Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
It Is Sunday Morning, Am I Sick?
Jesus tells us, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). King David reminds us, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). In his Epistle John wrote the words we speak at the beginning of many Divine Services, “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). And once more, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
In Article II of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession we read these words that we as Lutherans confess, “But the knowledge of original sin is necessary. For the magnitude of the grace of Christ cannot be understood [no one can heartily long and have a desire for Christ, for the inexpressibly great treasure of divine favor and grace which the Gospel offers], unless our diseases be recognized. [As Christ says Matt. 9, 12; Mark 2, 17: They that are whole need not a physician.] The entire righteousness of man is mere hypocrisy [and abomination] before God, unless we acknowledge that our heart is naturally destitute of love, fear, and confidence in God [that we are miserable sinners who are in disgrace with God]”
As cited above, both the Gospel writers Matthew and Mark relate the following exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning Jesus’ involvement with sinners, “12But when he heard it, [Jesus] said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” (Matthew 9:12-13, cf. Mark 2:17).
The Pharisees were a very pious and “religious” group of people. They believed they had a place in the Kingdom of God because they were born as descendants of Abraham. They believed they were really good and because they believed the kept the “law” they did not need a Savior, much less one like Jesus. In other words, they did not believe they were “bad” enough to need their sins forgiven to ensure their eternal salvation.
I believe we are not much different in our world. Most people believe we are really good people. We tend to compare ourselves with others and as usual we can always find someone who is a worse person than we are, so we surmise that we are pretty good people. Perhaps speaking in civil terms we may be pretty good people, but what about in Godly terms. Unfortunately, this civil goodness is too often equated with godly goodness even in our own congregations today. When Sunday morning rolls around, or Wednesday evening during Advent and Lent, do we justify ourselves thinking we are pretty good people and do not have enough sin to need forgiveness, much like the Pharisees? Or do we believe we are a shoe in for heaven because our names are on the rolls of the congregations? Or do we readily recognize our sinful state and yearn and desire forgiveness from the great Physician.
Perhaps we are really a well congregation that is why we do not need a physician. Sunday after Sunday 60-70-80% of congregational members do not need a physician. However, the faithful few, the 20-30-40% who know their nature; conceived and born in sin, sinners in thought, word and deed, sinners by commission and omission, sinners whose every inclination is evil all the time, with a desire for forgiveness and the Lord’s help to change desire to attend Divine Service to be given forgiveness, to be restored, to be strengthened in faith, to be given a fresh start. Did Jesus call you a sinner, or are you one of the righteous who does not need a physician? Before you answer, remember this, without confession there is no forgiveness and without forgiveness there is no salvation. But with forgiveness there is life and salvation. Jesus’ desire is mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus’ desire is to give forgiveness, life and salvation.
It is interesting that the reformers took a lot of effort in article two of the Apology to get original sin correct. They understood “For the magnitude of the grace of Christ cannot be understood [no one can heartily long and have a desire for Christ, for the inexpressibly great treasure of divine favor and grace which the Gospel offers], unless our diseases be recognized.” They understood that “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” They understood that Jesus is truth. So we are either really good people and do not need a Savior, or we recognize our complete depravity and dependency on Jesus and want and desire His forgiveness every week, nay, even every day!
God loves you so much, and He has so many blessings He desires to give to you each and every Sunday, even on the Wednesdays of Advent and Lent, even at Wednesday and Sunday Bible Study. And we have His promise, “9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It does not get any better than that because we know that with forgiveness is life, even eternal life and salvation. To Him be the glory!