The Old Adam’s/Eve’s Bill of Rights

1.  We have the right to eschew church in any form, at any time.

2. We have the right to define church any way we choose.

3. We have the right to cultivate our own brand of “spirituality”.

 

4. We have the right to keep ourselves the focus in every aspect of worship.

5. We have the right to ignore God’s comandments.

6. We have the right to ignore God.

7. We have the right to expect that everyone, whether inside  or outside the church, cater to our every desire.

8. We have the right to throw out anything that even remotely smacks of Catholicism.

9. We have the right to live forever.

10. We have the right to become our own gods.

 

Do you have any ‘rights’ for the Old Adam or Old Eve that I forgot to add?

How can God possibly use an imperfect text?

If God uses His imperfect people (earthen vessels) to get his saving message of grace through faith in Jesus across to those that need it, and if God uses water (in baptism) that is less than perfectly pure, and if God uses the man-made elements of bread and wine to give His forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to those at the communion rail, and if God lowered Himself to the form of a mere mortal to accomplish His saving work for mankind, then how is it that the book that He has decided to use to tell the people what He expects of them and of His great love and forgiveness for them, how is it that such a book must be free of imperfections and the devices of man?

How is it that the Bible needs to be in a different category than the other ‘apparently less than divine’ tools which God uses to accomplish His purposes?

Baptism…which ‘prism’ are you using?

We believe that this is pleasing to our Lord

Depending on which prism you use, you will end up with radically different, and totally opposite understandings of baptism and what it actually is.

With the ‘law prism’, you will see baptism as an act that we do. An act of symbolism, a re-creation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, a drama in which we are the main player. In ‘symbolic baptism’, or ‘believer’s baptism’ as it is often called, the faith of the believer is the critical issue. Faith in Christ must be present before the baptism can take place. This is the type of baptism that John the Baptist was doing, in which the people being baptised focused on their belief and their repentance of sins.

With the ‘prism of grace’, our understanding of baptism is one where God is the actor. God is doing the baptism, working repentance in us, actually giving us the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:28).  The grace of God comes first (as it does in everything else in the Christian faith), before our faith has a say in the matter.

“Our faith is the key”, many say, and they are right. But what they fail to understand is that God has to give us that faith (it is a gift of the Holy Spirit). Faith is not something that we do, or muster up on our own. Faith is not mere intellectual ascent, or believing in something, but rather trust in someone. Trusting in the living God, our Lord Jesus is not something that we will to do.   ” who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13) 

God has to get His faith to us somehow. Did you notice I said, “His faith“?  That’s right, the faith that we have belongs to Him.  God has decided to give us this faith in specific ways…in Word and sacrament. Preaching, teaching, Bible reading, and Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, and sharing Christ with one another. This is how the saving faith of Christ comes to us.

‘Extra Nos’…from outside of ourselves. God acts for us. He baptises us. When we place ourselves and our faith back in the center we start off on the wrong foot.  The whole enterprise now revolves around us, and what we do, what we say, what we think, what we feel.  Now the religious project gets rolling, and the phoniness and the pride, and lack of assurance, and all that goes with it.

God does not honor what we do. Abraham decided not to wait on God’s promise but rather to take matters into his own hands and got his slave woman pregnant. God sent that child out into the desert.  God does not honor our decisions when it comes to faith in Himself, but rather His own decisions and His own action for our sakes. 

Luther said (to the Anabaptists), “For a thousand years God has honored the baptisms of infants and created good and faithful Christians in His Church, and now you come along and say that baptism doesn’t work that way?” (paraphrased)

Some say that the baptism refered to in Romans 6 does not mean water baptism, but rather a baptism of the Spirit. They are failing to recognize that almost every single mention of baptism in the new testament is about water baptism. The baptism mentioned in Romans 6 is no different, it is talking about baptism…water baptism. That is what baptism means…being cleansed or purified by water.

  Another point that the modern day Anabaptists insist upon is that baptism must be through immersion only, otherwise it is not a valid baptism. The symbolism of total immersion is great symbolism and the Bible speaks of baptisms in that manner. If water were the only element, or even the key element in baptism, then I could agree that total immersion be a requirement for a valid baptism. But since water is just one component of baptism and not the most important one, but rather God’s Word, tied to that water, then I feel that any method of water baptism with the Word of promise in the name of the Triune God will suffice for God. After all, God is the One doing the baptising and He is more than capable of making Christians with 6 ounces of water, or 6, 000 gallons of water. (refer back to the Luther quote)  It does follow logically, however, that those that look through a ‘prism of law’, would insist on a legalistic interpretation to the question of how much water.

So, which camp do you fall in? The camp of those that believe their belief is the main thing in baptism? Or the camp that believes that God’s promises in baptism are enough, and that He is the One that is doing the actual baptising?

A Request of God’s Pastors

Pastors don’t have an easy job, if they take it seriously. They have many duties, but of highest importance is the stewardship of God’s Word with respect to their congregation.

I have great respect for pastors in the Lord’s Church, and I thank God for them.

I do have a request, though, of any pastor that is inclined to delve into a little politics from the pulpit…please don’t.

We are grown men and women who are fully able to decide political issues on our own. We don’t need a biblical spin on the main political issues of the day, unless you are going to site an issue as God’s law.

“Christians shouldn’t bomb this country or that country, but maybe this country or that country.” “Christians should look the other way with respect to this dictator, but not that dictator.” “Christians should snuggle up to this political party and not that one.”

 Bunk.  Pure, plain, and simple…bunk.

Go home and call up your pals and hold rallies for Party X and rent an ice cream truck with loud speakers and call loud and long to elect ‘Bob Smith’ for President. Have at it. But when you are in the pulpit, please leave ‘Bob Smith’, or whomever, in the ice cream truck.

The pulpit ought be reserved for the Word of God and the Word of God alone. The Bible says nothing about ‘Bob Smith’, and nothing about who we as a nation, should or should not fight in the defense of our citizens, and our way of life.

I am basically a ‘Theologian of Glory’

I know there is a lot (not enough) of talk about the “theology of the cross” vs. the “theology of glory”, and those of us who think we understand this ‘Christian faith’ thing have come down on the side of the cross…but that is not really who I am, and what I believe.

I basically am a theologian of glory. I am constantly thinking about myself and my ‘situation’.  I enjoy and am pleased with all the “progression” and “victories” in my life, while I bemoan the losses and the pain. I blast the Almighty for His unwillingness to fix all the problems in my life and the lives of my family members. Instead of thanking God for all of my pain and adversity, I am angry with Him.

Do I even want to try and understand the reasons, or believe that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are called for His purposes” ?   Not really. I am too busy with my own purposes to give any time to His purposes.

I am basically a “theologian of glory”. The only way I could ever be a “theologian of the cross”, is if He were to make me one. And thanks be to God, that He does make me one. He puts that “theologian of glory” to death everytime He gives Himself to me in the law, and the gospel. He makes me a “theologian of the cross” everytime He gives Himself to me in His supper. He makes me a “theologian of the cross” everytime I return to my baptism, which carries me through life the way a mother safely carries her baby in her loving arms.

I am a “theologian of glory”, who is basically content to stay that way. But that is not the way that my Lord would have it. He is not content that I stay that way. He has commanded me not to stay that way, and invited me to receive unto myself the “theology of the cross”… the pain, the suffering, the sorrow and lonliness of death…and then the joy of the resurrection and new life.

He knows full well that I basically do not want any part of His cross. Once again (as it has always  been and ever will be) our Lord has taken care of everything. “This is my body…this is my blood…do this,  and I will work my love and forgiveness in you. I will create in you a clean heart, against all your struggling and complaining.”(my paraphrasing)  That is how our Lord makes us into “theologians of the cross”…he takes us there, and then He dies for us, and then He enjoins us in that death for our own good.

‘Do’… or ‘Done’ ?

 If Christian faith says ‘done’, and if Christian religion says ‘do’, then which one would require a guide?

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But if you’re going to join the ‘done’ crowd (not much of a crowd, to look around at the American Christian landscape), you won’t need a guide. For done means… done. “It is finished” , actually means …it is finished.

“Oh, that’s just your justification.” Now you just cant’t live any way you want.”  I beg your pardon, I actually can live any way I want.

“Not as a Christian, you can’t!”

Sorry…wrong answer. You certainly can live any way you want as a Christian, and indeed you already do. (live anyway you want)

Each of us lives our lives exactly as he or she desires. We haven’t suddenly stopped our ‘sinful activity’ for a more righteous way of going about our daily lives.

You might have stopped (or cut down) cursing after you became a Christian, and that is a good thing, but you still commit a smorgasbord of sins in your daily walk with Christ.

“So what? What does that have to do with the price of eggs in Alaska, Mrs. Calabash?”

Just this… you want to walk and live in the Spirit of God? Then you don’t need a roadmap, the Spirit is the One who is driving. You want to take the wheel… then you’ll need a map, a compass, and a fuel gage. The Holy Spirit can crawl in the backseat and take a nap, while you focus on your endeavor.

If the Spirit of God cannot motivate you to live as God desires, then no guidebook will do the trick.

I’ve said this before, here on this blog and elsewhere, ‘you already know what to do’.

You know exactly what to do …you (and I) just flat out refuse to do it.

But the One who did do it…still does it!

He still works His love and forgiveness in us. He still still comes to us, does He not, in His Word and sacrament. He is not relegated to some act He did …way back there. He is not locked onto the pages of a book, with ink long ago dried.

Either the Word of God is living and active (as the book of Hebrews says)…or It is not.

If It is not, then you’d better get a hold of that guidebook for living, and you’d better get busy!

 

                              – Steve Martin

“Can we throw out the map, then? NO! There are clearly delineated thornbushes on the map that we ought stay out of. And we need to keep the map and refer to it often to realize that we are lost (because of  our unwillingness to trust the map maker), lest we delude ourselves that we are headed in the right direction.     

                          

Affirmation of the Self

“Purpose Driven”, “Jesus Shaped”, “The Ten Principles for more Godly Living” …or whatever self focused program or project you can think of, have as their outcomes, the affirmation of the self.

That’s a pretty bold statement. After all, these programs/projects/mindsets have helped millions of people both within the Church and outside of the Church, right?

Maybe.  Maybe not. There is no doubt that those on the receiving end of whatever “good work” was wrought from a “Jesus shaped” view of the faith have indeed benefited from this idea of what Christianity ought be. Who can argue with giving a homeless guy the shirt off your back? That is a wonderful thing for the guy that needs a shirt. But what about the giver?  Was it such a good thing as far as he was concerned? Maybe. Maybe not.

What’s the alternative, then? How will we ever get people to act in the manner that God requires of them?

Do you think letting the Spirit move someone who has been freed by Jesus’ death and resurrection is enough?

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