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The Word of God Absolutely Pure and Unadulterated

Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatenings. Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain. Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect. Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now…the Church is reaping what they sowed.

Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine. Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did. Consider that the word of Sirach, chap. 4, 33: “Even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee,” will come true in our case too. Let this be your slogan: Fight unto death in behalf of the truth, and the Lord will fight for you!—

We now take up a thesis for study which tells us that, since the two doctrines of Scripture, Law and Gospel, are so different from each other, we must keep them distinct also in our preaching.

Thesis II.

Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.

 

This thesis divides into two parts. The first part states a requisite of an orthodox teacher, viz., that he must present all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture. This, in our day, is regarded as an unheard-of demand. Even in circles of so-called believers, people act as if they were shocked when they hear some one say: “I have found the truth; I am certain concerning every doctrine of revelation.” Such a claim is considered a piece of arrogance…

Scripture requires that we have the Word of God absolutely pure and unadulterated and that we be able to say when coming down from the pulpit: “I could take an oath upon it that I have rightly preached the Word of God. Even to an angel coming down from heaven I could say: My preaching has been correct.” That explains the paradox [sic] remark of Luther that a preacher must not pray the Lord’s Prayer when coming down from the pulpit, but that he should do so before the sermon. For an orthodox preacher need not pray after delivering his sermon: “Forgive me my trespasses,” since he can say: “I have proclaimed the pure truth.” In our day, men have become merged in skepticism to such an extent that they regard any one who sets up the aforementioned claim as a semilunatic.

The Word of God tells us in a passage where the Lord is introduced as speaking, Jer. 23, 28: He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord. Our sermons, then, are to contain only wheat and no chaff.

The Apostle Paul warns the Galatians, chap. 5, 9: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. He means to say: A single false teaching vitiates the entire doctrine.

The warning with which John concludes the last book of the Bible is sounded as far back as in the days of Moses, who says, Deut. 4, 2: Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.

 

It is, then, a diabolical teaching to say: “you will never achieve the ability to give a Scriptural presentation of the articles of faith.” Especially when students hear a statement like this, it is as if some hellish poison were injected into their hearts; for after that they will no longer show any zeal to get to the bottom of the truth, to have clear conceptions of the truth.

C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, pp. 29-31.

Beloved, Let us Not Contend with Evil Men

March 27, 2014 2 comments

john-chrysostomJohn vi. 1, 4.-“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, into the parts of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw the miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus departed into a mountain, and there sat with His disciples. And the Passover of the Jews was nigh.”

[1.] Beloved, let us not contend with violent men, but learn when the doing so brings no hurt to our virtue to give place to their evil counsels; for so all their hardihood is checked. As darts when they fall upon a firm, hard, and resisting substance, rebound with great violence on those who throw them, but when the violence of the cast hath nothing to oppose it, it soon becometh weaker and ceaseth, so is it with insolent men; when we contend with them they become the fiercer, but when we yield and give ground, we easily abate all their madness. Wherefore the Lord when He knew that the Pharisees had heard “that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,” went into Galilee, to quench their envy, and to soften by His retirement the wrath which was likely to be engendered by these reports.

 

A Sermon of St John Chrysostom

(Homily XLII in Vol XIV, NPNF (1st))

“WWJD” Products Need Government Regulation

February 3, 2014 2 comments

image

http://thefatguy.com/short-sunday-sermon/comment-page-1/#comment-598182

When I was a pretty new pastor, I told Sunday morning bible class that I thought one day I would go to a Christian bookstore with a whip and start flipping over tables.

My recollection is that was the Sunday I lost two regular bible class attenders that had been faithful in the previous pastor’s class.

Would you believe me if I told you they were also family members?

Now: although Jesus said things like this would happen (Matt. 10:22, 24-25, 34-39; Luke 6:26 ), I’ve learned that He was talking about Christians who are no longer alive.   In the case of living Christians–pastors actively pastoring, particularly– we have to pretty much assume that it is his own stupidity that is responsible for offending people in every case.

Particularly in my case.  You can safely assume that this was in no way an example of division caused by Christ’s word, but rather one more instance of my lack of “people skills”.  That’s pretty much what I assume whenever I have a problem in the congregation, and my assumption usually turns out to be at least part right.

Nonetheless, I really think WWJD bracelets need to start coming with a disclaimer.  Or Surgeon General’s warning.

Not that I was wearing a WWJD bracelet, or ever would.  But those who do need to know the possible consequences of using WWJD products.  These are not harmless substances!  The fact that they not only sell them to minors but then allow children to use them is quite shocking when you think about the fact that we don’t even let kids out of car seats until they’re 8 years old in the state of Illinois.

WWJD bracelets are far more dangerous than riding in automobiles, if they’re used incorrectly.

At the very least they should come with visible warnings.

Like “If you’re a pastor, you should ask yourself “WWJD?” Then, whatever the answer is, make sure you don’t do that in church.”  (Let any seminarians reading this understand!)

Or, “WARNING: Asking “WWJD?” (and then actually trying to do it) can result in relatives getting upset, being nicknamed ‘Beelzebub’,  crowds chanting for your violent death, flogging, crucifixion, and other unpleasantness.”

Luckily people usually know how to use the bracelets and other paraphernalia correctly without being told–that is, as a witnessing tool, so you can tell other people who see it about J and W He WD.  That way  they too can try to do it.  And if not, they will at least know that you regularly think about J and try to do W He WD several times a day.

Also they can be useful to evangelical protestants–or Muslims, for that matter–as a kind of non-mystical “relic”.  Yeah, the rubber bracelet isn’t going to magically confer holiness.  But the five dollars or whatever gives you an item of clothing that instantly identifies you to insiders as “saved”, since you’re so boldly claiming Jesus in this way.  That alone would make it worth the price.  But it also has the benefit of aiding your memory that you’re supposed to be imitating Jesus whenever you forget.  That is just about guaranteed to produce much that is pleasing  to God, this stimulation of your memory.  It’s sort of like a hair shirt, only less depressing and morbid.  I always find that the main reason I don’t D W J W is that I forget to think about J.  Otherwise I usually have no problem figuring out W He WD.  Then I figure out what He wants me to D, which is usually be nice, wear a t-shirt with a cool logo that subversively witnesses to Him, and then listen to some praise and worship music and lift up my right hand and close my eyes while singing and driving no more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Still, there is always the chance that people might actually think they should try to do what Jesus would do.

And that might end up with them saying a lot of unloving things that would turn off the unchurched.

Or even worse, they might really get crazy and end up getting spit on or beat up or killed!

It really would be in the best interests of both saved people and the lost if the US government regulated the dealing of Christian merchandise, especially WWJD bracelets.  Things like that –and truthfully, bibles that don’t have explanatory notes–they can be very dangerous.  They at least need warnings.  If not background checks, registration, and licensing.

Think about it!  I’m thinking about starting a petition and seeing if we can convince the US government to start to regulate potentially dangerous Christian consumer products.  I bet they’re probably already working on it, though.

Kebab, Compassion, and Christian Liberty

15 BOUTS CHRIST IN THE HOUSE OF SIMONhttp://cphpost.dk/local/two-men-assaulted-selling-pork-kebab-shops

For freedom Christ has made us free; therefore stand firm, and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.  A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

 These two theses seem to contradict each other…Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”  Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.  So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law”, and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant.” [Philippians 2:6-7] 

Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”

If you don’t believe in your values enough to say “no” when other people try to insist that you give them up, you will lose them.  The only question should be whether your values are right.

It’s one thing to be sensitive and hospitable to Muslims who live as foreigners in your country.  But when they reject the law of your country and begin to implement their god’s laws in defiance of you, to continue to show kindness is to give in to them, and to allow yourself to be enslaved by them.

The same thing is true for Christians.  We should love and pray for the enemies of the church and also unbelievers, and make whatever concessions we can out of love for them.  We should bear with weaker Christians in the Church out of compassion for them.

But when enemies of the church, unbelievers, or people in the church who seem to be weak say that we can’t preach or practice some part of the word of God because it is offensive and unloving, we can’t submit to them.  To do that is to say that the Word of God can only speak as long as it does not violate human rules.

It’s a good thing, I think, that the Europeans wanted to welcome people from other countries and respect their traditions.  But it’s not a good thing to confuse the lawful use of authority with oppression.  It was a bad thing that the company sold meat labeled “Halal” even though it had traces of pork in it.  But in Denmark people are not summarily beaten or executed for eating pork or for selling it or for lying about selling it.

In the Church we have a similar problem.  In our society there are few things that will get people all riled up like it will rile observant Muslims if you mislead them to eat pork.  But among the few things that are likely to cause that kind of upset is to be “hateful,” which has become a very broad kind of crime.  It’s considered hateful, for the most part, to tell someone that they do or have done something that was not just “a bad choice” but actually evil–sin.

In the Church it is not hateful to tell someone they sinned.  We are commanded to do that, but to do it in love for the other person.  So if we let it stand that a person in the church is doing wrong when they rebuke another person we end up allowing it to happen that God’s Word is not allowed to be heard in the Church.  At least in some areas.

So as Christians we must be ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of weaker Christians, the enemies of the Church, and the world outside.  We have to give up legitimate things that cause unnecessary offense, and we should spare ourselves no trouble to do so out of love.

We spare ourselves no trouble, but we also cannot permit the Word of God to be bound or limited, even if people accuse us of being proud, arrogant, loveless, etc.  That is because it is not our Word.  It is God’s.  To take anything away from it is to agree that it is not God’s Word; and to allow it to be silenced at all in the Church is to allow it to be taken away from us.

Since the Word of God is the only power on earth by which God gives us salvation and protects His Church, we can’t allow it to be silenced in any part or forced to follow the rules of human propriety or “political correctness”.  If we do that we trade in the righteousness of God, which God counts as ours through faith in the message of the cross, for the righteousness of the godless world, which consists in telling everybody that as long as it works for them, that’s good, no matter what they feel like doing.

 

 

Many are offended because of these things.

July 6, 2013 1 comment

Man of Sorrows“The Church is hidden under Jesus’ stripes. Hidden under weakness, suffering, persecution, division, and false teaching. Many are offended because of these things. They don’t see this as the way of the cross. What they see going on in the Lutheran churches causes them to leave. They will argue that the true Church doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as the one, holy apostolic and Christian Church. Every Lutheran church offers the same basic teachings. Every Lutheran congregation is populated by reasonably faithful Christians. One pastor is as good as another. As long as our worship is enthusiastic and sincere it is god-pleasing.

This is the work of both God and the devil. The devil because he wants to see the Gospel choked off. God because He wants to come to His people only in faith. The true Church is not made holy by any outward thing. She is made holy, acceptable, and spotless by participation in the cross of Christ. The Church suffers because of the Good News about Christ. And the fact that many leave our churches, fall away from faith, and reject the preaching of the Gospel is part of the Church’s cross-bearing.

The idea that wealth and success are signs of God’s favor is an idol. A false god. False teaching. Obstacles to true faith. It’s the way of churches who follow the wisdom of men. They expect to find wealth, success, and renewed vitality in whatever advantages the Gospel offers them. They gauge the success of their church’s preaching and mission by showy and attractive signs. This is the devil’s work. He wants more followers than the cross of Christ attracts. The Church is best off when she is afflicted for preaching God’s Word through sermon and sacraments. When cross and affliction aren’t apparent this is a sign God’s Word has been taken away from the churches. It should be our constant prayer then that we would never suffer earthly prosperity or endure outward success. Peace and prosperity in the churches threatens the preaching of the Gospel. The true Church glories in the wisdom of the cross.”

Pastor Donavon Riley (see previous post) http://thefirstpremise.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/the-lutheran-church-missouri-synod-must-repent-and-die-if-she-is-going-to-live/

 

Judge not–unless you’re a parent, ruler, or pastor. Luther.

June 21, 2013 2 comments

lady in a preaching gown as his ambassador.

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.

LUKE 6:36-42.

from Martin Luther’s Church Postil.

 

Luke 6:36f.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom…

3. Hence it is not meant, that by such works as are here enumerated they should first obtain forgiveness of sins and the righteousness that avails before God; but Christ speaks plainly and simply to his disciples whom he had chosen and called Apostles, as St. Luke shows preceding this Gospel. Christ teaches them how they shall conduct themselves when they preach, as though he would say: You dear disciples, I send you as sheep among wolves, and commend this office unto you to preach, and others shall hear your preaching, accept and believe it. And you will be so received that the world will be offended at you and regard you as enemies, and you will find just as much friendship and love in it, as sheep among wolves. For it will become wholly mad and foolish at your preaching, and will by no means tolerate it. Therefore see to it that you lead a better life and conversation than your enemies, who will practice upon you all kinds of unmerciful deeds by judging and condemning you. Moreover they will not only not forgive you any sin, but will proclaim your best works and deeds of mercy as the greatest sins. Again, they will not only not give you anything, but they will also hunt down that which is your own, and will take and keep it by violence. Thus they will treat you. But beware, that you be not like them; on the other hand where they judge, judge not; where they condemn, bless; where they take revenge, forgive; when they take, give. For immediately before, the Lord teaches the very same when he says: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.

….

15. To this friendly admonition of Christ our Lord we Christians and especially we ministers should diligently give due heed, for we also have at the present day adversaries of our faith and doctrine, who are great and powerful, ‘kings, princes, lords, Pope and bishops. To these our enemies according to this doctrine of Christ we show all mercy, and are not willing that a hair of their heads should be injured, or that they should be robbed of a cent. But this we wish them from our heart, that they may learn to know their errors and sins, and c

Rebukes wealthy member of congregation for sexual immorality, calls rest of congregation children of the devil

Rebukes wealthy member of congregation for sexual immorality, calls rest of congregation children of the devil.

ommit themselves to the grace of God and believe the Gospel. On this account they judge, condemn and persecute us, rob us of honor, goods, body and life, as though we were the worst rogues that tread the earth. Such things we do not to them in return, God be praised! but show them all love and kindness, and would willingly help them, if they would only permit it.

16. Yes, they say, you revile us nevertheless, both in writing and preaching, and condemn us as heretics, and will not permit us to be the Christian Church. Is such reproof and condemnation mercy? We answer: This is quite a different matter. Christ in this Gospel speaks of those who shall suffer injustice. And it would not be right to apply this to those who by virtue of their office are required to reprove what is wrong. For those who have the office to judge and condemn, do no wrong thereby, in so doing. For as little as it agrees or is valid for a child to say to its father when he would punish it; father, be merciful, and God will then also be merciful to thee; so little is it valid against those who have the office of reproof. For it would be very inappropriate for a thief or evil doer to say to the officer of the law: Dear sir, forgive and do not judge me, and then our Lord God will again forgive thee. No, my dear fellow, the officer of the law by virtue of his office will thus answer and say: It is not necessary that I should forgive you. I do what is right, and doing right needs no forgiveness, but is praiseworthy. Thus also when father and mother punish their children, they do right, for this is called true punishment, when the office requires it. But beware, that you do not revenge yourself against him who must punish you, even if at times he treats you unjustly.

17. Wherefore it is not appropriate to twist this text, as though the Lord speaks of those who have the authority to punish the wrong, as ministers and all persons in authority, fathers, mothers, princes, lords, and finally also the executioner, who should not say to the evil doer, to whom he must administer justice, as however they are accustomed to do: “Dear Sir, forgive me, what I do to you today,” for why should he say this? As he does right, he needs no forgiveness, which pertains alone to sin and wrong; for. his office is to punish wrong. Just as it would be wrong if a father would say to his son when he would punish him: Dear son, forgive me, that I punish you. No, he does right, therefore the son should bear it, for thus God will have it. Read more…

Thoughts on a Six-Year Old Sermon

January 18, 2013 5 comments

2013-01-17 St. Peter neighborhood Jan 2013 010I was thinking of a story I wanted to use in a sermon maybe, and I wanted to see when the last time was that I told it, because I was pretty sure I had told it before.  Lo!  Apparently the last time was in August, 2007!  That was when I had been a pastor a whole year.  That was a lifetime ago.

The sermon was not bad.  Actually, technically it could well be better than my sermons now.  It was certainly shorter.  On the other hand it seems to stick closely to the pattern of sermon I heard preached at seminary.  That may be why it is better technically, but it also seems derivative.

Yet I can see that I was trying to (even then) communicate with the congregation, not preach over everyone’s head.  I’m not sure how successful that’s been over the years.

Anyway, I look at this and think that I haven’t changed much technically or theologically.  If anything I’ve gotten worse technically.  On the other hand I feel when reading it that it was a different man who wrote and preached it.  I hadn’t yet experienced very much tentatio or suffering.  The theology is orthodox, but the preacher had not yet suffered much of anything in the ministry.  I thought I had though.  It will be interesting to see what I think in another decade if the Lord sees fit to have me preaching then still.

I know what it is that strikes me as off about this sermon.  Even though it is probably better technically than my sermons now, the difference is that I can tell that when I wrote it I still was naive and thought that all I would have to do is preach it a couple of times and then people would get it.  You can also see me banging the drum about “Lutheranism”; that was back when I thought that I could convince people that they should care about being a Lutheran.  You can also see me subtly (or not so subtly) rag on the congregation for thinking they know everything and being unwilling to learn, a theme that I have undoubtedly returned to again and again.  And it has seemingly had little effect beyond making many people angry.

I post it mainly for myself.  But any other pastor who reads this and still feels like he just left seminary but really has been at it over five years may be inspired to go look at a really old sermon.

When you come out of seminary you don’t know that it costs you to preach.  I mean, the cost we pay is really nothing if we look at it correctly and don’t whine, considering the exceedingly great glory of the Word that we are allowed to speak.

But I think I didn’t really understand that it was God’s Word then, so I thought my performance in writing or speaking would do something.  That was a very painful lesson that I don’t know if I’m done learning–the lesson of running into a ten feet thick titanium wall for years–that it is God’s Word, and He has it work in spite of me (thanks be to God), and not how I want it to work.  I knew this theological concept but it was a painful lesson to learn, or begin to learn, in experience.

I didn’t understand that cost associated with preaching the Word of God.  And I also didn’t understand a different kind of cost– that it was necessary to experience pain and weakness and failure and utter inability to see anything, to know whether you were doing it right or wrong.  Of course I knew, theologically, that if the sermon was Scriptural and the law and gospel rightly divided then you were doing it right.  I hadn’t felt what it was like to have the Word rejected and agonize about your failures, to blame your lack of preparation and so forth, and to see your clumsiness in handling God’s Word.  I knew theologically that preaching and suffering went together, but I hadn’t experienced it yet.  And I am sure that that remains true.  Dr. Kleinig said something to us at the Ft. Wayne class about Exodus.  He asked whether we had suffered as a result of preaching, whether we had had major conflicts and faced opposition.  Then he said, We assume that as we get older, we’ll have fewer problems like that because we’ll gain experience.  But, he said, the hardest trials come as you have been in the ministry a long time, and as you approach the end of your years of service.

2012-11-26 plainfield november 2012 013 - CopySo, I haven’t experienced anything yet!  Quit whining!  is the moral of the story.

I wish that I could help someone else escape the pain that comes from preaching God’s Word and having to learn the hard way that it is not your Word, and therefore you can’t make it do anything, and it’s necessary for you to be afflicted by the devil so that you do not “become too elated at the surpassing greatness” of the Lord who is pleased to raise the dead through your lips.  But I suspect that I cannot help anyone escape it, except maybe to comfort someone else who is in the middle of it and let them know that it is the Lord’s work when you fail.

The beautiful thing is that it is really the Lord’s Word, even if it is despised and seems to bear no fruit.  Even if you have no talent as a preacher or a pastor or an administrator, and you appear to ruin more than you build up, it is Jesus Christ’s word that you have to preach.  And He preaches it to us as well as to the congregation.

One of the most shocking things about preaching is when, after years of everyone esentially telling you your sermons are “all right” and everyone else saying they are garbage behind your back, and when even your wife doesn’t like your sermons, somebody in the congregation was edified–maybe even comforted–and it was a person who doesn’t like you.

So it is really the Lord’s Word, and He has to keep us aware of the fact that the treasure is from Him and not from us, and therefore it is driven home again and again that we are jars of clay.  In my case more like a potsherd or a broken vessel.

Read more…

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