Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just Words

In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The ELCA cites our Lord’s name in many of their social justice agendas and committees. The “Reconciling in Christ” task force sounds so appropriate. The Greater Milwaukee ELCA website has a link to the RIC annual report. Our Lord is obviously not the primary focus of this committee. This committee’s primary focus is, “empowered by the gospel we work for the equality and the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the ELCA.” In most correspondence regarding the Gospel of Christ, capitalization is used to underscore the significance it has to the family of Christians. Perhaps they cite a different gospel.

As the ELCA attempts to change the world into the welcoming, tolerant, and accepting place that they believe it should be, they continue to fail our Lord. By lifting their struggle for social justice above the call to lead people to the Gospel of Christ, they fall right into the evil ones trap. Without Jesus Christ as the central authority in our mission, we neglect our responsibilities as disciples of Christ. Words mean nothing if we fail to put them into action. Invoking our Lord’s name to add credibility to the social justice agendas promoted by the ELCA is nothing more than window dressing. Using our Lord’s name without promoting His agenda, is an empty promise to a humanity thirsting for God’s Word, God’s love and acceptance, and to those searching for their salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” As the ELCA discards God’s Word and replaces it with the words that fulfill their human desires, they worship in vain and lead others away from the Gospel of Christ with their human rules. Without our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as the primary emphasis in our mission, we will surely fail. Those that follow the path that the ELCA promotes will also fail our Lord and fall away from Him. Luke 17:1-2, Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone though whom they come. 2 It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck that for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Those that promote a false gospel and lead people astray are subject to God’s judgment. Christ’s mission for us is to be His disciples, share the Good News and lead our fellow man to the Lord.

The ELCA uses empty words that promise equality, social justice, acceptance and tolerance without the promise of God’s love and approval. Amending His law by replacing His Word with earthly terms is unacceptable for man, biblical scholars or the church. Our Lord is the sole authority and Scripture is His law for us. Using His name to attempt to justify an agenda that is contrary to Scripture will only cause believers to stumble and others will lose the opportunity to come to the Lord. Psalm 119:160, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Justified by Faith Alone

John 14:6, Jesus Said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Our faith in the risen Christ is the only way to our salvation. There is nothing else we can do that will earn us the grace that God so freely grants to all those who believe. Romans 3:21-26, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – 26 to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justified those who have faith in Jesus.” Because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered the punishment that was meant for us, we are freely justified and redeemed from the burden of our sin. In the Old Testament, animals were offered by the Israelites as a sacrifice to God to receive, symbolically, the punishment that the Israelites deserved. When Jesus died on the cross for us, He was punished, in our place, as a complete sacrifice to cleanse us from all sin. We need only to believe and have faith in the risen Christ to receive God’s grace.

Romans3:27-31, “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of the law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” Paul asserted that faith in the risen Christ is the only way to salvation. He also wanted to make clear that he was not teaching to reject the law. Even though we are justified by faith alone, it is clear that our Father has rules of conduct for His children. If we disobey and break God’s law, will it affect our salvation? No, we have been forgiven all our sins by Jesus’ death on the cross. When we sin, we do need to ask for His forgiveness. God’s grace does not give us license to make up our own rules and conduct ourselves as we please. When we decide to give ourselves up to the Lord and trust in Him, we will gladly obey His law because we will want to please our Lord.

Why then does the ELCA persist in questioning God’s laws by promoting doctrine that contradicts God’s Word? By invoking the doctrine of bound conscience, they elevate man’s experience and interpretation of Scripture over God’s intent. Why does the ELCA question the validity of the virgin birth of Jesus and His bodily resurrection? ELCA/Resurrection and http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/Virgin-Birth.aspx are links to the ELCA website that explain what they truly believe, and teach in their seminaries, about Jesus’ birth and resurrection. Apparently, man has achieved the intellectual pinnacle and can begin to disregard all that we believe and profess in the words of the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Augsburg Confession. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must realize that the ELCA is going to a place that is departing from our Lord. While the ELCA continues to do good works in the world, their leaders are unconvinced that the Bible is truly God’s Word and question the very tenet of Christianity. We must continue to love and pray for those caught in the trap that the ELCA has woven. We must also open our hearts and minds to our Lord’s will while we pray and discern where God is leading us. Are we with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as He leads us on a path to salvation or will we remain affiliated with a church body that casts doubt upon our Lord and diminishes His Word in an attempt to justify the values of this world?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fear is the Devil's Best Friend

There are many in our congregation that are concerned and troubled about the actions that took place at the ELCA Assembly last August.  Differing opinions as to what direction we should take has caused some unrest and misunderstandings among us. Some are afraid of a future with the ELCA when the new doctrines are enforced, while others fear what will happen if we choose to leave and join a new denomination.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, the evil one loves fear and hides in the darkness to delight in tempting Christians to question their faith and cause dissent among them. John 3:19-21, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” It is best to share each other’s concerns regarding the challenges that this congregation will have to face in the future. We cannot let the evil one work behind the scenes to plant seeds of doubt, fear and internal strife in an effort to cause us to falter in our faith. We must open our spiritual hearts, eyes, and minds in order to recognize when we are unwittingly being exploited by the evil one.

There is much to pray about and discern regarding some of the new doctrines adopted by the ELCA. These new policies will eventually touch everyone in our congregation. Ignoring these issues will not make them go away. As long as we remain an ELCA congregation we have the responsibility to defend the infallibility of Scripture. The doctrine of bound conscience will eventually lead our congregation to make difficult choices; do we wish to disregard God’s Word and place our own opinion above our Lord or do we fight to uphold God’s Word and keep Him first in our lives? Like Pastor Jay said in his sermon Sunday, there can be no middle ground, either you accept the gift of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel or you deny Him.  Martin Luther said, “You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.” Unfortunately, the ELCA scholars that invented this bound conscience did not consider this statement, nor did they consider numerous passages in Scripture that prove this new doctrine contrary to God’s Word.

Dr. Martin Luther King said it well, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Our faith and the Word of God matters. So do the millions of Christians that are members of the ELCA and are either accepting the direction the ELCA is taking them or are unaware of this errant doctrine. Will we sit on the sidelines and try to remain neutral, or will we stand up for our Lord and Savior. Those that accede to these false gospels that the ELCA is foisting upon its members, are no better than the persons responsible for concocting it. We are called to challenge the false prophets and protect God’s children from being led astray. 2 Corinthians 4:1-2, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Our Lord gives us the strength necessary to persevere in the face of hardship and persecution.

Ephesians 5:8-13, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible-and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” Live in the light and proclaim the Word of God, everywhere and to everyone.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Agree to Disagree?

1 Corinthians 11:19, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” In this verse the Apostle Paul explains that even when believers have differences of opinion that cause division among them, those differing factions do serve a purpose. They will serve to separate those that are faithful and true in God’s light from those that are not. The ELCA promotes a doctrine that causes division and promotes conflict among the faithful. The doctrine of bound conscience fosters the development of varying interpretations of Scripture, giving credibility to those interpretations, even if those opinions are contrary to Scriptural intent. The well intentioned delegates that voted on the various resolutions at the 2009 ELCA assembly, did not consider the unintended consequences of their actions, whereas, the leadership of the ELCA knew full well that these votes would cause a deep schism among the membership. It is very troubling that the leadership of the ELCA would continue to pursue this dangerous agenda, risking the very foundation of this Synod and the salvation of those that fall prey to these false teachings.

Regrettably, the ELCA leadership has been influenced by the clamor of social justice activists and have abdicated their responsibility to defend the Lord’s Word and guard traditional Lutheran doctrine. The temptation to broaden their worldly kingdom has blinded them and compelled the leadership of the ELCA to disregard God’s Word and replace it with progressive secular values in order to ingratiate them with this modern and enlightened society. 2 Peter 2:1-2, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” Bound conscience is a destructive heresy, instigating a deep division among the faithful. This divisive teaching will only result in the moral and spiritual destruction of those who accept it. To properly uphold our Christian faith is to obey and live according to our Lord’s direction and the morals that He has instilled in us, not by our personal opinion or by some earthly authority.

Jude 4, “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” And there are still those that say the Bible is not pertinent to today’s society. Those that embrace this doctrine of bound conscience will assume that by grace, our Lord will freely forgive them even if they willfully engage in every self indulgent sin they choose. 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you. 16 For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes, and their boasting about what they have and do – come not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” This bound conscience leads us away from God’s Word and causes us to lift up earthly desires. The world is the dominion of the fallen angel and he delights in his ability to control sinful humans with the promise of granting to us those earthly desires that can overcome our self control. This world will, all too soon fade away, but our Lord and Savior will be with us for all eternity. We can try to change God’s Word so it is more pleasing to us, but the truth of the matter is, by doing so, we only drive a wedge between us and our Savior.

Jude 21-23, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” The Bible is God’s Word, written for each and every one of us, infallible and valid for all time.