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“Who is Jesus”

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

Who is Jesus?  This is the question of all questions.  Though some will indeed try to ignore the question or not attempt an answer at all, the question of Jesus’ identity, and what you believe about Him, cannot be avoided.  The Bible reveals that a judgment day is drawing nearer.  And though many ignore such a warning, it cannot be avoided, regardless of how anyone disbelieves it.

So who is Jesus?  In Jesus’ day, some professed Him to be John the Baptist (risen from the dead, John 14:1ff).  But Jesus was not John the Baptist.  Some believed Jesus to be “one of the prophets,” as in one of the Old Testament prophets.

Still today, there are those who see Jesus only as a prophet, only one among many.  Such belief is found also in nonChristian religions (i.e. Islam, Buddhism, etc.).  But Jesus as only a prophet saves no one.

Jesus surely did preach and proclaim (compare the messages of St. John the Baptist & Jesus, Matthew 3:2 & 4:17), but He did more than preach and proclaim.  He gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).  He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world, in order to save sinners.

If Jesus were just a prophet, such sacrifice would be for naught.  If Jesus were just a “good” teacher, you are still in your sins.  If Jesus were just an example, further “in the hole” would we be.  Also, if Jesus were just a man, we would still be under God’s wrath and judgment.

Confessing Christ to be a great man, a compassionate leader, a “new Moses,” equal to the Old Testament prophets, or just a “good fellow” is not the Christian faith.  It is the demonstration of unbelief.  Though there be many, even within Christian churches today, who have high regard for Jesus, high regard for Jesus does not yet mean the Christian faith.

Christians confess Christ to be who He claimed to be—the very Son of the Living God.  Christians confess Christ to be who God the Father declared Him to be—His only begotten Son.  Christians, according to Holy Scripture, confess Jesus to be God in the flesh, the Savior of the world.

Only in such a Jesus, who is God and man in one person, who was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead (2nd article of the Apostles’ Creed), only in such a Jesus is your sin done away with, having been put to death by His death.  Only in such a Jesus do you, a sinner, have life, even eternal life.

No man can do anything to make things better between himself and God, let alone for others.  But Jesus is not merely a man.  He is also God, God for you.  See the nail prints and His side!  He is flesh.  Yet this one who died—is risen from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God.

Therefore do we not only confess Jesus to be as He is in truth according to the Bible.  We worship Him, too.

Who is Jesus?  With Peter we confess, “Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Amen.

Luther

“The Arians were truly sharp. They conceded that Christ has a double nature and that He is called “God of true God”—but only in name. Christ, they said, is a most noble and perfect creature, higher than the angels; through Him God then created heaven and earth and everything else. Thus Mohammed also speaks of Christ in a laudatory way. But all this is nothing but fallacious reasoning and words that are pleasant and reasonable, by which the fanatics deceive men unless they are careful. But Paul speaks of Christ differently. You, he says, are rooted and grounded in this knowledge, that Christ is not only a perfect creature but true God, who performs the very same works that God the Father performs. He performs divine works, not those of a creature but of the Creator. For He grants grace and peace; and to give these is to condemn sin, to conquer death, and to trample the devil underfoot. No angel can grant any of this; but since it is ascribed to Christ, it necessarily follows that He is God by nature.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p31-32).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us ever faithful to Your Holy Word, that we not deny You, nor Your Son, but continue in true Christian worship all of our days.  Amen.

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“The Word of God and the Work of the Pastor”

In a recent survey, entitled, “US Religious Knowledge Survey” from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, several revealing findings surfaced. Although the findings might not be surprising in the current zeitgeist (spirit) of the times, they do give a jarring dose of reality to any who would consider Christendom, and Christians in general, to be as healthy and strong as they might think themselves to be.

The sampling of the survey was only over 3400. It’s findings, of course, are limited. But at the same time, these can be helpful for us, not only for indicating where Christendom as a whole might be. They can also impress upon us the need for self-reflection and self-evaluation of where we stand, and why.

One editor in the Wisconsin State Journal began his column about the survey with these words, “Say this about American Christians: We hold our beliefs dear and will defend them to the death. Now, if only someone would tell us what they are”(Wed, Oct 6, 2010).

The same editor had also written that, “Pew research has found about 60 percent of American adults say religion is “very important” in their lives.” Then he comments, “But not important enough to learn much about, apparently.” In addition, he also wrote, “If only American Christians would spend as much time researching religion as they do spouting off their opinions about it.”

Generally speaking, I think this editor is quite correct in at least these comments. Americans, as a whole, talk a lot about religion (and an increasing amount about spirituality), but they talk a lot about what they seem to know little about.

For the most part, it seems, quite a few are just plain ignorant (they just don’t know, or care) about the teachings of the Bible, let alone the teachings of the particular Christian denomination they claim to be a member of…

2Tim3.14-4.5, Pentecost 21, 2010C.pdf

Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God?

In an article written by Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate General Secretary—Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations for National Council of Churches USA (www.ncccusa.org/news/100909tklament.html), with the title “Religious Ignorance, Bigotry and Ill Will: A Lamentation for 9/11,” and written in response “to threats by the pastor a small church in Florida to burn the Qur-an on September 11,” he writes in part that should Rev. Jones burn the stack of Korans, “It would not be simply an attack on a book, albeit a book considered sacred by 1 billion people, but an affront to the very God that is worshiped by those 1 billion people (not to mention the 2 billion Christians, and Jews, too, that worship the same God).”

Thankfully, Rev. Jones of Dove World Outreach Center did not publicly burn the Koran as he said that he would.  All might be said and done over the fiasco caused by such threats, but misconceptions and “religious ignorance” still linger, and will remain among us.

Take for example the belief of Dr. Kireopoulos, as noted above, that Chrisians, Muslims, and Jews all “worship the same God.”  Though it is true that Muslims, Jews, and Christians claim to all worship God, in reality, they do not.  Only one of the three worship the true God—and it is not Islam nor Judaism.

Some might immediately reply, “bigot,” or “ignorant,” or worse.  But a look at the Bible settles the issue.

Islam does not teach that Jesus Christ is God.  Neither does Judaism.  Both do not teach that the Jesus revealed in the Bible, who was crucified on the cross and “rose again from the dead”) is the only Savior of the World.  Judaism would have you look for another Messiah, and Islam, too, would leave you in doubt about God’s (Allah’s) mercy towards you.

Only Christianity teaches confidence in God’s mercy—through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-24; Romans 5:1ff; Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 2:8-9–Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).  Islam and Judaism do not, nor does any other religion.

It was Jesus who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through (by means of) me” (John 14:6).

In another place, Jesus says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40)

Just a bit later, Jesus continues, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life (John 6:47).

And concerning the falsity of such statements as Dr. Kireopoulos (and others who share his opinion) that Muslims, Jews, and Christians worship the same God, Jesus Himself to the Jews of His day says, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.”   In the same chapter, Jesus also says, “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me,” and “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:42, 45, 47).

These words of Jesus highly contrast those who worship the true God from those who do not.  What is said of Jesus and His Word?  What is believed about Jesus and His Word?  What is believed concerning the Bible and the words therein and concerning the Christ revealed in them? Further investigation would demonstrate that the three religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are “miles apart.”

In addition to these words of our Lord (and so many others like them), St. John in his first letter (epistle) wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1-6).

St. John also wrote these words, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:10-13).

If these words from the Bible are not clear enough, I don’t know which are.  Judaism and the Koran do not say these kind of things, nor can they.  A closer look at their respective doctrines (teachings) will reveal, not similarity, but great difference; not how close they are to one another, but how far apart.

And this is as much true for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as it is for the various Christian denominations.  Not all say the same thing.  And not all are truly Christian.

Though all denominations claim to have and use the same Scripture and Christ, in reality, they do not.  Not all teach the same thing concerning Christ and His Word.

This demonstrates, not unity, but disunity; not sameness, but difference.

