming Your Word to be our own and Your ways to be our ways.  Humble us that we turn away from our self-righteousness and look to You alone for comfort and salvation.  Keep us in the true faith, that denying ourselves, we confess our sins and trust only in Christ for help and strength.  Amen.

 

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And all the brethren who are with me.  To the churches of Galatia.

Galatians 1:2

In the ecumenical/universal creeds of Christendom, Christians everywhere confess faith in “the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints” (Apostles’ Creed) and “in one holy Christian and apostolic church” (Nicene Creed).

This same Church that Christians confess, on the one hand, consists only of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.  NonChristians and unbelievers are not members of this church.  They may be members of congregations and churchly organizations, but this kind of membership does not translate into membership into the communion of saints.  Not every member who attends church on Sunday morning or who retains membership in a congregation is Christian.

A Christian believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  A Christian repents of sin.  A Christian is sorry for the sins committed against God and neighbor.  Only those who, confessing their sins, believe God’s promises in Christ, are members of the one true Church.  This is so only because of Jesus, and not because of how much external change we can see or evaluate.  Membership in the holy Christian Church is one of faith, not sight.

The Holy Christian Church consists of the saints still living who “call upon the Name of the Lord” (Romans 10:9).  It also consists of those who have died having faith in the Lord.  These faithful are also members of the Holy Church (not the Roman Catholic church), again, not because of all the good that they did, but because of Jesus.  They looked to Him for salvation and not to themselves.  They sought to be rid of their sin and the godlessness within themselves and the world.  They looked toward their heavenly home, prepared for all who wait upon the Lord.

Such a confession of membership in the Holy Christian Church and the Communion of Saints is not at all meaningless.  The Christian is confident that such a church exists on account of God’s Word.  This confidence leads to firm and bold confession of Christ and His Holy Name.  And that the Christian remain in this heavenly fellowship, God has given His Word and the Holy Sacraments.  He has given His Word that we readily hear and receive it, not doubting, but firmly believing the promises given.  The Lord has also gives His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

Luther

The Church is universal throughout the world, wherever the Gospel of God and the sacraments are present.  The Jews, the Turks, and the fanatics are not the church, because they oppose and deny these things (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p25-26).

Prayer: Gracious God, you have brought us into fellowship with You through the blessed death of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give us faith in Your promises, that we not doubt, but confidently take You at Your Word.  Keep us in this faith, gladly hearing Your Word, remembering our baptism, and partaking of Christ’s body and blood, that we remain Your holy people and not be led astray by the temptations of our own hearts, the world, or the devil.  Amen.

Church Professionals Retreat (CPR) & the Word “Meaningful”

The Church Professionals Retreat, or “CPR” is organized every year to provide meaningful worship, growth, and fellowship opportunities for professional church workers in the Lutheran Church– Missouri Synod.

What I find interesting is that word ‘meaningful’ included in the above description (http://churchproretreat.com/index.html).

Why the need for the word, “meaningful”?  Meaningful worship…Meaningful growth…Meaningful fellowship…  Isn’t all truly Christian worship, growth, and fellowship meaningful?

I guess one could argue “no.”  But this begs the question, what is truly Christian worship, growth, and fellowship?  If these are truly Christian, they have to be meaningful, not, however, because everyone defines them as such.

Christian worship is meaningful not because we are giving to God our worship, but because God is giving to us His Word and promise through Jesus Christ.  Christian worship is that which believes God and says “Amen” to His Holy Word, “saying back to God what He has said to us.”  If Christian worship is defined as meaningful because the Christian is defining it to be so, then what of God’s Word being the determining factor in such matters, not the sinner?

The same could be said with reference to “meaningful” growth.  What is the basis for determining whether growth is “meaningful?”  What we get out of it?  What it “does” for us?  How much we grow?  How many grow?  What of sin and repentance?  What of confession and absolution?  What of learning Christ?  What of God’s Word?

Surely, CPR isn’t suggesting that we (and not God) establish the basis for what’s meaningful with regard to worship or growth or fellowship!

With regard to fellowship, how can it not be “meaningful,” as Christians, united in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, come together to receive the Lord’s Supper?  This may not be what CPR is referring to, but in its truest sense, Christian “fellowship” has to do with communing with one at the Lord’s Supper, fellowship with Christ and with members of His body, the church.

Fellowship can and does, of course, have various meanings in the church.  But even here, what is Christian fellowship, even in a nontechnical sense, but Christians being together?  And how can this not be meaningful already?

The South Wisconsin District & Rev. Mark Jeske of Time of Grace

In the South Wisconsin District (SWD) of the LCMS, I’ve observed disturbing changes within this district (and within the LCMS as a whole), changes which further move us away from our foundational moorings.

For the past several years, I’ve noticed a growing number of conferences and retreats where Rev. Mark Jeske of Time of Grace ministries located in Milwaukee, airing on the net (http://www.timeofgrace.org/index.php), on the radio, and on TV, is one of the speakers.  The SWD endorses him, as his ‘ministry’ is also now an Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the LCMS

(http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=15614), airing even on the LCMS’ radio station from St. Louis, KFUO.

What’s interesting, as others have noted (i.e. http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=6919), is that Jeske is:

1)      of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)

2)      not an LCMS pastor

3)      Promotes the unscriptural ‘principles’ and doctrine of the church growth movement (CGM) (For further study on these, see http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/huebelcgm.pdf as a starter)

LCMS and WELS are not in fellowship.  Joint ministries here are in the least confusing to members and nonmembers of both church bodies.  Joint ministries here are also conflicting, esp. because the Church Growth Movement so advocated by Jeske is in conflict with our doctrine, and also the official teaching of WELS.

A genuine concern for doctrine asks the question ‘why’?  Since CGM teaches what is contrary to Scripture, why is such teaching given air on the LCMS station KFUO, advocated by at least one district (the SWD), and even now an RSO of the LCMS?

The answer may be because the LCMS as a whole has forgotten the concern of God’s people—faithfulness to the His Word, rather than seeking after acceptance by the world and its ways.  But faithfulness calls for obedience to the Lord’s Word and avoidance of those who teach otherwise:

Note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17-18)

May the Lord keep the LCMS and her members watchful, observant, and bold in the face of false doctrine and opposition, even with those within her own body!

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