Romans 1:16

 

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“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the power of God unto salvation…”

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March 14, 2012    (from Pastor Mark’s blog http://www.lightofthemaster.com/apps/blog )

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 I don’t remember his first name anymore but his last name was Carlson or Larson or Hansen or Johnson or something like that.  OK, I don’t remember his last name either!  Anyway, this wiry old Norwegian came up to me after the Reformation Sunday service at First Lutheran Church, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, October 1977.  During the offering the organist and I had performed a rousing rendition of ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’, she on the pipe organ (somewhat nervously as I recall) and yours truly adding a withering obligato on the electric guitar ( a bright red 1966 Gibson 335) complete with distortion pedal and major rock n’ roll attitude.  Mr. Han-Carl-John-Lars-son was neither inspired or edified.  “I want to congratulate you, Pastor Anderson, he said dryly.  “You have managed to overshadow the Word of God this morning and drag Luther’s hymn into the gutter at the same time.”  Ouch!  At the time of course, I dismissed him out of hand.  Now I can only marvel at the miles of passivity that old Scandinavian had to cross in order to confront one of his pastors.  I also wish I could sit down with him – which I should have done then – and listen to him.  He was onto me.  He came from a Lutheranism where laity understood they had a responsibility to the Word of God just as much as the pastor.  He was exercising his stewardship of that Word but I was too full of myself to hear him.  I was too busy being ‘relevant’ instead of being his pastor.

 

What I finally did hear while sipping coffee with those old Norwegians – and a few misplaced Swedes – was that faith in Jesus Christ and His promises was the marrow in their lives.  And they had not come to this faith because some clergy person stuck his\her finger in the wind and then blathered on from the pulpit about the indelible wonderfulness of now.  The message that gripped them was the Gospel; the old, old story of Jesus and His love often expressed in their favorite hymns; Beautiful Savior, The Old Rugged Cross, Abide with Me, and yes, In the Garden.  During the years I was their pastor I had to bury some of these folks.  Often, in those last days before the end sitting by their bedsides I would sing these old hymns accompanied by a guitar and read passages from the Bible.  And that is when I learned something that had taken me too long to learn; if you can’t sing it or say it at someone’s deathbed it probably isn’t worth singing or saying  at all.

 

 

“May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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Photo from flickr and  côte d’ivoire
 
 
 
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How the Law Trumps the Gospel

What if this were the last day of your life?

 

Jesus Christ by LoveCats2006

What would you do?

 

 Jesus gives us the new commandment.

 

  There is law here (on steroids). There is gospel here.

    It kills, and it raises (by the grace of God).

 

Fasten your seatbelts.

          click here >    The-last-day-of-your-life

I know, this is a Maundy Thursday sermon. But I like it a lot and I listen to it throughout the year. And we’re not liturgical legalists here!

I’ll post it again on M. Thursday.

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Thanks to flickr and LoveCats2006 for the photo

 

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Giving recipes to the hungry?

Beat until light by Patrick Snook

 

Well, isn’t that what is happening in so many churches?

You’ve got someone who is starving to death (spiritually) and you lay out for them your favorite recipe on just how they can get what they need?

Then you add another ingredient to the recipe each week, so there’s no way this much needed, life giving meal will ever come out of the oven and be finished, and enjoyed. It becomes impossible to ever ‘arrive’. 

I’m here to say that that is a terrible way to “help” people.

 

Hand Him over!

 Give them the True Bread which comes down from Heaven, which is the meal that is completely finished for you and ready to “take and eat”.

‘How to’, ‘instructional Christianity’,  just throws gasoline on the fire. It keeps alive the Old Adam and Old Eve. It creates phonies and Pharisees. It drives people to despair. God is not interested in cleaning up the Old Adam and Old Eve in us. He wants to kill them off! He will create in their places, the New Man and New Woman, and He does this through the announcement of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. And He does this in His Holy Supper which He lovingly prepares for you with His Body and Blood that was nailed to a bloody cross in your place. And He does this when we speak of Him and the great things He has done for us, one to another. And when we comfort each other in His Name.