Dove World Outreach and the Koran

It’s in the news that a group in Florida, Dove World Outreach, (But try to look at their site, http://www.doveworld.org.  When I just tried to access their page, it came up blank) is planning to burn the Koran on Sept 11.  A firestorm is ensuing.  Many are saying that this will create greater problems for our military in Iraq, Afghanistan and various other places.  This is a very real concern, and one that Dove World Outreach should strongly consider, for the sake of those who are serving this country.

In the midst of all this, at least in the media and among various ‘Christian’ groups (http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Releases.aspx?a=4628), a louder call for “tolerance” and “understanding” resounds all the more.  ‘Christians,’ Jews, and Muslims are ‘praying together’ about the conflict.  What’s lacking, however, is the truth of Islam (and the truth of Christianity).  Is Islam a peaceful religion, as so many presume?  Just observe the reaction of Muslims around the world to the planned burning of the Koran.  Reason will tell you if Islam is truly  peaceful or not (See http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/245877/burning-koran-nina-shea for some information about Law in Islamic countries).  One also notes that the Christians (and the Muslims and others) who join together in prayer and worship are truly demonstrating dishonesty with reference to the tenets of their respective faiths.  Of course, this further demonstrates how unchristian many ‘Christians’ and church bodies have become and how deceptive Satan is in destroying true unity among His people, basing that unity on tolerance and diversity rather than on the teachings/doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The people at Dove World Outreach may have a constitutional right to burn the Koran, but it is not in the best interest of our American neighbors who are on active duty, nor for our country.  Should the Koran be burned, this would demonstrates not only a lovelessness  and disrespect to the people which are Muslims, but also to our own people, and putting them in greater danger.  Respect is to be given to others, to be sure.  But for the Christian, respect does not imply acceptance.

The publicity is getting worldly attention, to be sure.  Rev. Jones believes that God is calling him to burn the Koran.  But what does Scripture say?  Nothing of the sort.  Rev. Jones, like so many who call themselves Christian today (including televangelists, preachers, etc.), claim a calling to do this or to do that, or to say this or to say that.  But they do so without Scriptural support.  They do so without God’s backing.  They truly are acting outside of Christianity without God’s authority, as are others who compromise the faith for acceptance in the world and a place among the nonbelievers.

Sadly, Rev. Jones’ action (even if he doesn’t burn the Koran) only feeds the flames against genuine Christianity (of which Jones is not), extremists as some call them, simply because they hold to the Bible and proclaim Jesus to be the only Savior.  Therefore does genuine (and not false) Christianity also teach that all other religious are rightly false, based on Holy Scripture and not because of ‘the voice of God in my head,’ majority, or any other rule.

This would be a good time for Christians to reflect on what God truly does say about Jesus in the Word and about other ‘religions,’ and to compare the Bible with the Koran, and how the Christian is to live in such a hostile world–by faith, holding to God’s promises and loving ALL people (which also means speaking the truth).

It’s also a time to reflect on the state of Christendom in America and the world.  Few are being true and honest to the Lord Christ, compromising the Lord’s teaching and forsaking His Word.  Repentance is in order.

Greater antagonism against the true Christian faith are we seeing, and greater acceptance of that which is not true.  Lord, have mercy.

Beck, the government, and the church

What role does church and government have together?  The ‘right’, it appears, says, “Much.” (http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/rnstext/beck_wants_to_lead_but_will_evangelicals_follow/).  The left might say little (but for their ideologies and the like-separation of church and state; Christianity, however, is off-limits, but not Islam, Atheism, and other -isms).

But when we look at Scripture, we find that the government has one role, the church another.  The government is to establish external peace.  It does this by making and enforcing laws, punishing the evil-doer, etc. (Romans 13).  The government is not to meddle in the preaching and teaching of the church, regulating her in her doctrine.

The church, on the other hand, does not have the authority to use force.  She has the authority of the Word, to preach and to teach, for forgive sins and to retain sins (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23).

The following is from The Book of Concord, Tappert edition:

5 Our teachers assert that according to the Gospel the power of keys or the power of bishops is a power and command of God to preach the Gospel, to forgive and retain sins, and to administer and distribute the sacraments. 6 For Christ sent out the apostles with this command, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21-23).

