Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guity as Charged

As Christians we have a Savior that offered Himself and accepted the punishment that we deserve. Those who believe that God sent His one and only Son, to suffer and die for our sins, to descend into hell and on the third day rose to defeat death, receive the grace of God that leads to our salvation and eternal life with the Father. What far too many Christians forget, however, is that we remain guilty as charged. Though we no longer fear the punishment for our sins, we stand convicted, our sentence borne by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Romans 3:19-20, “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” And we are truly sinful, disobedient children. There is no one that is righteous and there is no one that deserves the gift of grace offered by our loving Father. Each and every time we dwell in His word, we learn more about our sinful selves. Scripture indeed convicts each one of us, yet that same Scripture lifts us up as it reveals God’s infinite love and abundant mercy for His children.

Galatians 2:17-21, “But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” We break the law every day, sometimes so frequently, we cannot even keep track of our transgressions. But, even as His disobedient children cause our Father consternation, we receive forgiveness for our sins, through faith in the Risen Christ. Does this mean that grace cancels the law? No, the two are intrinsically linked, for the law allows us to know right from wrong and the Gospel frees us from the consequence of our sin. Even though we are no longer under the punishment of the law, the law remains a guide for God's children to follow. To truly love our Lord means to obey and follow Jesus’ teachings, which includes obedience to the law.

For members of the ELCA, the doctrine of bound conscience means never having to say you’re sorry. It also means that members of the ELCA may believe whatever it is that trips their trigger, because the leaders of the ELCA reach out in their imperfect love and affirm those lost in sin. There is no need for repentance. There is no gratitude for a Savior who spilled His blood so that they may live. There is no guidance from the deceitful leaders of the ELCA to lead their members onto the narrow path that leads to salvation. The false doctrines that the leaders of the ELCA allow have no need of a Savior, because all are saved regardless of faith. Of course, this is not the official teaching of the ELCA, but these teachings are more than simply tolerated, they are given equal time to the teachings of Christ Himself. The doctrine of bound conscience is the lynchpin that all the other heresies accepted by the ELCA are connected. For without a method to allow a variety of beliefs and teachings, some that are contradictory to the very tenets of Christianity, the authority of Scripture could not be challenged, declared invalid in this "enlightened age" and amended by a sinful humanity to feed their selfishness.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” The doctrine of bound conscience allows one to selfishly maintain their sinful nature, denying our Lord and Savior. Is this what Jesus meant to deny himself or does this fit the actions of one who wants to save their own life?  Feeding the selfish nature denies no one but our Savior.  Does this necessarily cause one to lose their salvation? Not in and of itself, but it puts a foot in the door to continue to lift up one’s sinful nature that will eventually push God right out of the picture. As more and more Scripture is decared irrelevant by this misguided church, there will eventually be no need to rein in any of our sinful behavior. Without the law, we devolve into nothing more than intelligent mammals, clothed in our own selfish desires. No matter how hard we try, we continually fall into sin. But, when the sin is willful, deliberate and without repentance, it is displeasing to our God. And every Christian should want to please God first and foremost, denying oneself and carrying His cross, leaving our own desires secondary. Pray unceasingly for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to be, once again, taught from every pulpit in every church.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

See No Evil

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil is a phrase typically meant to describe someone who wants to avoid being embroiled in an uncomfortable or difficult situation. The three monkeys in a row covering their eyes, ears and mouth are universally recognized as the symbol of those that try to deal with misconduct or wrongdoing by refusing to acknowledge it, or by simply feigning ignorance. There are others, like the ELCA, do not simply feign ignorance. The leaders of the ELCA acquiesce to the cravings of a corrupted humanity, ignoring God’s word and create their own interpretation of Scripture, one that is deliberately contrary to God’s intent. Apparently it is easier to affirm sinful behavior than acknowledging that there is, indeed, evil in this world. Confession and absolution, once a mainstay of Lutheran doctrine, has become a casualty of the goal of affirming their members within their sin. What was once so very important in the Lutheran worship service to emphasize that humankind is by nature sinful and needs to acknowledge that fact, is made optional in ELCA churches, to be replaced with a celebration of baptism. Apparently, the leadership of the ELCA believes that to acknowledge that anyone can possibly fall short of the glory of God is much too harmful to the self-esteem of their membership. Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

For those in the ELCA, it is no longer necessary to admit one is sinful. The doctrine of bound conscience allows ELCA members to hold to their own interpretation of Scripture, and even if it is in obvious error, all are called to respect that opinion. So those that wish to uphold their selfish nature are allowed to lift themselves up and over the authority of Scripture. As Christians, we are ever indebted to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because He took upon Himself the punishment meant for us. When we want to prove our love to the One who gave His life for us, we should want to please Him in all we do. Jesus said in John 14:15, 21, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” We are called to obedience. Even though we are no longer under the law, Jesus commands us to obey. So, where does that leave the leadership of the ELCA that decides that God’s law is no longer relevant in this enlightened age? It is becoming increasingly clear that the ELCA has denied that any authority rests with Scripture, unless it fits with their misguided aspirations to place man’s worldly desires before the will of God.

The leaders of the ELCA see no evil when they disregard Scripture to affirm homosexual behavior. They hear no evil when bound conscience allows their members to disregard the word of God. But, they DO speak evil when they brazenly question the very tenets of our faith; the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ Resurrection, the deity of Christ, the existence of hell and promoting the concept of universalism. Of course, these are not the official teachings of the ELCA, but ELCA biblical scholars pen essays that are not only tolerated, but are published in official ELCA publications and on their websites. (see The Lutheran, Digging Deeper on the ELCA website) Furthermore, these heretical essays are given theological approval, indicating that many biblical scholars believe this way. The false gods of tolerance, diversity, and welcoming are paramount in the ministry of the ELCA. Members accept decisions made by the leadership of the ELCA because Jesus called all Christians to love your neighbor as yourself, and accepting and affirming those within their sin sounds so loving. It is nothing of the sort. Allowing fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to go on believing that their church affirms what God rejects, drives them away from Him and into the arms of the evil one.