This is what people need. They don’t need a ‘program’ that puts them on the fast track, slowtrack, or any other track, to greater obedience or greater spirituality.

If the non-denoms, or the Baptists, or the Roman Catholics, or the Calvinists, or the Mormons even, would hand over this bread that comes down from Heaven for broken sinners, and not put any conditions on it, then I would say “AMEN! Thanks be to God! We are in agreement!” 

To the extent that they do not hand Him over without strings attached, I will always be critical… never judgemental. Their final destination is not my business. The Lord is after the heart and knows each heart individually. He is certainly capable of making someone His own apart from any particular denomination, or church, or institution.

But we want the light of the gospel and the freedom that Christ gives to burn ever more brightly…don’t we?

So we continually place Christ at the center of it all towards that end so that some will hear and be freed from the religious project and the propping up of the self.

Don’t hand them picked-over recipes, that feature ‘what they ought be doing’. 

Hand over the One true and everlasting food that is Jesus Christ Himself and His forgiveness of sins for sinners in need of new life. And keep handing Him over, again and again, and again…in the face of all those who object that that is just not enough.

He, and He alone…is enough.    He is enough.

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You got a problem wit dat?

 

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“For You”

This is key.                     

 

The gospel is not ‘because of you’, or ‘if you’, or ‘why don’t you?’, or ‘will you?’

The gospel is… FOR YOU!

It is a free gift of God’s grace and mercy. It is His desire to give to you that which you need… authentic life, the forgiveness of your sins, and salvation.

Not because of anything that you ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’.

It is absolutely free to all real sinners who are in need of the Lord Jesus.

It’s a promise from God, and it is FOR YOU!

You are loved! You are forgiven! There is a place for you in God’s house!

 

That’s the gospel.

 

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Do you have a ‘yeah but’? 

If so… you should get rid of it.

 

Do you look good on wood?

PIC00001.JPG by PeterVogelPhoto

Each and every person on this planet faces their own cross.

We will either go to it in this life, or the next.

When I see a cross, that is the first thing I am reminded of…that I will not escape it. The world will have it’s way with me unto the grave.

But that grave will not hold me. Death’s power, it’s sting, is no longer permanent thanks to that very same cross.

Romans 6:3 -11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?   4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.   5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.   7 For he who has died is freed from sin.   8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.   9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.   10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.   11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In my baptism, God has already put me to death…along with Christ Jesus.

But He has raised me from the dead, also…along with Christ Jesus.

This is His promise.

Maybe our promises aren’t always fulfilled, but God never breaks His promises.

That is something we can count on.

And if that is not enough for us, He reinforces that promise and works in us His good and gracious will, giving us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation each time we ingest His body and blood, and each time we hear His Word preached or taught. And that is apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

No, it’s not magic. 

It is the power of God through the gospel for all who have faith.  The very same faith that He gave us when we were dead in our sins and trespasses.

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Does this post give you trouble?  Do you feel uneasy with it?

Or do you feel relief?  Freedom?  The joy of a new life…yet given to you once again?

 

 

 

Off to be killed…

…and then raised again.Be More Human / Mehr Mensch Sein by an untrained eye

Not going to receive any special instructions. Not going to find out any secrets for spiritual living.

Not going to get prodded with the stick of how I should be feeding the poor and helping the sick, and visiting the lonely…(all of which I should be doing).

I am going to receive the Word of God. I am going to (by the grace of God) receive from Him His law, in order to kill me off yet once again to my little ‘No  thank you God I can do it myself ‘ project. And then recieve from Him His promise of life, the forgiveness of my sins, my salvation…in the gospel, and in the body and blood of our Dear Lord who has poured out Himself for me (us)…which is pure gospel (no law).

This is a picture of baptism, by the way.

Death and Resurrection.  Repentance and Forgiveness.  Dying and Rising.

