What makes us clean or unclean in God’s eyes?

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:21-23 (Read Mark 7:1-23)

Can we be saved by observing the traditions passed down to us from our fathers? Is it enough if we observe their worship forms and abstain from practices which go against those traditions? Are we acceptable and clean before God through such observances?

What did Jesus say when His disciples were accused by the Pharisees of breaking a tradition of the elders which required a washing of the hands before eating? He pointed out how they had elevated their man-made traditions to such a level that they were depending upon them for their standing before God rather than drawing near to God with their hearts (v. 1-6). And, as a result, their worship was vain and empty.

They elevated their traditions to such a level that they used them to avoid obedience to God’s commandments (v. 7-13). As a result, they were setting aside and disregarding God’s commandments.

And yet, what they failed to see was that their uncleanness came from within. It wasn’t something that came from outside them by eating with unwashed hands; it was from within, from their evil hearts. Jesus explained (v. 20-23): “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Thus, while they appeared clean and righteous outwardly, their hearts were still evil and full of sin. They were still unclean and unacceptable to God.

And what about us? Are we depending on outward forms or traditions? Do we teach for doctrines the commandments of men? Do we even set aside God’s Word to hold to our traditions? Is our righteousness outward only while our hearts are far from the LORD? Cf. Rom. 3:9ff. Do we not realize that our uncleanness comes from within? That our hearts are, by nature, since the Fall, inclined to evil and sin (cf. Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 51:5; Jer. 17:9)? Out of our hearts “proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies…” (Matt. 15:19).

That is why we need Jesus. “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (1 John 2:2). When we see our utter sinfulness and look to God for mercy, “He is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Our hearts need cleansing and healing. That is why David, after confessing His sin and looking to God for mercy, prayed: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin … Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

[Scripture Quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for Feb. 19, 2014

Meditations in Jude

 

“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” Jude 1-2

Note that Jude, the brother of James – either one of the apostles (Luke 6:16) or the brother of James and a half-brother to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:55 ) – simply calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, claiming no position of authority as an apostle or as a brother to Jesus. So also we, whether pastor, teacher or lay worker, are all servants of the Lord Jesus Christ who seek to carry out His will and mission in this world.

Jude writes to those sanctified and set apart by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ and called to faith in Him. He writes to those who have graciously been brought to faith in Christ Jesus and are preserved in that faith by God’s working. Therefore, it is not to those who are Christian in name only but to those whom God has called and sanctified through faith in Christ Jesus that Jude addresses this letter.

And though we hear these words often, the blessing of verse two which Jude uses to greet his readers is worthy of careful consideration. It is not only a well wish but the prayer and blessing that God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, the peace of sins forgiven won by Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death, and God’s love which comes to us in His Son be multiplied and increase.

Oh, that we might know and grasp in faith the richness of God’s mercy upon us for Jesus’ sake! Oh, that we might know that peace of God which passes all understanding, and that we might begin to grasp the greatness of His love for us in sending His only-begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins and save us from the wrath and judgment to come!

We thank and praise You, O Father, for the mercy, peace and love You have shown to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Grant that we hold hast to Him unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 3-4

Jude’s original intent was to write of the common salvation won for all through the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, our Savior; but the fact that men had crept into the church or churches undetected and were turning the grace of God in Jesus Christ into a license to sin and indulge in the desires of the flesh, and were denying the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, prompted him to write a brief letter urging his hearers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

We don’t know the specifics, though similar warnings can be found in 2 Peter, 1 John and in the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. Could it be Gnostics who thought that what one did in the body really doesn’t matter? Or, was it a form of carnal Christianity which used God’s grace as license to indulge in sin since salvation is by grace and Christ paid for all sin? Are the words more broad because they are to be applied to all sorts of perversions of the Gospel?

Thus, we ask ourselves if there are those within the pale of churches today who abuse the grace of God offered and given us in Christ Jesus in order to indulge in the sinful desires of their flesh? Do we even use God’s grace as a license to sin?

Did Christ die for all sin that we might continue on in our sinful ways without consequence? What does the Bible say? “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

And, does it ever happen that people become associated with churches who, whether by their teaching or lifestyle, advance such errors among believers and cause others to fall with them?

What was the faith once delivered unto the saints? Where can we find and learn its teaching? Remember that we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). Remember that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Thus, for what faith are we to be earnestly contending? Are we to stand by when people within the pale of the church teach contrary to the Bible or attempt to change its meaning to accommodate their own sinful views or lifestyles? Notice also that those who abuse and pervert the true doctrine end up denying “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Through the Scriptures, O God, You have revealed to me the faith once delivered to the saints. Give me the strength and the willingness to contend for that faith against those who would depart from the teaching of Your Word and turn Your grace into a license for sin and deny You and the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude 5-6

Can one have true and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s savior from sin and yet continue in willful disobedience and rebellion against His Word? The apostle John writes: “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). He adds: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:4-6).

Thus, Jude adds the examples of the children of Israel who sinned in the wilderness and of the angels who “kept not their first estate” but sinned against the LORD God who had created them to be His servants and to do His will.

So also, we should not be deceived into thinking that God will not judge and punish those who abuse His grace and turn away from Him and the salvation He provided for us in His Son. The writer of Book of Hebrews says (in Hebrews 10:29-30) of those who willfully turn back into sin: “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.”

Keep me, O God, from the presumptuous sin of abusing Your grace and turning back to the sin from which You redeemed me. Grant unto me true repentance and faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” Jude 7-10

Sad to say, even within the outward pale of churches, there are those who would imagine that there is nothing wrong with the sexual perversion of our day. They say the prohibitions of Scripture were culturally influenced and are not true reflections of God’s character or will.

But how do they answer the fact of God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding cities (Gen. 18-19)? How do they answer God’s judgment upon Canaan (cf. Lev. 18)? And, indeed, we might add other judgments upon cities and nations to the mix.

Yet, in spite of the Biblical records of God’s judgments upon cities and nations for their abominations, people today – even within the outward pale of churches – condone such sin and ridicule those who warn of God’s wrath and impending judgment. As Jude writes, they speak evil of those who oppose such abominations and they rail against them – something the angels of God would not even do when contending with the devil. What these people don’t know they ridicule; and what they know naturally as unthinking animals, in those things they corrupt themselves (cf. Rom. 1:18ff.).

How sad the conditions in the world today! And, even more sad, that such forms of thinking and lifestyles have come to be accepted among many who count themselves Christian!

God’s judgment is near. Now is the time to repent and look to the Lord God for mercy in Christ Jesus before it is too late!

O God, have mercy upon our nation and the churches and religious leaders of our land. Grant that we would heed Your Word and repent of our evil ways, looking to You for mercy in Christ Jesus. Give us boldness to contend for the true Christian faith in the face of such opposition to the truth. Amen.

 

“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” Jude 11-13

Will God judge those who pervert the true doctrine and use the grace of God as a license for sin? Jude describes them to have fallen into the sin of Cain, who turned from the faith and even killed his brother Abel who was counted righteous through faith (cf. Gen. 4). Like Balaam (Num. 22-25) who, for the sake of earthly gain, found a way around God’s word and commandment and caused the children of Israel to fall into sin and be cursed, so these hypocrites were quick to follow in such erring ways for their own gain. Along with Korah and those who spoke against God’s called servants (Num. 16), these are likewise condemned to perish.

Jude describes them as “spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”

These claimed to be believers and Christians but had no evidence of faith in their lives. Their lives and teaching were a denial of their Savior and of His doctrine.

Do we have those today who only go through the outward motions of the Christian faith while their hearts are far from the Lord? Are there those who seek to explain away and get around the teaching of the Bible on subjects which are in conflict with current cultural views?

And, what about us? Are we guilty of the same things?

Grant that we hold fast to Your Word, O Lord, and not compromise for the sake of peace or worldly gain. Have mercy upon us and forgive us for our sins and failures. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

 

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14-15

We know from Genesis 5 that Enoch walked with God by faith and that God translated him into heaven so that he did not die (cf. Heb. 11:5). From Jude’s letter we learn that Enoch, like Noah, also warned the people of his day of God’s coming judgment upon all who remained impenitent and lived in opposition to God and His ways.

And this prophecy of Enoch that “the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” applied to the hypocrites among the churches to whom Jude wrote and to the hypocrites and unbelievers of our day.

Our Lord Jesus will soon return in the clouds of heaven with His holy angels to execute judgment upon all who have not turned from their sinful ways to Him in faith. Those who repent and trust in the redemption Christ accomplished by His life, death and resurrection will be received into the eternal joys of heaven. But those who continue in impenitence and unbelief will be found guilty and condemned to the eternal fires of hell (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10).

Thus, judgment awaited those of Jude’s day who turned the grace of God into a license for sin; and the same judgment is coming upon those of our day who turn from Christ and His doctrine and indulge in the pleasures of sin.

Your Word warns us, O God, of Christ’s return and His judgment upon all who have not believed in His name. Grant that we truly repent and look to Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And grant that we, like Enoch, speak the truth in love and warn our generation of God’s coming judgment upon impenitent sinners. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Jude 16-19

Should we be surprised at the unbelief of our day? Should we be surprised that, even within the outward pale of the church, people pervert the truth to support their selfish and sinful ways?

The answer, of course, is no. The apostles of our Lord Jesus warned us. The Scriptures tell us that persecution can be expected and “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13).

Though they often champion unity in the churches, they are the ones who “cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” and they “serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17,18). And it is for that reason that Christians who hold to the faith of the Bible are commanded to “mark” and “avoid” them.

In the days of drought following the prophecy of Elijah, Ahab said to Elijah, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”(1 Kings 18:17) Elijah answered (v. 18): “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.” So also today, many would accuse those who contend for the faith once delivered to the saints of causing trouble in the churches and causing division. The real cause of trouble and division, however, rests on those who compromise the clear doctrine of God’s Word.

Thus, in Jude’s day, even if the churches must put out those who turned the grace of God into a license to sin, it was the unbelieving who separated themselves from the churches by their unbelief and sin.

It should be noted that those of whom Jude speaks use persuasive words and speeches and make use of personal and political connections to gain advantage, but they have not the Spirit of God. Instead of submitting to God’s Spirit and the God-breathed Scriptures, they walk after their own fleshly lusts and use carnal means to get their way.

Keep us from walking according to the flesh instead of yielding to the Spirit of God and to the truth revealed in His Word. Preserve us from their pernicious ways. Amen.

 

“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 20-21

What did Jude direct his beloved hearers to do? Indeed, it is similar to what Paul commanded Timothy: “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Jesus also said to the Jews who believed in Him: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Since the Spirit sanctifies us through the Scriptures (John 17:17; Rom. 10:17), we build ourselves up in our most holy faith by continuing in the Scriptures and praying for the Holy Spirit to teach and guide and lead us into all truth. We keep ourselves in the love of God which moved Him to give His only-begotten Son to die for us and pay in full for all our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10), and we look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ – His merciful gift of forgiveness and life everlasting.

In other words, we cling to Jesus and His Word. We hold fast to His promise of forgiveness and life everlasting for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. We look forward to His glorious return and partaking of His mercy and pardon on that day. We continue to hope and live for the life eternal which Jesus will give to us when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

O gracious and merciful Savior, keep me in Your Word and grant that I cling to You by faith, trusting and looking forward to partaking of Your merciful gift of life everlasting in Your glorious kingdom. Amen.

 

And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 22-23

What are we to do while we await that day when Christ returns and, in mercy, receives us to Himself in heaven?

Like Enoch, we continue to warn the impenitent and unbelieving of God’s coming judgment upon all who continue in rebellion against Him. We warn those who use the grace of God as a license to indulge in their sinful longings and desires.

But we also show mercy. We have compassion on those misled and overcome by sin. We warn them of the consequences and offer to them the comfort of God’s pardon and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Patiently and compassionately, we reach out to the lost and erring that they too might come to repentance and be saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His cross.

Some we “save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” We use the utmost care that we too be not drawn into sin and error through the weakness of our own flesh. We recognize the danger and consequences of sin – death. But, through the right application of God’s Word, we pull them from the impending fires of hell, hating their sinful deeds, and show them the right way – a life lived by faith in the Son of God.

God, grant that we might bear witness to Your impending judgment upon sinners but also to Your mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Preserve us from our own sinful longings and desires. Keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

What a beautiful doxology! Jude closes in words of faith and praise to the LORD God who has brought us to to know and trust in Christ Jesus and the salvation He won for all.

It is the Lord God, by means of the gracious working of His Spirit through the Word, who is able to keep us from falling into sin and unbelief. He is the only one able to preserve us in the true faith and present us faultless before the throne of His glory. And He does so with exceeding joy!

And “to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

The fact that we believe and are saved through faith in Jesus is entirely to the glory of God. We were dead in our sins, but God graciously raised us up to life through faith in Jesus and His blood, shed for us upon the cross (cf. Eph. 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.). And, “He which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

All praise and glory be to You, O Lord Jesus, for redeeming me, bringing me to faith and preserving me in the faith once delivered unto the saints. Grant that I continue in your Word, hold fast to You and Your doctrine, and contend for that faith in this dark and sinful world. Amen.

 

1. Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head.

2. Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully through these absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

3. The holy, meek, unspotted Lamb, who from the Father’s bosom came, who died for me, e’en me t’atone, now for my Lord and God I own.

4. Lord, I believe Thy precious blood, which at the mercy-seat of God forever doth for sinners plead, for me–e’en for my soul–was shed.

5. Lord, I believe were sinners more than sands upon the ocean shore, Thou hast for all a ransom paid, for all a full atonement made.

6. When from the dust of death I rise to claim my mansion in the skies, e’en then, this shall be all my plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.

7. Jesus, be endless praise to Thee, whose boundless mercy hath for me, for me, and all Thy hands have made, an everlasting ransom paid. Amen.

Hymn #371, The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: 1 John 1:7 Author: Ludwig von Zinzendorf, 1739, cento
Translated by: John Wesley, 1740

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 49; Leviticus 19:1-18; 1 Corinthians 3:10-23; Matthew 5:38-48. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will begin its study of the Book of Genesis with chapter one.

 

Verse to Remember

“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.” Psalm 49:15

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Our next Pot-luck Dinner will follow our worship service on Sunday, March 2.

Lenten Services will begin on Wednesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. The Wednesday services will be preceded by a soup and sandwich luncheon at 6:20 p.m.

Church Council will meet at 7 p.m. tonight, Feb. 19, at the church.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for Feb. 14, 2014

Meditations in the Beatitudes

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1-3

We might expect that it is those who live by a certain religious code of ethics who will partake of the kingdom of heaven, but Jesus says otherwise: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is not the haughty and self-righteous who will inherit the kingdom of God, but the one who humbly acknowledges before God his spiritual poverty and sinfulness in thought, word and deed. Do you remember Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the publican? Who is it who went home from the temple justified before God? It was the tax collector who wouldn’t even raise his eyes toward heaven but could only say, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:9-14).

In Isaiah 66:2 God says, “But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Cf. Psalm 34:18 and 51:16-17.

God desires that we humble ourselves before Him, confess our utter sinfulness and spiritual poverty, and receive His pardon and forgiveness for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for our sins.

Are you “poor in spirit”? Turn to Jesus and be blessed with a place in His eternal kingdom for the sake of His shed blood.

O Dearest Jesus, I am a sinner and fail to measure up to the righteous demands of Your holy Word. I have sinned in my thoughts, desires, words and deeds. But you kept God’s commandments for me, and You went to the cross and took my punishment. Have mercy on me and forgive me for the sake of Your shed blood, and receive me into Your eternal kingdom. Amen.

 

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Many think Jesus here refers to blessing and comfort for those who are sad now and cry much in life due to hardship and tragedy. But a study of the Scriptures will reveal that Jesus speaks of mourning over one’s sin and disobedience to God’s holy commandments. He speaks of sadness over our failures to love the LORD our God and live holy and God-pleasing lives.

In Joel, chapter 2, God warned His people of His impending judgment upon them for turning away from Him in their hearts. Verses 12-14 say: “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”

Those who are truly sorry for their sins and lament their rebellion and disobedience to the LORD and His Word will find comfort in the good news of forgiveness and life in God’s Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Isaiah 61:1-3). “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2). Jesus fulfilled all righteousness in our stead and then bore the full punishment for our sins when He was crucified and died upon the cross. His resurrection proves that an atonement has been made (cf. Romans 4:25).

With David, we pray, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:3-5).

Indeed, it is true: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

My dear Lord Jesus, I have sinned and failed to love You and keep Your commandments. For the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for my sins, forgive me and cleanse my heart that I might love You and serve You always. Amen.

 

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

In this world it appears that it is the forceful, outgoing and sometimes unscrupulous who are blessed, and the humble and meek get nowhere. But Jesus says just the opposite. It is the meek and humble who are blessed, “for they shall inherit the earth.”

Psalm 37 (verses 1-11) says the same thing: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

Why does Jesus say these words? To warn us against the folly of thinking that we are blessed and do well for ourselves by being self-assertive, less than honest and meek in our dealings with others, and unwilling to trust in the LORD and live our lives in accord with His Word. Jesus would have us repent of our wickedness and turn to Him for forgiveness, and He would have us live our lives in accord with His Word, trusting and relying upon Him for blessing.

And those who do so will be blessed – if not now in this life, when Jesus returns to establish His eternal kingdom. Then, indeed, the meek shall inherit the earth!

Dear Lord Jesus, forgive me for being envious of the wealthy and powerful and for seeking to get ahead in this life by being selfish, deceitful and less than honest and considerate in my dealings with others. Give me faith to trust in You and live my life in accord with Your holy Word. Amen.

 

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Those who honestly look upon themselves in the mirror of God’s law will see that they are unrighteous and unholy by God’s standard. The Bible tells us that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). But, for the sake of the shed blood of Messiah Jesus, we sinners are made acceptable in God’s eyes – all our sins are washed away in Jesus’ blood and God counts us righteous through faith in Him! Cf. Ephesians 1:6-7; Colossians 1:19-23; Romans 3:21-28; 4:5.

One of the marks of a true believer in Christ Jesus is the desire to be like Him. John writes:”Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

A true believer trusts in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of his sins and to be counted righteous in God’s eyes; but a fruit of such faith is the desire to live a righteous and holy life for Jesus while awaiting His return (cf. Romans 6:1ff.; 2 Corinthians 5:15-17; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:1-21). Indeed, one who knows of his own sinfulness and utter failing to live according to God’s holy will and who also knows and trusts in Jesus Christ as His Savior will also hunger and thirst after righteousness.

And such are blessed because “they shall be filled.” Through faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross, they are already accounted perfectly righteous and holy in God’s eyes. And, during this earthly life, the Holy Spirit is at work transforming those who trust in Christ into His image, giving them a desire to live for Christ Jesus and keep His commandments (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:4ff.). But, as true believers also know, we will not be entirely free of sin until we are with our Savior in heaven. Then, we will finally be like Him and see Him as He is.

As the Scriptures say, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:15). Then, indeed, we “shall be filled.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for my sins and winning for me God’s pardon and peace. Thank You for counting me to be righteous in Your sight for the sake of Jesus’ shed blood. By Your gracious Spirit, give me also a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and grant that this hunger and thirst be satisfied both now and hereafter in eternity. Amen.

 

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7

One who knows God and has received of His mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus will also show mercy unto others. That is why Jesus teaches us to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). He also adds the explanation:”For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21ff.), the king’s servant who was forgiven an enormous debt but would not then show mercy to a fellow servant who owed him only a small debt in comparison showed his lack of appreciation for the mercy shown him and forfeited that mercy. He was delivered to the torturers until he paid his debt in full. And Jesus says, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35).

Whether we realize it or not, God has shown great mercy to each of us. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve (cf. Psalm 103:8-12), but instead laid the guilt and punishment for all our sins upon His own Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Isaiah 53:6). Jesus took our punishment and suffered and died in our place that God might be merciful to us, forgive our sins and give us a place with Him in heaven. Even now, God is patient with us, desiring that all would repent and turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness in His Son (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).

When we are graciously brought to faith in Jesus and receive of God’s mercy and forgiveness, we will also be merciful and forgiving toward others, desiring that they too would be saved. Thus, the Scriptures urge us to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Then, on the Last Day, when Jesus returns in judgment, those who have received God’s mercy in Christ Jesus and, as a result, also show mercy to others will receive mercy from the LORD God. But those who have not received God’s mercy and forgiveness through faith in His Son – and thus were not merciful unto others – will not receive mercy of the Lord but suffer the tortures of hell to pay in full for their sins!

Dear Father in heaven, thank You for being gracious and merciful to me and sending Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to bear my sins, die in my stead and rise in victory. Graciously grant that I receive Your mercy and forgiveness by faith and also show mercy unto others. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Psalm 24 asks the question: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (verses 3-5).

Who is it that will be privileged to stand in God’s presence and see His face? Jesus says it is “the pure in heart.”

But being pure in heart is more than just outward obedience to God’s commandments; it is loving God with all the heart, mind and soul, and having nothing but holy thoughts and desires as well!

The problem is: Whose heart is pure?

Jesus said of the most religious people of His day, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Mat. 15:8, quoting from Isa. 29:13). He also said, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man” (Mat. 15:19,20).

How can we have a clean and pure heart? Only through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, for the Bible tells us that it is His blood that “cleanseth us from all sin” and makes us acceptable in God’s sight (1 John 1:7; Eph. 1:6,7; Col. 1:12-14,19-23)! For the sake of Jesus, God reckons those who trust in Him to be righteous and holy.

Of course, those who trust in Jesus’ blood and righteousness for pardon and acceptance in God’s eyes also desire to be “pure in heart.”

After confessing His sin and turning to the LORD for forgiveness, David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). And so, we also, who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, desire that God would create in us pure and undivided hearts to love and serve Him and keep His commandments, for it is our desire to see our Savior when He appears and to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2-3; Psalm 119:1ff.).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, my heart is evil and defiled by sin. Forgive my sin for the sake of Your blood, shed for me upon the cross, and create in me a clean heart that I might love You and serve You all of my days. Amen.

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

Though God will not tolerate our sin and rebellion against Him and does not mince words in telling us the truth about our sinfulness and His condemnation of sin, God is a God of peace. He does not desire our condemnation and so sent His own dear Son to bear the punishment for our sins, and He calls upon all of us to repent and turn to Him for full pardon and peace.

When speaking about the coming day of judgment, the Bible tells us: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9; cf. Ezekiel 33:11). The Bible also says that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:19-21).

As children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:26), we who now have peace with God for the sake of Jesus’ shed blood also seek to live in peace with others. Like our heavenly Father, we desire that others repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and peace with God. Like our heavenly Father, we cannot tolerate sin and rebellion against God and we must not hesitate to speak the truth of God’s Word; but we do so in love, desiring that our fellow sinners also repent and return to their Father in heaven for pardon and peace (cf. Ephesians 4:15). As Paul writes, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

Though some who claim to follow Christ are quick to stir up contention and strife; that is not what Jesus would have us do. The Bible tells us: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18; cf. Heb. 12:14; Psalm 34:14; Mark 9:50). While we must hold fast to, and contend for, the true teaching of God’s Word; we are not to become involved in foolish arguments over things not clearly laid out in the Scriptures (cf. 2 Tim. 2:22-26; 3:1-17). Who is won for the truth through bitter strife and arguments anyway? Rather, all we can do is bear witness to the truth with a kind and humble spirit and let God’s Spirit do the rest.

Paul writes to the church in Ephesus: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 4:31 – 5:2).

Remember Jesus’ words: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, Prince of peace, so often my ways are not set on peace, but on strife and contention. Graciously forgive me for the sake of Your holy and precious blood shed on my behalf and give me a heart like that of our heavenly Father – a heart that holds fast to the truth but also seeks peace through humble submission to God’s truth. Amen.

 

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

Paul wrote to Timothy: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12).

It is a fruit of saving faith in Jesus Christ to desire to live for Him and keep His Word. Those who repent of their rebellious and sinful ways and trust in Jesus for forgiveness and life do not desire to continue in sin and opposition to God and His ways. Rather, they desire to be more and more like Jesus who died for them and rose again.

The Bible says: “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15; cf. Romans 6:1ff.).

They continually acknowledge and confess their sins and failures to the LORD God, receive His forgiveness for the sake of Jesus’ shed blood, and seek God’s help and strength to amend their lives and live for Him (cf. Psalm 51; 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).

However, in a world which is becoming more and more evil (cf. 2 Timothy 3:13), those who go against the flow and seek to keep God’s commandments are not well received. They suffer persecution. But those who are persecuted in this world for seeking to live righteous and holy lives for Jesus their Savior are indeed blessed of God and can even rejoice in their suffering, for they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom (cf. 1 Peter 3:14).

This does not mean they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom because of their suffering here in this world. Rather, they are blessed, even in the midst of their suffering, because they have a place in God’s eternal kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ, their Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, give me a steadfast heart, a heart which trusts in You alone for forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation, a heart which loves You and seeks to live for You even in the midst of suffering and persecution in this world, and a heart which rejoices because You have granted me a place in Your eternal kingdom. Amen.

 

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Before His crucifixion and death, Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep your’s also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (John 15:18-21).

Followers of Jesus do not seek persecution, but it is a fact that those who follow Him and hold fast to His Word will suffer persecution (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12). The world does not like to be reminded of its sinfulness and the coming judgment of God, nor do worldly people like it when one turns from his former evil ways to Jesus for forgiveness and life. Followers of Jesus are a constant reminder to the people of this world that they are on the wrong path and will soon be judged by God.

The Old Testament prophets, too, were a reminder to those whose hearts had turned away from the LORD that they were turned aside from the truth and headed for God’s judgment. And, from the blood of Abel to Zechariah, many of these true prophets of God suffered great persecution and even death for their testimony to the truth (cf. Matthew 23:31-39). Those who thought they were righteous by their own practice of religious rites did not want to hear of their sin and need for repentance.

Many might see the suffering and persecution which comes upon followers of Jesus even today and think that surely they are not blessed of God, but Jesus says, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Those who follow Jesus are blessed, even if persecuted here in this world, for they have the blessings of heaven for the sake of Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death in their stead and will also be greatly rewarded for their faithfulness to the Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus, grant that I not shrink back from faithfulness to You, but trust you, follow You, live for You and proclaim Your Word to those around me in the world. If persecution comes, grant me the strength to endure and a faith which looks forward to the eternal rewards of heaven. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 48; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the Book of Jude.

 

Verse to Remember

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Psalm 48:14

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Mel Boren and Pastor Moll – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

Church Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the church.

 

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Words of Encouragement for Jan. 29, 2014

Meditations in 2 John

We briefly discussed 2 John in Bible class last Sunday and will move on to 3 John this week. The following devotions on 2 John may serve as a review of what we covered and fill in some gaps in looking at verses which we did not have opportunity to discuss.

Also, since some have mentioned the declining quality of devotions in Portals of Prayer, I have split these up in order to provide just over a week’s worth of devotions for those who choose to use one per day. If I can keep up, I will try to continue providing more brief (though it is sometimes difficult for me to be brief) daily devotions for use in upcoming weeks.

I hope the following series will prove to be a blessing for you and welcome questions, comments and suggestions.

2 John

“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.” 2 John 1-2

The apostle John, who simply refers to himself as an elder in the church, writes to the elect lady and her children. While this could be a real woman named Kuria (the Greek word here translated lady) who has children and a sister, it appears more likely that John writes to a local church and to the believers in that church.

John doesn’t proclaim his apostolic authority, but simply writes as an elder and proclaims his genuine love for this congregation of believers. In fact, all who know and believe the truth revealed and taught to us by God’s Spirit in the Holy Scriptures share in that love for individuals and congregations who know and believe the truth revealed in God’s Word; namely, the truth of God’s salvation for lost and condemned sinners in His Son, Jesus Christ.

This remains true even today. Who are our dearest and most loved family members? Are they those related to us merely by blood or those related to us by spiritual birth and faith in our God and Savior, Jesus Christ?

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).

O God, grant us a genuine knowledge of the truth and true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Give us a love, like that of John, for all who abide in the truth and hold fast to Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

 

“Grace be with you, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” 2 John 3

Though we hear greetings like this often in church services and from the pulpit, what do these words mean?

Grace is God’s undeserved and unmerited favor. Instead of looking upon us in judgment on account of our sins, He looks upon us with favor because all our sins have been punished in His Son, Christ Jesus. Instead of dealing with us as our sins deserve, He has mercy upon us and forgives us for Jesus’ sake. Instead of being God’s enemies, God looks upon us as His friends. Instead of coming to us in wrath and with punishment, He comes to us in peace and accepts us as His own because all our sins were judged and condemned in His Son.

And this grace, mercy and peace come to us from the Father who so loved us that He gave His only-begotten Son, and from the Son who so loved us that He went to the cross and died for us to make atonement for all our sins. And, of course, it is God’s Spirit who, in love toward us, reveals this truth to us and brings us to trust in God’s grace and mercy and peace in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His cross.

O gracious God, look upon me in mercy and with favor for the sake of the death and resurrection of the Son, Christ Jesus, in my stead. Amen.

 

“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” 2 John 4

As it gives parents joy when their children grow up and live decent and upright lives, so it gave the apostle John reason to rejoice greatly when members of this Christian congregation continued walking in the truth of God’s Word. Instead of turning back into sin or being misled by the many false teachers who pervert the truth, they continued in the faith revealed to them through the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and clung to Christ and His cross for their salvation.

Sad to say, today so many who grew up in Christian churches and heard the truth as children have turned away in their adult years. Though they learned of their sinfulness and the redemption won for all by Christ Jesus, they have turned back into sin, turned away from the saving Gospel and have abandoned their faith in Christ Jesus.

Yet, when we find those who once heard and believed the truth continuing in it years later and throughout their lives, it gives us reason to rejoice and praise God for His faithfulness in preserving His elect children in the true faith in Christ Jesus.

O faithful and merciful God, thank you for bringing me to know the truth and to trust in Jesus as my Savior. Keep me in that truth that I not be lost but hold fast to Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

 

“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” 2 John 5-6

Many are deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and yet disregard God’s commandments and live as they please in accord with the sinful longings of the flesh. Instead of living for the God who loves them and gave His Son to redeem them, they turn from Him and reject His word to them. Not only do they not love and honor God, they also do not love and respect those who follow after Christ and seek to live in accord with God’s commandments.

John directs his readers – members of Christ’s church in this place as well as members of Christ’s church today – to love one another as God has loved us. He directs them to love but also explains that true love for God and fellow believers is to walk in accord with God’s commandments.

In his first epistle, the apostle John wrote: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3).

John warns his readers against those who held a false faith, who claimed to be believers but denied the Son and the Father by refusing to heed God’s Word and the truth taught them from that Word by the Holy Spirit. That warning is still needed today.

Keep me, O God, from a false sense of security. Grant that I not turn from You and Your truth and live in willful disobedience to Your commandments. Have mercy upon me for Jesus’ sake and keep me in Your truth and love. Amen.

 

“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John 7

In John’s day, there were those who denied the truth revealed regarding the person of Christ. Some denied that Jesus was true God. Others denied His humanity, teaching that God the Son did not really take on human flesh and blood and become true man in order to save us.

Today, too, there are those – even within the outward pale of Christianity – who deny either the deity or the humanity of Christ Jesus. Some claim He was just a man, a great prophet. Some say He is the Son of God but somehow less than the Father and not equal to the Father in being eternal, almighty, all-knowing or having all glory. Others still deny that He really became a true man, taking on a human body and soul through His conception and birth of the virgin Mary.

Of course, to deny either the deity or the humanity of Christ, is to reject God’s Word which tells us that Christ was and is the eternal Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:1,14). It is to deny that Jesus was conceived and born of the virgin Mary and yet was Christ the Lord as proclaimed by angels (Luke 1 and 2). It is to deny that Jesus (Jehovah God, Himself) took on our flesh and died in our place to be our Savior.

Those who profess such lies are deceivers and opposed to the true Christ and the salvation He won for all by His holy life and innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of all the world.

Protect us, O Lord, from the many lies and deceptions of the devil that we might hold fast to Christ as true God and true man and our Savior. In His name, we pray. Amen.

 

“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 8-9

John warned his readers – members of a local church of Christ Jesus – to be ever watchful over their doctrine and beliefs that they not lose the faith and salvation for which they had already suffered so much as they struggled to hold fast to Christ and His cross in a world full of idolatry and deceptive doctrines. If they were to give up the doctrine of salvation through faith alone in Christ Jesus, they would lose their reward and suffer the loss of their own souls.

Those who transgressed and did not continue in the teaching of Jesus Christ no longer walked in fellowship with God. But those who, by the Spirit, remained in the true doctrine of Christ – who acknowledged their sinfulness and placed their faith in Jesus, the God-man Savior, had forgiveness and mercy from God the Father, walked in fellowship with the Father and the Son and had eternal life (cf 1 John 1).

And, yes, this remains true today. We all need to watch out for the many lies and the deception circulated as truth in the world, and even within the outward pale of churches, and hold fast to Christ Jesus, true God and true man, as our Savior and Redeemer.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; [and] he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).

O Spirit of God, keep me ever watchful and preserve me in the true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through the study of Your Word. Amen.

 

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2 John 10-11

Is it right to help or in any way support those who proclaim a doctrine which is false? If one proclaims some truth but also mixes in error, what should we do? Can we support those who persist in departing from the teaching of Christ? Should we even wish them well in their work?

This is a difficult commandment to follow in a day when people are doctrinally indifferent and advocate a tolerance for false teaching and deception. But the apostle clearly tells us not to in any way support the preaching and teaching of one who does not hold to the doctrine of our Lord Jesus. We are not to give them lodging to help them on their way or even wish them well in their work if they “teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3). From such we are to withdraw ourselves (1 Tim. 6:5).

O Lord deliver us from the lies and deception of the devil and grant that we not support the work of those who would pervert the true doctrine revealed to us in the Scriptures. Give us the wisdom and strength to withdraw from them and not become partakers of their evil deeds. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

“Having many things to write unto you, I would not [write] with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.” 2 John 12-13

How important it is that we gather together around God’s Word and Sacraments that we might encourage each other in the truth and be preserved in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus!

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

There is something special about encouraging each other face to face, and the apostle intended to do just that. Yet, the threat of false teachers and their erring doctrine made it necessary and urgent for John to send this warning to his fellow believers.

He relayed to them a warning against those who taught and lived contrary to the doctrine he and the apostles had delivered to them. He warned them against turning away from God’s commandments and back into sin, and he warned them of teachers who denied that Jesus is the Christ, the God-man Savior, and who departed from Christ’s doctrine.

John’s letter is equally important for each of us today. God grant that we heed God’s Word and hold fast to “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent” (John 17:3).

O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, graciously keep me in the truth, trusting in the atoning sacrifice of the Son. In His name, I pray. Amen.

 

Preparing for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 46; Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship.

Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study at 3 John.

 

Verse to Remember

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – especially for Mel Boren – for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. We remember the churches and pastors in the Philippines. We pray for those suffering and persecuted around the world. And we pray for our nation and its rulers, that our people would repent and look to God for mercy, forgiveness and direction.

 

Announcements

A Pot-Luck Dinner will be held Sunday, following our morning worship service.

Evening congregational Bible study is tentatively set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the church.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

 

Subtle doctrinal differences can make all the difference in the world

“What does it really matter, anyway?” is the response I sometimes hear when I discuss subtle differences in doctrine held by Christian churches, but today I’m going to address some subtle differences which just could make all the difference in the world.

I think most Christians would agree that Christ and salvation are at the very heart of the Christian Faith, but how that salvation is obtained by Christians is an area in which subtle differences in understanding affects and sometimes divides Christians. And these differences in doctrine make all the difference in the world when it comes to the certainty of salvation.

To the more liberally-minded, such differences really matter little, for they view the Gospel message as a command to love one another and Jesus Christ as an example of that love. To even discuss and debate doctrinal issues is often viewed as unloving and divisive. If they but follow Christ’s example and love one another enough, they will be received into God’s graces and heaven (if they believe there is one). Of course, who can really measure up to the sinless life of Christ?

There are those churches which teach that one is saved by faith and good works. They teach that Christ died for sins and rose again but they then say that it is not really enough to just trust in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice; one must also live a certain lifestyle, observe certain commandments or traditions, abstain from certain foods, observe certain days, say certain prayers, or be a member of a particular church or denomination. Some openly condemn those who believe salvation is theirs through faith alone and others are much more subtle and just add requirements which (they say) “true believers” will fulfill. Again, who can ever do enough, be perfect enough, keep every last requirement well enough?

Those who are of the strict Calvinistic heritage say that salvation is by grace alone for Christ’s sake and not by any human works or merits. They emphasize man’s total depravity since the fall, the sovereignty of God, His election and irresistible grace, but then deny the unlimited atonement. After all, why would Christ die for those not chosen of God for salvation? Thus, the believer who might be led to take comfort in irresistible grace is left wondering if he is really among the elect for whom Christ died.

Those offshoots of Calvinism who saw the error of teaching a limited atonement, double predestination (God predetermining whether people go to heaven or to hell) and, sometimes, irresistible grace returned to a view which minimizes the total depravity of man and says that man, with God’s gracious help (infused grace) can make a decision for Christ. Thus came the age of accountability and the need to use human reason to understand and make up one’s own mind whether they are going to accept Christ, make a commitment to Christ or pray a believer’s prayer and invite Christ into their lives. The issue here which may trouble many is the lingering question of one’s sincerity in making this decision for Christ. Was I really sincere, or do I need to do it over again, just in case? And when is being sincere really sincere enough?

There are those who teach the total depravity of man and Christ’s unlimited atonement for the sins of all, but they say (some only as a matter of semantics) that God does not forgive and justify the sinner until the sinner believes. This, of course leads to the question of what is a sinner to believe if there is no forgiveness until he believes; and it makes faith (at least, in part) the cause of justification rather than the hand that simply takes and receives God’s gift of salvation. This view raises the question of how strong one’s faith must be before God will justify and grant forgiveness.

