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The Necessity of True Doctrine

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.

1 Timothy 4:16

 

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, writes what he writes with a purpose in mind—the purpose of encouraging Timothy to remain in the true doctrine.  Contrary to the world, remaining in the true doctrine is not at all of insignificance.  It does matter, for “doctrine is life.”  I am not talking about man’s doctrine (i.e. Mark 7), for man’s doctrine only alienates from God and hardens the sinner against God.  God’s doctrine, in distinction, does give life, just as Jesus says, “My words are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).  Depart or stray from these, and there is nothing but death.  Continue in the very Word of the Lord Christ, and you are truly His disciples and “will know the truth” and will be set free by that truth” (John 8:31-32).

Such does God’s Word, The Truth (John 14:6), do.  It gives life, raises that which was dead, and also preserves one in the truth by that same truth.

To the Galatians, St. Paul writes, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain?  Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Galatians 3:2-6)

Not by man’s doctrine and not by man’s doing were the Galatians being made perfect and complete, but by the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), by hearing the Word of Christ.

The doctrine/teaching is important.  Get this wrong, and you get Christ wrong.  Getting Christ wrong leads to eternal death, not eternal life, for outside of Christ Jesus, there is no forgiveness and no peace with God.  But in Christ Jesus, there is nothing but forgiveness and the peace that surpasses understanding, which the world cannot ever give (Philippians 4:7)

The world and those of the world will go their own way, claiming that you cannot know the truth or that it is not found in the Bible.  But Christians believe differently, for the Christian faith is not of the world, but of God, revealed through the Holy Scriptures, and centered on Christ, and Christ alone!

 

Luther

‘Let every faithful person work and strive with all his might to learn this doctrine (of the Gospel) and keep it, and for this purpose let him employ humble prayer to God with continual study and meditation on the Word.  Even when we have done ever so much, there will still be much to keep us busy.  For we are involved, not with minor enemies but with strong and powerful ones, who battle against us continually, namely, our own flesh, all the dangers of the world, the Law, sin, death, and the wrath and judgment of God, and the devil h9imself, who never stops tempting us inwardly with his flaming darts (Eph. 6:16) and outwardly with his false apostles, so as to overcome some if not all of us” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p65).

 

Prayer:

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your word; Curb those who by deceit or sword

Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son And bring to naught all He has done.

O Comforter of priceless worth, Send peace and unity on earth;

Support us in our final strife And lead us out of death to life.  Amen.

(Lutheran Service Book (2006), “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word” 1, 4)

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The Church’s One Foundation

19 So then, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJ)

Dear brothers and sisters in the one true faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The practice of playing down sin & God’s Word, and playing up acceptance of even the most grievous types of sins and man’s notions is becoming the norm.  But God speaks differently.  And lest some say that churches still holding firmly to the teachings of our blessed Savior Jesus Christ are immune to such atrocities, one only has to consider that what’s going on in Christendom today did not happen overnight.  Just as illness often remains unnoticed until the symptoms bear themselves out, so the disease of false doctrine often creeps into the church unnoticed, and damage is done even before any acknowledgment of a problem exists.

Therefore, it is necessary for God’s people to be ever vigilant in the Word of their Lord.  This is so in order that “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14).   “Nor should we be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds in the doctrine of Christ Jesus (Romans 12:2).

“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  And, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

The proclamation of God’s church throughout the ages that distinguishes Christians from nonChristians is the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death on the cross.  But this cornerstone of the Christian faith is being molded and formed into an entirely different message, even a different Gospel, one which falls under God’s anathema (Galatians 1:6-9).

The church today is seen more as a place for man’s activity over and above God’s and more emphasis is placed on man’s endeavors and actions rather than on what God is doing in Christ through the blessed Word and Sacraments of our Lord.  God’s Word has become less important than man’s determination and will power to do.  It’s no longer Christ that unites God’s people into one body through faith, but man’s efforts which unify under the same cause.

Christ is preached as example, not as Savior.  Lip service is given to the Word of Christ, but hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).  Ambiguity of speech is the common practice.  What is said is not what is meant and what is meant is not what is said.  Words are given different meanings and cause greater confusion rather than drawing together to Him who is the Head of His body.  Hearers are motivated and even encouraged only to hear what they want to hear rather than fight sinful temptations and listen to God’s law which condemns sin and God’s grace which forgives it.

The gospel in today’s church has not to do with God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness for Christ’s sake.  That doesn’t work.  That kind of message doesn’t have a place in today’s world where results and what is seen run the show.  Thus, a new kind of gospel has been established.  In the place of the historic gospel of the Christian faith of God’s love in Christ, tolerance and acceptance of anything and everything, as well as whatever works, is the proclamation that liberates and frees from the tyranny of oppression.

Houses of God have become houses of man, going the way of the world, having left their first love (Revelation 2:4).  The state of visible Christendom is in disarray, to say the least.  It appears broken, disunited, and worldly.  Regardless of the attempts to bind together, unify, and sanctify, of ourselves we have no ability to accomplish these worthy, but unattainable, goals.

The church of Christ, contrary to popular belief, is not bound together because of common activities and agendas.  Instead, according to Holy Scripture, it’s not what we do that unifies in the true and godly sense, but what God has done and continues to do in Christ Jesus.  This is the glue that binds God’s people as one.  Christ and Christ alone is our peace that breaks down the wall of hostility between us.

It is the unity of a common faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior, Him and no other.  This is what brings God’s people together and joins them together into the living body of the living Christ.  There, no one who believes is a stranger or foreigner, whether Jew or Gentile, for all are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

For this reason, visible Christendom remains divided – because not all hold to the clear teachings of Scripture.  Though Christ is not divided, there are dissensions and schisms among the visible churches and congregations of Christendom because not all believe and confess what God has given to believe and confess.  Some simply flat out deny the very Words of God, even rejoicing with pride in their sinfulness.

But what a different and true picture St. Paul paints of the true church in His letter to the saints in Ephesus!  Just as Christ is not divided, so His beloved Bride, the Church, is not divided, “for there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

In Christ Jesus, those who were strangers and foreigners to one another are no longer these, but members of God’s household, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).  They who were far off are brought near by the blood of Christ.  Those having no hope and without God in the world now are hopeful and with God in the world, they with Him and He with them, having faith in Him whom God sent and believing that Christ is where He promises to be in His Means of Grace.

The reality of what is visible in churches and church bodies across the nation cannot be ignored, but neither can God’s inspired Word given through St. Paul.  What we see is not always what we get and what we get is not always what we see.

There is another church that is completely unified, not at all broken, disjointed, or worldly.  It is a glorious church, not having blemish or wrinkle.  It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone.  This church we confess in the creed as we say, “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.”

This church we do not see with the eyes.  But God’s true church is as much as a reality as the churches that we do see.  The hidden church which is confessed among us is Holy because of Him who sanctifies.  It is Christian because of Him who is its head.  It is Church because it is the assembly of all who believe in Him who died and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures.  They who belong to this Church are strangers to the world, but not to Christ.  Nor is He a stranger to them.  They are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God by adoption into God’s kingdom through water and the Word, even the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

This Communion of Saints, the fellowship of God’s people who believe Christ to be their Savior, who hope in the Lord and wait upon Him, these are all united in Christ Jesus by faith.  Here there is no denominational demarcation or Christian classification in the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church.

Only one thing distinguishes members from nonmembers in this Church – belief in the Lord Jesus.  Those who call upon the Lord for mercy and trust in God’s beloved Son are already members.  Those who do not, though they be members of local congregations and be affiliated with this or that denomination, are not.

As we believe in the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, so we will also rejoice on account of God’s kindness and favor.  His Holy church will not waver nor will if fail, nor can it be destroyed.  It is eternal, not temporary as earthly and worldly churches are.  It is built on the foundation that has already been laid and that cannot be unlaid.

It continues to grow, even though it appear not to grow according to human perception and recognition.  It’s growth is not observable by statistical figures and demonstration of numerical strength because it does not grow in ways that we see, but according to God’s Word that “shall not return to Him void, But shall accomplish what He pleases, And prosper in thething for which He sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

This article of faith concerning the Holy Christian Church will not be a visible physical reality seen in our day, as if it is a goal for which we are to strive.  But it is a present reality.  Though unseen, God has revealed this teaching of Christ’s Holy Church in Scripture.  And what a blessed comfort and assurance it gives to all who grow weary with the reality of church struggles and its spots and blemishes before its members and in the sight of the world!

There is one church, true and faithful, which will endure for all eternity.  This church is not affected by the world or its ways.  It is founded only on God’s Word and united in the faith of her Lord Jesus.  Though hidden, wherever God’s Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered according to their institution, there you will find members of this Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.  This we believe and this we confess.  Amen.

The Book of Concord

(Tappert Edition)

The Augsburg Confession,  VII. The Church

1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. 2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. 3 It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places. 4 It is as Paul says in Eph. 4:4, 5, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

The Smalcald Articles, XII. The Church

2… a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. 3 So children pray, “I believe in one holy Christian church.” Its holiness does not consist of surplices, tonsures, albs, or other ceremonies… invented over and above the Holy Scriptures, but it consists of the Word of God and true faith.

Certainty in Christ!

 

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.

Psalm 119:89

What blessed and eternal comfort the child of God has in God’s own Word!  You see this according to faith, not according to sight, for you live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But what kind of faith? The faith that believes that anything is possible? The faith that believes you can do anything you set your mind to?  The faith which blindly trusts that all things will work out the way we hope them to?

Such description of faith is not that description of faith revealed by God in His Word.  The Christian faith is not “blind.”  It trusts in God’s promises.  Such faith does not trust in worldly expectations or self expectations, but only on the mercies of God in Christ.  Such faith does not believe that anything is possible by oneself or by putting one’s mind to something.  It rests on God’s unchangeable and unconditional grace, revealed in Christ.  Also, such faith does not rest on false or misguided hopes, for its foundation is God’s Holy and faithful Word.

Such faith as the Christian faith rests squarely on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this Gospel is nothing but certain and sure, and not at all because I believe it.  The Christian faith rests upon God and His Son.  He makes it sure.  I do not add anything at all to it, but simply believe it.  This, after all, is what Christians do.  They confess Christ and believe His Word.  And they are sure that God’s Word “abides forever.”

 

Luther

“Christ and His side are weak, and the Gospel is a foolish proclamation.  On the other hand, the kingdom of the world and the devil, its prince, are strong; in addition, the wisdom of the flesh is very impressive.  But this is our consolation, that the devil with his members cannot accomplish what he wishes.  He may trouble many persons, but he cannot destroy the Gospel of Christ.  The truth may be endangered, but it cannot perish.  It is attacked, but it cannot be conquered; for ‘the Word of the Lord abides forever” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p54).

Prayer: Gracious Father, forgive me for doubting Your promises and Your undeserved mercy.  Help me at all times to trust in Your Word and be ever sure of Your abundant grace and mercy in Christ.  Amen.

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.

Is Mormonism Christian?

Though “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” might wish to omit the latter part of their name[1] for false appearances and to mislead, and do indeed use Christian terminology, speaking of God, Jesus, salvation, etc., they are not Christian, nor are their doctrines and practices Christian in any way, contrary to popularly accepted opinion. Even their abstaining from alcohol and caffeine, as well as their practice of mandatory tithing, are not Christian.  These practices and others might have the appearance of piety and holiness, but no ruling body has the authority to establish practices which are neither forbidden or commanded by God, and then declare that such practices have are from God himself

The current climate of our day might seem to preclude any such debate whether Mormons are Christians are not, but such climate reveals the negligence of many within the church (i.e. Joel Osteen) to make proper distinctions.  But such distinctions are to be made, even in the public square, and especially within the church.

Such distinctions of doctrine and practice between Mormons (and other groups) and the Christian Church is the distinction of truth from error, Christianity being of the truth and Mormonism (and other groups) being of error.  Proper (godly) distinctions are to be made because such distinctions concern God and His Holy Word.

Writing to Timothy, St. Paul says, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).  The doctrine of which Paul speaks is that which is of God, even the saving doctrine of sins forgiven in Christ, the saving doctrine of Jesus, “true man and true God.”  Get these wrong, and your immediately outside of Christianity and have no salvation.

Not only here do the Mormons differ with what is of the true doctrine.  The Mormons have as their authority, not only The Bible (as it is correctly translated and as they understand it), but The Book of Mormon (which has no historical evidence even to substantiate its claims), The Pearl of Great Price, The Doctrine and the Covenants, and the Leader(s) of their fellowship.

Though Jesus says, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32), the Mormons, by their twisting of Holy Scripture and their use of other authorities for their doctrines and practices, they neither do abide in Christ and His Word, nor are they Jesus’ disciples.  Therefore, they also do not know the truth, but according to their Father, they speak lies.  Mormons are not of God (John 8:42-47).

This must remain clear, lest the ignorant be deceived and the Church further become complacent instead of increasingly more vigilant.  Mormons have a different God, Jesus, Savior, salvation, doctrine, fellowship, and authority than the Christian Church, and therefore, contrary to beliefnet and religioustolerance (and others, political or not), Mormons should not be affiliated anywhere in proximity to Christianity or Christian denominations.

It might also be said that many fellowships which claim to be Christian are not consistently so.  Any doctrine/teaching which is not of God is also not of the true, Godly doctrine.  Therefore, any false teaching mixed with the true teaching is detrimental to the faith[2].  The fact that Christians can be found in erring church bodies (i.e. ELCA, UMC, Episcopal Church, Roman Catholicism, PCUSA, etc.) is not due to the false preaching, teaching, and ungodly practices found there, but only on account of the fraction of God’s Word that may still remain. In spite of numerous errors, where Christ’s Word is at least read, there will be Christ’s church, as little as it might be.

Of course, this is not reason for one to remain in an erring fellowship.  This is all the more reason to seek a church which seeks to be faithful to God’s Word in all it preaches, teaches, and does, for the Christian seeks to hear God’s Word and nothing else.  The Christian seeks to live according to God’s Word, and therefore, seeks God’s mercy in Christ.  Erring fellowships do not offer such comfort and confidence of God’s mercy in Christ.  They turn the hearer to another other than Christ alone for help and refuge.  Where they do speak the truth, we thank the Lord.  Where they do not, we must discern. “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).


[1] Of Latter Day Saints

[2] Corinthians 5:6-7: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.”

Deliverance from this Present Evil Age

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Galatians 1:3-5

The Bible does not speak highly of the world, nor of the age in which we are living.  For example, through Isaiah the prophet God says, “I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible” (Isaiah 13:11).

That the world and its ways are indeed corrupt and evil (though not originally so) is a truth that is nearly forgotten.  Rather than seek to live separate from the world, in the world but not of the world, we immerse ourselves in the ways of the world and attempt to justify our ways before God.  We seek signs and evidence of God and His ways without and within, apart from His gracious Word.  And yet, Jesus Himself says that “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 12:39).  And in another place, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).

Not without reason, St. Paul writes,  “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.  Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:6-10).

By yourself, you will remain and continue digressing in the ways of the world, attaching yourself to that which is not God-pleasing and in opposition to the world’s Creator, regardless of how hard you might try.  The ways of the world and the devil and your sinful flesh are too great for you or anyone even of stature.

There is One Deliverer who has overcome the world, and who does and will indeed “Deliver us from this present evil age.”  That One is none other than Christ, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Because of this One Deliverer, you do have hope, a hope that cannot and does not fail, the hope that is everlasting, the hope which is eternal, the sure hope that is yours through faith.

Jesus’ prayer for His disciples is also His prayer for you, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:14-17).

God’s word is truth, and by that Word are you sanctified, set apart to be the people of God.  Remain in Him.  Remain in His Word.  Do not neglect the truth, but embrace it and hold fast to it.  The world and this evil age will remain such and worsen before the Lord returns.  But know this; Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  Therefore, do not fear (John 16:33).  Though you live in the world, you serve Another.  You serve He who has conquered sin and death and gives you life through this age and into eternity.  Rest in Him, all you who labor and are heavy laden (Matthew 11:28-30).  And remain confident of His deliverance.  Amen.

Luther

“Let these words of Paul stand just as they are, true and accurate, not painted or counterfeit: this present age is evil. Do not be dissuaded because there are many fine virtues in many men or because hypocrites make a great pretense of sanctity. But pay careful attention to what Paul says. Out of his words you may boldly and freely pronounce this sentence against the world: that the world, with all its wisdom, righteousness, and power, is the devil’s kingdom, out of which only God is able to deliver us by His only Son.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p41).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, do not forsake us to the world nor its ways.  Help us to resist the temptation to succumb and give into doubt, despair, and further corruption.  Strengthen us in the true faith and give us a confidence, not in the world changing, but in your abundant mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 (ESV)

The Christian faith is one of particularity, distinctiveness, and exclusivity.  Though we welcome all people, we also make clear distinction between truth and error.  This is so because of her Lord, the Head of the Church.  Jesus Christ is this Head, the only one.  Neither the pope nor a bishop, neither a pastor or even a President, is the Head of Christ’s  Bride.  Only the very Son of God has this position, the same one who now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22).

This is He of whom Scripture says, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard (Colossians 1:14-23).

This Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head, is the Only Way to eternal life.  None other has right to this claim.  There is salvation in none other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  This has been the proclamation of the Christian Church throughout the ages, and it will continue to be so.  Her message is Christ crucified and this is the content of her preaching.  In both her speaking and in her doing, Christ receives all glory, honor, and praise.

 This is because all these go to Him. His is the Name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9).  And though all do not now acknowledge Jesus for who He is, there will come a time when every knee will bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

 In the meantime, God’s people witness of Christ and delcar Him as the only Savior from sin, death, and the plwer of the devil.  In both love toward God and love toward neighbor, the Christian shows forth the unique claim of Christ, that He Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 God’s command to love neighbor means to love both friend and foe, ally and enemy, Christian and nonChristian.  Here, there is no distinction.  As Christ loved us and all people, whether they be Pharisee or tax collector, Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, so are we to love all others.  Whoever it be that needs our help, we help as we are able.

 This our Lord would have us do.  In truth, He has done the same for us.  He loved us before we ever loved Him (1 John 4:10).  He loved the world so much that He gave His only Son.  Even those who reject God and His love in Christ, for them too did God send His Son to suffer and die.

 This demonstrates how God’s love works.  It’s not conditional, but unconditional.  This means that it can be rejected and denied.  But only those who believe receive the blessing.  God’s love is given to all, though only few accept it by faith.  But this doesn’t change God’s love towards the world.  This He has shown and demonstrated with Christ’s death for us.  God wants all to repent of their sinful ways and so be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).  God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:7).

 This is why God sent Jesus into the world, why God gives His Word, and why the earth is still going on today.  The end is not yet.  God’s grace is abundant.  It is by His grace that we are alive yet and that the world continues, not because of what people do, but because of God’s providence and provision for everything we need, even through what people do.

 The point here is this, that as God is towards the sinner, whether believer or unbeliever, in providing what is needed for the body for either, so are we to do the same.  We don’t not help someone because they are not Christian or because they’re in error.  God here would use us to be His hands and feet, as it were, that they in need be cared for.

 These things have to do with our life towards one another, love to our neighbor, whether inside or outside the home, and whether to a fellow believer or heathen.  With regard to these, the Christian is is willing to give up even their very life for the sake of another.

 On the other hand, when it comes to the holy things of God, when it comes to God’s Word and His teaching, His doctrine, the Christian can give up nothing, but remains steadfast to Him who is forever faithful.  With regard to physical needs, we give everything we’ve got.  With regard to God’s Word, we cannot but press on in the truth of our Lord and declare the mercies of God through Jesus Christ.

 Because God in the Second commandment says, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain, using God’s Name to defend teaching that is not true is not tolerated in Christ’s Church (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).  The Church follows in the path that her Lord has already given, that of His Holy Word.  This the world does not like or appreciate, but this is the path that leads to life because it directs Christ.

 Though the world see intolerance for just any kind of teaching as a bad thing and would have it so that anything goes, this is not so with the Lord.  This is because the Lord desires salvation, not acceptance by the world.  There is no other way to heaven but through Christ.  Muhammad, Buddha, the Pope, and even Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, let alone any other, including ourselves, do nothing for anyone with reference to status before God.  Any who follow another besides Christ on the way to God the Father are in fact on the way to perdition.  All roads do not lead to heaven.  It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere on is.

 This is so because only Christ saves.  As man, Jesus died the death of sinners, though He Himself knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).  As God, Jesus’ death covered the sins of all people.  Only through Him does one go to the Father.  Man cannot save Himself from God’s wrath.  Nor can any other do anything for us to turn His anger away.

 All religions that are false will teach another way to heaven than through Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising on the third day.  Others will even include Christ’s work, but add also their own.  This is not Christian.  Neither is it acceptable.  There is only one true religion, and it has Christ as beginning, middle, and end, giving Himself for us, sinners as we are, that we be saved, remain in His Word, and receive the crown of  life when we pass from this life to the next (John 8:31-32).

 This is why we are so insistent on distinguishing between man’s word and God’s Word.  Said another way, man’s doctrine and God’s doctrine.  This is the difference between heaven and hell.  Though many in Christendom believe Christ to be their savior, and for this we are thankful, their doctrine is not completely in agreement with Scripture.  Whether this be church or individual, this is something of which to take heed and for which to be careful, for it is written, A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9).  And as said in another place, Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them (1 Timothy 4:16).

 It is possible for even Christians to be misled and deceived.  Following man’s thoughts and ways concerning Godly things is dangerous business.  To Christ, then, we hold fast, to Him and to His Word.  His Word is truth, truth that leads to life.  Our word does not.  We distinguish between ours and His because He does.  And because He does, we do.

 When it comes to Christ and His Word, the very truth itself, we dare not budge.  Nor do we give an inch.  Christ alone is our Savior, and the only One for the world.  Compromising the Word of truth because of personal struggles or for the acceptance of others is something that we cannot do.  God does not lead this way.  He leads through the narrow gate and the difficult way, to eternal life (Matthew 7:13-14).

 There are few who remain on this way of our Lord to life because it is not easy.  It is the way of faith, not of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  It means fighting the good fight of faith, daily bearing one’s burdens, denying oneself, and following Christ (1 Timothy 6:12; Galatians 6:5; Luke 9:23). It means, contrary to hope, in hope believing, believing the promises of the living God though everything, including our sinful hearts, and the world, speak against them (Romans 4:18).

 Our faith is not founded, however, on sinking sand.  Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, our foundation is unshakeable (Colossians 2:20).  The rain will descend.  The floods will come.  The winds will blow and beat against us.  But our foundation will remain because our foundation is Christ.  (Matthew 7:24-26). It is as the hymn says, ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.’  God will not leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  He helps us and gives to us the strength to remain in Him by means of His Word and through His blessed body and blood.

 Christ Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  This we know because this He has revealed in His Word.  There is no other way, no other truth, and no other life than He who journeyed to the cross, put to death our sin, and was raised to life on the third day.  The world would like to think that there is another way to God, but such is not the case.

The Christian faith is the only true faith.  Only Christ is the way that leads to life.  There is none other.  Though the world will pass away, The Word of the Lord will endure forever (1 peter 1:25).  And all who believe in God’s promises through Jesus Christ will receive the crown of life.  The Lord grant us this faith and keep us in this faith, through Jesus, God’s Son, Amen.

Jn14.1-14, Easter 5, 2011A, Notes

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