Sunday, October 07, 2018

A Matter of Character

Listening to The Lutheran Hour (a half hour program on the radio presented every Sunday by one of our local Lutheran churches) on September 30, 2018 to a sermon entitled Cut Off -- For Us - I am compelled again to respond, and my theme (comparing to other Lutheran Hour responses) remains the same - while the underlying message is true - there is a fundamental flaw which could, in fact, lead to "losing our reward," as this sermon refers to.

I will quote portions of the sermon so you can see the context. It is also found in whole here:

Text: Mark 9:38-50
Have you ever seen a post on Facebook and said to yourself, "Oh, that's not smart"?

One of the challenges that can confront people today as they enter the job market is their digital footprint. Posts on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites follow people into the application process and even into personal interviews. Folks are sometimes surprised to find that prospective employers have searched their online postings as a part of the hiring process. What was posted in fun can have serious effects on a person's employment!

Why would a prospective employer go to the trouble of investigating materials that have nothing directly to do with the potential employee? Plain and simple--it's about character.

sw: I must say, I am often struck with how "right on" the speakers on The Lutheran Hour are much of the time - and this is no exception. What we say or post on the Internet can have an effect on potential employment.

What is more, He uses the occasion to teach the disciples once again what the kingdom of God is really about. While they argue among themselves about who is going to be first in Christ's kingdom, He steers them back to the focus of work in His kingdom: "And He sat down and called the twelve. And He said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all'" (Mark 9:35). Then Jesus takes a child into His arms and says that whoever receives this child receives Him, and whoever receives Him receives His Father, the One who had sent Jesus. Then Jesus goes on to say: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea" (Mark 9:42). This is serious stuff for the Twelve!

sw: And this is case in point where "the message" is really right on the mark, this is "this is serious stuff" for ALL of us - as Dr. Rast goes on to say...

And it is also serious for you and for me. Have you ever caused one of Christ's little ones--youthful or otherwise--to sin? Indeed, you have, whether you realize it or not--and I have, too. Thus, if you really take Jesus' words seriously, you and I are next in line for a pair of cement shoes and an all-too-brief swim in the harbor.

Let's be honest with one another--and with God: how seriously do we really take our caring for others? Do we really put others first, or do we serve ourselves, just like the power-hungry disciples?

sw: I don't know where this "power-hungry" comment comes from - but the statement about "causing one of Christ's little ones - youthful or otherwise--to sin" rings absolutely true. From a certain perspective, ALL Christians can be considered "Christ's little ones" as we are all considered children of God.

But in all honesty, while the first two are pretty straightforward: that is, communicate the faith of the church as taught by the Bible and confessed by the Lutheran Confessions; and share that with people who do not know Jesus both here in the United States and throughout the world, it is the latter where we find the challenge. Where we--where I-- struggle, is in caring for all. This is a basic human challenge--and often it degenerates into sin. For either we fail to care for those in need or, worse, actually harm them by our words and deeds. In so doing we show we disregard God's commands for us, refusing to share even "a cup of water to drink" with those in need and, as a result, we should "lose (our) reward."

"Losing our reward" is a terrifying prospect. Much more than a foolish social media post, your sinfulness and mine cuts us off from God by destroying our relationship with Him. Further, it disrupts all our relationships with family and friends. And it threatens to leave us eternally separated from God. This is indeed serious, serious stuff!

sw: Yes! Indeed this is "serious stuff!" Now, consider that starting with Luther himself, the whole Lutheran movement is causal to literally millions falling from the grace which Jesus Christ Himself provided for His People - the Church. This is no small matter! Whereas the Lutheran Church has similar beliefs to Catholicism in many ways, there are serious flaws to the concept of the schism of Lutheranism. Most notable, we look to the "Four Marks" of the Catholic Church, which are, ironically, still professed in most - if not all - Lutheran churches throughout the world. Those "Four Marks" are, "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic."

sw: Lutheranism itself is not "One," as there are several "synods" of the Lutheran Church - which do not blanketly accept others - even other Lutherans. Anecdotally, when my family moved from one part of town to another, we went from a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS, same synod which produces The Lutheran Hour) to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and before they would allow our family to participate in Holy Communion, we had to meet with the pastor and be interrogated regarding our faith. We "passed" and were "accepted," but I felt very strange and even a bit offended that as "fellow Lutherans" we had to go through this.

sw: "Holy" is arguable. While I do believe there is a good measure of holiness in the Lutheran Church, can they really be considered "holy" if they are part of what broke apart the Christian Church in the 16th century and continue to be separated to this day? This could be argued as quite "unholy."

sw: Lutheranism is not "Catholic" nor even "catholic." The term meaning "universal," cannot be applied to Lutheranism for they, while being in many parts of the world, are not a universal church - nor do I believe they would literally claim this "mark." Now again, as a former Lutheran, I do concede they do claim this "mark" with the lower-case "c" - implying they belong to the universal belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, this watered down representation of the term cannot be what the writer(s) of the Nicene Creed had in mind because it specifically expresses belief in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic CHURCH. Another point I would add - of the major Lutheran synods, only the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) retains the word "catholic" - the others using a mistranslation here choosing to use the word "Christian."

sw: Lutheranism is not Apostolic - for in breaking with the Catholic Church they have lost their link to the line of bishops. Lutheran bishops (yes they do exist) do not have a valid consecration to the bishoprick - and thus have no valid claim to the "mark" of "apostolic."

God's Word challenges us to take sin seriously by showing us the grave consequences that it has. And it demands that we address it with absolute earnestness: "And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 'where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched'" (Mark 9:43-48). If we really took these verses literally, every one of us would be affected. For our hands rarely help others; our feet move slowly for the Lord's service; and our eyes too often serve as an opening for all kinds of uncleanness to come into us.

Yes! We should take this seriously - and that is part of why I post this Missed it By That Much series. While I have deep rooted love and respect for Lutherans (having spent 20 years as one myself), I also have deep concern that they have missed the mark, "by that much." As Dr. Rast stated above, we need to "address it with absolute earnestness." Anything less than this and we may be judged as "lukewarm" because we got comfortable with the way someone preaches or the people in the congregation. 
Matthew 7:20-25
20 Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.21 Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.24 Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock,25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.
Matthew 16:18
18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter (rock); and upon this rock I will build my church
Revelation 3:14-16
14 And to the angel of the church of Laodicea, write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the beginning of the creation of God:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot.16 But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.
sw: So ask yourself - are you seeking the ultimate truth with absolute earnestness, as even Dr. Rast encourages you to do? Do you believe Jesus waited 1500 years for Luther to come around before He built His Church? Dr. Rast next challenges his listeners (and readers) with the hyperbole of "What should we do--begin the amputations?" While that is a bit hyperbolic, it is true! If you have a cancer, you cut it out - why? Because the cancer can kill the rest of your body if you let it stay. Being content with a portion of the Truth is just as deadly, spiritually speaking, for the lukewarm Jesus will spit from His mouth and say to them, "Depart from Me for I never knew you." Pretty stern words, and keep in mind - the lukewarm are people who THINK they are following Jesus, they even claim to prophesied and cast out devils in His name - but they find themselves cast out!  Don't be satisfied just because you have found a pleasant pastor or made some good friends - what good will these do you when you are cast out of Heaven? What does a bit of good feeling do here in this temporal state we are in if it does not bring us to eternity with Him?

sw: Don't just take my word for it - study for yourself. Be open to hearing/reading the whole Truth, and do not be complacent with a comfortable niche - and remember, "Wise men still seek Him." Never stop seeking Him!

Scott Windsor<<<

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