Finally, there are those who teach that all men, since the fall, are spiritually dead in sin and cannot save themselves, that salvation is entirely of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, that Christ died for the sins of all people and rose again on the third day, that God graciously chose some for salvation and brought them to trust in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice and keeps and preserves them in that faith unto life everlasting.

And the Bible does teach: that all of us “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1ff.); that salvation is by grace alone – “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9); that Christ “died for all” and “taketh away the sin of the world” (2 Cor. 5:15; John 1:29; cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 Cor. 15:3ff.; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 3:23-24); that God chose and predestined some to believe before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-5; 2 Tim. 1:9); that he brought them to faith by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the Gospel (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14); and that He graciously will preserve them in the faith unto life everlasting (cf. Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 4:18).

And the Biblical doctrine leaves the believer not wondering if he has done enough, been sincere enough, prayed enough, believed enough, or if he is one of the elect for whom Christ died. It leaves the believer with the assurance that Christ Jesus did it all, that atonement has been made, that God forgives and accepts sinners for Christ’s sake, that the God who brought him to faith through the hearing of God’s Word will continue His gracious work and preserve Him in faith unto life everlasting.

The differences may sound subtle, but they make all the difference in the world.

Words of Encouragement for Week of Sept. 27, 2012

Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:4-6

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have overcome the many false prophets and teachers who have gone out into the world denying Christ’s deity, humanity or full and complete atonement for the sins of the world. We have overcome these assaults of the devil upon our souls because Christ dwells in us by His Spirit and gives us the victory by revealing to us, through the Scriptures, His true and saving doctrine – salvation by grace alone and through faith alone in Christ and His blood shed for us upon the cross.

The false prophets and teachers are in the world and speak in accordance with the wisdom and thinking of the world. Instead of accepting and believing the truth God has revealed in the Scriptures, they use their own reasoning and pervert and deny what they cannot comprehend. Thus, they would deny such Scriptural teaching as the virgin birth of Christ Jesus, that Jesus truly is God the Son and true man, that His holy life and innocent sufferings and death are full and complete payment for the sins of all, that simply through faith in Him one is saved and has forgiveness and life eternal, that God conveys to us forgiveness of sins and salvation through the waters of Christian Baptism and through the body and blood of Jesus offered and given to us in the Lord’s Supper.

And, of course, the world hears them. People are quick to accept the man-made excuses and denials of Biblical truth. They are quick to reject the authority God has over them and the exclusive claim of true Christian doctrine that only in Christ Jesus is there forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.

But as believers, we have been born anew from above. God’s Spirit has revealed to us through the Word the person and work of Messiah Jesus. He has revealed to us that the man Jesus is the Son of the Living God and that apart from Him there is no salvation (cf. Matt. 16:16; Acts 4:12; John 6:68-69; 14:6).

Those who are of God hear us when we proclaim the true doctrine of God’s Word, but those who are not of God do not hear. Those who are mercifully called and chosen of God hear God’s voice; those who are not remain in the darkness of their unbelief and sin.

Consider Jesus’ words in John 8:47: “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” He also said (John 10:27-28): “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

Thus, by the gracious election and calling of God, by the enlightening of His Spirit, believers hear and believe the Word of God. They place their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God and Savior of the world.

And we as believers can distinguish between children of God and children of this world by their attitudes toward and acceptance of the teaching of God’s holy Word. Those who are of God hear and believe the truth; those who are not of God do not.

O gracious and merciful Lord, thank you for graciously opening our eyes and revealing to us Messiah Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior from sin, death and hell. Graciously keep us in the true faith unto life everlasting. We ask this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine

By Pastor Randy Moll

What does the Bible teach about the final judgment?

In the book of Hebrews (9:26-28), we read of Christ Jesus: “…once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

From God’s Word, we see that – unless Christ returns first – each person will suffer temporal death; and after death comes God’s judgment. We also hear again that Christ came into this world to go to the cross, sacrifice Himself in our stead and for our sin that He might return on the Last Day to receive us to Himself and grant us eternal salvation.

God’s Word reveals to us that, at death, the souls of believers are taken to be with their Lord and Savior in heaven, and the souls of unbelievers begin suffering the eternal torments of hell.

Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 16:19-31. When the beggar died, he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. When the rich man died and was buried, he was in torment in hell and asked his ancestral father Abraham to have mercy on him and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue because he was tormented in hell’s flame.

Note what Jesus said to the dying thief who repented and looked to Jesus for mercy: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi (Phil. 1:21-23): “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

In Rev. 14:13, we read: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

Of those who have died in unbelief, we read of their imprisonment when the crucified and risen Christ Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:19-20). And the Bible also says: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment … then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4,9).

The Bible also teaches that, on the Last Day, Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead; and on that Day, all the dead will be raised up.

Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Job expressed his confidence: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27; cf. Revelation 20:11-15; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

The wicked and unbelieving will be cast, both body and soul, into the everlasting torments of hell; but those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation will, according to both body and soul, dwell with Christ forever, enjoying the blessings of heaven.

The Bible says: “It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thess. 1:6-10; cf. John 5:29; Matt. 10:28; Luke 16:23-24; Isa. 66:24; 1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 John 3:2; John 3:36; 17:24).

On that Day, those who trusted in the perfect atonement of Christ Jesus will not be condemned but receive everlasting life, as Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Jesus also said: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). The Bible also says of heaven: “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Though many have, over the ages, attempted to determine the Day of Christ’s return and judgment of the living and the dead, the Bible teaches that the Day of Christ’s return is known only to God and not to man. Christians believe Jesus’ words: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36; cf. v.29-42; Mark 13:32; 2 Pet. 3:10).

Some would separate Christ’s return from the Day of Judgment, saying that Christ will secretly return and rapture away believers before a period of severe tribulation and an earthly millennial kingdom, however Jesus’ own word refute this lie of Satan.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:29-31).

The Word of God is clear. Notice that Jesus will come visibly – every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7) – and with the sound of a trumpet and gather His elect from the four winds “after the tribulation of those days.” Note in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 (quoted above) Jesus coming with the sound of the trumpet. Jesus’ coming for His elect marks the end of tribulation in this world and Jesus’ final judgment of the living and the dead.

In regard to the millennial reign of Christ in Revelation 20, read it carefully and you will note it is not on earth. Rather it is the reign of the souls of believers with their Savior in heaven until the Last Day when Christ returns and brings them with Him (1 Thess. 4:13ff.), the dead are raised up and judged, and all believers – those who have fallen asleep in Jesus and those who are alive and remain at His coming – will be forever with the Lord Jesus in the mansions of His Father’s House.

Therefore, true believers and students of God’s inspired Word will reject as false all contrary doctrines, such as purgatory and limbo, a secret rapture, an earthly millennial kingdom, and any attempts to predict the day or hour of Christ’s return.

Next time we shall consider what the Bible teaches about the Son of Perdition and Antichrist.

 

Congregational Evening Study

On Wednesday, the topic of our monthly study dealt with the upcoming election and the Christian’s duty as a citizen to evaluate candidates and vote for good and honest rulers who will uphold what is good and right and punish evildoers (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

Since the Bible teaches that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34), and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), Christians will, where possible, select as rulers God-fearing men with high moral standards and who are guided in their decisions by God’s Word.

The need for America to turn from its evil ways was discussed, together with the Word of God given at the dedication of the Temple of Solomon: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

Also presented was the duty of Christians to pray for their government leaders: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Some “litmus tests” for Christians in evaluating candidates include moral character, position and record on life issues such as abortion and euthanasia, position and record on preserving marriage as defined in the Bible (between one man and one woman), position and record on religious liberty and freedom of speech, faithfulness to Constitutional oaths, fiscal responsibility and more.

At issue for many was how to vote in cases where neither major party candidate met those standards. The question of voting for the lesser of two evils or voting on principles was discussed. Also related to the discussion is whether voting is a strategy to elect or remove a candidate or one’s true voice in a democratic form of government for what is good and right.

Some political platforms discussed briefly were Democrat, Republican and Constitution Party.

No one was told how to vote, but it is hoped that the brief study gave opportunity to consider the importance of voting and of what a Christian’s vote is a statement.

Watch the newsletter for next month’s class. Topic suggestions are welcome.

 

Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 104; Romans 12:1-21; and Mark 9:38-50. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.

The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the book of James at 3:13ff.

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Dawn Hiebert who is recovering from surgery, and for Mel Boren who is in a nursing home; for our extended families; and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus. Remember the efforts to spread the Word of God through publication of the Scriptures and other faithful materials on the Internet through the Sword Project, Crosswire Bible Society, and other organizations.

 

Events and Announcements

Choir practice will be held after church on Sunday. New members are always welcome.

Church Council will meet at 7 p.m., Oct. 10, at the church.

The annual Voters’ Assembly, with the election of officers, will follow our worship service and a pot-luck dinner on Nov. 12.

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by email at pastor@goodshepherdrogers.org.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Words of Encouragement for May 30

Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle

“Young ones, it is a last hour, and as you heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have risen up, from which you know that it is a last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us. For if they were of us, they would have remained with us; but they left so that it might be revealed that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:18-19

The end draws ever closer. The Last Day is near!

How do we know? The Bible tells us that the day will not come until the antichrist – the son of perdition described in 2 Thess. 2:1ff. – is revealed. And this has happened. He has taken a seat at the head of the visible church and opposed and exalted himself above God and His Word, claiming to be the vicar of Christ in this world and overthrowing and calling anathema the central teaching of the Bible: that a man is saved by grace alone for Christ’s sake and through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world. Instead of humbly submitting to God and His Word, the Bible, he has elevated his damning doctrines above God’s witness. He was revealed through the preaching of the Word at the Reformation and will be overthrown and destroyed at Christ’s coming (cf. Rev. 12ff.).

But even at John’s time, in the First Century A.D., many anti-christs had risen up. These were false teachers who rejected God’s Messiah by denying that God Himself had come in the flesh to redeem the world by His holy life and atoning sacrifice upon the cross in the stead of fallen mankind. Such anti-christs continue to rise up today, claiming that Jesus is not true God and true man in one person, denying that Jesus is Jehovah God in the flesh and, thus also, rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity which is revealed throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.

John pointed out that these had gone out from among the true believers because they were not of the true Church of God’s elect and did not accept the truth of God’s Word. If they were of the truth, they would have remained in the fellowship of those who accepted and taught all that God’s Word teaches.

Of course, this, too, occurs today. Those who do not accept the truth of God’s Word and do not wish to abide the pure teaching of God’s Word go out from among us and do not remain with us. Rather than submitting to God’s Word, true doctrine and the convicting and comforting work of the Holy Spirit through the Word, they go out from among us.

It is as Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Those who do not hear His words and follow Him are not His sheep.

The fact that people leave true and faithful churches reveals the fact that they are not Jesus’ sheep and do not follow the true Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Their leaving reveals their unbelief and rejection of the truth.

This, of course, relates to that which John wrote of earlier in His epistle. To walk in the light is not to be without sin but to acknowledge and agree with God about our sins and place our faith and hope in the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Savior. Walking by faith in Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior, we will then also desire to abide in His Word and in the fellowship of other believers where His Word is proclaimed in its truth and purity.

Guard and keep me, O Jesus, my God and Savior, from the many false teachers who have gone out into the world. Give me a love for the truth and for believers who hold fast to You and Your Word. Amen.

 

A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine

by Pastor Randy Moll

What happened to man and creation?

Genesis 3 describes historical events which changed everything for mankind and for God’s creation:

1 And the serpent was cunning above every animal of the field which Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, Is it true that God has said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, 3 but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, 5 for God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing good and evil.

6 And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise. And she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed leaves of the fig tree, and made girdles for themselves. 8 And they heard the sound of Jehovah God walking up and down in the garden at the breeze of the day. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the face of Jehovah God in the middle of the trees of the garden.

9 And Jehovah God called to the man and said to him, Where are you? 10 And he said, I have heard Your sound in the garden, and I was afraid, for I am naked, and I hid myself.

11 And He said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she has given to me of the tree, and I ate. 13 And Jehovah God said to the woman, What is this you have done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

14 And Jehovah God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all beasts, and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

16 He said to the woman, I will greatly increase your sorrow and your conception; you shall bear sons in sorrow, and your desire shall be toward your husband; and he shall rule over you.

17 And He said to the man, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat from it, the ground shall be cursed because of you; you shall eat of it in sorrow all the days of your life. 18 And it shall bring forth thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat the plant of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until your return to the ground. For you have been taken out of it; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

20 And the man called the name of his wife, Eve; because she became the mother of all living.

21 And Jehovah God made coats of skin for the man and his wife, and clothed them.

22 And Jehovah God said, Behold! The man has become as one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and also take from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever, 23 Jehovah God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground out of which he was taken. 24 And He drove the man out. And He lodged the cherubs at the east of the Garden of Eden, and the flaming sword whirling around to guard the way of the Tree of Life.

The devil used God’s commandment in Genesis 2:16-17 to bring about man’s condemnation and bring a curse upon all of God’s creation (cf. Ezek. 18:20).

The devil, taking upon himself the form of a serpent, tempted and deceived the woman and caused her to doubt God and His words and to desire what God had forbidden. She ate and her husband Adam ate with her.

As a result, they were afraid of the LORD God, hid from His presence and sought to cover up their sinfulness. Not only had their heart changed from one of love and trust and honor toward God to a heart of fear and rejection, their sin brought about the sin of all mankind and a curse upon all of God’s creation.

The fruits of their sin were evident in Cain killing his brother Abel, the spread of wickedness upon the earth and a lack of faith and trust in the Almighty God who created man and all things. Man’s heart was evil from his youth (Gen. 4:1ff.; 6:1ff.; 8:21:11:1ff.). Every one of us has been conceived and born into sin, spiritually dead to God and His enemy (Psalm 51:5; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1ff.).

Sin brought about not only spiritual death – the destruction of man’s relationship with God – but physical death and the ultimate condemnation of all to eternal death and torment in hell (cf. Gen. 3:19; Rom. 6:23a; Matthew 25:31-46).

Next time, we shall consider what God has done to save man and to restore His creation.

 

Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 29; Isaiah 6:1-13; Acts 2:22-47; and John 3:1-21. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.

The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the book of Hebrews, in chapter 11, verse 8ff.

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us; for our extended families; and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Events and Announcements

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at pastor@goodshepherdrogers.org.

A Pot-luck dinner is tentatively being planned for Sunday, June 10, in honor of the 60th anniversary of Ray and Bonnie Hawes.

 

Scripture quotations are from Green’s Literal Translation (LITV). Scripture quoted by permission. Copyright 1993 by Jay P. Green Sr., All rights reserved. Jay P. Green Sr., Lafayette, IN. U.S.A. 47903.

Words of Encouragement for May 9

Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle

“And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.” 1 John 2:3-6 (MKJV)

Many claim to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ but not all who make such claims know Jesus. Some are hypocrites and some deceive themselves into thinking they are Christian when, in fact, they are impenitent and do not trust in Jesus and His blood shed upon the cross for cleansing and everlasting life.

God’s Word teaches us that we can know we know and trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior by our attitude toward Jesus’ word and commandments.

“And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected.”

The one who knows and trusts in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting will gladly and willingly obey His commandments. This desire to obey God’s Word is evidence of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the new nature created in believers which loves God and desires to serve Him. Of course, as John wrote in the first chapter (1:5-10), believers are not without sin in this world and cannot claim to be sinless and holy of themselves, for they still have their old sinful nature inherited from Adam which balks at and resists living in accord with the Word of God.

Nevertheless, believers can see evidence of their regeneration in their new-found love for God and in their desire to keep the words and commandments of Jesus. Those who come to know the great love of God in sending His Son to suffer and die for our sins and the sins of the world are moved to love Him in return for providing salvation for lost sinners.

If we continue to trust in Jesus as our Savior – if we acknowledge our sinfulness and look to Jesus’ shed blood for pardon and life everlasting – we will, as a fruit of that faith seek to conform our lives to His. We will seek to live and conduct ourselves as Jesus did in this world – in obedience to God the Father, with utmost respect for God’s Word and with love toward lost sinners.

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.”

Jesus, our Savior, You have redeemed us and all mankind from sin by Your atoning sacrifice upon the cross, and You have graciously brought us to know Your great love and mercy toward us in shedding Your blood to cleanse us from all sin. Grant that we grow ever deeper in the knowledge of You and Your love for us and so move us in return to love You and gladly obey Your commandments Amen.

 

A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine

by Pastor Randy Moll

What did God do when He created the heavens and the earth?

Again, the Bible says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth being without form and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moving gently on the face of the waters, then God said, Let light be! And there was light….” (Genesis 1:1-3; Read all of Genesis 1 and 2).

The Hebrew word for “created” in verse one is ברא (bara) and indicates that God created all out of nothing. He called it into existence by saying, “Let … be,” and “There was.”

The Scriptures echo this truth throughout.

Psalm 33:6 says: “Through Jehovah’s word the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth.”

Hebrews 11:3 says: “By faith we understand the ages to have been framed by the word of God, so that the things seen should not come into being out of things that appear.”

These words teach us the truth that God created all things and sustains them by the power of His word.

The Bible says of the Son of God, in Hebrews 1:2-3: “Through whom He indeed made the ages; who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the word of His power…”

So, what has God done? He created all things out of nothing. He created and called all into being by His all-powerful word. And, it is by that same creating word that all continues to exist.

It is as Nehemiah wrote in chapter nine, verse six: “You alone are He , O Jehovah; You have made the heavens, and heavens of the heavens, and all their host; the earth and all which is on it; the seas, and all that is in them; and You shall preserve them all alive. And the host of the heavens bows down to You.”

Next time, we shall consider when God created all things.

[Scripture quotations in this article from Green’s Literal Translation]

 

From the Lutheran Confessions

The Smalcald Articles

THE THIRD PART OF THE ARTICLES

Part III, Article XIV. Of Monastic Vows.

1] As monastic vows directly conflict with the first chief article, they must be absolutely abolished. For it is of them that Christ says, Matt. 24:5,23ff : I am Christ, etc. 2] For he who makes a vow to live as a monk believes that he will enter upon a mode of life holier than ordinary Christians lead, and wishes to earn heaven by his own works not only for himself, but also for others; this is to deny Christ. 3] And they boast from their St. Thomas that a monastic vow is equal to Baptism. This is blasphemy [against God].

Part III, Article XV. Of Human Traditions.

1] The declaration of the Papists that human traditions serve for the remission of sins, or merit salvation, is [altogether] unchristian and condemned, as Christ says Matt. 15:9: In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 2] Again, Titus 1:14: That turn from the truth. Again, when they declare that it is a mortal sin if one breaks these ordinances [does not keep these statutes], this, too, is not right.

3] These are the articles on which I must stand, and, God willing, shall stand even to my death; and I do not know how to change or to yield anything in them. If any one wishes to yield anything, let him do it at the peril of his conscience.

4] Lastly, there still remains the Pope’s bag of impostures concerning foolish and childish articles, as, the dedication of churches, the baptism of bells, the baptism of the altarstone, and the inviting of sponsors to these rites, who would make donations towards them. Such baptizing is a reproach and mockery of Holy Baptism, hence should not be tolerated. 5] Furthermore, concerning the consecration of wax-tapers, palm-branches, cakes, oats, [herbs,] spices, etc., which indeed, cannot be called consecrations, but are sheer mockery and fraud. And such deceptions there are without number, which we commend for adoration to their god and to themselves, until they weary of it. We will [ought to] have nothing to do with them.

1] Dr. Martin Luther subscribed.

2] Dr. Justus Jonas, Rector, subscribed with his own hand.

3] Dr. John Bugenhagen, Pomeranus, subscribed.

4] Dr. Caspar Creutziger subscribed.

5] Niclas Ambsdorf of Magdeburg subscribed.

6] George Spalatin of Altenburg subscribed.

7] I, Philip Melanchthon, also regard [approve] the above articles as right and Christian. But regarding the Pope I hold that, if he would allow the Gospel, his superiority over the bishops which he has otherwise, is conceded to him by human right also by us, for the sake of peace and general unity of those Christians who are also under him, and may be under him hereafter.

8] John Agricola of Eisleben subscribed.

9] Gabriel Didymus subscribed.

10] I, Dr. Urban Rhegius, Superintendent of the churches in the Duchy of Lueneburg, subscribe in my own name and in the name of my brethren, and of the Church of Hannover.

11] I, Stephen Agricola, Minister at Hof, subscribe.

12] Also I, John Draconites, Professor and Minister at Marburg, subscribe.

13] I, Conrad Figenbotz, for the glory of God subscribe that I have thus believed, and am still preaching and firmly believing as above.

14] I, Andrew Osiander of Nuernberg, subscribe.

15] I, Magister Veit Dieterich, Minister at Nuernberg, subscribe.

16] I, Erhard Schnepf, Preacher at Stuttgart, subscribe.

17] Conrad Oetinger, Preacher of Duke Ulrich at Pforzheim.

18] Simon Schnevveis, Pastor of the Church at Crailsheim.

19] I, John Schlainhauffen, Pastor of the Church at Koethen, subscribe.

20] The Reverend Magister George Helt of Forchheim.

21] The Reverend Magister Adam of Fulda, Preacher in Hesse.

22] The Reverend Magister Anthony Corvinus, Preacher in Hesse.

23] I, Doctor John Bugenhagen, Pomeranus, again subscribe in the name of Magister John Brentz, as on departing from Smalcald he directed me orally and by a letter, which I have shown to those brethren who have subscribed.

24] I, Dionysius Melander, subscribe to the Confession, the Apology, and the Concordia on the subject of the Eucharist.

25] Paul Rhodius, Superintendent of Stettin.

26] Gerard Oeniken, Superintendent of the Church at Minden.

27] I, Brixius Northanus, Minister of the Church of Christ which is at Soest, subscribe to the Articles of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, and confess that hitherto I have thus believed and taught, and by the Spirit of Christ I shall continue thus to believe and teach.

28] Michael Coelius, Preacher at Mansfeld, subscribed.

29] The Reverend Magister Peter Geltner, Preacher at Frankfort, subscribed.

30] Wendal Faber, Pastor of Seeburg in Mansfeld.

31] I, John Aepinus, subscribe.

32] Likewise, I, John Amsterdam of Bremen.

33] I, Frederick Myconius, Pastor of the Church at Gotha in Thuringia, subscribe in my own name and in that of Justus Menius of Eisenach

34] I, Doctor John Lang, Preacher of the Church at Erfurt, subscribe with my own hand in my own name, and in that of my other coworkers in the Gospel, namely:

35] The Reverend Licentiate Ludwig Platz of Melsungen.

36] The Reverend Magister Sigismund Kirchner.

37] The Reverend Wolfgang Kismetter.

38] The Reverend Melchior Weitmann.

39] The Reverend John Tall.

40] The Reverend John Kilian.

41] The Reverend Nicholas Faber.

42] The Reverend Andrew Menser.

43] And I, Egidius Mechler, have subscribed with my own hand.

 

Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 98; Acts 10:34-48; 1 John 5:1-8; and John 15:9-17. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.

The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the book of Hebrews, in chapter 10, verse 29ff.

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us, for Sam Rusch, who was hospitalized last week; for those who have been absent from us; for our extended families; and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Events and Announcements

Ascension Day worship will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17. All are invited to join in worshiping our Savior for His sufferings, death, resurrection and glorious ascension.

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at pastor@goodshepherdrogers.org.

 

Scripture quotations are from Green’s Literal Translation (LITV) where so marked or from Green’s Modern King James Version (MKJV). Scripture quoted by permission. Copyright 1993 by Jay P. Green Sr., All rights reserved. Jay P. Green Sr., Lafayette, IN. U.S.A. 47903.

Words of Encouragement for May 2

Meditations in St. John’s First Epistle

1 My little children, I write these things to you so that you do not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation concerning our sins, and not concerning ours only, but also concerning the sins of all the world. 1 John 2:1-2 (MKJV)

While it is certainly not the desire of Christians to continue on in sin because they are born anew, have a new nature, and God’s Spirit dwells within them, it is comforting to know that when we do sin – and we all still do because of our sinful nature – we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Jesus, who lived a righteous and holy life in our stead under God’s law and then suffered and died for the sins of the word and rose again, is our Advocate with the Father. He is there with His own precious blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, pleading our case before the Father.

Though we are guilty under the law and would stand condemned to eternal torment on account of our sins, “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation concerning our sins, and not concerning ours only, but also concerning the sins of all the world.” He took our punishment and paid in full for our sins and the sins of all the world when He suffered and died upon the cross. For His sake, God has acquitted and pardoned us and gives us everlasting life.

That is why, when we sin – as we all do – and “we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9).

God does not grant us permission to sin but enjoins us to live for Him in accord with His Word. But, when we do sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation concerning our sins, and not concerning ours only, but also concerning the sins of all the world.”

Dearest Lord Jesus, You came into this world to redeem us from sin and grant us life everlasting in fellowship with You and the Father, strengthen our faith and move us to live for You in accord with Your perfect Word. And, when we sin, plead for us before the Father with Your holy and precious blood shed upon the cross for the sins of all the world. Amen.

 

A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine

by Pastor Randy Moll

How is it that this world and the universe came to be? How did life begin and why does it go on? Is it all the result of chance over extreme lengths of time? Or is it the result of an intelligent creator who wisely designed and created all things?

While many have speculated and theorized, there is one eye-witness account of how all came to be and who is behind it.

Many scoff and criticize this account and offer alternative theories with no foundation in truth in an attempt to escape the accountability which goes with the creation account, but wisdom calls upon us to seek the truth and accept it, along with any accountability which accompanies that truth.

That one eye-witness account is recorded for all to know in the first two chapters of Genesis. It is the account of the Creator Himself, recorded by Moses for all to read and know the truth.

That account begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth being without form and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moving gently on the face of the waters, then God said, Let light be! And there was light….” (Genesis 1:1-3).

Who is the Creator?

Who is the Creator? The Bible, which is God’s inspired account, tells us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

And, who is this God? The Hebrew word, Elohim, which is the plural form of God, is the descriptor used to describe the Creator (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). He is also called by the name Jehovah, often translated LORD. “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created in the day that Jehovah God was making earth and heavens” (Gen. 2:4).

The Bible further defines God, when it says: “To us is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we by Him” (1 Cor. 8:6). Thus we see that all things were created by God the Father through Jesus Christ.

God’s creation account also tells us that, in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, “the Spirit of God [was] moving gently on the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). Thus we see that the Holy Spirit was involved in the creation of all things.

The opening verses of John’s Gospel tell us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men….” (John 1:1-4). Thus we see that the Word, Jesus Christ, identified in v. 14 as God Himself in the flesh and the only begotten Son of the Father, created all things and is the giver of life, both physical and spiritual.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the inspired Scriptures say of Christ Jesus, that He is “the image of the invisible God, the First-born of all creation. For all things were created in Him, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, the visible and the invisible; whether thrones, or lordships, or rulers, or authorities, all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and all things consist in Him” (Col. 1:15-17).

So, who is the Creator? It is God, the God the Scriptures identify for us as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Though God is one – “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah” (Deut. 6:4) – God is also three – thus, the command to “disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is why the God of the Bible is often called the Triune (three/one) God, because He is one God and yet three distinct Persons. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, there are not three Gods, but one God.

The Bible tells us “there are three bearing witness in Heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).

Though beyond our ability to comprehend, this is how God has revealed Himself to us – it is His account and His word. And it is this God who has created all things and given us life.

Next time, we shall consider what God has done in creating all things.

[Scripture quotations in this article from Green’s Literal Translation]

 

From the Lutheran Confessions

The Smalcald Articles

THE THIRD PART OF THE ARTICLES

Part III, Article XII. Of the Church.

1] We do not concede to them that they are the Church, and [in truth] they are not [the Church]; nor will we listen to those things which, under the name of Church, they enjoin or forbid. 2] For, thank God, [to-day] a child seven years old knows what the Church is, namely, the holy believers and lambs who hear the voice of their Shepherd. For the children pray thus: I believe in one holy [catholic or] Christian Church. 3] This holiness does not consist in albs, tonsures, long gowns, and other of their ceremonies devised by them beyond Holy Scripture, but in the Word of God and true faith.

Part III, Article XIII. How One is Justified before God, and of Good Works.

1] What I have hitherto and constantly taught concerning this I know not how to change in the least, namely, that by faith, as St. Peter says, we acquire a new and clean heart, and God will and does account us entirely righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our Mediator. And although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it.

2] And such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sins is followed by good works. And what there is still sinful or imperfect also in them shall not be accounted as sin or defect, even [and that, too] for Christ’s sake; but the entire man, both as to his person and his works, is to be called and to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us [unfolded] and spread over us in Christ. 3] Therefore we cannot boast of many merits and works, if they are viewed apart from grace and mercy, but as it is written, 1 Cor. 1:31: He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, namely, that he has a gracious God. For thus all is well. 4] We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true.

 

Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday

Scripture Readings for Sunday are: Psalm 150; Acts 8:26-40; 1 John 4:1-21; and John 15:1-8. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.

The Sunday Adult Bible Class will continue its study of the book of Hebrews, in chapter 10, verse 26ff.

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us; for those who have been absent from us, for those who have wronged us, for our extended families and for believers who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations and believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Events and Announcements

A pot-luck dinner will be held at the church on Sunday. All are invited to join us for the meal and fellowship following our morning worship service.

A Church Council Meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 9.

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at goodshepherdrogers@yahoo.com.

 

Scripture quotations are from Green’s Literal Translation (LITV) where so marked or from Green’s Modern King James Version (MKJV). Scripture quoted by permission. Copyright 1993 by Jay P. Green Sr., All rights reserved. Jay P. Green Sr., Lafayette, IN. U.S.A. 47903.

Words of Encouragement for May 4, 2011

Words of Encouragement for May 4, 201

 

Meditations in Genesis

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.”  Genesis 45:4-5

It is true that Joseph’s brothers did not have good intentions when they sold Joseph to be a slave in Egypt. They meant it for evil.

But, as Joseph said when he revealed his identity to his brothers who had come to Egypt to buy food, God turned that evil into good and sent Joseph into Egypt ahead of his brothers in order to preserve life – including the lives of his father, brothers and their little ones.

And, of course, there is much more involved here, for the promise of the Messiah and Savior, the Seed of the woman who would defeat the devil and destroy his works for us, was to be a descendant of Jacob and of Judah, Jacob’s son. By keeping Jacob and his own brothers alive through the famine, Joseph was playing a role in God’s eternal plan for the salvation of sinful mankind.

And what can we learn from this? Even when the devil intends evil against us, God is working for our good and for the furtherance of His eternal plan of salvation.

Indeed, our gracious God has a purpose and plan for each of us which is a part of His even greater plan to save lost sinners from this present evil world. That plan, however, may not be easy to bear. Things may happen to us which appear to be evil and hurtful – the devil intends them that way – but God intends them for our good and for the good of all His elect children.

Rather than despair or become bitter when life’s road take us to places we’d rather not visit, look for God’s working and His plan in all things.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Dear Lord Jesus. In fulfillment of Your Word and our Heavenly Father’s plan, You went to the cross to pay the debt of our sin and win for all mankind forgiveness and life eternal. Grant that we walk by faith, trusting in Your sacrifice for our sins and trusting that You are indeed at work in us to create and sustain our faith and to accomplish Your good and gracious will. Amen.

 

Martin Luthers’ Large Catechism

Article III.

34] I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

35] This article (as I have said) I cannot relate better than to Sanctification, that through the same the Holy Ghost, with His office, is declared and depicted, namely, that He makes holy. Therefore we must take our stand upon the word Holy Ghost, because it is so precise and comprehensive that we cannot find another. 36] For there are, besides, many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, as, the spirit of man, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. But the Spirit of God alone is called Holy Ghost, that is, He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. For as the Father is called Creator, the Son Redeemer, so the Holy Ghost, from His work, must be called Sanctifier, or One that makes holy. 37] But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

38] For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. 39] Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.

40] Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.

43] For where He does not cause it to be preached and made alive in the heart, so that it is understood, it is lost, as was the case under the Papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench, and no one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Ghost as his Sanctifier, that is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has acquired this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? 44] This, that the Holy Ghost was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached; but men and evil spirits were there, who taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. 45] Therefore it is not a Christian Church either; for where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Ghost who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord. 46] Let this suffice concerning the sum of this article. But because the parts which are here enumerated are not quite clear to the simple, we shall run over them also.

47] The Creed denominates the holy Christian Church, communionem sanctorum, a communion of saints; for both expressions, taken together, are identical. But formerly the one [the second] expression was not there, and it has been poorly and unintelligibly translated into German eine Gemeinschaft der Heiligen, a communion of saints. If it is to be rendered plainly, it must be expressed quite differently in the German idiom; for the word ecclesia properly means in German eine Versammlung, an assembly. 48] But we are accustomed to the word church, by which the simple do not understand an assembled multitude, but the consecrated house or building, although the house ought not to be called a church, except only for the reason that the multitude assembles there. For we who assemble there make and choose for ourselves a particular place, and give a name to the house according to the assembly.

Thus the word Kirche (church) means really nothing else than a common assembly, and is not German by idiom, but Greek (as is also the word ecclesia); for in their own language they call it kyria, as in Latin it is called curia. Therefore in genuine German, in our mother-tongue, it ought to be called a Christian congregation or assembly (eine christliche Gemeinde oder Sammlung), or, best of all and most clearly, holy Christendom (eine heilige Christenheit).

49] So also the word communio, which is added, ought not to be rendered communion (Gemeinschaft), but congregation (Gemeinde). And it is nothing else than an interpretation or explanation by which some one meant to explain what the Christian Church is. This our people, who understood neither Latin nor German, have rendered Gemeinschaft der Heiligen (communion of saints), although no German language speaks thus, nor understands it thus. But to speak correct German, it ought to be eine Gemeinde der Heiligen (a congregation of saints), that is, a congregation made up purely of saints, or, to speak yet more plainly, eine heilige Gemeinde, a holy congregation. 50] I say this in order that the words Gemeinschaft der Heiligen (communion of saints) may be understood, because the expression has become so established by custom that it cannot well be eradicated, and it is treated almost as heresy if one should attempt to change a word.

51] But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. 52] I am also a part and member of the same, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. For formerly, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. 53] Thus, until the last day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its fruits which He produces.

54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.

55] Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.

56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church].

57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.

59] Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts.

60] But the term Auferstehung des Fleisches (resurrection of the flesh) here employed is not according to good German idiom. For when we Germans hear the word Fleisch (flesh), we think no farther than of the shambles. But in good German idiom we would say Auferstehung des Leibes, or Leichnams (resurrection of the body). However, it is not a matter of much moment, if we only understand the words aright.

61] This, now, is the article which must ever be and remain in operation. For creation we have received; redemption, too, is finished; but the Holy Ghost carries on His work without ceasing to the last day. And for that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. 62] For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church nor dispensed forgiveness. Therefore we believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church, and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith, in order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the Word.

63] Behold, here you have the entire divine essence, will, and work depicted most exquisitely in quite short and yet rich words, wherein consists all our wisdom, which surpasses and exceeds the wisdom, mind, and reason of all men. For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. 64] But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself. 65] For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost.

66] These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth. For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.

67] From this you perceive that the Creed is a doctrine quite different from the Ten Commandments; for the latter teaches indeed what we ought to do, but the former tells what God does for us and gives to us. Moreover, apart from this, the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts of all men; the Creed, however, no human wisdom can comprehend, but it must be taught by the Holy Ghost alone. 68] The latter doctrine [of the Law], therefore, makes no Christian, for the wrath and displeasure of God abide upon us still, because we cannot keep what God demands of us; but this [namely, the doctrine of faith] brings pure grace, and makes us godly and acceptable to God. 69] For by this knowledge we obtain love and delight in all the commandments of God, because here we see that God gives Himself entire to us, with all that He has and is able to do, to aid and direct us in keeping the Ten Commandments – the Father, all creatures; the Son, His entire work; and the Holy Ghost, all His gifts.

70] Let this suffice concerning the Creed to lay a foundation for the simple, that they may not be burdened, so that, if they understand the substance of it, they themselves may afterwards strive to acquire more, and to refer to these parts whatever they learn in the Scriptures, and may ever grow and increase in richer understanding. For as long as we live here, we shall daily have enough to do to preach and to learn this.

 

Bible Study in Preparation for Sunday

Scripture Readings appointed for Sunday are: Psalm 116; 1 Peter 1:10-25; and Luke 24:13-43. Please read them in their context as you prepare for worship on Sunday.

The Adult Bible Class will continue in the Gospel of John at chapter 18, verse 35.

 

Remember to Pray

Remember to pray for our church and for all our members, that none be lost to Christ’s kingdom but that all continue in repentance and be strengthened and built up in the true and saving faith in Christ Jesus through the hearing and study of His Word. We pray for God’s healing and strengthening of our congregation, as well as for God’s help with our church’s financial needs. We continue to pray for all who have been sick or who are suffering among us – for Sam Rusch, who has had repeated stays in the hospital; for Ron and Lois Wellander and for their daughter Lisa Pugh, whose husband Wade was called to his eternal home on April 27 – for God’s comfort and strength and for safe travels for Ron and Lois, for those who have been absent from us, for our extended families and for Christians who are alone and have no congregation. Continue to pray for Lutheran congregations which desire to remain faithful to Christ and His Word, for the Lutheran churches in the Philippines and Japan, for Christians in Nigeria, Haiti and Chile, and for believers around the world who are persecuted or suffering for their faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Events and Announcements

On-line video of worship services can be found at: http://goodshepherdrogers.org/blog/worship-service-video.

Information for bulletins or newsletters may be sent to Pastor Moll by calling him at 479-233-0081 or by e-mail at goodshepherdrogers@yahoo.com.

Church Council will meet at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 18.

Voters’ are scheduled to meet on April 22, after the morning worship service and a pot-luck dinner.

 

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21