The Time is Now — Use it Wisely

 

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6: 7-8).

God is mocked in various ways. There are those who mock the very idea that God exists. Their mockery in effect is denying Him. That is unbelief. There are those who admit the possibility of the existence of God (at least a “higher being”) but reject His Word. They laugh at it, treat it contemptuously and scornfully. That is unbelief. As they mock people who believe the Bible, they mock God. Dead in trespasses and sins, they are gods unto themselves and serve their flesh. They are without God and without hope in the world. Then there are those of whom Paul wrote saying, “although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God nor were thankful” (Romans 1:21) They “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28). They do not, because they cannot, deny God’s existence or the Bible. They choose to pick and choose what they want to believe. They determine for themselves what is true and right theologically and societally. As arbiters of truth, they exchange God’s truth to satisfy their reason and personal agenda. As a judgment, God gives them up to their wickedness. Romans 1 describes the consequence. They are oblivious to what Paul wrote to the Galatians. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap…”.  

Instead of planting oats, wheat, or some other grain, does a farmer plant weeds and briars? What a man sows, he will also reap. In a temporal sense that is what happens in personal life. Sow wild oats, reap wild oats! Only a fool denies that. Likewise, a nation that countenances selfishness, greed, hatred, and immorality will reap the sad consequences. The Lord is watching. Are we there yet? Though said of ancient Israel, the Lord speaks also to a godless nation. “This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth”… “I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:28, 12:17). This very judgment of God is mocked by the ungodly. But as God’s Word is truth, history shows through the ages, “ God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption…”

Paul’s words have a far more serious application in the spiritual realm. The apostolic words speak to consequences related to eternity. Sadly, the consequences are lost on all who think lightly of the Lord, mock Him, abuse His name, love sin, persecute the Church and neglect the welfare of those who bring the Word of God [In context, Paul reminded the Galatians of God’s will, that they who are taught the Word share with those who teach it ( v. 6)].

Many go their merry way because they see this life as the measure and end of all things. Their attention is focused on the earth. They fail to understand, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul” (Matthew 16:26). They mock the reality of judgment day. The call to repentance, and the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them. They fail to see that God is serious about what He says. Of the rich man, not condemned to hell because of his wealth, but because of his lack of faith manifest through his worldliness, his temporal focus rather than a heavenly focus, his love of things rather than God, we read, “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’” (Luke 16:24).

When the rich man in hell begged for relief, he was told, “There is none for you.” He then asked that Lazarus be sent from heaven back to earth to warn the rich man’s 5 brothers lest they come into the same condemnation. He was told, “No.” “If they don’t hear Moses and the prophets [the Word of God], neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).*

It is not a pleasant thing to preach the Law which speaks of sin and the wrath to come. But without it one cannot understand the Gospel promise of verse 8: “…but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

Neither does God Who gave the Law delight in meting out judgment upon those who reject and mock Him (Ezekiel 33:11, 2 Peter 3:9). The confirmation of that lies in the Father’s promise of the Savior’s birth and in the birth of the Savior Who bore the sins of the world, and died.

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*A parable is not to be stretched beyond the point it is making. The unbelievers in hell may cry out, but their cries are not heard in heaven. There will be no communication between believers in heaven and unbelievers in hell. At death one’s fate is sealed—either eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ alone, or eternal “living” death and pain in hell! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Blessed are they who hear it and keep it ( Luke 11:28).

 

Let it be clear. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is no one born of woman, except the Lord Jesus Himself, who was born without sin and does not sin. As Luther says in connection with the 5th Petition, “For we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment.”

Nevertheless, there are those who through faith in Christ “sow to the Spirit” and “of the Spirit reap everlasting life?” Those of the Spirit who sow to the Spirit have been born anew by the Spirit through the Means of Grace. They have been regenerated by the Word of God which in and with the water of Baptism is, “A gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost,” as St Paul says in Titus, chapter 3. In faith they believe “…According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Thanks be to God for His grace – full, free, complete. Paul exhorts the regenerate to be what they are. “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).

Believers are, however, still sin in the flesh – the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We have all frequently reaped a negative reaction, deservedly so, by what we have sown in this temporal life. My brothers never stepped into my shoes to take the discipline I deserved. I reaped the consequence of what I had sown. Our heavenly Father disciplines us in time for our good. However, the eternal consequence for wild oats (sin) we have sown Jesus bore in our place. He died for all. All who believe escape the judgment that befell the rich man.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 3:9). The penitent sinner basks in the joy of forgiveness and eternal life as he believes that Jesus suffered the wrath of God in our place. In the joy of forgiveness through the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, the regenerate daily prays, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me…” (Psalm 51:10).

Drawing on the Spirit and living in the love of God with thankfulness for His unmerited grace toward us, the child of God desires to gladly hear and learn the Word of God, to love God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves. God’s children assent to the apostolic injunction, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Christ-believer prays that Christ, through the eternal Spirit, will purge his conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). Unlike those who sow to the flesh and suffer eternal consequence in hell, the child of God, active in faith, sows to the Spirit, and reaps everlasting life.

“Sowing to the Spirit,” living to the glory of God, does not imply that salvation is a result of good works. Living to the glory of God is not work righteousness. It is a consequence of the grace of God that brings salvation, not an excuse to live life as we choose because the Lord is ready to forgive (Romans 6:1). God forbid! It “is the fruit, the characteristic, the ear-mark of true faith,” the exercise of which says that we are who we say we are, children of God and heirs of heaven. It is manifestation of the unmerited, empowering, saving grace of God, a gift through which we rejoice to serve the Lord in humility and truth. Christ Jesus, the living Word, Who has revealed Himself in the inspired Word, is the power unto salvation. He alone! Further, He, through the Spirit, is the Author of the sanctified life. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth” (Psalm 115:1).

As time winds down, the contrast between works of those who sow to the flesh that reaps destruction, and those who sow to the Spirit that reaps salvation grows starker and starker: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that )those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:19-22).

May our life be one of daily repentance, as well as unwavering faithfulness to the Truth of the Word of God. May our life and living and preaching be a call to repentance to those still walking the path of destruction. Finally, may our faith and life be such that in the end, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we hear, “Well done good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

What will you reap? The day is late. The time is now. Use it wisely.

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Socialism and Christianity

 

While they do not necessarily identify with the Socialist Party, politicians espousing socialism identify with many of its causes and aims. To know this is important since Socialism is front and center in the political arena this election season. While it is by no means a new concept, it dates to ancient Greece (Plato). It was promoted by Karl Marx (1818-1883). What is it? One definition of it online is “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” Merriam Webster says it consists of “various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Also “a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism…”. There are various emanations within the structure of Socialism.

Socialism alleges that capitalism is evil because it creates a disparity between “haves” and “have nots.” Capitalism is seen as a form of slavery. A socialistic mentality will change government as we understand it. Moreover, extremists today are not as interested in reform as in revolution, as we are seeing across the country. Marx said that historical forces (class struggle) “determine usually by violent means the achievement of socialist goals.”

Government like any other agency must be held to account. No clear-thinking individual denies that corruption and self-serving exists in government. Socialists and to a great extent socialism play on dissatisfaction, chaos, racial tension, and class-hatred to bring about their concept of change. One politician has in fact said that this country needs to change the government. Much is at stake in the election.

Apart from the political and economic ramifications, a greater concern is what underlies the philosophy. It is insidious, and in all the talk of Socialism no one speaks of it. As a swipe at God and the Bible, Socialism is built on the premise that God did not make man, but man made God. Engels, another socialist said, “There is absolutely no room for either a Creator or a Ruler.” The foundational philosophy of socialism is evolution. As a result, promotion of materialism is one of its aims.

Listen to some Socialists from the past lay out the foundation of Socialism:

 

“The gods did not create man; it is man that makes gods or a god for himself. In his[man’s] image, in his likeness he creates him[god], and not vice versa.”

“It is our duty as Socialists to root out the faith in God with all our zeal; and no man is worthy of the name Socialist who is not himself an atheist…”

“Socialism has nothing to do with religion!”

“It is for this reason that Socialism does not feel the necessity of fighting specially these same religious beliefs, which are destined to disappear.”

“Faith in man, faith in his power to rise, to realize his noblest aspirations and dreams, is the dominant spiritual impulse of this world-circling movement.”

“It is in the hope and struggle for this higher social life, ever widening, ever intensifying, whose ultimate possibilities are beyond the power of language to express or thoughts to conceive, that the Socialist finds his ideal, his religion.”

“Morality, then, has passed through a process of evolution; there has never existed a universal or permanent code of ethics… The moral forms are products of economic conditions.”

(Direct quotes found in The Real Truth about Socialism — A TREATISE, CPH,1916 )

Some may mock because the quotes above are of the past. However, the foundational philosophy is unchanged. Online today one finds:

“Religion is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.”

Socialism, both as a philosophy, and as a form of society, is the antithesis of religion.

 The decay of religion is, indeed, a measure of the advance of humanity, for the height of man’s superstition is at the same time the depth of his ignorance. The Socialist can see, accompanying the decline of religion, the toiling multitudes emerging from the darkness of ignorance and fear into the clear daylight of science and power, spurning the priests who had duped them…” (Emph. Ours).

(Socialist Party of Great Britain 2020)

The same site says Socialism will accomplish what “the brotherhood of man that Christianity professed could only retard.”

 

Democratic Socialists of America on their page say, “We see ourselves as a bridge group. Our work is with and within faith communities as allies and coalition partners. Examples of such work include the New Sanctuary Movement, religion and labor coalitions, reproductive justice, and LGBTQ advocacy.” That undermines both faith and the state.

Purveyors of socialism in American speak of respecting freedom of religion. If that is true, will and do they reject without qualification the anti-religious expressions above? Without such clear and honest rejection of historic socialist philosophy, what does a claim to support religious freedom mean? Let’s look at the constitution:

“Citizens … are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship … Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.”

 You do not recognize that as part of the US constitution? There is a reason. It is the constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). History is important! The same constitution said, Enjoyment by citizens of their rights and freedoms must not be to the detriment of the interests of society or the state.”

We are not prophets. But from Scripture (and our own flesh) we know the deviousness of the corrupt heart. We can read history. The promised individual rights in the USSR were recognized only if they didn’t interfere with what was considered to be for the good “of society or the state.” Remember — “Socialism, both as a philosophy, and as a form of society, is the antithesis of religion”.

What the public hears of Socialism is related to politics, the economy, equality, labor. What lies hidden, unspoken, is the anti-religious, evolutionary, atheistic nature that undergirds the movement. Not heard is the latent socialist bias against religion in general, and Christianity in particular. In this country we have already seen examples and heard expressions that alert us to the dangers of Socialism, some even emanating within the church. The right to exercise one’s conscience in accord with one’s faith is already being trampled in the name of “love” and “rights.” What is missing from the socialist principles is “Truth.” “To the Law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Those who reject God’s word wander in spiritual darkness with no moral gyroscope.

In this country, from the President down, constitutionally there is to be no religious test for election to office. We agree with that. And certainly, no one who serves in government can or should be expected to check his conscience at the door; yet in every election, certainly in this one, inasmuch as Christianity and freedom of conscience is already under attack, and the direction and future of this country is at stake, it is the Church’s responsibility to teach the Word faithfully so a Christ-believer can discern truth from error, morality from immorality in life and in the voting booth. But neither should the Christian be denied the exercise of conscience when he votes.

American Socialism’s claim to support freedom of religion notwithstanding, it is antagonistic toward all religion, specifically Christianity. According to its philosophy, Christianity is responsible for the evils in the world from capitalism to class warfare and everything in between. Socialism sees itself as the answer to unrest and as the epitome of virtue. Over a century ago Socialism declared that,” Ceasing of wars, perpetual peace among the nations, is now possible.” History disproves that claim!

As Socialism rejects God and His Word, it is not surprising that it questions authority. It follows that since it rejects what it sees as a coercive God, neither should any human on earth have authority over another. Such rejection impacts life here and invites judgment. Government is an institution of God Who defined its role. He did not institute any particular form of government. He has left that to the citizens of a country. The fact that government authority is accountable to the citizens, and ultimately to God, does not change its divinely assigned role: “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. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1-7).

Beware, secularism and Socialism is the air breathed at public universities. From there it wafts down to secondary and elementary education. How better to inculcate godless philosophies and bend hearts and minds toward an evolutionary, atheistic, secular, materialistic, culture and away from the truth, from the Lord, from the Savior, than to work on pliable minds? Where better to start than in elementary school?

Socialism theoretically promotes love, peace, concern for one another in society. Though that is the desire of every citizen, heaven on earth will not happen in this sinful world. It is not accomplished by force, threat, or human ingenuity, but only by the Spirit of God through the Gospel which Socialism rejects. The Christian’s heaven is not on earth! The Word of the living God says true lasting peace and joy is in heaven–a gift of God through the Lord Jesus Christ Who reconciled us unto God from our desperate situation through His shed blood. All who believe shall have it!

As we wait on this sin laden earth, in times of trouble, tribulation, and uncertainty, firm in the confidence of faith and salvation in Christ, may we say with David, “But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, My God of mercy” (Psalm 59:16-17).

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Government and the Christian

 

In a devotion November 2, 1950, 70 years ago (cf. Evening Bells at Bethany, Vol. II, p.43), Dean Norman Madson referred to an assassination attempt on the life of the President. The day before, November 1, 1950,  would-be assassins sought the life of Harry S. Truman. They failed. Of course, other such attempts have been made on other presidents. Beside the Lincoln assassination, the one most remember is that of President John Kennedy in 1963.

Dean Madson used the attempt on President Truman’s life to address the student body on the Christian’s responsibility toward government. We are presently in an election year. As election campaigns unfold they present themselves as necessary encroachments and, if not so welcome, intrusions on decency, civility, and civil discourse. It is the nature of election campaigns over the years, but increasingly more it seems in recent campaigns, that slander, defamation of character, lying, “ad hominem” attacks, hypocrisy, and ill will are part of the exercise. Over the years this pastor-teacher pointed to political campaigns as some of the grossest examples of abuse against the 8th commandment. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Martin Luther (not King) was not a man of few words. He addressed many issues in his 16th century society, in the church as well as in the state. Luther spoke of the Christian’s responsibility to obey and pray for those in authority. He recognized government as of God (Romans 13).” He said at one time “If God wants to make a martyr of someone, He places him into a position where he must govern.” Luther recognized that government authority did not always do the right thing, could not please everybody, and that compromise was frequently necessary. He said, “[God] will, of course, call people to account for their actions. Therefore, so far as you are concerned, continue to humble yourself and honor your government.” Yet in his inimitable way he said to the German nobility in 1520, “Ah, what a rare bird a lord and ruler will be in heaven.” Luther, of course, was steeped in Scripture. He recognized that the Lord God is the ultimate authority, and to rebel against government was “resisting the ordinance of God” (Romans 13). He declared, “I will, if it please God, flatter no prince, but far less will I put up with instigation of riots and disobedience among the common people to the contempt of temporal government.”

Luther recognized “that government should be elected by the votes of the people. Reason also dictates this… For to force a government upon a people against its will is perilous and pernicious.” Of its purpose, “Government is instituted, not in order to seek its own profit at the expense of its subjects and to exercise its self-will on them but in order to provide for the best interests of its subjects” As servants of God, government authority does not have the right to abuse its citizens any more than citizens have a right to disobey authority. Referencing John 19:11 (Jesus before Pilate) Luther said, if necessary, “One should suffer injustice and violence, but one is not to remain quiet. For a Christian should testify to the truth and die for the sake of the truth.” (Quotes: What Luther Says, Vol. II. P. 575ff. CPH. St. Louis.MO.)

To be sure, Christ-believers today find themselves in a contradiction between knowing what the Lord teaches about the sanctified life, and the penchant of the corrupt flesh. May God forgive our sins in this regard, and at the same time give us courage to speak the truth.

The Lord God ordained authority in the land. He did not ordain any particular form of authority. Quoting Madson: “Our duty to those whom God has placed over us as the powers that be is not a matter of partisan politics. It has been placed as high above that as heaven is above the earth. Whether or no we have a high regard for the person (orig. emphasis) of the particular incumbent in office is not the question. The person of the emperor Nero did not restrain Paul from calling him ‘a minister of God to thee for good’” (Romans 13:4).

As governments have been ordained by God for our good, Madson went on, “even an unjust and bad government is infinitely better than anarchy, where every man’s hand shall be against his brother.” Even as we have the right (and still the privilege and responsibility) under the law to hold authority accountable, so we are exhorted by the apostle “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Paul’s apostolic injunction is seconded by the apostle Peter in his first epistle, (1 Peter 2: 11—17).

To pray for the welfare of authority, good or bad, has another precedent in Scripture, in the Old Testament. To the captive people Jeremiah wrote, “… seek the peace of the city where I [God] have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). Cyrus, king of Persia decreed that the returning captives from Babylon “offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons” (Ezra 6:19).

The Lord permitted Judah to be carried away into the Babylonian captivity as a disciplinary act. They would spend 70 years in Babylon. Yet they should pray for the peace of the country and city in which they were captive. Even as Judah prayed for forgiveness of their sins which invited the captivity, it was to their advantage to pray for the city of captivity that they might have peace until such time as the Lord would deliver them. The Lord was not unaware of the circumstances of His people and heard their prayers – nor is He unaware of ours.

As Christ-believers we are frustrated, angry, skeptical, weary, and otherwise troubled over what is happening in and to this nation. We are seeing a rerun of the evil, the underlying cause being the rejection of Christ and idolizing of wickedness, that called down God’s wrath on ancient Israel, as we see promotion of immorality, hear political diatribe, witness unabated crime, and watch riots and destruction carried on in the name of achieving justice, no less. We will not go into the streets, but we should be living our faith, confessing our own sins, and on our knees praying to the Lord for our nation. As children of God we should let our voices be heard in an appropriate way.

At the top of our prayer list will indeed be thanks that the Lord God has redeemed us from sin and its indescribable consequences in eternity. Thank the Lord that in Christ Jesus the debt we owed for our sin has been paid. Thank the Lord for the better country that He has in unmerited grace prepared for us in heaven. Pray to hold fast in faith the Father’s promise of the inheritance in heaven, laid up for us and all who in faith call upon the name of the Lord. Yes, pray for the Spirit to strengthen us in our life of sanctification, and for protection from the wiles of Satan who is the driver behind the evil that assails. Most important, stay in the Word of the God Who is our Refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).

For citizens of heaven still living in this foreign environment, this too shall end. As the Lord delivered Judah, He will in His time deliver us. By virtue of Christ’s atonement and the assurance of our Father in heaven, in faith look for the fulfillment of the living hope (1 Peter 1), fully realized when the Lord takes us to Himself where there will be no more politics. There will be no more tears, no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain – the former things of this earth, including sin, will be forever behind us, forgotten (Revelation 21:4). Thanks be to God! What a glorious day when, as Job said, we shall see God face to face. How our heart yearns within us (Job 19:25-27)!

We close with a final word from Dean Madson as he closed his devotion: “We are thankful to God today that He in mercy protected our president, and that we still enjoy law and order under a government of law [May God preserve it in these days]. It is not merely a matter of feigned loyalty and put-on patriotism when we sing:

‘ God bless our native land!

Firm may she ever stand

Thro’ storm and night!

When the wild tempests rave,

Ruler of wind and wave

Do Thou our country save

By Thy great might.

 

For her our prayer shall rise

To God above the skies;

On Him we wait.

Thou who art ever nigh,

Guarding with watchful eye,

To Thee aloud we cry,

God save the State! Amen.’” (TLH-577)

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we thank You for your grace in Christ Jesus. Forgive us our sin and by Your Spirit focus our attention on the life in heaven. Ruler and Caretaker of all You have created, we implore You for our nation that we may live in peace and honor. To that end, give us people in authority who call upon You, govern with wisdom according to Your will and who truly have the welfare of the citizens at heart. Give all people respect for authority with understanding that it serves the benefit of all. Give us faithful pastors who will proclaim Your Word in truth so that hearts are turned in repentance to You Who are anxious to bless in time and eternity those who call on You. Keep Your children in Your care strong in faith and hope in Christ until You call us to our eternal home. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Lack of Sin Consciousness

 

Quite some years ago we read a book, What is Faith? written by J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937). Machen was within Reformed circles a conservative professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary between 1906 and 1929. He led a revolt against modernist theology at Princeton. As he was an adherent of Calvinism, we would not identify with him on some important doctrines – the Sacraments and predestination, among them.

Nevertheless, Machen differed with those who, as many do today, emphasized Christ as an example – the “What would Jesus do”? mentality. If Christ is only an example, we are doomed. No matter how hard we try, we do not and cannot match His perfection, as Scripture instructs when it says, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2, 1 Peter 1:16). Holiness admits to no imperfection! Machen put the emphasis where it belongs. He said, “Everything in His (Jesus) teaching pointed forward to His redeeming work in His death and resurrection” (p.108). Shortly before his death Machen sent a telegram to a friend in which he said, “I am so thankful for [the] active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of God. His perfectly holy life satisfied the demands of the Law  (Active obedience) for us, none of which we could keep. Yet He took the penalty for our sins upon Himself and sacrificed His life on the cross (Passive obedience) for us. Bearing our sin, He died in our place. (Vicarious atonement). Consequently, without any merit in us, by grace is credited to us through faith the righteousness of Christ. Holiness is ascribed to God’s people, not through any effort, intent, or work of their own, in whole or in part. The holiness the believer possesses is an imputed holiness. Justified by grace through faith in Christ, clothed in the imputed, credited righteousness of Christ, we sing:

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head” (TLH 371, st. 1) .

We were struck by Machen’s strong emphasis on salvation by grace through faith in Christ. Rereading this book written in 1925, we found this comment, “Nothing is more characteristic of present religious conditions than the loss of consciousness of sin.” It is significant that he speaks of the “present religious conditions.” That was 1925. What goes around comes around!

Since the fall into sin, two things have remained constant. To our shame, the first constant is sin. This shame is accentuated by the loss of sin consciousness as increasingly people have fewer scruples, if any, about sin. They have no conscience about engaging in sin, and even less concern of its consequences. The second constant, to the comfort of the minority that recognize sin and confess it, is the magnificent grace of God, determined in eternity, promised in Eden, manifest in Christ, sealed to us by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and assured to us through the everlasting Gospel.

“Sin” for all practical purposes has been put out of the vocabulary. Two egregious examples have come to our attention recently. It was reported on the news that a district attorney in California said that instead of being charged, looters should first be asked if they have a need for that which they stole. Another example is the defense and promotion of abortion under the guise of a woman’s right to destroy a living being in the womb. These are just two examples of society lacking sin consciousness. Do we really have to name more? How can this happen? It happens because there is no respect for the Lord God. Contributing to this lack of respect is the teaching of evolution which is a staple of public education. If there is no Creator, there is no God. If there is no God, there are no absolutes. If there is no God there is no one to whom one must answer. Furthermore, a godless society has no definition of evil, no clue about the origin of evil in the world, and even less concern about consequences – certainly not in the hereafter.

And where is the Church? Where and when the Church ceases to be the Church in the world to proclaim the truth about sin and its eternal consequence and lets the world into the church, who will sound the warning? “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of My counsel and despised My every rebuke.  Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way and be filled to the full with their own fancies.  For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them…” (Proverbs 1:28-32). Through Jeremiah the Lord said to doomed Jerusalem, “For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22). If this is true among those who knew the Lord, yet turned away, what of those who do not recognize or acknowledge Him? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one is saved by the Law, for “By the Law is the knowledge of sin” (Galatians 3:10). Further, the Law condemns the sinner; it does not convert the heart to faith. Yet no one is saved without the Law. How so? Because the Law shows man’s need for the Savior. Those who reject the Lord and His Word, who will not look into the Law of God see no need for nor understand the Gospel. Those who lose sin consciousness and live in sin cannot garner the joy of forgiveness, nor are they interested in it. For them there is nothing from which to be saved. Into this milieu the Lord sent the disciples with the commission, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…” (Luke 24:47). What was then, is now!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him”(Romans 5:8-9). This  Gospel message means nothing to those who ask, “What is sin?” or who believe they have no sin, or who make light of sin. Those who despise the Law of God that uncovers sin and pronounces judgment on the impenitent are not interested in the comforting Gospel which says that sinners are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23). Without the Law they will die in their sins because they despise the Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

Again we ask, where is the Church? If the church is not faithful to the Word of God, if it is not engaged in preaching repentance and remission of sins -Law and Gospel — it is complicit in the evil in the world and in our dying society. If the church is not calling sinners to repentance (change of heart) and leading troubled hearts to the cross upon which Jesus paid for the sins of the world, it is cheating those whom it claims to care about.

Furthermore, there is no power unto sanctified living apart from the Gospel. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But of Him (God the Father) you are in Christ Jesus, Who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Through Christ the penitent sinner is made wise unto salvation. Wisdom unto salvation is the ultimate wisdom. Christ is our righteousness. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags ( Isaiah 64:6), but the righteousness that is outside of us in Christ Jesus is the righteousness that fits us for heaven; it is the righteousness the Father will not reject on the day of judgment. Christ is our sanctification. Under the Spirit, the child of God desires to live unto the glory of God but in the flesh never attains perfection. Yet by grace the Savior’s holiness of life is credited to us through faith. Christ is our redemption. In Him we are delivered from sin, death, the power of the devil, and damnation. Christ’s redemption moves the child of God to say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Because they will not confess sin and do not recognize the reality of sin on one hand, or because they believe they can make their own way to whatever they perceive as eternal life, those lacking sin consciousness see the Gospel as foolishness. To those who are of the Light, Scripture says, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38)

As the Lord blesses nations for the sake of His elect children, it behooves the Church to fulfill the commission He has given it. To the extent that there will be healing in a nation it will come from the Lord Who said, “If you will turn to me, I will heal the nation” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Who will sound the warning; who will or who can declare the grace and mercy of God, and speak hope to the penitent and troubled hearts if the Church does not? Who will turn people back to the Lord if those whose responsibility it is to preach repentance don’t?

As we await the deliverance to the better country prepared for us in heaven through the grace and mercy of the Lord and as we care about souls dead in trespasses and sins let us speak the Word and ourselves heed the exhortation:

“Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-11).

 

[DF1]

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Heavenly Father, You’ve Redeemed Us

 

Heav’nly Father, You’ve redeemed us

Through the precious blood of Christ.

By the Spirit You have called us,

Claiming us to be Your own.

To You, Father, we give thanks

For Your grace and mercy true.

As You will, grant Your rich blessings

To all whose faith is stayed on You.

 

Though our sins offend and hurt You

And weigh heavy on our heart,

As You’ve bidden us to ask You,

In our Savior’s name we pray.

Since You are our faithful Lord,

We do trust Your promise true.

Oh forgive our sins, forgive us,

Restore to us both peace and hope.

 

Help us, Lord, in every moment

In this world of sin and shame,

Satan stalks us on our journey,

And temptations lurk about.

Help us to discern all sin,

Lest Your holiness we scorn.

Give us strength to live, and serve You,

That all who see will praise Your name.

 

In these days of grief and peril,

When Your Name and Word is mocked,

When Your Church is under dur-ess

And Your teachings are dismissed,

May Your pastors speak the truth,

Faithful to Your holy Word,

Telling all of Your glad tidings

Of salvation in the Sav-ior.

 

As the world now lies in darkness

And pursues the path of death,

Let Your call from sin now echo

And be heard in every place.

May the precious Gospel news

Of the Savior’s love for all,

Give true hope and life eternal

To all the souls who long for heav’n .

 

Df- 2020

 

TLH 296, 491,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Did Jesus Die?

 

In the recent Republican convention a retired military veteran who became a nun after 29 years of service addressed the convention on the subject of abortion. A physician and surgeon during her service, she declared: “Human life begins at conception.” Christians who believe Scripture and that children are a gift of God agree with her.

The Lord God, speaking to Jeremiah, said “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). In Job 10, Job declared that from conception he grew in the womb, a special creation of God, as are all children. John leapt within the womb of Elizabeth (Luke 1:41) when Mary announced to her that she, Mary, was carrying in her womb the Lord Jesus, “conceived in her of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Scripture testifies that a child lives within the womb. Bible believers do not argue with God. Even science, the god of this age, can’t deny it though many worshippers of this deity deny it. Conscious decision to abort a child in the name of women’s rights is sin. They who promote it and perform it under the cover of rights are aiding and abetting murder.

We do not judge the hearts of those who name Christ as their Lord. We do, however, address the witness that is given, intentional or not. Therefore something else the speaker said struck a chord because what she said is descriptive of what has today become a watered-down understanding of Christianity. “Jesus stood up for what was just and was ultimately crucified because what He said wasn’t politically correct or fashionable.”

Christianity today has become more deed oriented than creed oriented. To put it another way it has become in many minds and fellowships more work oriented than faith oriented. And yet another way, more socially oriented than Scripturally oriented. Jesus is seen as an example, rather than believed on as the Savior. Remember the mantra from a few years ago, “What would Jesus do?” Good question. But the emphasis was and is wrong.

Jesus was not the Messiah for whom the Jews were waiting. He did not satisfy the intent and whim of the religious leaders whose political bent was to cast off Roman domination. They knew Jesus was not politically dangerous, but since they did not accept the truth of Jesus they sought to destroy Him. They had hoped Rome would perform their will. For example, they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not” (Mark 12:14)? Jesus stood His ground. He sensed their hypocrisy (v.14), and said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 17). After the raising of Lazarus the council said, “Everyone will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48). They were suggesting Jesus’ popularity would call down Rome’s wrath. Under pretext of concern for the nation, Caiaphas suggested that Jesus die as a martyr to save the nation (John 11:50). Yet in a typical political contradiction, in spite of wanting to cast off the Roman yoke and Caesar, when Pilate asked, “Shall I crucify your King” they said, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They tried to play both sides against the middle. Yet again when it served their purpose they used Rome. Before Pilate they said, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2-3).

Norman Madson in Evening Bells at Bethany (Vol.1, p 106) quoted two adages that fit the situation. One says, “Sin is an instrument with many tools, But a lie is a handle which fits them all.” The other from Sir Walter Scott: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

The real reason for their hatred of Christ was unbelief couched in a lie. “He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). He did not make Himself the Son of God. He was the Son of God. The Father said at Jesus’ baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) and again at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). Jesus was the promised Messiah (Christ – Anointed One). To the Samaritan woman’s “I know that Messiah is coming,” Jesus said, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26). To the Jews, however, He was not the Messiah for whom they were looking.

Whether the leader’s view of Jesus was of ignorance, malice, envy, or rejection they did not receive Him for Who He was, or for the purpose for which He had come, and died. Jesus did not come into the world to save the political nation, to save Jewish culture, nor foment rebellion. Jesus did not come into the world to be an example of faith, but as the object of faith. He did not come to show us how to live. He came to give us life. He did not come to be one good man or prophet among many. Jesus performed miracles. But He did not come to be adored and followed as a miracle worker. He healed the sick, calmed troubled hearts, and raised the dead, yet He did not come to be a medicine man. He did not come to be a temporal potentate (John 18:36). He was not the first Christian but the foundation without Whom there would be no Christian, no Christian faith, no Christian Church, no Christianity. So, why did Jesus come into the world?

 Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He told Pilate, “For this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). He came into the world to do the will of the Father Who sent Him (John 6:38). It was prophesied in the Old Testament from Genesis through the prophets that Jesus would come as He said, “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He came into the world so that as many as believe in Him might have eternal life. Said our Lord, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Who are they? Jesus came for all people but “ To as many as received Him [Believed on Him], to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). The abundant life has nothing to do with temporal, material, fleeting things of life, or with creature comforts, all of which will pass away in the judgment. It has everything to do with the comfort and peace of heart that each penitent knows as he believes his sins are forgiven, and as he trusts in the atonement of Christ. On the cross Jesus reconciled us unto the Father and through the Holy Spirit creates the believing heart that lives in confident hope of eternal life.

In What is Faith (1925), J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) speaks of the foundational reason for Jesus’ coming and ultimately His death. “…Everything in His teaching pointed forward to His redeeming work in His death and resurrection; the culmination of Jesus’ gospel was the Cross.”

Jesus did not die because He was not politically correct or fashionable. Jesus died because the death penalty for sin pronounced in Eden had to be paid. Jesus died because no man can redeem his brother (Psalm 49:7), nor can anyone redeem or save himself from eternal death. Jesus died because upon Him, the incarnate Son of God, was laid the sins of the world. Though Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law in our stead, yet He died as our substitute. He paid our penalty – in full!

Jesus came as a fulfillment of prophecy. The Father spared Judah for the sake of the promise He had made in Eden, and to the patriarchs after. He spoke through the prophets of the coming Messiah. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief, when You make His soul an offering for sin…And He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many…” for “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Every sacrificial lamb offered in the Old Testament was a pictorial prophecy of the “Lamb of God (John 1:36) Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! Jesus in Whom was no sin, guile, or deceit, was made sin for us “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Every child born into the world is born to live. Jesus was the only Son born into the world to die, not for what He had done but for what we had done! And to what end? The apostle Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). There is the answer to the question posed in the title!

Everything in prophecy of Christ, the Father’s preservation of Judah, the coming of Jesus, all finds it purpose at the cross, and is sealed to us through His resurrection from the dead. In a world without hope, Christ believers live in hope, looking forward to the fulness of eternal life because Jesus died and lives. Jesus did not die because he failed to be politically correct! Called to faith by the Spirit of God through the Gospel, the Christian’s desire to live unto the Lord and for the Lord, and to walk in His steps is rooted in the cross. Jesus “ bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…” (1 Peter 2:24). It is the Word of God, the Gospel, through which we understand why Jesus died, “which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) creating within the heart the desire, will, and power to emulate the Lord. It is that very Word which comforts our hearts when we fall.

Jesus died and rose again. By His Spirit He called sinners to faith. He died that in the time of waiting “those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). He died that all who believe in Him might have life and have it more abundantly.  As many as believe on Him will upon the grand resurrection day see God (Job 19:25). Why did Jesus die? Jesus died that we might live! Hallelujah!

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Living Our Faith in a Godless World

 Recently we were provided correspondence between two individuals, one of whom is a lay member of a congregation of our fellowship, the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). For people acquainted with the CLC, it is not difficult to distinguish who is who between the two. The initial comment said,

“Saw an interesting comment on churches. There are two kinds of churches: those who seek out converts and those who hunt down heretics. I will modify that to there are two kinds of churches: those who are liberal, inclusive, welcoming and seek out converts and those who are conservative, exclusive, closed and hunt down heretics.”

The CLC respondent wrote:

“We are a church that is centered on the Gospel which means that the good news that God has kept His promise of forgiveness is kept front and center. That through the death of Christ on the cross, atonement has been made for all sin for all time. Messages of politics or social justice will not be heard on Sunday morning.

“When problems arise we ask, what does God’s Word say? It is on this basis that we welcome people with problems including gays and those with addictions. Churches that advertise that they are welcoming or inclusive often accept gays and others regardless of their attitude toward Scripture…”

Today the designation “Christian” is all over the board. What was its origin? Acts 11:26 tells us, “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” -IAN means belonging to “the party of Christ,” or “follower of Christ.” The word used three times in Scripture was not coined by the apostles, but by the heathen who identified the apostles as followers of Christ. It was not necessarily a compliment.

The source of the Christian faith is the verbally inspired (God-breathed), inerrant Word of God, the Bible. “There is no other divine source of true doctrine (teaching) and instruction in the way of salvation and in God-pleasing living” (CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose, p 6).

What defines a Christian (Christ-believer)? A Christian is one who has been born again through water and the Spirit (Baptism), in other words, by the work of the Spirit through the Gospel Word and Sacrament. A Christian, by nature a sinner, trusts in Christ Jesus alone for forgiveness and eternal life. A Christian believes that salvation is by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8). A Christian concludes “that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law” (Romans 3:28).

What is Christianity? Christianity itself is distinguished from all other religions in the world. It alone is founded on Christ Jesus (Isaiah 28:16, 1 Corinthians 3:11). “Christianity consists in faith in Christ, not in man’s own moral conduct” (What is Christianity, Pieper, 1933, p. 4.) However, Christianity to many today is little more than a religion of ethical conduct, good works, good intentions, love, etc., activities which of themselves are indistinguishable from those of the heathen. Good works, ethical conduct, are important expressions of faith but are not the way to salvation. They are the consequence of the sanctified life of those who by faith are saved, fruits acceptable to the Father for the sake of Jesus. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). On the other hand, “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them’” (Galatians 3:10).

What is the Church, defined as “The Holy Christian Church, the Communion of saints?” The Church confessed in the Apostolic Creed is “The body of Christ,” the sum total of all believers in the world “appointed to eternal life” (Acts 13:48) out of every nation who confess and believe in the Triune God. Faith in Christ makes one a member of the Body of Christ. The Holy Christian Church is not identified with any outward church organization but is found where the Gospel in Word and Sacrament (Means of Grace) are taught in truth and purity. The members of the Church are known only to the Lord Who reads the heart. While there may be hypocrites in the visible church, there are no hypocrites in the Holy Christian Church. “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).

What is the mission of the Church? Speaking to His disciples before His ascension, Jesus defined the mission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). We invite all people to come and hear. We exclude no one from hearing God’s Word. We will share the Lord’s message with any who will listen.

What is the substance of Christian teaching? The Lord did not commission the Church to engage in politics. That many churches are so engaged instead of faithfully proclaiming the Word of the Lord (the whole counsel of God, Acts 20:27), is contributing to the deterioration of our society today. Our Lord instructed that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations (Luke 24:47). This involves preaching the Law and the Gospel – the Law to uncover sin, and the Gospel which is the proclamation of forgiveness of sin in and through the grace manifest in our Savior’s work of redemption through His death and resurrection.

Sinners which all people are do not like the Law. The flesh hates the Law. It is contrary to the will of the corruptible flesh to be told what to do and what not to do. Nor does the flesh want to hear that it cannot please God and is under His wrath and condemnation. Yet the Law is necessary that sinners see their lost condition, understand that they need a radical solution which God indeed provided when He sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. Without the recognition of sin, the recognition of the eternal consequences of sin and unbelief, no one can see the need for the Gospel, understand it, or appreciate it. On the other hand, one who recognizes his sin and judgment asks, “What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30). The answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31).

By the Spirit of God, the Gospel converts the unbelieving heart, the heart that recognizes its lost condition. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The heart and core of the Gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ Who has redeemed lost and condemned persons, purchased and won them from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. This Jesus did alone, not by silver or gold or by some contribution of fallen man, but through His perfect life, His taking our sin on Himself, dying in our place. He has freely by His grace reconciled us to the Father, and clothed us through faith in His righteousness whereby we are saved. He sealed our salvation through His resurrection. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The redemptive love of Christ is the same love that calls us to live under Him in His kingdom and generates within us the will and power to serve Him on the earth. The Gospel of our salvation is nourishment through which Christ-believers grow in sanctification. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). To God alone the glory, with thanksgiving!

What is the role of the Church in a heterogeneous society? Today it is frequently a challenge to differentiate the expression of our faith from political comment because the Church has the call to address sin — immorality and evil that lies at the root of national decline. Today extraordinarily little is not polarized or politicized. It is hardly possible for Christian citizens to engage in a serious conversation on issues without being accused of being anti-something, hateful, or bigoted.

We need to remind ourselves as we look at the fallen and dying world, that “there except for the grace of God are we,” lost and condemned. We are called to speak the word in love, though such love may be misunderstood and even mocked by those to whom we speak. It is loveless to withhold the truth. Whether it is a fellow-believer about whose spiritual welfare we care, or the person of the world whose soul is in jeopardy, the word applies, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25). As sure as the Good Samaritan stopped to tend to the physical welfare of the wounded man on the path to Jericho, so we should have such compassion on those who are dying in their sin.

We are beholden to speak the truth as we have opportunity, to preach the truth from our pulpits and teach it in our classrooms. That includes the Law. We do not serve our neighbor (or society) well if we compromise with those who love sin and live in sin. Unrepented sin kills – eternally. Hardly do we need to point out the sins that undercut a moral society and, worse, destroy souls who live in them. Summarizing the prophet’s words in Ezekiel 33, “And the word of the Lord came to me saying…Warn them from me.” Why did the Lord say that? Did He hate those caught in the snare of sin? No. He does not desire the death of the wicked. Do we hate those who live in sin and who through impenitence will lose their life in the judgment? No. We hate sin and wickedness because it is of the devil. Daily we need to look into the mirror of the divine Law to see ourselves and recognize our own sins and plead the Lord’s mercy. As the Good Shepherd sought out the lost and straying among whom were we, we are called to be His representatives in preaching repentance and remission of sins.

We are therefore in our own lives to “lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We are told, “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 Timothy 4:16). As we care about our country, and more about the welfare of souls, we must speak truth to those who want it or want it not. We are not heretic hunters, but soul searchers. Therefore, if we are faithful in our calling, we cannot but speak the truth in love that those who are immersed in filthiness, wickedness, and unbelief may be saved. In time and for eternity we want nothing to do with political or social inclusiveness that involves compromise of the truth. Compromise of the truth is not love for our neighbor. Love demands we speak the truth – Law and Gospel! ! The apostolic word is a fitting conclusion: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bond servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

The Lord has called us to live our faith in a godless world! May He give us love for Him and our neighbor as well as courage to do so.

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The Truth Unmasks the Devil

THE TRUTH UNMASKS THE DEVIL Since the introduction of covid-19 into the consciousness of the world, we in this country have been obsessed with masks. Should we wear them or should we not? Do they help or do they not? Some say yes, some say no. Some say yes today, no tomorrow, and vice versa. Credible medical gurus say, “Yes, wear them.” Equally credible ones say, “No; there is no need to wear them.” Some say masks keep the bad stuff out; some say they keep it in. Who knows for sure? Like everything else in this material world there are different opinions. So it is a matter of personal opinion among people on the street. Unfortunately, occasional differences of opinion frequently cause divisions and tension among the populous, as well as between friends. Beside the mask debate there is the social (physical distancing) promotion. Does it work at 6 feet or 10 feet? Who knows for sure? Again, though not as much, this too is a matter of personal opinion. Whether a mask or distancing, the better part of wisdom as well as concern for one another is to practice it. But for Christ-believers there is a downside. Fellowship with one another around Word and Sacrament is important. It is a healthy exercise of the Christian life, an essential and important aspect of congregational life. However, such fellowship is stunted by government mandate, personal fear, or personal opinion, as people are told or choose to keep their distance from one another. One thing is hardly arguable. Whatever the truth, and whatever the opinions, fear has gripped many people. Without judgment on either side of these two issues relative to the virus, we do know one who is utilizing the issue to his own nefarious purposes. He relishes the opportunity to create tension and distrust, as well as separation from one another, especially if it happens among the people of God. That one is the damnable devil. Because it is a matter of life and death, the apostle Paul unmasked the devil and explained why children of God should practice distancing from the devil. The apostle wrote to the Corinthians of false teachers whom he called deceitful workers, “transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). They are to be avoided (Romans 16:17-18). He went on in the next verse to describe the devil in words apropos to the point we would make. He described Satan as one who “transforms himself into an angel of light.” Hiding behind a mask, he uses “deceitful workers” to separate the children of God from the Heavenly Father, as well as from one another. The devil knows Scripture. Unfortunately, he knows it better than many of fallen men he deceives, and he is not bashful about whom he attacks. He took on the Savior in the wilderness. Three times he tempted Jesus ( Matthew 4). The first time he was rebuffed by the Lord Who said, “It is written…” Since “it is written,” the devil quoted Scripture, (Psalm 91:11) — actually misquoted it — in his 2nd temptation of Jesus. Again Jesus said, “It is written…” Undeterred, Satan tried a third time. Jesus said, “Away with you, Satan!” Since he could not and cannot overcome Christ, he aims his deceit at you and me. Be alert to the wiles of the tempter behind the mask. Don’t be an Eve! “Flee the devil!” Paul spoke out of deep concern. “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). That danger is no less today than when Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Satan knows when to give a little that he might take a lot. He knows Scripture enough to twist it or distort it deceitfully to mislead the ignorant, the unwary, the neglectful, the fearful, the weary, the troubled. There is no one from the learned theologian to the faithful person in the pew, or from the Christ-believer to the pastor upon whom he does not work. Scripture says the true God is Triune – One God, not three gods, yet three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). “…There is no other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Simply, however, one who lays claim to faith in God – the Triune God – but is barren of fruits to the glory of God says no more than the devil admits. The apostle James declares, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble” (James 2:19). Intellectually the devil has knowledge of God but does not trust in Him. He knows that he is judged. Shuddering behind his mask he seeks to draw people down to where he is, suggesting the Triune God is not the only God, but that there are many gods, the only difference being by what name they are known. Behind his mask the devil lies, saying it makes no difference in what god one believes as long as one believes in a god, and tries to do good. This is why the apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Beware! As the devil twisted the Word of God in tempting the Lord, he twists a divine principle to deceive and mislead us. Another example, Scripture says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). So Satan suggests, “If you really love your neighbor, if you really have the spirit of Christ you will accept all people as they are.” Satan blinds people to the difference between loving the neighbor and approving their offensive and sinful practices and lifestyles. He suggests that one who loves his neighbor will not sit in judgment of the sin of abortion, homosexual practice, same-sex hookups, transgenderism, drunkenness, cursing, vulgarity, neglect of worship, idolatry, false doctrine, or every other sin of mankind. Satan suggests that if one cannot overlook sins in his neighbor, it is loving at least to compromise moral principles through silence. Satan has coaxed many in the church world into complicity with that lie. We do not sit in judgment of the person, but of the sin. God is the judge of all persons Nevertheless, in our society one who speaks against sin is branded as a hater, a bigot, or a pharisee. The apostle asked, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth” (Galatians 4:16)? Scripture teaches us to speak the truth in love.. It isn’t love to speak peace when there is no peace. It isn’t love to withhold the truth. Quite the opposite! The warning of divine judgment and the call to repentance is the greatest expression of love because it is not God’s will that anyone should spend eternity in the wasteland of hell. All who in the name of “love” and “compassion” refuse to address sin do well to take heed: “He who justifies the wicked, and condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15). On the other hand, to the penitent belongs the precious promise, “My son (daughter), ‘Your sins are forgiven you’” (Matthew 9:2, Luke 7:48). Where and when the truth of the Law hurts, the balm is the solace of the Gospel that assures every penitent sinner of forgiveness and peace with God. The truth unmasks the devil on one hand and, on the other, shows the smiling face of God in the face of Jesus Christ! The precious healing truth of the Gospel cannot be appreciated without being honest about sin and its consequence. Our Lord instructs us, “These are the things you shall do: speak each man the truth to his neighbor…” (Zechariah 8:16). But then Satan has another ploy. If in fact there is agreement among Christians on sins that affect society, Satan suggests churches should lay aside their petty differences in doctrine and practice and join together to address the sins. Again, many well-intentioned Christians nod in agreement. Satan is wrong. The essential call of the Church is not to save society, but souls for heaven! Souls won by the truth will benefit society. Overcoming sin and evil is not accomplished by sacrificing truth on the altar of compromise to achieve a desired temporal end. Under no circumstances or for no desired end are the sins that afflict us individually and that sully society and destroy a nation an excuse to set aside the Lord’s instruction to beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15). Though churches may be desirous of achieving a good end, it is still the Lord’s will that “there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The Lord of the Church tells the faithful to practice spiritual distancing, that is to keep no company or make common cause with those who teach contrary to the doctrine which we have learned (Romans 16:17-18). Compromising Scripture or sacrificing the truth of God’s Word to accomplish a temporal good, and justice, is disobedience to the Lord and counter-productive to faith. Compromise of the truth undermines confidence of eternal life in Christ. It is dishonest and harmful to those for whose soul we claim to care. Woe to those who withhold truth from those who love sin, and do not know the Savior. At the same time, we do not know how the truth will be received when it is spoken. We pray otherwise, but they who hate the truth or despise it “perish because they did not receive the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The Lord came to call sinners to repentance. Only the truth of God’s Law which shows the sinner’s need and the Gospel of our Lord and Savior unmasks the devil and saves the sinner. Through baptism we have been born into Christ and have been “buried with Him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father even so we also should walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:40). Therefore, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

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Immanuel – God With Us

 

I am the Lord that is My name

With Father and the Holy Ghost.

Who honors Me, the Father’s Son,

The Father counts His own.

My Father cared for those He made,

So when they fell deep into sin

A promise true He made and kept:

From heav’n to earth I came.

My purpose was on earth to dwell

True God, yet Man born under Law

To keep the Law for fallen kind,

To save from sin and death.

A mission planned ere world began

Born of grace and the Father’s love,

Would be the way of man’s return

To perfect life and bliss.

Named Jesus, Savior, God’s own Son,

I kept the Law man could not keep

But took man’s sin upon Myself —

As sacrificial Lamb.

Upon the cross I paid the debt

I died that man no more must die

I rose again, and life restored

To all who do believe.

Elated is My heart and soul

That I fulfilled My Father’s will

And daily give new hope to hearts,

Who call upon My name.

Love divine all love excelling

Is My eternal promise true.

And peace you’ll know as you believe

In Christ – IMMANUEL.

 

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Count it a Privilege

 

 

In Scripture “suffer” occurs many times. There are different words in the original with different meanings or shadings, depending on the context.

 

No one on earth is immune to suffering. Occasionally one hears the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The sincere though flawed question is rooted in a lack of understanding, if not rejection, of history as recorded in Scripture. The historical record begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The history of the creation of all things, including mankind, concludes with the Creator’s judgment, “Everything” that God had made “was very good” (Genesis 1:31). For all the sincerity of the question it is relative in the sense that in society people make comparisons of people to people. God’s does not compare people to people. God’s comparison is to Himself. “You shall be holy; for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Of man according to the flesh, the divine Historian says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one” Psalm 14:1-3).

 

The real question is, “Why do bad things happen to people?” Sociologists and others will blame it on environment, culture influences, or lack of economic opportunity. An online answer to why there is evil in the world was, “Evil was created in this World to Balance Life (sic). Good and Evil are subjective. They are two sides to the same object. If you have a front, you must have a back. Inside each of us, there is the seed of both good and evil. It’s a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other.” Such is the ignorance of unbelief.

 

To the reason for suffering in the world, another online response was, “One of the main reasons why there is suffering in the world is because life is about experience (sic). It’s about learning lessons through karma, and whatever experience we’re going through we have an opportunity to become better people – wiser people. We don’t always take that opportunity but we have it.”

 

Only Scripture has the answer to the question of the origin of evil and the consequent “bad things” that affect mankind and the whole creation that groans and labors under the burden of sin. The above definitions of suffering are part of human existence. The moment it took for Adam and Eve to listen to the devil was the most devastating moment in human history. In this life, as a consequence of sin, Christians, atheists, agnostics, idolaters, non-religionists, experience suffering and finally death.

 

After the fall into sin mankind had no solution. Instead Adm and Eve cowered in fear and fright as they hid from God in whose image – righteousness and true holiness — they had been created. He had told them that if they ate “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17). In the perfection of Eden, there was no benefit in knowing evil, but who does not want to be “like God” (Genesis 3:17)? They ate. Evil has been in the world since, accompanied by suffering and death.

 

No one consciously invites suffering into his life. Ordinarily suffering is not thought a privilege. It suggests something bad or unpleasant. It involves pain — physical and emotional — distress, misery, aches, heartache, loss, wretchedness, tribulation, and sorrow.

 

Into the “new normal” in which death now reigned, the Lord graciously, without any merit or worthiness in Adam and Eve promised a relief from the slavishness to sin and its consequence, everlasting separation from the Lord. He promised the Savior Jesus Christ Who born in the fullness of time, by His perfect atonement on the cross and by the power of His resurrection “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy1:10). What Christ accomplished for the fallen is known through the Gospel. The Lord Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit sealed eternal life to all who confess their sin and believe in Him. It stands eternally true: “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 

Believers, though in the flesh, are forever free from the eternal consequence of sin. Baptized into Christ Who suffered and died for them, believers are   possessors of the life that is in Christ. The apostle Paul’s message was “if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:8). Furthermore, sin has no more dominion over us; that is, we are not slaves to it, though indeed in weakness we still sin. But by His grace we know “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 

Fellow Redeemed, you were bought not with gold or silver but with the holy precious blood and the innocent suffering and death of the Lord Jesus. Recognize that your salvation cost something. It cost Jesus His life. You have life because He died! Forgiveness and salvation purchased for all is the free gift to all who confess and say with Paul. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

 

But the message of Scripture, from creation to eternity, the person of Christ and His work, the inerrant Word of God is not popular in a world dominated by unbelief, mockery, and hatred of the truth. The redeemed and called to faith who dare to proclaim the truth of Law and Gospel, sin and grace, are vilified. Among them was Paul who said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16), who at the same time from prison before his martyrdom invited Timothy (and invites us) to “share with me in the sufferings of the Gospel according to the power of God” ( 2 Timothy 1:10).

 

Faithful confessors of Christ do not in their faith life go about looking for trouble. They do not consciously solicit trouble for themselves. They do not stir up trouble. But it will come for bold confessors of Christ and His Word because “…Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).   “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Hate begets hate against those who tell the truth. Jesus said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22) because “you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). Faithful Christ-believers should expect to bear the cross for the Gospel.

 

In what he called a “post Christian World,” Francis Schaeffer wrote, “For a man to think that he can preach the Word of God today and not experience the true price of the cross…is foolish. It is not possible… To think that one can give the Christian message and not have the world with its monolithic, post – Christian culture bear down on us is not to understand the fierceness of the battle in such a day as Jeremiah’s or such a day as our own” (Death in the City, p. 60, Inter-Varsity Press Downers Gove, IL, 1969).

 

Conflict is not easy. Suffering is not pleasant. The apostle Peter, as did all the apostles, knew something about suffering for Christ’s sake. Whether it is because of the Gospel we believe and teach or the consequent life of sanctification that stands in stark contrast to the perpetrators of evil in the world, it “is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully” (1 Peter 2:19). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). For the apostle Paul the cross was not a burden but a privilege. In Philippi Paul had suffered conflict and imprisonment. But he counted it a privilege to be able to suffer for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. From prison in Rome he wrote to the Church in Philippi, “For to you it has been granted (given) on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear is in me” (Philippians 1:29-30).

 

Of Paul’s attitude, Norman Madson wrote, “What a wholesome view of life that is! That your kind heavenly Father has taken account what is most salutary for you, and will so fashion the cross which He places upon you that it shall be for your eternal good” (Evening Bells at Bethany, 1946,Vol, 1, pg. 13). If one must suffer, better to take the heat for Christ and the Gospel as one witnesses to the grace of God, than to take the heat in eternity for having rejected Christ and the Gospel!

 

The privilege to suffer for Christ belongs only to those who are Christ’s. A privilege is a special right. Think of it; the eternal, holy God, the Creator of the world, the One Who holds in His hands the fate of the world and the souls of all men, has for Jesus’ sake, as He called us to salvation also called you and me to be His representatives in the world. Called to service in His kingdom, we have the privilege to prove the genuineness of faith that though tested “ may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

 

He has given you blessing with the privilege. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). Furthermore in exercise of your privilege, He who called you upholds you with the right hand of His righteousness. He will not leave you nor forsake you, “until you have finished all the work” (1 Chronicles 28:20).

 

Finally, “Consider Him Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3). The privilege to serve Him and to suffer for Him, if necessary, also comes with a promise – the promise of eternal rest through faith in Him Who by His grace has redeemed your life from destruction (Psalm 103:4).

 

 

 

 

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