Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – Reformation Sunday Sermon – Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Discernment Ministries International
Reformation Sunday Sermon
By Rev. Mark Braden, Pastor, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence. The violent take it by force. So speaks the Lord of the Church, the Lord of the Kingdom. It is not the Kingdom of Glory of which He speaks. No, thanks be to God, the saints are safe, at rest, in bliss and felicity, their souls in the very presence of God. No one takes them. They are eternally secure. It is not the Kingdom of Glory that suffers violence.
Nor is it the Kingdom of Power, that Kingdom by which God creates and sustains all things. Indeed, there is violence amidst that Kingdom, for God causes His rain to fall upon both the just and the evil. Like an ant taking throwing a punch at the sun, God’s good provision and prvidence are in no danger of man’s puny violence. It is not the Kingdom of Power that suffers violence.
But the Church, oh, the Holy Church on earth! She is the Church Militant, the Church at war, the Church beset by struggles, the Church that tastes of the sufferings of Her Lord, the Church that is the Kingdom of God on earth, for this Kingdom comes when God gives us His Holy Spirit. The Kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Of this Abel’s blood testifies. So too does the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, murdered between the temple and the altar. And which true Prophet did not endure the darts of violent tongues, the stones of angry hands, the sword or lance of proud and violent men. But sword and lance pierce them no more. They are the Church Triumphant. They dwell in the Kingdom of Glory.
Physical violence can only harm the body. But there is a violence that can harm the soul, a violence that opens the dark trap door to imprison men’s spirits, a snare to capture the wayward, a siren’s cry to beckon the ship too close to crushing rocks, a strange voice to lure the sheep away from safe pasture. That violence is false doctrine—wrong teaching about God and so wrong teaching about salvation. False doctrine is violence perpetrated against the Kingdom of heaven.
Among the chief lies of the devil is that doctrine doesn’t matter. He would have you think that what one believes about God is a personal thing, not subject to review by anyone. The devil teaches that anyone that would insist that there is a right belief and a wrong belief about God is simply not nice, uncompromising, inflexible, unloving, just plain mean.
But God’s Word teaches something very different. God’s Word teaches that there is a right and a wrong, there is Truth and there are lies. You see, teaching that fallen men can earn God’s favor by their works is a lie. It is a violence. It is contrary to the clear Word of God. And yet, by such false teaching, sinners would take the kingdom by force. They desire to wrest forgiveness and salvation away from God by the puny strength of their own works. So too the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, monasticism, multiplying the Sacraments, Mariolatry, and prayer to saints. Matthew 11:12-15 The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.
So too the teaching that “real” Christians don’t suffer, but rather are rich and happy in the world inasmuch as they rightly believe. That’s where Robert Schuler meets the Pope. So too the teaching that a man born of human father can rule Christ’s Church on earth by Divine right. These false teachings, these sins, do violence to the Word of god. They lead men to seek salvation where it has not been promised. They are but lies born of the father of lies, and the harvest of their deceitful violence is fodder for hell.
Bad doctrine is always popular among sinners, however, for there is a little pope in each of us. Our old man is proud to don the triple tiara, to take rulership of the Kingdom by force. For each of us has been bold to invent our own justification for our false beliefs, to craft our own plan of salvation, in which we work together with God as equal partners. We have unseated, if it were possible, God from His heavenly throne, and sinfully appointed Him to be our “co-pilot”. We have granted ourselves indulgences by minimizing our sins, and have assigned ourselves penance to “work off” our sins and earn God’s favor. To the fallen flesh, it all makes sense. Each of us has desired to take the Kingdom of heaven by force.
The irony is, of course, that what men desire to take by force God freely gives–but never to men who believe they can take it by force. God freely gave His Son over to violent men. The King of Heaven suffered violence. They desired to make Him King. When He would not be an earthly king, a king of their own design beckoning to their whim and call, they took Him by force. For when the Son came, the vinedressers said “This is the heir, come, let us kill Him and the inheritance will be ours…” And the Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence as the King willingly allowed Himself to be put to death.
But what men could not take, God freely gives. It is in Christ’s death that sins are forgiven, and by which God, by grace alone gives the Kingdom of Heaven to men. For Christ indeed from death has risen, our new life obtaining, that men be justified, declared righteous in His sight because of Christ. And this God works by faith alone, in Christ alone. What men could never take God freely gives you — as the faith He works in you trusts in Christ.
By that faith you know that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. By this faith, Baptismal faith, God declares you forgiven, holy and blameless in His sight, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. He freely gives you the Kingdom.
This faith, this living, life-giving faith, is born of the Word of God by His Spirit. This faith seeks Truth in Scripture alone, for there God reveals His love for all men in Christ Jesus. This faith is fed and nurtured by God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament, not by what is earned or sold, but by what is freely given: His Body given for you, His Blood shed for the remission of your sins. This faith is fed and nurtured by right teaching about Matthew 11:12-15 The Festival of the Reformation, 2010 A. D.
Christ and salvation, by the Word preached in its purity and the Sacraments rightly administered, for true faith hungers to hear only what it already knows best — that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.