Monthly Archives: February 2015

Do the Text to the Hearer – Notes from a Presentation by Pastor Donavon Riley

Pastor Donavon Riley spoke to the Northern Illinois District South Region Pastors Conference in September of 2013. Here are the notes I took from his presentation on Preaching to the Bound Will. These are my notes and may/not accurately reflect Pr. Riley’s lectures.

  • The bound will is a Peeping Tom.
  • Forgiveness is the power the Law does not have.
  • The Preaching Office is His choice to establish, not yours.
  • You’re baptized. Now what? The Old Man gets preached to death. (Romans 6 [Baptism] -> Romans 7 [Die daily to sin])
  • The Third Function of the Law instructs man to death.
  • We don’t tell God who He is, He tells us.
  • The fundamental problem today in theology is that it throws faith back to the individual.
  • The grammar of justification: 1. God is the Subject, 2. Sinners are the Objects. 3. No conditions -> No ifs or buts (Unconditional promise), 4. Right application of pronouns -> FOR YOU. (Present tense pronouns).
  • The Law wants you to do the Law without the Law.
  • Every Sunday’s sermon is a funeral sermon. Your people are dead people. Now what? Live in your vocation and thank God for your neighbor.
  • Suffering is the sinners’ problem with the death of Jesus. The sinner doesn’t want to believe it.
  • Christ must be preached to real, actual, historical sinners. Be a know-nothing. Preach Christ (1 Corinthians 4).
  • Chesed (חסד) means faithful loving-kindness. It is not if -> then, but because -> therefore.
  • God in Christ is too near to those who try to be “good Christian people”.
  • The witness of Christ will not be silent. The Church’s witness to Christ is the Holy Spirit.
  • If you preach to free wills, you bind them. If you preach to bound wills, you free them.
  • The thing that makes Lutheran preaching Lutheran preaching is the preaching of Christ FOR YOU.
  • God only wants to be revealed and preached in Jesus Christ and what He says and does FOR YOU.
  • The point of Christianity for Pietists is “What are you doing?”
  • Non-Lutheran communions believe that human beings, the human soul, is not dead. The will can “climb the ladder” to help God in salvation. Sin is a sickness. Grace is the medicine. You restored to health can go your merry way.
  • You don’t talk about being cursed. You talk about being a curse.
  • Every pastor secretly believes he is a fraud.
  • When Eve ate the fruit, she fell upward.
  • Bound will: I want what I want when I want it. ANARCHISM. You don’t want a Creator, you want to be a creator.
  • God’s wrath feels like free will.
  • When someone is forgiven, we don’t sing “In the Garden”.
  • I do nothing for my justification because I know nothing but Jesus Christ and receive everything by faith in Christ.
  • Repentance is the death rattle of a corpse.
  • Do the text to the hearer.
  • What happened when God’s Word when out to His hearers? What disturbed the Word in the text? What is the resistance? What did God do to these sinners? Law -> Gospel/Resistance -> Promise
  • Take away all choices in preaching. Whittle it down. Give man no opportunity to claim anything for himself. KILL HIM! Then preach him back to life by proclaiming what God has done for them. Again, no choices. PROCLAIM MONERGISM!

Riley

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Second Sunday in Lent – Matthew 15:21-28

Before you wonder why Jesus is silent, before you wonder why the disciples try to put distance between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, before you wonder why this woman keeps crying out when Jesus is rude to her, stop and look around the room. Don’t look around this room. Look around the room where Jesus is at that moment.

Who do you see in the room? The disciples, yes. The Canaanite woman, of course. Jesus, definitely. Who else is there? You have to look at the beginning of Matthew chapter 15 for the answer. Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus. Ah, yes, the Pharisees and scribes. Wherever Jesus is, you can be sure his most vocal opponents won’t be far away ready to catch Jesus when He falls into a trap.

There’s quite a trap set before Him moments before today’s Gospel starts. Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” These men are fixated on the customs and traditions of their elders. You had better do as you’re told when you’re a Jew. You’re God chosen people. You live a different life. Everything you do, everything you eat, even how you worship God has a meaning.

Jewish customs and traditions have an end. That end is Jesus Christ, the One Who comes to fulfill the Law, and not abolish it. That’s why Jesus gives them the business when He quotes Isaiah chapter 29: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

If the commandments of men do not save you, then what saves you? Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman answers that question. She is not a Jew. She does not have a share in the heavenly kingdom. She shouldn’t even talk the Messiah, let alone approach Him. The Jews are watching. The disciples are watching. A Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter is watching and waiting for a response to her cry for help.

But He did not answer her a word. Perhaps the Pharisees and scribes are wondering if Jesus will come around to their way of thinking. Let the dog go. Let her seek another god. She’s nothing. How dare she defile this home! Good for Jesus! Even the disciples get in on this one. Send her away, for she is crying out after us. It’s like the carnival barker being bothered by some punk kid asking questions. “Go away, kid, you bother me!”

You’ve had those moments where Jesus doesn’t answer you. The easy way out is to quit asking. You stop praying. You stop receiving Christ’s Gifts in the Divine Service. You give up on Jesus because you’re sure Jesus has given up on you. You’re not holy enough. You haven’t prayed the requisite amount of times for Him to care. Some of the things you ask Him haven’t happened. Quitting God seems the right thing to do.

When Jesus opens His mouth, what He says is harsh. I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Again a silent cheer erupts from the Pharisees and scribes. Now Jesus is singing their tune. Tell her to scram so we can get back to this important conversation about washing cups and plates the right way.

You’ve slithered away when Jesus seems to slam the door in your face. He loves to hear you pray, especially when you are persistent. Persistence seems like bugging God with things He already knows. So you stop asking and start doing something else. You scram.

The Canaanite woman won’t scram. She screams at the top of her lungs, Lord, help me. She’s called Him Lord. Earlier she called Jesus, Son of David. These are two big clues that this woman knows more that everyone in the room knows about Jesus. Everyone, that is, except Jesus. He sees. He knows. This woman believes Jesus is able to do something about her daughter. This woman believes Jesus is the true Son of God Who has come to help those who call on Him, whether Jew or Canaanite or Samaritan or Greek or Roman.

Jesus helps her, but in a backdoor, left-handed way. It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the puppies. Jesus sets the trap. She springs it. Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.

O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire. Mark’s Gospel says the woman went home and it was as He said. The girl was fine. So the woman goes home and now it’s Jesus, His disciples, maybe some other people, and the Pharisees and scribes. What do you think the Pharisees and scribes said when they saw what happened?

Matthew never says what they said. Perhaps they added this incident to their dossier of evidence about the great blasphemer who said He is the King of the Jews. At any rate, what they saw answers the question asked a few moments ago. The question was: If the commandments of men do not save you, then what saves you? The answer was right in front of their eyes, if they were willing to believe it.

The answer is before your eyes, if you are willing to believe it. The woman will not let go of Christ, even when it seems as if Jesus isn’t listening or doesn’t care. Faith takes Christ captive in His Word, even when He’s angriest, and makes out of His cruel words a comforting inversion. The woman is a puppy. Let it be. She will gladly be a puppy. Give her the consideration you give a dog.

The whole incident shows the Pharisees and scribes, and those hearing this Gospel, what they can learn from a Gentile who was not among the chosen people and had no inheritance. The answer to the question, “If the commandments of men do not save you, then what saves you?” is clinging to Christ; placing all confidence for forgiveness of sins and everlasting life in Him. The Canaanite woman believes Jesus will help her. Nothing deters her from waiting for His help, not even silence or what seem to be insults.

Jesus is pleased when you persist in prayer and do not give up. Like a pit bull terrier whose jaw muscles tighten when it bites someone or something, your prayers clench on to Christ and tighten up, not letting go until you receive a fair hearing. In Christ you always receive a fair hearing. Christ knows what is best for you. He provides His preached Word that declares you forgiven in His blood and righteousness. He baptizes you into His death, in order that you receive a resurrection like His. He feeds you His true Body and true Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. He never fails to give His children everything they need.

The more Satan tries to whisper in your ear that you are no Christian and that your prayers are futile, the more sinful and wicked you perceive yourself to be, the more passionately and earnestly you call upon Jesus Christ and let nothing stand in the way, not even traditions and customs of men. Silence and insults turn to joy and healing. Jesus helps those who cling to Him as their only hope of salvation.

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What Should A Pastor Preach and Teach?

The topics with which it is necessary to deal in the true Christian church and about which we are concerned:

What law is
What gospel is
What sin is
What grace is
What the gift of the Spirit is
What true repentance is
How true confession is made
What faith is
What forgiveness of sins is
What Christian liberty is
What free will is
What love is
What the cross is
What hope is
What baptism is
What the mass is
What the church is
What the keys are
What a bishop is
What a deacon is
What the preaching office is
The true catechism, namely, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed
True prayer
The litany
The reading and interpretation of the Scriptures
What good works are
Instruction of married people, children, manservants, and maids
Respecting authority
Children’s schools
Visitation of the sick
Providing for the poor and hospitals
Ministering to the dying

No bishop has ever dealt with such topics and besides your people have never thoroughly understood or been taught them and a large part has become utterly meaningless. You cannot deny this. We have been educated in your schools, and your books, which testify to it, are still extant. The whole world gives evidence that these things were formerly never preached. Now it is certain that all depends upon these points, that the Christian Church is cared for through them, and does not need your superfluous additions at all.

Martin Luther, “Exhortation to All Clergy Assembled at Wittenberg” (written in 1530). Luther’s Works Volume 34, pages 52-53.

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First Sunday in Lent – Matthew 4:1-11

What is this you have done? Adam and the woman run and hide from God because they knew what they had done. They also knew how they stood before God. They hide because they are no longer holy. Made in the image and likeness of God, they trade it for the mess of pottage that is a shattered image tainted by sin. Death spills into their lives. They cannot remain in Paradise lest they eat from the Tree of Life. Adam will have to go to work, and it won’t be easy. Eve will bear children in pain. The serpent, however, does not get off without a promise that will crush His head.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. That’s the last thing the serpent wanted to hear. The offspring of Eve, a Child born in time, will come to crush the head of the serpent at the cost of the bruising of His heel. It doesn’t seem like much of a promise, but this promise changes the lives of every human being from this moment forward. This is the first proclamation of the Gospel. God has made a decision, without mankind’s help, to save His people from sin and everlasting death.

Thousands of years later, not in Paradise made by God, but in a wilderness that resembles an absence of God, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, born of Mary, born under the Law, was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The Israelites walked forty years around a mountain, yet they did not go hungry. What is this they have done? They turned their backs on God time after time and found gods that they thought were the real deal.

What is this you have done? Like Adam, Eve, the Israelites, and all of God’s creation, you also have turned your back on God, looking for another god for self-fulfillment. You have tasted and seen that something else is good. You thought you would be blessed by your tasting and seeing another god. You find out that you, too, have been sold a mess of pottage, just like Adam and Eve. But it is good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom. So you eat it. Then you die. You remember the familiar words of the First Commandment. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods.

You walk through the wilderness of life hungry. If only stones could become bread. If only angels would pick you up and take care of you when you fall. If only you could be the ruler of the heavens and the earth. Things would be different. You would be more benevolent than that God up there Who started this whole mess. He doesn’t do a thing for His creation. He’s shaking His head right now at the mess we’ve made. Only I can make a difference. Only I must fix the problem my ancestors caused.

You can’t do a thing except die like they died. That’s the repeating theme through the book of Genesis after chapter three. This person was born, he lived a certain number of years, and then he died. Another person is born, lives a certain number of years, then he died. He died, he died, and, yes, he died too. There is the case of Enoch, who walked with God and then was not. Outside of Enoch, though, there’s no end to death in Genesis.

Well, there is an end to death in Genesis. He’s mentioned in chapter three. He’s also in today’s Gospel. Jesus Christ is the end to death. Where Adam fell into temptation and sin, Jesus Christ does not fall short. Instead of remaining silent and letting someone else take the fall, Jesus speaks up three times: It is written. Stones will not become bread, because man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Angels will not rescue a freefalling Jesus, because you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. There will be no earthly kingdom for Jesus, because you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.

Jesus Christ overcomes temptation by speaking the truth of Scripture. He is the living Word come down from heaven. Where Adam fell short, Jesus does not fall short. What was undone in Paradise by the first Adam is put back together by the Second Adam. Jesus doesn’t overcome temptation so much as to say, “Now you, sir, yes, you, madam, you get busy and do as I do in order to help Me help you save yourselves.” Jesus overcomes temptation in your place, for your sake. He becomes man for the same reason: He lives the perfect live Adam was meant to live. He keeps the perfect and holy Law written on Adam’s heart, but smashed through sin.

Jesus is, as Saint Paul says in Colossians chapter one, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Where you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Jesus Christ never falls short, for He is the glory of God in the flesh. Where angels led Adam and Eve out of Paradise to work by the sweat of their brow, angels attend to Jesus in His hour of need as He leaves the wilderness as our Champion over Satan. Yes, the tempter will have his hour soon. But his time is short and his reign is over. Jesus Christ crushes Satan’s head in His innocent suffering and death for you. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus takes a victory lap through hell, announces His victory there, and rises from the dead as confirmation that you shall not die. You live because Jesus lives for you.

What is this you have done! The question is now an exclamation. Jesus Christ has done all things necessary for your salvation. The Second Adam has fought the foe and won the battle for you, in your place, that you live with Him in all righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. He holds the field forever. The kingdom ours remaineth.

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No Programs, No Magic Bullets. Only Pastoral Care Will Do It.

When a pastor teaches and allures and appeals and warns in such a proper evangelical way [toward a proper and diligent use of the Lord’s Supper], and also does not forget to hand over this whole matter and every individual soul who is in danger to God in prayer, to petition again and again for the proper pastoral wisdom and prudence of the Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, then God’s Word will bestow its power, and he will find out how many cheerfully and willingly again return and allure and compel themselves to appear at the table of grace of their Savior.

– Georg Mezger, “How Should A Pastor Exhort His Congregation and Individual Members Toward A Proper and Diligent Use of the Lord’s Supper?” Translated by DMJ

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Take the Medicine

“In order that everyone may learn what a tricky knave the devil is, I want to give an example out of my own experience to all who are willing to let themselves be warned. It has happened to me several times that I resolved to go to the sacrament on this or that day. When the day arrived, my devotion disappeared or some hindrance came up, or I regarded myself unfit, saying: ‘Very well, I will go in a week.’ But the next week again found me as unfit and encumbered as on the former occasion: ‘Very well, I will go next week.’ Those weeks became so numerous that I almost got away from it entirely and hardly ever went to the sacrament. But when God granted me grace to become aware of the devil’s knavery, I said: ‘Do you want to make a wager, Satan, that I don’t know what you are up to? A plague upon your cleverness!’ So I broke out of the vicious circle and participated in the sacrament, even without making confession several times (which I do not ordinarily do) to spite the devil, particularly because I was not conscious of any gross sins. And so I discovered this about myself: If a person has no longing or reverence for the sacrament and yet earnestly makes the effort to participate in it, then such thoughts and the action itself bring forth sufficient reverence and longing and do a good job of driving away the lazy and morose thoughts which hinder a person and make him unfit. For it is a gracious, efficacious sacrament; if one thinks about it only a little with earnestness and prepares oneself for it, then it kindles, arouses, and further attracts the heart to itself.”

– Martin Luther, “Admonition Concerning the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord”, Luther’s Works Volume 38, page 127

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Quinquagesima – Luke 18:31-43

From an outline prepared by Friedrich Bente of blessed memory.

“If I learn from Jesus this knowledge divine, / The blessing of heavenly wisdom is mine.” This line from the hymn, “One Thing’s Needful, Lord this Treasure” is our boast in Jesus Christ. When you rightly know Jesus, you have the one thing needful. You could learn the cure to cancer or even how to burn water for fuel, but you don’t know enough. Jesus is enough.

On the other hand, not to know Jesus is both the greatest ignorance as well as the greatest tragedy. The kind of knowing meant here is not merely a passing knowledge of the facts of Jesus. Even a militant atheist might know a list of basic facts about Christ. Yet he doesn’t know Jesus; he doesn’t know what Jesus does for him.

The disciples in today’s Gospel knew Jesus and yet did not rightly know Him. The blind man sitting by the roadside begging, who never became acquainted with Jesus, rightly knew Jesus. Do you rightly know Jesus?

Are you still like the disciples were in Luke chapter 18? They had been with Jesus almost three years, had seen His miracles and heard His words. Time after time they heard Jesus tell them about His suffering. Yet Luke cannot emphasize enough that the plain, simple words of Jesus were a mystery to them. See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.

The actual mystery of Jesus’ person and His suffering was still shrouded in darkness to them. They did not believe that Jesus is their Savior, Redeemer, and King through suffering, death, and resurrection. Perhaps they were looking for a new earthly kingdom of Israel? But why would Jesus have to suffer and die for it? If the disciples did not know Jesus as the Great High Priest Who had to die for the sake of their sins, and ours, and rise again from the dead for the sake of their righteousness, and our righteousness, then they did not rightly know Jesus.

Luke gives us a clue why this is so. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. It was a different story after Jesus rose from the dead. They had gone through the school of tribulation…and it was only the beginning. Like the disciples, perhaps you are looking for an earthly kingdom of Jesus. It would be nice to have a theocracy of sorts. We could put the Ten Commandments in the Oval Office in place of the “Resolute Desk” where the President does his business. We wouldn’t have to elect a President because God would be President. All we need is someone to speak on behalf of God to govern the country. While we’re at it, let’s connect the Church to the government. That way God can directly speak to churches in our country and tell them what to preach. But if we don’t like it, that’s too bad. It has to be preached or pastors lose their job.

What’s worse is that the disciples hindered the blind man from crying out for Jesus. This moment reminds us of when they shooed little children away from Jesus when they wanted to touch the Savior. All this happens because the disciples did not attend to the Scriptures. They did not judge about Christ and His works according to Scripture. Only after Jesus rose from the dead did He open their minds to everything written about Him. Until that moment, everything was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Are you like the blind man on the road to Jerusalem? He rightly knew Jesus though he never saw Him. He not only calls Him Jesus of Nazareth but also Jesus, Son of David. The blind man recognizes that Jesus is truly man and truly God. Jesus must have mercy on the poor, for He says in the Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Not even the disciples’ foolish ways can hold him back from seeking help in Jesus. Unlike the disciples, the blind man considered Jesus the single, reliable Merciful One and Savior of the poor. He rightly knew Jesus.

How can a blind man who has never seen nor heard Jesus know Him better than His most intimate disciples? The blind man had come to self-knowledge in the school of the cross. He considered himself a poor man needing mercy. That’s the Law of God at work. The better you behold your own dark, dirty countenance in the mirror of the Law, the more clearly you contrast your flawed countenance with the flawless, bright, clear, gracious countenance of Jesus in the Gospel.

That’s how the Law works. The Law preaches repentance. The Law cannot save you. The Law is a schoolmaster, constantly showing you what you need to do and what you haven’t done. The Law never lets up. That’s how the blind man saw it, even without eyes. That’s how you see it as well, even when you don’t want to see it or wish it wasn’t there. The darker and dirtier your countenance, the more Christ’s righteousness, innocence, and blessedness covers your sin and makes you innocent in His innocent shedding of blood and resurrection from the dead.

The blind man didn’t hang his heart on all sorts of fleshly, self-righteous thoughts about Jesus and His kingdom. He didn’t trust his own power and wisdom. He stood before Jesus not as a proud man who needs to be close to someone powerful in order to receive good things. He learned in faith Who Jesus is, Son of God and Son of Man, and captured his thought to the obedience of faith in Scripture. What He knew about Jesus He learned from God’s Word. He expected Jesus to help him and that’s what happened. He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.

Knowing Jesus and knowing Jesus are two different things. You can have Bible facts at your fingertips, sacred trivia on your tongue, and yet not know Jesus Christ. You can be blind, deaf, mute, last, least, lost, or even dead, and rightly know Jesus Christ. That’s the backward way of the kingdom of God. He comes not to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus comes to call sinners like you and me to walk with Him, firmly trusting Him as the only Way out of death and condemnation and into life and salvation. That’s the one thing needful. It is yours in Jesus Christ.

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German Law and Gospel Goodness

Je besser man das eigene finstere, schmutzige Antlitz im Spiegel des Gesetzes geschaut, umso reiner absticht das helle, lichte holdselige Antlitz Jesu im Evangelio.

The better one beholds their own dark, dirty countenance in the mirror of the Law, the more clearly he contrasts the bright, clear, gracious countenance of Jesus in the Gospel.

– From an outline for a sermon for Quinquagesima, written in 1894 by Friedrich Bente

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Sexagesima – Luke 8:4-15 and 2 Corinthians 2:14-16a

Jesus’ parable of the soils dovetails nicely with 2 Corinthians chapter two, where Saint Paul says: Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

Sowing a seed into soil where it will be rejected doesn’t sound like a triumphal procession. But it’s not the seed’s fault. It is also not the sower’s fault. The Seed of the Word of God is to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. That’s the way it is with Jesus Christ. Either He smells like life or He smells like death.

You shouldn’t be surprised that the Good News of Jesus’ victory over sin and death has smelled like death for years. Many Jews of our Lord’s time certainly didn’t like that smell. Jesus smelled like cheap grace. The Gospel smelled like unclean Gentiles let into a party where only pure and holy Jews were invited. That’s precisely the message of the Gospel, but many Jews didn’t want to hear it. So they held their noses and smelled what they wanted to smell: salvation by keeping God’s Law.

The fragrance of Christ still smells that way to many today, whether Jew or Gentile. Some place human wisdom above the Gospel because it makes sense. One excuse is that God is so mean to allow people to die horrible deaths or allow genocide. God should be more loving, at least loving according to human wisdom.

Consider also what aroma the Christian Church emits when she teaches that God is far away and not interested in what goes on in your life. He’s there when you need him like the good neighbor in State Farm insurance commercials. The Church is guilty of teaching that Jesus’ death does not save you. Being nice, doing the right thing, and loving everybody is what counts with God. Some preachers have called it “possibility thinking”. Be positive and others will be positive back to you. Fill the world with being nice. After all, good people go to heaven when they die.

No wonder so many harden themselves against God’s Word. No wonder so many let go of Jesus after they have first believed in Him. The devil plants a seed of doubt next to the Seed of the Word of God. The world lures you away from the Good News to idolatry of cares and pleasures of life. Your own sinful flesh rejects Christ’s forgiveness and life. It looks for another way to eternal life. Jesus smells like death.

When you walk in the way of death, the Word ultimately serves as your hardening according to God’s righteous judgment. Salvation is yours. He gives it to you. But you don’t want it. You reject the gift thinking you will find something better someplace else. You become incompetent and unfit to grasp and understand the divine mysteries. The longer you hear the Word, the angrier you are. Then comes death and condemnation. You wanted it that way, so that’s what you receive. That’s the lot of three out of four soils.

There is one soil, however, that receives the Seed of the Word with joy. These understand the mystery of the kingdom of God. The mystery of the kingdom is that your heavenly Father has saved you from everlasting sin and death through Jesus’ blood and merit. Peace with God is yours because of the living Word Who becomes man. God’s kingdom is your precious treasure, His free gift for you. This Word puts down roots and brings forth fruit with patience.

The Seed is nourished with baptismal water, with the Body and Blood of Christ, and with the Word of life that bespeaks you righteous before God the Father. God says through the prophet Isaiah that the Word shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The Holy Spirit blows in the Word. He gives you understanding of all the divine mysteries. Chief among the mysteries of God is rightly recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord of life and God of your salvation. He alone Who is the Alpha and Omega works the beginning, continuation, and ending of faith. As we prayed in the Introit from Psalm 44: You have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to Your Name forever. Now that smells like eternal life! And so do you in Jesus Christ. Believe it for His sake.

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True Congregational Growth Is Tied to A Diligent Use of the Lord’s Supper

It’s a crying shame that many members of a congregation have become lazy and negligent in enjoying the Lord’s Supper, or that the congregation also perhaps tolerates such tranquility of those in their midst who goes on for a year or longer without coming to the Lord’s table. The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace as much as God’s Word, through which the Lord distributes His sure mercies to His Christians. This sacrament makes the forgiveness of sins especially, personally certain to individuals. It thus strengthens the faith of Christians in a particular way, sustains and strengthens their spiritual life and promotes the growth of the inner man. A Christian who diligently uses this sacrament in true faith will grow and increase in the knowledge of God’s will and evermore be complete in sanctification. A congregation in which a more faithful, more diligent use of this means of grace is in full swing, will therefore also internally grow and thrive and rightly build on their most holy faith. And on the other hand, if a congregation is poorly prepared in the proper and diligent use of this sacrament, then they thus deprive themselves of a great blessing that God has chosen for them. The inner growth of the congregation will no longer joyfully progress, but begins to stand still and regress, even if perhaps the congregation is still externally growing and increasing.

– Georg Mezger, “How Should A Pastor Exhort His Congregation and Individual Members Toward A Proper and Diligent Use of the Lord’s Supper?” Translated by DMJ.

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