Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Monday, January 30, 2012
Rules, Rules, Rules
Some people think that being a Christian involves nothing more than simply obeying the rules of a condemnatory and unfair God. They charge that Christians are nothing more than hypocrites, judging others for the same shortcomings they possess themselves, while breaking all the rules they profess to honor. Then there is the dilemma of how a loving God could sacrifice His only Son to satisfy His anger against a sinful humanity. “Forward thinking” churches chide those that continue to respect the authority of Scripture as Biblical literalists that use God’s word as a war club to disparage those that have an opinion contrary to their own. Modern “Christians” have become so smitten with the things of this new and enlightened religion that they fail to see the plank stuck in their collective eyes. Those that lift up the love of the neighbor above the love of our Lord have indeed blinded themselves to the cost of this misguided love. Without first filling our hearts with the love of our Lord and Savior, we will find only an imperfect and unwise understanding that is steeped in human selfishness.
By allowing their members to have their cake and eat it too, the leadership of the ELCA encourages its’ membership to place themselves above our God. If they could just understand how much harm they are doing by affirming sinful behavior. It’s not the point that God has prohibited certain behaviors. It’s the point that by disobeying we place our desires before God’s will. Disobedience is willfully placing ourselves above God, believing that it is man that is in authority. Our sins are no longer held against us because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins with His precious blood. So, even though we rebel and disobey, our Father still has a place in His heavenly home for those that have faith in the Risen Christ. When we sin, it is not about breaking rules. It’s about the chain of command. Every time we sin, our selfishness supersedes our Lord. We place ourselves in authority, rather than looking to conform to His will. We need to turn our lives over to our Savior and that means placing Him first. Without Him, we are the nonproductive branch that is pruned, left to wither and thrown into the fire. If left to our own designs, we consistently make a mess of things. Without our God’s guidance we are nothing but human animals, looking to satisfy every worldly desire without regard to our neighbor.
Every single one of us Christians continually fall short of the glory of our Lord by breaking the 1st commandment over and over. God made us selfish creatures and that is in stark evidence throughout our lives. There was once a little boy whose friend asked him, “If you are such a good Christian, why do you need to go to church every Sunday? The little boy answered his friend, “Practice!” We need to be regularly filled with the word of God and to hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ preached so that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can come to better love and serve our Lord. We need to continue to meet with other believers and dwell in His word, to lift up, and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The only time Scripture is to be used as a war club is when using it in battle with the evil one.
As for the vengeful God whose bloodlust cost His only Son His life, Jesus said in John 10:20, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is one with the Father. Jesus was with the Father from the beginning, the word made flesh. When Jesus hung on the cross, God experienced every ache, every pain, suffering the punishment meant for a sinful humanity because He was on that cross. Tim Keller, from The Reason for God: “Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” Forgiveness is the ultimate surrender. To forgive means relinquishing any claim of recompense, in fact refusing to accept restitution for any damage incurred. Rather than punishing those that wronged Him, God took upon Himself the punishment meant for us, His children. He took the bullet for us and forfeit His life in order that we may live. He is a loving God.
Once we come to realize that our selfish nature places us at odds with our God and decide to submit to His authority, our lives will start to fall into place. We will gladly obey, for that is what is pleasing to our Lord. John 14:23, “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” We will begin to transform our selfish nature into one who gladly serves the Lord and proclaims His glory. When we reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction, we do so, not to call them out as rule breakers, but to save them from themselves. Our love of our brothers and sisters in Christ compels us to keep them on the narrow path.
Common Sense for a Senseless World
The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
- Harper Lee
Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.
- Martin Luther
Proverbs 28:4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.
Reclaiming the Church for the Bible - Pr. Jonathan Jenkins - Easter, 2008
Many of us here think the ELCA has a problem with the Bible. Many of us also agree with the obverse: the Bible has a problem with the ELCA. “With them,” said our Lord, “indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them.’”(Matthew 13:14-15)
How have we grown so hard of hearing? The parable of the Sower and the Seed is the occasion of our Lord’s recollection of Isaiah. It warns of three causes for the failure of the Word of Kingdom to grow among us: the devil, shallow roots, and worldly desires. The next parable, the Weeds among the Wheat, warns of a fourth cause: bad seed – words that appear to be wheat, but are actually weeds.
