The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to
shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD
lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 ESV
At the conclusion of his last sermon, three days before his end, he took formal leave of his dear friends in Eisleben with the words: “Now after I have been here for quite a long period of time and have preached to you and now must depart and might preach no longer, so I want to bless you by this, and I have prayed that you would strive to remain with the Word, that your preachers and pastors would faithfully teach of God’s grace, and I commend you to pray that God would defend you against all the wise people and all people who despise the doctrine of the Gospel, for they have often caused great harm and still might.”
Luther stresses the "paradox" (contraria) by stating that the verdict of law and gospel are absolutely contradictory (contradictoria). He says, "These two things are diametrically opposed [ipsa ex diametro pugnant]: that a Christian is righteous and beloved by God, and yet he is a sinner at the same time. For God cannot deny His own nature. That is, He cannot avoid hating sin and sinners; and He does so by necessity, for otherwise He would be unjust and would love sin. Then how can these two contradictory things both be true at the same time, that I am a sinner and deserve divine wrath and hatred and that the Father loves me? Here nothing can intervene except Christ the Mediator." This last simple sentence explains the paradox. It explains the whole Christian religion. It explains the Scriptures. It is the secret to all exegesis of Scripture and all theologizing. It is the only comfort that a poor sinner has in life and in death. It is "Christ alone." So we have in the principle of solus Christus not only a hermeneutical rule, not only the basis for all comfort, not only the basis for our union with God and for reconciliation and salvation, but the principle of all human knowledge and understanding.
Every one of us is going to have to give an account of our lives. We are going to be judged by works. Now the question is, whether we are going to cling to Christ and His works, or whether we are going to say “You know, I’m going to be my own lawyer here. I’m going to argue in my own defense. I’m gonna go ahead and wear those filthy rags to the courtroom.” The news on judgment day has already been delivered to those who have faith in Christ - we’ve already heard the verdict. Not only that we’re not guilty, but that we are perfectly holy, righteous, and acceptable in God’s sight because Jesus Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. There is therefore now, no condemnation, for those who are in Christ Jesus.
No theologian of the cross expects outward success to be a necessary fruit of his faithful labors in the Word. He knows very well that the outward results may well have been just the opposite. He knows that the Spirit works faith when and where He wills in those who hear the Gospel" (Augsburg Confession, Article V). The humble theologian of the cross knows how foolish it is to compare one ministry of the Word with [another], as if the results depended upon the preachers (2 Cor. 10:12), and he recoils at the thought of being regarded as faithful simply because he has impressive stats. In fact, outward success may cause a faithful pastor to do a soul searching evaluation of his ministry! He may well ask himself such questions as: Am I watering down or compromising the Word in order to be liked? Am I calling all people to repentance or am I preaching a cheap grace? Am I dealing with the specific sins of my people or am I dealing with the world's sin or only with sin in general? Am I preaching the whole counsel of God's Word or am I evading difficult doctrines which may cause me problems? Am I holding high the cross of Jesus Christ or am I "caressing the devil"? Outward success is unusual for those who preach the cross of Christ.
The doctrine of church fellowship is not a matter of submitting to rules determined by the democratic processes of the synod to which we belong. It is a matter of confessing the pure gospel by which we sinners are saved from hell. The unionistic spirit is utterly incompatible with the Christian gospel. It holds the righteousness of Christ in contempt. We condemn religious unionism because we love the gospel of justification by faith alone. Why do Lutheran pastors promote participation in the Promise Keepers or similar organizations? Because they don't have enough rules on how to apply the doctrine of church fellowship? Of course not. They do it because they don't value the righteousness of Christ. If they did, they would teach their members to mark and avoid such gatherings.
Find a preacher who preaches Christ, His person, His work, His atonement, His righteousness reckoned to us, the forgiveness of sins, all within the context of preaching the law without any compromise, and you'll find someone opposed to religious unionism. The same faith which receives the righteousness of Jesus with which God clothes us is the faith which rejects the unionistic spirit of doctrinal indifference. The reason a Lutheran marks and avoids false doctrine and refuses to worship with those who don't is not because he has been sufficiently indoctrinated in his church's rules. Rather, it's a simple matter of love and hate. If you hate something, you don't express fellowship with it. If you love the pure teaching by which God has saved you, you hate the false teaching which can damn you.
And it is just this love for the gospel of justification that will find in every other article of Christian teaching the same golden thread of the righteousness of the God-man which covers us and renders us fit to enter into eternal life. Nothing is worth teaching, preaching, defending, or confessing, except for the sake of this truth which glorifies God as it reveals his mercy to poor, lost, undeserving sinners like you and me and thus saves us eternally.
