How can you be sure?

Baptism…that’s how. 

Check out the great post concerning baptism and the assurance that God wants you to have in yours, over at http://fivepintlutheran.blogspot.com/

Who does the baptising?

If we do it, then how can we trust in it?

If God does it, then can’t it be fully trusted?

Does anything really happen in baptism, anyway?

Do you feel like you are a Christian and strong in the faith one day…and then the next day or week, you have almost forgotten about Jesus and wonder just how much of a Christian you really are?

Baptism is a topic that often flies under the radar, so we like to bring it out in the open every once in awhile.

Thanks to David over at ‘Five Pint Lutheran’ for bringing it to the fore yet once again.

Take a leap of faith…

What is stopping you?

You have felt that warm tug on your heart-strings and you know that someo Flying Leapne is calling you. The Lord Jesus is saying to you the exact same thing He said to Abraham and Sarah, to Moses, to David, to Paul.

  He is telling you that right now you are on a path that is leading you to the graveyard and that very soon you will succumb to the forces that rule this world. You will die. All of your plans, all of your work, all of your hopes and dreams in this world, and you yourself, will be lowered down to the bottom of a grave.

Yes, He is telling you that. But He is telling you something far more important. He is telling you that He loves you and forgives you all your sins. He is telling you that He is right there with you as you suffer in this life on the way to the grave. He is telling you that He suffered and died…FOR YOU…and that He will embrace your lifeless body, lift it up to Himself and breathe into it new life. He will breathe into it eternal life, undefiled life, a life unto Himself where there will be no more suffering or death. He gives to you a life of unimaginable joy and perfect peace in service to the One who IS LIFE and who creates all things.

The Lord Jesus loves you so much that He gives you a peek at your future ahead of time. He gathers you together with others whom He has called. He gathers you that you might be comforted in the love of His family. He gathers you so that you might hear Him speak to you in His Word of promise from the mouth of a preacher, and the words of His holy scriptures. He gathers you that you would partake of Him and become one with Him in baptism and holy communion. 

The Lord Jesus has taken a flying leap across a span so immense, a chasm so wide, from His righteousness to our sinfulness, that we cannot comprehend it. But yet He has done this for us solely out of His great love and mercy for sinners.

So why don’t you take a flying leap?  Well,  Jesus Christ has taken the leap for you and there is actually nothing that you have to add to that…nothing at all. But He would love for you to speak to those who have not yet heard of His great love. He would love for you to gather in worship to Him and to comfort and support others in His family. He would love for you to be there on Sunday (or whenever) so that when others come to hear, that the doors will be open and they won’t be there all alone.

 Why don’t you take the leap? What is it that is keeping you on your own?

De-scription…not Pre-scription

I recently received a sermon by a Lutheran pastor from someone that was trying to turn ’round my way of thinking about the law and it’s realtionship to me.

It was a very good sermon. It highlighted the problem (my sin) and handed ov er Christ to me, the complete forgiveness of my sins and total justification before God.

So far, so good.

Then the preacher made crystal clear that now that Christ has done this for you that you just can’t live anyway you want. You ought present yourself as a living sacrifice, sins and all. That’s great. That is a description of the life of the believer.

This happens as a result of the Spirit of God working in the life of that believer.

This will not happen as a result of anyone telling you that you must do it, or how you can do it, or even that you should do it. The Holy Spirit will sanctify the chosen and called one. “He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies me as He does the whole Christian Church on earth.” Was there anything there about what you have to do?

‘Well…but you just can’t live anyway you want!’ says the well meaning (we hope) law wielder. And to that I say, “Well, you seem to be doing a very fine job at living anyway that you want to. In fact from the looks of it, following you around for a couple of days, it appears that you might not even be a believer at all. How ’bout them apples?!”

For the preacher to let you know that you are free to live out your Christian lives in service for the neighbor is fine (as if the Holy Spirit needs to be reminded of it), but for the preacher to tell you that your effort is required to make sure that all this happens is semi-Pelagian baloney.

I do know this, you can mess up a great Christ filled sermon and take Christ away from the sinner, and have the sinner start to fall back on his own performance if you go to this (wrongheaded) synergistic aspect of the life of the Christian.

The law always accuses. Anything that we should, ought or must be doing is the law.The law says’do’.  The law is the method by which God accuses, then kills us.  The gospel on the other hand is God’s Word of forgiveness. It says ‘done’. The gospel is the force of God that brings us life and creates in us a clean heart, totally apart from what we do.

The Roman Catholic way of thinking is that if you do good things you will eventually become ‘good’. That’s wrong, and one of the reasons that I am not a Roman Catholic.

The Southern Baptists believe that there is a little spark of ‘good’ inside of you and that you can choose to do good and obey God. That’s wrong, and that’s one of the reasons that I am not a Southern Baptist.

Those that feel there is somehow a little spark within us that we might cooperate with God (even a little bit) towards our sanctification are just plain wrong and all they would have to do is look in the mirror to see it.

But it has always been that men love to tell other men what they need to do in order to be acceptable, all the while living anyway they darn well please (themselves).

The law is written upon our hearts…is it not?

There is no excuse for not living the way God wants us to. There is no excuse for ignoring the plight of our neighbors (except to pay lip service to them). There is no excuse for being a hypocritical Pharisee…other than we just want to. We enjoy being bound to sin. At heart, we are basically unbelievers who do not want God.

But Jesus Christ enjoys forgiving us and creating repentance in us. 

What in the world could we possibly add to that? (before you answer, let me don my protective ‘yeah-but’ suit) 

2nd class Sin-i-tizens

If you are going to be one… be a real one. If you are going to be one…be a strong one.

Don’t let anyone rob you of what you have rightly earned on your own.  Be a 1st C lass Sin-i-tizen!

When preachers preach to you a set of watered down laws or principles for living, they are robbing from you what is rightly yours…a death resulting in the realization that you are a full blown sinner with no hope of ever cleaning up your act towards righteousness.

When a preacher holds out for you some examples of people who have cleaned up their act, who are not engaging in particular sins, and who are now doing all the things that God expects of them (though imperfectlty), he is setting you up for not falling.

“What are you talkin’ about Martin!?” “Preachers are supposed to help you straighten out your life and get back on track!”

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong…wrong!

Preachers aren’t responsible for you making a success out of your life. That’s your job (if you want it). A preacher might be able to give you some helpful tips or good advice in a particular area or point you in the right direction (not in a sermon), but that is not job #1 of the preacher.  Job #1 of the preacher is to preach the full council of God that God’s Word might slay you and raise you again.

When the preacher doesn’t take sin all that seriously and believes that it is something that we can get a handle on if we try hard enough, or pray hard enough, or read our Bible hard enough…then he (or she) will be trying to reduce you to a 2nd Class Sin-i-tizen.

This will keep that old Adam or old Eve alive and kicking and will lower your status from a 1st Class Sinner to that of someone who really isn’t doing all that bad….at least compared to Joe and Mary Schlumpmeister… whose lives are REAL trainwrecks!

This is what Luther’s infamous letter (Sin Boldly) to Melancthon was all about. Luther said, in essence, quit worrying about guarding yourself from sin, Philipp, and live! Be a real sinner…because you have a real Savior! 

Luther wasn’t advocating that anyone go out and commit sins, he was saying that you already do, and that by staring at your navel and focusing on your performance, you don’t make yourself better…but worse, for you are no longer free to serve your neighbor in love but instead are consumed with the self.

So do the best you can in life, work hard at your vocation, listen to God’s Word and partake of His sacraments, and know that there is no hope in what you do or don’t do for righteousness sake… because you are a 1st Class Sin-i-tizen. 

But also know, that you are exactly the kind of person that He came for. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”               

 

The 10 Commandments Do Not Apply to Christians!

* Addendum: Towards the bottom of the post I write… “This is why focusing on Christ and staying away from language that would place the onus back onto ourselves is so important. One drop of poison (the law) in a glass of pure fresh water will taint the whole glass. Jesus Christ and His forgiveness is enough. It is enough.  He always has been and He always will be.” 

By this I do not mean that the law should not be preached ‘at all’ , but rather that it should not be preached after the gospel has been proclaimed to add something to the gospel, or to enhance the gospel, or to make us better Christians.

Since we constantly stray, we constantly need to be brought back inside the gate. This is done with the law (to kill us off…again) and the gospel (to raise us…again).

 

They apply to God’s creatures…not His children.

Now hold on a minute.  Don’t break out the tar and feathers just yet.

The 10 Commandments are God’s law. “Christ is the end of the law that every one who has faith may be justified.” (Romans 10:4)  God’s law was intended as a corale for us, that He might rein in evil for us and enable us to live together reasonably well. And also as an instrument of death, that it crush us and kill us who would establish a righteousness based on our own performance, instead of His perfect righteousness.

When a creature of God becomes a child of God through the gift of faith, he is no longer under the dominion of the law (that which we do), but rather he is now under the dominion of Jesus Christ. The new man or woman is now a slave of Christ. The Holy Spirit acts in and through the new person according to His will. This will not be obvious to any of us, neither the Christian, nor the observer. This new life is lived by faith, not by sight. ‘Sight’ is under the realm evidence, or our action…faith is in the realm of trust…in the Lord. We don’t need to do, say, or feel anything at all…to trust that we are saved. This is the faith that is given to us in our baptisms, in the sacrament of the altar, in the preaching of the gospel. This faith is not given to us in the law.

St. Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians that the 10 Commandments (on tablets of stone) is the ministry of death for all those that would use it towards their righteousness. He is speaking to us, not just to the Jews of his time.  Law is law, is law, is law. Anything that we should, ought, or must be doing to fullfill the demand that our existence places upon us…is law.  God will have none of it towards righteousness.

If all that is true, then what do we do? Nothing. God has already given to us the righteousness that we need (His righteousness). He frees us from the condemnation of the law and gives us a new life in Himself. Does He then give us permission to trash His law? By no means! The law is still there, in effect until the new creation is ushered in by Christ Himself.

Confusing? It can be.  There is a dual nature of the Christian. There is the new man or woman and then there is the old Adam or Eve. Inasmuch as we still inhabit this sinful world and our sinful bodies, we are subject to the demands of God’s law. There is no escaping it, and it will have it’s way with us unto the grave. While we are subject to it, it brings no authentic life, only temporary fixes, and then death. The realm of the old Adam revolves around the self justification project.

If we want life, real authentic life, that is governed not by a task master (the law), but rather by completeness, wholeness, purity and love…then we must look only to the gospel. This is where our focus ought be. The prescribtions of law meant to make us better Christians, can only make us worse for they shift the light away from Jesus and place it upon ourselves.

This is why focusing on Christ and staying away from language that would place the onus back onto ourselves is so important. One drop of poison (the law) in a glass of pure fresh water will taint the whole glass.

Jesus Christ and His forgiveness is enough. It is enough.  He always has been and He always will be.

OK…now roll out the boiling vat of tar. Easy on the feathers…I’m ticklish!

Some background on the Formula of Concord

This is a snippet of a class on the Formula of Concord taught by  Rev. Steven D. Paulson, professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota.

I thought it might be useful to realize that Lutherans at the time of the Reformation (just as today) did not agree on every point of theology.

It is edited quite a bit. Anyone interested in listening to the entire class can let me know and I’ll send it to them (e-mail).

   click here for snippet  –>    background on the Formula of Concord

Is Christ really Enough?

YES!  (you’d better hope so)

Looking Good…on Wood.

Do you look good on wood?

If you’re going to have anything to do with Jesus the Christ, you will find out.

Every single person in this world is going to go to the cross…either in this life, or the next.

For followers of Jesus it is the same story.  Jesus told us that we also will have to take up our cross. He told us that we will have trouble in the world. He told us that we will be hated on account of Him.

The life in Christ is a paradox. When Paul wrote of his beatings and jailings and mockings for the sake of Christ, he called them blessings.

Some Christians have things much worse (or better?) than others. Some Christian’s lives are literally at stake each and every day in countries where Christians are viewed as a disease to be wiped out.

The day is evil. Our own flesh is evil. The devil is evil…and is after us.

There is a spiritual battle raging. The world, the flesh, and the devil are at odds with our Lord Jesus and wish to steal us from Him.

But Jesus is the conqueror. He has won the war for us. “It is finished.”

But until the New Creation is brought into being by our Lord, we will “have to suffer for a little while.”

As followers of Christ, we will go to the cross in this life…but not in the next.

We live in our baptisms. We experience many deaths, and many resurrections as we are carried along in this life by our baptisms. Dying…and rising. Repentance and forgiveness. Over and over, and over again…until we are laid down for the last time and put into the ground.

But that is not the last word. Our Lord has the last word and indeed is the last Word! He is the First and the Last. The Alpha and Omega. All things are subject to Him, and He has defeated the last enemy, death, on the cross and in His resurrection.

So while we suffer in this life, to varrying degrees, we have the assurance that when we are raised with Him on that last Day…there will be no more suffering, no more tears. We will spend an eternity in peace and joy and unimaginable bliss in our Father’s House. 

 He is our sure Hope.

Motivations

Where do we go with this one?

Well, we can go a lot of places, but this time I want to try and unde rstand my own personal motivations in having this blog and what motivates me to post what I post.

First off I like to tell you what I think does not motivate me.

I have no desire to prop up the denomination, or the church body to which the congregation that I belong is affiliated.

The ELCA is a denomination that has fallen upon hard times. It has done so willfully out of a sense of it’s own importance. It has replaced God’s Word with man’s words and deeds. It has decided to ignore God’s law and institute a policy of radical inclusiveness, where sin is not only condoned, but flaunted. In it’s quest to be liked by all, it has forgotten it’s first Love and has fallen hard for the fleeting glances of a world which cares nothing for them, or for their God.

