It’s good to be in church!

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

 

From Luther’s Large Catechism, The 3rd Article

 

Concordia-TheLutheranConfessionsI believe…in the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints… 51 This is the sum and substance of this phrase: I believe that there is on earth a little holy flock or community of pure saints under one head, Christ. It is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, mind, and understanding. It possesses a variety of gifts, yet is united in love without sect or schism. 52 Of this community I also am a part and member, a participant and co-partner2 in all the blessings it possesses. I was brought to it by the Holy Spirit and incorporated into it through the fact that I have heard and still hear God’s Word, which is the first step in entering it. Before we had advanced this far, we were entirely of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. 53 Until the last day the Holy Spirit remains with the holy community or Christian people. Through it he gathers us, using it to teach and preach the Word. By it he creates and increases sanctification, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in the fruits of the Spirit.

54 Further we believe that in this Christian church we have the forgiveness of sins, which is granted through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire Gospel. Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sacraments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity. Forgiveness is needed constantly, for although God’s grace has been won by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the unity of the Christian church, yet because we are encumbered with our flesh we are never without sin.

55 Therefore everything in the Christian church is so ordered that we may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and through signs appointed to comfort and revive our consciences as long as we live. Although we have sin, the Holy Spirit sees to it that it does not harm us because we are in the Christian church, where there is full forgiveness of sin. God forgives us, and we forgive, bear with, and aid one another.

56 But outside the Christian church (that is, where the Gospel is not) there is no forgiveness, and hence no holiness. Therefore, all who seek to merit holiness through their works rather than through the Gospel and the forgiveness of sin have expelled and separated themselves from the church.

57 Meanwhile, since holiness has begun and is growing daily, we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, will be buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. 58 Now we are only halfway pure and holy. The Holy Spirit must continue to work in us through the Word, daily granting forgiveness until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness. In that life are only perfectly pure and holy people, full of goodness and righteousness, completely freed from sin, death, and all evil, living in new, immortal and glorified bodies.

all-saints-2

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The Passion of our Lord, Matthew 26:1-27:66

“The Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2).

It is all coming down to this. Today in the Church Year is Palm Sunday. It is also called, “Sunday of the Passion.” Today is the beginning of Holy Week. With Jesus riding on a donkey, He enters into Jerusalem, receiving acclamations of praise and honor from the people, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

That word “hosanna” is an Aramaic word for “Help/Save, I pray.” It is a calling out for divine help, and most appropriately prayed to our Lord always, not least of all on Palm Sunday. The people were right to pray these words as the Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem, for divine help only comes from Him who sent His Son for the true and lasting divine help of everlasting peace with God.

The people were right to acclaim Jesus as “the Son of David,” for so He was. Jesus was David’s son, David’s descendant, and David’s Lord (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:44). Jesus was of the line of David, the Son promised of old by Nathan the prophet who had prophesied to King David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

God fulfilled these words in Jesus His Son, David’s descendant and Lord. Jesus was that seed whose kingdom the Father established. Jesus built a house for God’s Name and the throne of His kingdom is now established forever.

The people were right to cry out “Hosanna.” They were right to give Jesus the title, “Son of David.” They were also right to call out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And with these latter words, they proclaimed that the One riding on the donkey was He who comes in the Name of the Lord. They identified Jesus as not coming of Himself or of another, but in the Name of the Lord. By these words, they made clear that Jesus was no counterfeit, but the real deal. Jesus was no imposter, but One whom the Father sent.

By these words of praise and honor given to Jesus and about Jesus, it would seem that the people of Jerusalem fully recognized Jesus’ identity. It would seem as if they knew who Jesus really was, not only Jesus the man, but Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14). It would also seem as if they were ready and prepared for the kind of kingdom God was going to establish through Him, that they acknowledged the kind of Jesus that Jesus was.

Yet, comparing the day that Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a donkey to the events later that Holy Week would seem to upset the balance. The Jesus welcomed on Palm Sunday seems a different Jesus than the Jesus hanging on the tree. The Jesus honored and praised as “Son of David” and “He who comes in the name of the Lord” seems different from the one of whom the people shouted, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:23). The man who the people call “Blessed” seems different from the man mocked with the scarlet robe and crown of thrones, blasphemed, and crucified.

One might think that the Jesus of Palm Sunday is not the same Jesus of Good Friday, or, that somehow, the Jesus of Good Friday is not the kind of Jesus that we’re looking for.   The Jesus of Good Friday is weak—meek—bruised—and beaten. He’s not only suffering and dying. He’s dead. This isn’t what kind of one we think of with the words “come in the name of the Lord” and “Son of David,” son of the mighty king whose heart was after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

One who comes “in the Name of the Lord” should be strong. The “Son of David” should not be defeated. He should be alive, living, and thriving. He should be conquering, overcoming and advancing the kingdom. He should be all-powerful, and un-stoppable.