But the worst of it was that when she talked about her daughter being in heaven, she said it was because she had given her life to the Lord. (Could it be that Baptist worship leads to a Baptist theology of conversion? Just asking.) Frankly, that’s simply not true. Her daughter is not in heaven because she gave her life to the Lord; she is in heaven because Jesus gave His life for her. That’s not just semantics; it’s the difference between heaven and hell, comfort and despair, life and death. It matters how we talk, and if we do not recognize how foreign the thought of “giving our life to Jesus” is to ”grace alone,” then we have ceased to be Lutheran. And that’s fine–if you don’t want to be Lutheran. But how is it acceptable for a Lutheran woman, married to a Lutheran pastor, to say things like that to teenagers who have friends who believe that salvation happens exactly how she worded it? It matters how we talk, because, ultimately, we will think and believe the same as what we say. Ask a liturgical scholar how many times the liturgy changed before the doctrine. It’s not my personal bias, it’s a fact.
VERSE 11. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased.
In his great desire to recall the Galatians, Paul draws himself into the argument. He says: "Because I refuse to recognize circumcision as a factor in our salvation, I have brought upon myself the hatred and persecution of my whole nation. If I were to acknowledge circumcision the Jews would cease to persecute me; in fact they would love and praise me. But because I preach the Gospel of Christ and the righteousness of faith I must suffer persecution. The false apostles know how to avoid the Cross and the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation. They preach circumcision and thus retain the favor of the Jews. If they had their way they would ignore all differences in doctrine and preserve unity at all cost. But their unionistic dreams cannot be realized without loss to the pure doctrine of the Cross. It would be too bad if the offense of the Cross were to cease." To the Corinthians he expressed the same conviction: "Christ sent me. . .to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." (I Cor. 1:17.)
Here someone may be tempted to call the Christians crazy. Deliberately to court danger by preaching and confessing the truth, and thus to bring upon ourselves the hatred and enmity of the whole world, is this not madness? But Paul does not mind the enmity of the world. It made him all the bolder to confess Christ. The enmity of the world in his estimation augurs well for the success and growth of the Church, which fares best in times of persecution. When the offense of the Cross ceases, when the rage of the enemies of the Cross abates, when everything is quiet, it is a sign that the devil is the door-keeper of the Church and that the pure doctrine of God's Word has been lost.
..."Evangelism Training" will be nothing more than continued study and meditation on the proper distinction between law and Gospel.
...the central act of Evangelism is not asking the unbeliever to come to Jesus, but rather, in the name of Jesus, forgiving their sins. Evangelism is the Church speaking the Absolution to the World.
Note: By the time the Augsburg Confession was written, deep divisions had arisen among the various reformers concerning the Lord’s Supper. The Lutherans were very careful to distance themselves from those who reject that the body and blood of Christ are in fact truly present in His Supper and distributed to all those who eat and drink. Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or any other human speculation asks the wrong question: how is Christ present? Lutheranism has no theory or philosophical explanation of how Christ is present. Rather, Lutherans insist on answering the what of the Lord’s Supper. We believe, teach, and confess that of the bread, Christ said, “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood.” These are given and shed “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28). We reject any teaching that is contrary to our Lord’s Word.
Our mission statement is: Sharing God’s Hope by doing whatever it takes for God to transform people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 ESV
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Frank Gillespie commented on your post.
"I can't remember, is that a picture of my two Ablaze! bracelets or did you get two of your own?"
Frank, at Putting Out the Fire, yesterday made an unbelievable admission. Now don’t get me wrong. Frank is a perfectly respectable guy. He even spends his free time as a volunteer fireman. But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Here is what Frank has admitted to, broken down into three parts for ease of reading:
1) He actually owns an Ablaze!® bracelet.
2) He admits to wearing it.
3) He even mentions the time and place where he wore said bracelet.
The Horror! The Horror!
My question to you, fellow Wittenberg Trail travelers, is this:
Where do you where your Ablaze!® bracelet?
Of course, I was spring loaded to comment thusly regarding Frank’s Facebook barb:
No pietist sits behind this keyboard Frank - those are your own Ablaze! bracelets, straight from your shocking, frank, unrepentant admission!
For the rest of you pietists out there, I just checked the Ablaze! Movement Resource Exchange Bulletin Board. You can still get your own Ablaze! bracelet here, but remember to order at least two, because the page advises to “carry extras to give someone who asks about it, allowing you to share the message of Jesus Christ & Ablaze (Luke 24:32).” Nothing oozes Gospel like a bracelet that says “ABLAZE! TM” on one side and “www.lcms.org/ablaze” on the other. Don't leave home without it!
I look forward to many more days of refreshment as we explore together as a synod God's gifts of martyría, diakonía, and koinōnía.
Today, at the LCMS Board and Commission Orientation, "Witness, Mercy, and Life Together" was presented as a way to describe the work of the Synod using Biblical categories and themes. Witness, Mercy, and Life Together is the English phrase chosen for the Greek words Martyría, Diakonía, and Koinōnía. These activities describe the work of the church and are centered on the cross of Jesus. Martyría describes the witness, proclamation work (missions) of the church. Diakonía describes the church's work as a servant of mercy to those in need (human care). Koinōnía describes the church's life together with all its accompanying activities such as worship, schools, seminaries, church relations, et al.
Of David. I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalms 138:1-8 ESV
Jesus lived with the awareness that God is doing something, right here, right now, and anybody can be a part of it. He encouraged his listeners to search, to question, to wrestle with the implications of what he was saying and doing. He inspired, challenged, provoked, comforted, and invited people to be open to God’s work in this world. Wherever he went, whatever he did, Jesus started discussions about what matters most, because for Jesus, God is always inviting us to open our eyes and join in.
I cannot guide myself, and yet would fain guide the world! Many a time I have made fine articles and rules, and brought them to our Lord God to guide Him. But the good God has let me see in the end how all my mastering has come to nothing.
Therefore, mindful of our duty (we know this has been divinely commanded to us) we think that we should apply ourselves diligently to the work of attacking the false teachings that have been spread in our provinces and realms. Such teachings are gradually gaining favor for themselves in the manner and familiarity of the people. We should see to it that the subjects in our government may persevere in the straight way of godliness [Hebrews 12:13] and in the truth of the heavenly doctrine (Preface to the Book of Concord).
After recounting a visit from Christ who told him that He will always [sic] with him in everything he does (we were assured that this was indeed Scriptural) in one of his dreams the presenter recommended [38:47] that the easiest way to remember our dreams might be to start journaling and after some practice we could learn to remember our dreams. The presenter recommended [40:25] several books for our reading in the hope that we might not limit God in how he communicates with us. He said that dream work was next to impossible alone and recommended we seek out a spiritual director.Regarding journaling, Rev. Umbach made the following statement:
You do this in a time of prayer. And when I look back at some of those dialogues after I’m finished, I don’t remember writing what God said. I can not explain that, but God sometimes basically takes a hold of it, my hand and writes what is there, I believe that. Now I can’t explain it at all. But Ben (the presenter’s spiritual director) encouraged me to do that as well with my dreams.These things are not of God, they are of the devil. God does not communicate with us through dreams. He doesn’t grab hold of your hand during an altered state of consciousness and cause you to involuntarily write down what He’d like you to know. There’s a dictionary definition for this demonic activity – automatic writing. The Encarta Dictionary defines it as “the production of writing while in a trance or similar state as an attempt to make contact with the writer's unconscious or telepathically with a supposed spirit.” (For a more adventuresome look at automatic writing, check out the discussion at Creepy Hollows Forum.) There is no Christian form of automatic writing. Shouldn’t this be obvious to a Lutheran?
Do you hear the voice of Jesus in this mystical experience…? Well that’s not the voice of Jesus. …It’s not this mystical experience, this mysticism, which is a kind of form of Gnosticism, and it’s just rampant in Evangelicalism. Everything is internalized. And it’s terrible. It’s not just wrong, it’s soul-destroying wrong, because now, I mean I go around listening for Jesus and these mystical experiences, and this, I don’t think is just, is not only open to the deception of our own emotions and our own state but it’s open to the deception of the devil, because if the devil can get you believing that you hear the Lord’s Word when you feel something, then oh man, this spiritual destruction that can result from that is just catastrophic.Remember the door in Part 1 that the SED is opening? The mystical one? Unlike The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, who posited that there was a land of both shadow and substance, things and ideas beyond the door, this “Christian” mysticism attempts to move beyond the realm of words and ideas, as mystic Thomas Merton points out:
Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas ...in words there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution.... But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light.... (A Time of Departing, p. 60)
“Sadhana” is an Indian word rich in meanings, such as discipline, technique, spiritual exercise, one’s own personal means for approaching God. This book presents many such exercises to lead the person who uses it into the path of prayer and contemplation. The book thoughtfully and practically blends insights and techniques from sources such as Scripture and Christian teaching, modern psychology, and the traditions of Eastern and Western spiritual masters.
In general, all who divorce the operation of the Holy Ghost from the Word of Scripture make private or immediate revelations their principle in theology. It is essentially correct to embrace them all under the general title Schwaermer, or “enthusiasts” (fanatici, enthusiastae). Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. I (St. Louis: Concordia, 1950) 208
They teach that on the day of visitation appointed by Him the Holy Ghost illumines man immediately, without the Word, and by this illumination enables man to understand the Word of Scripture, which before was a dead letter to him. The Quakers therefore hold so-called “silent meetings.” Their theologian Robert Barclay (d. 1690) reports: “In these meetings everyone’s great task should be to await God and, withdrawing from his own thoughts and ideas, to feel the presence of God…. There no one confines the Spirit of God, nor does he set forth material he has memorized and assembled, but everyone reports whatever the Lord puts in his heart. It may happen among us, and often has happened, that numerous meetings were held without a word being said, and still our souls were much edified and refreshed, and our hearts were overwhelmed by the hidden feeling of God’s Spirit and power passing from vessel to vessel without words” (Vol. III, p. 127-128).
You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, things, and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into The Twilight Zone.
are patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of God is experienced. In the end, these are not ultimately our practices but forms of participation in the practice of God.
Well, I don’t know if it was from God or the devil, but it certainly wasn’t Lutheran.