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A case of disunity in the LCMS…from The Lutheran Witness

Koinonia

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The Lutheran Witness is the “official periodical of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” (Lutheran Witness, Dec 2012, p2).  Since the presidency of Pres. Matthew Harrison, elected in 2010, The Lutheran Witness has undergone a transformation.  The following letter may help illustrate this.  “Last night I read the October issue of The Lutheran Witness, and I could not help but praise the Lord for the content.  Here was the material that I have wanted to see in our church periodical for many years, clear biblical expositions of theological, doctrinal and life problems confronting clergy and laity in our Synod at this time.  We need more of this clear, open

of Scripture in common English for all to see” (The Lutheran Witness, Dec 2012, p22, 24).

I am in agreement with this observation.  The majority of articles now the in The Lutheran Witness are doctrinal, and thus, practical, in nature, directing the reader to the Word and to Christ, drawing distinctions where they should be maintained, and genuinely Lutheran.  I enjoy reading the articles and am encouraged greatly by them.

Before President Harrison was elected, The Lutheran Witness had a more “church growthy” approach, having the assumption that the gospel and the doctrine were “there,” but not explicitly indicated as such, generally speaking.  It seemed that the emphasis was more on human activity rather than God’s activity through Word and Sacrament, emphasizing the “mission,” minus the content.Walking together

Yet even as The Lutheran Witness has changed, for the better, I believe, others do not have this view, not at all.  Such a negative view of change towards The Lutheran Witness is illustrated by this letter from a more recent issue, “The March 2013 number of The Lutheran Witness is on of the most troubling I have ever read” (The Lutheran Witness, May 2013, p25).  Another letter illustrates a similar negative view, “I grew up in the ELCA and was active there until age 40, when I moved my family to the LCMS for doctrinal reasons.  The move was the right choice for our family.  That said, I had an extremely negative reaction to the March 2013 issue of The Lutheran Witness” (May 2013, p25).[1]

Reading even only a few of the letters offered in The Lutheran Witness gives a taste, albeit, only a nibble, of the discrepancy found within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).  One writer says, “More, more.”  Another says, “No, no.”  Such responses indicate that, like so many other denominations, we are not 100% united, specifically, in doctrine.  If one greatly appreciates what is right and true and another does not, what does this say of a united faith that we claim to possess?  It essentially demonstrates that we’re not as united as some claim us to be.  Of course, in Christ, true unity remains.  But then again, the question remains, “What does this mean?”


[1] The March 2013 issue of The Lutheran Witness, entitled, “Free in Christ” included articles such as, “Can’t we all just get along,” “Free in Christ,” “Finding a home,” “The Life of the baptized,” and a chart, “Differences and Distinctions” between the LCMS, Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic on such teachings as God’s Word, Justification & Sanctification, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

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LCMS Reacts to Contraceptive Mandate

LCMS_Reacts_Contraceptive_Mandate_Accomodation[1].pdf

Stubbornness and Idolatry

Then Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

1 Samuel 15:22-23

 

Through Samuel the prophet, God had told King Saul to “utterly destroy” (v3) the Amalekites for what they had previously done to Israel, their men, their women, their animals, everything. But instead of doing what the Lord had said, King Saul “spared the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them” (v9).

Saul had done these things, in clear opposition to what the Lord had said, with what he (and we) would have thought to be the best of intentions, “to sacrifice to the Lord” (v15).  The problem was this, that King Saul did not follow the Word of the Lord, but “did his own thing” and what he thought was right.  As a result, God rejected Saul as king (1 Samuel 15).

In not obeying God’s Word and going “his own way,” Saul committed the sin of idolatry.  Even though he thought that he was doing right, he was greatly in the wrong, even going against God, for he acted in defiance of God by putting his own thoughts and ways above the One who gives all things.

As it was with Saul, the sin of idolatry is inherent in each of us.  Stubbornness is this way.  We have God’s Word, and yet, we act and do according to our own will and desire, even considering that “going our own way” is in keeping with God’s commandments.  God says one thing, and yet, we think we know better and do something else, all the while convincing ourselves that we’re “doing the right thing.”  Thus, like Saul, we defiantly disobey the Lord, forsake His Word, and delude ourselves into believing that we are in the right, though God has given another Word.  This is nothing less than a rejection of the Word of the Lord.

