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Jesus: Our Brother, Our Savior, Our Lord

Yesterday, the Son of Man traded places with the son of the father (bar Abbas) so that we may wear the Father’s robe and live in His kingdom. Tomorrow Jesus does what all the big brothers of Scripture failed to do….  He completes the work God sent Him to do — to seek and to save we who are/were lost — the younger rules over the elder.  And yet Christ is both Adam’s younger brother, both being in the flesh sons of God, and His older brother, being begotten of God before all eternity.  And if you look at the track record of brothers in the Bible, you see the theme of older/younger played out.  Cain killed Abel.  Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah, and chosen by God over Ishmael.  Jacob ruled over Esau, taking his birthright.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt.  Yet it was Joseph who saved his brothers from starvation.  And David, Israel’s second and greatest king, was the youngest brother chosen by God over all of his brothers and anointed by Samuel.  Are you starting to see the pattern?

Jesus, the firstborn of the resurrection, came in the flesh to live among us.  God often told His children, “If you obey me and do all the things I have commanded, I will be your  God and you will be my people.  I will come to you and make my dwelling place among you.”  Well, we chased him away through our sin, our idol worship, and self-indulgence.  So He sent His Son, His one and only Begotten Son, to make us His people once again.  He sent our Big Brother after us to drag us out of the bars, brothels, wars, movie theaters, sports arenas, fast boats, fast cars, fast planes, internet, hotels, motels, highways, homes, gutters, jails, pits, darkness, blindness.  He sent Jesus to get us and bring us home.  And Jesus gave up His birthright as the first born from before creation, not counting equality with God something to be grasped, in order to bring us home.  He traded His life for ours, so that we may wear the white robe of righteousness, the robe of children of God, and stand with Him in His kingdom.  And because of the work of Christ, Jesus calls us friends.  He can call us that because He has entrusted to us as part of our inheritance, the work that God gave Him to do.  And so now, because Jesus has overcome death, because He has given us life, we are able to carry out the work of Christ on earth as His hands and feet.

The Gospels do not spend much time at the empty tomb.  In fact, the angels tell the disciples and the women who seek Christ at the tomb, you will not find Him here.  But Jesus always told His disciples to find Him at the Cross, for that is where we truly and finally meet Him.  The empty tomb remains our hope for eternal life, and our symbol of new life.  But it is a life that requires us to be as Jesus, and go after our little brothers and sisters and bring them home.  And we do that by taking up the Cross and bringing Christ to them.

Have a blessed, joyous, happy Easter.  He is Risen!

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How Does Your Preacher Measure Up? Observations from CFW Walther on Modern Preaching circa 1884

LCMS 1st President C.F.W. Walther

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I ran across the nugget below in C. F. W. Walther’s the Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel:  How to Read and Apply the Bible from Concordia Publishing.  How does your preacher measure up?

“The worst fault in modern preaching, my dear friends, is this, that the sermons lack point and purpose; and this fault can be noticed particularly in the sermons of modern preachers who are believers. While unbelieving and fanatical preachers have quite a definite aim, — pity, that it is not the right one! — believing preachers, as a rule, imagine that they have fully discharged their office, provided what they have preached has been the Word of God. That is about as correct a view as when a ranger imagines he has discharged his office by sallying forth with his loaded gun and discharging it into the forest; or as when an artilleryman thinks he has done his duty by taking up his position with his cannon in the line of battle and by discharging his cannon.  Just as poor rangers and soldiers as these latter are, just so poor and useless preachers are those who have no plan in mind and take no aim when they are preaching.  Granted their sermons contain beautiful thoughts; they do not, for that matter, take effect.  They may occasionally make the thunders of the Law roll in their sermons, yet there is no lightning that strikes. Again, they may water the garden assigned to them with the fructifying waters of the Gospel, but they are pouring water on the beds and the paths of the garden indiscriminately, and their labor is lost.

