• July 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Jun    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    28293031  
  • 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

    • 38,879 hits
  • Advertisements

We Confess the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

 

 

In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Into this Name were you baptized.  This is who God is, Only God, the Only True God.  Besides this One, there is no other.  The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.  This is so not because it makes sense or because men in the early church made it up long ago, but because God has revealed Himself as Three Persons, yet One God.  What God has revealed, this we confess with the words, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…  I believe in the Holy Spirit…’

We confess what is common to all Christians, not only on this day called Trinity Sunday, but every Sunday.  It’s common to all because all Christians will believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  It can be no other way.  This is the litmus test of who is of the Christian faith and who is not.  Though it is true that believing in Jesus is what saves, believing in the Jesus of the Bible means also believing His Word, even where He says, I and My Father are one (John 10:30) and Whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me (Mark 9:37).  The Christ of Scripture cannot be divorced from His Father, by whom He was begotten.

In other words, whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.  Whoever does not receive Jesus does not receive the Father either.  This was and is the problem of all who speak of a ‘belief in God’, but who do not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.  You cannot separate the two.  It is true that we distinguish between the Father and the Son, but you cannot have one without having the other.  This means that all who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, really do not have the true God, but worship a false god, a god of their own making, for they deny the divinity, the Godhead, of the Son.

Saying this does not sit well with a lot of people.  We live in an age where everything goes, and it does not matter what you believe, just do not ‘step on anyone’s toes’ or offend anyone, esp. in matters of religion.  As soon as distinctions are drawn and another is said to be wrong, lovelessness and intolerance are said to be at play.  The line has there been crossed.  Discrimination and righteous attitudes are said to be the culprit.  Because not everyone believes what you believe, what you believe might be your faith, but it is not mine.  Just because it might be true for you does not mean that it is true for me.

This notion has also crept into the church.  Just because the church says something, I do not have to believe it.  It is just the collective opinion of people anyway.  I can be a member of this church or of that church, but really, it does not matter what the church preaches and teaches.  I will believe what I want to believe.  It is not about the church anyway.  It is about what I believe.  That is what matters in the end.

Have you heard these things before?  Sound familiar?  It is the spirit of our times.  We minimize the Godhead according to our own personal opinions.  We sift through the teachings of the Bible, and pick and chose what we like or want to hear.  We go to church, not to encounter the Word of God, but to see how good the preacher sounds and catch up with others on their week.

But God speaks differently.  Church is where God’s Word and His gospel are proclaimed.  He has given the church what to speak and He has given you what to hear, both Law and Gospel, Law to the sinner and Gospel to the one sorry for his sin. God speaks the truth of our waywardness and the truth of our salvation in Christ.  He reveals what we are to do and how we are to do it.  He reveals that we are to believe Him and His Word, hear His Word, and receive life through His Means of Grace.  He has not given us to go our own way, but to follow His, for His is the way of life—the only way of life.

We learn this way of God through the books of the Old and New Testaments.  Where the preaching and teaching are according to these God inspired writings, there you will hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but raising up in the light of God’s forgiveness.  The law of God shows us our sin and how we stand condemned before God because of it.  The Gospel of God shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the very same whom we confess as the Son of the Father, who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty since His ascension into heaven.

On account of Christ, you are no longer under God’s condemnation.  Christ stood in your place, becoming sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The only True God does not leave you in the darkness of your sin.  And you are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.  God alone is the One who decides this.  God alone is the one who has decided this.  You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.  Your tendency to do this is the leaning of your nature since the fall in the garden, but this inclination to go your own way you are to continue to fight as God’s baptized child.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This will not always what you want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved, and not that you feel good about yourselves or find momentary fulfillment.  God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way that God leads, the doctrine that He gives, the Word that He speaks, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are for nothing less than your salvation.  He gives you all these things that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith.  Not only was Christ man.  He was also God, God for you, dying your death, crucifying sin, and giving Life, even His own life, that you live in Him and He in you, now and forevermore.

For this reason, for your salvation, Jesus sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and even now through His Word, that you be in the faith of our Lord Jesus and remain in Him to the end.  For your salvation did Christ die and live again.  This is why God the Father sent Him into the world in the first place, that you not perish, but have everlasting life.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  This is the truth that the world does not see, first, that it needs salvation, second, that God desires this, and third, how God brings salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

 As to the first, the law of God is preached among you and in the world to condemn the world and your sinful nature because of sin.  Any lack of tolerance for sin is not first yours.  It is God’s.  The world does not want to hear such things.  They want to hear that it is ok to do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt, because, after all, life is all about ME and what I want.  But not willing to hear God’s Law, the world also will not hear of the God-man Jesus dying on a tree as the sacrifice for sinners.  They thus deny God on two counts: one, as to His law which condemns, and two, as to His Gospel, which saves.

The world doesn’t see that it needs salvation because it is not willing to admit how bad things really are.  And how bad things are must be revealed by God Himself, for we can see that things are at least not 100% good, but we think that this is sufficient.  God says otherwise, and this is the condemning thing.  God doesn’t just say, ‘try’ or ‘do better next time’.  To Him, one ‘slip up’ in thought, word, or deed is sufficient for an eternal fall.  This is the problem, because none are even at the least minutely perfect in this regard.  God demands what we cannot fulfill.

We are at a crossroads with only One to help.  This One is revealed only in the Gospel of Christ.  God reveals this Gospel in His book.  Through Christ, your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.  This is the ‘how’ of God bringing salvation — through Christ: on the tree, in the tomb, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, sending His Spirit, preaching His Word, giving body and blood in bread and wine, and baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.  And this life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.  For all people Christ died and gave His life.  The problem is not that God does not make this or Himself known or that He does not care.  Far from it!  God does care and He has made Himself known, and He does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.  Not all this, because not all take God at His Word.  Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: as Savior, not as Judge; as redeemer, not as the one whom we owe; as our God, apart from whom is no other; and the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Writ.  For this purpose was the Bible given, so writes St. John, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).  There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, living under the law and fulfilling it for us.  There, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.  There, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and sacrament, giving life where there once was only death; giving health where there once was only sickness; giving knowledge where there once was only ignorance; and giving wisdom where there once was only foolishness.  There, in the Bible, Jesus reveals Himself to be God’s Son, one with the Father, and one with the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Today’s Gospel text from St. Matthew’s points to the Lord’s desire for your salvation, for Jesus Himself says to His disciples before leaving them, Going therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).  The church is in existence even now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s authority is now given to the church, the authority of God to proclaim the truth of sin and forgiveness, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.  This is the work of God, the very work that God works through His church, ushering in new life through His Word, and keeping and sustaining that new life through that same Word.

Where that Word of God is kept, there God’s Spirit will be, calling by the Gospel, enlightening with His gifts, and sanctifying and keeping in the true faith.  There also will the Triune God be.  Where the Spirit is, there will also be Christ.  Where Christ is, there will also be the Father.  You can’t have One without the Other.  There is no God without the Son.  There is no Spirit apart from the Son.  There is no faith apart from the Spirit.  And there is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are kept true and distinct, and God undivided, One God, yet Three Persons, there is salvation, for God the Father Sent His Son to save us from our sins, and the Spirit of truth testifies of the Son (John 15:26).

In order that salvation in Christ be made known, our Lord sends His church to proclaim the truth of His Word, even the truth of the Holy Triune God.  This truth is not of human origin.  It cannot be understood by rational formula or common sense.  Though it is true, all will not accept it.  It is only by faith that we believe, faith according to what God has already revealed in His Word, and faith according to what God now makes known to you.  It matters not what part of the world you were born in, or what the majority of the beliefs are in your neighborhood.  The truth of God is true for all people because it is true.  This is what God reveals in the only Holy Book, the Bible, Holy because it is the very Word of God given to man, that God make Himself known, that man believe in His Son and so be saved.  Amen.

Advertisements

The wages of sin is death

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

St. Paul, writing by inspiration of the Lord, writes first what sounds to our ears as very harsh.  Just a few chapters before, he wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  These words exclude no one.  They include everyone, for that word “all” is wholly inclusive.  Sin is described as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).  Indeed, it is!  Sin is the breaking of God’s commandments.  It is disobedience to God’s Holy Word.  Here there is no discrimination. Everyone is in the same boat as the other.  “No one is righteous,” acceptable in God’s sight (Psalm 14:1-3;’ 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10).  All are therefore deserving of death, even eternal death, because of all that we think, do, and believe contrary to God’s Word and will.

We would like to think that things are not so bad.  We naturally minimize our sin.  “I didn’t mean to do it.”  “That was not my intention.”  “I was only trying to help.”  “I really didn’t know.”  But by these we only try to cover up what God already knows (Psalm 19:12).  Though we try to convince others and ourselves otherwise, we are not able to convince God.  His Word is too strong.  Before Him, there is no way of weaseling ourselves out of our own sinfulness.  We are stuck in the hole and cannot escape.  We are falling and cannot help ourselves or any other out.  We are trapped.

Like the mouse running through the maze trying to get to the cheese, so human reason seeks the goal of easing the conscience that we feel better about ourselves.  The problem is, there is no end to this maze.  We will only keep running.  And though rest might come for a time, the unrest of a guilty conscience and shamefulness for words and actions still will come.

Sinners cannot save themselves.  They cannot minimize their sin.  Nor can they escape what is according to their sinful human nature.  The only true and lasting salvation must come from outside of the sinner and apart from human reason.  Human reason cannot mitigate God’s decrees, nor can it understand God’s promises.  “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Such gift is through faith, not in one’s own works, but in Christ’s works.

Rather than minimize sin, Christians recognize it for what it truly is and what it truly merits, according to God’s Word.  And in doing so, they also recognize the only help that is available for it—Jesus Christ, who through His own death put sin to death and gives forgiveness and  eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Amen.

Luther

“Human reason would like sin to have no greater force and power than it itself dreams of. Although hypocrites, who do not know Christ, may feel sorry for sin, they still suppose that they can get rid of it easily by their works and merits.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p34).

Prayer: Righteous Judge, forgive me for believing that my sin is not as great as You Yourself reveal to me.  Help me to see my sin rightly, that I believe in Your abundant grace more firmly.  Save me only for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Hear the Scripture

Moses and the Prophets are a reference to the Old Testament. These testify of Jesus, the very same Jesus made known in the New Testament. Him you are to hear. And Him you are to believe. This the rich man did not do. And this is what the rich man was afraid his brothers would not do. That’s why he wanted Lazarus to go warn his brothers. He wanted to warn them of what was to come if they continued in their unbelief.

But to the rich man did Abraham say, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them and If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.

Jesus says the same to the Pharisees and Scribes of this day. Jesus did rise from the dead. And if you don’t believe the Scriptures, God’s very Word, so will you remain in that unbelief, for Jesus is risen, Alleluia! And yet you still don’t believe.

But thanks be to God, it is through those same Scriptures that God makes your salvation known—Jesus the Christ. That’s all we have. That’s all we’ve got. But that’s all that we need. Amen.

[sermon]

Lk 16.19-31, Pentecost 18, 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.

Feelings…Nothing but feelings…Hope in the other

The following is from: Memorial Moment, smurray@mlchouston.org

To sign up

Romans 5:1-8

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

Hope in the Other

Wednesday of Pentecost 16

15 September 2010

We are a people obsessed with our feelings. One of the standard greetings we use is: “How are you feeling?” This is a sign of the self-centeredness of humans after the fall. We spend a lot of time considering how we feel. Despite all our efforts to feel good, we always fail to reach the nirvana of feeling really good. In fact, some of our efforts to improve how we feel fall into painful pitfalls. Witness the number of people who have fallen into drug or alcohol addiction, sexual license, or vocationally unproductive lives. We’re told by the cultural elites: “If it feels good, do it.” The modern offense industry is indicative of this preoccupation with feelings. If anyone is in the least bit offended or made to feel bad by us, even by an unintentional and inadvertent word or action, we have committed the ultimate sin. If you make me feel bad for any reason, you are a satanic being.

Satan can use this feeling focus to get us set off the track of our true hope in Christ. It is easy to feel our sin. Our sin first and primarily is sin against God Himself and then also against our brother and community. When we do something that is an offense against God, we feel the crushing load of His wrath. That is a real thing. We truly ought to feel this way when we are faced with the holiness of God in comparison to our filthy sin. The work of Christ calls us beyond feeling, as real as it might seem. How freeing it is to know that we can be taken beyond our often roiled emotions. We feel our sin. We feel the wrath of God. We presume then that if we feel these trials in our hearts, we should also feel in our hearts the salvation that God has promised us in Christ. The problem with this view is that we are solving the feeling problem with another feeling. This is a solution that is simply a bigger problem.
We certainly have a growing hope in what is promised by God, but it is a hope in something entirely outside of us. The work of Christ, done in time, is that in which we have hope. Our righteousness is not dependent on a feeling, but dependent on something so much more certain and unchangeable: the person and work of Christ. We should not substitute one feeling for another, but substitute Christ who is not visible to us nor experienced outwardly by us for our faulty feelings. We need to have our pastor or Christian brother or sister take us aside and point us what is certain: the cross of Christ, what is greater than our hearts: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1Jn 3:20). The substance of what is hoped is far superior to the hope itself. Our hope is in a righteousness that cannot yet be called our condition. And so it is not the mirror image or analog of our sin. It is something entirely other, because it comes from the Other and it consists in the Other: Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Martin Luther

“As long as we live, sin still clings to our flesh; the law remains in our flesh and members battling with the law of our mind and making us captive to sinful compliance (Rm 7:23). While these passions of the flesh are raging and we, by the Spirit, are struggling against them, the location of hope remains elsewhere. We have indeed begun to be justified by faith, by which we have also received the first fruits of the Spirit; and the mortification of our flesh has begun. But we are not yet perfectly righteous. It remains for us yet to be perfectly justified and this is what we hope for. Thus our righteousness is not in our condition, but it is as yet in hope (Gal 5:5).
“This is the greatest and sweetest comfort by which to bring wonderful encouragement to minds afflicted and disturbed with a sense of sin and afraid of absolutely every flaming dart of the devil (Eph 6:16). For as we who teach know from our own experience, in such a struggle of conscience the sense of sin, of the wrath of God, of death, of hell, and of every terror holds powerful sway. One must say to the one who is suffering a trial: ‘Brother, you want to have a righteousness that you experience; that is, you want to feel your righteousness in the same way you feel your sin. This will not happen. But your righteousness must transcend your feeling of sin and you must hope that you are righteous in the presence of God. That is, your righteousness is not visible, and it is not experienced; but it is hoped for as something to be revealed in due time. Therefore you must not judge on the basis of your experience of sin, which terrifies and troubles you, but according the promise and doctrine of faith, by which Christ is promised to you, who is your perfect and eternal righteousness.’ Thus in the midst of fears and of the experience of sin my hope-that is, my feeling of hope-is aroused and strengthened by faith, so that it hopes that I am righteous. Consequently, hope that is, the thing hoped for-hopes that what it does not yet see will be made perfect and will be revealed in due time.”

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.


Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, my hope is weak and imperfect. It is plagued by fear of my weakness and Your wrath. Through Your divine speech turn me out of myself to You alone, that when I look beyond my feelings I might see only You. Keep the substance of what I hope for Your righteousness. Grant the church pastors and teachers who will direct those struggling with their weakness to Your cross alone. Amen.

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that they might be signs of the divine righteousness in the world

Why use the name ‘Lutheran’?

Some Lutherans denounce the name Lutheran as somehow schismatic, separatistic, or downright unchristian. But is this really the case? Read on to learn more about the name Lutheran.

ConcerningTheNameLutheran-Walther.pdf

%d bloggers like this: