Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another attempt at relevance...

Thanks to Chris Rosebrough for this find. Here is a link to his website where I found this video.

As I related in a recent post on relevance, this is complete garbage, and is not life-producing at all.  It turns Christ and His gospel into a literal joke.  Good grief.

Life Groups Music Video - "Thug Life" from East Coast Christian Center on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Introduction to the Lutheran Confessions, The Book of Concord

Paul T. McCain, a Lutheran pastor and publisher at Concordia Publishing House, posted a link on his blog where a friend of created a very good introduction to the Book of Concord, the Lutheran confession.  This is a wonderful and concise description of what confessional Lutherans believe.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Church and the foolishness of relevance...

Growing your particular church or congregation by engaging in relevant marketing doesn't grow the kingdom of God.  But that is the current fad.  Relevance reigns supreme in many local churches nowadays.  Proclaiming Christ and Him crucified for our sins does grow the kingdom. That is what God uses to kill us and to regenerate us. He resurrects us. Spiritually, He raises us from the dead.  Law and Gospel.

People, who are dead in their trespasses and sins, who show up at a church focused on being relevant and not focused on Christ and His atoning sacrifice, end up being burdened with more law as they hear how can they can/ should better hear from God, can/ should be better parents, can/ should create better relationships, etc. We are comforted by how good we are, and how we almost have it. In some cases, we hear that we ourselves can totally do it. God meets us part of the way, all we have to do is just a couple of more things. Then we can arrive. Right. (Sarcastic tone, by the way). This is scratching itching ears.

St. Paul writes to Timothy:

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:1-4  ESV

The biblical gospel goes something like this:
It starts off with some bad news. Really bad. We have screwed up. We have rebelled against God and His law. Romans 3 states that "None is righteous, no, not one; No one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no does good, not even one." Everything within a person is selfish, seeking its own glory.

The law requires that we love the Lord with all our hearts, love our neighbor as yourself. We all fail at both of these all the time. God's law states that we shall not murder (hate), lie, steal, covet, etc. We all fail at those, also. Bottom line: You are a sinner. So am I.

But it doesn't stop there. Thanks be to God. We are sinners in need of a savior. We have one in Jesus Christ. His blood covers our sin. His death and resurrection puts us in right standing before God. We all will stand in front of God. If we stand in front of Him in our own righteousness, we don't stand a chance. We can't be good enough.

Isaiah 64:6 is, perhaps, one of the most cited verses to show that we should not (and could not) rely on our own righteousness for our salvation. This leads to the concept of imputed righteousness of Christ to cover our unrighteousness. God offers the only solution – He sent His Son, Christ, a free gift from Him, and Christ pays the penalty of our sins.

We need preachers in our churches teaching this. Preaching the proper distinction of law and gospel. Preaching forgiveness of sins and repentance. Jesus and Him crucified. Instead, the vast majority of churches desire to be relevant, instead of being Jesus-centered. What is important is that they get more people in the door. Numbers are very important, if not ultimate.

Chris Rosebrough, of Pirate Christian Radio, put forth 95 New Theses. Seven of these theses hit the nail on the head when it comes the relevant machine that has infiltrated the church:

6. Relevance, self-help and pop-psychology have no power to work true contrition over sins and faith in Jesus Christ.

11. In the name of relevance, our Lord Jesus Christ is reduced to a life-coach whose “gospel” assists and motivates people to achieve the objectives of their self-centered delusions of grandeur.

25. Purveyors of relevance claim that self-help, life-applications and biblical principles are the means to reach the unchurched because they meet people’s felt needs.

26. Yet a person’s greatest need is one he does not by nature feel, namely the need for the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ.

28. The true need that mankind is seeking but does not know is justification by grace through faith for Christ’s sake.

29. Since justification is through faith and not through works, natural man neither seeks it nor desires it.

30. Therefore, the teaching of justification by grace through faith is neither seeker-sensitive nor relevant to a world that naturally seeks self-justification.

Relevance in the Church is lethal. And it is viral. It has reached many parts of the Body. It has nothing to offer a person except more law. No gospel. No good news. Only death. Our hope is found in Christ and His work alone. Not ours.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lutheran-style Evangelism

I loved this post from Scott Diekmann of the Stand Firm blogsite.

He quotes from Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller regarding evangelism as the confessional Lutheranism views it:

..."Evangelism Training" will be nothing more than continued study and meditation on the proper distinction between law and Gospel.

...the central act of Evangelism is not asking the unbeliever to come to Jesus, but rather, in the name of Jesus, forgiving their sins. Evangelism is the Church speaking the Absolution to the World.

Absolution. What a wonderful word. We have been forgiven by Christ's work on the cross. This is unbelievably good news.

Friday, September 17, 2010

You Can Do It

On my daily trek from work back to the homestead each day, I drive by a particular church. The church sign for this church changes on a regular basis. Maybe once a week or so. This week, the sign caught my attention a bit more than usual. It reads: You can do it!

Wow. Nearly speechless. To be honest, this is the kind of stuff I have been taught in nearly every church I have been a part of.  Ultimately this type of teaching will lead to one of two destinations:  self-righteousness or despair.  Despair can possibly lead to agnosticism or atheism.  The person will come to the end of themselves, and think, this CAN'T be done!  This thing has been a complete sham!  I'm done!  Gone!  See ya later!

If your church is teaching this kind of tripe, I would recommend that you confront your pastor and/ or elders. If they don't listen, go away as fast as you can, and don't look back. This is the complete antithesis of the gospel. The question you should be asking is: If I can do it, why do I need the cross? There is no need for Jesus, His cross, or His resurrection. If you are being told that you got the goods, that you can do it, there is really no reason why you would be hearing much of the cross and the Jesus' atoning sacrifice.

Here's a quote from Dr. Normal Nagel:

The cross alone is our theology. These are the words of Doctor Luther and, too, of every Lutheran sermon. If the cross is not in the sermon, it is not a Lutheran sermon. Or if you can take the cross out of the sermon, and it can get along just as well without it, it is not a Lutheran sermon. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 290.

I have been reading this book entitled, 'On Being a Theologian of the Cross.' It is a commentary on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation by Gerhard Forde. Luther differentiates in the Disputation between essentially two theologies: The Theology of the Cross and The Theology of Glory. Forde writes:
[A theology of glory] operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted t sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to do good works. Of course our theologian of glory may well grant that we need the help of grace. The only dispute, usually, will be about the degree of grace needed. If we are 'liberal,' we will opt for less grace and tend to define it as some kind of moral persuasion or spiritual encouragement. If we are more 'conservative,' and speak even of the depth of human sin, we will tend to escalate the degree of grace needed to the utmost. But the hallmark of the theology of glory is that it will always consider grace as something of a supplement to whatever is left of human will and power. It will always, in the end, hold out for some free will. Theology then becomes the business of making theological explanations attractive to the will. Sooner or later a disastrous erosion of the language sets in. It must constantly be adjusted to be made appealing. Gradually it sinks to the level of maudlin sentimentality.

Theologians of the cross, however, operate quite differently. They know they cannot we can't be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because those things are themselves the problem.

The thing is this:  If anything, we have this promise of the cross, persecution and affliction. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) But this is a temporary, earthly persecution. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:6-7)

Don Matzat, in an article for Issues, Etc., gets to the point with the following:
Living in a theology of the Cross never makes you any "better" than anyone else. Every day in every way you are not getting better and better. In fact, the preaching of Law and Gospel will not lead you to an awareness of your holiness, but rather to greater awareness of the depth of your sin. As a result, you will develop an ever-increasing faith in and appreciation for the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

Your witness will focus upon the work of the Cross, not upon your experience of getting saved, sanctified, or becoming more spiritual. You have taken no step toward God or arrived at any higher level of holiness. You don’t talk about your spirituality. You talk about the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

When dealing with these issues on the radio, I often encounter opposition. People will fight to defend their theology of glory. I often challenge them to share their testimony without ever talking about themselves. I have developed the pet phrase, "This thing called Christianity – it’s not about you!"

Martin Luther accurately defined sin as man turning in on himself. While a theology of glory continues to turn you to yourself as you measure your growth in holiness against a plethora of spiritual experiences, the theology of the Cross turns you away from yourself. As a result of the conviction of the Law, you forsake your own good works and spiritual experiences and cling to the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Hills Are Alive... in Salzburg

Salzburg Watercolor by local Salzburg artist
Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online has written a series about the single most beautiful place on the planet, in my opinion.  Salzburg.  The series, entitled Salzburg Souvenirs, can found here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Recently, the yearly world-renowned Music Festival (Salzburger Festspiele), took place.  It begins in late July and goes on for five weeks.  It exhibits various pieces of opera, drama, and classical music.  Salzburg, the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, draws many musicians from around the world.  It is also the area in which part of the musical The Sound of Music was filmed and where part of that true story occurred.

Some friends and I spent a couple of weeks in Germany and Austria.  Bavaria and Salzburg and the Alps.  It was all really a wonder to behold.

My favorite memory while in Salzburg:  Got a break from the guys for awhile.  Found a place to get a sausage and a beer.  Found a tree to sit under, and it happened to be close to a classroom where a couple of students were practicing.  The sound of a piano and a violin wafting on the breeze.  I'm not sure I've had a better sausage and beer in my life.

My dream is take the family back to that area at some point in the future.  I only spent two or three days the first time.  It did not do the place justice at all.  I would love to spend at least a month or so there.  Hiking in the Alps, listening to world-class music, enjoying the great food and beer.  Not being there leaves a feeling of homesickness.

Here's just a bit of a visual tour.