Glory in the Lord

17 But “he who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”  18 For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18

These words of our Lord through St. Paul the Apostle are a stark contrast to the ways of the world.  St. Paul writes similar things in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth.  Likely referencing Jeremiah 9,[1] he writes the same thing, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31).

That word “glories” could be translated with the similar word “boasts,” and it is, in various places in the New Testament.  Sometimes the Greek word is translated with the verb “glory” and sometimes not.[2]  It would be worth looking into see if a consistency exists.

If we translate the verse above with “boasts,” the contrast between the way of the God and the way of the world perhaps becomes more clear.

The way of the world is to draw attention to one’s successes, strengths, abilities.  Yet the way of the Lord is to draw one’s attention to the paradox, the reality behind what is seen.

For example, Paul in 1 Corinthians bears this out, where he writes of God’s work in that which is contrary to human reason,:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are…(1 Corinthians 1:18-28).

God works differently than the world does.  Where the world praises success, God chastises.  Where man exalts himself, God humbles (Luke 14:11).

These things the Christian might recognize more outside the church than inside it.  Yet human pride, arrogance, and boastfulness stand ready and waiting at the door to make entrance, if not already having an abode.

A phrase that I have seen on a sign for a baptist church reads, “Maximizing, magnifying, multiplying.”  But one might wonder who the actor is!  If it’s God, then why advance what God already knows, as if He needs our recognition.  To remind ourselves that it is God doing these things?  I think not.

On the other hand, and more likely, such phraseology would seem to try to indicate that a church with such a sign is doing these things.  However, if this is the case, an honest question is simply, “Why?”  What is the purpose of such a phrase except to try to give an appearance of activity in the eyes of the world?  And to what end, to say that “the church is doing something?”  Why need it if it actually is?

Should the church ever need to defend her activity before the world, or before one another if she is being faithful to the Lord and preaching the truth?  Should the church ever need to tout its activities to demonstrate its “doingness when it’s not the world’s approval that counts, but God’s?”   Does the church now thrive on (or need) the praise of men?

Should the church seek to please men and the world, she ceases to be a servant of Christ.  Should the Christian pride his or her own activity, humbling is sure to come.

The church finds her confidence in her Lord and Head—not in what she is doing, how many people she reaches, or how many lives are changed as a result of her activity.  She rests her joy in her Lord who bought her, who purchased her with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  What she is to be doing is only what her Lord has given her to do (i.e. Matthew 28).  As she does this, she can only say, “I have only done what was commanded of me” (Luke 17:10).

Should the church find herself doing other than what the Lord has given her to do, and boasting in her own activities and not God’s, then she ceases to be the Lord’s church.  Thus will the bride of Christ and the body of Christ seek to please Him, boast in His grace, and in genuine humility, draw all attention to Christ seek commendation, not from the world, but from God.

It’s not he who commends himself who is approved, but whom the Lord commends.


[1] Jeremiah 9:23-24: 23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.

[2] At least in the New King James Version.

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Do all religions lead to heaven?

Speaking of Jesus Christ, Peter the apostle says that there is salvation in no other, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Jesus Himself says, “Truly truly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).  All religions do not lead to heaven because they do not all rightly teach Christ, through whom is the only way to heaven (John 14:6).  Only Christianity teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  All others base salvation in some way on what we do.  Only the Christian religion points to Christ, and therefore, to heaven.  All others, not rightly preaching Christ, lead to hell.

“True and False Religion”

I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.

John 14:6

How many religions exist in the world today?  I guess it depends who you ask.   Should you ask one who holds to the pluralism of the day, the answer would be many.  Should you ask a Christian, he will say that there are really only two religions in the world, the true religion (Christianity) and the false religion (all others, regardless of name).

The true religion, Christianity, teachings salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.  Christianity teaches that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  There are no other ways (Acts 4:12).

The false religion, that is, all other “religions,” teach salvation by what man does, even if it be so little that man does.  This teaches that man contributes in some way to his salvation.  This is a far cry from what the Bible teaches, that man cannot save Himself, even just a little bit (i.e. Ephesians 2:8-9).

Now ask the question, how many Christian denominations exist in Christendom today?  Again, I guess it depends who you ask.  Even thousands might be the answer according to some.

However, should one define Christendom as the body of Christ, there is only one, for there is only one Lord and one faith (Ephesians 4:4-6).

So why so many denominations?  Simply because not all have the same faith.  Not all hold to the one Lord.  Not all confess the same Christ.  Not all believe the Holy Scriptures.  Not all have the same doctrine.

Yet for us, there is one Christ.  There is one way of salvation.  It is not our way or the way of the world or the way of other so-called religions.  It is the way of Christ.   It is Christ!  Amen.

Luther

“Whenever you consider the doctrine of justification and wonder how or where or in what condition to find a God who justifies or accepts sinners, then you must know that there is no other God than this Man Jesus Christ. Take hold of Him; cling to Him with all your heart, and spurn all speculation about the Divine Majesty; for whoever investigates the majesty of God will be consumed by His glory. I know from experience what I am talking about.  But these fanatics, who deal with God apart from this Man, will not believe me. Christ Himself says: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). Outside Christ, the Way, therefore, you will find no other way to the Father; you will find only wandering, not truth, but hypocrisy and lies, not life, but eternal death. Take note, therefore, in the doctrine of justification or grace that when we all must struggle with the Law, sin, death, and the devil, we must look at no other God than this incarnate and human God.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p29).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, look with mercy on us sinners, so prone to seek our own ways and to heed the ways of the world.  Lead us not into temptation that we forsake you.  Deliver us from evil, that we cling only to You, and find in You alone our refuge and help.  Be our God and we Your holy people.  Amen.

“The Word of God and the Work of the Pastor”

In a recent survey, entitled, “US Religious Knowledge Survey” from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, several revealing findings surfaced. Although the findings might not be surprising in the current zeitgeist (spirit) of the times, they do give a jarring dose of reality to any who would consider Christendom, and Christians in general, to be as healthy and strong as they might think themselves to be.

The sampling of the survey was only over 3400. It’s findings, of course, are limited. But at the same time, these can be helpful for us, not only for indicating where Christendom as a whole might be. They can also impress upon us the need for self-reflection and self-evaluation of where we stand, and why.

One editor in the Wisconsin State Journal began his column about the survey with these words, “Say this about American Christians: We hold our beliefs dear and will defend them to the death. Now, if only someone would tell us what they are”(Wed, Oct 6, 2010).

The same editor had also written that, “Pew research has found about 60 percent of American adults say religion is “very important” in their lives.” Then he comments, “But not important enough to learn much about, apparently.” In addition, he also wrote, “If only American Christians would spend as much time researching religion as they do spouting off their opinions about it.”

Generally speaking, I think this editor is quite correct in at least these comments. Americans, as a whole, talk a lot about religion (and an increasing amount about spirituality), but they talk a lot about what they seem to know little about.

For the most part, it seems, quite a few are just plain ignorant (they just don’t know, or care) about the teachings of the Bible, let alone the teachings of the particular Christian denomination they claim to be a member of…

2Tim3.14-4.5, Pentecost 21, 2010C.pdf

Reflections on Luke 14:25-35

25Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

34“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25–35)

In the above Gospel, Jesus says some pretty startling things.  He speaks of hating members of your own family, hating yourself, bearing your cross, and renouncing all that you have.  If you do not do these things, Jesus says, you cannot be His disciple.

Wait a minute!  I thought God gave the commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, 4th Commandment).  He commands fathers and mothers to love their children (Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4), husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5; Colossians 3:19), and, in general, to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; etc.).  Our Lord also says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

And with reference to cross, isn’t the Christian life supposed to be easier than when one becomes Christian.  What does Jesus mean when He says that every disciple is to “bear his own cross”?

At first glance, Jesus’ word, “hate,” might seem to contradict what we find elsewhere in the Bible.  But in actuality, it doesn’t.  Jesus is not here speaking of emotion.  He’s speaking of distinguishing between earthly and heavenly things.  It is true—God does command us to love one another—unconditionally, unequivocally, and unselfishly (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13).  But our Lord differentiates between what is to be first from what is not.

A related passage is in Matthew 10, where Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37, italics mine).

It’s a matter of true worship and honor of God or idolatry.  “No one can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13).  In the same way, no one can have God first and parent, child, spouse, self or anyone or anything else.  It’s an either/or kind of thing.  And this is just our problem.  God is not first in our lives.  If He was, everywhere and all the time, we wouldn’t doubt, we wouldn’t complain, we would willingly suffer the things said against us and the things done to us because we do what God desires.  As it is, however, we are not as God desires.  We put ourselves first, our families, our finances, our friends, and our time (i.e. on Sundays when we ought to be in the Word).

What these words of our Lord show us is that none are able, of themselves, to be His disciples.  Our crosses we want to throw off.  Our burdens we don’t want to carry.  The Christian life, we think, should be easier, not harder.  The Christian shouldn’t suffer as he/she does.  In effect, we aren’t able to be Jesus’ disciple because of who we are by nature, because of what we do, because of our sin.

The truth is—none are the Lord’s disciple because of who he/she is.  We are sinners—not worthy of the Lord—not worthy to be called disciple.  But no disciple who is a disciple is a disciple of themselves, by themselves, for themselves, or in their own strength.

God calls the unworthy, the sinner, the unable—to be His people.  It is such that Jesus came to deliver and save.  The disciple of our Lord recognizes this—that his/her worthiness is not his/her own, but Christ’s.  Therefore does Jesus say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

The disciple of our Lord recognizes his need, and looks to Jesus for help and aid, forgiveness and salvation.  Thus will he/she also struggle and fight within, that Christ and His Word be first, and not something other.  So also does the disciple of the Lord seek to forsake all, for Christ is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  Christ is his everything, and where Christ is not, the disciple repents and seeks to do better.  And by God’s grace, he does, God giving strength to do so through His means of Word and Sacrament.  These, too, the disciple of our Lord seeks and desires, for they are His life, for there, God forgives sins and gives life and strength, and keeps His people in the faith.  Those who deny and refuse such gifts and blessings of our Lord show that they are not of the Lord and do not love God above all things, for they do not believe themselves to be in need of such help.  By doing so, they show that they are not disciples of the Lord, but disciples of another.

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