Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession

 

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“So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.

Our churches condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that through their own preparations and works the Holy Spirit comes to them without the external Word.”

Anabaptists: Taught that the Holy Spirit comes without the Word but through their own devotion

 

Which relationship would you rather be a part of?

 

1)      Your significant other tells you that she will remain with you as long as she feels like it. As long as you make her feel warm and tingly whenever your elbows brush, the love will remain. As long as you make sure that she feels happy around you more often than sad, she won’t go anywhere.  As long as the first thing she feels when she sees you for the first time every day is what Hollywood would describe as true love, you can count on her. As long as she feels some ambiguous, indescribable feeling of love, she will love you. But if that feeling ever leaves, so will she. If that feeling ever starts to lose some of its luster, your relationship is in jeopardy.

 

2)      Your significant other tells you that as long as you both live, neither of you will ever be alone. As long as there is breath in her body, she will love you. No matter how she feels on a given day she promises before God and anyone who will listen that she will never leave you. Love isn’t something that she has to feel, but a decision – a choice she willingly makes.

 

I haven’t conducted any official studies, but I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of people would say relationship #2 is the better option (unfortunately, real statistics – i.e. the divorce rate – do show that the majority of people apparently don’t do what it takes to make their relationship look like the second option. But that’s another blog for another day).

 

What does this have to do with Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession? Continue reading

Stop Doubting and Believe (John 20:24-29)

Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (4/27/14)

Text: John 20:19-31

Theme: Stop Doubting and Believe!

            Have you ever done something or said something that you later came to regret? You know, the kind of thing that you just don’t live down. For instance, there is a sweater on my shelf at home that I have never worn. It’s not because I don’t like it, it’s not because it didn’t fit me when I got it. I’ve never worn it because the high heat of a dryer took a perfectly good, new Christmas gift and shrank it… Why do I still have it, you ask? Well, every once in a while I like to teasingly remind the love of my life that there are some shirts that shouldn’t go in the dryer J.

I imagine that if you could have interviewed Thomas years after the account we have before us today, he would smile and shake his head when you brought up the day he doubted the other disciples. John 20 was a day that Thomas would never live down. His name is synonymous with doubting to this day.

It’s an easy thing to do, isn’t it – to pick on Thomas for his stubborn disbelief? From our perspective it is easy to wonder, “How could he?” How could he be so stubborn? How could he doubt like this?

How could he doubt the word of his closest friends? He had been around the other disciples and followers of Jesus for years. Couldn’t he tell by their obvious excitement that what they were telling him was real, or at the very least, worth listening to? I mean, the last time he saw them they were as scared for their lives and as devastated over Jesus’ death as he was, but now they are bubbling, excited, different, and this drastic change still doesn’t convince him? Continue reading

Article 4 of the Augsburg Confession

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Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works. People are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. By his death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in his sight. (Romans 3:21-26; 4:5)”

** I believe and the confess the truth of the Augsburg confession because it’s doctrines are the teachings of the Bible. For every point that is confessed in the article above, I have linked a Bible passage that clearly teaches what the Augsburg Confession states. **

This should be an easy one. This should be an article that anyone with a basic understanding of the Bible gets. This is after all, what Church Fathers for centuries have labeled as the article on which the church stands or falls. The Bible is clear, when it says, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this NOT FROM YOURSELVES¸ it is the GIFT of God – NOT BY WORKS, so that no one can boast.”

There are some things in the Bible that require some thinking – some digging – because they make me scratch my head the first time I read them. This is not one of those areas. God could not have been any more direct and straight forward than he is on this one point: being saved – getting to heaven – has nothing to do with ME, and everything to do with HIM.

A gift is not a gift if I worked to earn it. Salvation is a gift, which means I did not earn it.

I did not DECIDE to let God love me; he just did and does love me.

I did not come half way, a quarter of the way, or even a millionth of the way. God came all the way, grabbed me by my shoulders, shook me, slapped me, raised me from spiritual death, and made me believe when there was no spark of faith in me.

God did not bring me to faith, and then leave it up to me to make the appropriate changes so that my salvation would be complete. God did it all – one sacrifice, by one Man, for all people and every sin I ever have committed, and ever will commit.

This should be an easy one. Continue reading

Risen to Free Us! (John 20:11-18)

Sermon for Easter Sunday (4/20/14)

Text: John 20:1-18

Theme: Risen to Free Us!

            It was the first time in my life I had experience heartbreak. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sad. I was angry. I was confused. There was little hope for the future. There was no silver lining that I could see. No matter how long I dwelt on it, I couldn’t find satisfactory answers to my grief-fueled questions: Why? How could this possibly be good? Didn’t he understand he was abandoning me? Didn’t he understand how much he was hurting me? Couldn’t he see? Didn’t he care?

I had never known disappointment like this before. I had never known heartbreak like this before…. It was the day Barry Sanders retired…

As a boy who grew up in the early 90’s just outside of Detroit, it was easy to idolize Barry Sanders, the Detroit Lion’s running back (in my humble opinion, the greatest running back to ever play the game). I had the jersey which I wore religiously. My favorite sweatshirt had his picture plastered on the front and the yard totals for each game of the year he broke 2000 yards on the back. I still remember my older brother laughing at me when I told him I wanted to grow up and be a professional football player like Barry Sanders.

And then one day in 1999 at the top of his game, in great physical health, in the middle of a six year contract, seemingly for no reason at all, he just quit. He walked away from the game of football and broke my heart and the hearts of every other lion’s fan in the process. It was just one more sharp dagger in the already painful existence of being a Detroit Lions fan.

Not a big football fan? That’s fine. Not a big Barry Sanders fan? That’s fine, you are entitled to your opinion, I don’t know if we can be friends any more, but you are entitled to your opinion.

Whether or not your heart was broken on that fateful day in 1999, I’m guessing you know what it is like to have your heart broken. Even if you don’t care all that much about Detroit Lions football, you know what it is like to be let down and disappointed. Continue reading

Service of the Seven Words (Good Friday)

The Seven Words of Jesus for Good Friday (4/18/14)

Luke 23:33-34 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the other criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

It happens all the time. At some high profile murder case, the reporters will be swarming the victim’s family, trying to get a quote, trying to get the emotion grabbing shot of tears and anger, asking the leading questions like, “If you could say one thing to the man who murdered your son, what would it be?” The expectation is anger, right? That’s what we humans feel when someone hurts us, anger. The expectation is that when we are wronged we need to speak up for ourselves, let our voice be heard and make sure everyone knows we are hurt.

But every once in a while, if you watch the news enough, you will hear a victim say something like, “I would want him to know that I forgive him.”

Selflessness like that can only really be learned in one place, can’t it? Selflessness like that can only be found in Jesus who in the heat of the moment, with nails driven in, and insults ringing in his ears asked that his enemies be forgiven. This is where we see, and learn what selfless love looks like – a wronged God forgiving and loving those who wronged him. This cross is where we experience firsthand what selfless love feels like, because this Jesus is dying so that he can say the same thing to you – Father forgive them for my sake. And the Father does…

The first word from the cross. Continue reading

A Meal Meant As Much for You As Israel (Exodus 12:1-14)

Sermon For Maundy Thursday (4/17/14)

Theme: A Meal Meant As Much for You as Israel

Text: Exodus 12:1-14

            What’s your favorite book of the Bible?

Maybe you haven’t really taken the time to think it through before. Maybe no one has ever forced you to answer that before. Well, tonight I’m gonna throw the old hypothetical at you: If you were stranded on an island and you could only have one book of the Bible, which would it be?

How many of you would say Romans? Go ahead, raise your hands if your favorite book of the Bible is Romans.

What about one of the Gospels? Raise your hand if your favorite book is Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

Anyone for Philippians? How about Galatians?

Now what about Exodus… Leviticus… Numbers… Deuteronomy?

No takers? I guess I’m not really surprised that none of you chose Numbers as the one book of the Bible that really gets your blood pumping – same thing with Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Exodus at least has the plagues going for it, but I can see how it wouldn’t necessarily rank with Romans or Galatians as the one book of the Bible you would want to have with you on that lonely island.

I get it, I really do. I get what makes some of those Old Testament books hard to read. There are a lot of names you can’t pronounce, a lot of locations you couldn’t find on a map, a lot of numbers you don’t really care about, a lot of laws that don’t apply to you anymore. I understand what it is like to be reading the first chapter of Numbers thinking, “Why should I care that there were 54,400 men of 20 years or older in the clan of Issachar at Mt Sanai?” I get what it is like to ask myself, “I don’t raise goats, so why do I need to read about not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk? It’s not like I’m ever going to be in a situation where that law’s going to apply to me. I don’t have any slaves, nor have I taken anyone’s land in payment for a debt, so why do I have to read about the year of Jubilee?”

I understand what it is like to read some of the stuff of the Bible (especially in the Old Testament) and ask myself, “Why does this matter? What does this have to do with me?”

I understand, but I also want to encourage you today to keep asking those questions; “Why does this matter? What does this have to do with me” I want to encourage you to not give up on, or skim over any part of God’s word because at first glance it doesn’t seem to have all that much to say to your current life situation. I want to encourage you to find the relevance of every word of the Bible – because this is God’s word we are talking about. And if this is God’s word, what right do we have to dismiss any of the words. After-all doesn’t God himself say through Paul, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness?” Continue reading

Hear the Proclamation of Your King: Peace Be With You (Zechariah 9:9-10)

Sermon for Palm Sunday (4/13/14)

Text: Zechariah 9:9-10

Theme: Hear the Proclamation of Your King: Peace Be With You

            It was my big break, or at least I thought so at the time. It was my opportunity to have the spotlight on me and only me if only for a minute – and as a middle child I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by. It was my time to show the people in my life that I was somebody.

I had earned the role of orphanage manager in the school play Oliver Twist, my eighth grade year. I had multiple lines to memorize; I even had a solo to sing.

Now, there are many words that could describe how I felt the night of that first performance – but I can guarantee you that peaceful was not one of them. I was nervous, anxious, worried, stressed, tense, sleep-deprived, excited, agitated, and restless – but peaceful I was not…

That was the first time in my life that I remember not having peace for an extended period of time. It was an experience I will never forget.

I’m betting that all of you know what that feels like. Even if you never participated in a school play, you know what it is like to be peace-less. You know what it is like to be nervous, anxious, worried, stressed, tense, sleep-deprived, excited, agitated and restless. In fact, if you are anything like the rest of humanity, you probably find yourself peace-less more often than not.

Certainly the Israelites of Zechariah’s time knew what it was like to be robed of peace. They, like the modern state of Israel in many ways, were this little nation surrounded by larger, angry nations that wanted nothing more than to wipe them from the map. They had experienced war after war after war. Peace was not something they were all that familiar with.

Certainly the Israelites of Jesus’ time knew what it was like to live without peace. They were a once proud nation now forced to live under Roman rule. Between political unrest, uprisings, sickness, and poverty, they had more than enough on their plates to make them peace-less.

It’s just a simple truth about living in this world whether you live hundreds of years before Jesus or thousands of years after: There are a lot of things that can and do rob us of peace. There are a lot of things that make us nervous, and anxious, worried and stressed. And it is also true that many of the things that keep us peace-less today are much more serious than a grade school production of Oliver Twist. Continue reading