 

Isn’t that enough?

 

‘Yeah but’, Luther… just hold on a minute!

Luther said to Erasmus in his response, Bondage of the Will, concerning the fear of some form of societal and individual moral rMartin Luther by kimberlyfaye.eform, “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

 

Some interesting highlights in history seem to show that this is the greatest temptation of the church as a whole and Christians individually in changing the message of the Gospel to another gospel.  This temptation is greater even than a sword to the neck.

 

As opposed to the theology of the Cross, all theologies of glory wet the finger and stick it in the air of time and space to measure for a doctrines ability to bring about change (for the good, a good fruit or works producer so to speak).  This comes in many forms for example, “numbers and church growth, moral improvements both individual and societal, etc…”.  Even Melancthon fell for this in the end and almost overthrew what Luther left after his death.  History seems to repeat this.  Example, a 50,000  foot survey of the Thirty Year War from 1618-1648 seems to indicate that what brought about pietism in the Lutheran bodies themselves was the view that “if this is what the doctrine of Luther brings about, forensic justification unconditionally, something is wrong with the message and Spener is the rest of the story.  Can such an assessment be called Christian at all, when it is a rather pagan “finger wetting in the air”.  It seems that under the stress of great persecution, the worries of this world, this faith dwindled and died in this moment in this specific situation.  Yet, both Luther and Calvin in as much as they agreed on the pure forensic nature of the Gospel basically said, ‘let all hell break loose and the world go up into one conflagration, we cannot ever allow the Word of God to be changed on this.’

 

Repeatedly this seems to be the greatest of temptation for both the church as a whole and Christians in general.  If some visible peace or change is not measurable, but in fact the opposite appears everywhere, then the Gospel cannot be the gospel, goes the thinking of the theology of glory, and something needs be added to the message to ‘get it right’ and produce the desired change.  Yet, in fact shortly after Pentecost when the Gospel was highest all hell broke out in the Roman Empire.  Not to forget to mention before Pentecost that all hell broke out pretty much every where and every time Jesus opened His mouth, culminating at the Cross itself (the heartbeat of the Gospel).  The Roman Emperors, by the way, blamed the Christians, which is to say the 200 proof Gospel for the fall of society in their time.  Again, Stephen, when preaching a 200 proof totally unconditional Gospel, and what arose around him?  Peace and love?  Hardly, stones to the head as the fruit police and inspectors and good works merit- mongers gnashed their teeth at him.  Not all that different than the Lutheran pietist, Anabaptist and other enthusiasts of the time of the 30 Year War, and not all that different from the message changing – fruit inspectors of our day and age.  After all if the forensic unconditional message isn’t producing the desired affect surely we must change its forensic/unconditional explosion, should we not, goes the rational Aristotelian thinking.  This was the great temptation of the Puritans, Wesley, Conservative and Liberal Christians alike today.

 

Luther’s response to Erasmus is proved all the more and comes back to haunt us: “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

 

If the Gospel doesn’t work in any given time or place, either corporately to a society, to a church or group of churches or individually does that give license to change its unconditional message?  Does this ever give us right to so, “Free grace yes, but…”.  The ‘but’ is always the “tuck tail and run” sign of the fear of the persecution against the Gospel proclamation.  I’ve felt and tucked my tail and ran more times than I care to remember. 

 

Here is the GREAT temptation of the “seed sewn amongst the weeds and the cares of this world” that falls away. Here we are greatly tempted to tuck our tails and run for it is always easy to get a good, “Amen”, in affirming the “yea but…”.  Indeed if no man comes to faith by the 200 proof Gospel as far as we can tell our entire lives does that give us license to say, “hath God really said”, by altering the message?  Is not a pastor called to preach the Gospel even if everybody walks out of the church forever?

