Who’s the King?

I am.

Not only am I the king, I am a god of my own making. I take what the Lord has ordained and I twist it to suit my own perceived needs and desires. I am the king… and I am not having it that there is another to whom I am subject. I must increase…He must decrease. Huh?

That’s right… I usually do not even think about living any other way…it  just comes naturally. That I might protect myself from having to live outward, from having to expose my true nature, from having to die…I prop myself up and find solice in the edifices of my own creation.

Enter the Word of God.

The Word of God comes to me, from outside of myself and helps me become the man that I really ought be.

Are you kidding me? That is the last thing that the Word wants to do with me!

The Word of God wants to kill me!

It wants to expose the imposter (the fake King) and restore to the throne the real King. The Word of God comes to me, from outside of myself, and puts the Old Adam to death. It comes to me as God’s perfect demand of His just and righteous Law and accuses me, indicts me, tries me, convicts me, sentences me, and puts me to death.

Who has the right to do these things to me? The King does. The One who has given the Law. The One who is perfect and just. He has every right to enforce His Law and carry out the punishment for breaking it.

But the King is a Good King. He is a merciful King. He pardons those that belong to Himself. He forgives and raises to new life His adopted children. But He still hates Law breaking. He still hates sin. He cannot abide sin. He must put it to death. He uses His sword and cuts it off at the knees. One swipe. One fell swoop. The deed is done. Death has silencend the false king. And then something happens that should be unexpected were it not for the cross and His prayer to forgive us. The King’s sword heals. It brings new life. It creates new life. A life of His own making from the other edge of His just and righteous and merciful sword.

Why? Why does the King kill, and then make alive? Because He wants to! He is gracious and merciful and compassionate to sinners! He wants to forgive and create anew!

The Lord Jesus is the King. He is THE KING. There is no other. All others are imposters and have to be put to death. There is no other way. But the King wants you. He died on a bloody cross for you. He has adopted you in your baptism. He has promised you new life and He works that new life in you even today in ways large and small that you cannot see, and also in ways that you can see…in the sacraments.

In His great love and mercy, He acts for you. He isn’t content to leave you hanging on a belief or a feeling, or any other thing that you conjure up in your own mind. He gives of Himself, to you, in the hearing of His Word, out of the mouths of preachers, in the Word of Holy Scripture (the Bible), in the water of Holy Baptism and in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

Christ Jesus is King.  He always was and always will be King. One day we will gladly serve our King and be in His presence for all eternity. What a great and glorious Day that will be!

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‘Christian Buddhism’

A new religion?  Hardly.

The same old song with a different tune? Nope, not that either.  It’s just the same old  song…period.

Striving to achieve a level of ethical conduct. Striving to live up to a vision of altruistic behavior. Striving to reach a point where you are worthy not to recieve judgment and punishment. Striving to reach a point of peace and tranquility in your own life by doing what is right.

This takes a great deal of effort and exertion. This takes a lot of concentration and meditation. This takes so much more than you are capable of. But Jesus is right there beside you, He is your “co-pilot”. He takes the stick when your nose is pointing at the ground. He revs up your engine, pulls back the lever and sends you soaring back into the stratosphere.

“A lot of Jesus and just a little bit of me.” Well, it almost always turns out to be the other way around…a lot of me and a little bit of Jesus…when I need Him (“the god of the gaps”).

“But the preacher speaks of Jesus. The preacher tells us time and time again that there is no way we can ever earn our way to Heaven. He spends about two minutes telling us that, each and every Sunday. But then the preacher gives us the “meat” of the Christian faith. He shows us (using the Bible, of course) how to become “more Christlike” in our Christian walk. He shows us (using the Bible) how to live out our lives so that we will become more of what God would have us be. To live in such a way as to merit “jewels in our crown.” This part of the Christian life, ‘the application’ is now the important thing. “You have already been saved right? You said the prayer, made your “acceptance speech” (of Jesus) to the congreagtion or the pastor and now you are ‘in’…right? “Wellll…sure you are in, but you are just not going to settle for that… are you now? Don’t you want to be all that you can be? Don’t you want to show God just how serious you are about this whole thing? You don’t want anyone to see you as the disobedient sinner, do you? You will look just like the non-believer then! You don’t want that do you? You want to fit in, don’t you? Well then, you’d better get busy. If you do not know what to do, don’t worry about it, we will lay out the whole program for you. All you need to do…is to ‘do’. And don’t stop ‘doing’ (lest anyone think you are backslider and no longer a “true believer”.”

