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The Eternal Weight of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. Trinity 1, 2017. Gen. 15:6, St. Luke 16:19-31 Confirmation of D. Roots, Father’s Day

abraham's bosom bible of souvignyTrinity 1 (Confirmation of Delainey Roots, Father’s Day)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 16:19-31 (Gen. 15:6)

June 18, 2017

The Eternal Weight of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Beloved in Christ:

Delainey, with whom we rejoice on the day of your confirmation,

Delainey’s parents, Mike, Amanda, and her family,

You, her congregation, praying for and watching over those who are being taught the faith and those who are confirmed,

 

As well as those listening on the radio and visiting today:

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Today the text to which we give our attention is the Gospel reading.  However, I want to draw your attention also to a verse from the Old Testament reading, which is necessary to understand the Gospel reading.  It is this, Genesis 15:6–

 

Abram believed the Lord; and He counted it to him as righteousness. 

 

That verse is necessary to understand the Gospel reading.  It teaches the doctrine without which nothing in the Bible can be understood, the doctrine without which the Christian faith collapses, the teaching that touches every other article of the Christian faith, the teaching that caused and drove the Reformation that began 500 years ago.

 

I am referring to the teaching of justification.

 

Prior to the Reformation, people generally didn’t talk much about justification, but if they did, they would have said that a person is justified, that is, he becomes righteous before God, by actually being righteous.  They would have said: when God justifies a person, first of all at baptism, He makes that person totally righteous.  He takes away original sin, creates the person anew.  A baptized, justified person has no sin.  He only has an ongoing weakness that makes him inclined to sin.  But that weakness itself is not sin.

 

After being justified in baptism, they taught, the Christian receives God’s grace in the sacraments—Holy Communion, etc.  And cooperating with the Holy Spirit, they would do good works that pleased God.  And on the last day God would pronounce a person like this righteous on the basis of those righteous deeds.

 

But the doctrine of justification taught in the Reformation, which they drew from the Scriptures, was different.  They taught, along with this verse from Genesis, which St. Paul quotes again in Romans 4, that when God justifies a person, He counts or reckons or imputes the righteousness of Christ to the person.  Abram believed God, and God counted it to him for righteousness, says the verse.  That means:  Abram was not righteous in himself.  God counted him righteous, declared him to be righteous.  Abram was righteous not because of what he was in himself, or what he did.  If God judged him on that basis, Abram would be unrighteous, lawless, guilty before God.  But Abram believed God, and God counted or reckoned him righteous by faith.

 

That is how Abram became righteous before God.  That is how people today become righteous before God.  That was the teaching of the Reformation.  We are righteous without our works, through faith alone in Jesus, who atoned for our sins with His suffering and death.

 

Now why did that teaching rock the world?  Why must it continue to be our church’s treasure, our message to the world, instead of some other message or way of gaining followers?  Why am I telling it to you again, Lainey, on your confirmation day, when I no doubt want to preach something that will mean something to you years from now when you look back on this day?

 

Because eternity depends on this teaching.  Whether people are interested in it or not, whether it fills the pews or not, whether our flesh tells us this teaching is worth the attention we place on it, when we are 13 or when we are 70, the teaching of justification by the imputation of righteousness is the teaching that makes a person righteous and blessed for eternity.  If this teaching is not taught, or if it is minimized, and as a result it is not believed, people are damned for eternity.

 

This is what we see in the Gospel reading: The eternal weight of the right teaching of the doctrine of justification.

 

Jesus tells a story.  There is a certain rich man who has a party every day.  He dresses like a king.  He lives like a king.  Everyone wants to come to his parties.

 

Then there is a poor man named Lazarus.  He is covered with sores, like Job.  And someone takes and lays him outside the gate of the rich man, which means—because of his sickness, Lazarus has to depend on charity to go on living his tormented life.  Lazarus longs to eat the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table, and while he lies there, outside the gate, dogs come and lick his sores.

 

One day Lazarus dies and the angels come and take him to Abraham’s bosom.  That means, he goes to be with Abraham, the righteous man, in heaven.  To recline on someone’s bosom in Jesus’ day meant you were a close friend or you were loved by them.  Jesus is telling us that Lazarus is a son of Abraham.  He is one of the stars in the sky that God showed Abraham.  So Lazarus will inherit the blessing of Abraham; he will share in the new heavens and the new earth where God will dwell with people again like He did in the Garden of Eden.

 

Also, Jesus says, the rich man died and was buried.  He goes to hell, and in torment, he looks up and sees Lazarus lying on Abraham’s bosom, and he cries out to Abraham, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.  But Abraham says, Child, remember that you received your good things in life and Lazarus bad; now he is comforted, and you have torment.  Besides, there is a great chasm fixed between us and you, so that no one can come from hell up to us, nor can anyone in heaven come to where you are.

 

Jesus leaves us to imagine the torment of the damned.  He talks about flames.  Being burned alive is probably one of the most painful ways to die. But the rich man doesn’t die.  He longs even for a slight relief from his pain—just a drop of water on his tongue, but he can’t have one.

 

Sometimes people say, “Well, at least in hell I’ll be with all my friends.”  But you notice that if the rich man has friends around, he doesn’t notice them.  He is alone.  But yet he can look up and see heaven, and the saints in heaven.  He can see heaven, which he rejected in life, but he can only look at the joy that he will never have.

 

Jesus tells us this story and pictures the reward of the righteous and the unrighteous.  It is eternal in both cases.  The righteous will be comforted forever, but the unrighteous, will be tormented unceasingly, in both body and soul.

 

The obvious question we want to ask is: what made the rich man unrighteous, and Lazarus righteous?  Does being rich make you evil, and being poor and suffering make you good in God’s sight?  No; Abraham himself was wealthy, but he didn’t end up in hell.

 

Delainey, you have already learned the yardstick by which we are able to evaluate whether actions, thoughts, or the people who do them are righteous or unrighteous.  The measure of righteousness is the Law of God, the ten commandments.  And the summary of God’s Law is one word: Love.  “Love is the fulfillment of the Law”, St. Paul writes in Romans.

 

The rich man was unrighteous because he lacked love.  That is clear enough.  His life was a celebration.  Meanwhile, a sick man laid outside his gates naked, longing every day for someone to pick up the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.  A righteous person doesn’t look on the suffering of his neighbor and feel nothing.  He has compassion, and he acts out of compassion.

 

Today is Father’s day, and it got me thinking about what it is that defines a father who is faithful to his calling.  To be called “Father” is a high honor, because that is what the first person of the Trinity is called.

 

Fathers, of course, beget children.  They don’t give birth to them, but they beget them upon their mothers.  But it’s obvious that a man who simply creates a child has not really deserved the name “Father.”  A Father creates life, but he also cares for and nurtures his children.  He provides for them; teaches them; disiciplines them; plays with them; loves them.  That is how God the Father deals with human beings.  He created us, but He continues to nurture and sustain the lives He created.  He does this not only for those who love and obey Him but those who don’t.  All throughout this life He seeks to teach us.  He sends us pain in order to discipline us.  He does all this out of “fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness” in us.

 

God is love, says the Epistle reading.  And so fathers love.

 

On the other hand, what marks a father who is not doing his job, or what marks a bad father?  A bad father is selfish.  A bad father drinks up his paycheck, and his kids go hungry.  A bad father beats his wife or abandons his children.  A bad father doesn’t teach his children what they need to know to live life well.  A bad father cares about himself instead of his kids.

 

Bad fathers are selfish—which means, they act contrary to the nature of God the Father, who is love.

 

The unrighteous will suffer eternal torment in hell; and the unrighteous are those who, like the rich man, and like bad fathers, are selfish and do not love.

 

And what every hearer this morning should be asking themselves is, “Do I love?  Am I selfish?”  That question should burn within us, lest we burn with the answer to the question in eternity, like the rich man.

 

The answer to this question, the honest answer, is what?  Am I selfish?

 

Every father here probably remembers times, many times, when they selfishly ignored their children because they had other things they wanted to do.

 

Even more, most fathers are selfish in a way that they do not realize.  Most fathers shirk the responsibility of teaching and modeling the most important thing to their children—the word of God.  Just like Adam kept quiet in Eden when his wife was deceived by the serpent.  We see this everywhere in the church.  We simply do not have men today who lead spiritually, either in their families or in the church.  Come to bible class and you will see that 95 percent of the class is women.  Where are the men in the church setting the example for the congregation in hearing and learning God’s Word?  Beyond their own need for it, they forget the need of the young for examples of godly men.  They do not think of the people in their lives who do not hear God’s Word from them because they are not growing in the knowledge of it.

 

But of course, it isn’t just men.  This lack of self-giving love, this focus on ourselves and our own well-being and happiness, our ignoring the needs of others, is the way of the sinful flesh.  It operates in every one of us.  God is love; self-giving love.  Love does not think of itself, it thinks of others.  But we think of ourselves in nearly everything.  Even godly Christians who fight against it still do so.  Even Abraham, the man of God did, when he, for instance, asked his wife to tell Pharaoh that she was his sister, and Pharaoh married her.  He did this not out of love for Sarah, but out of love for himself, fearing for his life.

 

Yet God counted Abraham righteous, because God pointed at the stars and said, “So shall your offspring be,” and Abraham believed him.

 

And so God counts righteousness to all of us who, in the midst of seeing our selfishness, and our worthiness of the rich man’s fate, believe that God justifies us for the sake of Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us.

 

Jesus is the star to which God points us.  He shines with the glory of God, even in the agony of the cross, where he was covered with wounds like Lazarus, and the spit of his enemies, like Lazarus’ wounds were covered with the spit of dogs.  He shines like a star there, because we see a man who loved and fulfilled God’s law.  God points us to Him and says, He is your righteousness.  He points us to His agony and death on the cross, where He endured the torment of God’s wrath and says, “Your hellfire is quenched.  Your sins are removed.”

 

And whoever dares to believe this, even while the fire of sin and selfishness still burns inside of him, God counts righteous.  God justifies him.

 

If we want to be better fathers, better daughters and sons, better Christians, the solution is not found in exercising your will.  It is found in Jesus, who is perfect in love.  To hear God’s word and believe His promise that you are righteous for Jesus’ sake.  Then the love of God who is love lives in us and flows from us.

 

Even more importantly, even more important than growing in sanctification, is God’s certain assurance in this teaching that we are sons of Abraham and sons of God.  How can I be saved from the torment of the rich man?  Only through Jesus who fulfilled the law.  Only believing that He did this for me.

 

Delainey, you have many years ahead of you to live in faithfulness to the pledges you made at Baptism and which you will make again today.  And it is so easy for the selfish, loveless nature of the flesh to overcome us and lead us into sin, to take us captive.  How can you be faithful?

 

Only through this star to which God points you, this river of water quenching your thirst, Jesus Christ the righteous, through whom God declares you again and again to be righteous and justified.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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The Victory March–Palm Sunday/Confirmation

April 2, 2012 1 comment

Palm Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 21:1-9

April 1, 2012

I bind unto myself today The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward, The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

 

 

Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, give us Your Holy Spirit who writes the preached Word into our hearts. May we receive and believe it and be cheered and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify Your Word in our hearts and make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, through Your Holy Spirit think what is right, and by Your power, fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord. Amen.

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You who are so loved by God, that He gave up for you His only begotten Son:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

[10:45…Brandon, Shelby, Emily,

Families of those to be confirmed,

Members of St. Peter who rejoice with them:

Grace and peace to you…]

 

Jesus’ victory march.

 

Introduction:

Joe’s Baptism birthday.

                What we may forget in our joy: baptism means the cross.

 

Confirmation…you confess the faith, you confess Jesus’ victory, you become a participant in the feast of victory.

                But how slow we are to understand His victory!

This is the feast of victory for our God…but it is the feast of remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death.

 

  1. 1.        He marches to death on the cross.
    1. a.        Background to Jesus’ passion—John 8, 10, 11—plots to kill Him
    2. b.       The whole world is going after Him!  Priests, Pharisees.
    3. c.       It is expedient that one man die for the people.  It is realistic.
      1.                                                               i.      Caiaphas says this.
      2.                                                             ii.      Pilate does the same thing.
      3.                                                           iii.      And Peter.
      4.                                                            iv.      Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus—late bravery.
    4. d.       Let us look honestly at where He is going.
    5. e.       Are the praises appropriate?  Do the angels sing? 
    6. f.        This is where the confirmed are going.  What happened to Jesus will happen to all who belong to Him…and let’s not make it metaphorical.
  2. 2.       Why it is a victory march.
    1. a.        He does not come to take sides and to destroy the “bad guys.”
    2. b.       He comes to be destroyed.
    3. c.       He comes with the truth, with God’s word, knowing He will not be enthroned but killed.
    4. d.       He goes alone.
    5. e.       He goes willingly.
    6. f.        13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
      1.                                                               i.      But His triumph is riding to His death.
    7. g.       He is storming hell.
    8. h.       Behold, your king comes to you gentle…riding on the foal of a yoke animal…Not with violence, but gentle.
    9. i.        Catechumens:  You know your sins.  I’ve heard you say it.  Now, you look to Jesus only, and how He loves you.
  3. 3.       We follow behind with joy.
    1. a.         “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
    2. b.       Blessed are the meek (or the gentle), for they will inherit the earth.
    3. c.       Make no mistake; living as a Christian is going to the cross with Jesus—going to die.
    4. d.       But not alone.
      1.                                                               i.      The real suffering was His alone.
      2.                                                             ii.      We go with the victory ours already.
      3.                                                           iii.      Our crosses are small in comparison…suffering, our plans/will being destroyed.  Perhaps being killed, perhaps being despised.  But these with death and hell conquered.
    5. e.        Our weakness is a victory march:
      1.                                                               i.      14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
    6. f.         The yoke is light because we look at Jesus’ cross and resurrection; we hear the Word…it is finished.
      1.                                                               i.      If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
      2.                                                             ii.      When?  Baptism.
      3.                                                           iii.      Philippians 2: Let this mind be in you which is yours in Christ Jesus…
      4.                                                            iv.      We have the victory, so now with His patient voice, the voice of Him who bore our sins, wounds, cross…we are asked to serve others.
      5.                                                              v.      This is the voice of Him who gives us His body and blood and forgiveness.
      6.  vi.      This is the way of victory and the way of peace.

 

 

 

 

My Great-Grandmother’s Confirmation Book–First Chapter

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment
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First Chapter.

Was it Right for You to Make Your Confirmation Vow?

 

You are now confirmed, my dear child.  Standing at the altar of your God, you sang: “Take Thou my hands and lead me!”  And then, O sacred, O blessed hour, you publicly and solemnly renewed your baptismal vow and promised to be faithful to your Savior unto death.  But, tell me, was it right for you to make that sacred vow?  You wonder perhaps at my question.  You evidently think and say: Why, of course I did right; who can doubt it?  But know, my child, there are many people who declare it very wrong to confirm children of your tender age.  They say you are too weak and too ignorant for making such a cow.  They say parents ought to let their children grow up until they are men and women, and then let the children decide for themselves, whether they want to become Christians, be baptized and confirmed and join the Christian Church, or not.  You will also meet such people, my child.  How will you defend the making of your vow against them?  Well, you have learned that the infallible Word of God is the only rule and guide of our faith and life.  What reply, therefore, must we make from the Word of God to the objection of these people?

First we must answer that it is left to no man’s choice whether he wants to be a Christian, or not.  For the Apostle Paul expressly preaches it, Acts 17, 30. 31: “God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man who He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance to all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.”  There you hear, my child, that it is left to no man’s own free choice whether he wants to be a Christian, or not.  Whoever will not repent and believe in Christ as his Savior sins against a clear command of the almighty God and brings God’s wrath and punishment upon himself.  Whoever will not believe shall be damned!

In the second place we must answer: God earnestly requires all parents to instruct their children in His blessed Word.   In Deuteronomy, ch. 6, v. 6.7, He says:  “And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”  Those parents, therefore, who neglect to instruct their children early in the saving Word of god do so at their own great peril.  How do those parents know if their children will live long enough to decide this all important matter for themselves?  What if their children should die in early youth, without the Word of God and faith, through the fault of their parents, what then?  What answer will such neglectful parents give tot he mighty Judge of heaven and earth when He will ask them: “Where are the children I intrusted to your care, that you might raise them for me and my kingdom?  Why did you not obey my command: ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God’?  Did I not shed my precious blood also for the children, and give my Word and the washing of water by the Word, my holy Baptism, unto you, that you might bring your children to me, their Savior?  Why have you not done so?”  Will not such parents be stricken dumb and suffer the most fearful punishment for their sinful neglect?  All Baptist sects, however, who denounce the baptism of infants, must first prove that children do not belong to the human race and are therefore to be excluded from the clear command of Christ: “go ye, therefore, and make all nations my disciples by baptizing them in the name fo the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost!”  And when these people declare that little children cannot believe and therefore ought not to be baptized, Christ’s clear word is against them, Matt. 18, 6: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me!”

In the third place we answer: As regards the vow of Confirmation, it would be wrong only then to make it if it contained anything contrary to the word of God.  But what is it children do when they make their Confirmation vow?  Nothing else than to renew and confirm the sacred covenant which they made through their sponsors at their Baptism with the Triune God.  If the vow at your Confirmation is wrong, then your vow at your Baptism was also wrong.  But who dares to assert that our baptismal vow is wrong when God Himself in His holy Word demands that we confess Him as our God and Lord, and solemnly promise to be His in time and eternity?  For the Lord our God declares emphatically, Is. 45, 23. 24: “Unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.”  Then also the knees of children must bow to Him,a nd their tongues, too, swear to be His.  And Prov. 23, 26 God Himself says to the children, “My Son (my daughter), give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”  Yes, in the 8th Psalm David declares: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast Thou ordained strength, because of Thine enemies, that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.”  hence we read Matt. 21, when our Savior entered Jerusalem to begin His passion, even the children cried their “Hosanna to the Son of David!” to Him.  And when the chief priests and scribes were sore displeased and said unto Him: “Hearest Thou what these say?”  jesus answered them: “yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”  Therefore be assured, my dear child, if the Savior was well pleased at the hosanna of those children, he was also well pleased at the hosanna you raised to Him at your Baptism and confirmation.  Let who will, therefore, take offense at your vow, your blessed God and Savior, Jesus Christ, delights in this your confession and promise and will bless you for it.

There, my dear child, you have the answer from God’s holy Word to the question whether you did right, or not, to make that vow at your Confirmation.  With this answer you can shut the mouth of all the enemies of your Christian faith and comfort your own conscience if it should ever trouble you about your Confirmation vow in the future.

 

 

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