The leaders of the ELCA blind their membership with the promise of acceptance without regard to repentance. Once we come to know God and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we become a new creation. What we once were is no more. Whatever sin we engaged in, whatever wrongs we committed are forgiven and we endeavor to leave our life of sin behind, living to give Him all the glory. Worldly desires please no one but the evil one. Activists for the LGTBQ community place conditions upon our God, which is nothing more than selfishly refusing to leave their life of sin behind. They refuse to give up engaging in behavior prohibited by God. “Full inclusion” in the church is selfishly requiring God to change to meet their expectations. Excuse me, but that is a little like having the tail wag the dog. God loves His children beyond measure, but we are called to obedience, not the other way around. God is our Father and He has the authority to require His children to meet His expectations. Now, none of us is without sin and no one is righteous, but;

Romans 3:21-26, “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

I love my brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of their sin and I hope they would love me in spite of mine. No one knows what is truly in our hearts except our God, and He does love us unconditionally. Will humankind’s preponderance to commit sinful acts jeopardize the grace extended to those with faith in the Risen Christ? No, but when we obey, our Father will be pleased. But, sin is disobedience and disobedience leads to lawlessness, which in turn feeds our selfishness, which ultimately leads us to deny our God the proper place in our lives. Our brothers and sisters in Christ that remain trapped within the progressive churches of the ELCA , Episcopal, and United Church of Christ need our prayers more than ever. As the leaders of these wayward churches advocate for the things of this world and lead their membership away from Christ, so many are at risk of losing their salvation. Pray unceasingly for their deliverance, continue to uphold the authority of Scripture and proclaim the Gospel, so that those that have not heard will come to Him and those who have become lost will return.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Me, Me, Me, I

Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, is actually the basis for all sin. Pride is mentioned 297 times in the Bible, most often in a negative connotation. When pride drives the self, it causes one to have an inflated opinion of one’s importance in the grand scheme of things. Pride, overdone, will eventually lead to vanity where one cannot pass by a mirror without admiring oneself and produces an undue desire to be admired by others, sometimes overwhelming reason. Vanity leads to conceit that manifests itself as an overinflated assessment of one’s status in this world. Then conceit leads one to fall in love with one’s self and suffer from the malady known as egotism. Unfortunately, all of humankind falls into this trap sometime or another. Our selfish human nature compels us to place our needs first. The First Commandment states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Who then is our god when we decide to worship ourselves, our possessions and our identities? For we certainly worship ourselves when we place ourselves before God.

LGTBQ activists have long advocated for full inclusion in the church. Apparently, acceptance as a child of God, sinful and unclean, like all of God’s children is insufficient. The sin of homosexuality must be accepted as not sinful in order to properly love and welcome this misguided class. Oh, how much easier it would be if God’s church affirmed my misbehavior by decreeing that it is no longer a sin. Too bad it would do nothing to make me right with God. In the Lutheran worship service there is what is known as confession and absolution where we confess our sins and the pastor affirms that God does indeed forgive us. 1 John 1:7-10, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” When one claims that the sin of homosexuality is no longer a sin, he deceives himself and makes God out to be a liar.

Are those that choose a lifestyle that is prohibited by God any worse than any other child of God? Absolutely not! Just like the rich man that would not follow Jesus because he did not want to give up his wealth, those who selfishly cling to the things of this world fall into the same trap. Each and every one of us commits the gravest of sins every day. Rather than give our God the first of ourselves, our time and our possessions, we selfishly take the first fruits, relegating the leftovers to God. God has given everything to us. Nothing belongs to us, it all belongs to Him. Yet, we cling to the notion that whatever we decide to give to Him is acceptable. Those that tithe simply give 10% to the church. Is that sufficient? “Gracious God, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us - ourselves, our time and our possessions - signs of your gracious love." When one invokes their bound conscience to usurp the authority of Scripture, they withhold themselves from God. They do not freely give themselves to Him. They withhold what the selfish nature wishes to retain. When Jesus told the parable about the rich young man, attaining the kingdom of heaven is not only difficult for a rich man to attain, the selfish will also find it difficult to attain.

The leadership of the ELCA has abdicated their responsibility to preach sound doctrine. They look at the world and have become enamored with it. They not only live in the world, they love the world. And this love of the world turns them away from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

The pursuit of social justice instead of the pursuit of souls for Christ cements this wayward denomination’s place in this world. No longer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to the world. Now the leadership of the ELCA determines that the love of the neighbor is paramount in their effort to repair our broken world. The gods of tolerance and acceptance are placed upon the altar to be worshipped. What is called sin by God is overruled and affirmed as no longer sinful by the leaders of the ELCA. Romans 6:11-14, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” Offer yourself fully to the Lord. Love Him with all your heart, mind and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself, subservient to our Lord, not above Him.

Faith in the Risen Savior allows God’s grace to cancel your debt to sin. Even though we all fall short, our love and appreciation for what Jesus did for us compels us to please him in all we do. What pleases Him most is our willingness to serve Him with our obedience. The leadership of the ELCA has betrayed their call to serve the Lord. The leadership of the ELCA must reconcile with God in order to lead their membership back to the Lord. Their penchant to falsely affirm sinful behavior only widens the chasm between God and humankind. Pray unceasingly for the leadership of the ELCA to return to the Lord and once again do God’s work by reaching out to save the souls of the lost.