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Monthly Archives: August 2022

Ever More Giving like the Giver

Sermon preached at Clam Falls Lutheran Church, Aug. 28th, 2022

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“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.”

–Luke 14:12

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One of the things that I enjoy doing from time to time is listening to or reading sermons by Lutheran pastors who are online.

One can learn a lot by doing this – as well as get some good illustrations or quotes once in a while for one’s own sermons (as many of you know!) 

There is an LCMS pastor that I have been following for years who is a very interesting guy and who works very hard to do short and sweet sermons.

He says a lot of very good things and tries to do so in a very straightforward but interesting way – and he’s also able to make some rather big ideas pretty easy to grasp, understandable…

Sometimes though, he tries to be provocative and says some things that don’t sound quite right. 

For example, in a recent sermon he seemed to say that what a Christian did… how a Christian lived… didn’t and couldn’t have anything to do with their salvation. 

Emphasizing the work of God’s Holy Spirit, he went so far as to say that “There is nothing more damnable than someone choosing to act how they think a Christian should behave…”

Well, what if they really are conflicted about a matter but ultimately choose what God desires? 

I don’t think he really thought through this statement. I hope not.

At the same time, I certainly think that we can understand some of what I believe he was trying to convey if we consider the importance of the doctrine of man’s justification before God.

After all, the Bible talks about how things like faith and repentance themselves are gifts from God – things that He grants to His people! 

The Bible says we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and the Bible says we are saved by faith, so which is it?

The answer is that the gift of faith receives the benefits that Christ wins, so it is both. If you ask faith why it saves it doesn’t point inward or to itself but only points to the blood of Jesus!

So that is what faith alone means! Because of the work of Jesus Christ, those who believe in Him have forgiveness, life, and salvation!

All this said, strictly speaking it is not true that we can have no effect on our salvation by the way we live. 

The Bible does, after all, talk about shipwrecking one’s faith…

For each and every one of us has an old Adam. Yes, even the Christian, who is a genuine, bona fide, new creature in Christ with new spiritual impulses that truly begin to fear, love, and trust in God… still has an old Adam. 

So even as the Christian is destined for a resurrection unto eternal life, we also still remain sinners until we die – and so we dare not mess around, coddling and feeding that sinner that remains in each one of us. 

The particular paths that we follow…

The particular goals we find ourselves drawn to, lured to…

The particular places that we end up, here or there…  

Can, and certainly do, deeply affect us… 

Remember, for example, that the phrase “bad company corrupts good character” literally comes from the Bible… (I Cor. 15:33).

In other words, how we walk… where we walk… with whom we walk… is critical. 

The struggle of faith – which includes even if it definitely is not limited to the struggle to walk rightly and safely! – is real. 

As an old Lutheran hymn puts it, “I walk in danger all the way…”

This is why we, Jesus’ sheep, need to always huddle up close to our Shepherd as He leads us through the valley of death and in the paths that are right, safe, and true! 

For as Jesus walked in God’s law by God’s Spirit, He enables and empowers us to do the same, and hence we too will fulfill the law of Christ (see Rom. 8:4, Gal. 6:2, Matthew 23:23).

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Another really interesting thing this pastor said is that when a person feels the accusation of God’s law, it is normal for them to start to hate God.

This, I think, is true – and it certainly coincides with Martin Luther’s experience! 

Luther was in a bad place where basically all he could hear were the commands of God’s law – which he knew he couldn’t do – and so he began to despair.

This is what happens when a person who takes God’s law very seriously – takes it as a word from God Himself – and yet does not possess the Gospel, that is, the message of God’s grace, mercy, tenderness, and long suffering in Jesus for sinners…

All this said, that is not all the pastor said. 

Being provocative once again, he also went on to say this to the person who hates God: “Without Jesus you would be right to hate him…”

Why would he say this?

Well, he helpfully went on to explain. 

It is because a person who feels this way does not really hate the true God, but their wrong idea of God. What they hate, then, is not the true God, but an idol (2x).

Are you following this? This actually tracks with the thought of perhaps the greatest – in terms of influence that is – theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth. 

Now, I think Barth was a big problem for the church and I think this kind of statement is problematic. 

I don’t doubt that we should be aware that people begin to not only resent God but even have very violent and palpable reactions towards God like Luther – and that we should be ready to deal with that – but at the same time, what does Romans 1 say? 

It says that what may be known about God, His eternal power and divine nature, is clear to all people, and that they suppress the truth by their wickedness. 

Neither glorifying Him nor giving thanks to Him, they are without excuse. Furthermore, even though they know God’s law condemns to death their sin, they continue to do it and approve of sin in others. 

Therefore, God’s law is meant to silence them, and hold them accountable as it makes them become conscious of their sin, of the knowledge that they suppress. 

Now, what I find interesting here is that in the midst of all of these very hard words about the objective guilt of man, God’s convicting man by His universal law, and the abject rebellion of man against God and His eternal will, it doesn’t say anything about how their view of this God they don’t like is an idol. 

No, this isn’t even implied by the text. In fact, they, like everyone else in the world – Christian or non-Christian, rich or poor, black or white, good or bad in the eyes of the world – know enough about God, no matter how depraved they are, to know that He is righteous…

That they are not…

…and that they are indeed accountable before Him, they will answer to Him.   

However much they might hate Him, that knowledge of God that they do have… that they retain even as they attempt to suppress it… is real knowledge and not some “idol”.

Instead, in Paul’s account, it is in suppressing this true knowledge that they proceed to create idols.

So, we should never tell people that they should hate God, but rather that they must stop hating Him… 

Ultimately, things are not about their subjective and imperfect perceptions, but their concrete evil belief and behavior, and about the God Who is There and Not Silent.

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Now, I hope that you found that enlightening…

It is a good thing when theological issues and questions begin to percolate more and more in us!…

In a world where cringe-worthy lawn signs and bumper stickers that announce man’s ignorance to the world are common, it is a good thing to learn to be different… to go much deeper… to think critically about matters divine. 

To be driven to the Scriptures to learn more, to be driven to our God… and not away from Him and false ideas about Him… 

That we might also more actively and publicly subject the world’s philosophies to critique in the light of God’s word! 

So where did this pastor get this idea from? 

Well, that is a much longer story, and I am not going to go there this morning (maybe someday in a Bible class [or you can start with the long footnote 4 here])

The main point, however, is this: 

This is not how the Apostle Paul or the other Apostles, or Jesus Christ, spoke… 

And we should endeavor to speak as they do… as the Apostle Paul put it, to speak according to the “pattern of sound words”… being careful not to go astray…

So, overall, where am I going with all of these things? 

Why start with all of this deeper theological stuff this morning? 

Well, regarding things not sounding quite right again…  maybe you also felt that way when you heard Jesus say what He said in the text I selected to preach on… 

I mean, I confess that is what I think when I hear it…

Jesus, are you kidding me? 

This sounds so wrong! 

Why are you saying this? 

Maybe we should talk about this…

I know I say or imply this all the time, but Jesus always keeps us on our toes, doesn’t He? 

Like that pastor, He says some very provocative things that cause us to wonder, that don’t sound quite right – and should cause us to want to dig a bit… look under this or that rock…

The difference, however, is that with Jesus there is always something solid that we will find…

So, let’s take a look at what He says again here, picking up at verse 12:

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

A few things that jump out to me right away.

First of all, isn’t Jesus the guest of one of the Pharisees here? In light of His being invited to this banquet, it seems that this could be taken as His being a bit rude even if, strictly speaking, he is not criticizing his host. 

In other words, we might think: “Should Jesus right now be talking about what those who have invited Him over to his home for a meal should be doing?” Still, Jesus is not always about manners, to be sure!

Second, this seems to go along with what Jesus just taught about the importance of humility, that is, how everyone exalting himself shall be humbled and the one humbling his own self shall be exalted… 

Here, Jesus teaches about inviting those who society really would see as being at the extreme end of lowliness, the outcasts: the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 

Many would have suggested at this time that people like this were cursed by God, probably because of sin in their lives. 

Something similar is believed in India even today, where the lowest class of persons is such because of bad karma that persists throughout generations, in effect inheriting the consequences of their ancestor’s sins…  

Third, it might seem obvious to some, but I really can’t  blame the Lutheran Study Bible for saying about this passage that “emphasis should be placed on generosity. Jesus is neither criticizing His host nor forbidding people to host their family and friends.” 

We can say this because  we don’t want to just take this saying from Jesus in bare isolation, apart from the fact, for example, that Jesus Himself attended a wedding feast that was no doubt full of family and friends! Jesus is making a point, instead, about generosity vis a vis reciprocity.

Fourth, going along with that, the thing that stands out to me the most: Jesus here seems to really be telling us that we should be placing a priority on inviting those of low status into our own homes, and that if there is a good chance they can somehow repay us then that we are doing this wrong. 

Further, even if we don’t and can’t earn our salvation, we should nevertheless remember that God will remember these actions on our part and will at some point return the favor Himself in ways that we can’t possibly imagine. 

So, it is not that all forms of reciprocity are bad, just that they are incomplete and do not measure up to God, who actually serves men who can not repay precisely because they can not repay… (Luke 6:35, see Fraanzman, CSSC)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say I do not feel like I have even really begun to really learn… and put into practice… what Jesus is saying here…

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Truth be told, I believe this passage, in addition to preparing the Pharisees for the next thing He’ll say, also is meant to simultaneously convict and guide them — and us as well!

And in every case this is meant to lead to an even greater proclamation of the goodness of our Father in Heaven, a showing forth and display of His greatness and mercy!

So folks — you who confess your sins and embrace God’s mercy in Christ— you are among the redeemed who have a great future ahead of you… with eternal dwellings that your Lord has already prepared for you!… 

So don’t just stop with having family and friends over or volunteering in this or that way in the community!

Don’t just stop at church by having a Harvest Supper or VBS…

For “when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid…”

Again, it appears that Jesus really does want to encourage us. To encourage us to live in light of the Kingdom of God today… and to think of matters of eternity. 

He doesn’t want us to do any of these things in order to get things like material blessings in heaven, but He wants us to know that these – along with people we really will know to be our loyal friends whom we enjoy! – will nevertheless be a part of our blessed life that is to come. 

Perhaps even those who are not Christians can begin to understand the appeal here. 

I think of some words, for instance, that I read a couple weeks ago from one of my favorite writers and bloggers, Rod Dreher. 

Speaking of a recent visit to Austria, he said this:

“A few weeks back, I took my son to see the Kapuzinergruft, the burial place of Habsburg royalty since the 17th century. It’s the crypt of the Capuchin church in central Vienna. It is a wonder. Viennese funeral culture is a thing of its own; people here adore a beautiful death. The elaborate tombs of the Habsburg greats have to be seen to be believed. As we walked through, paying our respects, it struck me that these tombs were like spent nuclear fuel rods. Through the bodies of these men and women, immense power once flowed. They used to rule much of Europe, when Europe was the richest and most powerful civilization on earth. Now they are all dead, and warehoused in a crypt underneath a church in a rich, beautiful, democratic city. Sic transit gloria mundi [that is “Thus passes the glory of the world.”] It’s important to visit the Kapuzinergruft for the same reason it’s important to visit the ruins of ancient Rome: to be reminded of what happens to all power and pomp in this mortal world…”

This is looking at things from the negative side but it highlights the corresponding greatness of eternal life and its relationships….

But really, all this said, how encouraged do you really feel? 

If you are encouraged by this kind of insight, how long do you think you can sustain that? 

After all, we saints are still sinners, and we, my friends, also live among a sinful people with sinful lips as Isaiah said…

So, overall, I’d say: 

Doesn’t Jesus’ message bother us?!

How hard it is for us to hear His message here!

How upsetting it is to know that God is, to say the least, unimpressed with our weak faith and our correspondingly weak priorities! 

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So, are you beginning to hate God yet? 

Be honest with yourself: if you don’t feel a bit of anger towards Him – with Him having such high expectations of you – could it possibly be because you are not taking Him seriously enough?!

I’m not saying this is necessarily the case with any of you. Again though, for me, these words seem wrong. Earlier, I said I thought this:

“I mean, I confess that is what I think when I hear it – Jesus, are you kidding me? 

This sounds so wrong! 

Why are you saying this?”

But now let me add this: 

“Lord have mercy! 

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! 

Lord, I know all your words are good!… help me to live them to the fullest…”

That, I am sure, is the right response!

In our confession each Sunday, we confess that we have sinned before almighty God, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

We sometimes call these sins of commission – the sins we commit – and sins of omission, the things that we fail to do that we should. 

The “what we have done” stuff is pretty easy to identify, as they are often readily brought to our awareness and confessed. 

We know these faith-destroying and doubt-inducing sins are our sinful habits and weaknesses that we must constantly wage war against! 

At the same time, there are sins of omission and these are a little bit harder to deal with and identify… 

We all know, for example, that Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan definitely condemns the actions of the priest and the Levite… 

…but we cannot always know with certainty about all the things that we could have done and that God expected us to do… whether it was simply a good thing we could have done…

…or the best thing we could have done… (see I Cor. 7).

Nevertheless, we need to take this matter of our sins of omission seriously as well!

And it goes along with our passage this morning! 

This is where our shepherd is leading us – even as He also always gives us rest for our soul, desiring our burdens be light with Him, not giving us more than we can bear…

The 16th century church reformer Martin Luther talked about how everyone must be ready to prove his holiness (AE 21:86).

What he meant to say is that all of us who are believers in Christ should be elated by the knowledge of God’s love for them and also eager to be known as Christians!

…striving to live as Christians for our neighbor’s sake.

How? He talked about “the seven principle parts of Christians sanctification” or “the seven holy possessions of the church”:

“By [using, these seven things: the Scriptures, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession and Absolution, Pastors, Prayer and proclamation, and suffering[i]…] the Holy Spirit effects in us a daily sanctification and vivification in Christ, according to the first table of Moses. By [this sanctification] we obey it, albeit never perfectly in Christ. But we constantly strive to attain the goal, under his redemption or remission of sins, until we too shall one day become perfectly holy and no longer stand in need of forgiveness. Everything is directed toward that goal.”

He goes on a bit later to talk about another sign that helps identify the presence of Christ’s church in the world, love for one’s neighbors, the fulfillment of the second table of the commandments:

“[We see Christ’s church] when we bear no one a grudge, entertain no anger, hatred, envy or vengefulness toward our neighbors, but gladly forgive them, lend to them, help them, and counsel them; when we are not lewd, not drunkards, not proud, arrogant, overbearing, but chaste, self-controlled, sober, friendly, kind, gentle and humble; when we do not steal, rob, are not usurious, greedy, do not overcharge, but are mild, kind, content, charitable; when we are not false, mendacious, perjurers, but truthful, trustworthy, and do whatever else is taught in these commandments – all of which St. Paul teaches abundantly in more than one place. We need the Decalogue not only to apprise us of our lawful obligations, but we also need it to discern how far the Holy Spirit has advanced us in his work of sanctification and by how much we still fall short of the goal, lest we become secure and imagine that we have now done all that is required. Thus we must constantly grow in [holiness, that is] sanctification and always become new creatures in Christ. This means ‘grow’ and ‘do so more and more’ [II Pet. 3:18]” (LW 41:166)

The pastor I talked about earlier, God bless Him, was truly mistaken…

What a Christian does… how a Christian lives… certainly does have something to do with their salvation as a whole (in other words, not just their justification, but everything the wider understanding of salvation can entail).

God means for you to be justified, to be continually sanctified, and to be pressing towards final glory… shining more powerfully each day with Christ’s love, compassion, and mercy to the world (see Philippians 2:12-18 here).

So let us all reflect more on how profound and wonderful is the love of God in Christ that overcomes this world! 

This God who “lavish[es] his power and love on the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind..” (Fraanzman) 

As a matter of fact, right after our reading for today He goes on to tell the Great Parable of the Wedding Feast, where He speaks of going out at once into the streets and lanes of the town to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame…

You see, this, actually, in a very real sense, is us. 

This is who we are spiritually, without our Lord’s grace and mercy. 

When we see those of low acclaim and status in this world, we should not only feel God’s mercy arise in us but think of our own desperate spiritual state…

…and the love of our God in Christ that begins to heal us, even as He goes on to make all things new – and would through us as well! 

Behold, your God, crucified for your sins because He loved this poor, crippled, blind and lame world…even you… and was also resurrected in power!

As the Apostle John simply said, “we love because He first loved us”.

So, forgiven in Christ’s grace – and eager to do the good works He has prepared for you to do beforehand – go and serve your King!

Amen. 

With footnotes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rDFfZIGfacvDTFAr5aGPlKZN_l8EvLarNLFrcXladjc/edit?usp=sharing

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2022 in Uncategorized

 

Why You Should Long for Apocalypse!

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”

–Luke 12:49

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What in the world is Jesus saying in our text this morning?

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled? 

But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed?”

What does this mean?

What Jesus is saying here is that He is longing for His work on earth to be completed… for the mystery of salvation that He will finally accomplish to happen! 

To be revealed!

Divine Revelation. 

We know that the last book of the Bible – speaking of the end of the world – goes by that name as it starts with that word. In the Greek, the word is “apokalypsis”, which means “revelation” or “unveiling”…

The Book of Revelation is known as an apocalyptic book, the only one of its type in the New Testament canon. 

That said, there are apocalyptic themes throughout the New Testament and we see one here as well.

Again, what Jesus is saying is that He desires that His purpose would be fulfilled and that that which has been hidden will be revealed, unveiled, “made manifest…”

This, simply, is what happens when Jesus is who He is. When He is present, He shows up… 

Yes, He brings peace with God! 

He brings internal peace – the peace that passes all understanding, we say – in the hearts of individual people the world over!

He brings the knowledge that one truly is God’s beloved child and destined for heaven above like one’s Lord…

At the same time, the result of this true joy, contentment, and peace in the hearts of His chosen people is the hatred, the contempt, of the world…

The world, rightly, senses at some level a fundamental incompatibility, and realizes that there is a division…

And we who believe then see that this incompatibility that may have previously been hidden to us is revealed…. 

As Jesus puts it, sharing painful words:

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Why? Why?

Why because God’s purposes, God’s goals…. and the goals of others are at cross-purposes… 

No, the desires and designs of the men of this world will not stay hidden forever… 

The presence of Jesus and the holiness, the purity, the Light that is His alone… will flush them out into the open, scatter the cockroaches operating in the darkness… and they will be truly revealed for the wicked men they are…

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We see a similar phenomenon happening in the world itself don’t we?

In some sense, people, seemingly like Jesus here, have this real urge to unveil certain things, to know and make known certain things that are hidden…

In the early days of the internet in the mid-1990s, the days of Netscape, AOL, and Yahoo, there was a real sense of freedom and openness in this new frontier, this wild west…

A lot of companies then moved online, and started doing their business there. 

Soon, many of us were signing online forms saying that we agreed to these or those terms and conditions, seemingly trusting these companies and organizations enough so that we did not really need to actually read all of that stuff! 

Now, a lot of that early freedom and liberation some felt about the internet has evaporated, as the powers that be attempt to herd all the cats that participate on the internet. 

Tracking down all the nooks and crannies that are out there, cataloging and organizing and algorithmizing things with the intention of getting them under their control, in line with their purposes…

Since the pandemic, for example, many more people began working at home, seemingly getting more freedom and flexibility. Many say they would love to work at home.

At the same time, this has given more companies than ever an excuse to go into what their employees may consider their private space… .

I recently read up on some of the “bossware”, which some call “tattleware”, that is out there… software with names like StaffCop, Clever Control, Controlio, Activ Trak, and Sneek…

One article gives us the lowdown:

“Once the software is installed, an employer has deeper access and even live monitoring tools for everything you do on your computer, including which applications you open, what websites you visit, and how much time you spend doing different activities. Employers can use this data to track your attendance or periodically snap screenshots of your screen. Some software can even monitor the music you listen to, your facial expressions, your tone of voice, or your writing tone throughout the day…”

Indeed, some of these programs brag that their “comprehensive tracking functionality can capture any user activity”, and also, importantly, that they operate “entirely in stealth, invisible to the consumer.”

Hiding, I suppose, with the intent to reveal what was previously hidden and it is felt must be known… 

Perhaps showing not only that this or that employee is not really productive or efficient… but also that they are not really fully in line with the purposes, the mission, of the organization’s managers…

We see similar things happening not just in companies, but in national governments. People are watched regarding what they say, what they read on the internet, how they behave, where they go….

In China, for example, there is a social credit system where the government tracks the movements of its citizens and dishes out rights and privileges, rewards, and punishments, accordingly.

Don’t want to have difficulty finding work, being admitted to university, or getting a bank account? 

Don’t want to have a hard time renting here or there or buying this or selling that, perhaps in a land where there will one day only be a highly regulated digital currency and no paper money? 

Well, maybe stop hanging out with Christians, for example, and try supporting what the Party says!

Even Christians who are wary about being End Times Prophecy Fanatics regarding things like “Vaccine Passports” – providing an opening for them to be under full government surveillance – will not be able to help thinking about what the book of Revelation says: 

“And the second beast required all people small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark—the name of the beast or the number of its name…”

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The world wants to be in full control. 

The masters of the world, convincing themselves that they are doing everyone else a favor, increasingly are exercising their dominion over every area of human life that they can.

And in the end, for them, the ends will justify the means. If half-truths, deception, and lies are necessary to govern the world, the New World Order, so be it.

Now, in truth, God, in the beginning, did indeed give man dominion. 

But when God gave Adam and Eve dominion in the Garden prior to the fall, this was, in fact, a trust from Him.

They were not to exercise mastery of the world as they pleased, but to exercise good and faithful stewardship in line with their Master’s purposes and possessions…

The reason that the church has traditionally been opposed to hidden societies, that is “secret societies” like the Freemasons, for example, is because they are essentially a religion with purposes opposed to God’s: they demand a loyalty that supersedes Christ and His people; even if they do give lip-service to a god of sorts, an “Architect of the Universe,” they nevertheless undermine the proclamation of the free grace of Jesus Christ.  

In Martin Short’s 1993 HarperCollins expose on the Freemasons, Inside the Brotherhood, he writes that contrary to ideas of ‘purity of conduct’, ‘compassion’ for the ‘errors of mankind’ or the ‘pleasing bond of fraternal love’; for the Masons “relief and truth are restricted to a very small circle, beyond which it is acceptable to tell co-ordinated lies to achieve the economic ruin of others” (Maria, summarizing Short, 57-58).

And that is not all. Short writes in detail about what kinds of rituals and oaths have been historically involved in becoming a Mason, the “1st degree of Entered Apprentice,” as well as entrance into the “2nd degree of Fellow Craft”. Of the latter, Short tells us: 

“…should the candidate betray his oath of secrecy he submits himself to “‘having my breast laid open, my heart torn therefrom, and given to the ravenous birds of the air, or devouring beasts of the field as a prey.’” (Short, 51).

Now, I understand if one is skeptical about these seemingly spectacular claims about the Masons. If that’s the case with you, check out Alvin Schmidt’s 1980 academic book on the topic, Fraternal Organizations.  

The wider point, however, is that there is a desire for many powerful people to operate “behind the scenes”, in secret, in loyal solidarity with one another, and in larger and larger networks, in order to increasingly unveil those people and plans and things that do not please them, and are at cross-purposes with their own goals, designs…

Again, hiding, I suppose, with the intent to reveal what was previously hidden and it is felt must be known… 

Perhaps showing that this or that person is not really fully in line with the purposes of those who would increasingly gain control, for our own good of course…

But, you see, all who ultimately work in this fashion, who ultimately seek to rule in this way, will fail, and fail miserably, because the world’s schemes will be unveiled….

For rejoice! 

Christ has come to bring fire to the earth, and how He wishes it was already kindled! 

An important Bible passage to chew on from Psalm 2:

Why do the nations conspire

    and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth rise up

    and the rulers band together

    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,

“Let us break their chains

    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

    the Lord scoffs at them. 

He rebukes them in his anger

    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

“I have installed my king

    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

In truth, proclaiming this message about the coming King is what the church is to be all about. 

The world wants us to listen to it – “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason” it says – and of course, we know that listening is good, taking time to care for your neighbors by listening to them and their concerns is good…

And yet, many in the world have absolutely hardened their hearts against their Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

As one man puts it, instead of “renouncing Satan and all his works” as our baptismal liturgy declares, they look to renounce Christ and all His works.

But, as he also points out: 

“The difficulty for them is that “His works” include every last molecule and atom. That work includes what He does in holding everything together. [For as the book of Colossians puts it:] “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Wilson)

So the world is full of foolish evil. 

This evil must be unveiled and overturned. For the rejection of the creation as creation and this King the Bible speaks of as King is no laughing matter. 

You heard our Old Testament reading this morning in Jeremiah. The ante is upped further, not less, in the New Testament. 

There, Love in human flesh, Jesus Christ, the Creator and King of the Universe Himself, speaks firmly and decisively about Hell, a place of eternal torment, where the fire is everlasting (Matt. 18:8); utter isolation, where there is outer darkness (Matt. 8:12); and personal disintegration, or destruction (Matt 7:13) (Wilson). 

I read some words from a wise pastor this week, talking about how the church really does not so much need to listen but to proclaim. 

Pushing back against the current Pope’s admonition to be a listening church, he said: 

“God knows the hearts of men, the thoughts of men, and the works of men. He does not need His agents to listen and tell Him what they have heard. He needs His messengers to repeat what He has said and end the reign of darkness and the captivity of sin and the hopeless end of death. It might be too late for Pope Francis but it is not too late for us to learn anew this ancient wisdom.” 

Amen to that! 

The great 4th century theologian Basil the Great put it, spoke about the weak church of his own day that had rejected the glory of the cross for the wisdom of the world:

“Men in authority are afraid to speak, for those who have reached power by human interest are the slaves of those to whom they owe their advancement… (Letter 92)”

And while the church is weak, the world – increasingly drunk with pride and confidence! – wants its words to be able to create reality as it makes and re-makes itself. And in its most extreme forms, it looks, in futility of course, to destroy and rebuild that which God holds together with his powerful word… 

But this is an absurd tower of Babel clearly built on a foundation of sand. 

And yes, perhaps right now, they have pushed too far and too fast. And eyes are beginning to be opened… 

Regardless, we need to proclaim our Rock, the only Rock that can withstand the storm.  

+++

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”

Here, again, Jesus is expressing that He longs for apocalyptic judgment! 

The fire which will reveal and purify!

-That which is concealed will be disclosed; the hidden made known; things spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight; that whispered in inner rooms proclaimed from the housetops (Luke 12:1-3)!

-His baptism of fire will also bring not peace, but salutary adn necessary division: setting son against father and father against son!

-And truly, all the hypocrisies of man – which He goes on to speak of – will be laid bare and dealt with in His work! 

And how will it take place? 

Jesus in one sense is speaking about everything that is to come, but particularly about the centrality of His cross for everything!

In the book of I Peter, the Apostle says: 

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

In the context of I Peter what this means is that God always judges Christians first. 

Not in a way that ultimately condemns us, but, through suffering and persecution, in a way meant to discipline us and ultimately strengthen we who believe in Jesus.

And… our beloved King, Jesus Christ, as the head of the church, God’s house, indeed in a sense fulfills this passage about judgment beginning with the household of God to the greatest degree… because when Jesus paid for all of our sin on the cross, God really did mean not to just discipline Him, but to issue judgement on all of our sin in Him… to even condemn Him in our place.

Jesus did not come to judge the world. Strictly speaking, He came to save the world. 

But He could only do this through His Father’s intention to lay our sin on Him, afflicting, striking, piercing, crushing, and condemning our sin in His body on that tree.

The world kills Jesus, judges Him, and God, using evil men, judges Him as well…

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled?”

It.

Is.

Finished.

And then, resurrection. 

As we read in our long Epistle reading in Hebrews 11, God always brings His people through the suffering and the opposition they face from the world, the flesh, and the devil…

And we see this ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Promised One who all those good Old Testament saints were looking forward to!

And as we heard: 

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…” (Hebrew 12:2-3)

+++

And make no mistake about it, even if Christ does not come in order to judge, to condemn the world but rather to save it, He will, in the end, by its Judge.

You see, He doesn’t even need to do anything, really. His very presence, in fact, would be enough for this necessary action to take place… 

For if He is oil, the world is water….

The world is full of hypocrisy. 

Hypocrisy is not just doing the opposite of what you say you believe. 

Hypocrisy is about deception, play-acting and putting up fronts. 

Hypocrisy is valuing the approval of others more than God’s. 

It is being focused on externals, appearances – the world and its glory – at the expense of truly seeking to know God in the secret place of one’s heart (Rom. 2:29).

Therefore, hypocrisy is ultimately a deep inner corruption and hostility towards God’s word (Luke 19:44).

And hence, hypocrisy is always opposed to Jesus Christ. 

Hear Christ’s piercing words from John 16!:

“When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

As Jesus is revealed, the reality of the prince of the world’s sin and the world’s sin stands revealed…

Even the world sometimes says, the truth will out! 

That is correct.

Hiding places will be flushed out…

…all the secrets and evil plans laid bare… 

…the whispered words and plans shouted from the rooftops… 

…the “righteous” of the world shown to be anything but…

…and “whoever lives by the truth will come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:21)

When I was reading about “bossware” I came across this quote:

“…I would feel uncomfortable if someone was looking over my shoulder as I compose every email that I wrote,” [one expert] said. Imagine if your boss had access to your boring daily processes, where you may delete and rewrite an email, say, or correct a minor mistake before anyone else notices…”

Some people see God like that, but we know He isn’t like such a boss…

Even if we know that His word is indeed like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock into pieces, we also know that, through His beloved Son Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – He longs to be tender and gentle and merciful to us poor sinners…

We might fear the revealing of our sin, but we shouldn’t! 

It is the devil who will always and only accuse us. But we – to the absolute delight of our Father in Heaven – have an Advocate and Defender in our Lord, His Son Jesus Christ! 

So let us look to Peter as our example!… 

Around the time Jesus was calling His disciples, our Lord ordered some of them, fishermen, to cast their net on the other side of the boat.

The net became full of fish… and Peter, astonished, just knew He was in the presence of God! 

Jesus did not need to say a word to Peter about His sin, his own hypocrisies, for Peter simply knew…

“Lord, go away from me, for I am a sinful man…” 

But you know how Jesus responded? 

With grace, acceptance, and reassurance:

“Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men…” 

You. 

Too.  

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled?”

Amen!

With footnotes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/13lB_K4LF9xkehSGqcw4b8pl9IiurtCXlv2Nvunp7jik/edit?usp=sharing

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2022 in Uncategorized