Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reformation Day


Reformation Day (Observed)
October 28, 2012
Text: Romans 3:19-28

            If Lutheranism is anything other than the biblical faith once for all delivered to the saints, you should flee it as you would flee plague and pestilence.  If Lutheranism is anything other than the biblical faith once for all delivered to the saints, it is a poison to the Christian Church.  We shouldn’t be Lutherans just because that’s what Mom and Dad said we are, or because that’s what Grandma was.  We shouldn’t be Lutherans just because that’s the particular flavor of Christianity we find more appealing than the others (at least for the moment).  To be Lutheran for those reasons is like picking your favorite sports team because you like the color of their jerseys… Oh, wait, that is often one of the reasons we pick a sports team, isn’t it?  But it’s so superficial.  If you don’t want your faith to be superficial (and you shouldn’t want that!), then you need to examine what it is you believe at a deeper level than simply, “Lutheran is what we’ve always been,” or “The Lutheran Church just happens to be the convenient choice at the moment.”  You should be Lutheran because you’re convinced that Lutheranism at its best is nothing other than the faith of Jesus Christ revealed in Holy Scripture.

            Now, first of all, here’s what I’m not saying.  I’m not saying that other Christians aren’t, well… Christian.  I’m not saying other Christians won’t go to heaven.  It’s sad that I have to make these disclaimers, but I know from experience what will happen if I don’t.  Someone will walk away today saying, “Pastor Krenz says Baptists aren’t Christians, or Roman Catholics aren’t Christians, or Methodists won’t be saved.”  Beloved, this is precisely what I’m NOT saying, and if you walk away with the impression that I am saying this, you’re not listening.  We disagree with them on many important points of theology, but we love them as brothers and sisters in Christ.  The plain fact is, though, that I’m not really talking about them this morning.  Nor am I saying that Lutherans don’t have faults.  Actually, Lutherans should be the first to confess our faults.  We’re sinners, and we know it.  Saved only by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.  We confess that we’re often unfaithful to Lutheran doctrine.  In that way, we’ve often erred.  God be merciful to us.  He is, in Christ.  But what I mean when I say that Lutheranism at its best is nothing other than the faith of Jesus Christ revealed in Holy Scripture, is this.  There is such a thing as objective truth.  As such, there are true things to say about God, and there are false things to say about God.  And where we disagree, we can’t all be right.  I know this is politically incorrect to say, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I’m a Lutheran because I believe Lutheranism is true.  I’m a Lutheran because I believe the source and norm of all Lutheran doctrine is the Holy Scriptures, Scripture alone.  I’m a Lutheran because the heart and center of Lutheranism is the good news that we are justified, declared righteous before God, not based on good works that we have done, but because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone.  We are therefore saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  This isn’t something Martin Luther or the Lutherans invented.  This is the very truth of the Gospel. 

            I believe Lutheranism is true because it is nothing other than what St. Paul describes in our text, the reading from Romans Chapter 3.  In that Chapter, St. Paul puts us in our place.  There is no good in us.  I’m not “basically a good person,” and neither are you.  We’re sinners.  We’ve fallen far short of the glory of God.  We were born in sin, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, the original sinners.  We bear the disease of sin, and we sin all over the place as a result.  Not only that, sin is a fatal disease.  We die.  Every one of us will die, unless the Lord Jesus returns first.  We’re sinners condemned to death, and worse, condemned to hell.  And we’re totally unable to do anything about it.  So our mouths are stopped.  The whole world is held accountable to God (Rom. 3:19).  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (v. 20; ESV).  We can’t do it.  We can’t earn our way to heaven.  We can’t earn righteousness before God.  That’s why God sent His Son.

            But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law… the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (vv. 21-24).  There you have it from Paul’s own pen: Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  This is what the Bible teaches.  This is Lutheranism.  You should be a Lutheran for no other reason than that you believe what Paul here says.  And if I ever teach anything else, you have a divine obligation to correct me.  If you attend another church and you find that anything other than what Paul here teaches is taught in that church, flee it like plague and pestilence.  It’s poison.  You are not saved by works.  You are not saved by the Law.  You are not saved by being “basically a good person.”  You are a sinner.  You are saved by Jesus Christ, because for no good reason other than His love for you and the whole world, God sent His Son to die for your sins, so that believing in Him, you might have eternal life.  That’s it.  That’s Lutheranism. That’s what the Reformation was all about.

            You see, when Luther was an Augustinian monk, he was plagued by the question of how to have peace with God, how to know his sins were forgiven, how to know he had eternal life.  And by that time, the Christian Church had all but forgotten these words of Paul.  Many teachers of the Church told Luther that, while certainly there was Christ and His death and resurrection and all that, Luther needed to also work off his sins by doing satisfactions and other good works.  And if in this life he wasn’t successful in working off all his sins, there would be Purgatory when he died.  For many years Luther believed all this.  Yet no matter how hard he worked, he still felt the very real guilt of his sins.  But then he started reading the Bible.  He especially started reading Romans.  And he found out that the Bible says nothing about satisfactions for sin, except for THE satisfaction for sin made by our Lord Jesus Christ in His death on the cross, once and for all.  The Bible says nothing about Purgatory.  There’s no such thing.  There’s no need.  Because Jesus Christ paid for our sins in full on the cross.  It’s all been done for us.  We’re aren’t saved by working off our sins, as if we even could.  Christ Jesus is the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our forgiveness.  He did it all.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the whole world.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away Luther’s sin, and your sin, and mine.
            That’s Lutheranism.  And every other article of Lutheran doctrine is all about that.  Christ is the center.  Justification is by grace alone; it’s totally a gift of God given without our merit or worthiness.  Justification is by faith alone; faith itself being God’s gift to us, nothing other than trust in Jesus Christ, nothing other than the hands that receive God’s gifts in Christ given in His Word and in the Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Justification is in Christ alone; Christ fulfilling the Law for us, Christ paying the penalty for all our sins in His innocent suffering and death, Christ bringing us new life by the power of His resurrection and the imparting of His Holy Spirit in the means of grace.  That’s Lutheranism.  And it all comes from Scripture alone.  We believe the Bible is God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, without error.  So if God’s Word says something, we believe it.  We believe it, whether we like it or not, whether it makes us feel good or not, whether it makes sense to us or not.  Because we’re not above God’s Word.  We’re formed by God’s Word.  God’s Word mold us and shapes us. 

            Jesus says in our Gospel that if you abide in His Word, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).  There is such a thing as truth.  Contrary to popular belief, it is objective, and it is absolute.  What’s true is true.  What’s not true, is false.  Jesus is the truth.  And He reveals Himself in His Word, the Holy Scriptures.  Why be a Lutheran?  There’s only one good reason.  Because you’re convinced that Lutheranism is nothing other than the faith of Jesus Christ revealed in Holy Scripture.  Dear Lutherans, God has given you a great gift in your doctrine.  You don’t deserve it.  He gives it to you by grace alone.  Just as He gives you salvation, by grace alone.  And as it is with salvation, so it is with Lutheranism.  Christ is the center.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

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