I've said it once and I'll keep saying it: For me, a proper Biblical understanding of the Sacraments (God's gifts or "Means of Grace" for you and for us) is what truly made all the difference in my life as a Christian.

Martin Luther was spot on when he wrote...



"If you want to be a Christian, if you want to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, then come here [to the Sacrament]! There stands your God; He offers you His body and blood, broken and shed for you. If you want to despise God and neglect the forgiveness of sins, then stay away. So I do not compel you, but Christ pleads with you lovingly. If you despise this, then you see to it! 
We are saying what your God is offering to you. Accordingly, I beg you to hold to the Sacrament, for your sakes, not ours. There are now few boys and girls and women who come. I know that you are not holier than Peter. It really grieves me that you are so cold in your attitude toward it. If you will not do it for God's sake and my sake, then do it for the sake of your own necessity, which is exceedingly great, namely, your sins and death. 
There is the temptation of adultery, of fornication, avarice, hatred, pride, envy, of unbelief and despair, and you do not consider how you are ever going to get out of them, and you grow altogether cold in that ungodliness. But listen to what Christ says here [in the sacrament]: 'for you.'" 


This is most certainly true.


There's the Trinity ("In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit..."), there's two simple words ("for you"), and there's one glorious and profound reality with eternal implications inherent to the Sacraments.


Our dearest Lord Jesus offered His own blood for us writing us into his last will and testament. He brings us here to this place so that we might participate in that precious gift; that the blood which was shed would be received here by us as we gather around the altar which He has set. Only sinners need apply for the great antidote to death; the prescription of immortality served out here by His own hand. Into our emptiness, He pours the life-giving blood of His Supper. Over our wickedness he spreads the covering blood of his mercy. Upon the corpse-like corpus of our tongue he sets the corpus of His body because he has promised, "This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:50-51). See how earnestly God is begging! See how He will go to the wildest, most outlandish lengths to win us back to Himself. God would have all people to be saved, even you! He is begging; begging even you! 
-- Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray / Memorial Moments (September 20th, 2016)


Why would any Christian not want to take part in any of that, especially after they've learned the truth about the Sacraments?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, please prayerfully consider how the Lord pleads with us, that we might receive all the abundance of His kingdom, with its grace and gifts of mercy through the holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Galatians 5 is pretty heavy, isn't it?


Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who doe such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.


I don't know about you, but for me, there are certain passages in the Bible that really make me uncomfortable because it's as if God is standing right in front of me, looking me straight in the eyes, and He's literally just listing all the sins that are present in my life despite my best efforts to eradicate them once-and-for-all!

Of course, "my best efforts" are nothing more than "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) to Him, but that doesn't mean I should ever stop waging war against the Old Adam within me. It just means I have to remind myself that it's not my war to win.

When the Lord looks at me He sees His Son. His righteousness was imputed to me for no reason other than that He loves me and I was a wretched sinner in need of His saving grace. Christ saves. I can't save myself. Christ redeems. I can't redeem myself.

Furthermore, I know perfectly well that I can't ever truly get rid of them in this life, but I can pray, I can resist in the sufficient faith that's given to me, and I can say "No!" to giving them room to breath in my life.

Any sin that has room to breath in your life is just looking to strangle you to death anyway (Romans 6:23), and yet, we go out of our way to make excuses for it, to invite it into our lives thinking we can somehow reform sin and make it into something we would be happy to live with long-term.

Ironically, the sins we try to save become the very things that enslave us.

The pride that invariably comes with any attempt by us to redeem sin leaves us thinking that we are in complete control at all times when, in fact, we are like dogs on a leash being led through this life by Old Adam, or "like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11).

We're not gods ourselves, but we act like it when try to create a reality where sin can thrive in the dark and thrive in the light and we just don't care one way or another.

Why should we? Once we start down that road, our faith is replaced with a philosophy that screams, "If it feels good, then do it! If we're right, then everyone else is wrong!"

As a result, we compartmentalize sinful behaviors and we erect temples of worship for our Pet Sins to be put on a pedestal in our hearts and minds, thinking "it's no big deal" because the temple is hidden and secluded from the eyes and ears of those closest to us who could call us to repent of them (or so we think!).

Ah, but we forget that this spiritual Temple of Doom is not hidden from God! "You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar" (Psalm 139:2) and "even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether" (Psalm 139:4) is what we're told.

Still, we insist that we can live just fine without ever trying to battle sin. We rationalize sin and think that as long as we keep it hidden in our thoughts and don't actually act on them, then it's just fine.

Once again, once we start to travel down that road, that's nothing more than the sound of our faith gasping for air! "The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are a mere breath" (Psalm 94:11).

Thankfully, "the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:24-25).

In the end, we need to recall that our Pet Sins require us to constantly serve them when, in contrast, the Lord and Savior comes to serve us the grace, mercy, and forgiveness we need to destroy their power over us.

As a mere layman, I'm not sure if any of the analogies I tried to make above actually worked well or not, but I hope you at least get the gist of what I'm trying to say. In short, traces of my old Evangelical self were reemerging in the past week, which is why I needed to remind myself of the true truth about Sanctification and the so-called "Victorious Christian Life" everyone's always so enamored with.

Here's an excellent sermon on Sanctification titled "Death Therapy" and delivered by Rev. Robert E. Waters way back in September 2009 that I think ties in quite nicely with all of this today...




Death Therapy 
Galatians 5:16-22 Trinity 14 September 13, 2009

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 
Normal Lutheran practice is to preach on the Gospel unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise. Well, I don’t know how compelling a reason it is, but this morning’s Gospel is also the Gospel for Thanksgiving Day, and that’s a bit to short of an interval, it seems to me, to be preaching twice on the same text. 
Besides, this is an Epistle lesson well worth looking at. It says quite a bit about a subject Lutherans don’t spend enough time discussing -- sanctification -- and in the process, makes it clear why maybe not spending too much time talking about sanctification isn’t such a bad thing. 
Reformed Christianity is very big on Christian growth. Just how big can be seen quite easily by making a field trip to Wellspring or any other Christian book store. It’s amazing the percentage of books you’ll find on the shelves there which are nothing more or less than “how to” books on sanctification. Nor should that be surprising. Calvin saw the Third Use of the Law -- as a guide for the Christian life -- as the main one. The Law in the Third Use tends to be the main subject matter of “Evangelical” sermons. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, then, when people get the idea, first, that sanctification is primarily our job (perhaps with a little help from the Holy Spirit), and that, once we’ve “gotten saved,” the Christian life is primarily a matter of getting on with it! 
Wherever one finds the Gospel, one will find the Spirit at work. And wherever the Spirit is at work, sanctification happens. But the process has an enemy. It is an enemy that is difficult to avoid precisely because it is within us. No, it’s worse than that: in a sense, it is us. 
“We have met the enemy,” Pogo, the possum in the old-time Walt Kelly comic strip once said, “and they are us.” Our enemy -- and the biggest obstacle to sanctification -- is our flesh, our fallen natures. 
Now, it isn’t hard to know when the flesh is at work. Its works are obvious. Paul lists them for us: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. All of these are bad, of course. But we miss the point if we simply understand Paul to be giving us a list of things to avoid. All these things, and all things like them, come from the same place: the heart. 
The word first appears in the Bible in Genesis 6:5. This is what that verse says: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” 
For the Hebrews, the heart was not the source of emotions or feelings. That was the kidneys -- or, in the Elizabethan word we keep encountering in the King James Version of the Bible and in the TLH version of the Psalter, the “reins.” No, the heart was the seat, not of the emotions, but of faith or unbelief, and of thought and decision. It is core (interestingly, another word from another foreign language which means, literally, “heart”) of who and what we are as individuals. It determines our character. It sums up who and what we are. The Law is written on it -- though the writing is dimmed by sin. Satan makes it his target. God seeks to change it for the better. 
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander,” Jesus says in Matthew 15. “These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Evil thoughts. Murder. Adultery. Sexual immorality. Theft. False witness. Slander. Does that list sound familiar? Out of the heart, Jesus tells us, come the very things Paul tells us come from our flesh. 
Every intent of the thoughts of (man’s) heart is only evil continually. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh,” Paul writes in Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” We may aspire to all sorts of noble things. But we just don’t have the tools to carry them out. And that is why -- with all due respect to our Reformed and “Evangelical” bretheren -- the Law can never work sanctification. Every effort to force it to do so meets with the same result Paul complains of in Romans 7: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” 
In our natural state, what Paul calls “the flesh” and what the Hebrew Bible calls “the heart” cannot be distinguished. We cannot step outside of ourselves, and make ourselves right. I’ve mentioned before, I think, the odd but profound wisdom of Christian psychiatrist Dr. Gerald May, who pointed out the inherent insanity of telling misbehaving children to “control yourselves!” Their “selves” just aren’t up to the task of controlling their “selves-” because their “selves” are precisely what are out of control! 
Our selves are the problem! “What am I,” St. Augustine rightly asked, “but an aid to my own destruction?” No, the Law -- even in its Third Use -- was never intended as a manual for the reforming of the self, and the sanctification of the flesh. The disease of sin runs too deep. The cancer of selfishness has too great a hold. Our flesh cannot be reformed. It has to die. 
Years ago Richard Dreyfus and Bill Murray starred in a movie the woman I was dating at the time insisted that we see. We did -- despite my protests. It was called “What About Bob?” Murray was a charming but extremely messed up patient who irritates his psychiatrist, played by Dreyfus, to the point where he tries to kill him -- telling him that “death therapy” is his only hope. 
Well, “death therapy” is the only treatment for the disease of sin. The flesh cannot be reformed. The self cannot be healed. And the heart can be changed only by the action of Someone else. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once described the essence of the flesh very well when he said that at the root of all legalism is the desire to stand before God and say, “I have done my duty.” But that is one thing we can never say. Our effort to sanctify ourselves by our own strivings is in the last analysis the work of our pride -- of our own, fallen, sinful flesh. We may aspire to what is good. But as Paul points out in Romans 7, we cannot achieve it. But we insist on achieving it. We want fellowship with God on our terms: because we deserve it; because we’ve earned it. But we haven’t. And we won’t -- because we can’t. We ourselves are the problem, and none of us can shed his or her own skin. 
And so it was that God, in His love and wisdom, arranged a solution to our dilemma that we would never have thought of. In the words of St. Paul, “He concluded all under disobedience, so that He might have mercy upon all.” God invites us to leave our pride -- and our broken and diseased selves -- at the door, and to receive a new self, a new heart -- one that lives as a beggar, by forgiveness and by grace; which does not seek to justify itself, but is content that the righteousness of God’s Son be our righteousness, too. 
God proposes to heal us through death therapy: the daily death of our flesh in the waters of our baptism, so that claiming His promise and His grace a new self may arise to live, not by it’s own merit- for it claims none -- but by His mercy. 
We no longer have to seek our own will or our own way, because our New Self is humbly willing to accept that, in His love, God will send us what is best for us by grace. 
None of this means that we don’t continue to struggle with our flesh. Our egos continue to betray us. Our appetites continue to subvert our best intentions. But now we are able for the first time to step out of ourselves as many times as these overcome us, and to claim a new identity, free from the backbreaking compulsion to make our own way through this universe and prove ourselves by a standard we can never meet. 
Martin Luther wrote that in the years when he was striving to save himself by following the Law, he knew that he had to love God. But instead, he hated him. That’s how a person who is seeking to reform his old nature and sanctify her flesh will always feel about God. The harder such a person tries, the worse he will fail. And the more she fails, the more -- however she might wish it to be otherwise -- she will see God as a tyrant who sets before her a task which she can never accomplish, and yet insists that she must. 
But the person who lives by forgiveness sees in God a loving Father Who will not let even his sin separate him from His love. She sees a gracious God Who loves her, Who gave Himself for her -- and along with the gift of Himself will give her all good things. Only in the heart of such a person is true, transforming love of God born. And to live that way -- by forgiveness, childlike trust, and total reliance on God’s unmovable friendship in Christ -- is to walk by the Spirit. 
In such a heart, the Spirit dwells. In such a heart, the Spirit works love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. 
Such a person does not live under the law. His is not a life of meeting demands or of jumping through hoops. Instead, it’s a life in the company of a Heavenly Friend Who loves her as no one else could, who will always defend her and befriend her and cause all things -- even sorrows and crosses -- to work for her benefit. 
A person who lives that way will be grieved at the prospect of hurting that Friend, and will strive to please Him and to bring Him joy -- not because he has to, but because He wants to. She will do so, not in an effort to change her heart, but because her heart has been changed -- changed, not by the unmeetable demands of the Law, but by the Good News of God’s unchangeable and all-sufficient love. 
And that, my friends, is the true and Christian and biblical Third Use of the Law: to please the One we want so much to please, not out of obligation and compulsion -- that’s the way of the flesh -- but out of gratitude and love: out of the heart. 
When a heart transplant is performed, the old heart must be removed. It must die. And so it is in the heart transplant the Holy Spirit performs, the surgical procedure we call “sanctification.” Death therapy is the only way: death to self, death to the deification of appetite and ambition, death to the desire to manipulate the world and even God Himself to our liking. As Paul says later in the chapter, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” 
But that crucifixion is done, not by the willfulness of the flesh, but by the love that dwells in a changed heart -- a heart changed, not by the Law, but by the Gospel, and a life lived, not by seeking impose our will upon God or stand before Him and claim to have done our duty, but by grace, and mercy, and- above all else -- by gratitude. 
It is through these that the Spirit works. It is through these that He transforms the heart. And at last, when we put off our fallen natures once and for all and no longer have a flesh to obstruct and interfere with our friendship with God, it is these which for all eternity will be the only reality we know -- and the only one we need. 
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Clearly, I needed to receive a sermon like that given my recent posts and struggles.

Still, I've been in an introspective mindset lately. I don't say that in a "Hey, Look At Me And How Pious I Am!" sort of way, but just to illustrate a point.

My life seems to go through these ebbs-and-flows where I'm cruising right along just fine and then suddenly...BOOM!!!...something out of the blue will cause me to come face-to-face with the sinful tendencies that are present in my own life.

Of course, once that process starts, it doesn't take long before Satan starts whispering lies in my ears hoping to infect my mind and shatter my faith.

That's why I've grown to absolutely cherish such words as these...


How easy it is to focus on ourselves, our sin, our weakness, our faintheartedness, and conclude that because of these things we could not be Christians. Often people focused on themselves will avoid church attendance because they think that there lives must exhibit a pristine holiness before they can come to church. If they focus on their own abysmal weakness and sin, then certainly there is plenty to dissuade them from standing in the presence of the Lord in the divine services of the church. 
However, we stand precisely in that position always. We stand before God as sinners, but sinners whose sin has been taken over by the Lamb of God, Christ our Savior. So what we feel is not true. If God has indeed taken our sin in Christ, why should we feel it? This is the ultimate false memory syndrome or counterfeit consciousness. How can you say that you are not worth God's love and grace, when Christ has fully cleansed you by His holy and precious blood? How could you be any more worthy? What sin of yours has Christ not taken and atoned for? What sin do you want to possess for yourself and cherish in your heart? What fault do you want to take care of on your own? There are none which Christ has not taken. None! 
Yet there are still people who teach Christians that they must merit God's favor, by their own love, economic success, happiness, disposition toward God, or exemplary life. Such works clearly become a substitute for Christ Himself. You can't have it both ways. Either Christ saves you, or your own works save you. If your works save they have become your Christ and the Christ born of Mary by the Holy Spirit is not your God. How comforting it is to know that I do not have to be my own savior. I can cast all my care, my sin, my sorrow, and my suffering on Him. He bears the curse because I cannot. Either Christ is Christ or works are Christ. Not both. 
-- Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray / Memorial Moments (September 27th, 2016)


Please go back and reread the part I highlighted in red.

Have I been guilty of this in my previous posts? If not, then I came awfully close!

And for emphasis before wrapping things up today?


Where sins are noticed and felt, there they really are not present. For, according to the theology of Paul, there is no more sin, no more death, and no more curse in the world, but only in Christ, who is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and who became a curse in order to set us free from the curse. On the other hand, according to philosophy and reason, sin, death, etc., are not present anywhere except in the world, in the flesh, and in sinners....But the true theology teaches that there is no more sin in the world, because Christ, on whom, according to Isaiah 53, the Father has laid the sins of the entire world (Is 53:6), has conquered, destroyed, and killed it in His own body. Having died to sin once, He has truly been raised from the dead and will not die any more (Rm 6:9). Therefore, wherever there is faith in Christ, there sin has in fact been abolished, put to death, and buried. But where there is no faith in Christ, there sin remains. And although there are still remnants of sin in the saints because they do not believe perfectly, nevertheless these remnants are dead; for on account of faith in Christ they are not imputed. 
-- Martin Luther / Lectures On Galatians, 3.13


A mysterious paradox indeed, but one we are to accept by faith!

In a Lutheran layman's terms, while it's proper to prayerfully consider such things, we also need to be extremely careful that we do not turn faith into our work and victory, when it is Christ's and Christ's alone.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Unless I'm way off base with my basic translating skills (and have completely forgotten how to perform an accurate Google search!), I believe the English word "quote" (used as a noun as in "a quote") is translated to "zitat" in German.

That will help to explain the strange "Z" word listed in the title of this post. 
That being said, I'm always keeping my eyes and ears open for good quotes of a distinctly "Lutheran" flavor that encourage prayerful consideration and a deeper study of God's Word, His Sacraments, Christ's Church, and our Lutheran Confessions of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Plus, it certainly helps me in my on-going journey from American Evangelicalism to becoming a Confessional Lutheran. 
Here's the latest...


" Faith truly honors God. And because faith honors God, God counts faith for righteousness. 
Christian righteousness is the confidence of the heart in God through Christ Jesus. Such confidence is accounted righteousness for Christ's sake. Two things make for Christian righteousness: Faith in Christ, which is a gift of God; and God's acceptance of this imperfect faith of ours for perfect righteousness. 
Because of my faith in Christ, God overlooks my distrust, the unwillingness of my spirit, my many other sins. Because the shadow of Christ's wing covers me I have no fear that God will cover all my sins and take my imperfections for perfect righteousness. God "winks" at my sins and covers them up. God says: "Because you believe in My Son I will forgive your sins until death shall deliver you from the body of sin." 
Learn to understand the constitution of your Christian righteousness. Faith is weak, but it means enough to God that He will not lay sin to our charge. He will not punish nor condemn us for it. He will forgive our sins as though they amount to nothing at all. He will do it not because we are worthy of such mercy. He will do it for Jesus' sake in whom we believe. 
Paradoxically, a Christian is both right and wrong, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. 
These contradictions no person can harmonize who does not understand the true way of salvation. Under the papacy we were told to toil until the feeling of guilt had left us. But the authors of this deranged idea were frequently driven to despair in the hour of death. It would have happened to me, if Christ had not mercifully delivered me from this error." 
-- Martin Luther's "Commentary On Galatians - Chapter 3"


This is most certainly true.


It seemed like an appropriate thing to share on the heels of my two recent posts that admitted that I'm simply a beggar and that asked, "Are you a model sinner? Are you a poor, miserable sinner?"

1 John 1:8 (ESV) If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Romans 8:1 (ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.


An apparent paradox, the mystery of our faith, but true nonetheless.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, because "a Christian is both right and wrong, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God" that's precisely why we must daily repent of our sins and remember our Baptism!



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Jesus receives, rejoices over, and restores sinners.

You do believe that, right?

Well, apparently, I learned that there are some fellow brothers and sisters of ours who don't.

In the Comments Section to a popular post, I got attacked for suggesting that Christians are simultaneously saints and sinners, and that ours is to be a life of daily repentance.


The specific objection to that was...



to quote your tweet: "Only two people classes exist: believers and unbelievers, godly and ungodly, converted and unconverted, regenerate and unregenerate. #Lect30" Then why do you believe that everyone is a sinner? If you are a new creation in Christ and old things are passed away you cannot be just a sinner anymore. That is disrespectful to the new creation in Christ, and to call yourself just a sinner is putting down what Christ did in this new creation. Yes we all still sin and have the sin nature in the body until it is glorified, but our nature is now a godly nature.


Such words reminded me of a section of the sermon I referenced at the beginning of this piece that read: "Even if we have not fallen into blatant, easy-to-recognize shame and vice, even if we have lived a fairly respectable life, we still must confess, 'I a poor miserable sinner.' For God judges not only our outward actions, but also our inner hearts and our secret sins in thought, word, and deed. There is no escaping the label of sinner. If you think you’re not, you’re just kidding yourself. But you’re not fooling God."

In addition, it reminded me of something my own Pastor said a few weeks ago: "A person can just as easily get lost in the sin of self-righteousness as they can any other sin."

That's why I replied with the following...




Yes, believers are declared righteous before God thanks to Jesus Christ and that deals with our eternal glory in His presence. However, believers still live in the here-and-now where sin is still an ever present truth for each and every one of us. Should we ignore sin and stop waging war against it? No way! We are simultaneously saints and sinners, yes, but just because we're saints doesn't mean we should ever ignore or minimize the presence of sin in our lives. 
If "our nature is now a godly nature" as you say, then why do we all still sin in this life? Are we to ignore that reality and never repent of them due to this "godly nature" then? Wouldn't that be "disrespectful" to our Lord and Savior Who instructs us otherwise and Who teaches us that ours is a life of daily repentance? Should we stop saying the words "and forgive us of our trespasses" and the Lord's Prayer then? 
Maybe John was mistaken and being "disrespectful to the new creation in Christ" then when he wrote in 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV) "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 
Remember, he was writing that...to those who were already Christians. 
Furthermore, if what you say were true, then we'd have to conclude that like John, St. Paul was "being disrespectful to the new creation in Christ" too, and all the letters that he wrote need to be ignored completely. 
The reality is that BOTH MEN were Apostles of Jesus Christ who were divinely inspired to write each and every word that they wrote. 
Sorry, but I'll stick with their take on the subject.


Personally, I feel like that reply of mine was more snark that sound theology.

So, I dug up a daily devotion I had saved from early August that speaks to this sort of thing, and I think it's a much better rebuttal than anything I could ever write!





August 3rd 
Zaccheaus is the model Christian. He is a sinner who recognizes his sin. Christ says: "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt 9:13). Only sinners may be called. And in an extraordinary transvaluation of values, the Lord Jesus calls sinners to partake of His righteousness. That which they are not, they are by imputation. He reckons them righteous. As Martin Luther says "This is Christ's love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person." Christ seeks what is best for us, not by seeking the good in us (that would a fool's errand), but by seeking to give what is good to those who are bad, like us. Ah, to be a sinner like this! 
When a dear seminary professor, Dr. Harold Buls, preached his final sermon he told the anecdote from early in his ministry of receiving a man who came for private confession. The man fell on his knees and confessed committing adultery to Dr. Buls. In his sermon Dr. Buls exclaimed, "I was envious of this man!" This elicited sustained laughter in the seminary chapel to which Dr. Buls immediately replied, "No, no! I don't mean it that way! I didn't envy his sin! I mean that the man had deep spiritual courage coming in getting on his knees and abjectly confessing the sin of adultery to his pastor. I was envious of his spiritual courage." He was envious of the man's ability to be the kind of sinner God counts righteous. 
God has staked his honor and holy name on the church for the sake of our need. He is willing to be here among sinners, though He is holy, because it is His mission is to save sinners like us. Some years ago a friend of mine quipped, "Confession is good for the soul, but bad for your reputation." And he has a point! We find it difficult to say about ourselves "I, a poor miserable sinner." Yet only sinners receive the divine mercy. Only those who are willing to get off their high horse and allow God to be who He is will be forgiven. Only those who recognize their need for the Physician can receive His healing. Only those who know God is willing to be among the small will receive His ministry to the small and weak. Such was the case for Zacchaeus. 
So it has been for two millennia upon the holy hill of the Lord. Here is ministry to the lost that they might be found. Here the Lord, through His Word, seeks sinners like us. Jesus says: "Today salvation has come to this house. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." This is how Zacchaeus can be the model sinner. 
-- Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray


For emphasis, here's what Martin Luther once wrote...


"It is as though Jesus says, 'The kingdom of Christ is not one of condemnation. I am not here to condemn you, but to remit the sins of those who, like you, are where death, the devil, evil consciences, accusers, and judges have come to plague them. The slogan in My kingdom is: I forgive you your sin; for in My kingdom no one is without forgiveness of sins. Therefore you, too, must have forgiveness. My kingdom must not be in disorder. All who enter it and dwell in it must be sinners. But as sinners they cannot live without the forgiveness of sins.'" 
If I am a sinner, the matter is not ended there; the sins must be forgiven. Thus none but sinners come into this kingdom. But do not let this prompt you to say: 'Well, we will remain in sin.' No, you must learn to feel and recognize your sin. The Pharisees did not have to become sinners; they were sinners already, and they became even greater sinners when Christ uncovered their sins with the words: 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her' (Jn 8:7). A sinner is a person who feels his sin. The Pharisees, those rogues, were no sinners; but they became sinners when Christ said: 'Let him who is without sin, etc.' Now they became sinners. But they despaired and slunk away. In their arrogance they hid their sin and would not await Christ's second statement: 'Neither do I condemn you (Jn 8:11)." 
"Thus only those sinners belong in the kingdom of Christ who recognize their sin, feel it, and then catch hold of the Word of Christ spoken here: 'I do not condemn you.'
-- Martin Luther, Sermons On The Gospel of St. John, 8.11


This is most certainly true.


I really do hope the person who wrote that comment takes these words to heart.


I also hope they forgive me for my snark and, instead, that they please focus on the truthfulness of God's Word which refutes their current beliefs.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, don't be like the Pharisees and think you have no need to repent ever again since becoming a Christian, because Christ says, "for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13) so be a model Christian, be a poor miserable sinner, and be the broken and humble sinner who recognizes and repents of his sins.
 



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Personally, I think that social media is absolutely fabulous for finding so much from my fellow Lutherans that God has used to correct, encourage, edify and teach me about "the faith entrusted once for all to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Take, for instance, this brief and powerful write-up from Josh Brisby on Facebook today (someone I've never met and never talked to before, but have grown to admire for his willingness to share such things)...


 
It is disturbing how much evangelical piety still stays with me sometimes. Like I feel as though Christ is "far from me" or I have "sinned Him away" or my "relationship" with Him is terrible. The whole idea of "Christ in your heart" leads to doubt. 
But then I remember that I am a Lutheran. I am a weak and weary sinner. I am simply a beggar, this is true. And I remember that God clothed Himself with Christ, and Christ clothes Himself with His Word and Sacraments. 
And my soul leaps for joy, knowing that, this very night, and tomorrow, I will go and meet with Him in Church. He will speak gracious Words of forgiveness to me in Absolution. He will remind me that I have been Baptized and therefore am clothed with Him. And He will forgive my sins by giving me His very Body and Blood to eat and to drink in the Eucharist. 
And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. 
Thankful for Lutheranism. No hope without it.


This is most certainly true.

Short and sweet, but it definitely resonated with me for obvious reasons.

I too am "thankful for Lutheranism" after having languished on American Evangelicalism's Waters of Works Righteousness for several years.

This is also why Martin Luther's last words were, "We are beggars. This is true."

In a Lutheran layman's terms, yes, I'm simply a beggar who's desperately in need of His body and His blood, which can be found "in, with, and under" the bread and wine that I will get to receive as the Lord's precious "Means of Grace" FOR ME (and FOR YOU!) tomorrow morning!



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


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Back to school for the kids (and even me!) as well as the start of a new job caused me to miss some pretty big news out of Catholicism recently.

Apparently, Mother Teresa was canonized a couple of weeks ago...



 
Mother Teresa Declared A Saint Before Huge Crowds In The Vatican 
Vatican City (CNN) Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who devoted her life to helping India's poor, has been declared a saint in a canonization Mass held by Pope Francis in the Vatican. Pope Francis delivered the formula for the canonization of the Albanian-born nun -- known as the "saint of the gutters" -- before huge crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on Sunday morning. Applause broke out before he completed the formula of canonization, in which he declared "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint."


This is one of those areas where we Lutherans differ significantly from our Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ.

How so exactly? I mean, after all, we Lutherans do celebrate "All Saints Day" in Christ's Church. Isn't that the same thing as what Catholics do when they canonize (i.e., "make a saint") a person for sainthood?

Well, I found one Lutheran who attempted to broach this very same subject by suggesting that maybe we Lutherans are wrong on this.



Invoking The Saints (As A Lutheran) 
Of all the theological differences we Lutherans have with our separated brethren from Rome and the East, the issue of invoking the saints always seems to cause our “reformation” blood to boil the most. In my capacity as an Active Duty Army Chaplain it is one of the first issues my Protestant chaplain colleagues cite in their theological angst against Roman Catholicism. This issue is, and I’m not sure why, one of the most divisive issues that remains between our communions. But why? What is it about this practice that is so theologically offensive, or for that matter, biblically inconsistent? (And let’s be clear, no Christian of any stripe prays TO the saints. The practice has always been one that asks the saints to intercede FOR us to the Lord. It is Christ and Christ alone who answers our prayers.) 
I can understand why our Reformation forefathers thought it necessary to take on the cult of the saints. Devotion to the saints of the Church in the 16th century had clearly taken priority over the One on whom our faith rests, Christ Jesus the Lord. The focus of the Church’s practice at this time was not on the One mediator between God and man, but on those sainted figures who lived their lives in fierce devotion to this mediator. For several historical reasons, it’s not surprising that this turn of focus occurred. It is, I think, similar to the abuse concerning the sale of indulgences. And it is why those committed to the reformation cause fought so valiantly to reorient the Church’s focus to the blood of Christ shed on Calvary and not on the merits of the saints.


Now, I realize he came right out and admitted that he was only trying to start a discussion on the matter and nothing more. However, for me, personally, this is a clear cut, open-and-shut case (or, at least, it should be) since our Confessions are crystal clear.

Thankfully, Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), shared this on his Facebook page, which echoes my sentiments on the subject...



A few thoughts from the Apology of the Augsburg Confessionon on the Day of the Canonisation of Mother Teresa.


4] Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 
5] Matt. 25:21, 23. The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace 
6] truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20. The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 
7] These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary. 
8] Besides, we also grant that the angels pray for us. For there is a testimony in Zech. 1:12, where an angel prays: O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on 
9] Jerusalem? Although concerning the saints we concede that, just as, when alive, they pray for the Church universal in general, so in heaven they pray for the Church in general, albeit no testimony concerning the praying of the dead is extant in the Scriptures, except the dream taken from the Second Book of Maccabees, 15:14. 
Moreover, even supposing that the saints pray for the Church ever so much, 
10] yet it does not follow that they are to be invoked; although our Confession affirms only this, that Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, or that we are to ask the saints for aid. But since neither a command, nor a promise, nor an example can be produced from the Scriptures concerning the invocation of saints, it follows that conscience can have nothing concerning this invocation that is certain. And since prayer ought to be made from faith, how do we know that God approves this invocation? Whence do we know without the testimony of Scripture that the saints perceive the prayers of each one? 
11] Some plainly ascribe divinity to the saints, namely, that they discern the silent thoughts of the minds in us. They dispute concerning morning and evening knowledge, perhaps because they doubt whether they hear us in the morning or the evening. They invent these things, not in order to treat the saints with honor, but to defend lucrative services. 
12] Nothing can be produced by the adversaries against this reasoning, that, since invocation does not have a testimony from God's Word, it cannot be affirmed that the saints understand our invocation, or, even if they understand it, that God approves it. 
Therefore 
13] the adversaries ought not to force us to an uncertain matter, because a prayer without faith is not prayer. For when they cite the example of the Church, it is evident that this is a new custom in the Church; for although the old prayers make mention of the saints, yet they do not invoke the saints. Although also this new invocation in the Church is dissimilar to the invocation of individuals. 
14] Again, the adversaries not only require invocation in the worship of the saints, but also apply the merits of the saints to others, and make of the saints not only intercessors, but also propitiators. This is in no way to be endured. For here the honor belonging only to Christ is altogether transferred to the saints. For they make them mediators and propitiators, and although they make a distinction between mediators of intercession and mediators [the Mediator] of redemption, yet they plainly make of the saints mediators of redemption. 
15] But even that they are mediators of intercession they declare without the testimony of Scripture, which, be it said ever so reverently, nevertheless obscures Christ's office, and transfers the confidence of mercy due Christ to the saints. For men imagine that Christ is more severe and the saints more easily appeased, and they trust rather to the mercy of the saints than to the mercy of Christ, and fleeing from Christ [as from a tyrant], they seek the saints. Thus they actually make of them mediators of redemption. 
Article XXI


This is most certainly true.


To summarize, here's a brief commentary from Rev. Eric Andersen that's comforting...




Commemorating The Saints 
Satan’s always working to confuse our theology. If he can’t knock us off the horse on one side, he’ll try to knock us off the other. He’s done a really great job when it comes to commemorating the saints. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say: “We’re Lutherans! We don’t commemorate saints! That’s too catholic!” But that would be to fall off the horse on the other side. Now, of course we don’t want to imitate the Roman error whereby we seek the so-called “merits of the saints.” Christ is the world’s Redeemer, the only mediator between God and man. To look to anyone or anything but Christ alone for salvation is crass idolatry. But that doesn’t mean we forget about the saints entirely. After all, we believe “…in the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints,” don’t we? As Lutherans, in accord with the Church’s faith in every generation, we believe, teach, and confess that the remembrance of the saints is to be commended in order that we may imitate their faith and good works according to their calling (Augsburg Confession, 21). 
Remember, a saint isn’t someone we go to in prayer so we can get a little extra favor in God’s eyes or to get help in selling our house. A saint is one who has been made holy. This is what the Holy Spirit has done for you in Holy Baptism, where the flood of Christ’s own blood has made you holy, right, and good before your heavenly Father (LSB, 596; st. 4). We remember and give thanks to God for the lives of the saints every Sunday in the Divine Service when we gather at the Lord’s table with “angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven.” Who is that company of heaven but the saints? After we commune, we sing the hymn of Saint Simeon (the Nunc Dimittis, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace…”). Next, we pray that the love of Christ would not only fill our own cup but runneth over, that we would live “in fervent love toward one another.” This is a prayer that we would regard and treat one another as saints. As St. Paul says, "So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).  
To despise the commemoration of saints is to sever our communion in Christ, to forget how indispensable are the other members of Christ’s Body. When we confess our faith in the communion of saints, we confess the vitality of our fellowship with one another, both with the saints who live here with Christ on earth and the saints who live with Him in heaven. Forgetting about the saints is just as bad as seeking their merits. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is just as bad as drowning the baby in the bathtub.


I hope you find that as helpful as I did.

At the same time, it's still a tricky topic, isn't it?

We all have a Catholic family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor who talks about praying to the saints and about asking the saints to pray for them, don't we?

I liked this response from another Lutheran Pastor...


Do not fall into the trap of slandering them, accusing them of intentionally worshiping the saints. Most priests will say that the “proper teaching” is that they are only asking the saints to pray for them. It’s kind of like asking a friend, so they say. Why not ask someone who is obviously closer to God than we are? Who can be closer than His Mom? If you read some of the prayers, you will note that many of them are very clear, saying things such as “pray to Christ for us” and “pray for us.” Some are a little more questionable and seem to ascribe power to the saints that Jesus ascribes to the Holy Spirit. I’d go with Jesus’ teaching first… How can the Saints have the divinity that belongs to God alone? But what do Lutherans think? 
In short, the answer is: The Scriptures do not cite any (positive) example of invoking the dead, they do not promise that the dead can help us or hear our prayers, and yet, Scripture is abundantly clear when it comes to invoking the name of the Lord, “Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15). Why not simply trust in what Lord has said? Why not pray to Him as He asks us to do, teaches us to do (Our Father), and models for us in the life of Christ (Gethsemane, and more)? This has been the Lutheran position since the dawn of the Reformation. 
For an official source, see the document known as the Defense (or ‘apology’) of the Augsburg Confession. The Confessors state: Moreover, even supposing that the saints pray for the Church ever so much, 10] yet it does not follow that they are to be invoked; although our Confession affirms only this, that Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, or that we are to ask the saints for aid. But since neither a command, nor a promise, nor an example can be produced from the Scriptures concerning the invocation of saints, it follows that conscience can have nothing concerning this invocation that is certain. And since prayer ought to be made from faith, how do we know that God approves this invocation? Whence do we know without the testimony of Scripture that the saints perceive the prayers of each one? 11] Some plainly ascribe divinity to the saints, namely, that they discern the silent thoughts of the minds in us. 
-- Rev. Robert O. Riebau


Or, to put it another way, Rev. Gary Hall wrote that because a Christian is to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, then "all things" includes all the *saints* too, but let's remember that The Lord’s Prayer asks nothing of the saints, but looks to God for all things. So, while we can look to the saints as an example, we cannot look to them for aid and help.


In a Lutheran layman's terms, it's one thing for us to honor the saints that have gone before us (as we should), but something else entirely to pray to them for intercession on our behalf.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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