Reformation Sunday Sermon

29 11 2010
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.

Amen.

Copyright ©2010

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING

28 11 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – Happy Thanksgiving

Discernment Ministries International

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

By Rev. Robert Liichow

On behalf of Discernment Ministries International let me express our heartfelt desire that your Thanksgiving holiday becomes both a daily experience but practice as well!

 





The Evolution of A Worshipper

28 11 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – The Evolution of A Worshipper – Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

THE EVOLUTION OF A WORSHIPPER

By Rev. Robert Liichow

THE EVOLUTION OF A WORSHIPPER

 

This cartoon very accurately describes my own spiritual journey. I started out a wild-eyed charismaniac and have ended up literally the “Crucifer” in worship.

Rev. Bob L.





It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

2 11 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – October 2010 – Vol. 15 Issue 10 – It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This – Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

By Rev. Robert Liichow

Picture four men sitting around the camp fire, it is night time and one man looks at his three friends and as he opens his beer he says “it doesn’t get any better than this” the other three wags nod their heads in sage agreement. This statement has been echoing around my head for several years now since hearing that commercial and I am stunned by the profound truth uttered by the domestic beer drinker.

As with everything else, the world only got part of the message “right” while missing the deep spiritual lesson beginning to be taught by that statement. Here are the FACTS: For the person who does not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior (i.e. the person who is not trusting in Christ’s work on the cross alone for their salvation) then this “life” does not get any better for the Christless. The FACT is that this life and all its pleasures and joys (1) are as close to heaven as the sinner will experience. (2)

One of the world’s motto is “eat and drink for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32) which ought to be a sobering message to the worldling but they pay little heed to the potentiality of an eternal hell. Since it does not get any better than this, it makes perfect sense to live in the moment with no thought to eternity and to strive to grab all the “gusto” one can out of these fleeting days. At the end of their short lives they grieve over the reality of the dreaded “double yes” — “yes” they are really going to die and “yes” they did not die with the most toys (remember another goal in life is to die with the most toys). Yes my friends, for the lost this is as good as it gets; this is as close to heaven as they will experience.

However, what can we say of the Christian? Like most things, our worldview is the mirror opposite of this worlds (cosmos, this fallen system of things). For the believer in Jesus, this world is as close to hell as we will ever experience. Through the ongoing process of experiential (3) sanctification the Christian begins to rightly view the world and respond to its myriad temptations with increasing victory as they grow in grace.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. 1 John 2:15-17

When understood properly all of the shiny sparkling baubles and other material gods the greedy worship become laughable! No matter how much they amass, in the end they leave it to others (Psalm 49:10). All any of us “take” from this life is our deeds. All of the deeds (actions or inactions) fall into two basic categories. Either we are producing works of the flesh (evil works) or works of the spirit (good works).

If any man builds on this foundation using god, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

 

Everything in the fallen cosmos is aligned against God and His people, it has always been this way from the beginning. Do not be deceived everything that surrounds us can either be put into three categories (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes and (3) the pride of life. Naturally there is a merging and blending of all three that Satan seems to have almost perfected in 6,000 years. The Spirit of Grace makes it abundantly evident through the Apostle John that any of these three arenas which comprise this cosmos is not of the Father period. Those who love this world system DO NOT and CANNOT also love God. Jesus taught us that no man can serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other (see Matthew 6:24). What matters most in a person’s life pinpoints where they are regarding their love for God or the world.

As we mature in our walk of faith we begin to “wear” this world as a very loose garment. This means we properly understand the role of things in our lives. Life becomes focused as we renew our minds in and by the hearing and study of God’s Word (Rom. 10:17, 12:1-3) and we see properly that things are to be used and people lovedNOT the loving of things and using of people! This world’s people are caught up in the attaining of stuff and more bigger, faster, shinier, roomier stuff. Sadly, virtually the entire world views itself through the lens of what they have or do not have, because they believe this is as good as it gets, they spend their lives on a treadmill trying to get the goods the world says they need to have in order to be someone of worth. The Apostle Paul gives us the correct perspective on how to handle stuff:

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:12

Paul knew that godliness with contentment was GREAT GAIN (see 1 Timothy 6:6) whether he had a lot or a little, the Apostle Paul was content knowing that eternity lay before him and that he was in a race for a prize, what he calls “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” in Philippians 3:14.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown (“stuff”); but we an incorruptible (results of fruit of the spirit). I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Corinthians 9:24

Paul knew the seriousness of life, of the reality that every day he was a step closer to the grave and eternity. He understood that time was an un-renewable resource and that we either use it wisely or unwisely. This fact remains: you can never turn back the clock. So while we sojourn through this fallen world we are to in such a manner that we are seen by the world as harmless, blameless, without rebuke (Philippians 2:15). Where they are darkness, because of our new birth into Christ we are now shining as lights in the world, we are now a city set on a hill (Matthew 5:14) and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13).

This cosmos is not our home, we are indeed strangers and pilgrims in a hostile land. Peter calls God’s elect “strangers in the world” ( 1 Peter 1:1) and by God’s grace we should all be striving to experience daily the reality of being “in the world, but not of it.” All of Christ’s ministers should be able to say with the Apostle Paul:

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God.  2 Corinthians 1:12

My dear friends in Christ, rest assured that it does get so much better than the very zenith of fulfillment the world offers. What God has provided for us as His children is as vast as eternity is long and deeper than the bottomless pit.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:2

But now they desire a better country, that is , an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:16

There is both a city and a specific place (not a literal mansion) in that city prepared for each one of us. Frankly, I would much rather live for that city and that place than strive to attain great wealth, status or fame in this life. I like the way the author of Hebrews put it when he states “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:28) referring to those who lived in caves, imprisoned and were destitute and many martyred.

Too many Christians are wasting their precious time striving after things which do not ultimately satisfy. This is evident by the huge popularity of certain SINisters and the non-Gospel message they proclaim. None of these leaders nor their followers understand really what this life is all about. It is not about living in gated communities, driving a Rolls Royce, owning a private jet, having tens of thousands follow your every word. A truly satisfying life is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. True meaning comes from using your gifts and talents to expand the Kingdom of God within your calling in life.

Contentment comes when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Naturally the false teachers and blind guides claim this is how they got so wealthy, they sought the kingdom “first.” (4) Of what does His kingdom consist? Simply this —

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

Although the effects of God’s kingdom can and should be experienced now in this life, what comprises this kingdom is physically intangible. God’s kingdom does not consist of material things (what we eat or drink) but of the spiritual graces of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit given by God through Christ Jesus. Jesus simply stated to Pilate, knowing He faced death that “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Since the servant is not greater than his Master (John 13:`16) It would behoove us to consider this world from our Lord’s perspective — Jesus goes on to say “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)

Take some time to examine your life. Are you striving to get more stuff at the detriment of what truly is of value? Are you one of those people who sits back at ease and says it doesn’t get any better than this? Or is your soul righteously vexed at the sin and degradation around you (2 Peter 2:8) as was Lot? Or are you at ease in Zion, satisfied with your station in life and walk with God? I am not your judge, but I know that I catch myself at times becoming hardened to the sin and iniquity that abounds around me. The world is very seductive and if we let our spiritual guard down we too easily find ourselves entangled in worldly affairs which is why Paul warns us in 2 Timothy 2:3-4 “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.” My goal in life is simply this—to please my Lord Jesus Christ, The Lion of Judah and King Supreme and then at the end of this life to hear from His lips “well done thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) as I step into life fully realized!

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”   1 Corinthians 2:9

Copyright ©2010 Robert S. Liichow

 

Footnotes

1. When this life is over the ungodly will sadly learn that all the “joy” and fulfillment they experienced in life came via the common grace of God and was not a result of their own abilities or talents (all of which came from God).

2. Ok, ok for those “sticklers” and I am one of them, the sinner will get a glimpse into heaven when he/she stands at the Great White Throne and faces justice meted out by the hands of an angry God. It seems that the unbeliever will see some of heaven as the last thing they see before being cast into hell.

3. Experiential as opposed to positional. We are holy and righteous in Christ, but our “experience” of what Christ won for us through His death, burial, and resurrection will develop in us as fruit ripens on a healthy tree.

4. Actually they built their own kingdoms based on the lust of men’s appetites and the pleasing of these peoples itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). They got wealthy via huge mailing lists, cronyism, lies and unfulfilled promises.