Archive for the ‘Body of Christ’ Category

LuthersCatechisms

Galatians 6:6. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Now the Apostle also addresses the hearers of the Word requesting them to bestow “all good things” upon those who have taught them the Gospel. I have often wondered why all the apostles reiterated this request with such embarrassing frequency. In the papacy I saw the people give generously for the erection and maintenance of luxurious church buildings and for the sustenance of men appointed to the idolatrous service of Rome. I saw bishops and priests grow rich until they possessed the choicest real estate. I thought then that Paul’s admonitions were overdone. I thought he should have requested the people to curtail their contributions. I saw how the generosity of the people of the Church was encouraging covetousness on the part of the clergy. I know better now.

As often as I read the admonitions of the Apostle to the effect that the churches should support their pastors and raise funds for the relief of impoverished Christians I am half ashamed to think that the great Apostle Paul had to touch upon this subject so frequently. In writing to the Corinthians he needed two chapters to impress this matter upon them. I would not want to discredit Wittenberg as Paul discredited the Corinthians by urging them at such length to contribute to the relief of the poor. It seems to be a by-product of the Gospel that nobody wants to contribute to the maintenance of the Gospel ministry. When the doctrine of the devil is preached people are prodigal in their willing support of those who deceive them.

We have come to understand why it is so necessary to repeat the admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of the Gospel by force he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the ministers of the Gospel with poverty. He curtails their income to such an extent that they are forced out of the ministry because they cannot live by the Gospel. Without ministers to proclaim the Word of God the people go wild like savage beasts.

Paul’s admonition that the hearers of the Gospel share all good things with their pastors and teachers is certainly in order. To the Corinthians he wrote: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” (1Cr 9:11) In the old days when the Pope reigned supreme everybody paid plenty for masses. The begging friars brought in their share. Commercial priests counted the daily offerings. From these extortions our countrymen are now delivered by the Gospel. You would think they would be grateful for their emancipation and give generously for the support of the ministry of the Gospel and the relief of impoverished Christians. Instead, they rob Christ. When the members of a Christian congregation permit their pastor to struggle along in penury, they are worse than heathen.

Before very long they are going to suffer for their ingratitude. They will lose their temporal and spiritual possessions. This sin merits the severest punishment. The reason why the churches of Galatia, Corinth, and other places were troubled by false apostles was this, that they had so little regard for their faithful ministers. You cannot refuse to give God a penny who gives you all good things, even life eternal, and turn around and give the devil, the giver of all evil and death eternal, pieces of gold, and not be punished for it.

The words “in all good things: are not to be understood to mean that people are to give all they have to their ministers, but that they should support them liberally and give them enough to live well.

~ Martin Luther

FI_LawAndGospel_Monday

At the heart of virtually every problem in the church, at the bottom of every strained relationship, at the center of every reason an inactive member stays home on Sunday or leaves the church* is the issue of the proper distinguishing between the Law and the Gospel. Without this understanding, the Scriptures make no sense, we will have no idea why we go to church (or worse, the wrong idea) and we will have no clue as to why orthodox Lutheranism reflects New Testament Christianity in the best sense.

We may well be a royal pain and terror to those around us. Even worse, without a clear understanding of Law and Gospel, we’ll be of no use to people around us struggling with spiritual and life issues. Worse still, we may even become a millstone round their necks, helping them (and ourselves) on the way to hell!

The Lutheran Reformation began when the Lord God Himself, through the Scriptures, opened Luther’s mind to the scriptural distinction between the Law and the Gospel. The Law makes demands, which we could not, cannot and never will fulfill. “No one is righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10). “Even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). If St. Paul laments about himself, “The good that I would do I do not do” (Rom. 7:19), where does that leave you? You have not a thought, an action or any of your physical, psychological or spiritual being that is not affected by and tainted by the reality of sin. And sin damns.

The Gospel, however, makes no demands and even gives the faith needed to believe it (Eph. 2:8–9). The Gospel is the forgiveness of sins. Christ was slain from the foundation of the world for you (Matt. 25:34). Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament for you (Isaiah 53). Christ was conceived for you (Luke 1:26). Christ was born for you (Luke 2). Christ was circumcised and fulfilled the Old Testament ceremonial law for you (Luke 2:22). The boy Christ taught in the temple for you! (You get the credit for His diligence in the catechism! See Luke 2:41.) John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)—for you. Jesus was baptized for you (Luke 3:21). Jesus was tempted for you (Luke 4). All of Jesus’ miracles, healings, words, promises, His Passion, His trials, His beating, His betrayal, His crucifixion, His ridicule, His words on the cross— “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34); “Today you will be with Me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43)—His death, His descent in victory to hell and His glorious resurrection and ascension are all, all of it, for you! And that’s all Gospel!

But there is even better news, and this is the point where the devil bedevils us. What Jesus attained for us some 6,000 miles away and 2,000 years ago is delivered in the word of preaching, in Baptism, in absolution and in the Supper. “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” Oh, yeah? God says you do. “Do not give up meeting together.” (See all of Hebrews 10.) But better than the Law (which says you should go to church) is the blessed Gospel! We cry like the tax collector at church, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). And the pastor says, “In the stead and by the command of Christ, forgiven!” (see John 20:21–23). He makes the sign of the cross to remind us that we’re baptized, forgiven (Titus 3:5). The Scriptures are read, and they contain both Law (demand, threat) and Gospel (forgiveness, promise). The sermon is preached, and the texts explained. The Law threatens and drives us to Jesus! The Gospel is not merely described or spoken about, it’s delivered! “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), right now, for you!

Most people who stop going to church or get church wrong think it’s about ethics. They think it’s about following the rules (i.e., following the Law). No, it’s finally about sinners receiving forgiveness (Gospel). And blessed by the Benediction (“The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you”—Gospel!) and all the forgiveness given, forgiven sinners head back into their vocations in life to be a beautiful leaven. If I know I’m a real “hard-boiled sinner” who’s been forgiven (Luther), I cannot be an unforgiving jackass to those around me. It’s a matter of Law and Gospel. I cannot but speak forgiveness—the Lord’s own forgiveness—to others.

by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison

(Pastor Harrison is the 13th and current President of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.)

*Edited out LCMS replaced with “church” for a general understanding.

individualconfession

Individual/Personal Confession

Pastor, what is confession and absolution?

Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins,and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven. It is hard to say,“I was wrong. I am sorry. Forgive me.” God’s Word makes it clear that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In confession and absolution, God’s Word is having its way with us, moving us to confess the truth about ourselves and our need for His forgiveness. Because of Jesus Christ, confession and absolution is a blessed, joyful, happy exchange! “For our sake He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When Jesus hung on the cross, He became sin—for us. He was the ransom for sin. God poured out His just wrath on Christ. Christ won peace between God and man. In confession, Christ takes the burden of our sin and gives us in exchange His complete forgiveness and love. Absolution is the ongoing work of Holy Baptism, in which our old, sinful nature in Adam is drowned and the new man in
Christ arises.Through Holy Absolution we receive “the gift of God,”which is forgiveness of sins and “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).*

Pastor, don’t we do Confession and Absolution at the start of the Worship Service? Hasn’t individual confession become “unfamiliar” or “infrequently used”?

Yes, we do. But the Confession at the start of the service is not the form or setting of Confession that we just read about in the Small Catechism. What we do at the start of the service is a group or “corporate” form of Confession and Absolution. What we read about in the Catechism and throughout the Lutheran writings is Individual Confession and Absolution, or, for short, individual/personal confession. What we do at the start of the service is a general confession of sins, not specifying any particular sins, and there is a general absolution, directed to the group. What we do in Individual/personal Confession usually involves confessing specific sins, and the pastor directs the absolution to that individual. It is this individual/personal, individual form of confession that the Catechism has in mind when it talks about “Confession.”

Pastor, I thought Lutherans got rid of Individual Confession. Isn’t going to the pastor for Confession just a Roman Catholic thing?

No, it’s not. Individual/personal Confession is a Lutheran thing, too. Luther did not get rid of Individual/personal Confession, he just reformed it, cleaned it up of its abuses. There were three abuses that needed to be corrected. One was that Confession was forced, mandatory, done under coercion and compulsion. The second abuse was the enumeration of sins, that you had to come up with a complete listing of your sins, in detail, or else you could not be sure that you had confessed adequately. The third, and perhaps the worst, abuse was that, instead of putting the emphasis on the absolution, God’s free gift of forgiveness, the priest would give the penitent works of satisfaction to perform, works of penance, to offset his sins. These “three oppressive things,” as Luther called them, had corrupted the practice of Confession, had turned it from a gift into a torture. Therefore, these were the abuses that the Lutherans corrected and reformed.

But Luther never got rid of Individual/personal Confession. Far from it. He strongly encouraged people to go to Confession. He even wrote “A Brief Exhortation to Confession,” in which he says such things as the following: “If you are poor and miserable, then go to Confession and make use of its healing medicine.” Or, “So we teach what a splendid, precious, and comforting thing Confession is.” Or again, “When I urge you to go to Confession, I am doing nothing else than urging you to be a Christian.”

Likewise, our Lutheran Confessions say the same thing. From the Augsburg Confession, Article XI: “Our churches teach that individual/personal Absolution should be retained in the churches.” Or from the Smalcald Articles, Article VIII: “Confession and Absolution should by no means be abolished in the Church.” Again, this is talking about Individual/personal Confession.

But Pastor, do I have to go to Individual/personal Confession to get forgiveness?

No, you don’t. You don’t “have to.” This is a matter of “get to.” You “get to” go to Individual Confession and Absolution. It’s a gift! It’s the Gospel! To be sure, God is rich in his grace, and he gives us his forgiveness in other ways as well. In Holy Baptism, all your sins were washed away, and Baptism is a gift that keeps on giving. Your sins are forgiven also when the pastor preaches the Gospel to you in the sermon, proclaiming the good news that Christ Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, taking them away, and that includes you and your sins. You receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of the Altar, when you receive the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

These are all glorious, wonderful means of grace, by which God delivers the forgiveness won by Christ on the cross to us. Holy Baptism, Holy Gospel, Holy Communion–all gifts of God, all means of grace, and each one has its own distinctive value and benefit and place in the life of the Christian. But then so does Holy Absolution. And we don’t want to set one gift of God against another. In other words, just because I get forgiveness in the sermon doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go to Communion. Just because I get forgiveness in Baptism doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go to Confession. No, God gives us all these gifts, each one of them, for us to use and benefit from.

What’s so special about Individual/personal Confession, Pastor?

For one thing, it helps us to be honest about ourselves. We readily say we are “poor miserable sinners,” but if we just keep it at that general level, we may try to excuse or rationalize sins we should be repenting of. The truth is, poor miserable sinners do poor miserable sins. And so, examining our lives according to the Ten Commandments and coming to grips with our actual sins helps to keep us honest and accountable and to realize the depths of our sinfulness and our ongoing need for Christ’s forgiveness.

And that leads us to the most important benefit of Confession, and that is, the Absolution, the word of forgiveness. To realize that, yes, God knows my sins, how lousy of a sinner I am, and yet He forgives me–yes, me! I hear the forgiveness spoken into my ears, with my name on it! I feel the pastor’s hands on my head, Christ’s authorized representative releases me from the burden of my sin and my guilt! That is what is so distinctive and refreshing about Individual Confession and Absolution: precisely that it is individual, dealing with my sins and directing God’s cleansing and forgiveness and care to me.

Luther puts it this way in his Brief Exhortation: “So any heart that feels its sinfulness and desires consolation has here a sure refuge when he hears God’s Word and makes the discovery that God through a human being looses and absolves him from his sins.” “[It] is a work that God does when he declares me free of my sin through His Word placed in the mouth of a man. It is this splendid, noble thing that makes Confession so lovely, so comforting.” Yes, the great treasure in Individual/personal Confession is the Absolution, spoken to you.

But Pastor, I’ve never gone to Individual/personal Confession before. I’m scared. What can you say to reassure me?

Let me guess what’s scary or intimidating about it. Maybe you think you must come up with some huge, awful sin–like robbing a bank or murdering someone–in order to go to Individual/personal Confession. No, ordinary, garden-variety sins are welcome any time. Maybe you can think of one or two that weigh on your mind. Lustful thoughts, harsh words, not treating your husband or wife with the love and care you know you should–that sort of thing. But even if you can’t come up with any sins or you’re not quite ready to speak about them, then just make a more general confession and the pastor will still speak God’s word of forgiveness to you.

Pastor, if I told you my sins, my dirty awful sins, wouldn’t you think less of me? Wouldn’t it change our dynamic, our relationship, and you wouldn’t be my friend anymore?

No, I wouldn’t think less of you. If anything, I might be tempted to think more of you, that you took advantage of the opportunity to come to Confession. But then, don’t go and get a big head about it and say, “Hey, look at me! I went to Confession!” That would-be pride, and then you’d have to come back to Confession for that!

No, nothing you say would shock me. I believe what the Bible says about our sinful nature, how the old Adam keeps on having evil desires and thoughts. And hey, your pastor knows what a sinner he is! I won’t be shocked by your sins. In fact, I’m here to give you God’s forgiveness for them.

And what’s more, Individual/personal Confession is just that: Individual and personal. The sins you confess go nowhere else. I am under oath, solemn oath, never to divulge the sins confessed to me. I never have, and I never will. I don’t even divulge them to myself, in a sense. What I mean is, when you confess your sins to me, my ears become a graveyard. The sins die there. I don’t carry them around with me in my head and hold them against you. I can still be your friend. But the more important thing for you is that I be your pastor. God has assigned me here to take care of your soul. And that includes hearing the sins you confess, the sins that trouble your soul, and then forgiving them in the name of Christ.

Pastor, tell me once again: Why should I come to Confession?

For the Gospel. For the forgiveness of your sins. To receive the gift Jesus has for you: Holy Absolution, with your name on it!

 

~ Adapted from an article by Rev. Charles Henrickson

– *Paragraph excerpt from article “What About Confession and Absolution”

by Dr. A. L. Barry, President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

 

Shout With The Voice Of Triumph, Part 2
Shout to the Lord

             “Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel” (Isaiah 44:23).

The Shout That Leaves No Doubt

When God says He is going to do something, you can be confident that it is going to happen!  With this confidence, we are able to shout the shout that leaves no doubt.
It doesn’t matter what obstacles or problems you are facing.  You can shout with no doubt about what God is going to do for you as His child.

    In Psalm 27:5,6, we read:
“For in the day of trouble, He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.  And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me; and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD” (NASB).

    You may be saying, “Preacher, I don’t feel like shouting.”  Shout anyway.  We are a kingdom of priests.  We are priests unto God, and we are called to offer sacrifice to Him.

    When you go into a church and hear all the people shouting, that’s a sacrifice.  This is one way in which the world outside of the church can know that something is taking place on the inside.  We have something to shout about!

    David said in Psalm 5:11:
“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.”

    Even though you are saved and washed in the blood, you may be going through a trial or a test in your life.  Don’t let the devil steal your joy.  You may not be able to rub two nickels together, but the devil can’t touch what you’ve got under that fifth rib.  You are a child of God.

    You know what my Bible says in Psalm 34:19?
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”
Many are the afflictions of the righteous.  Not the backslider, but the righteous.  And the phrase that makes me want to shout is, “but the Lord delivers him out of them all!”

    It doesn’t matter what you may be going through.  God has called you to be more than a conqueror.  He has promised to bring you out of every bad situation that you may find yourself in.  That should make you want to shout unto God with the voice of triumph!

If God Said It, It’s Already Done

In Ezra 3:11, we read:
“And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel.  And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.”

    The people had just returned from years of captivity in Babylon.  All hope seemed to be gone.  The great temple of the Lord that Solomon had built had been destroyed.  The great empire had been reduced to a minuscule remnant.

    But here they were, back in the land that God had given to their fathers.  The foundation for the new temple had just been laid.  God was beginning the restoration that He had promised through His prophets.  Many years had gone by, but God was right on time.

    They began shouting the shout that leaves no doubt.  They still had a long way to go.  The temple would not be completed for several more years, and they were still a small remnant of the once vast empire, but God promised them in Haggai 2:9:
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give thee peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”

    Confidence filled their lungs as they witnessed the Word of God being confirmed before their eyes.  God said He was going to do it, and He did!

Three On-Fire Jews

I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego recorded in the third chapter of the book of Daniel.  They refused to bow down and engage in idol worship.  While many people are bowing down to false gods today, God is looking for somebody who will not bow their knee to Baal, but who will serve Him in the beauty of holiness.

    Old King Nebuchadnezzer got word that these three young men weren’t bowing down to worship the image that he had built.  Somebody got jealous.

    Even though they were in captivity, they had found favor with Nebuchadnezzer, who elevated them to important positions in his government.  When God starts blessing you, some of your best friends are going to get jealous.