The ELCA is not concerned with lifting high the cross of Christ, but lifting high the head of man. It is a feel good program whereby one can justify his own willful disobedience by merely throwing trinkets at the poor, or helping sinners feel comfortable with themselves.

In much of ELCA preaching, Christ rarely shows up as a just and righteous God, but rather a teacher of good deeds or example of a great life lived…that we might emulate Him.

Since the ELCA has pretty much abandoned God’s Word of law, it has pretty much turned itself into a law of it’s own making. A do-gooder organization that helps a lot of people with their secondary needs, but leaves them starving for what they really need…God’s unmitigated law to kill them off, and then God’s unmitigated promise of forgiveness to raise them again. 

Thanks be to God that they haven’t thrown out the liturgy and the sacraments yet. Christ is still there in those things.

I pray for a change of heart over at the ELCA whereby (by the grace of God) they might return to their first Love, and return to the mission of preaching the cross of Christ to sinners.  God may work a reformation at the ELCA. The libertine, 60′s mindset leadership will not live forever, and God may breathe fresh life into that organization, or He might just let them go on ‘playing church’ until He decides to turn out the lights.

That said, I realize that there are many good and faithful congregations and pastors within the ELCA that are more ‘centered’ (Christ centered).

I am not motivated by a desire to hold up any person, or written document, or scripture verse, or denomination (including the LCMS, WELS, or any others) whereby the efforts of man are put forth in a manner that leads one to believe that he can actually contribute, even in the slightest, to the goodness and righteousness that only God alone in Jesus Christ can provide. I believe preaching cooperation with God towards our sanctification is pouring gasoline on a fire. (We have discussed this recently a few posts ago…I already know your disagreements)

That said, I realize that there are many good and faithful congregations and pastors that are more ‘centered’ (Christ centered), within those denominations also.

 So I am not motivated by a desire to defend those that stand on scripture, but rather those that stand beneath it.

I am motivated (when I’m at my best) by a desire to preach Christ and Him crucified, to a world that needs Him… and Him alone.

I am motivated by a desire to take our efforts and place them in the proper arena, that of the neighbor and his needs.

I am motivated by a desire to kill.  To kill off the Old Adam or Eve that lives within us all, that Christ might raise the new man or woman.

I am motivated by a desire to have others know of the great freedom in Christ that has been bestowed upon me in my baptism. A baptism that did, and still does, exactly what it promised to do…kill me and raise me…forgive my sins and give me Christ.

I am motivated to let others know that Christ’s promises are true. When He says “my yoke is easy”…He means ‘easy’ for us…costly for Him. I believe an easy yoke is not a list of things that we ought be doing.

I am motivated by a desire to say to one and all, that Christ has done it all. There is not one thing left to do. Not one. “It is finished.”  I think He meant that quite literally. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completetion.”

I know my motivations are tainted by sin. I also know that where Christ and His forgiveness of sins is proclaimed, He promises to show up, regardless of my motivations, and the mistakes I might make.

I pray that He will continue to show up, and to keep us in His faith.

    – Steve Martin

Hey! Let me into this Fight!

Get out of my way!  Make some room for me in this rhubarb!

You can’t have a battle of sin, death, and the devil and leave me out of it! I’ve got to get a couple of shots in!

Oh yeah, I’ve heard Luther’s great hymn ‘A Might Fortress is our God’, but sometimes ‘I am the right man on our side.’ Sometimes I do contain within me that spark of righteousness that can make me a better man! Oh I’m not saying that I do it alone. I’m saying that the Holy Spirit, or the law… helps me. Sound familiar?

“If in our own strength confide our striving would be losing, I’m not the right man on our side ‘the law’ of God’s own choosing.”

Did I mess up again? You mean those aren’t Luther’s Words? But Luther said this, and Luther said that, and Luther, Luther, Luther.

I love Luther. Period. Do I believe he was right when we said that we should run the Jews out of town and burn down their synagogues? Do we take to heart every utterance from the mighty Luther’s lips?

Luther was a sinful man, just as we are sinful men and women. The Lord used Luther in a mighty way to uphold the cross of Christ and his sufficiency…ALONE!

Anywhere and any place that the sufficiency of Christ is challenged by either the free will of man, the power of other gods, the helping hand of the law, or any other counterfit method to attain righteousness, we ought to be engaged in lifting high the cross of Christ. Higher and higher. We must increase, He must decrease…right?  Wrong!!!  I was just seeing if you were awake…or if you were a Pelagian sympathizer.

He must increase, I must decrease.”   He has done, is doing, and will yet do everything…for you!

Now isn’t that a relief? No! You mean you really do want back into this fray?

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