But the kind of Jesus that the Father sent, the kind of Jesus that you have, is not the one molded or modeled according to sinners and their thoughts and their ways. The kind of Jesus that the Father sent, the kind of Jesus that you have, is indeed One whose heart is after God’s own heart.

This Jesus, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

The Jesus of Palm Sunday, the Jesus of the Transfiguration, the healer of the blind, the lame, the deaf, and the mute, and the raiser of the dead is the same Jesus of suffering, thorns, beatings, mocking, blasphemies, crucifixion, and yes, even death. This Jesus is not the Savior of the sinless, but of sinners only. Those who are well have no need of a physician. Only those who are sick do (Matthew 9:12).

Jesus is that physician of the sick. He is the great physician, who alone heals you by taking all of that which condemns you and makes it His own. He takes it from you so that it is no longer yours, but His, and puts it to death on the cross.

He who “knew no sin” was made “to be sin for us” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

The beatings and the mocking, the blasphemies and the thorns, the insults and the injuries, the suffering, the crucifying, and the death—were yours. Jesus took them for you. Through these so-called weaknesses, salvation is yours—just because Jesus conformed to the will of His Father and suffered and yes, even died, for your sake.

If Jesus had done anything different, if He would have called down a legion of angels when He was arrested, if he would have come down from the cross and saved Himself, then you would still be in your sin, and have nothing but the consequence of eternal death upon you, now and into eternity.

But because Jesus was and is strong and mighty against the devil, because He conquered sin and death through His death, you now live and have life, for all eternity.

Because we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we don’t judge according to appearance. We “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24), with the Word of God. Life (and the church) might not look like much at times, but it need not to. Jesus wasn’t what people expected. But the same Jesus of Good Friday is the same Jesus of Easter Sunday. “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Amen.

Announcements for the week of November 3, 2013

 

13-11-03, All Saints’ Day, BA-2013C

 

Luther’s Large Catechism

2nd Article of the Creed

51] But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. 52] I am also a part and member of the same, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. For formerly, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. 53] Thus, until the last day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its fruits which He produces.

54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.

55] Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.

56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church].

57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.

59] Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts.

The Necessity of True Doctrine

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.

1 Timothy 4:16

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, writes what he writes with a purpose in mind—the purpose of encouraging Timothy to remain in the true doctrine.  Contrary to the world, remaining in the true doctrine is not at all of insignificance.  It does matter, for “doctrine is life.”  I am not talking about man’s doctrine (i.e. Mark 7), for man’s doctrine only alienates from God and hardens the sinner against God.  God’s doctrine, in distinction, does give life, just as Jesus says, “My words are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).  Depart or stray from these, and there is nothing but death.  Continue in the very Word of the Lord Christ, and you are truly His disciples and “will know the truth” and will be set free by that truth” (John 8:31-32).

Such does God’s Word, The Truth (John 14:6), do.  It gives life, raises that which was dead, and also preserves one in the truth by that same truth.

To the Galatians, St. Paul writes, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain?  Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Galatians 3:2-6)

Not by man’s doctrine and not by man’s doing were the Galatians being made perfect and complete, but by the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), by hearing the Word of Christ.

The doctrine/teaching is important.  Get this wrong, and you get Christ wrong.  Geting Christ wrong leads to eternal death, not eternal life, for outside of Christ Jesus, there is no forgiveness and no peace with God.  But in Christ Jesus, there is nothing but forgiveness and the peace that surpasses understanding, which the world cannot ever give (Philippians 4:7)

The world and those of the world will go their own way, claiming that you cannot know the truth or that it is not found in the Bible.  But Christians believe differently, for the Christian faith is not of the world, but of God, revealed through the Holy Scriptures, and centered on Christ, and Christ alone!

Luther

‘Let every faithful person work and strive with all his might to learn this doctrine (of the Gospel) and keep it, and for this purpose let him employ humble prayer to God with continual study and meditation on the Word.  Even when we have done ever so much, there will still be much to keep us busy.  For we are involved, not with minor enemies but with strong and powerful ones, who battle against us continually, namely, our own flesh, all the dangers of the world, the Law, sin, death, and the wrath and judgment of God, and the devil h9imself, who never stops tempting us inwardly with his flaming darts (Eph. 6:16) and outwardly with his false apostles, so as to overcome some if not all of us” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p65).

Prayer:

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your word; Curb those who by deceit or sword

Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son And bring to naught all He has done.

O Comforter of priceless worth, Send peace and unity on earth;

Support us in our final strife And lead us out of death to life.  Amen.

(Lutheran Service Book (2006), “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word” 1, 4)

The Heart that is Close to God

Signs and Promises of God

Concerning the sign of the Rainbow, Luther says:

“This sign should remind us to give thanks to God. For as often as the rainbow appears, it preaches to the entire world with a loud voice about the wrath which once moved God to destroy the whole world. It also gives comfort, that we may have the conviction that God is kindly inclined toward us again and will never again make use of so horrible a punishment. Thus it teaches the fear of God and faith at the same time, the greatest virtues… Let us, therefore, be reminded by this sign to fear God and to trust Him, in order that, just as we have escaped the punishment of the Flood, we may also be able to escape the punishment by fire.” [Luther’s Works, Vol. 2: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 6-14, (Genesis 9:20)]

Blessed in Christ with Every Spiritual Blessing

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

      11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  (Ephesians 1:3-14)

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FC, SD, XI. Eternal Foreknowledge and Divine Election

(Tappert Edition)

4 At the very outset we must carefully note the difference between God’s eternal foreknowledge and the eternal election of his children to eternal salvation. For the fact that God sees and knows everything before it happens — what we call God’s foreknowledge — extends to all creatures, good or evil. He sees and knows in advance all that is or shall be, all that happens or will happen, both good and evil, since all things, present or future, are manifest and present to God, as it is written, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will” (Matt. 10:29). Again, “Thine eyes beheld my unformed substance, in thy book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16). And again, “I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me” (Isa. 37:28).

5 On the other hand, the eternal election of God or God’s predestination to salvation does not extend over both the godly and the ungodly, but only over the children of God, who have been elected and predestined to eternal life “before the foundation of the world was laid,” as St. Paul says, “Even as he chose us in him, he destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:4, 5).

6 God’s foreknowledge ( praescientia ) sees and knows in advance the evil as well, but not in such a way as though it were God’s gracious will that it should happen. To be sure, he sees and knows beforehand whatever the perverse and wicked will of the devil and of men will attempt and do. But even in wicked acts and works God’s foreknowledge operates in such a way that God sets a limit and measure for the evil which he does not will — how far it is to go, how long it is to endure, and when and how he will interfere with it and punish it. For the Lord God governs everything in such a way that it must redound to the glory of his divine name and the salvation of his elect, and thereby the ungodly are confounded.

7 The source and cause of evil is not God’s foreknowledge (since God neither creates nor works evil, nor does he help it along and promote it), but rather the wicked and perverse will of the devil and of men, as it is written, “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation” (Hos. 13:9). Likewise, “Thou art not a God who delights in wickedness” (Ps. 5:4).

8 God’s eternal election, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but by God’s gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus it is also a cause which creates, effects, helps, and furthers our salvation and whatever pertains to it. Our salvation is based on it in such a way that “the gates of Hades” are not able to do anything against it (Matt. 16:18), as it is written, “No one shall snatch my sheep out of my hand” (John 10:28), and again, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

The comfort of such doctrine

45 This doctrine also affords the beautiful and glorious comfort that God was so deeply concerned about every individual Christian’s conversion, righteousness, and salvation and so faithfully minded about it that “even before the foundation of the world was laid” he held counsel and ordained “according to his purpose”how he would bring me thereto and keep me therein. 46 Furthermore, God wanted to insure my salvation so firmly and certainly — for due to the weakness and wickedness of our flesh it could easily slip from our fingers, and through the deceit and power of the devil and the world it could easily be snatched and taken from our hands — that he ordained my salvation in his eternal purpose, which cannot fail or be overthrown, and put it for safekeeping into the almighty hand of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, out of which no one can pluck us (John 10:28). 47 For this reason, too, Paul asks, Since we are called according to the purpose of God, “who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?” (Rom. 8:35).

48 This doctrine will also give us the glorious comfort, in times of trial and affliction, that in his counsel before the foundation of the world God has determined and decreed that he will assist us in all our necessities, grant us patience, give us comfort, create hope, and bring everything to such an issue that we shall be saved. 49 Again, Paul presents this in a most comforting manner when he points out that before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.” From this Paul draws the certain and indubitable conclusion that neither “tribulation nor anguish, neither death nor life, etc. can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39).

50 This article also gives a glorious testimony that the church of God shall exist and remain against all the “gates of Hades.” At the same time it teaches us what the true church is, lest we be offended by the outward prestige of the false church (Rom. 9:8ff.).

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