The child of God does not remain in this delusion, convincing himself that he is in the right when God speaks differently.  Rather, the child of God lives continually in the state of repentance, sorrowing and grieving because of his idolatrous heart.  The child of God hears the Words of the Lord and seeks mercy and forgiveness for his stubbornness.  He wants to be rid of his sin, for he sees it for what it is, Coram Deo, before God.  He sees himself for what he is before God—nothing but a sinner.

And yet, it is sinners that God saves!  It is sinners that God forgives.  It is sinners for whom Christ died (John 3:16; Luke 15; Acts 13:38; Romans 4:7; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:9; 2:12).

Your sin of idolatry God forgives, for Jesus Christ not only committed no sin, no iniquity, and no idolatry (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  This Jesus, on the cross, shed His blood which covers all your idolatries, all your iniquities, all your sins.  These are no longer yours to bear, for Christ has born them all.  And in exchange for these, Christ gives to you His righteousness, His sinlessness, and His perfect love to the Father.

In Christ, you are born anew, born of God, given new life, good in God’s sight.  Instead of listening to your own voice and the words of sinful man, being born anew, you hear Christ and His words and “deny yourself” (Matthew 16:24).  As a child of God, you want to hear God’s servant, who preaches Christ to you.  You want to join with other Christians at the Lord’s Table who confess the same faith and are united in the one true doctrine according to Holy Scripture, the living Word of God.  And you forgive others their sins against you, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.  And so you do, by God’s grace!  Amen.

 

Quote

“American Protestantism and fundamentalism have, in large measure, adopted the U.S. consumer and marketing perspective; thus all different types of churches are marketing Jesus to particular segments of the community.  Individually, we are lords of our lives.  No community or family can tell me what my personal faith should be.  I can define it myself, then find a church to give me what I think I need.” (Harrison, Christ Have Mercy, 115)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, giver of all good things, grant that I not deny Your most Holy and precious Word for my sake, because I want to do my own thing and go my own way.  Keep me in the faith that I not deny you.  Lead me not into the temptation of trying to define faith or the church my way that I forsake Your life giving Word for what I think that I need.  Rather, keep me steadfast in only Your Word, for only in that is their true and everlasting life, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.  Amen.

 


‘I’ and ‘We’

 

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4

 

Increasingly today, we unashamedly pursue our own means for our own ends. It is a temptation for which everyone contends.  ‘We’ do not want to listen to others because ‘we’ are right and ‘they’ are not.  ‘We’ are reasonable, but ‘they’ are unreasonable.  ‘We’ know better than ‘they’ do.

Translate these into the singular and you will see yourself having done and doing the same.  It is the plight of American individualism, and shows its egotistical head at many a corner.

We are conceived into such a state that we define life to be all about ‘me’ and what ‘I’ want (Psalm 51:5).  What someone else says, independent of their position, does not matter.  What matters are ‘my’ wants, ‘my’ needs, ‘me, me, me.’

Yet in Christ, God demonstrates something other than individualism, self-centeredness, and self-absorption.  In Christ, God demonstrates love for another, love for the sinner, love for the selfish, love for the very people who think themselves to be the center of the universe—love for you.

 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)

In Christ, God demonstrates a love for you without condition, a love without partiality, a love unmerited and undeserved.

This is how God works, not thinking of Himself, but loving the unloved, the unlovable, and the unloving, because “God IS Love” (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16).

The one who believes that God is this way towards him does not remain selfish and self-absorbed, for such is not the way of Christ.  The way of Christ is to give, and to put others before oneself.  The way of Christ is not to ignore God’s Word because of personal needs and to put oneself above all others, but to “deny oneself,” bear the cross, and follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).  The way of Christ is to repent of selfish idolatry and to live in service of those in need. The way of Christ is to conform to the will of Christ, to cast aside “self-ambition and conceit,” to seek the “interests of others,” and to pursue my neighbor’s well-being.

 

Quote

“The New Testament has a great deal to say about ‘the people of Christ, the ‘we.’  But ‘we’ often overlook what Scripture says because we are thinking ‘I.’ Good old American individualism is alive and well in the Church, and it determines how we read the Bible.  American religiosity is all about ‘me.’”  (Harrison, Christ Have Mercy, 115)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, forgive me for my selfishness, for neglecting the needs of others, and for putting myself first, even before You and Your Holy Word.  Change my heart that I deny my own wants and desires and seek to do what pleases You, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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

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