All that is lacking is to sit in the lotus position and babble out a bunch of incoherrent chants.

Welcome to Christian Buddhism. Get busy and improve.

Who’s the ruler of this world?

That’s right. It’s satan, the devil…the evil one.

Do you really believe that?  It’s true, you know. Or do you think that we can really take over and fix up this world quite nicely and fix ourselves up in the process?

Or, did I get it wrong…first we fix up ourselves, one at a time, individulally (maybe small groups, whole political parties?) and then when we’ve got ourselves hitting on all cylinders, then by default the world will just get cleaned up and be made right…right? (while the devil relaxes and reads the newspaper) Wrong! I want to know what funky weed you are smokin’!

That stuff is the ‘religion of man’. 

Should we not try and fix this world? Should we not try and fix ourselves?  Of course we should! We just aren’t delusioned into thinking we are going to achieve Heaven on earth. This place is going down! We are going down! Look in the mirror, (at my age it’s getting harder to do).

“Yeah, but we know a lot more now than did our parent’s generation.”  The truth of the matter is that our hearts are exactly same… they have not improved one iota.

When we believe that we have within us some spark to goodness that if only acted upon will bring about the kind of world, the kind of church, the kind of government, the kind of person that we ought truly be..when we fall for that we are making ourselves over into little gods. We are engaging in the ‘first sin’…wanting to be as God is. We don’t really trust God, we can do a better job on our own. That is us. That is the sinner. If you don’t believe that you are probably a modern day Pharisee…a self righteous ‘do-gooder’ that is on the ladder to a god of your own making.

We are fallen. The world is fallen. There is no hope in ourselves. All of this leads only to a graveyard.

But there is Christ! He came to save us. He wants to save us! He has saved us! He died for this broken world and each one of our broken lives. He died for the sin of wanting to be a god. He died for the sin of self-righteousness and of greed and of hate. He died for it all…that we might live!

“All of your sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake.” Those are the only words that can ‘fix’ what would otherwise be broken for eternity and lost.

“Your sin is forgiven. Take this my body…and eat. Take this my blood and drink.” He gives this saving Word (Himself) to us.           He fixes us!         Nothing else will do!           He is enough!

Poo-Pooing Baptism

I read a short introduction on a church’s website this morning. The intro was trying to tug on a persons heartstrings and get them to doubt in what had been done for them in their baptism. Once you realized that your baptism doesn’t mean anything…then they can lead you in the proper direction and help you do what is really necessary and obtain the proper understanding of a real, living faith in Jesus.

I just googled baptism and up popped this anti- baptism, Christian (so-called) site. That seems to be the way it is in most churches these days. People wanting you to forget about your baptism and get with the program! Let’s get serious about this Christian faith thing! If you’re gonna do it…then do it right!

I believe it stems from a great misunderstanding of what exactly baptism is. Many of these folks believe that baptism is merely a rite, a tradition, a going-through-the-motion type of exercise that is strictly about what we do…and therefore they conclude and rightly so if you want to look at it from their perspective, that nothing happens in baptism. Absolutely nothing.

So they see a lot of people that go to church and don’t bring their bibles, and cuss amongst themselves afterward, and talk about baseball, gardening or the economy, and don’t go to the soup kitchens and don’t attend bible studies. So they assume that these people are not Christians…because they don’t look like what they believe a Christian ought to look like. There are the fruits of the spirit you know…and these folks just ain’t got any!

So what now? Well…it is obvious that baptism itself must be worthless since almost all of these folks have been baptised and nothing happened, or it didn’t stick. So something else besides baptism must kick in. A sincere desire, an emotional commitment, an observable filling of the Spirit. One must sincerely repent and accept Jesus. Right?

Wrong.

One must do nothing.

That’s right…nothing.

All of your sincere repentance, all of your sincere love and acceptance for Jesus, all of your emotions and fire for the Lord mean nothing. It is all filthy rags…that’s all, and the Lord will have none of it when it comes to your salvation and justification before Him, the Living God.

He calls you. He chooses you. He gathers you. He enlightenes you. He justifies you. He sanctifies you.

And to make sure that you get all these things He baptises you. He makes you a promise in baptism to do all these things for you. He adopts you in baptism. You belong to Him. He promises to be your God and gives to you the forgiveness of your sins, life, and salvation.

He doesn’t leave it up to you to muster up the appropriate amount of sincerity, or commitment. He is the One who is sincere. He is the One who is committed….not you… for cryin’ out loud. Would you like it if someone were to follow you around 24 hours a day for the next week and really see just how committed and sincere you really are? I didn’t think so.  And they would see just your actions or inactions…what about what’s going on inside that sinful little head and heart of yours? Well, somebody does follow you around 24 hours a day and knows every thought, word, and deed of yours. And it ain’t pretty.

I was baptised as an infant. I had no idea of what God was doing to me, and for me. But He still did it, and does it, and will continue to do it . I trust that He will. He made that promise to me in my baptism and that promise of God’s to me is good if I’m one month old or one hundred years old.

So, if some people want to poo-poo what God does in baptism and fall back into their own whatevers… then so be it. But I am asking them to leave the rest of us alone. We will not throw everything overboard because there are people that misuse the promise, or distrust the promise, or poo-poo the promise.

“Baptism saves you now also…” 1st Peter 3:21

That is water baptism! When Jesus tells us to go into all the world, baptising and teaching…He isn’t telling us to give the Spirit of God to people (only God can do that)… so baptism is what baptism is. It is what almost all of the references to baptism in the New Testament are…water baptism!

” No thanks, I’d rather rely on my own feelings of faith.”

Fine. Who’s stopping you? Have at it. I hope you don’t get dizzy on the top of that ladder. And don’t look down, lest you have a great fall.

Is it a fair fight?

No…it isn’t.

 Three against One is not a fair fight.

The world, the flesh, and the devil versus the One in and through whom all things were created? A fair fight? Hardly!

This world is broken. It is caught in sin and is slowly but surely degenerating. It is in a downward spiral. It cares nothing for us, and it’s forces are tearing away at us constantly. The world is comprised of all temporal things, living beings bound in sin and all forces of matter and weather and natural phenomena. The world cares not one wit about us , nor can it, and it’s effect on us is to bring about death.

The flesh, our sinful being, is bound in sin, bound to sin, and is working in us not to bring us and others around us, life…but rather death. We like sinning. Our sin doesn’t just stop with us, but it careens like a pinball off of others and inflicts it’s carnage far and wide to people we will never even know existed. The flesh is not interested in authentic life, but an opposite, self absorbed imposter life…which in reality is death.

The devil is alive and active in this world to seek and destroy faith in the One who is above all things. He wants the allegiance that rightly belongs to the Creator for he is a selfish, rebellious, God hating creature that wants to deny God what rightly belongs to Him. The devil is real, and his evil works are real, and they are directed at you…for he is after you…he wants to bring you everlasting death, and he will not rest towards that goal.

Any one of those three could kill us in an instant. There’s not a one of us that is capable of standing up to any one of those three powerful forces that are out to get us. Not a one of us would stand a chance.

But the One who is, who has, who will defeat the three is the One who died on the cross. In an apparent defeat, Jesus turns the tables on the three and obliterates the death that they would bring to us. He is raised from the grave to new life and has promised this for us. He has won the victory over the world(sin), the flesh(ourselves), and the devil..for us…that we too might have new life…in Him…with Him…forever!

Is it a fair fight?  No it isn’t! But it is a tough fight that still rages on. The war is over, we have peace with God because of what Christ Jesus has accomplished on the cross for us. But evil still works to tear us away from our Lord and Savior. That is why we stay in the Word. That is why we hear the Word and receive the sacraments. That is why we keep trusting His promises during this battle that rages everyday to take our souls away from Him.

Christ is the Victor! He is our Champion! He is our Savior! Thanks be to God!

Asking for forgiveness is not necessary?

There is a Christian radio ministry out of Texas with a program titled “People to People”. One of the hosts of the show is a gentleman by the name of Bob George. Mr. George routinely tells his listeners and folks that call in to his program that there is no need to ask God for forgiveness and that it is actually foolish and a waste of time inasmuch as Christ has already forgiven your sins on the cross.

Is he right?

Well he is right in one way, your sin is already forgiven because of the cross and Jesus’ death and His petition of the Father, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Our sin is forgiven. If we sin and forget about it, or don’t even realize that we have committed a sin, and therefore do not ask God to forgive that sin, are we then not forgiven?

The point here isn’t that we have to ask. The point here is that we can ask. It’s that God wants us to ask. He wants us to confess. It says as much in scripture. The Lord wants us to come to Him. To speak with Him and honestly confess our sins. He wants to hear from us, and He wants us to be unburdened by that sin which we have just confessed. The Lord wants to forgive us, time and time again because it is liberating for us, the sinner. That forgiveness gives us new life and salvation…each time…again and again and again.

If you as a parent has a child that willfully disobeys you, you will forgive that child because he or she is your child.  That child of yours does not have to fess up and ask your forgiveness otherwise you will kick him out of the family. But you do want that child to be honest with you, to come to you, to  recieve a talk about why what he or she did was not a good thing, and then to hear, “you are forgiven, go and sin no more.”

Being able to go to our Heavenly Father is a gift. Being able to confess to Him and relieve ourselves of the guilt we have in our own mind and heart, to realize that we are loved and forgiven…is a gift.

I don’t think that telling people there is no need to confess our sins to God, because He already knows them and forgives you, is a healty thing to do. While Bob George may be technically right, the relationship between Father and child is not a business contract.

I believe the Lord wants us to come to Him and confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness. What do you think?

Worried about your performance?

When thoughts like that entered the head of Martin Luther, he would return to his baptism. He would return to the promises of God. He would leave the place of uncertainty and doubt and go the place of assurance, the place where God had acted…for Martin Luther.

Thoughts of uncertainty (are we really doing what we ought to be doing, are we really serious about living a Jesus shaped life, are we really believers?) do come to us from time to time, if you are really a sinner.

If you are really a sinner, it would be quite normal to doubt, because you are at heart a ‘non truster’. A ‘non truster’ in God.

That is why God didn’t leave this thing up to you. That is why God took hold of the reins and tells us, “I’ll handle everything…just trust in Me.” That is why God baptised (yes God did the real baptising) you.

But since the law is written upon our hearts, and since ‘doing’ (to justify ourselves) is our default position, we do not trust God… by nature.

So if you seem to be not quite cutting it in the being faithful department, don’t worry about it. Worrying is the ultimate lack of trust in God, anyway (that’s why Jesus tells us not to do it).

If you are not quite cutting it, or if you are an absolute failure at cutting it…and you know it, you are actually right where you ought to be. If you think you are doing alright at being faithful, maybe not pefectly, but a lot better than your neighbor Joe who says he’s a Christian but gets drunk on Friday night and doesn’t go to church and watches football all day on Sunday…well, if you think like that…you’ve got a problem. A self-righteousness problem. A performance problem. A performance hang-up. And the performance that you are hung-up on, usually isn’t your own.

Jesus is after folks that know their need of Himself. Those that believe they are doing pretty well are like the Pharisee in the Temple that Jesus compares to the tax collector (scum). The scummy tax collector knew what he was and knew that he needed the mercy of God. The Pharisee was being faithful, doing all the prescibed works of the law, but his heart was far from God. He didn’t need God. This is the danger of preaching biblical principles for living. It waters down the law and creates modern day Pharisees. It creates self-righteous people. It creates phoney people. It drives people away from the one place that they might hear the gospel…some of them never again to return.

If you are worried about your performance you are worrying for nothing. Your performance stinks. You might be doing some good works and then again you might not. That is not the point. The point is that you have a Savior. You have someone who’s performance for you was perfect and it is finished. He has graciously decided to give to you new life through faith, and He has made that faith real for you in His Word…in preaching…in the Bible… in His sacraments… in the encouragement of one another.

When doubts come into my head via the world, my own sinful flesh, or the devil…I return once again to the font. To the place where my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus has acted for me…has adopted me…has made me His own.

Don’t worry…be happy!