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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!

Disclaimer

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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Truth and Freedom - October 30, 2016 - Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost/Reformation Sunday Text: Revelation 14:6-7

Although today is actually the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, and since Reformation day actually falls on Monday, tomorrow, we will use this day to celebrate Reformation Day and next Sunday we will celebrate All Saints Day, which is actually Tuesday, November first. And why do we celebrate Reformation Day, instead of all hallows eve, or the eve of all Saints Day, which is today called Halloween? We celebrate Reformation Day because, as we might say, Reformation Day is the birthday of our church denomination, that is, the Lutheran Church. More importantly, Reformation Day is the day we celebrate the reforming of the church of Luther’s day. Today we celebrate the 499th anniversary of the reformation as we begin a year long preparation to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation next year.
 
Just a brief, very brief history lesson. In Luther’s day, in the 1500's there were basically two Christian Churches, the Eastern Orthodox, which included the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox and what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church. These churches had their roots in Jerusalem, that is, these are the churches that grew out of the early followers of the Way or Christians as they were called in a mocking gesture. By the time history reached the middle ages and the day of Martin Luther, the Christian Church had split into the Eastern and Western Churches, the  Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church which was the primary church in Germany. By Luther’s day, the Roman Catholic Church had become somewhat heterodox, meaning that some false teachings had entered into the one true church of God. One of the main false teaching Dr. Luther taught against was the selling of forgiveness of sins through what was called an indulgence. Dr. Luther knew that forgiveness could not be bought, at least not with money or goods or time or prayers or anything else, but that forgiveness had already been purchased by Jesus paying the price of His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death on the cross. Luther’s desire was to reform this and other false teachings that had crept into his beloved church body and that was the beginning of the reformation which resulted, eventually, in the beginning of the Lutheran Church, so named after Dr. Martin Luther. With that as a bit of an introduction, let us get to our text for this morning.
 
Our text begins at verse six. We read, “6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (v. 6). Now, we must remember, first and foremost that the book of Revelation is a vision and it is a vision of things to come. Certainly you have heard some interesting interpretations of this book including those that would assign certain parts of the vision to various modern day countries and people. Our best and surest understanding of this book is to let Scripture interpret Scripture, to let the Lord speak for Himself, and to hear and believe the words as given, not adding to nor taking away. As our first verse tells us, in this vision John saw an angel with the eternal Gospel and this eternal Gospel is to be proclaimed to all the earth, to every nation, tribe, language and people.
 
What is this Gospel, this eternal Gospel? This Gospel is the truth of Holy Scripture. The truth of Holy Scripture is the truth of Jesus, the truth of the exclusive claim of the Christian Church and why the Christian Church is so hated by the rest of the world, that is that Jesus is the way, only Way, the only Truth, the only Life, that it is by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone that one has forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This is the Gospel message, this is the heart of Holy Scripture, this is the key to eternal life, this message is the eternal Gospel.
 
This Gospel is a message that is eternal, it has no beginning and no end, like the Savior it presents. People may come and go, nations may rise and fall, religions, cults and sects may come and go, but God’s Word is eternal, it will remain even through times of struggle. Not only is God’s Word eternal it is also true. As we just said, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth. Why do the generations of this world have such a hard time with truth? Because apart from Jesus it cannot know truth. Apart from Jesus there is no truth. Jesus is truth and all truth comes from and through Him. And we may add one more truth about the eternal Gospel that is that it does what it says, that is we say it is efficacious, it effects what it says. The power of God’s Word is that it does what it says. When God’s Word says we have faith, we have faith. When God’s Word says we have forgiveness, we have forgiveness. Whatever God’s Word says we know it is true and it will happen according to what God says in His Word. God’s Word promises that the Gospel is eternal. Siegbert Becker in his commentary on Revelation says, “It is perfectly proper, then, to see one fulfillment of that promise in the Lutheran Reformation which is history’s most prominent illustration of the principle that God will not allow his word to be silenced. But we may also see an illustration of this truth in every other historical movement in which the gospel has been clearly and emphatically proclaimed. The vision simply assures us that false teachers will never silence the preaching of the gospel.”
 
Many Lutheran Commentators have identified this angel as Dr. Martin Luther as he stood firm in the fight for the Gospel in his day in the midst of those who threatened his life for such preaching. He testified that the faith of the Christian should rest, not in the word of the Pope, or any man for that matter, but in the Word of Scripture alone.
 
Moving on to verse seven of our text we read, “7And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water’” (v. 7). These are the words of the angel given to the angel by God to proclaim. Remember, angels are messengers sent by God to do His bidding. They do not proclaim their own words but the words of Him who sent them.
 
The angel says to fear God. As we memorized and as we were taught, especially in the explanations for the Ten Commandments, we are to fear and love God. To fear God means two things. We are to fear God, that is we are to be afraid of God, when we are in our sin. God’s wrath is indeed harsh as we see Him take out His wrath on Jesus on the cross, punishing Him for our sin. So, when we are in our sin we are to be afraid, because left in our sin we would be eternally condemned. Yet, fear has a second meaning. We are to fear God that is we are to love and respect Him. As Christians we fear God, that is we love and respect Him and we give Him glory because of His Words of Gospel which give us faith, forgiveness and life. By faith in Jesus we fear, love and trust in God above all things.
 
Finally, the angel encourages us to worship, kneel before, and acknowledge the Lord as Creator God. While this may sound easy enough, the difficulties of this in our modern society are great indeed. The teaching of Darwinism, the teaching of humanism, the teaching of may other isms, the temptations of sin and unbelief, the struggle to fight against our very nature, that is that we are conceived and born in sin, that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, make it difficult to fear God and give Him glory, to worship, kneel before and acknowledge Him as the Lord, Creator God. We see how difficult this is as we see so many people in our world resist and refuse the gifts God has to give and even in our own congregation and in Christian congregations around the world as even our own members, even each one of us on a daily and weekly basis give in to temptation and sin, refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give.
 
So, we ask, what does this mean? Today we celebrate the reformation of the Church, the reaffirmation of the Word of God. Today we celebrate the endurance of the Word of God, that is that His Word is eternal that it never fails, that it never departs from us. Even when we may think the Word of God is removed as through history we have seen time and again how it seems as if God’s Word were removed from or absent from one heathen nation after another, we see that God’s Word is never completely rooted out, but His Word remains forever.
 
Today we celebrate the truth of the Word of God, especially that it is inerrant. Certainly this is where Satan makes his greatest attacks. Well, this was his first temptation and it worked so well in the Garden of Eden that he continues to use this temptation even today. His temptation is a subtle temptation concerning the inerrancy of God’s Word. The question of Satan in the Garden was, “Did God really say?” Today his question is, “Is the Bible God’s Word or does the Bible merely contain God’s Word?” Which is another way of saying, “Did God really say?” To suggest that the Bible merely contains God’s Word leaves us open to interpreting His Word our way which means all kinds of aberrations such as we see in many heterodox churches today. What does inerrancy mean? It means that we believe the Bible does not merely contain God’s Word so that we have to search through the pages to find it, but the Bible is God’s Word and it is a word with power. So that Bible is eternal, it is true and it does and gives what it says.
 
Today we celebrate the gifts given through the Word of God. Although we are conceived and born in sin, although every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, God is greater than our sin. God gives us His Word and His Sacraments and through these means of grace He gives us all His good gifts and blessings. As we remember our baptism we are reminded that it was He who, at our baptism, put His name on us and claimed us as His children. It was He who put faith in our hearts, gave us forgiveness of sins, which cost us nothing, but cost Jesus His life, He wrote our names in the book of Life. As we confess our sins we hear His most beautiful words, “Your sins are forgiven.” As we read and hear His Holy Precious Word, we are given the gifts that He gives through His Word. And as we come to His table to eat His body and drink His blood we are again given His gifts, forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. What great gifts, what wonderful gifts, who would think of refusing or rejecting such great gifts and blessings.
 
Today we celebrate that we respond in faith, in worship, in kneeling before and acknowledging our Creator God as Lord. Of course our response is not something that comes from inside ourselves, but is something that is motivated in us by God from outside of us. Just as we do not find the answers to life’s questions inside of us, just as we do not find life, forgiveness or faith inside ourselves, so we are not motivated by ourselves. We are given all these things and our response of faith from God who comes to us from outside of us, who comes to us through means the very means He gives us to come to us.
 
And so, today we celebrate. We celebrate the reformation of the Holy Christian Church. We celebrate the work of Dr. Martin Luther and God’s work through him. We celebrate the gift of God’s Word, His eternal Word, His eternal Word made flesh in Jesus, and His Word of Holy Scripture which does and gives what it says. We celebrate what a great and awesome God we have, a God who does all and gives all. And so, I leave you will the words of the angel of the Lord, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (v. 7b). To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Itching Ears - October 16, 2016 - Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) - Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

This morning we continue reading through Paul’s second letter to Pastor Timothy. Interestingly enough, I believe that Paul’s words, or rather I should say, God’s word through Paul to Timothy sound very contemporary, that is they sound very much like God is writing to us today concerning the ideas and attitudes of people in our world and even people in our own church!
 
Paul begins by reminding us that the Bible is a gift. We read, “3:14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (v. 14-17).
 
The Bible is God’s gift to us. The Bible is God’s Word, it does not simply contain God’s Word, but it is God’s Word and there is a definite difference in these two ways of understanding the Bible. There are many in our world today and there are many churches and even those that call themselves Christian churches that suggest that the Bible merely contains God’s word meaning that we have to be a detective and find out which is and which is not God’s Word. Of course, this leads to the abuse of God’s Word such as, if we do not like certain parts of the Bible, then we can simply say that part is not God’s Word and throw it out. Unfortunately, if this is the case, then we really must throw out the whole book. However, we understand, we believe, teach and confess that the Bible, all the Bible is God’s Word, it is breathed by God into the Holy Writers.
 
So, if the Bible is God’s Word, then it is to be believed because it is God’s Word. If the Bible is God’s Word, then all of it is God’s Word and all of it must be believed, even those parts we may not like or want to believe. Really, it is an all or nothing with God’s Word. It either is or is not His Word.
 
Because the Bible is God’s Word we understand that it is efficacious, that is it effects or does what it says. Because the Bible is God’s Word, when God tells us we are sinners, then we know we are sinners. When the Bible tells us that God promised to send a Savior and that Jesus is that Savior, then we know that Jesus is our Savior. When the Bible says we have forgiveness of sins, then we know we have forgiveness of sins. When the Bible gives us faith we know we have faith and when the Bible gives salvation we know we are saved.
 
Furthermore, the Bible is profitable for teaching, reproof, correcting and training in righteousness. Although we may buy into societies belief that we are not to judge other people, God in His Word tells us what is sin and what is not sin and it guides us to know how God Himself judges others and us as well. Thus, we can call attention to the fact that someone is sinning in order to correct them and ultimately, if a person remains in their sin and does not repent, we can announce God’s judgement on them.
 
The Bible is God’s Word and it equips Christians to be confident and to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. This is not something we do on our own, this is not something that comes from inside of us, but this has its origin outside of us, in God and in Him alone. God gives us His Word, and His sacraments. God gives His gifts through His Word. God gives faith, forgiveness and life and God works good works through us as well. It all always points to Him.
 
But, Paul is not done. He reminds us that the Bible is to be used. We continue reading, “4:1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (v. 1-5).
 
Paul goes on to instruct Timothy and for that matter, as members of the priesthood of all believers, he instructs us as well. He reminds us that the day of judgment will come. Each day we live on this earth brings us one day closer to the Lord’s return, or to our own passing and going to Him. It will happen, it is inevitable, we will meet the Lord, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine and so we must be prepared. And we prepare ourselves, not by staying away from the Word of the Lord, not by staying away from Divine service and Bible class, not by staying away from personal and family devotions, or reading God’s Word and the like, but by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace.
 
Paul reminds Pastor Timothy that he is to preach the Word, in season and out of season. Remember, God’s Word never goes out of season. God’s Word is always His Word of today. God’s Word always speaks to our contemporary situation. Here again, as I mentioned when we started, God’s Word is not simply His Word to Timothy and the people of his day, but His Word is for us here today. And if you actually read and hear His Word you will know this.
 
Pastor Timothy is to use the Word of God for reproof, rebuke, and exhortation. As Christians, as members of the priesthood of all believers, it is also our duty and privilege, indeed, even our responsibility, to use God’s Word for reproof, rebuke and exhortation. We are to speak words of law to those who sin. And that is the purpose of the law, to cut to the heart of sin. If we ourselves are not hearing God’s Word of law that is because we either think we have no sin or we simply think it does not apply to us and that would be a disaster for us. Each one of us should hear the law. Each one of us should hear how God’s law is singling us out as sinners, lost and condemned apart from Jesus. How can we know of our need for a Savior unless we know we have sinned.
 
And Paul encourages Timothy, and as your Pastor, certainly I read his word of encouragement to me as well, to be patient in his work of service as a pastor. Paul says that the time will come and is already here when people will not want to listen to the purity of God’s Word but would rather pervert it for their own sakes. This is happening in our world today. As I have mentioned in Bible Class time and again, there are those who would preach a message of self-righteousness, telling people how good they are and how good they can be. And this is something some people like to hear. We do not like to hear the fact that we are sinners. We like to hear that we are good and can be good. Unfortunately, the end result is not good. If we are so good, if we can be good, then, really we have no need for a Savior and apart from Christ we would be eternally condemned. Again, unfortunately, those who preach such self-righteousness cause more damage than they can imagine, because when someone has been told how self-righteous they can be, when they hear the law and the Gospel, they want no part of it and they remain in their sin and they remain lost and condemned.
 
Thus, Paul is encouraging Timothy and us to keep the faith, and to keep the doctrine pure and to keep preaching. Yes, even as the people of our world are leaving doctrinally sound churches for those who preach and teach a self-righteousness, we are not to waiver in our course. We are not to compromise our own preaching and teaching, but we are to continue to reach the remnant the Lord continues to keep for Himself.
 
So, what does this mean? First and foremost, Paul reminds us that God’s Word is unlike all other books. God’s Word is a book with power, power to do what it says, power to give the gifts He has to give. This reminds us that when we hear the Word of God, when we hear the Law we must confess, God is talking about me and to me. We know that old joke, a pastor can preach about sin in general, but when he starts preaching about my particular sin, then he’s meddling. Well, that is what that pastor is supposed to be doing, meddling. Because, if we fail to see our sin, if we fail to confess our sin, then there is no forgiveness and the consequences would be disastrous. So, first we must hear that word of law and admit, God is speaking to me and then and only then, as we confess our sins, we can hear God’s most gracious words, “Your sins are forgiven.”
 
Paul reminds us that  God’s Word must be guarded to keep the teaching, that is our doctrine pure. Yes, as we have said over the past couple weeks, purity of doctrine is important. To water down God’s Word, to make it palatable to all sorts of people, by saying the Bible only contains the Word of God, is to make God’s Word ineffective and worthless.
 
Unfortunately, as we have said, the world would rather be confirmed in their sinful ways. The world would rather have someone preach that they are okay. We call this tolerance. Of course, when it comes to tolerance, we might well understand that when we are asked to be tolerant it is always to be tolerant of unacceptable behavior. Well, think about it, do we have to be tolerant of good behavior? No one needs to ask others to be tolerant of our good behavior. We are often asked to be tolerant of others wrong behavior. And our society would rather we be tolerant of their wrong behavior so they may be left to live in sin than to have their ways corrected.
 
So, God’s Word is useful for correcting the false teachings of the world. Yes, God’s Word is useful and we should use it to call attention to sin, however, we should not be shocked when we are called all kinds of names and when all kinds of insinuations are directed at us for doing so, because our society would rather not tolerate such good behavior.
 
For us Christians, for myself as a pastor, I understand that God’s Word gives gifts and thus it must be preached. God’s Word has power and so, more than being afraid of our society, more than being afraid of being put into jail, or persecuted, we are to fear and love God and share His Word with others. And His Word will not return void, but will accomplish that for which He has given it, when and where He pleases.
 
Paul’s word to us today reminds us that the Bible is God’s Word, it was breathed by God into the hearts, minds and hands of the writers of Holy Scripture and through His Holy Word He gives us His authority and power so that we may use His Word for teaching, reproof, correction and training, first for ourselves. Indeed, we are first to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of God for ourselves so that we might be given the gifts of God, loved by Him, and strengthened by Him so that we can share His love with others. And His promise continues to be that His Word will not return void. May the Lord give us such confidence in Him and in His Word so that we might, with all boldness and confidence not only believe, not only live lives according to His Word, but also live and share that Word with others. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Following Sound Doctrine - October 2, 2016 - Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) - Text: 2 Timothy 1:1-14

Last week we finished reading Paul’s first letter to young pastor Timothy. This week we pick up with his second letter. In much of his first letter Paul instructed Timothy on how to recognize and counteract false teaching. His main answer was simple and straight forward: “know the right teaching.” In this second letter, Paul writes Timothy and his church in Ephesus and encourages them in their struggle against persecution. As always, we are reminded that although God through Paul first wrote these words to Timothy, they are also written to use here at St. Matthew Lutheran Church of Westfield, 2016.
 
As with most of Paul’s letters, he begins with words of introduction, “1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, 2To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (v. 1-7).
 
Paul begins with words of grace and even to us today he begins with words of grace. Grace, God’s riches at Christ’s expense. Grace, God’s undeserved love and mercy for us. God’s grace, those gifts God graciously pours out on us His children, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Without God’s grace we would be left to our own devices and we would be eternally lost. Thus, it is God’s grace and His mercy which bring peace, true peace, not simply peace as the world understands peace, that is not simply a moment or two or an hour or two of calm in this chaotic world, but true peace, peace that comes only from the forgiveness of sins, which gives life and salvation, which brings the removal of guilt and despair. How fitting Paul begins with grace because God’s grace is the beginning of our salvation.
 
Paul adds words of thanks. He gives thanks for Timothy’s faith and for our faith, faith given to us by God. Faith is not something we get for ourselves. Faith is not something we claim for ourselves. Faith has its origin outside of us, it comes from God and is given to us by God. And as we have said before, it is in instrument which means that it must have an object. The only object of saving faith is Jesus Himself. Paul gives thanks for our faith because he knows that of our inborn sinful human nature, our natural inclination is to refuse and reject the gifts God has to give and we do refuse and reject every week and every day as we live life our own way instead of living life God’s way. So, Paul gives thanks that in spite of ourselves God does give us faith and God gives Jesus as the object of our faith.
 
And Paul adds words of thanks for Timothy’s ordination, the laying on of hands. Not only was Timothy given faith, he was also ordained into the office of Holy Ministry wherein Paul says the Lord has given him a spirit of power and love and self-control.
 
Paul continues to give words of encouragement, “8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 13Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you” (v. 8-14).
 
Paul is writing this letter from prison. He has already been put into prison for his faith and his boldness in proclaiming the Gospel. He is a prisoner because of his faith and he is not ashamed to be so. As a matter of fact, the early apostles and Christians counted themselves worthy to be able to be chosen to suffer for their faith. They believe it was a privilege to suffer for their faith.
 
Thinking about Paul’s own life, remember, he began, not as a Christian, but as one who was persecuting the Christians. He believed his calling was to put into jail and put to death the Christians because he believed they were a false sect. Yet, after God called Paul to faith, after He put faith in his heart and after He sent Paul out to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, Paul says his conscience is clear. Yes, even though he once persecuted the church, that was before Christ revealed Himself to him. Since he has been given faith, since he has been called by God to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul knows he is forgiven for his past life and he looks forward to continuing to serve the Lord in any way he can, even in chains.
 
And so, Paul reminds us of just what God’s grace is all about. God’s grace is given in this that Jesus was persecuted, that Jesus suffered death for us. The reason Jesus came into this world, the reason God intervened in human history is because we could not save ourselves. There was nothing inside of us that was of redeeming value. It all had to come from outside of us and that is why Jesus came, as one who was without sin, being truly God, so that He could take our sins upon Himself and suffer and die, as a human being, for us, in our place. And in so doing He abolished death, that is He abolished eternal spiritual death.
 
So, Paul reiterates his apostleship, being appointed by God. Paul has a right to proclaim law and Gospel. Paul has a right, even an obligation to share the good news of salvation, because he was called by God, given faith and forgiveness by God and set apart to be an apostle to the gentiles.
 
Paul’s encouragement, then, is in keeping our doctrine pure. Yes, doctrine is important. Paul calls our doctrine, that is our teaching, “sound words” and “the good deposit.” There are some in our world and even in our own church body that would suggest that people’s lives and souls are more important than concerning ourselves with purity of doctrine. That is not what Paul, by inspiration of God tells us. God, through Paul, warns us of the importance of keeping His doctrine, His teachings pure and steadfast, lest we give up our pure doctrine for the false doctrine and lies of our world, society and culture. And we have seen many churches today compromise their doctrine and go the way of the world and what are they teaching is often what is contrary to the word of God.
 
And so, Paul encourages proclamation. Yes, we are to keep our doctrine pure, but not simply for the sake of keeping our doctrine pure. As we keep our doctrine pure our natural response will be to want to share that good news with others through our own proclamation, through our words as well as our actions.
 
What Does This Mean? God’s first call to us is a call to life and that call is at our conception. At our conception God calls us to and gives us life. God’s second call to us is a call to faith. It is God who calls us to faith and it is God who gives us faith. We do not look for or seek God, He looks for us, seeks us, finds us and calls us to faith. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith through the means of God’s word and through Holy Baptism. Through these outward means God calls and gives faith.
 
Because faith is an instrument, it must have an object. God has given Jesus as the only object of saving faith. Jesus is our Messiah. He is the one who was and is God, born in human flesh in order to live for us, that is in order to do all that we cannot do. Remember, the Gospel is not simply that Jesus died for our sins, but the fulness of the Gospel is the fact that He lived for us doing what we are unable to do. And after living perfectly, after fulfilling all God’s law and prophecies perfectly, He took all our sins upon Himself and all the sins of all people, of all places of all times and He died for us. He paid the price for our sins, eternal spiritual death, for us on the cross. But the cross and the grave had no hold on Him, as on the third day He rose from the dead, for us. Reminding us that we too will rise again.
 
God’s third call is His call to vocation, that is God calls us to live lives of faith no matter what our work or station. In other words, God calls us to live lives of faith where ever we live and work. For some, God offers a fourth call, God calls some men to serve in the Office of Holy Ministry. These men are set apart by God and called by congregation to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments, to forgive and retain sins, to visit the sick and shut-in. God calls some men to the Office of Holy Ministry, but He calls all Christians to the priesthood of all believers. God calls us as priest to offer our lives as living sacrifices to Him. Indeed, we serve God by serving others in our vocations and that is what gives our vocations and lives value, pointing to Jesus, being loved by Jesus, being given to by Jesus.
 
God calls us to keep His message pure. God never asks us to be successful. As a matter of fact, the only places Scripture speaks about success is in speaking about military campaigns and the success is not that of the army, but that of God. God does, however, call us to be faithful, until death and He will give us the crown of life. We are to be careful that what we teach is indeed the Word of God, thus we are to be as the Bereans. We are to listen and read carefully and compare everything we read and hear against the Word of God and so rightly keep His word pure.
 
And God calls us to get His message out. We are not supposed to “keep the faith” per say, but we are to tell others of our Lord and the good gifts and blessings He has to give. And again, God does not necessarily give us success as we might define success, but He simply asks that we remain faithful in keeping His message straight and He will give the fruits of our labor, when and where He pleases.
 
And so, I would encourage you in your faith this morning. God loves you and He created you to love, thus God gives. God has given you life. God has given you faith. God has given His Son and His life for you, for your forgiveness. God has given you His Word. And God continues to abundantly pour out His blessings on you. May you be encouraged by God and His word to remain faithful, but also to respond in faith by sharing the message of salvation with others. In this way we do give God the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.