Monday, October 06, 2014

Role of Faith

Christians often take the opportunity to reflect on Christ on the cross and the cost of our sins. This sacrifice paid our debt, removing the guilt of sin, and bringing the promise of Eternal Life to humanity. This blessing is facilitated by faith given by God, and usually the example of a gift is used. There might be another way of looking at it that helps clarify what’s going on.

Christ talked about His yoke being "easy" (Matt 11:25-30). The yoke, being a tool to enable hard labor to be performed, is rarely light itself. We are all born with the heavy yoke of original sin. The guilt of sin and the burden it causes weighs down the sinner, creating progressively harder yoke. Some grow to love the sin and the burden it causes, loving the impossible task and enslaved by their sin. Others find the Gospel, and faith flourishes. They find it lightens their load, and the world is no longer hopeless. Christ carried our burden to the cross, paid the debt we owed, and laid the yoke of sin's guilt to the side, replacing it with His yoke. Forgiveness is always available from Christ, although we continually sin. We put the sinful yoke on, add the guilt, and wonder why things are so difficult. When we receive forgiveness through the Sacraments, Faith takes replaces the yoke with Christ’s yoke, relieving us of the burden. Granted, we eagerly pick the sinful yoke back up at the first opportunity, but God is patient with us. Faith pulls the sinful yoke back off, sometimes after we have experienced the painful burden to remind us. When one rejects the Faith, they usually grab ahold of some sin over time, burden themselves with it, and add to it as often as they can. They push God's "hand" away, preventing God from removing the burden they grew to love. They no longer seek the Sacraments, or forgiveness. They feel the weight of their guilt, and hold on to it. Over time, Faith no longer removes the burden and leaves the sinner alone. The devil, world and flesh gleefully add to it, knowing the yoke will remain even though it bites into the shoulder and breaks the soul.

Only the Faith generated by the Holy Spirit can lighten the yoke. We cannot reach the bindings to free ourselves, only the places to grasp more firmly to the yoke. We can only add to our burden and never able to loosen it. That God-given Faith loosens the straps, lifts the yoke off our shoulders, and bids us rest with Christ’s yoke. When we do so, our yoke is light because Christ has carried the burden. There is no more debt to repay. No more of the yoke that destroys but the light yoke that builds up and saves. Faith removes that which damns and destroys and replaces it with bondage to Him who has risen from the dead. You must be bound to a master- the one who craves your death, or the one who did it all for your life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Plugging Along

I have been a little overwhelmed with important matters lately. I have also been pondering what the Evangelical Lutheran church bodies seem to have lost. More precisely, it seems that they tend to grow the church, one family or baby at a time, and leave the fallen and dying world to others. There seems to be this "we belong  over here, they are over there..." mentality when it comes to evangelism. I suspect the historical hierarchical structure leaves parishioners with the false sense of "there's a committee for that" when it is really their duty to evangelize. I also suspect the Roman Catholic (and similar) have similar challenges in a general sense. Baptists, Enthusiasts, and Mormons are determined to bring the "lost souls" in, but the known theological issues almost negate the additional bodies in the pews/chairs. So one group has fallen off the "limited evangelism, heavy theology" side of the horse, while the others have fallen on the "unlimited evangelism, light theology" side. So how does a Confessional Lutheran (or just conservative Christian) church evangelize without sacrificing theology and avoiding "mega-church-itis" programs? This is what I am considering now as its becoming apparent that the Church is becoming very luke-warm, unwilling to risk a small persecution by declaring God's Word openly, everywhere.

I was directed to this blog entry by my pastor, and I share it because it is helpful to understand the why behind the prohibition of women pastors. Why I changed my mind

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good Post

A good post from Rev. Juhl. His topic is Matt 22:1-14, and it looks like his Sunday sermon. Well worth the read.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Place of Marriage

I have been listening to the Bible on CD while going to work and came across this clear reason for marriage in Malachi. With all of the popular culture focus on marriage and "who should be able to...", keeping perspective is quite important. First, the Word from Malachi, Chapter 2 (NKJV):

14 Yet you say, “For what reason?”
Because the Lord has been witness
Between you and the wife of your youth,
With whom you have dealt treacherously;
Yet she is your companion
And your wife by covenant.
15 But did He not make them one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit?
And why one?
He seeks godly offspring.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

Clearly written is that God desires godly offspring from marriage, which is in keeping with other passages discussing the blessings of children, such as Psalm 127:3-4. This keenly and clearly illustrates the 6th Commandment "You shall not commit adultery." (Ex 20:14). If the purpose of marriage is to be blessed with godly offspring, then anything not towards that end (relations outside marriage, homosexuality, and so on) would be unrighteous and sinful. Note, though, that this wouldn't include those who cannot bear children as "adulterers" because the opening of the womb is God's doing. They can be faithful, even while barren, if they are following God's direction. 

It is important to note that the use of marriage is an inherently religious term, and should not be confused as a secular one. Secular life entails "civil unions" in the form of a contract. Even a "marriage license" you have to sign from the state at your wedding attests to this fact. You can be bound as man and wife (or some other collection of nouns) outside of the Church, but because it is done in the civil realm doesn't make it righteous, proper or even a good idea. Christians should strive to the example of Christ and the Church and eschew even worldly vocabulary if it muddies the clear meaning of Scripture. This is always our challenge. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Trinity in Unity"

We recited the Athanasian Creed last Sunday (Trinity Sunday). I know it is long, but I think we should recite it more. It encompasses the identity of God as well as the mystery of three Persons in one God. The part that stuck out most to me this past Sunday is the text that says, quite bluntly, "Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." This is clear profession of what the other creeds do not explicitly say, but is implicit. This warning goes back to 1 John 4 (NKJV):

1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

The test to determine if a spirit (or thought or creed or anything else) is from God is to determine if it holds that Christ is the Son of God come in the Flesh (incarnate). Explicit here is the warning that failure to hold Christ in proper orientation with God is evil. The Athanasian Creed holds likewise, and also provides a similar warning. This is why it is important to guard against the devil, the world and the flesh. This is especially true in "safe haven" such as a church body. Why should we be so cautious? Because warnings like 1 John instruct that is both wise and prudent. The Athanasian Creed brings that to remembrance, which makes it something we should often review and ponder.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sola Fide

Sola Fide "Faith Alone" is one of the tenets of the Reformation. Faith alone is what saves. As part of our ongoing Catechesis, I asked my daughter where faith comes from. She correctly answered "God." This is a sticking point for some because they can't, or won't, allow that they have no part in their salvation. They must have accepted Christ, for how else would He enter their life? The same way He entered the world for our salvation- by His action, and His alone. There are many Scriptural passages that support this, but one I recently found was striking to me because the Promise is wrapped up in a critique of Israel as a people being "stiff necked." God does it for our sakes, not because we merit it, but because He chooses to. The passage is the first six verses of Deuteronomy 9. I have copied verses 5-6 below because they make the point so precisely. I highlighted the sections to pull them out of the surrounding text.

It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

 Before we Christians get puffed up, knowing what the Israelites did in rejecting God over and over and how they messed up time and again, take a look at verse 5. God specifically calls out "account of the wickedness of these nations". We, as Christians, are also a "stiff necked people." We too have been wicked, perhaps more so than the Israelites were. And yet Christ still died for your sins. The Old Testament holds chastisement for all the descendants of Abraham. What you think doesn't matter- only the Word that proceeds from God. Sola Scriptura "Scripture Alone

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time."  1 Peter 5:6 NIV

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Harrison now apologizes...?

This is just strange. LCMS President Harrison has apologized for the media distorting the issue. This is now a strange debacle where a proper action is being apologized for because some people took offense who were not involved. After this apology, I have to agree with Harrison- he is not leading like he should. It was right to ask for an apology from Pastor Morris. It is even right to ensure the details are in the open so everyone can see what transpired due to a public event. However, you should never apologize for doing the right thing. That does the same thing as the original offense- it equates correct action with incorrect as if there is no difference. It is a tenant of leadership that you don't apologize for proper action. To do otherwise just erodes your ability to lead and the weight of your word among those who follow.

I am sure there is a line of thinking and consideration on this I might be missing. If anyone can point it out, I am more than willing to ponder it and accept it. At this point though, this is looking more like Harrison trying to not offend people, and ignoring any potential offense to the Word. This brings this full circle back to the original error of diluting the Word. This is another example that the LCMS as a body is more lukewarm than hot. That isn't a good place to be...