Discussion Thought of the Day:
8 Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ 9 and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11 so that somehow I also may be raised to life. Philippians 3:8-11 (CEV)
11 1. Hence we reject and deem it as false and detrimental when men teach that the Gospel, strictly speaking, is a proclamation of conviction and reproof and not exclusively a proclamation of grace. Thereby the Gospel is again changed into a teaching of the law, the merit of Christ and the Holy Scriptures are obscured, Christians are robbed of their true comfort,….
32 You’ll never be a leader if you see others only as stepping-stones to get ahead. You’ll be a leader if you are ambitious for the salvation of all souls. You can’t live with your back turned on everyone; you have to be eager to make others happy.
This week before Holy Week has been incredibly thought provoking.
One of the reasons is the amount of death that has affected people I care for, not just because I am their pastor, but because God has joined us together.
The other reason is the constant bombardment of negative Christian podcasts, blogs, tweets and comments, especially from those within my own small section of Christianity.
Finally, the gulf between those two reasons, and the grief and concern it raises in me.
St. Paul’s words above stand in sharp contrast to what I read. His desire, to know Christ, to see the Holy Spirit at work, revealing, transforming, and drawing people to Christ, even as He was drawn to Christ.
Certainly, in the face of death, that is all that matters. to know and be known.
Certainly, in the face of our sin, and the injustice and unrighteousness of the world, to know Jesus is what gives us hope.
Certainly, as we encounter the world, it is what makes the difference between anxiety and peace.
So why don’t our words reflect this hope? Why do the words posted by those in the church focus more on topics that are condescending and divisive? Do we somehow feel we aren’t good Christians unless we step on others, crushing their beliefs, rather than gently reforming them? That we have to humiliate those not like us, mock them, spit on them and nail them to Christ’s cross?
Don’t we realize if we lift Him up in our praises, that He will draw all men to Himself?
We need to grow in desire to see all men saved, but that answer to that isn’t found primarily in better understanding of theology, where though accurate, the gospel is never mentioned. It isn’t in some better use of some program or initiative.
it is at the foot of the cross, where broken sinners find healing, and joy and peace….and forgiveness, and the hope of being quickened to life with God, for ever.
As Jesus glory, the very love of God, welcomes us home and overwhelmed by joy, we find a desire for everyone to join us, with Him.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 479). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 235-238). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day:
It is widely reported that there is sexual immorality among you, immorality of a kind that is not found even among gentiles: that one of you is living with his stepmother. 2 And you so filled with your own self-importance! It would have been better if you had been grieving bitterly, so that the man who has done this thing were turned out of the community. 3 For my part, however distant I am physically, I am present in spirit and have already condemned the man 4 who behaved in this way, just as though I were present in person. When you have gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, with the presence of my spirit, and in the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 hand such a man over to Satan, to be destroyed as far as natural life is concerned, so that on the Day of the Lord his spirit may be saved. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NJB)
5 If anyone did cause distress, he caused it not to me, but—not to exaggerate—in some degree to all of you. 6 The punishment already imposed by the majority was quite enough for such a person; 7 and now by contrast you should forgive and encourage him all the more, or he may be overwhelmed by the extent of his distress. 8 That is why I urge you to give your love towards him definite expression. 9 This was in fact my reason for writing, to test your quality and whether you are completely obedient. 10 But if you forgive anybody, then I too forgive that person; and whatever I have forgiven, if there is anything I have forgiven, I have done it for your sake in Christ’s presence, 11 to avoid being outwitted by Satan, whose scheming we know only too well. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NJB)
This morning as I looked at facebook, I was a bit in shock at the response of some people to the election of the new leader of another denomination that shares the name Lutheran with my own. We are, in many ways radically different, but the mocking and deriding of their decision was sickening and to be blunt, sinful. Confronting sin, whether just perceived or actual, never justifies sinning in the confrontation of it. What is worse, Luther’s rants were used to justify their own mocking and ranting. Luther’s large catechism was also quoted, talking about the confrontation of sin. Here is the passage used to justify mocking and berating others:
All this has been said regarding secret sins. But where the sin is quite public so that the judge and everybody know it you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope with his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public, that every one may learn to guard against it.- The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
But this brings to mind – what is the reason we confront and challenge sin, or in this case – practices or others who are in Christ that we know/feel/believe are not in line with scripture? We may truly believe they are in sin, and we may be right. If so, the reading from 1st Corinthians above tells us actions we can and should take- but it also informs us of the reason – to save their soul. If we understand Luther’s Large Catechism, that is the sense there as well, and warning others of the danger they face in following that direction. But the purpose is never to mock sinners, the purpose is never to taunt or increase the division that may exist. It should never be done with joy, but rather with sorrow and with great pain. Love will never rejoice over sin – either in approving it, or in calling for repentance. Instead it desires to see the damage of sin broken, the bonds that it has shattered. It always looks for ways to embrace the cross – for the joy that is awaited when reconciliation occurs. That has to be our goal. Anything else… well it is our own sin which should drive us to that very same altar of grace.
The reason to confront sin determines how it is to be done, whether in accord for Matthew 18 privately, or in the case of “Public sin” The law must be applied with the intent that when repentance is granted – the love and comfort of grace is poured out without hesitation, without thought. Every sinner, including those who have the task of confronting sin themselves, need to be at the altar, at the foot of the cross. That is where it is supposed to occur. (Paul isn’t kidding about that in First Corinthians, its not just a expression) The same goes when we challenge each others practices, as we discuss. DIvision caused by sin is a grievous thing – not something that should gain us kudos and “likes” as we mock them publicly, as if we were perfect in our thoughts words and practices.
The goal is unity in Christ, unity found in His mercy, in His grace, in His forgiveness and love. It is to call all sinners to receive repentance and faith and to find joy in our relationship with God.
We cry, Lord have mercy… but we
need to remember we all need it!
- Why I don’t hate “religion”, because it is His One, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional thought of the day:
7 And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. 8 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. 9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. Philippians 4:7-9 (TEV)
“When a layman sets himself up as an arbiter of morals, he frequently errs; laymen can be only disciples.” (1)
A disclaimer to start with: I have been having to deal with, preparing to deal with, and contemplating taking on a few things that are injust, unfair, and is in one situation – evil. Why I do this, I don’t know – and it frustrates the heck out of me.
When I read the words of St Josemaria Escriva, quoted above this morning, my reaction was twofold.
The first was that I thought the word pastor/priest should be added to the word laymen. As I think through that one, I realize that we as individuals do not, but in our role as ordained, as we stand in Christ’s place – by his command and forgive and retain sins, we do have that role. We even have the role to confront people who have sinned against us. (see Luther’s Large Catechism – the section on the Ten Commandments – The 8th Commandment for a great discussion of this)
But we cannot set ourselves up as the arbiter, as the judge, jury and executioner. Not our role.
The other reaction I had, is – this statement flies in the face of 60% plus of what I see on FB. From people commenting on selected photos of presidents and their umbrellas, to comments about how evil that person is, or this one, or how unjust this situation and that is, we vent our frustrations on the internet. We like having that illusion of power, and an illusion is all that it is. We feel like we can strike back, that we aren’t powerless, that we have a voice, that we somehow fulfilled a religious obligation. And we are just spinning our wheels, and our souls. There is a time to effectively work to overcome evil – in a way that is personal and caring and effective.
We haven’t been doing what’s good and beneficial. In fact, when we set ourselves up as judge and jury, as we spend our time digging up the mud on this person or that, as we fight for our “rights”, we effectively say “no” to the peace of God. We take the matter into our hands – and with the illusion of power, allow things to take our minds off of what St. Paul suggests we should be doing,
Focusing on Christ, and His work. Looking at the things which will bring Christ into the picture, His mercy, His love, His gospel.
Whether it makes things fair or not. After all – Christ didn’t combat evil – talking about what was fair and moral. He overcame it – by loving us enough to suffer the evil – to show us that love.
As we deal with Mondays, and a complicated week – and we want to strike out because its not fair, let us instead remember we are nailed to the cross of Christ – that we’ve died and risen with Him.
Therefore – we are home – and at peace.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 310-311). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- It’s Not About Calling the Qualified, or Even Qualifying the Called… it’s about revealing Christ. (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Serving God where ever He calls you to service (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Dissatisfied? Discontent? Frustrated? Try losing yourself! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Do they know of your trust in God from your FB postings? (justifiedandsinner.com)
“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you. 27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. John 14:26-27 (TEV)
“Don’t look for consolations apart from God. See what that priest wrote: There should be no unburdening of your heart to any other friend when there is no need to do so.”(1)
There is a cartoon of a priest, sitting in the confessional. In the booth next to him, a youth is saying, “Father forgive me, for I have sinned.” The priest, with a laptop open to Facebook nods his head and says, “Yes, I see you have!” While meant to be funny, there is a great deal of truth there – most of us would never say in person what we type into our computers, tablets, and phones. We would never purge our soul for all to see. (I note – I have a dozen or so friends with multiple accounts, so that they can tweet or post things that those they are posting about can’t see their gripes and complaints.
The problem is of course, that such posting rarely leads to reconciliation, indeed it often prohibits it. it may feel like such purging is beneficial, but what does it say of your faith? What testimony does it give. If everyone agrees with you and has your “cyber-six” does it increase your peace, or lead to more anxiety? Will blasting your lack of trust in your boss, your parents, your president really help the situation?
Jesus has blessed us, by giving us the Helper, the Advocate, the Paraclete (the one called alongside to support and guide) rhw Holy Spirit. It is my thought that when Luther indicated that the commandment about no misusing God’s name also inferred that we must us His Name correctly, Luther had such in mind. Do we turn to God with our burdens,with that which causes us anxiety or pain? Do we let Him deal with us first, do we see Him reconciling the situation and causing it to work our for good, as He promised?
There are times where God will call someone alongside, someone through whom the Spirit will bring comfort, encouragement, I am not talking about that as much as our mass distribution of our gripes, complains, anxieties. Will we bring them to God before bringing them to the world? WIll we take it to the Lord of All, who can change the situation, or change us within it? (nor am I talking about asking people for prayer btw)
Or will we turn away… and let the entire world see how little we trust in God?
My friends- cry to God for mercy first – and watch how different things take on a different view…..
He always has answered, He always will…He will now….
So go ahead, He is listening..
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1645-1646). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.