8 This power of keys or of bishops is used and exercised only by teaching and preaching the Word of God and by administering the sacraments (to many persons or to individuals, depending on one’s calling). In this way are imparted no bodily but eternal things and gifts, namely, eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. 9 These gifts cannot be obtained except through the office of preaching and of administering the holy sacraments, for St. Paul says, “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.”2 10 Inasmuch as the power of the church or of bishops bestows eternal gifts and is used and exercised only through the office of preaching, it does not interfere at all with government or temporal authority. 11 Temporal authority is concerned with matters altogether different from the Gospel. Temporal power does not protect the soul, but with the sword and physical penalties it protects body and goods from the power of others.

12 Therefore, the two authorities, the spiritual and the temporal, are not to be mingled or confused, for the spiritual power has its commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. 13 Hence it should not invade the function of the other, should not set up and depose kings, should not annul temporal laws or undermine obedience to government, should not make or prescribe to the temporal power laws concerning worldly matters. 14 Christ himself said, “My kingship is not of this world,”3 and again, 15 “Who made me a judge or divider over you?”4 16 Paul also wrote in Phil. 3:20, “Our commonwealth is in heaven,” 17 and in 2 Cor. 10:4, 5, “The weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God.”

18 Thus our teachers distinguish the two authorities and the functions of the two powers, directing that both be held in honor as the highest gifts of God on earth. (Augsburg Confession, XXVIII. The Power of Bishops, para. 5-18)

Christians and nonChristians can (and do) come together for policies and practices in  society.  This can and does include different religious groups.  But agreeing on governmental policy and the like is a far different cry from unity in teaching.  There might be some parallels between the Christian faith and others, but that’s also where the similarities end.  Only the Christian faith teaches the true and only way to eternal life—through Christ (John 14:6).  All others teach works and keeping the Law for salvation.

The Christian is to distinguish between truth and error.  The Christian is also to distinguish between the affairs of the church and the affairs of the state. The government and society are not the means for saving the world, nor the pulpit from which the church is to preach.  Nor is the church the means for electing one candidate or another.  She is to proclaim God’s Word, courageously and in truth (2 Timothy 4:2).  Where there is a mixing of Church and State, problems ensue.


2 Rom. 1:16.

3 John 18:38

4 Luke 12:14

Should the mosque be built near ground zero?

The rage between whether or not to build the Islamic mosque near Ground Zero rages on,

but with little resolution in sight

(http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/rnstext/fight_over_ny_mosque_becomes_a_partisan_wedge_issue/).  The issue is not so much about religious freedom, but rather of recognition of who did what and when.  It is a misuse of freedom to use one’s freedom to the hurt of another.  This truth the Bible teaches.  Abusing freedom is just what those who desire to either build the mosque or to allow it to be built are in the process of doing, to the hurt and consternation of many.

Definitions are important.

Freedom, as Paul writes about it, is not for the purpose of self-gain or self-appeasement at the expense of others.  Rather, true freedom, in Christ, knows nothing about self, only about serving others (Galatians 5:1, 13).  Of course, this kind of freedom, the kind that seeks only the good of others and is found only in Christ—this kind of freedom the disciples of Islam, and most Americans, know nothing about, for they have not faith in Him whom God sent to be the Savior from sin and everlasting condemnation.

Another definition needing clarification is ‘religious freedom.’  In this country, we have it.  In all countries where Islam is the presiding religion, there is none, except to abide by the laws of Islam, which is not freedom, but oppression, and where tyranny prevails.

Religious freedom means allowing for the establishment of any religion to exist, and its teachings and doctrine to be proclaimed, without silence, and apart from any coercion, but not with the government itself establishing it.

Religious freedom also means allowing religious debate (with words, not violence) to continue, in contrast to the attempt to consolidate all religions into one or to say that few differences exist, or to silence them all (i.e. communism).  There is only one way to heaven, and that way is through Christ—and Christ alone.

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