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.

‘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!

So what will you do for God today?

 If you plan on doing something for God today, it had better be pretty darn spectacular. It had better be something far better than you’ve ever done before and better yet than you’ve ever e ven dreamed of doing.

I put it like that because God is not easily impressed. God doesn’t get giddy when He sees one of His creation doing something for Him which, quite frankly, doesn’t cut the mustard.

God does not need you to do cartwheels for Him and then looking up and saying,”pretty good, huh!”

God is not interested in your keeping His commandments for His sake.  “The sabbath was made for man, man wasn’t made for the sabbath.”

There was really only one that has ever done the necessary work to impress God. There was only one that was of pure heart, of pure motives, who acted out of pure love and faithfulness to the Father. There was only one that heaped upon Himself the firery coals of our sinfulness. God was impressed by this one. One who would take the punishment onto Himself and willfully give up his life for those who murdered Him. This One impressed God so much that He answered the prayer to forgive the murderers, the liars, the thieves, the self obsessed idolators. This is what impresses God. Not our half-hearted efforts at obedience.

 Jesus Christ has impressed God by His faithfulness and has asked the Father to forgive us…for His sake.

And now we are at peace with God because of Christ. No more struggling to do what is right that we might be acceptable in His sight. No more wondering if we have done enough to merit forgiveness and entry into Heaven. We have not, and will not. But He has, and He does, and He always will, that we might live with Him eternally.

So do not worry about what you can or should do for God. It has already been done…for you!

Now, in that great freedom, purchased for you with the blood of Jesus, go out and live the way that God always intended for you to live…in love for others. Realize that He is already pleased with you because of Christ. Realize that when you fall back upon yourself in sin that you ARE forgiven. Realize that now, in your baptism and in hIs supper, He has put to death the old sinner in you and is conforming and transforming you into the person that He wills you to be.

A much better question, then, is ‘what will you do for others today?’

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) 

This Saturday night come to seminar X to find out exactly the will of God for your life

Hey, that’s great!  Where do I sign up!?

Every Christian worth his or her salt wants to know the will of God for their life, right?

unmatched!Of course you do! You are a Christian! You are all about doing the right thing!

OK. We’re going to let the cat out of the bag ahead of time. You won’t have to sign up for seminar X and pay $75 to Pastor Gnosticfeld and buy his latest book, “Green Socks, Red Socks…know for sure which ones God wants you to wear today.”

Here is the super-special, hard to find out secret that all Christians everywhere are yearning for…

towards the end of Matthew 22, our Lord Jesus says it Himself when asked what is it that we need to do to fulfill all righteousness, ” Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself.”

Also in John 6 verse 28,  the people asked Jesus, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?”  Jesus replied, “Believe in the one whom He has sent.”

There it is.   You want to know God’s will for your life?  “Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”   You want to do God’s will?  “Believe in the one whom He has sent.”

“Yeah…that’s great…but what color socks should I put on today…?”   Holy mackerel!!!

‘Jesus shaped’ nothin’

There is a lot of ‘talk’ in the blogesphere these days, as well in the churches, of a ‘Jesus shaped’ spirituality. “Doing” our best to walk like Jesus, to talk like Jesus, to act like Jesus, to do the things that Jesus told us to do.Embrace

That certainly wouldn’t be a bad way to live, would it?  Of course not, in fact it would be a great way to live!

There’s just one little problem. We flat out refuse to live that way.

 “What would Jesus do?” Well, first off, none of us knows what Jesus would do in any particular incident that might arise in our lives.  Secondly, we are not Jesus…we are us.

I have said it before in this blog that I am reminded of these things whenever I come across a homeless person that I will not take home and feed and clean up. The same homeless person that is in every city, large or small, that no other Christian will step outside of his comfort zone to take care of. The same homeless person that might have been saved from a life scrounging through trash cans, or from drug abuse, or from mental illness that comes with living alone on the streets.

With so many professed Christians in this country you’d think that there wouldn’t be any homeless left to wander the streets.

I do imagine that the ‘Jesus shapers’ have taken a large number of these poor folks off of the streets and into their homes. They are not concerned with anyone stealing their goods, or attacking them physically, for Jesus would not have feared those things. They are not concerned about having to spend a bit more of their hard earned money on a stranger if it means bringing someone back into society and giving them back their self respect and possibly a job and possibly getting them back to church or in one for the first time. They are not concerned about what other people in their family, or what their neighbors might think. Jesus certainly would not care about what others might think.

“Well, I don’t have to do all these ‘Jesus things’ perfectly, I just have to make an effort.”  What is that all about? To me, that kind of talk is a cop out. That kind of talk is feel good talk for the self. A kind of balm for the conscience. That kind of talk allows me to continue to play the game. That kind of talk is not countenanced when Jesus says, ” Be perfect as thy Father in Heaven is perfect.” What kind of games will we play with that one?  All kinds.

I have a better idea. Why don’t we let Jesus be Jesus, and we just settle for being us?

Why don’t we just live as best we can, doing the best we can, and trust that the Lord will be there with us in all things. Why don’t we realize that our job is not to try and impress the perfect God with our feeble efforts at emulating Him, but rather we are to live our lives and help our neighbors wherever possible. And when we fail to do so in a way befitting our calling then we are forgiven.

Isn’t that enough?

Law on the Brain

 

 Last night I went to a party and met a guy (a non-denominational Christian) who wanted to talk to me about Jesus.

Great! I love talking about Jesus Christ!  But for some odd reason the conversation just would not stay there… it kept going back to all the things he (this gentleman ) was doing to become the person that Jesus wanted him to be.  “Oh I know I am totally saved by grace, no one can add anything to that!” He  threw that line in there about every five minutes in a 45 minute conversation that seemed like it lasted 45 hours.

“Here’s what I’m doing to apply this biblical principle, here are the things that my wife and I are doing to have a more Godly marriage, here’s what I am doing to be a more Christlike employee, a more Christlike son, a more Christlike brother, a more Christlike… yada, yada, yada.”

It was one of the worst 45 minute stretches of my life.

Then I told the guy I was a Lutheran, and he followed me around (after I managed to break away from him) so that he could have a chance to straighten me out on infant baptism.

This is what happens when well meaning preachers don’t know anything about distinguishing the law from the gospel. ” Yeah, I know I’m saved by grace, but.” The ‘but’ will give you ‘law on the brain’.

This guy is a perfect example of someone who needs to be killed off to his own religious project.

These poor people go into these places needing that ‘old Adam’ killed off… and instead they get their ‘old Adam’ fed a nice large meal…of you know what.

Is anyone else out there running into these poor Christians that are covered in chains? What can we do to help free them? 

I do want to add that I admire this persons zeal to speak of Jesus to strangers and to share his faith. I know many Lutherans that would never dream of doing so. (and also quite a few Lutherans that would dream of it… and do it !)

Are you Working? Hard Enough? Are you Sure?

“Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but his due.

And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.”

– St. Paul   Romans 4:4&5

“Yeah but’, you just can’t live any way you want! ‘Yeah but’ you need to show God you are thankful and serious. ‘Yeah but’ yada yada yada yada. ‘Yeah but’ wah wah wah wah wah. ‘Yeah but’ you gotta XY&Z. ‘Yeah but’….”‘Yeah but’..NOTHING!  Go back and read it agaelmer-fuddin. Go get a shotgun and blow that cute little ‘Yeahbut’ to kingdom come!  It’s either you or him, one of you has got to go!

Should’s, Ought’s, and Must’s…and the the ever present…’Need To’s’

Addendum to post:  While driving back from San Diego this morning ( I took my wife to the airport)  I was listening to a very well known preacher on the radio who used the phrase, “If only…”, quite often in his sermon.

So I’m adding it to my list of words to watch out for. Example:If only you would receive the Lord Jesus.”

When you hear these words in a sermon…watch out.

When you hear these words directed towards you and your relationship with the Living God…you’ve just been had.

We ‘should’…we ‘must’…we ‘ought’…we ‘need to’. All law words. All words that have no gospel in them. All words designed to get some sort of performance out of you, or us.

Is there a place for these words? Of course there is. These words are a part of our daily lives. We must hear them and do them and strive to do them for the sake of ourselves and those around us.

But as far as a relationship with God goes, these words are poison. They bring death, and not life.

The words that bring life are these…”I love you, I forgive you, I have died for you.”

“For you”.  “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood shed for you.” These words indicate something that has already happened. Is still happening… and will yet happen….for you.

The word of the law is ‘do’. The word of the gospel is ‘done’.

Be on the lookout for the ‘do’ words in a sermon and then ask, but have not all these things been ‘done’…for me?