 

We like to say, “bear your/our cross”, when we mean fruit and law, which is no cross at all but self appointed good works and fruits that are actually quite easy to perform in our own strength.  However, we really don’t like that Cross very much when we have a cross laid upon us by the Word that is a Gospel Cross linked to Calvary itself?  We are like the first thief all too often, “Jesus if you are the Son of God, get us down off of these crosses”.  Or likewise, “Jesus if you are really God and have power get me to producing some fruit so I can get down off of this cross and not be so nakedly dependant upon you.”

 

Does such EVER allow us to change the Gospel’s utter unconditional forensic message the least bit in order to ‘firm up the fruit production’?  I ask a question that expects, obviously a resounding “no” answer.  Is it not the greatest sin of all to call God a liar and use men who are liars to prove the point?  

 

Larry Hughes

Maybe it’s something in the water…?

I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is it must be acting up again.

The ‘doers’ are out… again(as if they’ve ever left…ha!)… coming on strong.

“Well, it says right here in 2nd Macedonians 12, that Jesus tells us that we are to keep His commandments if we really love Him.”

OK……….then maybe that ought to be your first clue.

Maybe you don’t really love Him? Maybe you’ve got better things to ‘do’? Maybe all of your ‘doing’ is out of guilt, or fear, or legalism, or some other self- centered motive and really has nothing to do with loving your Lord and Savior, or your neighbor?

Maybe you are not really all that concerned (ultimately) with your own ‘doing’, but rather are fixated on the ‘doings’ of others?  You want to see them ‘do the right thing’ so that they can be a “real Christian”, after all.

Maybe you have no idea what the law demands from you? (perfect obedience-at all times) Not your best effort. That won’t cut it. The law demands  perfection in your ‘doings’.

Maybe you think that this whole ‘God project’ that you are on, really is about you? There is no free lunch after all.

Maybe you have never really heard the gospel? I mean ‘really heard’  it?

If any or some of those maybe’s applies to you…then maybe you’d better get busy? You seem to be falling a little behind in the ‘doing’ department. There are prisoners to visit in jails, old folks that need visiting in nursing homes, homeless to feed, poor that could use a little more of your cash, and enemies to invite over to dinner…etc., etc., etc.  All things Jesus said we ought be doing. I am certain that no believer worth his or her salt would ever spend too much time watching television, or engaging in other less than “Christian activity” while there is the work of the Kingdom to be done.

You wouldn’t want Jesus to think that maybe you really don’t love Him…would you?

In the odd chance that this little ‘law bomb’  hit the inteded target and went off right between your eyes (and hopefully killed you…dead)…there is some good news.

All of your sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake. He died for slackers just like you…and me.

There is nothing left for you to ‘do’. It has all been accomplished…for you…that you might live again with Him, in total righteousness, forever and ever.

He knows who and what you really are. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans, somewhere)

“It is finished” He (our Lord) said that too, you know. (while He was dying for your ‘doing’)

So, as my pastor likes to say, “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?”

That’s the gospel.

No Next Level Attained

Well, yesterday has come and gone. My wife and I went to worship the Lord Jesus and receive from Him (as my Pastor likes to say) “what the world could never buy…forgiveness of sins, life,  and salvation.”

We sang hymns, we confessed our sins, we received absolution, partook of the Lord’s Supper,  confessed our faith publicly in the Apostle’s Creed and recited the Lord’s Prayer together. We prayed for the world and the Church. The sermon laid us bare for putting faith in anything less than the Living God, such as political parties (or the princes of this world), and clothed us again in the White Robe of Jesus with His death and forgiveness of our foolishness. We learned, once again, that we ought render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we learned that God has His hand in all of it…including what Caesar does. We learned (once again) that the Triune God is actively and intimately involved in not only the goings on of this world, but in every moment of every day in our own lives.

No next levels of spirituality were attained (at least that I know of). No secrets to more Godly living were revealed. No “breakthroughs” were sited. Just the unmitigated love of Jesus Christ in His Word and sacrament for sinners…that’s all. That’s enough.

Thanks be to God that He is enough.

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