Monday, June 30, 2008
TEXT: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.’" Matthew 10:34-35
This is the Gospel of the Lord?
Many a pastor, along with his congregation, has asked this very question upon reading and hearing these words of our Lord.
"I did not come to bring peace but a sword." This is the Gospel of the Lord?
Well, no, in the strictest, narrowest sense of the word, this is not Gospel. For the Gospel of the Lord is that all of your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. "It is finished." THIS is the Gospel of the Lord.
But in another, wider sense, this IS the Gospel of our Lord, for the narrow Gospel message of the forgiveness of sins is embodied in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we also call those four books of the Bible that speak of the life of the incarnate Christ -- that ever present God who took on human flesh to dwell among us -- Gospel books.
Because these are the words of Jesus, the living Gospel, this IS the Gospel of the Lord. But these words do not save do they? And you might, as many if not all Christian have at some time in their life, say, "If this is what it means to be a child of God, I would rather be an orphan. I thought Jesus came to bring peace."
And so He did, dear baptized. And so He did.
Hear the Christmas angel with all the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:13-14 NKJ)
Hear the resurrected Lord speaking to his terrified disciples as He Himself stood in the midst of them, ... "Peace to you." (Luke 24:36 NKJ)
Hear the Lord sending out His disciples to proclaim the Holy Gospel, "But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'" (Luke 10:5 NKJ)
So as we begin to take a look at this difficult text, dear people of Trinity, "Peace, be still. . . . Let not your heart be troubled," for the Lord is here to shower His love upon you this day.
And part of His love for you is to warn you so that you will be prepared when the world doesn’t like the name and message you bear. For the Gospel that is the Good and even Best of News for you who believe, is the bad and most certainly worst of news to those who do not.
"But," you say, "pastor, my family is more important than ANYTHING. And here Jesus is saying to believe in Him I must be an enemy of my own flesh and blood. I just can’t do that pastor."
First, remember that according to the Gospel, you have been given a new flesh and blood -- the flesh and blood of Christ. You are now His children.
Second, you do not HAVE to "do that." You do not have to BE the enemy. For being an enemy is not something that a baptized, believing Christian does any more. It is something that is done to him by his sinful flesh. As Jesus says, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt 26:4, NKJ) And thanks be to God, the believer is no longer His enemy and now can say with all confidence that "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Gal 2:20, NKJ)
So, now let us take a closer look at this word of warning from our Lord that is a word for word quote of the prophet Micah (Micah 7:6).
In becoming part of the body of Christ, we take up His cross. Bearing that cross we now will have the devil, the world and our sinful flesh, that unholy trinity, assailing us. For they have been defeated and are now in their death throes lashing out in a last desperate attempt to take as many others with them into their misery as they can.
In receiving peace with God in Christ, we now are at war with the world, because the world is at war with us – and that is because IT is not at peace with God. That is why we are called, as also is an entire section of hymns in Lutheran Worship, the church militant. And it is not just the world, it is also the devil and even our own sinful flesh enjoined in the battle.
Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword to earth, because the earth is the battlefield of this unholy trinity – the devil, the world and our sinful flesh .
The devil has as his mission to tear as many believers away from Christ as he can. He wastes no time with the world because he already has them. His battle is with us.
The world of unbelievers are not at peace with God, so when confronted with those who bear His name and His word they lash out and try to wound us or shame us into tolerating or even joining them in living in sin.
Our sinful flesh, like the devil and the world, is waiting to be destroyed. And so at times it too will war against us too, even agreeing to tolerate and join the world in living in sin.
All of this serves to remind us of the persistent deadliness of sin. And because of this war and its deadliness, Paul reminds us, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom. 6:1, NKJ)
Yes, even we believers must still hear the Law when tempted to continue living in the sin from which we have been delivered. Though we are not bound by it, the Law still serves to drive us back to the cross and receive forgiveness – which is precisely what Paul is talking about in today’s epistle: "But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." (Rom. 7:13) And we have a loving example of that when Jesus used the Law to correct an erring Peter as he tried to prevent Jesus from bearing His cross when He said to His beloved friend, "Get behind me Satan." (Matthew 16:23)
Such is indeed a killing statement coming from the lips of a loved one, even from Christ Himself, but it is a necessary statement that we do well to remember when we sin or are tempted to permit the sin of our loved ones.
Yes, "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor 3:6 NKJ) And even our loving God says of Himself, "I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal;" (Deut 32:39, NKJ)
If our sin is not killed in this world, it will kill us eternally in the next. And so the Law of God comes down upon us with all its fury, to expose our sin and lay us low, killing us in order that the Gospel can make us alive again.
We see this when the same Jesus who says, "get behind me Satan" to Peter, also forgives and restores Peter to "feed His lambs." It is the same Law and Gospel message he has for us today.
C. F. W. Walther puts it this way in his book, Law & Gospel:
"When the Law has laid us low, we can cheerfully raise our heads again because besides the Law we have another doctrine which proposes no demands of any kind? This other doctrine is a doctrine which is given to purely lift us up unto the Lord, because it is the doctrine that brings the Lord down to earth. It is the doctrine of which we sing along with the Christmas angel: 'From heaven above to earth I come, to bring good news to every one!' It is the doctrine of which the Apostle Paul says to Timothy and all pastors and their congregations, 'Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.' (1 Tim 4:16 NKJ) It is the doctrine called Gospel, for it is nothing but good news. And not just good news, but the best of news, news that Jesus Christ is here and forgives you all your sins. It is THE good news, Gospel message that simply having received it, the believer also receives the one who earned it on the cross and delivers it into ears, upon our lips and tongues, over our heads and so engraves in our hearts.
In today’s Gospel lesson from St. Matthew, that good news message is hidden in this little phrase, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." It is hidden in that it is one little phrase amid a daunting presentation of Law. And it is hidden in that it is not seen by those who cannot and do not, with the eyes of faith, see their Lord Jesus Christ there speaking it.
That the Gospel is hidden in Christ and His death for the forgiveness of sins, that the Gospel is hidden in simple words spoken by sinful men, in a splash of water upon heads of all shapes and sizes, in a little piece of bread and a tiny sip of wine is the cause of all kinds of trouble in the world.
In fact, that the Gospel was hidden in the Son of Man who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, is the very reason He suffered, died and was buried at the hand of sinful men. It was an offense to the unbelieving world that this man claimed to be the very Son of God. And even today, the fact that God only sends the Gospel and gives salvation only through the means of preaching and absolving by the words of Scripture, the waters of baptism, and the body and blood of our Lord’s Supper is the very reason that we believers will never have peace with the world. It is an offense to the unbelieving world that these things claim to bear the very presence of the Son of God.
Martin Luther once wrote that the most troubling times in his life were when he had no troubles at all. Why? Because in such cases he figured he had gotten so far off track that the devil saw no need to afflict him anymore. As our Jesus lovingly warns in the text today, where He is forgiving sins there most certainly WILL be trouble as that unholy trinity of the devil, the world and our sinful flesh make their last desperate attempt to sever us from our Lord.
But thanks be to God! Though the devil remains loose for a time, and will rage against you here in this world, and assail your flesh, the victory is indeed already won. Even as He sits at the right hand of the Father – which Father we receive here today because here we receive His Son, THE righteous man who once crucified for our sins is now risen to proclaim the message of the cross to us: "It IS finished!" All of your sins are forgiven and you have a seat forever with THE Righteous man in His kingdom, in the in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Under the caption, "The Truth Will Set You Free," you will read this message:"Pirate Christian Radio is an online radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, purpose-drivenism, the prosperity heresy, contempletive mysticism, seeker-sensitivism, liberalism, relavantism, Emergent nonesense [sic], and the sissy girly religiousity that is being passed off as "Biblical Christianity".
"This station proclaims 'Christ crucified for our sins' and exhalts [sic] and defends THE historic Christian faith."
This was pretty much the rallying cry of Luther and the Reformation. There was a time that this was the rallying cry of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Sadly, this is no longer true. Within the LCMS, indeed within much of "mainline" Lutheranism, you will find all too many of the "scurvy plagues" mentioned above. However, if I may be so bold, this still is essentially the rallying cry at Trinity Lutheran Church of Layton, Utah where I am the pastor, as well as that of many faithful pastors and congregations that serve as harbors of truth in the vast seas of Lutherdom.
After taking a listen to the new iteration of Issues, Etc., if you too are interested in exalting and defending THE historic Christian faith along with faithful, orthodox Lutherans dispersed throughout the LCMS and other Lutheran bodies, I suggest you check out http://www.augustanaministerium.org/. Among other things there, you will find information and a link to the Augustana Confraternity, an organization for laymen interested in promoting and supporting true Lutheranism. If you would like to be directed to a faithful Lutheran congregation in your area, you can find a state by state listing of confessional/liturgical Lutheran congregations at http://www.lutheranliturgy.org/.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Yes, God does want us to think on, believe in, and call upon Him as our dear heavenly Father, who gives us, His children every good and needful blessing and gift that we may live forever with Him in heaven. [SC Introduction to the Lord's Prayer]
And as we observe and celebrate Father’’s Day, He wants us also to know and look upon our earthly fathers as a gift from Him.
In truth, though, fathers are not always appreciated, to say the least -- until maybe later in life when we have experienced the same things and are raising our own children and have experienced some of the same concerns, fears and desires for our own children and the formidable task of raising them to adulthood and teaching them the faith once delivered to us.
In Eph 6:1-4 Paul says of the 4TH Commandment: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (NKJ)
That is all well and good, howevcer there is that little complicating factor of sin -- both of the father and of the child -- that makes it difficult to see the father/child relationship as gift. It is a reflection of Adam and Eve’’s original sin, in which they perceived God as keeping something good from them rather than protecting them from evil.
Now, since we all partake of that sin, not only do we have a problem seeing things as blessings and gifts, the very things and people that are meant to be blessings and gifts at times do indeed cause us harm.
The result, evidenced in surveys, is that a significant number of people are challenged in their faith because they have severe difficulty in thinking of God as their Father, as well as a problem with being obedient to their fathers, i.e. pastors and teachers, in the faith.
But you see the office or authority of father --whether earthly or spiritual fathers -- is not the problem. Sinners who abuse the office are the problem. Adam was not a good pastor as he did not speak up but stood by and watched to see what happened when Eve picked and ate the fruit. And ever since, people have had an excuse to reject and ignore fathers, mothers, teachers, earthly rulers and law enforcement officials – and pastors.
The same is true with virtually every gift of God.
- Government/other earthly authorities
- Lord’s Supper
- Pastors/Pastoral Authority
Sin sees these gifts as burdens to bear, obligations to fulfill, or even curses to avoid. And one of the greatest difficulties is that the only way to overcome such rejection and unbelief is by the preaching and teaching of God’s Word – by one of those sinners.
But look what our Lord says and does in our Gospel lesson today:
I. Moved with Compassion
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
II. Power Over Unclean Spirits
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
III. Go Rather to the Unclean Sheep
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
IV. Whoever Will not Receive You
"Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
V. Do Not Worry
"But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Matthew 9:35-10:20, NKJ
Moved with compassion for you and all sinners, our Lord continues to send laborers into the harvest field of this world to seek out the lost, call them to repentance, forgive the sins of those who listen, and open the kingdom of heaven to all who believe their report.
For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:11-17 NKJ)
Will your fathers, mothers, teachers, earthly rulers and law enforcement officials – and pastors – be sinners, will they err and at times seek to be served rather than to serve. Certainly. However this does not give us the excuse or permission to be disobedient and ignore the authority these people bear. God always has and always will – to the end of this age – use sinners to accomplish his purposes here in this world. After all, it’s all there is to work with. And don’t forget that you too have your own realm of authority, in which you are bound to err and seek to be served rather than to serve. So please remember that what you perceive as sin and offense is not always so. Faithfulness to God’s Word and the work He gives us to do is contrary to our sin stained hearts and minds so it is often very difficult to hear, let alone do.
You may have difficulty listening to and obeying your father and mother, or your teacher, or a government official, or a law enforcement officer, or a boss who may be keeping you from doing something you want to do, or telling you to do something you do not want to do.
Rom 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (NKJ)
And in the church, He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head__ Christ__from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16 NKJ)
So of this office, Walther posits:
A. To the ministry there is due respect as well as
unconditional obedience when the pastor uses God’s Word.
B. The minister must not tyrannize the church. He has no authority to introduce new laws or arbitrarily to establish adiaphora or ceremonies.
C. The minister has no right to inflict and carry out excommunication without his having first informed the whole congregation.
Again the Apostle Paul tells the pastor in 1 Tim 4:16: Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (NKJ)
This is every pastor's call and solemn responsibility to God our Father, and to you His dear children. For, moved with compassion, in these things God works to open the kingdom of heaven and give you eternal life – as He forgives you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
"Jesus Sits with Sinners"
TEXT: Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. Matthew 9:10
What a beautiful picture we have in our Gospel today. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, sitting down to dinner with all manner of people.
The Pharisee’s question of the disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" shows they neither knew Jesus nor themselves. For Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah, who has come to save sinners. That is what His very name, Jesus, means -- "Jahweh saves," that is, "I Am Salvation." And there is not one among them, or us, who is not a sinner.
Why did Jesus eat with sinners?
- Unsinners don’t need Him.
- Unsinners cannot recognize Him.
- If He did not eat with sinners, He would have to eat alone.
Now imagine Jesus were to come today. Where would He go to find sinners and eat with them? Right here. Unless we realize and confess that we are, each of us, a sinner and even more the worst of all sinners, He does not invite us to eat with Him.
We are not Pharisees gathered here today to show God how much we love Him, or how much we have done for Him; to get His attention by our many words of prayer and petition, or by our beautiful songs of praise. We are sinners gathered here by the Lord to receive His attention, to be forgiven our sins and strengthened in faith unto eternal life by His precious Word, for Him to lavish us with His love and send us forth into the sinful world to speak this loving Word of forgiveness of sin, life and salvation and to sin no more. This is what Jesus means when He says to Matthew and to all His baptized disciples, "Follow Me."
Now this text, this message that Jesus eats with sinners can be a real land mine for the pastor to preach. For if we take it out of the context of the rest of Scripture, we can make it say all kinds of things. And if the pastor is not aware of and ready to teach the Baptized "to observe all things that I have commanded you," (Matt 28:20 NKJ) there is real danger that the Baptized will be led to believe in some kind of universalism that says, since Jesus came to save sinners and eat with them, that everybody is going to heaven and will be at His banquet table.
This is simply not true, as Jesus points out very clearly in the words of our Gospel from last week, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven....And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matt. 7:21, 23)
Out of a desire to offend no one or a fear that we will turn people off of or away from God, there is the temptation for the pastor and/or his congregation to use this passage as rationale to ignore and excuse all kinds of sin, because it is what Jesus did in sitting and eating with sinnersw, isn’t it?
While we must admit that, yes, Jesus ate with sinners, we also must not forget that He did not eat with all sinners. He ate with those sinners whom He taught, and He taught those sinners with whom He ate. And that is the pattern and command He gives to the baptized, forgiven people of His church and those He has called to shepherd them.
In the verse that precedes our Old Testament lesson from Hosea we read about what must happen to sinners before they seek the Lord’s face and sit down to eat with Him:
"For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue." Then after this painful application of the Law the Lord says, "I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me." (Hosea 5:14-15)
And this is not just Old Testament religion speaking either. The Apostle Paul warns those who would mistake forgiveness, which is deliverance from our sin, for license, which is permission to keep on sinning:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:9-11 NKJ)
False teachers tell you that you can continue in these things. Our Baptism into the Holy Christian faith teaches us otherwise:
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. . . . Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Rom 6:1-14 NKJ)
Yes we are under grace. Though we are sinners, we are forgiven our sin and freed from it for Jesus desires mercy not sacrifice. That is, because sacrifice is of men but mercy is of God.
By outward appearance and according to the works of men, Jesus sits at the table with sinners. But by the inner reality and according to the work of God, Jesus sits at the table with His saints. Saints not given to their sin but sinners clothed in His righteousness.
Therefore, we who belong to our Father in heaven and are kept by the Holy Spirit with Christ Jesus in His church, teach repentance -- that is hatred for our sin and turning away from it to the forgiveness Christ Jesus earned on Calvary. This is precisely what the prophet Hosea is speaking of in our Old Testament lesson today when he says, "Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; he has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight."
Thanks be to God our Father, and His precious Son Jesus Christ. We are not doomed to live in our sin and damned to live without God. For Jesus has suffered, died and risen for us. Everything the prophet Hosea writes about the people of God has been visited upon His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, in our place. Truly, in Christ, we ourselves were torn and stricken on the cross. By pouring out His Holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death on Calvary some 2000 years ago He has forgiven the sins of the whole world. In the waters of our Baptism, in the confession & absolution of our liturgy, in the proclamation of the Gospel, in the body and blood of the Lord’s Supper -- in all of these things we have been revived and raised up with Christ to come and return to the Lord our God. For in these things the Lord Jesus Christ is present today to "revive us; ... [and] raise us up, that we may live in His sight" even as He forgives you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen