Monthly Archives: January 2015

Septuagesima – Matthew 20:1-16

We are never content with God’s reign in the world. We cannot comprehend that it often goes so well with wicked people while the faithful must bear the cross and all sorts of trouble. Psalm 73 says, I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. The prophet Jeremiah complains to God, Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?

We are especially not content with God’s reign in the world when we believe that God distributes good things in His kingdom not by merit but by grace. The Old Adam in us sees God’s gift given by His boundless grace as Germans see the word “gift”. Gift in German means “poison”. The Old Adam is a mercenary. He looks suspiciously at God, even murmurs against God because He is so good.

God’s response to the mercenary Old Adam is that of the master of the house in the Parable of the Vineyard: Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Then comes the clincher that our translation just doesn’t catch well: Do you begrudge my generosity? Even better: Is your eye evil because I am good? Today let’s focus on the next to last part. God asks you today, Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?

The owner of the vineyard went out to hire laborers for his vineyard. No one came forward to him to work in his vineyard. He went out to look for them. He calls idle men who stood around all day with their hands in their pockets looking for something to do. He didn’t owe them anything. They had no claim on his vineyard. The kindness of the master of the house prompted him to approach them. He alone gave them the right and the authority to work in his vineyard. He alone gave the wages for the work.

This parable is a picture of the heavenly kingdom. God is no man’s debtor. God is not guilty toward mankind. He did not cause them to sin. Nevertheless, God conceived the plan for your redemption. He executed the plan in the fullness of time…His time, not your time.

The vineyard is His. He prepared it. It is His property. No man by nature has a right to own it, let alone work in it. By nature we all stand around with our hands in our pockets in the marketplace of sin. We don’t want to enter into God’s kingdom. King David sings in Psalm 14: The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. What is more, there is nothing we can do about it. Saint Paul says, The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

God goes out through the preaching of the Gospel and calls men into His vineyard. Have you ever thought what leads Him to call rank sinners like you and me into His vineyard? Think of it, God owes you nothing. We owe Him everything. When God calls you into His vineyard, it is grace. Paul explains it to Saint Timothy this way: He saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

God does not need you to work in His vineyard. Psalm 104 says that His ministers are a flaming fire. God owes you no wage. The fact that you are able to work in His kingdom is a gift from Him to you. You have no power to do it. He alone gives it to you. By the grace of God you are who you are, and his grace toward you is not in vain.

God is no man’s debtor, so of course He has the power to do what He wants with what is His. He alone has the authority to hand out good things that belong to no one else. His good things, both earthly and heavenly, are in no way entitlements. You have no legal claim to them. He has the authority to deliver His gifts to sinners and thieves that have no merit to show Him.

He gives His gifts when He wants to give His gifts. Some He calls earlier, some He calls later, Some bear heavy burdens, other bear light loads. Consider Job, the prophets, the apostles, the first Christians, and those in your families who have gone before you in the faith. Some had a tremendous cross to bear. Others seemed to have it quite easy. Some have a lot of work to do in the vineyard. Here we think of Moses, Paul, Martin Luther, and other heroes of the faith. Then there are those who didn’t do so much, yet still received their good things and bad things in the course of time.

The Lord God even has the authority to give as much as He wants of what is His. The way of the world is fair: How hard you work determines how much you get paid. In Christ’s kingdom, however, this is not so. Everything is gift. God distributes His gifts as He pleases. He does not give according to merit or worthiness on your part. If He did, then no one here would ever receive one gift from God. He gives the same grace to all, just as He gave to King David or even the thief on the cross.

Is your eye evil because God is so good? If so, then you deny God the right that He owes you nothing and that He has the power to do what He wants with what belongs to Him. You arrogantly rise up against your neighbor and put yourself first, as you are wont to do as a sinful creature. You overturn the applecart of God’s grace and destroy your salvation. God is a God of grace: pure, clear grace. God alone has the power to do what He wants with what is His. Repent. Do not take this honor from Him.

Receive what is yours from a loving, giving God Who wants to give you forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He gives you everything you need for your body and life. He even gives you Jesus Christ, Whose perfect obedience and precious blood pleads your innocence before the Father in heaven. He gives you an eternal inheritance in your Baptism. He gives you forgiveness of sins in His Son’s Holy Supper. God gives. That’s what He does best. All you do is receive those gifts. He even teaches you how to receive them. You say, Amen. Gift received. There is nothing more left to say, for God is so gracious in saving you from eternal death because of Jesus Christ.

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Heaven Is Miller Time

Just before Jesus launches into the payout sequence in this parable [Matthew 20:1-16], he says, “ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης, when it was evening, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward….” I have an image for that. On Shelter Island, where I used to live, there is an odd local custom. Every Friday evening, at exactly five minutes of five, the fire siren goes off. For years, I wondered about it. What was the point? They tested the siren every day at noon, so it couldn’t be that. I even asked around, but nobody seemed to know a thing about it. Then one day it finally dawned on me: rather than run the risk that the festivity of the rural weekend by delayed even one minute beyond the drudgery of the working week, some gracious soul had decided to proclaim the party from the top of the firehouse – the 4:55 siren was the drinking siren. Miller Time on Shelter Island.

ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης. Heaven is Miller Time. Heaven is the party in the streaming sunlight of the world’s final afternoon. Heaven is when all the rednecks, and all the wood-butchers, and all the plumbers who never showed up – all the losers who never got anything right and all the winners who just gave up on winning – simply waltz up to the bar of judgment with full pay envelopes and get down to the serious drinking that makes the new creation go round. It is a bash that has happened, that insists upon happening, and that is happening now – and by the sweetness of its cassation, it drowns out all the party poopers in the world.

Heaven, in short, is fun. And if you don’t like that, Buster (ἑταῖρε), you can just go to…well, you’ll have to use your imagination.

You’ll need it: this is the only bar in town.

Robert Farrar Capon, “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment”, pages 396-397

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The Three Stages of Error and Its Acceptance

When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins with toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only 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 this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two 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 agree to differ, and 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 co-ordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point of view error soon goes on to 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 departures from the Church’s faith but in consequence of it. Their recommendation is that they repudiate the faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and making them skillful in combating it.

Charles Porterfield Krauth, “The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology”, pages 195-196

C.P. Krauth

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Fundamental Unity Is All We Can Hope For This Side of Paradise

Those are in fundamental agreement who, without any reservation, submit to the Word of God. When the Word of God has spoken in any matter, that matter is settled. There may be things that some men have not yet found in their study of the Bible; there may be matters with reference to which they have accustomed themselves to an inadequate mode of expression; yet, no matter what their deficiency may be, they are determined to accept the Bible doctrine. Where such is the case, there is fundamental agreement…. A fundamental agreement is all the church can ever hope to attain here on earth. We are not all equally gifted; one has a much clearer and a much more comprehensive insight into God’s doctrines than another. We all strive to grow daily in understanding. Besides, when once we have accustomed ourselves to a faulty or an inadequate expression, it is not only difficult to unlearn the particular phrase and to acquire a proper one, but the inadequate term may tend also to warp our views on other points. Yet, in spite of all such differences, where there is an unconditional willingness to hear what God has to say in his Word, there is fundamental agreement.

John P. Meyer (1873-1964), “Unionism,” Essays on Church Fellowship [Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1996], pp. 63-64

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Transfiguration of Our Lord – Matthew 17:1-9

It is good to be with Jesus, no matter where it is. Psalm 84 bursts with praise of being in the dwelling place of the Lord. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

It’s also not too far a stretch to call Peter’s idea about three tents the tents of wickedness. Like a dutiful disciple, Peter wants to bottle up the moment and hang on to it for a while. It’s a sensible thing. It’s also the wrong thing. Jesus cannot remain on the mountaintop, His face shining like the sun and His clothes as white as light. Moses and Elijah cannot remain with Him. They have had their say. What they have said points to what is about to happen in Jerusalem.

You would say the same thing as Peter if you knew that from this moment on, Jesus would be walking to His death and resurrection. Let’s put up three tents, one for each of those seen in the beatific vision, and hang out for a while. There’s no need to get in a hurry to go to Jerusalem. You know Jesus has set His face to go there, but it’s good to rest awhile before the hard part comes. Maybe that rest will last a long time; long enough so that Jesus might miss His appointment at Golgotha.

Tents of wickedness indeed. It is good to be there to see that Jesus is Who He says He is: true God and true man. He reveals His glory to Peter, James, and John in order that they file this moment away in their memory banks for future reference. The Holy Spirit will call this moment, among many other moments like this one, albeit not as grand as this one, to their memories as they preach the death and resurrection of Jesus for Jewish and Gentile sinners.

Peter would recall this moment many years later in his second epistle. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty, Peter says. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

This is not an LSD flashback or a mere remembrance of things past. Peter is an eyewitness of His majesty. He knows you were not there with him on that mountain. You have heard about that epiphany in the Gospels many times, but you were not an eyewitness. How can you be sure Peter is not pulling your leg?

Peter has the answer. We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

What Peter saw with his own eyes, he tells you to believe because it is the prophetic word more fully confirmed. “More fully” is a comparative, comparing the fullness of something to something else. It is one thing for Jesus to say He is the Christ, the Son of God. It is another thing for Him to take three of His most intimate followers on a mountain and transfigure Himself before their eyes. This moment was so important that three of the four Gospel writers mention the transfiguration. Peter didn’t write a Gospel, but he does mention his being an eyewitness to what was written in today’s Epistle. This is why Peter says the prophetic word is more fully confirmed. Jesus backed up the confession that Peter made, You are the Christ, with action.

The action today is an amazing transfiguration, a glimpse into the divinity of Christ while He remains a human being. Instead of seeing the backside of God, we see a little hint, as if looking through a keyhole, of Whom Jesus is. We have this glimpse more fully confirmed in the prophetic Word proclaimed and read in this holy house. We have this prophetic Word splashed over us in Baptism. Jesus’ transfiguration is our transfiguration, for we are now hidden in His glory as we wait for His coming again in the flesh to begin the new heavens and new earth. We have this prophetic Word, This is My Body…This is My Blood, as we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins. We have this prophetic Word more fully confirmed as we enter into His dwelling place, this building at Second and Pine Streets, where Jesus meets us as we are to bestow favor and honor.

No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. You walk uprightly because you walk in Jesus’ perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. The veil of Moses is lifted. The One greater than Elijah is here. Lift up your eyes and see no one but Jesus only, for He Who is slain for sinners has come to give you all you need for everlasting life.

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She Remains Queen in The Guise of A Beggar

The Lutheran Reformation, by distinguishing between Law and Gospel, has rediscovered with the freedom of a Christian man also the freedom of the church with respect to liturgy and constitution. It is one of the great dangers of the modern liturgical movement which goes through the whole of Christendom that we forget the liturgical freedom of a Christian church, as established by 1 Corinthians 14, and be “again entangled in the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). The author of these pages remembers the shock he got when an outstanding young theologian of a “Lutheran” church in Germany who had discovered the beauty of Gregorian chant explained to a meeting of theologians that there was a liturgy that belonged to the very essence of the church. The church from which he hailed was so unliturgical that in its official liturgy it had no consecration of the Lord’s Supper, but used the Words of Institution only as a form of distribution in order to avoid any appearance of “catholicism.” Thus a wrong law on the one side produces a wrong law on the other side. It is time to remember that the church of the Lutheran Reformation was able to combine the freedom from liturgical laws with the freedom to retain whatever could be retained of the old liturgy without endangering the Gospel. We have to learn again from a great liturgiologist like Wilhelm Löhe who restored the old liturgy as far as possible that the church remains what she is even without the beauty of a great liturgy. “Sie bleibt Königin auch im Bettlergewande” [She remains queen in the guise of a beggar] (Drei Bücher von der Kirche, III, 9, Stuttgart, 1845), 130. Even the present pope [Pius XII] has told his clergy that the greatest services held today are perhaps the services in the countries beyond the Iron Curtain where neither liturgical vestments, nor a proper altar, nor Gregorian chant are available.

– Hermann Sasse, “Consecration and Real Presence”, written in 1957

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The New Normal of the Christian Congregation

I don’t know Bishop Stephen Scarlett from Adam, but I saw a link to a paper he wrote a while back about “Anglican Catholic Mission”.

Some of what Bishop Scarlett has to say is good. Some of what he says, well, I wouldn’t have said it the way he said it, mainly because I am Lutheran and he is Anglican. However, he has given me some things to think about regarding the mission of the Church and how mission work plays out in the new normal of the times in which we live. Don’t expect me to junk everything we say and do as Lutherans. But do expect me to think about the “new normal” of the world in which we live and how this plays out in receiving the Gifts of Christ in Divine Service, in corporate Bible study, in prayer, and in how a congregation is viewed by the community.

Here are a few quotes from Bishop Scarlett’s paper. I encourage you to read the paper and make your own conclusions. The quotes are long. God bless you if you fight your way through them to the end.

The denominationally-concerned World War II generation did not, by and large, pass on its convictions to its children. Traditional Anglican churches are not, for the most part, populated by the children of their founding members. This is due in large part to the influence of liberal or “higher” biblical criticism in the mainline churches in the mid-twentieth century. This produced the primary modern heresy, the denial of original sin, and the consequent loss of authentic faith in many churches—and especially in their seminaries. The gospel of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ was rejected—since leaders in the church no longer believed that people needed to be saved from sin. It was replaced with various versions of the “social gospel” and various “isms.” Increasingly in the mid-twentieth century, church people did not really know Christ.

The actual behavior of many traditional churches reveals that they are more like preservation societies. Most of the central players in many parishes are something like docents at a museum. They are present to give tours and inform the few interested inquirers about the way things always have been, but they are not prepared to make disciples or to explain to people how faith in Christ can change their lives.

Emphasis on preservation leads to inward focus, to strife, and to factions. Typically, the faction that stayed is constantly harping about the faction that left—or some variation on that theme. When a church is not present to give itself for others, it tends to feed on itself. But if you want your church to be a preservation society, at least be honest about it.

Jesus said, “Make disciples.” He did not say, “Set up a traditional church outpost where Mass is said just the right way, put an ad in the paper and wait for those who already understand the faith to come. When they don’t come, give sermons—jeremiads even—about how the culture is going to hell.” This is how we have typically done church. Most of our evangelism has been an attempt to double down on this approach—do all the same things, just be nicer to visitors, make better signs, keep the church cleaner, etc. This approach has not been and will not be fruitful.

A church can ask some self-reflective questions. Is our tradition the means by which we know Christ and experience his redeeming presence and grace? Or is our tradition chiefly the means by which we differentiate ourselves from other Christians? Is the liturgy of the Eucharist something your church prays together so that it is the source and sustenance of your unity and the foundation for your mission? Or is it chiefly the thing you argue about—perhaps because you think your priest does it the “wrong way”; or because some are cranky that it is too high or low? How many people in your church characteristically ignore the invitation requirement that we be in “love and charity with our neighbors” by communing even while constantly sowing seeds of discord in these areas?

Many churches act like they did in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This was a time when denominational identity was more important. A church could attract people by differentiating itself theologically from other denominations or from others within its own church. The websites of many traditional churches are filled with excellent theological treatises that answer questions people might have asked back then when looking for a church. Or they answer questions that were (and are) important only to internal church combatants. The effectiveness of this approach has passed. Most of these treatises are now written by us and read only by us.

Will your church preach the gospel of forgiveness to sinners? Will you welcome the wounded of our culture? Will you be patient with them as they learn to embrace their new identity “in Christ”? Or would you rather continue to fight a losing battle in the “culture wars”?

All efforts at church renewal and mission must begin with prayer. Frequently, discussion about mission quickly transitions to the creation or adoption of some program—something we can “do.” We talk about justification by faith, but act like Pelagians. The truth is that we have no idea what to do; the only way to begin is to pray about it and ask God to show us.

If the membership of a church is characteristically grumpy, if the typical Sunday conversation is griping about politics or complaining about the rector or some other thing in the church, then that church will typically attract grumpy discontented people. It will only attract a few of them, and they may not stay because they will soon be grumpy about that church too! But if a church is committed to the life of prayer, if there is an evident joy and cohesion to the community, if the members are typically growing in their faith and hopeful and excited about the things that God is doing, then the church will attract (and God will send) people who want to pray, connect with people, and participate in mission.
If a church is serious about mission, it must begin by asking, what are we bringing people into here? We can only give away what we have. Mission must begin with inward renewal.

The old order for getting new church members was something like this. We would try to get people to come to church. If they liked the liturgy—usually because they already knew it—we would try to get them to come to social events and get to know people in the church; then, hopefully, we would get them involved in the ministry of the church. In a year or two they would be conscripted for vestry or altar guild or some other function. The new order is the older and ancient order. First invite people to get to know us in social and relationship contexts. If people find the community attractive, they will want to know more about the faith.

The second step is to invite them to an “inquirers’ class.” Churches should establish regular inquirers’ classes on Sunday mornings. When new people come they should be encouraged to attend that. This allows Sunday to be a combination of worship and instruction and makes outreach to new people a central part of Sunday. This class will systematically walk through the basics of the faith and teach them how to live a life of prayer in our tradition. After this they will be ready for the third step, which is Confirmation or full integration into the worship of the church.

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God Chooses the Broken

Chad Bird knocks it out of the park here.

The money quote:

You don’t have to fix yourself so you’re good enough for God. Christ loves you in your brokenness. His light shines through the cracks in your soul. His cross is for you, where He was broken to heal you, to cleanse you, to make you better than okay. In Christ not just your resume, but your whole body and soul are as pure as snow.

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The Confession of Saint Peter – Mark 8:27-9:1

The Confession of Saint Peter, You are the Christ, quickly becomes the rebuking of Saint Peter, Get behind Me, Satan. It won’t be the last time Peter pulls this stunt. Yet Peter’s confession and subsequent rebuking looks a lot like the way we live as Christians. One minute we praise Jesus for His salvation of our wretched selves. The next minute we speak and act as if we are ashamed of what Jesus has done for us.

Here we have a concrete example of the paradox that is simul justus et peccator. You are one hundred percent righteous and one hundred percent sinner, one hundred percent of the time. The only way out of this paradox is death. Until then, the good that you want to do you do not do, and the evil that you do not want to do you do.

That’s Peter’s dilemma throughout the Gospel of Saint Mark. Some scholars call Mark’s Gospel “Peter’s Gospel” because Peter plays a great part in Mark’s view of the preaching and miracles of Christ. Peter is eager and bold, yet a moment later is a fool. Our Lord’s transfiguration takes place immediately after today’s Gospel leaves off. Peter is overjoyed to be there to witness this epiphany. Then he makes the mistake of wanting the epiphany never to end. More on that next week, as the Lord wills.

Today Peter says something that only the Holy Spirit is able to reveal: You are the Christ. Jesus is not John the Baptist. He is not Elijah. He is not one of the prophets. He is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. That’s the whole reason He assumes flesh and blood. All this He does willingly for your salvation.

Peter steps in after this revelation and rebukes Jesus. He’s ashamed that Christ would dare do this thing. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not a revolutionary. He doesn’t come to make a better world. He doesn’t come to show the Roman Empire who is boss. He doesn’t come to shame the Jews and their leaders. He comes to die for the sins of the world and rise from the dead for the world’s justification. That’s what is behind Peter’s confession You are the Christ.

But does Peter believe it? It’s better to ask whether or not you believe it. Or are you ashamed of Peter’s confession, which is also your confession by virtue of your baptism? For whoever is ashamed of me, Jesus says, and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Coming on the heels of Peter’s rebuke of Jesus’ upcoming passion, these words must have hit home not only with Peter, but also with those whom Jesus called to hear it.

These words hit home because we are ashamed of Jesus’ passion. We are ashamed that we cannot save ourselves. We are ashamed that there is nothing we can do to help Jesus buy us back from sin, death, and the devil. We are ashamed that we are incapable of saving ourselves. It’s a shame that we are ashamed, for Jesus will be ashamed of those who are ashamed to call Him Lord on Judgment Day.

What can a man give in return for His soul? Nothing. That is why Jesus becomes man. That is why the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. You can gain the whole world and lose your soul. What do you have then? A handful of sand is what you have, if you have even that. You have nothing. Lose your soul and you lose everything. Die to self and live to Christ and you have everything.

Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. The only thing you can do, and even this is not your own doing…it is the Holy Spirit’s doing, is to die to sin every day. Believing that you are dead, that there is no way you are able to save yourself from this reckless generation, is living. It’s the backward, left-handed way that Jesus teaches. Dying is living. Resurrection is real life. No sin can cling to you because all your sin clings to Jesus. That’s the kingdom of God that comes with power Jesus mentions at the end of today’s Gospel.

The same Peter who boldly confesses Christ, then rebukes Him moments later, is also the same Peter who stands before the Jewish leaders and elders saying, there is salvation in no one else, for there is not other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. These are the words of a dead man, a man who knows nothing, sees nothing, and believes nothing but Jesus Christ is Lord. The same man who wept bitterly at denying His Lord three times, the same man who couldn’t believe His eyes when He saw the empty tomb, the same man who was restored to the kingdom and charged to feed the flock of God, now dares to stand before ruling authorities and confess Jesus as the stone rejected by the builders Who has become the cornerstone.

Ashamed of Jesus? Repent. Be ashamed of yourself. Die to sin and unbelief. Believe in Him Who has bled and died for every one of your sins. “Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend on Whom my hopes of heaven depend? No; when I blush, be this my shame: that I no more revere His name. Till then – nor is my boasting vain – till then I boast a Savior slain; And oh, may this my glory be, That Christ is not ashamed of me!” Confessing with Peter, You are the Christ does not bring shame to Christ’s name. Confessing you are the Christ brings only joy, for Christ is the One on Whom Your sin rests. Christ is the One on Whom you hope for everlasting life.

Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.


Jesus IN Us or Jesus FOR Us?

Read these Bible passages:

In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:6 ESV)

Because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV)

For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Now read the following two statements. One was rejected by the Lutheran church, and one was accepted. Using the Bible passages, choose which is right and which is wrong.

A. Our righteousness before God consists in this, that God forgives us our sins by sheer grace, without any works, merit, or worthiness of our own, in the past, at present, or in the future, that he gives us and reckons to us the righteousness of Christ’s obedience and that, because of this righteousness, we are accepted by God into grace and regarded as righteous.

B. Faith should look not only to the obedience of Christ but also to his divine nature, as it dwells in us and produces results, and that through this indwelling our sins are covered.

So the question is: Are you saved because Jesus died for you or because Jesus dwells in your heart?

The answer is in Formula of Concord Article Three.

– + Klemet Preus +, The Fire and The Staff, pages 59-61

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