We seek to please God, not men

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men?

For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Our Lord Jesus says to his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).

Those who seek to please Christ are those who seek to abide by His Word and remain in it, regardless of the cost involved (John 8:31-32).  Such cost may include the loss of friends, family members, or job.  The hatred of the world may include isolation and persecution.  Collectively, also, for Christ’s Church, for His people gathered around Word and Sacrament, such hatred of the world may present itself in the refusal to hear the Word of God preached by the pastor, the denial of Christ’s absolution, the promotion of schism contrary to the true doctrine, the despising of God’s Means of Grace, and the desire to change the worship service from being that which God works through to deliver His blessed gifts of life and salvation in the hearing of His Word and the distribution of Christ’s body and blood, to what we give to God, without first acknowledging the extent of our sin before Him.

Like the Pharisee, we come to God’s house to tell God what we have done and how we have lived, and thus do we seek His favor based on our work and apart from His mercy in Jesus His beloved Son.  Contrast this Pharisaical approach to God based on oneself with the manner that the tax collector approached God.  He could not even look up.  He did not claim any goodness of himself, but simply confessed what was right and true.  He had nothing to give. He had nothing to offer to God-only his sin.  So he says, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14, my translation: the definite article is in use here in the Greek text, v13).

This “poor miserable sinner” claimed no merit of his own.  He did not at all trust in himself.  Nor did he look to himself for any “spark of goodness” whereby he might gain God’s favor.  Instead, He trusted only in the mercy of God for help and salvation.  He came expecting to receive from God, not to give.  And Jesus says receive everything, this sinner did, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).

To be justified before God means nothing less than having peace with God (Romans 5:1ff), having your sins forgiven, being unconditionally in God’s favor, and having nothing but God’s compassion and kindness upon you.  On the other hand, to not be justified before God means nothing less than having God’s wrath and judgment upon you and to not at all have God’s favor towards you.

Only in Christ Jesus do you have such true and lasting peace with God!  This is the Christ who God reveals in His Holy Word.  And this is the Christ which God’s Holy Church proclaims and who God’s people unashamedly confess.  This, too, is the same Christ which the world hates, and for which God’s people joyfully suffer. But God’s people suffer for the sake of Christ and for the sake of His Name because He is their Savior, “for there is no other Name, under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  They know no other God, for there is no other God (1 Corinthians 8:6).  All others are nothing but false God’s, man-made, and of the devil (Revelation 9:20).

This is why the world hates Christ, His Church, and His people—they are of God, not of the devil, the world, or of sinful man.  They teach the way of God aright, neither compromising or weakening God’s message.  They boldly confess and unashamedly proclaim the way of God in truth.

God’s people come before God’s throne of grace, not giving to God, but seeking to receive from Him the mercy that God gives through faith in His Son (Hebrews 4:16).  And by God’s mercy, that have it!

This is indeed not a popular message, for many, even within the church, reject it.  But it is only Christ who gives life (John 6:63).  We are lost and condemned in our sin, with nothing to give to God.  But God covers such sinners with Christ’s righteousness (1 John 1:8-9), and we, now, live unto Him, rejoicing in His bountiful goodness and believing His unmerited and undeserved mercy on account of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.  Amen.

Luther

“We do not seek the favor of men by our teaching either, if we may be permitted to say this without boasting.  For we teach that all men are wicked; we done the free will of man, his natural powers, wisdom, righteousness, all self-invented religion, and whatever is best in the world.  In other words, we say that there is nothing in us that can deserve grace and the forgiveness of sins.  But we proclaim that we receive this grace solely and altogether by the free mercy of God and His works, universally condemning all men for their works (Ps. 19:1).  This is not preaching that gains favor from men and from the world.  For the world finds nothing more irritating and intolerable than hearing its wisdom, righteousness, religion, and power condemned.  To denounce these might and glorious gifts of the world is not to curry the world’s favor but to go out looking for and quickly to find, hatred and misfortune, as it is called.  For if we denounce men and all their efforts, it is inevitable that we quickly encounter bitter hatred, persecution, excommunication, condemnation, and execution” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 24, p.58).

Prayer: Dearest Jesus, preserve us to be Your Holy people.  Keep us from compromising Your Holy doctrine or accommodating ourselves to the ways of the world for superficial peace in the world.  Give us strength to endure the temptations that befall us that we not forsake Your Word, but remain steadfastly in it and in the true faith for our salvation.  Amen.

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Are all Lutherans the same?

No.  Not all Lutherans are the same for not all Lutherans teach or practice according to what God says in His Holy Word, the Bible.

The three largest Lutheran Church bodies in North America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA, www.elca.org), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, www.lcms.org), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (WELS, www.wels.net).  Visit their respective Question/Answer pages and you will find a great deal of difference between ELCA and the other two.

ELCA fundamentally has a different understanding of the Gospel, Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Sacraments than do the others.  If the definitions or explanations given by ELCA sound similar, it is only because they use similar words, but with entirely different meanings (meanings and usage which are foreign to Holy Scripture).  In practice, these differences clearly show themselves (i.e. the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals and of women, contrary to the Lord’s mandate; the toleration and acceptance of behavior contrary to God’s will; fellowship with “Christian” church bodies that teach doctrines contrary to God’s Word [open communion];  worship nonChristians [i.e. Jews, muslims, etc.], and not least of all, preaching which is devoid of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through faith in Jesus [the preaching that unrepentant (nonbelieving) sinners are saved is ever increasing].

By far, the doctrine and practices of the ELCA are quite distinct from LCMS and WELS.  However, between the latter two, noticeable differences do exist.

LCMS permits women to vote in congregational assemblies.  WELS does not.  LCMS permits its young people (and even encourages in some cases) to join boy/girl scouts.  WELS encourages it young people to participate in a WELS group somewhat similar to the scouts.  LCMS has military chaplains.  WELS has civilian chaplains, but no military chaplains.  Also, LCMS and the WELS have a different teaching of The Office of the Ministry and its relation to the priesthood of all believers (however, in practice, differences are not so readily recognizable due to the fact that the LCMS seminaries and colleges in the Concordia University system of the LCMS do not consistently teach similarly, nor are pastors and laypeople always so clear on the distinctives).

LCMS and WELS both accept the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) to be God’s Word (and without error) and the only “rule and norm for faith and life.”  Both also subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions.  The ELCA does not accept either the Bible or the Lutherans Confessions as the LCMS and WELS do (if the ELCA does in word, then certainly not in practice).

Both LCMS and WELS also clearly teach Christ and Him crucified as the only means of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  The ELCA is not clear on the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ and fails to distinguish between what is sin before God and what is not.

There will be exceptions to the above comparisons.  ELCA pastors and congregations who seek to be more faithful to the Bible than their church body as a whole do exist.  In the same way, LCMS and WELS pastors and congregations exist who do not teach and practice according Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (i.e. using worship practices and innovations that are foreign to biblical doctrine).

Simply because someone says that they are a member of an ELCA, LCMS, WELS, or other Lutheran Congregation does not immediately mean that they are genuinely Lutheran.  Nor does the word Lutheran attached to the name of a church body immediately indicate that the church body is genuinely Lutheran.  Only by discerning according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is one able to make such a judgment.

New Study to begin for the Sunday Adult Class, April 10 @ 10:30am

“Through stories of his own pastoral experiences, reflections on the Lutheran Confessions, the writings of Martin Luther, and Scripture itself, Klemet I. Preus explores the impact of the American Evangelical and Church Growth Movements on the modern Lutheran Church. He reminds readers that practice and doctrine are inextricably linked for those who are the body of Christ. The Fire and the Staff captures the relationship between doctrine and practice. Doctrine is like a fire. It lights our way and warms us. Doctrine and practice are more closely related, even interdependent, than is often realized. Doctrine affects practice and practice affects doctrine. The two are so intimately woven together that when you change one, you will inevitably change the other, sometimes without realizing what has happened.”[1]

Why do Lutherans do what they do, and how are doctrine and practice related?  These questions and more are addressed in this helpful book by a Lutheran pastor bound unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions.

Various theologies plague Christianity and wrestle for superiority.  Preus not only draws distinctions, but gives explanation and illustration of why it is necessary “To contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,”(Jude 1:3) with reference to doctrine, certainly, but also with reference to practice, that is, to worship, and how the Christian church does what it does.

Upon casual observation, the influence of doctrine to practice and how practice is affected by doctrine may not be immediately noticeable.  However, the two cannot be separated.  Recognizing the practice will help determine what the doctrine is, and understanding the doctrine will give answer for the kind of practice.

This book is especially needful in the church, for little regard is often given, not only to the historical practices of the church (and why we might use them), but more importantly, how practice may demonstrate either a consistency or an inconsistency with the Gospel itself.

Questions about denominational similarities and distinctions in doctrine and practice

Distinctions among Christian Denominations.pdf

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