Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jump Before It's Too Late

Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall follow you.'"
Jeremiah 23:16-17

How tragic for eternity would it be to finally discover that you have been trusting, listening and believing what a false pastor has been preaching and teaching to you? You see, from the outset God says there are true pastors (prophets) and false ones. There have always been those who claim to speak for God and then speak not what He gave them to speak. This is what Jeremiah is talking to us about.

Certainly pastors want to be liked by their laymen and want success in their congregational statistics, but ultimately this is not the determining factor in whether or not they are true pastors. If they speak what God tells them and are not afraid to correct, rebuke those who will not hear it, then they are God's prophet (pastor), the one He speaks through.

It is not easy to listen continually to God's word of Law which condemns us and prepares us to repent and seek forgiveness of our sins through the Gospel. However, many today will not have this truth spoken to them, as in Jeremiah's time, so demand and associate themselves with false pastors who will tell them what they want to hear and refrain from telling them what God wants to speak to them. (see 2 Timothy 4:1-5) The temptation is great to tell people everything is okay between them and God when it is not. The temptation is to ease up on the practice of God's Word in the congregation when it offends longtime members and newcomers alike. But the true pastor continues to speak all of God's Word, Law and Gospel, and applies it properly in distinguishing what each person needs, given their response to God's Word.

The current church scene reminds me of the proverbial "frog in the boiling water" story. Many who should be jumping out and finding a new church where a true pastor will tell them all of God's Word remain in churches where false prophets continue to tell them all is well with God and them when it is not. The heat is rising for both false pastor and member who won't challenge and correct the false pastor or who likes what he says and doesn't say. So they remain, content and happy, with the rising heat of God's anger escalating.

The following from Wikipedia speaks of this well known saying and the various opinions as to its accuracy. Whether or not it is true, the image still remains valid for those who will follow a false pastor of all of God's Word and those who will not challenge and finally jump out of these false churches. For Christ's sake and for the salvation of those who always remain faithful to the truth.

"The boiling frog story is a widespread anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually.[1] According to contemporary biologists the premise of the story is not literally true; an actual frog submerged and gradually heated will jump out.[2][3] However, a variety of 19th century research experiments suggested that the underlying premise is true, provided the heating is gradual enough.[4]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Relabeled as Enemy Because Told the Truth?

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Galatians 4:16

The Gospel lesson for the Sunday just past was a startling one, Jesus asking the question if we think He came to bring peace on earth? He answers, NO! I came to bring division! Made me think of this passage in Galatians where the Apostle Paul is appealing to the churches in Galatia who have been drawn away from the Gospel to a false, distorted gospel which will not save (Galatians 1:6-9) These false pastors have dishonorable intentions for those whom Christ had saved through Paul's preaching and were now in spiritual peril due to this false gospel preaching and the Galatians acceptance of it.

Paul was always a rigorous proclaimer and defender of the pure gospel (see Galatians 2:5,14) because he knew that it meant literal life and death for eternity. To have the precious Galatian believers put back under the law and be stripped of their salvation under the pure gospel was gut-wrenching and agonizing for Paul.

It was a contest for followers, and Paul seemed to be losing. But then the question must be asked: who truly loses in the end? Those who don't continue to believe in the pure gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, the answer from Scripture comes. For a clear and magnificent presentation of the gospel which Paul preached, see 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. So whether an angel or Paul or a false preacher preaches a different gospel than this, he is cursed to hell eternally and all those who buy the lie. (Galatians 1:8-9)

Will this kind of gospel strictness and purity endure people to a preacher? Paul says that's not the point. True gospel preachers are not about pleasing people over pleasing God. They are slaves to the pure gospel and its defense and proclamation. (Galatians 1:10-11) Even when it brings division between those who formerly called themselves pastor and people, now it turns to "enemy." And only because Paul spoke the truth to them!

May the Lord make us ever cautious and careful to discern what is the true, pure gospel by which we can only be saved. May He also make us enemies of those who distort the precious gospel and thus rob people of eternity!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Merciful Potter and His Clay

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump, one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
Romans 9:20-21

God the Creator certainly has the right over people, His created. Certainly He is free as the potter with His clay to do what He wills, but he always does so with mercy. That is the message here in Romans 9:15 "Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."

No human will ever be able to stand before God except be it for God's great mercy found in Christ Jesus. God's mercy to us poor sinners to give us the Spirit to be able to put our trust and faith in Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection for the forgiveness of all our sins is pure mercy. Just as clay is not aware of all the intricacies of its shape and contours at the hand of the potter, so we humans are not aware of all the intricacies and contours of God's dealings with human sinners. Election, predestination to being called to saving faith in Jesus is a mystery in that we do not understand fully why some are chosen and others not. We simply as the clay leave this in the hands of the potter, our Creator God. For the present at least, this is not in our capabilities nor concern as the clay, the created of the Lord.

His mercies are new and fresh for us everyday in Jesus Christ our Lord! We thank and praise Him for it by which we live as the redeemed forever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Don't Listen to Strangers!

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
John 10:2-t

Isn't it a shame, a true shame, that we have to teach the young people of our time to not listen to strangers? Sheep of the time of Jesus were so conditioned also not to listen, not to follow the voice of other than their shepherd. Shepherds in the Near East of that time typically led their flocks in front with their voice, rather than drive them from behind.

Likewise, the flock of Jesus, His believers, follow only the voice of The Good Shepherd, Jesus, who speaks for Him by undershepherds who properly handle His Word and speak what is given them to speak by Jesus. Following a man who speaks what Jesus gives him to say is "following Jesus!" And likewise, the opposite holds as well: "the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16

Granted, this is a very difficult teaching of Jesus for many to accept in our time, but nonetheless, it is Jesus' mandate and command not only for pastors but for Christians as well. Don't listen to strangers, pastors who do not clearly and consistently speak the word of God. Many of our time unfortunately do not even believe anymore that the Bible is to be equated with God's Word. They believe such a thing is impossible to a modern mind. They are strangers! They are not to be listened to, nor followed! Even when it satisfies our culturally, marketing conditioned ears to accept their words (see 2 Timothy 4:3-4), they are not the words of The Good Shepherd Jesus. At the heart of all of His words are the precious crucifixion and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 24:25-27) The one who purports to speak for Jesus will always speak these saving words to the flock!

Jesus' followers will not and do not listen or follow strange words that do not ring true with Scripture and its center of Christ crucified for sin. They have this intimate dependency on Christ's words as God the Son does with God the Father. They are linked this way for eternity!

"O Word of God incarnate, O wisdom from on high, O truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky: We praise You for the radiance That from the hallowed page, A lantern to our footsteps, Shines on from age to age."
Lutheran Service Book, Hymn #523 " O Word of God Incarnate" verse one