    Nebuchadnezzer was overcome with rage, and he said to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “You’ll either bow down to my god, or you’ll burn.”

    Those boys said, “You’ve got it all wrong, King.  If we bow down to your god, we will burn.  We’ll burn in Hell!  If we have to choose the furnace, we choose yours.  Either God will deliver us from your fiery furnace, or He won’t.”

    This is what you call covering all the bases.  Either God’s going to do it, or He’s not going to do it!
As soon as they spoke those words, God said to Jesus, “Get down there and get in that fire.”
Nebuchadnezzer’s rage intensified, and he said to his servants, “Heat the furnace seven times hotter.  Tie them up and throw them in.”

The men who threw them into the flames could not stand the intensity of the heat, but not a hair on those boys’ heads was singed.  They still had their clothing on.  The only things missing were the bonds that tied them.

    Nebuchadnezzer looked into the furnace and counted four people.  He went back to his men and said, “How many did we throw into that fire?”

    They told him, “Three.”

    He said, “I see four, and the fourth one is like unto the Son of God.”
Now think about this: three people were thrown into the fire, and three came out.  What happened to the fourth one?

    I’m here to tell you, He’s still in the fire.  Why?  Because when you get into the fire, He’s already there to see that you get deliverance.  No matter what your predicament may be, God has a way out for you.

You Don’t Have Any Trouble

If you have ever heard my radio program, you’ve heard me say, “You don’t have any trouble.  All you need is faith in God.”  Now, that’s a borrowed statement; that’s not original with me.

    I was preaching in Buffalo, New York.  There was a gentleman who came into that meeting and said, “Brother Schambach, I’d like to invite you and your entire staff home for dinner.”

    I said, “We’ll be there.”

    At that time, I didn’t like to eat before preaching, so it was very late after the service was over before we were able to leave for his house.  He didn’t tell me earlier that he lived in Niagara Falls, so we had to travel quite a distance.

    But it was well worth the time.  The man’s wife had prepared a feast: a banquet that made Belshazzar’s feast look like a Girl Scout picnic.  She had prime rib of beef, turkey, T-bone steaks, and fried chicken.  You never invite a preacher out unless you have fried chicken.  And when people invite us out to eat, I fast all day so I can tuck it away.
I filled up my plate to gospel measure.  That’s the running over variety.  I was so hungry that when the gentleman asked me to pray, I prayed quickly, “Lord, bless this food.  Amen,” and I started digging into that food.

    I was helping myself and enjoying the food when all of a sudden this man had one of those talking spells.  But what he was saying was better than the food, and I pushed my plate back because I wanted to hear every word.

    He said, “Brother Schambach, I thought I had it made with a great job with the U.S. Government, money in the bank, and my home almost paid for.  I had never been sick a day in my life, when suddenly, I was hit with spinal meningitis that paralyzed me from head to toe.”

    Now, while he was speaking, I was looking at a man who was completely well in his body, and I knew that something miraculous had happened to him.  I listened intently as he continued on.

    He said, “I was hospitalized for three months, and then, to make matters worse, I was stricken with very painful rheumatoid arthritis which crept into all of my joints.
“I lapsed into a coma, my bank account was reduced to zero, and I had to sell my home to get equity out of it to pay the additional doctor and hospital bills.

    “They called my priest in to give me the last rites of the church, extreme unction; and even though I was in a coma, I knew my priest was giving me the last rites.”

    I’ve asked several doctors about this, and they’ve told me that, even though a person is in a coma, they can still hear you, but you cannot communicate with them.

    He went on, “I wanted to let the priest know that I understood that he was giving me the last rites of the church, but I couldn’t even flicker an eyelash.  He finished with the rite of extreme unction, and he walked out the door.

    “As soon as he closed the door, another priest came walking in right through the wall.  The other priest was dressed in all black, but this priest was dressed in all white.

    This priest leaned down over my bed, put his mouth to my ear, called my by my name, and he said to me, ‘YOU DON’T HAVE ANY TROUBLE.  ALL YOU NEED IS FAITH IN GOD.’
“My first reaction was, ‘what kind of crazy priest is this?  I don’t have any trouble?  Spinal meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lost my home, lost my job, and the priest just walked out of the room giving me the last rites.  If this isn’t trouble, what is?’

    “The next words that came out of this priest’s mouth were, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, and I am going to heal you right now.’

    “He spoke to me further saying, ‘When I turn around and walk out of here, I want you to get out of this bed.  Go wash yourself and shave.  Walk out of this hospital.  Go to the first bookstore you can find and buy a Bible.  Begin reading the Gospel of St. John, and you will find the way to eternal life.’”

    I was so blessed listening to him relate this story that I couldn’t continue eating.
He looked at me and said, “Brother Schambach, He walked right through the wall.  Why didn’t he use the door?”

    I said, “He is the door, Mister.”  Jesus said in John 10:9:
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

    He’ll make an entrance right into your life.  He’ll come into your automobile.  He’ll come to you on the job.  He comes with the answer to your problems.

    Jesus is still alive.  He is still performing miracles.  All He’s looking for is obedience and a little bit of faith.  Trust Him, and you will shout the shout that leaves no doubt!

The Shout That Brought Us Out

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation..” (Zechariah 9:9).

    We’ve seen the shout without the clout;  the shout that brings the rout; the shout that leaves no doubt, and now we come to the shout that brought us out.

    Brought us out of what?  Praise God, Jesus brought us out of sin.  We’ve got something to shout about!
In John 19:28-30, we read:
“After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.  Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar, and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon a hyssop, and put it to his mouth.  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

    Jesus was on Calvary, stretched out between heaven and earth with nails in His hands and in his feet.  He was given vinegar to drink, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 69:21.

    After this final indignity, Jesus shouted with a voice of triumph, “It is finished!”  What was finished?  Well, several things, actually.

    The most difficult part of the work of mankind’s redemption and salvation had been completed, satisfying the justice of God and destroying the power of Satan forever.

    Also, the ceremonial law had run its course, and man was no longer bound by a long list of ordinances.  From this time forward, God would write His laws upon the hearts of the redeemed.  All of the shadows have been eliminated by the illuminating revelation of Christ.  It’s as if God were saying, “Put out the fires and stop killing the animals!  It is no longer necessary!”

    The Old Testament prophecies and types pointing at the Messiah and His suffering were also finished.  Jesus knew that drinking the vinegar was the last prophecy that had to be fulfilled.  He wasn’t complaining when He said, “I thirst.”  He was crossing the last “T” of prophecy that would usher in a new era in God’s relationship with mankind.

    Finally, the sufferings that Jesus had to endure, in soul and body, were now finished.  All of the pain, agony, and indignities that He had gone through during His ministry had come to an end.  He had accomplished what He had come to do, and now He was going to return to His Father.

    Having fulfilled His destiny as the Lamb slain for the sins of the world, now He would take His place on the right side of the throne of God and intercede for mankind as the High Priest.

The Last High Priest

Let’s examine this title a little more.  Do you remember when John baptized Jesus?  John baptized unto repentance, but Jesus had nothing to repent of.  Then why did He get baptized in water?  You need to go back and read the first chapter of Luke.  The father of John the Baptist was Zacharias, who was one of the priests who ministered in the temple.  The priesthood was handed down through blood relationship, and he was from the family of Abiah, a son of Eleazar, who was the eldest son of Aaron.

    The mother of John, Elizabeth, was also a descendant of Aaron.  The blood that flowed through their veins was priestly blood, and Jesus recognized John as the true high priest.
You may be thinking, “But I thought Caiaphas was the high priest.”  Caiaphas was a political appointee chosen around A.D. 18 by the Roman procurator, Valerius Gratus.  The government of Rome chose him because of his ability to compel the people to abide by the laws the Romans had imposed on them.

    But Jesus knew that John was performing the true duties of the high priest, admonishing the people to turn from their sins and baptizing them unto repentance. He knew that the right of baptism signified change and the passing from the old to the new.  He had no need to be baptized unto repentance, but He was showing that the role of the high priest had been passed to Him.  Although He would not assume that role until after His death and resurrection, this baptism by John was the ceremonial transfer of priestly succession.
John objected to baptizing Jesus because he knew that He was the spotless Lamb of God.  Indeed, he told Jesus that he needed to be baptized by Him.

    Jesus, knowing that He was fulfilling prophecy, told John, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

    So John complied and baptized Jesus.  And when He came up out of the water, the heavens burst open, and God the Father spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.”

    Do you remember what John said about Jesus when He was coming down the road?  “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

    Nobody had ever said that before.  Lambs were slain for Israelis only, but here is John the Baptist, recognized by Jesus as the real high priest, saying, “Behold the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.”

    Not a lamb for a man; not a lamb for a house; not a lamb for a nation, but a lamb for the world.  It’s important to realize that Jesus is not an American God; He’s not an Asian God; He’s not an African God; He’s not a European God, but He is the God of the whole world.

    Jesus was crucified on the cross at Calvary on Passover.  During this feast, the high priest would sacrifice a lamb without spot or blemish for the sins of the nation of Israel.
But now Jesus had become the sacrifice!  Not only was He the spotless Lamb, He was the High Priest who would present the sacrifice before God.

    And His sacrifice as the sinless Lamb of God was not just for the nation of Israel but for the whole world.

    When He cried out, “It is finished!” the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom.  Long and thick, it was made out of pure linen, and it was rent from top to bottom.  Do you know why?

    Only the high priest could come near the presence of God.  The veil represented man’s separation from God, but through His death and resurrection, Jesus tore down that wall of separation.  Now we are part of a kingdom of priests, and we can come boldly into His presence.

    Our High Priest is seated at the right hand of God, and He said, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you” (John 16:23 NASB).

    We are priests of the most high God.  We offer sacrifices of praise.  When we shout unto God with the voice of triumph, we’re fulfilling our priestly duties.  We can shout the shout that brought us out because Jesus brought us out of sin and into righteousness.

The Shout That’s Going To Take Us Out

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first..” (I Thessalonians 4:16).

    Finally, I’m waiting for the shout that’s going to take us out.  Out of what?  Out of New York, Los Angeles, London, Nairobi, Calcutta, Tokyo, and every other place on this planet!
I don’t think it’s going to be much longer because there are signs all around us that we are living in the last days.

    Powerful earthquakes and other natural disasters are becoming more frequent.  More and more nations are becoming armed to the teeth with the most lethal military weapons ever developed.  Tensions are high in many areas of the globe with the potential for numerous wars and internecine skirmishes.

    Unprecedented advances in computers and other sophisticated technology are laying the groundwork for an eventual one-world economic and political system.

    All of the things that Jesus and the prophets told us to look for in the last days are being revealed on a daily basis.  Jesus is about to come!

I’m Getting Caught Up

I don’t know about you, but I believe in the rapture of the church.  I know there are some preachers who don’t believe in the rapture.  They tell me the word “rapture” is not in the Bible.  I tell them right back that the phrase “caught up” is.

    Here’s what it says in the book of First Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 13 through 18:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

    I’m not looking for Him anymore.  I’m listening for Him.  I’m listening for the shout and the sound of a trumpet.

    He’s coming back with a shout, and if you’re not ready, you’re going to be left behind to face seven years of tribulation.  The Holy Ghost is going to be taken out of this world.  If you can’t stay saved now, I know you won’t be able to stay saved then.

    A friend of mine was praying, and he said, “Lord, how are you going to pull this rapture off?”  God told him, “That’s easy, son.  I’m just going to call the Holy Ghost home, and everybody He’s in is going to come with Him.”

    Are you ready?  Are your sins gone?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?  Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book if Life?  God said in Luke 10:20:
“..rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

    We shall not all sleep.  If you want to sleep, sleep.  But I’m waiting for that final shout.  The shout that’s going to take us out of Harlem.  The shout that’s going to take us out of New York.  The shout that’s going to take us out of London, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Sydney, Calcutta, and Tokyo.

    The Bible says in Mark 13:32:
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

    Well, I’m going to make an announcement.  I know the day, and I know the hour that He’s coming!  It’s going to be the day of the Lord, and He’s coming back in the hour that you think not.

    I want to go on radio and television, and I want to shout it from the highest mountain, “Jesus is coming!”

    We’re so close.  Jesus is about to come, and He’s coming back for a bride that is holy, without spot or wrinkle.  He’s not going to marry up with a bride that’s flirting with the devil.  He’s going to marry up with a chaste virgin.  Those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

    You might tell me, “I shook the preacher’s hand and had my name put on the church book.”  You might as well have put your name on a barn door and shook a donkey’s tail.  It’ll get you into heaven just as quick.

    He said, “He that comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.”  It’s either Heaven or Hell.  It’s either Christ or the devil.  You’re either saved, or you’re lost.  You can’t put this decision off.

How To Get Ready

If you want to be ready for the soon coming of Jesus Christ, get on your knees right now.  Ask God to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you of all unrighteousness.  Ask Him to give you a clean heart and to make you a new creation.  Ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and to fill you with the Holy Ghost so that you may live the life He wants you to live.

    Start reading the Word of God daily, beginning with the book of John.  Talk to God often, confessing your sins and asking for His help and guidance in your life.  Make it an everyday part of your life so that you will grow strong in the Spirit.

    Find a Spirit-filled, Bible-believing church, get baptized, and get involved with other Christians as God leads you into the work He has called you to do.

    Then your spiritual ears will be opened, and some day soon you will hear the trumpet of God sounding and the shout that is going to take us out!

by R.W. Schambach

descent

What are the elements of a Christian worldview?

Christianity teaches a set of beliefs that form the basics of our worldview.

Following is a list of some of the elements that make up the Christian worldview:

An absolute God exists

If an absolute God exists, then it means that God is self-sufficient and lacks nothing. If God is self-sufficient, then he needs no external cause for his existence. This would mean he is eternal. If he is eternal then he does not change.

God created the universe

If God created the universe, then he is all-powerful — since it obviously takes a great deal of power to create the universe. This would also mean that God is separate from creation and not a part of the created order. From the previous point where we see that God is absolute and unchanging, we could see that God’s nature would be reflected in the created order. As a painter leaves a part of himself on the canvas, so God reveals himself in creation. Creation is, therefore, ordered, predictable, and dependable. This would mean that when Christians look into creation, they would expect to find a predictable, regular, and testable world.

God created humanity in His image.

This means that God, who is rational and intelligent, has impressed his image upon the hearts and soul of human beings. Therefore, people can be rational and turn their attention towards the world and since they believe that the universe reflects God’s creative nature, they can have confidence to look into creation and expect order. They can also expect that since they are made in the image of God, they have the ability to unlock the secrets of the universe. In addition, if man is created in God’s image, then all people are worthy of respect and honor. This would also mean that when a new life formed in the womb, it is human from the time of conception. Therefore, abortion would be wrong. Furthermore, if we are created in God’s image, then we did not evolve from lower primates. This would mean that we have purpose and are not merely the result of random development through evolution that is, supposedly, guided by natural selection. Natural selection works on the theory of survival of the fittest and this could have a very harmful effect on society if “survival of the fittest” is transferred into a moral principle. It would justify oppressing the weak and helpless.

God gave man dominion over creation.

This means that all aspects of the created order on earth are to be governed by man according to how God has revealed himself and his will for us in the Bible. Therefore, politics, medicine, art, ecology, society, economics, exploration, philosophy, mathematics, education, etc. all fall under the domain of human responsibility and should be considered realms for man to control — under the wisdom and direction of God’s revelation, the Bible (more on that below).

Humanity is fallen

The Fall of humanity through our ancient father Adam, tells us that at the heart of every one of us is a predisposition toward sin. Sin is rebellion against God and, therefore, it is a rebellion against what is good. Sin has not only affected man’s soul and body, but it has also affected his mind. Therefore, the Christian worldview would say that even man’s best reasoning is touched by sin and cannot be perfect. Furthermore, since man is sinful and his heart’s intentions are predisposed towards wickedness, we conclude that those in power are highly susceptible to corruption. Therefore, governmental systems should be developed with Christian principles in mind to help guard against that. In fact, Christianity influenced the development of the Constitution and American government. Our founding fathers developed the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of government that are there to exercise a system of checks and balances over each other. Why? Because of The Fall, man has a tendency to gravitate towards corruption.

Jesus is humanity’s only hope for redemption

Because man is fallen, he is in need of rescue from God’s righteous condemnation — which is eternal damnation. Also, since he is fallen, there is no way he can redeem himself. Therefore, Jesus, who is God in flesh, died for us and rose from the dead. We receive his righteousness and forgiveness by faith. This basic theological truth means that Christians should then preach that good news of redemption in Christ to all the world. Therefore, one of the most basic Christian principles is promoting Jesus as the means by which we are made right with God.

The Holy Scriptures (The Bible) are the Word of God

Of course, I have already mentioned the Bible, but the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. From the Bible we derive the truths by which we govern our lives. It is from the Bible that we learn about God himself, his created order, the Trinity, redemption, about sin, salvation, hope, and what is morally correct. The Bible reveals the will of God for mankind, for the family, for raising children, for proper behavior in society, etc. It is from the Bible that we can learn the direct will of God.

God Provides for His creation

It is from the Bible that we learn of God’s loving provision for us. We know that God lets the sun and rainfall down upon both the good and the bad. We know that God causes the crops to grow and cattle to multiply. We know that though we live in a fallen world, God has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. Therefore, we can rely on God’s provision for us and should have confidence that he will continue to provide for our needs. Therefore, you can see that there are basic principles that form the Christian worldview. There are more, but the above eight items are representative of Christianity’s perspective and truth and how it influences belief and action.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the quality of the preaching in the pulpits within the Church currently, and I am growing increasingly concerned about the Church moving further and further away from the unique strengths of Gospel preaching as we have received it from generations previous to ours. I’m going to frame my concerns by referring to temptations preachers face. I’m coming at this, of course, from my perspective and convictions as a Spirit-filled, confessing, orthodox Christian, committed to the Sacred Scriptures, having vowed to preach and teach the Word of God in conformity to the Word of God. This is no mere finger pointing exercise, this is a chance for me to reflect on how these temptations impact me when I preach.

The Therapeutic Temptation
The “Therapeutic Temptation” is one that would have preachers use their sermons to give what amounts to little more than a pep talk, often in the context of cute, touching, emotional or an otherwise manipulative story, either real, or made up. I’m referring to the infamous, “There was once a little boy who…” or the, “There was a man who said/did…” These sermons will be marked by a preaching of Law that is soft and squidgy around the edges, it’s not a preaching of God’s holy, righteous wrath against sin and a warning against it and a rebuking of sin and sinners. It is Law preached in such a way that bad things, bad people or bad situations are lamented in doleful tones. It sounds often like this, “Isn’t it sad when….” or “Have you ever…..” and the tone is one of sounding “oh, so sorry about that” and “shouldn’t we all feel bad” about this problem. Then the sermon goes on to offer encouragement and support for getting out of our bad and negative feelings and circumstances. The Law is soft, the Gospel therefore comes across as antidote to feeling sad and bad. I face this temptation when I preach. I want so much to make people feel better, to feel good, to leave feeling positive. That can get in the way of good Law/Gospel preaching. I would say this is what I’m hearing more and more in pulpits. Law becomes simply lament. Gospel becomes simply encouragement and reassurance.

Let Me Entertain You Temptation
Public speaking, once one becomes fairly good at it, is a place where one’s personal ego can really get in the way of God’s Word. It is so tempting to get wrapped up in the moment and begin to feel a need to amuse, delight and entertain the listeners. Now, granted, the use of the classic art of rhetoric is important, but it is tempting for preachers to work very hard to elicit a laugh, a chuckle, to amuse, to entertain. They mistake audience reaction with effective preaching and they mistake emotionally manipulating the congregation with preaching God’s Word effectively. The problem with the entertainment temptation is that often the effort to entertain and elicit a positive emotional reaction from the congregation causes the preacher to neglect the doctrine in the text he is preaching on, to neglect, frankly, the Scriptures, and to spend an inordinate amount of time developing his story that he just knows will get the kind of response he is looking for. Public speaking is heady stuff. I have been tempted to go for the cheap line, the little quip, the comment I know will get chuckle and spend too much time on that, than on preaching God’s Word. And here again, in this context, Law is neglected, or ignored, because, after all, the Law is not “upbeat” it is not “entertaining.” It will not delight and amuse people to hear that they, by nature, are poor, miserable sinners who have nothing but wicked, evil deeds to offer to the holy and righteous God. And when the Law is neglected, the Gospel then loses the force of its power to convert and regeneration. In such a context, the Gospel is watered down to be part of an entertaining experience for the listeners.

The Hurry Up Temptation
This is quite an insidious temptation that I think we all have fallen into, nearly totally. For many centuries, and even millennia, in the church’s history, sermons, where they were taken seriously, were thirty, forty or even sixty minutes long. The sermon was the opportunity for the pastor to preach and teach God’s Word carefully and thoroughly, from Sunday to Sunday, but then, sermons that were forty-five minutes long, became only thirty minutes, then they dropped to twenty minutes, and now it is often the case that sermons now are only twelve, or ten or even eight minutes long. Simply put, these are no longer sermons, they have become rather formulaic quick devotional thoughts. There is not enough time carefully to delve into the text, and open it up to hearers. A text become more a pretext for the sharing of what becomes quite repetitive themes: some talk of something bad, some talk of Jesus taking care of it all for us, and then there may be a reference to the Sacraments. Preachers are tempted to do this when they know that there is a full service with Holy Communion. It is tempting to skip lightly over the text and instead use the short time I have to make a couple devotional points and then get on to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. I love the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and love that we celebrate it every corporate gathering on Sundays. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper must never become an excuse to make our sermons shorter and less substantial. We are the Church, the Body of Christ, and the fellowship of Word and Sacrament. I think that we are forgetting this.

The Axe to Grind Temptation
This temptation is characterized by a preacher managing to “find” in any Biblical text, a pretext for him to yet, once more, grind his axe on his hobby-horse issue, or subject, or theme, no matter what it might be. The hobby-horse might be quite correct and what the preacher says about it is quite true, but it is a temptation preachers face to turn nearly every sermon they give into an opportunity once more to repeat the same issues, over and over again. Perhaps he will be wanting to talk always about the liturgical practices in the parish, to turn every sermon into a little discourse on some point of church history, or to keep referring to some particular event or trend in society. Every sermon manages to include a reference to the issue that is really “bugging” the preacher and it comes out in his sermon. I am tempted to do this when I find myself wanting to warn people against the “feel good/health and wealth” prosperity preachers. I find that I can easily find myself bashing this error in every sermon. And while I’m perfectly correct in my warning, it is not appropriate for me to hijack every sermon on every Biblical text, to interject my own particular agenda. The Lectionary is a good corrective, and if the preacher resolves actually to preach on the subjects, issues and topics that flow naturally from the Lectionary readings, there is much less of a chance that the preacher will fall victim to the “Axe to Grind” temptation.

How many more temptations could be added to this list?

~ Originally written by Rev. Paul McCain, edited by Rev. Gary DeSha

Nikodemos

THE PASSIONS

A passion is a spiritual disease that dominates the soul. When one repeatedly falls into a certain sin, it becomes second nature – a passion – for him to keep falling into this sin. Thus, one who misuses the God-given powers of the soul of desire and anger, or one who continually succumbs to temptations of lust, hate, malice, or jealousy, or one who succumbs to pride and vainglory, acquires those passions. It is primarily through repentance, faith, obedience to God, submission to His will, and dying daily to self is one healed of the passions.

The passions are:

harshness, trickery, malice, perversity, mindlessness, licentiousness, enticement, dullness, lack of understanding, idleness, sluggishness, stupidity, flattery, silliness, idiocy, madness, derangement, coarseness, rashness, cowardice, lethargy, dearth of good actions, moral errors, greed, over-frugality, ignorance, folly, spurious knowledge, forgetfulness, lack of discrimination, obduracy, injustice, evil intention, a conscienceless soul, slothfulness, idle chatter, breaking of faith, wrongdoing, sinfulness, lawlessness, criminality, passion, seduction, assent to evil, mindless coupling, demonic provocation, dallying, bodily comfort beyond what is required, vice, stumbling, sickness of soul, enervation, weakness of intellect, negligence, laziness, a reprehensible despondency, disdain of God, aberration, transgression, unbelief, lack of faith, wrong belief, poverty of faith, heresy, fellowship in heresy, polytheism, idolatry, ignorance of God, impiety, magic, astrology, divination, sorcery, denial of God, the love of idols, dissipation, profligacy, loquacity, indolence, self-love, inattentiveness, lack of progress, deceit, delusion, audacity, witchcraft, defilement, the eating of unclean food, soft living, dissoluteness, voracity, un-chastity, avarice, anger, dejection, listlessness, self-esteem, pride, presumption, self-elation, boastfulness, infatuation, foulness, satiety, doltishness, torpor, sensuality, over-eating, gluttony, insatiability, secret eating, hoggishness, solitary eating, indifference, fickleness, self-will, thoughtlessness, self-satisfaction, love of popularity, ignorance of beauty, un-couthness, gaucherie, light-mindedness, boorishness, rudeness, contentiousness, quarrelsomeness, abusiveness, shouting, brawling, fighting, rage, mindless desire, gall, exasperation, giving offence, enmity, meddlesomeness, chicanery, asperity, slander, censure, calumny, condemnation, accusation, hatred, railing, insolence, dishonor, ferocity, frenzy, severity, aggressiveness, forswearing oneself, oath taking, lack of compassion, hatred of one’s brothers, partiality, patricide, matricide, breaking fasts, laxity, acceptance of bribes, theft, rapine, jealousy, strife, envy, indecency, jesting, vilification, mockery, derision, exploitation, oppression, disdain of one’s neighbor, flogging, making sport of others, hanging, throttling, heartlessness, implacability, covenant-breaking, bewitchment, harshness, shamelessness, impudence, obfuscation of thoughts, obtuseness, mental blindness, attraction to what is fleeting, impassionedness, frivolity, disobedience, dull-wittedness, drowsiness of soul, excessive sleep, fantasy, heavy drinking, drunkenness, uselessness, slackness, mindless enjoyment, self-indulgence, venery, using foul language, effeminacy, unbridled desire, burning lust, masturbation, pimping, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, defilement, wantonness, a stained soul, incest, uncleanliness, pollution, sordidness, feigned affection, laughter, jokes, immodest dancing, clapping, improper songs, revelry, constant passion, license of tongue, excessive love of order, insubordination, disorderliness, reprehensible collusion, conspiracy, warfare, killing, brigandry, sacrilege, illicit gains, usury, wiliness, grave-robbing, hardness of heart, obloquy, complaining, blasphemy, fault-finding, ingratitude, malevolence, contemptuousness, pettiness, confusion, lying, verbosity, empty words, mindless joy, daydreaming, mindless friendship, bad habits, non-sensicality, silly talk, garrulity, niggardliness, depravity, intolerance, irritability, affluence, rancour, misuse, ill-temper, clinging to life, ostentation, affectation, pusillanimity, satanic love, curiosity, contumely, lack of the fear of God, unteachability, senselessness, haughtiness, self-vaunting, self-inflation, scorn for one’s neighbor, mercilessness, insensitivity, hopelessness, spiritual paralysis, hatred of God, despair, suicide, a falling away from God in all things, utter destruction –

Altogether 298 passions……….

These, then, are the passions which have been found named in the Holy Scriptures. St. John Climakos states: “If you seek understanding in wicked men, you will not find it.” For all that the demons produce is disorderly.

In common with the godless and the unjust, the demons have but one purpose: to destroy the souls of those who accept their evil counsel.

Yet sometimes they actually help men to attain holiness. In such instances they are conquered by the patience and faith of those who put their trust in the Lord, and who through their good actions and resistance to evil thoughts counteract the demons and bring down curses upon them.

From A LIST OF THE PASSIONS, Saint Peter of Damaskos The Philokalia; The Complete Text compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth. Volume Three, translated from the Greek and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherard, Kallistos Ware, Faber and Faber, 1984