Neither Christ nor the holy apostles preached in that fashion. When they had finished preaching, every hearer knew: He meant me, even when the sermon had contained no personal hints or insinuations. For instance, when our Lord Christ had delivered the powerful, awful parable of the murderous vine-dressers, the high priests and scribes confessed to themselves: He means us. When the holy Apostles Paul, on a certain occasion, had preached before the profligate and unjust Governor Felix concerning righteousness, temperance, and the Judgment to come, Felix perceived immediately that Paul was aiming his remarks ant him. He trembled, but being unwilling to be converted, he said to Paul: “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” But he never did call him. He had heard the sermon suited to his spiritual condition, and Paul’s well-aimed remarks had struck home.

The reason, then, my dear friends, why in the Lutheran congregations of our former home country Germany unbelieving preachers are nearly always in the ascendancy is unquestionably this: the sermons of the Christian preachers are aimless efforts. Unbelievers are increasing in the congregations about as fast as the Christian preachers are increasing, of whom there are considerably more now than when I was young. Why do they accomplish nothing? Oh, would to God that these dear men had the humility to sit down at Luther’s feet and study his postils! They would learn how to preach effectively. For the Word of God, when preached as it should be, never returns void.

May God help you in your future ministry not to become aimless prattles, so that you will have to complain that you accomplished so little, when nobody but yourselves is at fault because you have no definite aim when preparing your sermons and do not reflect: To such and such people I want to drive home a lesson, — not this or that person whom I am going to name, but persons in whose condition I know to be such and such.

However, while it is important that your sermons do not lack a special aim, it is equally important that your aim be the right one. If you do not aim properly, your preaching, after all, will be useless, whether you preach the Law or the Gospel.”

CFW Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel:  How to Read and Apply the Bible, Concordia Publishing House, (St. Louis, MO:  2010).

Much of what passes for preaching these days are platitudes, beautiful thoughts with a little Scripture added for good measure.  But the message lacks point and punch.  Thunder without lightning;  tree without fruit;  belief without conviction;  faith without works.  It is grace given out cheaply.  The depths of Law and Gospel are not plumbed such that the hearers of the Word are made to realize that the sermon was meant for him or her.  When Christ and the apostles preached, the message convicted the sinner secure in his sins, and raised the broken-hearted and despairing.  As Walther says, “When they (Christ and the apostles) had finished preaching, every hearer knew: He meant me, even when the sermon had contained no personal hints or insinuations.” The job of a preacher is to deliver the truth of the Law in all its crushing weight, and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel in all its purity and sweetness so that the sinner, secure in his sins, feels the condemnation of the law and turns to repent, and the drowntrodden, those without hope are given life through the proclamation of the Gospel.  As our Lord told Peter, “Feed my lambs;  tend my sheep.”  Otherwise the sheep are left hungry and will wander looking for greener pastures.  There is a hunger, a famine for the Word of the Lord.  Where others must wait until the dark of night to turn on a light just to read the Bible, we, in this country have the opportunity to proclaim it in the full light of day.  Let us not squander this opportunity.  The cross is an offense, a scandal.  Foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, the very power of God for eternal life.

So Many Books

So many books, so little time
So many hunger, so many blind
Starving for words they must wait in the night
To open a Bible and turn to the Light

There is a hunger, a longing for bread
And so comes the call for the poor to be fed
More hungry by far are a billion and more
Who wait for the bread of the Word of the Lord

There’ll come a time the prophet would say
When the joy of mankind will be withered away
A want not for water, but a hunger for more
A famine for hearing the words of the Lord

The Word won’t go out
Except it return
Full, overflowing
And so we must learn

Michael Card, 1992 The Word:  Recapturing the Imagination

 

The Courage of Christ

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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This past Sunday we remembered the Reformation, triggered by Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg.  At certain times in history, God has intervened in tremendous ways to accomplish His purposes on earth.  In no way is this more clearly demonstrated to us than in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  For in Him, God became man.  He lived with us, walked with us, talked with us.  In some ways God became our friend in and through Christ.  But from what we have seen He was much more than a friend.  Christ is the LEADER — there was none other like Him before, and none have been like Him since.  He is COMPASSIONATE.  Always taking time to speak with those around Him;  healing the sick, the lame, and the blind.  He is SELFLESS SERVANT.  Always concerned with the well-being of His flock, our Lord takes the time to prepare a meal.  He feeds His children with the bread of life.  None go away hungry.  All are satisfied.  And the baskets that are collected are overflowing with the abundant blessings He bestows on His people.  Christ is the TEACHER of TRUTH.  Never missing a moment to teach, Jesus enters the synagogues to read and expound upon Scripture.  Each moment with His disciples is a moment in which He is constantly molding and shaping their faith.  Time and time again, people walk away from Jesus, marveling at His teaching.  No matter how hard they tried, His enemies could not argue with His doctrine.  He taught what was unpopular, and challenged his people’s notions of love, mercy, compassion, and ethics.  No one was spared, not even His family or His closest disciples.  Jesus is COURAGE.  In the face of fierce opposition from the ruling priests, the scribes, the pharisees, and the supporters of Herod, Christ took His Gospel, the Gospel of God, directly to all people — to Jews, pharisees, tax collectors, Samaritans, and to Gentiles.  He took the Gospel into the heart of Israel, the Temple, to cleanse us and to make us holy.  We sought ways to kill Him, to put out the fire of the Gospel.  Jesus did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing.  The devil sought to tempt him.  He sent demons to confront Christ.  Yet our Savior did not stop preaching, teaching, and healing.  Jesus continued to do that which He had been sent to do by the Father.  He forgave sins.  He became angry and drove the moneychangers out of the Temple.  He ate in the homes of tax collectors.  He spoke with women.  In public.  He touched lepers, and was touched by unclean women.  All of these things Jesus did until the very end.  Until He was arrested.  Betrayed.  Beaten.  Tried and convicted.  Beaten again.  And then nailed to a tree, to die the death of a common criminal.  And while all these things happened, Jesus continued to serve us.  Taking the time to arrange for a room to meet with His disciples one last time.  A meal was prepared and He fed His disciples in a way that would change our lives forever.  For it was their that Christ gifted to us forgiveness and life which He sealed with His death.

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” (Luther’s Works. Weimar Edition. Briefwechsel [Correspondence], vol. 3, pp. 81f.).  This statement speaks of COURAGE.  And yet, as Dr. Luther points out, we flinch, we blink, we fold, and like the disciples we turn tail and run.  Yet, at the appointed time, Christ remained obedient to the Will of the Father which meant His own death.  I imagine that Lucifer stood in the courts of Heaven at the time of Christ’s trial, and conviction, accusing Him of not being worthy to sit at the right hand of God.  See Jesus was just like us — those sinful creatures.  Despicable.  So much so that he was betrayed for the price of a slave.  The Son of God convicted as a common criminal.  Unable to make His own defense.  He shows His weakness, does the Savior, by speaking the truth to the end.  He cannot even convince the chosen people of God that He is the Son of God!  Seeking all the while, Lucifer does, to unseat Christ, and usurp the throne of God.  In the face of such audacity, Jesus did not flinch.  He did not blink.  He did not back down.  His weakness, is our strength.  His death, our life.  His faith He gives to us.  And in His death, are we made right before God.  Satan is cast down from Heaven and bound in chains.  This is a cosmic story, of which we get a glimpse as Chapter 14 of Mark unfolds for us.

It is the Courage of Christ that we need now in this world.

Fifteen Minutes That Changed the World: Thoughts on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31

The Ninety-Five Theses of German monk Martin L...

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From Paul T. McCain over at Cyberbrethren.com. The following is a reprint of an article that he wrote a few years ago on Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, an act which change the very course of history, and shook western civilization from top to bottom.  From the very beginning, Luther sought a forum in which to debate and discuss the teaching and practice of the church on penance and indulgences.  Time and again he was refused.  Yet the Word of God would not be contained.  It continued to work when and where He willed, and the course of civilization and the life of the church was changed forever.  For good or ill, we are the heirs of the Reformation.  We bear the responsibility and the charge for carrying forward the Gospel of salvation by Grace through Faith for the sake of Christ alone to the next generation.  Lord make us worthy to stand with those who have gone before us.  Fifteen Minutes That Changed the World: Thoughts on the Festival of the Reformation, October 31.