The ELCA has a problem with the Bible, and the Bible has a problem with the ELCA. What is the solution? Being wary of the evil one, growing deep roots in the Word, and not being fooled by the needs of this life. What is the solution? Good seed. Exposure to plenty of good seed. To reclaim the church for the Bible we need to…read the Bible. Why aren’t Lutherans more interested in reading the Bible? Because, like the church in Luther’s day, we’ve developed habits that make it unnecessary.
In Luther’s day, on the one hand, the Pope and certain experts were the official interpreters of Scripture. In our day, Chicago and certain experts are the official interpreters of Scripture. In Luther’s day, the “heavenly prophets” claimed to know the meaning of Scripture on the basis of their individual experience. In our day, everybody can claim to know the meaning of Scripture on the basis of their individual experience. It had become unnecessary to read the Bible in Luther’s day, and you see the same forces at work today, for example, in our Christian education materials that typically combine isolated bits of Scripture, explanations from experts, and the predictable question, “What does it mean to you?” At best, you might end up learning about the Bible. In any case, you don’t actually have to read the Bible, because an expert will tell you what it meant and you decide what it means.
Luther objected to experts and individualists for the same reason: both are substitutes for Scripture – both assault Scripture’s ability to speak the Word of God clearly and publicly. What we need said Luther, are pastors who will proclaim the Word clearly and publicly, and congregations that will regard it as holy and gladly hear and learn it. Luther’s alternative to learning about the Bible is learning from the Bible.
First and last, this means simply knowing the words – taking in the words,
chewing on them, developing a taste for them. “How sweet are your words
to my taste; sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Familiarity
with the words is the fundamental form of Scripture’s inspiration, and the
fundamental form of Scripture’s authority is allowing the words to say
whatever they have to say. “Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it
that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world.’ Jesus answered
him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not
love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine,
but is from the Father who sent me” (John 14:22-24).
For that reason, the text of my confirmation classes is the Bible. What we do
in class is read the Bible. When reading the Bible, we will go to the
catechism, too, and we will go to the liturgy, too, and we will go to any
question they want to ask, too, and we will read summaries I have prepared,
too. But it is in learning from our Bibles that we will go to these other places.
Reading the Bible together is what we do in confirmation class. Knowing the
words is our goal.
There’s more I’d like to say on the subject..., but for the moment it is enough to know that to reclaim the church for the Bible, we need to read the Bible.
Pastor Jenkins serves Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Lebanon, Penn.
For if you want to judge according to what you see and feel, and if you, when God’s Word is held before you, hold your feeling against that, saying: “You are indeed telling me much, however, my heart is telling me far differently, and if you felt what I feel, you, too, would talk differently, etc.,” then you do not have God’s Word in your heart; this has been suppressed and extinguished by your own ideas, reason, and reflections. In short, when you no longer accord the Word greater validity than your every feeling, your eyes, your senses, and your heart, you are doomed, and you can no longer be helped. For this is called an article of faith, not one of your reason or wisdom, nor of human power or ability. Therefore here, too, you must judge solely by the Word, regardless of what you feel or see. I, too, feel my sin and the Law and the devil on my neck. I feel myself oppressed under these as under heavy burdens. But what am I to do? If I were to judge according to my feeling and my ability, I, together with all other men, should have to perish and despair. However, if I wish to be helped, I must surely turn about and look to the Word and say accordingly: “Indeed, I feel God’s wrath, the devil, death, and hell; but the Word conveys a different message, namely, that I have a gracious God through Christ, who is my Lord over the devil and all creatures. To be sure, I feel and see that I and all other men must rot in the ground; but the Word informs me differently, namely, that I shall rise in great glory and live eternally.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 28: 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, 1 Co 15:1–2 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).
When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: 'You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.' Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it
- a Krauth quote from the Conservative Reformation
Ninety-Nine Shades of Grey
A clear description of the culture we now live in would go something like this: a hatred of absolutes, a dismissal of universals, an abhorrence of truth, and a disdain of certainty. Instead, we find an all-encompassing embrace of relativism, subjectivism, and scepticism. Modern culture has eschewed black and white in favour of 99 shades of grey.
This explains why there is so much hostility and animus directed to those who have not bought into this postmodern delusion, and believe truth and absolutes do in fact exist, and can be boldly proclaimed and championed. A relativistic culture just can’t stand that sort of boldness, certainty, and confidence.
So even though so many will champion relativism in all its forms, they nonetheless act as if their own relativism is an absolute. They are absolutely sure there are no absolutes, and will argue their case till they are blue in the face. They brashly insist that they are right about insisting that we can never be right about anything.
Peter Kreeft has written about this mixed-up mindset: “The simplest refutation of the tolerance argument is its very premise. It assumes that tolerance is really, objectively, universally, absolutely good. If the relativist replied that he is not presupposing the objective value of tolerance, then all he is doing is demanding the imposition of his subjective personal preference for tolerance. That is surely more intolerant than the appeal to an objective, universal, impersonal, moral law. If no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance far more seriously than the relativist. It is absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance.”
Indeed, as I keep on documenting here, the people I find to be the most intolerant are the ones who go on and on about how vital it is that we all be tolerant. They despise any idea that there might be universal rights and wrongs, and absolute truth. They hate our strong stance on any issue.
I often get critics saying I need to lighten up and stop seeing everything in terms of black and white. They make it clear they are just so upset with me for spurning their world of greys. They insist I must make room for “nuance”. They want me to be just like them, and float around in a fetid pool of mental and moral relativism.
And I am not just speaking of the usual candidates here: the secular humanists and their fellow travellers. I am referring to all the limp-wristed Christians who long ago have abandoned truth, certainty and absolutes for the latest trendy PoMo pap.
They inform me that if I would just be more nuanced and tolerant I would not be getting all the flak that I do. They want me to just be nice and not offend anyone. They want me to never rock the boat. But I have news for these religious wimps: it ain’t gonna happen. If they don’t like what I am doing, they can just go elsewhere and throw their little hissy fits.
And they had better stop pretending they are in any way biblical Christians. They seem to be clueless as to the fact that the Bible is chock block full of strong absolutes, withering universals, and stark black and whites. It knows nothing of this namby-pamby, ‘I don’t want to offend anybody’ baloney.
Try a few of these out for size, all from someone who should know something about truth and its importance – Jesus:
“He who is not with me is against me.” Luke 11:23
“You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matt 6:24
“You belong to your father, the devil.” John 8:44
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34
“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:8
“For judgment I have come into this world so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” John 9:39
“You will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24
“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:14
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Matt 23:33
“You hypocrites.” Luke 13:15
“He rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’” Mark 8:33
Gee, those statements sure do not sound very nuanced. They seem all very black and white to me. No middle ground there. No nuance. No 99 shades of grey. No beating around the bush. No wimpy platitudes and jellyfish sentiments there. Just very strong, powerful and forceful absolutes. But our weak-kneed moral and epistemological relativists just can’t handle this. It is all too much for them.
Well, tough beans – how’s that for another black and whiter, without “nuance”. I really don’t give a rip what the wimps for Jesus care about. They will more than likely sell out Jesus and the gospel when any opposition or persecution comes up. Indeed, such wimps will probably never face any opposition or persecution – not as long as they bend over backwards to please men and seek to be liked by everyone.
No wonder that they get so angry at people who do take a stand, who do insist on truth, who do believe in absolutes. That just drives these guys into a tizzy. They have so bought into the tolerance baloney that they in fact become the most intolerant folks around.
We don’t need “nuance” when it comes to crystal clear issues like the sanctity of the unborn or the institution of marriage. Here we stand on the rock and shout, “I cannot be moved. I can do no other.” We stand on the solid ground of the Word of God, not the shifting sands of the relativists, postmodernists and secular lefties.
I am not ashamed of truth, and I am not ashamed of proclaiming black and white in an age of 99 shades of grey. As always, Tozer nailed it when he wrote, “The most fervent devotees of tolerance are invariably intolerant of everyone who speaks about God with certainty.”
At the end of the day these wimps channelling the tolerance mantra are really just cowards. Dorothy Sayers described all this perfectly: “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”
BTW, for anyone thinking there is nothing all that wrong with being a bit wimpy or cowardly, let me refer you to just one passage – Rev. 21:8. Who is it that leads the list of those cast out and judged? Yep, the cowardly. In a time of war there is no place for cowards, wimps, and men-pleasers. We need soldiers who will go to battle and risk all for Christ and his Kingdom.
And it will be costly. As Leonard Ravenhill said, “It’s going to demand a lot of courage before too long – to really live and maintain the true Christian life according to the Word of the Living God.” Or as Tozer remarks, “Yes, if evangelical Christianity is to stay alive she must have men again, the right kind of men. She must repudiate the weaklings who dare not speak out, and she must seek in prayer and much humility the coming again of men of the stuff prophets and martyrs are made of.”
Bill Muehlenberg - CultureWatch