October 28, 2012
Text: Romans 3:19-28
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
after Pentecost (B—Proper 24)
“How difficult it will be for those who have
wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23; ESV). Jesus’ Words, not mine. He’s not saying here that wealth is bad, or
that you shouldn’t enjoy what you have, especially if you acknowledge it as a
good gift of God and share it with those in need. But Jesus does say that wealth can pose a
great obstacle to your salvation. Wealth
makes it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God.
And by any objective standard, even the poorest among us in this
building are wealthy in comparison with the vast majority of the world
population throughout history. We live
like kings and queens in our solid structures with indoor plumbing and
electricity and upholstered couches, much less cable and the internet and cell
phones, not to mention motor vehicles.
You’re very wealthy, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. And I say this, not to guilt you. You should give thanks to God for this. Enjoy it.
Share it. But you also need to
take to heart what Jesus says to you in our Gospel. “How
difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”
says this on the heels of last week’s text, where He told the rich young man to
sell all his possessions and give to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. That’s why wealth is the particular subject
of this week’s Scripture lessons.
Remember, the rich young man went away sad, for he had great possessions
(Mark 10:22). Wealth was his idol, and
he found it difficult to part with that idol as the cost of becoming Jesus’
disciple. The point of our text today is
that wealth can so easily become your
idol. The poor covet what the
wealthy possess. The wealthy covet even
more wealth. In either case, you and I
worship at the altar of mammon. No one
ever says, “Okay, I have enough. I don’t
need anything more.” Even Christians,
who should say that Christ is enough, don’t say that. Repent.
If wealth is your idol, it will hinder your entrance to the kingdom of
God. If wealth is your idol, confess
that to God. Give up your idolatry to
Christ, to be covered by His blood and nailed to His cross. Be absolved.
Fear, love, and trust in God alone.
truth is, as Jesus indicates here in our text, that it isn’t just the wealthy
who will have difficulty entering the Kingdom of God. It’s every one of us. As the disciples stand, mouths agape with amazement
at Jesus’ Words, our Lord continues, “Children,
how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 24). Entering the Kingdom is difficult,
period. In fact, impossible. Utterly impossible for any sinful human
being. It’s impossible for the
rich. In fact, it’d be easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle (v. 25), a ridiculous notion. It’s impossible for the poor, who long to be
wealthy with the rest. It is not
possible for any one of us, not you, not me, to enter the Kingdom of God. Without Jesus, that is. That’s really the point of today’s
Gospel. And the disciples get it, all
too clearly. “Then who can be saved?” they exclaim (v. 26). “With
man it is impossible,” Jesus frankly responds (v. 27). “(B)ut
not with God. For all things are
possible with God.” With God, with
Jesus Christ, it is even possible for you, rich or poor, to enter the Kingdom
of God. For the Lord Jesus Christ died
for all your sins on the cross, even your sin of idolatry, and He is risen,
triumphant over all your sins, and over sin’s wages, death and damnation. By His death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus
restores you to the Father as God’s own child, washing you by water and the
Spirit in Baptism, calling you to repentance and faith and granting you new
birth in Him, speaking your sins forgiven in Absolution, bringing you before
His altar to feast on His true body and blood given and shed for you, for your
forgiveness, life, and salvation. He has
reclaimed you for God from your idols, whatever they may be. Impossible with man. Possible, and the reality, with God, in
Christ, by the Spirit.
we run into here is the bondage of the will.
You enter the Kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ, and Jesus says
that is impossible for you. If you are
to enter the Kingdom, He must do it, because you are incapable on your
own. Your will is bound from birth. It is bound to sin. It is bound to death. Because you are a child of Adam and Eve, the
original sinners, who sold your freedom of will and life for a bite of
forbidden fruit. So you are in bondage. You are born spiritually blind, dead, and an
enemy of God. Until the Holy Spirit
comes by Word and Baptism to breathe new life into you, you cannot make your
decision for Jesus. You cannot choose to
be a Christian. Nor do you want to. Because you’re spiritually blind. You can’t see your need for Jesus, or why
you’d want to believe in Him. You’re
spiritually dead. What can a dead man
choose to do? What can a dead man do
about his deadness? You’re an enemy of
God. You hate Him. Just look at the animosity the unbelieving
world has toward Jesus Christ and His Christians. This is the reality into which you were
born. That’s what you were.
Until Baptism. Until Christ took
possession of you by His Word, by His Spirit.
It is impossible for a man to come to faith in Jesus. But what is impossible with man is possible
with God. God converts you. God brings you to faith. God leads you to repentance. God forgives all your sins and gives you
eternal life. It is all God’s work, in
Christ His Son, by the Spirit working in the means of grace.
then, after God has done all of this, amazing things begin to happen. The Spirit continues to nurture you in your
Baptism by His Word and by the Supper of Jesus, and suddenly wealth doesn’t
mean so much anymore. It’s always a struggle,
to give up your idolatry. It will only
be complete in heaven. But you do struggle. You don’t want to be an idolater
anymore. And sometimes, to your great
surprise, you give up great things to be in God’s Kingdom, which is far better
than any wealth. Look what Peter and the
other disciples gave up to be followers of Jesus. “See,
we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). And they had.
They left their boats and nets.
The sons of Zebedee left their father.
They left their family fishing business. By the time all was said and done, the
apostles left their wealth, their worldly honor, their freedom, their comfort,
their health, their very lives for Jesus’ sake.
They were mocked, beaten, imprisoned, killed for the Gospel. Who knows what Jesus may ask you to give up someday
for His Name and Gospel? But here is His
promise to the disciples and to you: “Truly,
I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or
mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will
not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and
mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come
eternal life” (vv. 31-32). Many of
your brothers and sisters throughout the world suffer great persecution on
account of Christ. Many risk their lives
to come to church. It is increasingly
harder to be a confessing Christian even in our own society. Even our own family members can oppose us for
our confession of Christ and His Word of Truth.
Perhaps someday you will have to leave behind your wealth to follow
Jesus. Perhaps someday they will imprison
you or beat you because you bear the Name of Christ. Maybe someday you will be called to die a
martyr’s death. It could happen. So be it.
You can leave everything, even your life, to follow Jesus. Because He is your life. He is your wealth. And He has called you by His Spirit and made
you His own in Baptism, so that you have the power to leave everything and
follow Jesus. He’s given you new
life. He’s freed you from your bondage
to sin and death. There are many
difficulties for one who enters the Kingdom of God. But it is not impossible. Not for God.
He brings you into His Kingdom.
He is faithful. He will cause you
to persevere. He will bring you home to
the meantime, enjoy all that God gives you.
It is good and fitting “to eat
and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun
the few days of his life that God has given him… Everyone also to whom God has
given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them… this is the gift of God”
(Ecc. 5:18-19). Just don’t hoard it all
up for yourself or live for your stuff or worship it. Instead, share it. Give it away freely. Recognize that it all belongs to God. Use it for His glory, for the proclamation of
His Word, and to provide for the needs of your brothers and sisters who have
less. That’s what a Christian does with
his material blessings. And again, if
the Lord calls you to do so, give it up.
Because having Christ, you have all you need. If you possess Him, you possess
everything. For He is your life. And He is the very Kingdom of God. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son
(+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
after Pentecost (B—Proper 22)
Divorce. All of us have been affected by it in some
way. Perhaps you’ve gone through a
divorce yourself, or maybe your parents were divorced, or some other family
members you were close to, or your friends.
Depending on which statistics you believe, the divorce rate for first
marriages is between 45 and 50%, and that rate increases dramatically for
second and again for third marriages.
Divorce is a topic we don’t address in the church often enough, probably
because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
Divorce hurts. It hurts those who
go through it. It hurts those who love
those who go through it. It hurts
children. It hurts extended family. It hurts society. It hurts the Church of God. It breaks people, and leaves them broken. And there’s a lot of guilt when it comes to
divorce, because divorce is sinful. “‘For I hate divorce,’ says the LORD, the
God of Israel” through the Prophet Malachi (Mal. 2:16; NASB). Divorce is the separation of what God has
joined together in Holy Matrimony. God’s Word and sexual intercourse make man
and wife one flesh. That’s God’s plan,
as He instituted marriage for our good, for companionship, for the procreation of children, even before the fall into sin, as we
read in our Old Testament lesson this morning, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast two
his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; ESV). Jesus quotes this passage in our Gospel,
adding “What therefore God has joined
together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). Because to separate what God has joined
together in this way, husband and wife, is to do an act of violence against the
one-flesh union, against God’s sacred institution, against your spouse, against
your children, and again, against society and the holy Church. The biblical definition of marriage is the
lifelong and exclusive union of one man and one woman. Till death do you part. Only death should end a marriage. We should not get divorced. And yet, the reality is that even many
Christians get divorced, leaving a trail of hurt and guilt behind them. How does our Lord address this in His
Word? How should the Church address this
as she ministers to broken people in broken relationships and in a culture that
is broken and hell-bent on shattering itself to an even greater degree?
of all, if you’ve suffered a divorce, whether you’re at fault or not, don’t
lose heart. I know that many of you bear
deep hurts when it comes to this subject.
There is a Word from the Lord for you, for your forgiveness and life, to
make you whole again. But first, a bit
more of the bitter medicine of God’s Law, because the Christian Church
desperately needs instruction on the topic of divorce. It’s true, as the Pharisees say in our text,
that Moses encoded the process for divorce in the civil law of Israel. As Jesus points out, he didn’t do this
because divorce in any way pleases God.
This is not God’s permission to get a divorce. He did it because of our hardness of heart. He did it because in terms of the first use
of the law, the civil use that sets boundaries for society, there needed to be
some protection, especially for women in ancient Israel, so that people
couldn’t leave their spouse for just any old reason, like “we’ve fallen out of
love,” or “irreconcilable differences,” or any of the other empty and silly
excuses we make when we’re simply unwilling to do the hard work of marriage. Actually, biblically speaking, there are only
two reasons a Christian can, without sin, obtain a divorce. The first is when your spouse is sexually
unfaithful to you, adultery, as Jesus indicates in Matthew 19:9 (which is a
parallel of our text): “And I say to
you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries
another, commits adultery.” In other
words, if your spouse has been sexually immoral, you’re free. You don’t have to divorce them, but you can
do so, without sin. Otherwise, even
divorce does not end your marriage in God’s sight. The second reason is what we call “malicious
desertion,” when your spouse leaves you even though you were not seeking a
divorce. St. Paul refers to this in 1
Corinthians 7, where he is urging believers to stay married to their
unbelieving spouses. “But,” he says in v. 15, “if the unbelieving partner separates, let
it be so. In such cases the brother or
sister is not enslaved,” but the person is free to remarry. The sin of divorce is not theirs, but belongs
with the one who left.
course, Christians divorce for all sorts of reasons that are not biblical, but
sinful. There is no excuse for
this. But there is forgiveness. Repent.
Confess your sin. And hear and
cling to the Absolution. The blood of
Jesus Christ covers all our sins. What
does the Lord say in His Word to those broken by divorce? To those who bear deep scars and hurts
because of broken relationships? What does
the Lord say to any broken sinner? How
should the Church minister to those broken by divorce or by any other sin? The Gospel.
Full and free forgiveness of all your sins, including the sins of
divorce and unfaithfulness and desertion and every other sin, in Christ, your
crucified and risen Lord. When you are
unfaithful, and you are, whether you’ve been divorced or not… none of us lives
in the faithfulness that God commands… when you are unfaithful, your Lord is
faithful to you! Jesus Christ died for
you, and for your spouse, for the ex who sinned against you, or against whom
you sinned, for the children left behind in divorce’s wake, for all
people. Jesus Christ died for you, for
your forgiveness, to pay sin’s wages on your behalf. And He’s risen from the dead. He’s victorious over sin and death. Your life is in Him. So repent and be forgiven and start again. There is new life for you in Christ. He is your new beginning. Be faithful now that you’re in Him. And insofar as you are unfaithful, return
again and again to Him, confessing your sins, for forgiveness and another new
see, the Gospel frees us, one and all, to be faithful in our family life. It frees spouses to be faithful to one
another, to love and honor and serve one another, to be patient with one
another, to forgive one another. It
frees parents to be faithful to children, to bring them to Jesus for His
blessing (Mark 10:13-16), which means bringing them to Holy Baptism, bringing
them faithfully to the Lord’s house to hear His Word and be forgiven of their
sins, bringing them to Sunday School and Catechism class and finally to the
Lord’s Supper, teaching them the Bible and prayer in the home by family
devotions, bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph.
6:4). When we don’t do those things, we
“hinder them,” which Jesus expressly
forbids in our Gospel (Mark 10:14). Not
only should we bring our children to Jesus for His blessing, we should receive
Jesus and His Kingdom like a child (v. 15), which means in childlike trust that
all Jesus says is true and that He will make good on all His promises. Finally, the Gospel frees children to be
faithful to their parents, to honor father and mother, as is their Fourth
Commandment duty, not to despise or anger them, but to serve and obey them, to
love and cherish them. The Gospel frees
us for faithfulness in Christian vocation, faithfulness in all the
relationships in which God has placed us.
Because all our unfaithfulness is forgiven, having been nailed to the
cross. And in Christ we have new life
and strength, as God Himself works in us to will and to work for His good
pleasure (Phil. 2:13).
is, after all, God who must build our families and hold them together. We could never do it, because a bunch of
sinners living together with a bunch of sinners will always sin against one
another, leading to brokenness. God must
put us back together in the forgiveness of sins. God must build and sustain our families with
His Spirit, by His Word, in the forgiveness of sins that we have in the
suffering and death of our Lord Jesus and the new life that we have in His
resurrection. So we sang in the Introit:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those
who build it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1).
The LORD builds our homes, our families, and He sustains us as we live
together under Him. The LORD leads us to
the confession of Joshua, “But as for me
and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). The LORD grants children to parents,
entrusting the children to their care, with the admonition to bring them to
Jesus for His blessing. He sets the
solitary in families. He provides for
the widow and the orphan and the stranger among you. Your family is God’s gift to you, and you are
God’s gift to your family. Receive one
another in faithfulness and thanksgiving.
Beloved, the LORD is with your family, even with all its warts and
weaknesses and sins. He makes His
dwelling among you. And He will never
forsake you. It was, after all, into a
family, into a marriage cloaked in scandal and at the breaking point, in which
the Lord Jesus Christ was born, becoming one with us in our flesh. And He is the Bridegroom of the Church. God put our Lord Jesus into a deep sleep, the
sleep of death, and from His riven side formed His holy Bride, His Eve, the
Church, by water and blood. The Lord
Jesus gave Himself for His holy Bride, gave Himself into death, that He might
sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word
(Baptism), so that he might present her to Himself in splendor, without spot or
wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph.
5:25-27). Did you catch that? Jesus takes away all the stains and wrinkles
and blemishes that His bride has inflicted upon herself by her sin. He takes away all of her guilt, all of her
hurt, all of her division. He takes it
into Himself and nails it to His cross.
You live in that reality. Your
family lives in that reality. In Christ,
you are holy and without blemish. So
rejoice in what God has joined together, and live in it joyfully. God will bless it. Trust Him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy