What Luther Says About...UNITY OF FAITH

One very cool book I got for Christmas is titled What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology For The Active Christian compiled Ewald M. Plass.

Basically, it's a huge collection of all sorts of topics from A to Z and what Luther said or wrote about them, which is absolutely fantastic for me since I love good Christian quotes.

Perhaps this excerpt from the Foreword will excite you...


"Nothing like this anthology can be found anywhere in the English-speaking world. There have been one or two brief collections of Luther's most famous utterances. This present set, however, contains no less than 5,100 quotations on more than 200 subjects, from 'Absolution' to 'Zeal.'"

*- Martin H. Scharlemann Chairman, Committee For Scholarly Research


In addition, Plass wrote Introducing Martin Luther: "He Being Dead Yet Speaketh" as the Introduction and it contained these many gems...


"These people hold that in the course of history few men have more honestly and successfully set themselves to seek knowledge concerning the will and the ways of God, as Scripture reveals them, than did Martin Luther."


"Both friend and foe testify that Luther did exert an exceptionally strong influence upon all who met him. His was a personality so strongly marked that it was difficult to remain neutral toward him. Yet Luther's strength lay in what he said, not in what he was."


"A man may tell how far he has advanced in theology by the degree in which he is pleased by Luther's writings"
*- Martin Chemnitz (quoted in Krauth, The Conservative Reformation, p. 57)



"In subsequent generations the interest in Luther's writings was a veritable theological barometer which indicated the falling or rising interest in loyalty to Scripture. 'Back to Scripture' implied and involved, if it did not consciously call for, a return to Luther; for the two are often correlatives. The increased interest in the writings of Luther at the time of the revival of orthodoxy in the last century was, therefore, not a meaningless coincidence."


"Thousands have recognized in Luther the greatest witness of the truth since the day of the apostles and prophets"
*- C.F.W. Walther (quoted in F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, I, 290)



"It is true, Luther has been accused of being repetitious; and what seems to aggravate the charge is the fact that at times he himself makes it. Luther himself one day remarked concerning the doctrine of salvation by faith alone that a good song deserves to be heard more than once. So thought St. Paul (Philippians 3:1). But let us concede that at times Luther is repetitious to a fault. We hold that an investigation will reveal that the Reformer most frequently lapses into repeating himself when he treats of matters that are particular concern to him. Prominent in this group of topics were the sanctity of the Word, and salvation through faith in Christ alone. His repetitiousness at such times seems to have been largely the result of an intensity of conviction concerning which we may say that 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh' -- and the pen writeth."


"Martin Luther took no royalties; he neither asked for them nor received them. The fact of the matter is that he did not want them. He never wrote a book to make money on it. He took up his pen for the love of his God and His people; and he once said that the Savior had already repaid him a thousandfold for anything he might write."


"Probably to most people of his day Luther was, above all, the preacher of the Gospel, although he entered the lecture room before he ascended the pulpit."


"Martin Luther's supreme interest in life was to glorify the God of grace, whom he had finally found in Christ, and to lead men to His Word. We know of no man's writings that are more saturated with Scripture than those of this great champion of the Bible."


"The Reformer had no desire to impress anyone in or out of the pulpit with an air of professional dignity. There was nothing stiff or unctuous about the man. He was very human; and he could afford to be what he was. His character was great enough and his personality impressive enough to dispense with any artificial props. In consequence, a subtle humor now and then is at play in the discussion of the most serious matters, a humor that adds lightness but not levity to the subject."


"A voice and a pen -- this is all. But there is more power in this voice and this pen to shake and mould the world than in all the bulls of a pope or the armed strength of emperor and kings."
*- James Mackinnon in his Luther And The Reformation (III, 138)


"Luther never wrote anything merely to satisfy his scholarly urge, merely because his research in a field in which he was interested had discovered something of significance to the learned world. Luther held that God had revealed nothing merely to gratify the curiosity of man. He was sure that the Christian religion was, above all, practical and functional and that all the golden truths of Scripture were to be coined into conduct, were designed to make man not merely wiser but also better. A Christian's love is practical; it goes to work, and all the world becomes its beneficiary. These qualities made his writings not academic treatises but tracts for the times."


"Luther disavows everything and anything that does not square with Scripture. What is not Scriptural should not be considered Lutheran. In this respect therefore 'Lutheran' is in reality a personal and dated name for an impersonal and undated principle: unquestioning loyalty to Scripture as the Word of God."


"He wrote to direct men not to himself but to Christ in the Word."


"He meant, above all, to instruct and to inspire, to confirm and to comfort people in general; he addressed men as his fellow sinners rather than his fellow scholars. To Martin Luther learning was the means to an end, not an end in itself; it was the scaffolding, not the building."


"In his own days Luther expressed a complaint about Scripture study which is not out of place in our own times. He said that there was an unfortunate tendency to rush to commentaries before carefully studying Scripture itself and basing one's faith on its bare text without comment."


"We see, then, that Luther himself cautioned against a translation that is slavishly literal. But it is as necessary to avoid the other extreme, paraphrasing instead of translating."


"I am well aware of the fact that others might have handled the situation better than I did, but since they are holding their peace, I am doing it as well as I can. It is certainly better to have spoken on the subject, however inadequately, than to have remained silent altogether" *- Martin Luther (Weimar Edition 15, 49)



"'For the sake of my Lord Christ' is a fitting motto for the life and labors of Martin Luther. How the man learned to love Christ! How he glorified Him in his writings! He knew of no other God, wanted no other God, needed no other God. Indeed, 'there is no other God, He holds the field forever,' holds it forever also in the writings and in the theology of Luther. This intense love of the Reformer is infectious. Luther has a way of making you feel the nearness of God and filling you with the love of Christ. But this love is far from being a dreamy emotionalism that evaporates in rapturous phrases. It is decidedly virile; there is nothing morbidly maudlin or mystical about it. It makes me want to be something and do something 'for the sake of my Lord Christ.'"


"Truly, Luther's writings are never outdated; they are as modern as the love of God in Christ, which they glorify. 'He being dead yet speaketh.'"



I know that's a lot to digest (and we haven't even gotten to today's main quote from Luther yet!), but how great were those excerpts from that Introduction by Plass?

Anyway, now that the formalities are out of the way, please allow me quickly explain my intentions with lengthy and weekly posts like this one.

Simply put, I just thought it would be edifying and fun to share some of Luther's finest statements with all of you on a weekly basis.

Better yet, I also thought it would be a good way to help me to continue to learn Lutheran doctrine (a.k.a. orthodox Christianity) in the process.

So, here's today's offering for your enjoyment and prayerful consideration...



What Luther Says About...UNITY

Plass: THIS WORD teaches that churches should grow together from within and should not be tied together from without, the Doctor contends in his sermon of October 20, 1532, on the armor and weapons of the Christians, with Ephesians 6:10-17 as his text.
 

4546 UNITY OF FAITH? YES -- UNIONISM OF FAITH? NO

The blessing [of the Word] is so great that no human heart can comprehend it. This is why its retention requires a stout, stiff battle. Even then it is easy to lose it forever if we do not hold to the Word with all our might. By no means is the Word to be considered as lightly as the world considers it, and as some foolish spirits, deceived by the devil in regard to the Sacrament or other heresies, represent it to be. They tell us that one is not to quarrel so violently over one article and disrupt Christian love because of it. But, they say, one might well yield and surrender a bit and keep up fraternal and Christian unity and fellowship with those who err in an unimportant point -- as long as one agrees with them otherwise.
 
No, my good man, for me none of that peace and unity one gains by the loss of God's Word! For in that case eternal life and everything else would already be lost. In this matter we dare not budge or concede anything to please you or any man; but all things must yield to the Word, be they friendly or hostile. For the Word is given not in order to achieve external or secular unity and peace but life eternal. Word and doctrine are to create unity or fellowship. Where they are one and the same, the rest will naturally follow; if not, no unity will abide anyway. Therefore do not speak to me of love or friendship when anything is to be detracted from the Word of the faith; for we are told that not love but the Word brings eternal life, God's grace, and all heavenly treasures. We will gladly keep the peace with them in an external way, as we should do with everybody in the world, even with our worst enemies ... but in doctrine and Christian fellowship we want to have nothing to do with them. Nor do we want to consider them brethren. They are enemies, because they knowingly insist on their error; and we intend to fight against them in our spiritual struggle. Therefore nothing but a satanic, seductive, and sinister strategy is involved when we are called upon to yield a bit and to connive at an error for the sake of unity. In this way the devil is trying cunningly to lead us away from the Word. For if we adopt this course and get together in this matter, he has already gained ground; and if we were to yield him a fingerbreadth, he would soon have an ell.

(Weimar Edition 34 II, 387 -- Erlangen Edition 18, 242 f -- Revised Halle or Walch Edition published at St. Louis 9, 831)


In a Lutheran Layman's terms, forget about figuring out what a fox says!

Spend some time figuring out what Martin Luther said about various topics, because he will always point you to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and the Lord's Sacraments.


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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SERMON: Who Do You Think You Are!?! (Philippians 2:1–18; Matthew 21:23–32)

The "Five Two/Wiki 14" fiasco has only highlighted the need for ongoing and proper catechesis within the LCMS Church.

In addition, it's highlighted the importance of Pastors who faithfully preach Law and Gospel week-in-and-week-out.

This week, I want to give you a smorgasbord of Bible-based preaching and teaching that will include 4 separate but related resources -- an introduction to this week's Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel readings (with discussion); a video presentation on the Epistle reading; a sermon on Philippians 2:1-18, and another on Matthew 21:23-32.

Yes, that's a lot, and my intention is not to overwhelm anyone, but I think I'd like to try to make the posts in this weekly series sort of a "One Stop Shop" for anyone who's looking for those Lutheran Pastors who are mindful of fulfilling their calling to be ministers of God's Word and Sacraments.


2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.


We should pray for Pastors who do not preach self-consciously, as if they need to prove themselves, but those who preach as ones already accepted by God through faith in Jesus; those who "rightly handling the word of truth" properly preach Law and Gospel.

Let's start with this week's episode of LampLight Conversations.


Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost 
This week on LampLight Conversations, Vicar Jacob Hercamp, who is serving out the 2014–2015 academic year at Zion Lutheran Church, in Imperial NE, joined our conversation on the lessons for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, which are: 
Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32 
Psalm 25:1–10 
Philippians 2:1–18 
Matthew 21:23–32 
CLICK HERE to listen to this week's show.


I've only listened to LampLight Conversations once before today, but I think I'm going to try to make this a regular part of this weekly sermon series, because it's a great way to get yourself acquainted with the week's readings you're going to hear in church (or should).

Plus, the more faithful Bible study resources the better, right?

Now, we turn our attention to Worldview Everlasting's video on Philippians 2:1-18.


VIDEO: The Grammar Police Use Dodgeballs (Philippians 2:1-18) 
Sometimes something as simple as an alternate translation can make the difference between salvation by faith and salvation by works. Philippians has many famous passages concerning what we are supposed to do as Christians – how we are to live out our Christian life. But as is so often the case, what if Philippians 2 isn’t about so much as what we do, but what Christ has done for us? Pastor Fisk takes on Philippians 2:1-18 in today’s Greek Tuesday and points us back to salvation by grace alone through faith alone.


Next, let's turn our attention to a sermon on that same passage of the text from Philippians 2 since it's now fresh in our mind.

 It's a sermon from Pastor Charles Henrickson and it was found over at Steadfast Lutherans.


 
"You Shine As Lights In The World" (Sermon On Philippians 2:1-18) 
In our Epistle for today, from Philippians 2, St. Paul appeals to us Christians to live as who we are, namely, “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” 
Did you hear that? “You Shine as Lights in the World.” Yes, you do! And today we’ll find out why and how. But before you can shine, first you have to be children of God. How did that happen? God had to make you his children. And that did not happen by your birth according to the flesh. No, you needed to be born again. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You had to be born again, born from above, born of water and the Spirit. In other words, Baptism. You needed a new nature. Your old self was born in sin, the original, inherited sin that came down to us from Adam. We all are born with it, that old, Adamic sinful nature, and we all grow up in it and go along with it. Rebellion against God. Wanting to be our own god. Not loving God. Not loving our neighbor. Turned in on ourselves. That’s who we are by birth. And that birth will get you nowhere–nowhere except to the grave and hell. 
But God in his grace gave you the new birth in Holy Baptism, what the Bible calls “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit worked faith in your heart, through the Word of God, so that now you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior. Christ has washed away your sins by his blood shed on the cross, making you blameless and innocent and without blemish in God’s sight. In Baptism, God put his name on you and claimed you for his own. You have a new nature now. You are the children of God. Now we’re talking. Now we can hear the words of our text and apply them to ourselves. We are the children of God spoken of in our text. The Apostle Paul is speaking to us today, as well as to the Philippians of old. 
You, dear friends–yes you–are “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” You are children of God, but you live in a world that is decidedly not a friendly or compatible environment for the children of God. St. Paul here says that we live “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” It was so back then, and it is so today. Want any proof of that? Just turn on the television or read the newspaper. You can see the crookedness and the twistedness of this generation on full display. Half-clad pop tarts twerking away. Islamic terrorists chopping people’s heads off. The President of the United States applauding and encouraging sodomite “marriages,” so called. Real marriage being disdained in favor of hooking up and shacking up. Materialism and greed and the love of pleasure being the top pursuits. The world has gone completely mad. Evil is called good, and good is called evil. That’s the world we live in. Truly a crooked and twisted generation. Hardly a haven for Christian faith or life. 
We are in the world, but we are not of the world. We have a different set of values. We have a different God, the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this God gives us our meaning, our identity, our purpose, and our security in this world gone mad. We march to the beat of a different drummer. And God has a purpose for us in this sin-darkened world. We’re here for a reason. I suppose God could have just beamed us up and whisked us away as soon as we were baptized. But instead God left us here for a reason. There is a purpose for us being the church in the world. And here it is. Paul says it: “You shine as lights in the world.” This is a world that needs the light that we have, and God will use us to shine forth with this light. The world is lost in darkness, groping around, not knowing God, and not even knowing that they’re lost and heading to hell. But instead of us bemoaning the fact that we have to live here, God has a positive purpose for us as church in the midst of the darkness. We shine as lights. And today let me suggest two ways in which we do that. 
We shine as lights in the world because we have the mind of Christ. And second, we shine as lights in the world because we have the message of Christ. 
First, we shine as lights in the world because we have the mind of Christ. This is our new nature again that I’m talking about. The Spirit forms in us the mind of Christ, so that we begin to think and act as our Savior did. This mind of Christ–this is a mind set on service, enlivened with love, and clothed with humility. And God has prepared and equipped us so that we can respond in this way. Paul writes at the start of Philippians 2: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” And later Paul adds, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is to think and to act in a Christ-like way. But you say, “I can’t do that!” No, according to your old nature you cannot. And even as a Christian, your old Adam will still be tugging at you, pulling you back to the ways of the world, the ways of the sinful flesh. But remember, you are baptized. You have a new nature, created in Christ Jesus, formed and led by the Spirit. So these are words for you. Listen to what Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” This mind is yours in Christ. You have it. It is God’s gift to you. And this mind of Christ is a humble, loving, servant mind, bent on doing the will of God and loving and serving others. That’s the mind you have now, in Christ. And this makes a difference in how we live. So this is the first way in which we shine as lights in the world: We live differently. We love and serve one another. We love and serve our neighbor. This stands out. This shines out. 
People notice the way we live as Christians, as church. It was said of the early church, that the world would look at them and say, “See how they love one another!” The light of Christ shines through in the way we live and it brings honor and glory to God. Jesus said this very thing, didn’t he? He told his disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The church is called to be an oasis of love in a dry and thirsty land. Our congregation is called to be a family of brothers and sisters, serving one another in love. Yes, we have the mind of Christ being formed in us, and it shapes the way we live. And this, in turn, will draw people to our message. And so that now is the second way in which we shine as lights in the world: We have the message of Christ. 
Paul gives a great summary of this message smack dab in the middle of our text today. Philippians 2:5-11, one of the great passages in all of the New Testament: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” What a wonderful confession of the person and the work of Christ! He, the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, willingly took on human flesh and became our brother. He came down from heaven “for us men and for our salvation.” He took the form of a servant, just as Jesus said about himself: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 
Yes, Jesus is our Redeemer, who sets us free from our bondage to sin and death. He did this by humbly doing the will of the Father to the point of death, so great his love for God and for us. And not just any death, but even death on a cross, the most brutal and shameful death there could be. He, the innocent one, bore the sin of the guilty, namely, you and me–indeed, the sins of the whole world. With his saving mission accomplished on the cross–“It is finished!”–God the Father then raised up his Son, exalting him to the highest place, so that now the name of Jesus is the one name under heaven by which men are saved. It is the name we Christians praise and glorify. It is the name, this name of Jesus, the Savior of the world–this is the name we spread abroad, as we shine as lights in the world. “You shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” 
We are holding fast to the word of life, for we know that this is the word of life for us. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train. No, it is our soon-coming King, Jesus Christ, who will come and take us home to be with him forever. Having this sure hope, we hold fast the word of life. And at the same time we hold forth the word of life, for this is a word not only for us but for the life of the world. 
How do we do that? By having the mind of Christ and the message of Christ. We shine as lights in the world because we have the mind of Christ, loving and serving one another, and the world will notice that. And we shine as lights in the world because we have the message of Christ, preaching and teaching, sharing and spreading the only saving gospel in our community and around the world. Beloved, know this today; take it to heart and take it home: Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”


Finally, we wrap things up with a short sermon from Pastor Karl Weber on Matthew 21 (also from Steadfast Lutherans).


By Whose Authority? A Sermon On Matthew 21:23-27 
Some people ask questions because they do not want to learn. Let me repeat that: Some ask questions because they do not want to learn and this is what we see in our text for today. 
The Pharisees believed in the resurrection and that is the main thing which separated them from the Sadducees. But the Pharisees were becoming uncomfortable for they would hear in Jesus’ words that he is the resurrection and the life and no one come to the Father accept through him. For Jesus to make this claim or to imply that he is God was blasphemous for the Jews. It is also a blasphemous for Islam, Mormonism, and all other religions. The chief priests and elders of the people were asking questions in attempt to domesticate Jesus, to tame him, to place him under their control. 
You know the truth that the person who asks the questions is in control of the conversation. You see this all the time with the news media and that is why an astute person will answer questions not asked in order to not be placed under control. But to not be under Jesus’ control invites death and it is a death that continues when you have ceased to live. As Jesus tells us through Jeremiah, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (18:6). 
Unbelieving rebellious clay does not to submit to the hand and way of the potter inviting destruction. "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” [asked the chief priests and the elders]. Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things” (Mt 21:23-24). Out of love for their souls salvation Jesus will not go down the path they desire. They hedged their bets knowing if they said John’s baptism was from God that would mean they needed to believe John’s message. And what was John’s message regarding Christ? We confess the Baptizer’s message using his own words found in the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel which are now used in our liturgy. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me’ (Jn 1:29). With these words John confesses the eternal nature of Christ, that is, his divinity, and that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system. 
By-far-and a-way the most common sacrifice in the Old Testament was the morning and evening sacrifice which involved a lamb. The Baptizer is saying that all four legged lambs pointed to and find their culmination in this two legged lamb standing before them—Jesus. The chief priests and elders also knew if they denied the authority of the Baptizer they would have a riot on their hands for the people held John in high esteem. Knowing what is in the hearts of all people (Jn 2:24) Jesus did not entrust himself to the questions asked. They were being asked to put Jesus in his place, mock him or otherwise control him. Not all questions are meant for learning. Jesus will have none of this for he came to the world to save the world. 
Remember what we learned from last week’s Gospel, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mt 9:12). You are here this day my friends because you confess that you are sick and need help from outside yourself. Those who continually skip church are, in their own eyes, well and are saying they have no need of a physician. This sickness which all people have is a contagion worse than Ebola and it always ends in death. It is this contagion of sin, original sin that Jesus absorbed onto himself so that he became the host body. And our Lord allowed this contagion to infect, weaken him and draw out his blood while on the cross so your sins are forgiven. 
That which was meant for ill, for evil—the death of his Son on the cross—God worked for good for your salvation. Through Christ’s shed blood on the cross your sins are forgiven! Jesus’ authority comes from the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh. This authority also comes from the heavenly Father. "I speak of what I have seen with my Father, (Jn 8:38). I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (Jn 8:42). "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (Jn 10:18). The authority of Jesus and the ability to believe on him comes not from people, society, or government. This authority to believe on Jesus and receive his gifts comes from the heavenly Father. 
This tension or this division in understanding runs throughout the history of the human race. Does our freedom to worship God come from the chief priests and elders? Does this freedom come from government, from people, or from God himself? The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America says that the: Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them… We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” These words from the Declaration of Independence confess that the freedom to Worship God comes not from the elite, be it the chief priests or elders of the people or any form of Government, but from God himself. And now listen to what the First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … The First Amendment says we may engage in the free exercise of religion in the public realm. Human quests for power seek to stifle this freedom and these days we are being told the First Amendment say religious people have the free exercise of “worship” within the sanctuary walls on certain days and hours. This is altogether different from having the free exercise of “religion” in the public realm. 
The chief priests and the elders of the people sought to control religion saying the freedom to worship God come from government, the elite, and not from God himself. As such tyrants of any age, whether it was Cain when he slew Able, or the Pharaohs, or Nebuchadnezzar, Hitler, Stalin or those of more recent time say you can “worship” God in your heart or during certain prescribed venues but you cannot bring your beliefs—your religion—into the public sphere. 
As Christians our authority and freedom to believe our religion and believe on Christ comes from Almighty God, not from our any earthly power. Exercise that freedom my friends, respectfully and honorably as you bring your beliefs into the public market place. Share the Gospel in creative ways where you have the credibility and platform to speak based on your generous abundant, good works (Gal 6:10) so that more may be snatched from the fire (Jude 23). Those who asked questions to control and not learn were not answered by Jesus. Our Lord is not controlled by anyone. And those who persist in hardening their hearts will be met with silence for eternity.


In a Lutheran layman's terms, who do you think you are!?! I'll tell you -- you're IN CHRIST!

Pray that Jesus' life and sacrifice would be firmly placed in our hearts and minds so that the "new creation" we are in Christ may reflect God's light (His truth and grace) as we ourselves faithfully confess His grace and image to others.

I hope you enjoyed these commentaries and sermons that pertain to this week on our church calendar. There's certainly enough here for us to prayerfully consider that I don't need to include the usual notes that correspond with these Bible passages from my Lutheran Study Bible.

By the way, if you're a Pastor who would like me to share your sermon in a future installment of this weekly series, then please just let me know and I would be more than happy to do so.

If you're a layman who knows of some other places where I can find some good Confessional Lutheran sermons to share, then please let me know since I have had a difficult time finding them myself (at least, those that include the text of the sermon).

There is simply no substitute for intensively catechizing (a.k.a. educating) ourselves in the Word of God at home, at church, at school, and online through the use of faithful sermons from faithful Pastors like the ones shared above.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane (Saturday 9/27/14)

Remember when Saturday mornings used to be so much fun when you were a kid?

For me, I'd usually stay up as late as I could the night before (after what I thought was such a "hard" and "long" week at school), and then sleep in as late as I wanted to on Saturday morning.

The best part? Whether Dad would make us breakfast or not (his French Toast!), the even better part of my Saturday mornings growing up was plopping myself down in front of our TV to watch cartoon after cartoon! You know, the kind that were only on once-a-week and not available in an instant through YouTube and/or Netflix?

I thought about that recently and decided it might be cool to come up with a new weekly tradition of sorts for us adults to enjoy each and every Saturday morning now that we're all grown up (ok, at least some of us more than others anyway). I mean, isn't it time for us to look forward to Saturday mornings again?

Besides, it will be good for us to recall that childlike faith in fun and laughter if only for a few moments each week. You'll remember that laughter was for Luther a sign of divine grace and also an antidote against the devil too.

From the very beginning, humor had been a theological topic for Martin Luther, embracing the dramatic scope of his whole world view. He himself explained: "When I was unable to chase away the devil with serious words of with the Scripture, I often expelled him with pranks." And so this unique concept is born! Ok, so it's really not all that "cool" or "original" or "fun" to be sure, but it will be our new tradition here, and I'll try to make it worthwhile too. So who's with me then?

Please keep in mind, it won't be flashy, and it will hardly grab and hold your attention like a classic episode of the Care Bears, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, or Voltron would, but these "Lutherandom Musings Along Memory Lane" should satisfy the Confessional Lutheran's appetite for a balanced breakfast that includes your VDMA Vitamins like Vitamin A (Amusement), Vitamin B (Best of the Blogs), Vitamin C (Confessional), Vitamin D (Doctrine), and Vitamin E (Everything Else).

Each Saturday morning, God willing, I'll do my best to share some of the things I remember coming across in my unpredictable journey through Cyberspace during the week (hence, the "Along Memory Lane" part). Of course, this is also where the things you send me via email (if any) will show up too.

Ok, enough with all the commercials! Let's get the show started already, shall we?



8:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN A (AMUSEMENT): We begin with The Lutheran Satire's video titled "The 'How To' Show: How To Be A Biblical Scholar (Ep. 8)" to help set the stage for our journey this morning.


8:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN B (BEST OF THE BLOGS):
If you haven't heard about "Five Two" or the "Wiki Conference 2014," then please take some time to read "Haters Gonna Hate (From Their Moms' Basements, In Their Beds, Which Are Lined With Star Wars Sheets)" by Rev. Thomas C. Messer that will not only fill in all the blanks, but clearly (and Biblically) explain why there's nothing Christian let alone Lutheran about both except maybe for the fact that they're like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses who have hijacked our words and given them completely new definitions. The part that most resonated with me personally? "In the last few days, I've heard from several laypeople in our synod, many of whom came out of Protestant and Reformed traditions, leaving behind all the nonsense promoted by the WikiFolk and approved by several of our District Presidents, because they fell in love with our Lutheran confession of the faith. Contrary to District Presidents and Synod blogs, what upsets them is not the 'bickering' over this they see in social media and around the blogosphere, but the fact that this kind of thing goes on in our synod with the approval and endorsement of our Ecclesiastical Supervisors, who should know better. I know how they feel." At least someone in the LCMS does. Once you've read it, please share it with as many people as you can within the LCMS. After yesterday's post on the ACELC, the laity certainly needs to play an active role in exposing this and in holding our leaders (a.k.a "Those Who Should now Better") accountable for such a perversion of Law and Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10; Jude 1:3). It's the only way things are ever gonna change. If not now, when?


9:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN C (CONFESSIONAL):
In light of the "Five Two/Wiki 14" nonsense, let's take a moment to remind ourselves about the importance of the Church's true Doctrine and true Mission. Here's something from a Lutheran I never heard of until this morning. This is taken from Friedrich Pfotenhauer in At Home In The House of My Fathers (p. 697): "When the synod had gathered at Jerusalem, they immediately began to deal with the matter of doctrine. The doctrine of Christian freedom was a burning question. The debate was very lively. Not merely a few spoke, but many did so, including congregation members. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James gave longer speeches. From God’s Word they convincingly demonstrated that one must not continue to lay the yoke of Moses upon the necks of the disciples. Salvation comes only through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. All would be convinced, and they confessed the right doctrine by resolution. We, too, have long dealt chiefly with doctrine at synods. We have not decided doctrinal questions according to majority or in respect of persons, but according to God’s Word. At this synod, we will again deal chiefly with doctrine [Lehre trieben], and indeed together [we will] treat the Sixth Commandment. It will be the most earnest matter we deal with. We will acknowledge the deep corruption of original sin of all human nature and God’s abhorrence and horrible anger over all sins of impurity. Precisely because of the sins against the Sixth Commandment, God drowned the first world and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. Precisely on account of these sins, the wrath of God will soon come upon the child of unbelief on the Last Day. Oh, how we should then faithfully warn church and school against the horrible sins of the Sixth Commandment. How we should keep body and soul chaste and unblemished and be blameless midst perverse generations of this world! But the first synod at Jerusalem dealt not only with doctrine, it also dealt with mission. It says: 'And they declared all that God had done with them' [Acts 15:4]. 'And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles' [Acts 15:12]. Also at our sessions, the mission [of the Church], after the treatment of doctrine, takes the most time. Our dear traveling preachers [Reiseprediger] have given their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Suffering great deprivation out on our often inhospitable prairies and in solitude in the wild mountains of Montana, without making much fuss, they have done the most difficult work. They recount to us how the Lord has opened doors for them every- where, and congregations have sprouted up like gardens of God. By reporting this to us, they bring great joy to all the brethren. In so doing, they move us to holy determination to take the Word of God ever further and to work ever more diligently. Indeed, last year, we unanimously decided to assist in taking the Word into the land of the heathen [the American Indians]. It was the reports of our traveling preachers that warmed our hearts and have given us courage to implore God that He give still more because He already has given us so much. To be sure, it is our chief task to preach the Word to brethren in the faith who live in scattered places. But we have now done that beyond what anyone would have thought possible. From Winnipeg to New Orleans, there is a string of one congregation after another. Our missionaries carry the message from the east to the setting of the sun, to the Rocky Mountains and back. To be sure, we always lack the necessary workers. Thus the prayer of the Lord “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, pray the Lord of the harvest that He send workers into his fields” is applicable for the Church of the entire [era of the] New Testament. And so the workers will remain few until the Last Day. If we had enough workers, we wouldn’t need to pray what the Lord asks us to pray. God desires our prayer that He may give us what is needed. Our Confessions also testify that along with the advancement of understanding of the pure doctrine, the mission should be the chief matter of a synod. Luther writes in the Smalcald Articles: 'But let us return to the subject. I should be very happy to see a true council assemble in order that many things and many people might derive benefit from it. Not that we ourselves need such a council . . . we see so many vacant and desolate parishes everywhere that our hearts would break with grief. Yet neither the bishops nor the canons care how the poor people live or die, although Christ died for them too. Those people cannot hear Christ speak to them as the true shepherd speaking to His sheep. This horrifies me and makes me fear that He may cause a council of angels to descend on Germany and destroy us utterly, like Sodom and Gomorrah, because we mock Him so shamefully with the council [SA Preface 9–11; Tappert, 290].' Walther remarked on this at the synod of the Iowa District: “Behold, dear brothers, we should be so minded also. We come here not for the sake of ourselves. We stand in the faith and with this faith we hope to be saved! But how many millions are there still who have no faith! We exist and have founded a synod in order, as much as possible, to bring men to salvation, and thereby to check the misery in Christendom and the number of the lost in the poor blind heathen world. If we do not do this, if we fail to seek the honor of Christ and the salvation of souls, Luther fears, as he says, 'then may the dear God convene a synod, namely a 'council of angels' in order to carry out his judgment.'' (Iowa Synodal-Bericht, 1:113)." Beautiful and inspiring, isn't it? Did you notice the emphasis on how the "including congregation members" (a.k.a. the laity like you and me!) were part of the process of determining the true doctrine and practice of the Christian Church? Did you notice the part about how mission work (as in intentionally taking the Gospel to other people in other places is something that belongs to "traveling preachers" or to the vocation of the Pastors and not us laymen "Sacramental Entrepreneurs" as some are calling us? I pray that we all take these things to heart now more than ever.


9:30AM DOSE OF VITAMIN D (DOCTRINE): 1 Timothy 1:1-11 (ESV) "1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. 8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted." My Lutheran Study Bible says about this passage (and it's such an appropriate response to the "Five Two/Wiki 14" crowd, IMHO): "The work of the Gospel ministry carried out by Paul and Timothy flows from God's command. The words they speak are His words, not their own. Their competence for ministry comes from God, who called them to His service. Today, we should not judge the effectiveness of those called to serve as Gospel ministers only according to their personality traits or other outward characteristics. Ministers should instead be regarded according to how faithfully they proclaim the Gospel message entrusted to them. The Lord Jesus has called ministers to be His representatives in our lives. The work of administering the Gospel was to be carried forward by faithfully teaching sound doctrine. The fruits of faith in Jesus Christ cannot be produced by false doctrines, myths, or genealogies. Paul's use of the words 'sound doctrine' in 1 Timothy 1:10 is literally 'healthy teaching.' It's a phrase used by Paul only in the Pastoral Epistles. It implies that the so-called teachers of the law (1 Timothy 1:7) in Ephesus were peddling unhealthy and diseased doctrines. The Good News that we are saved eternally from the Law's condemnation through faith in Jesus is the only means by which sinners can be cleansed and saved. The effectiveness of the Word they proclaim and the Absolution they pronounce rests on the power and authority of the Savior Himself. This Epistle was written to stop the teaching of false doctrine among the Ephesians churches and to promote the teaching of sound doctrine. Our sinful nature often leads us to be unconcerned about the doctrines God has given us in His Word. When this happens, we are guilty of being poor stewards of the Gospel. Yet, in the Good News of Jesus Christ, we are given a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith -- all of which enable us to receive God's gift of sound doctrine with thanksgiving and eagerness. Lord Jesus, teach us to regard the servants of Your Church not according to their individual strengths and weaknesses but as Your spokesmen, called to serve sinners with Your gifts of forgiveness and life. Apply Your Law to our hearts, that we might recognize our sins and be brought to repentance. Give us a love for the healthy teaching of Your Gospel, that we might be faithful stewards of all You have entrusted to us. Amen."



10:00AM DOSE OF VITAMIN E (EVERYTHING ELSE):
This was shared by an acquaintance on Facebook who I just learned is a -- gasp! -- Confessional Lutheran like me who actually lives nearby! You'll have to excuse my shock and surprise, because I'm used to being an "endangered species" here in the LCMS Eastern District. Anyway, while part of me was comforted by his post (since it clearly demonstrates that I'm not the only one who's experiencing certain challenges), the rest of me was heartbroken to read of an incident that took place last evening between him and some fellow LCMS brothers in Christ. Here's what he shared on Facebook: "I went out for a few beers last night with a couple friends. We all happen to belong to different LCMS churches. My one friend said he is thinking of joining the local non-denominational mega church because they teach more like what he believes. I said maybe instead of finding a church that matches what you believe; you should find a church that teaches what the bible says. That started his hour-long assault on Lutheranism. With every rant I asked him 'could you find scripture to support that?' Of course he couldn’t. When I used scripture to show him why, for example, we believe we are saved through baptism, he would say I was taking it out of context. I asked him to please show me within the text the proper context but he just used (flawed) reason to defend his position. He was pretty agitated when we left, probably because God’s Word was assaulting his beliefs. I never would have forced him to defend his position with scripture that way if it wasn’t for Worldview Everlasting videos. Thanks for all the solid and practical teaching. You guys are the best thing on the Internet." To which I replied: "Richard, thanks for being a 'good example' for a 'Newtheran' like me of what it means to speak 'the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15) by having a difficult conversation with a dear brother in Christ. I pray that the Lord would give me His grace and faithfulness to do the same if I ever find myself in the same position (which I think may happen sooner rather than later). I also pray that your friend meditates upon the Word of God you shared with him last night. Grace and peace!"


Sorry, but that's all I have for you this week.


In a Lutheran Layman's terms, you've been fed a balanced spiritual diet this morning so I hope you're full and wide awake and ready to face the day.


Grace and peace to you and yours!

NOTE: NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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ACELC: Rightfully Contending And Defending

It seems we've been down this road before.


A fellowship in which the Word of God is fundamentally falsified, or in which a fundamental falsification of it is tolerated, is not a true orthodox church, but a false, heterodox church or sect. 
*– C.F.W. Walther 
(Essays For The Church Vol I, "Communion Fellowship," Concordia Publishing House, 1992, p.207)


Today, I'd like to kindly ask you to please turn your attention to a group within our Synod that needs your support now more than ever it would seem.

In this day-and-age of liberal, postmodern, progressive Christianity, it's no secret that "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) is under attack not just from outside Christ's Church, but from the inside as well.

It's a shame that we even needed to form a group whose sole purpose for existing is to remind believers -- particularly believers who belong to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) -- that what we believe, teach, and confess about our cherished and shared faith should be consistent wherever we find a local LCMS congregation...but here we are...and here we stand.

That group is called "ACELC" or the "Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Churches" and I have spent the past several days familiarizing myself with who they are, what they're trying to do, and why you should care as a layperson (or if you're a Pastor who's reading this right now).

What I found out is absolutely encouraging though downright frightening, because it's crystal clear that mine isn't the only LCMS congregation experiencing these challenges!

I know, that seems like quite the contrast, but I can assure you that it's not hyperbole. I mean, please consider what it is we're talking about here let alone what's at stake.

To properly do so, let's remind ourselves of all the things that God's Word clearly has to say about all of this since the Scriptures are overflowing with the importance of doctrine and with warnings for us all to be on guard against false teachers and their false teachings.


"Error is sin, and the very ministry and mission of the Church is to address sin through the public proclamation of repentance and forgiveness in Christ's name (Luke 24:46-48). Correction of error is at the very core of the Gospel's proclamation – error against both God's divine Law and His holy Gospel, the very means through which God saves and applies His salvation to lost sinners. ... Because of this, in the spirit of Luther, Walther, and other Church fathers and grandfathers, we can 'do no other' but stand to correct the errors that undermine the orthodox faith entrusted to us, and through which God has so abundantly blessed our Synod. If we do not, then we too shall be complicit in the doctrinal indifference that has plagued so many church bodies to their ruin" 
*- Fraternal Admonition Letter, July 15, 2010, ACELC.net


In addition, LCMS President, Rev. Matt Harrison, states in his "It's Time" a solution to working out the issues we face in the LCMS today.


It is time for us to move beyond political efforts and especially generalities. It is time to stop “beating around the bush.” It is time for a serious, decade-long effort—a non-politically organized and driven effort to regain theological and practical unity in the Synod.23 This route is the hard route. It will take time and effort. It will take courage. It will take men and women of integrity. It will also result in a Synod 85% united and on the path to even greater unity, precisely at a moment when such unity is needed like never before—so that we can cease the incessant, internal wrangling, and take advantage of the open doors which the Lord is holding before us. The Lord’s mission of the Gospel will advance toward eternity, despite us. He’ll get it done with or without us. If we turn from that sacred mission, he will raise up others to accomplish it. Will we be part of it? 
(ibid. p. 10)


I also like what C.F.W. Walther once said about being Lutheran by conviction.


A member of a Lutheran congregation should be able to distinguish pure doctrine from false doctrines. Only spineless Lutherans can say: “What do I care about doctrinal controversies! They do not concern me in the least. I’ll let those who are more learned than I am bother their heads about such matters.” They may even be offended when they observe that religious leaders engage in doctrinal disputes. A genuine Lutheran will not forget that in the Epistle of Jude also lay Christians are admonished “earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” What is more, Christ warns all Christians: “Beware of false prophets.” And St. John writes in his first epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” It is a settled fact that whoever is indifferent to false doctrine is indifferent also to pure doctrine and his soul’s salvation, and has no right to bear the name Lutheran and the name of Christ.


So, we find that what we all should be doing (whether we're rostered members of ACELC or not) is loving our erring brothers and sisters to the extent that we are willing to expose the Synod's errors (Jude 1:17-23).

Bottom line, while none of us wants to cause division or to start a fight with our dear brothers and sisters, we are instructed repeatedly on how to handle such things (and people) when we encounter them ourselves.

Remember, "doctrine is heaven," right?

I know they weren't Lutherans themselves, but Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle had some words of wisdom as they pertain to this very same subject that I think we would be wise to prayerfully consider ourselves.


Find if you can, beloved, one occasion in which Jesus inculcated doubt or bade men dwell in uncertainty. The apostles of unbelief are everywhere today, and they imagine that they are doing God service by spreading what they call “honest doubt.” This is death to all joy! Poison to all peace! The Savior did not so… 
I have not much patience with a certain class of Christians nowadays who will hear anybody preach so long as they can say, “He is very clever, a fine preacher, a man of genius, a born orator.” Is cleverness to make false doctrine palatable? Why, sirs, to me the ability of a man who preaches error is my sorrow rather than my admiration. 
I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers. 
“That is your bigotry,” says one. Call it so if you like, but it is the bigotry of the loving John who wrote — "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."  
I would to God we had all more of such decision, for the lack of it is depriving our religious life of its backbone and substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery. 
He who does not hate the false does not love the true; and he to whom it is all the same whether it be God’s word or man’s, is himself unrenewed at heart. Oh, if some of you were like fathers you would not have tolerated in this age the wagon loads of trash under which the gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing. You would have hurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your churches, and yet are crafty enough to become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation. 
These men steal the pulpits of once orthodox churches, because otherwise they would have none at all. Their powerless theology cannot of itself arouse sufficient enthusiasm to enable them to build a mousetrap at the expense of their admirers, and therefore they profane the houses which your sires have built for the preaching of the gospel, and turn aside the organisations of once orthodox communities to help their infidelity: I call it by that name in plain English, for “modern thought” is not one whit better, and of the two evils I give infidelity the palm, for it is less deceptive. 
I beg the Lord to give back to the churches such a love to his truth that they may discern the spirits, and cast out those which are not of God. 
*- Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

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Divisions and separations are most objectionable in religion. They weaken the cause of true Christianity. They give occasion to the enemies of all godliness to blaspheme. But before we blame people for them, we must be careful that we lay the blame where it is deserved. False doctrine and heresy are even worse than schism. If people separate themselves from teaching which is positively false and unscriptural, they ought to be praised rather than reproved. In such cases separation is a virtue and not a sin. It is easy to make sneering remarks about “itching ears,” and  "love of excitement”; but it is not so easy to convince a plain reader of the Bible that it is his duty to hear false doctrine every Sunday, when by a little exertion he can hear truth. The old saying must never be forgotten, “He is the schismatic who causes the schism.”  
Unity, quiet, and order among professing Christians are mighty blessings. They give strength, beauty, and efficiency to the cause of Christ. But even gold may be bought too dear. Unity which is obtained by the sacrifice of truth is worth nothing. It is not the unity which pleases God. The Church of Rome boasts loudly of a unity which does not deserve the name. It is unity which is obtained by taking away the Bible from the people, by gagging private judgment, by encouraging ignorance, by forbidding men to think for themselves. Like the exterminating warriors of old, the Church of Rome “makes a solitude and calls it peace.” There is quiet and stillness enough in the grave, but it is not the quiet of health, but of death. It was the false prophets who cried “Peace,” when there was no peace. 
Controversy in religion is a hateful thing. It is hard enough to fight the devil, the world, and the flesh, without private differences in our own camp. But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation. It was controversy that won the battle of Protestant Reformation…There are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit. Give me the mighty thunder storm rather than the pestilential malaria. The one walks in darkness and poisons us in silence, and we are never safe. The other frightens and alarms for a little season. But it is soon over, and it clears the air. It is a plain Scriptural duty to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). 
*- J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)


Yes, I fully recognize the sheer irony of including two quotes from two different non-Lutheran theologians in an entry about ACELC, but I think we can all agree with those statements above.

If not, then perhaps God's Word will convince you instead.


Unity In The Body of Christ 
Ephesians 4:1-16 (ESV) 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,d 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,e to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. 
Lutheran Study Bible: This portion of Ephesians is not simply about our conduct (or, the Law). It contains some very profound Gospel teaching (e.g., Ephesians 4:4-12; Ephesians 5:25-30). However, there is a greater focus on the consequences of Law and Gospel for our faith and life. Paul highlights the gifts of Christ that make us His Body; as one Body, we are protected from the dangers of our times. Modern individualism and consumerism make it easy to treat the Church as "all about me." Thanks be to God, the Church is all about Jesus, who provides for our salvation and edification. Lord, bind us together by the truth proclaimed by Your faithful ministers. Amen.


In short, right doctrine leads to right practice.

Ephesians 4:5 says it all ("one Lord, one faith, one baptism"), and yet, there are far too many Pastors and parishioners today who would rather ignore how that verse relates to our identity as a body of believers, preferring instead to pursue "every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14) proclaimed by those who give them what their "itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3) want.

Thankfully, there's a group like ACELC to help us remain faithful and true to our Lord. Now, I'm not going to reference all the key passages of Scripture that we need to be mindful of as we consider supporting ACELC to help take up their cause as our own, because that would be extremely redundant since they already do an excellent job of citing the Word of God in each and every work they attach their group's name to.

So I think the best place to start for anyone wanting to begin to understand why ACELC was created and what they've been doing all this time since is to first read their "Fraternal Admonition" that succinctly summarizes their concerns right off the bat.



 
What the Psalmist wrote and the Evangelist Luke recorded for us in the early accounts of the Christian Church remind us of the blessedness of unity Christ gives to His people. Unfortunately, this blessedness of unity is steadily being lost among us in our beloved Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. While discord, strife, and disunity have plagued the Church from its very beginning, even resulting in the many Epistles we now cherish as God’s divinely inspired Word, they have come to reach such levels in our fellowship that they can no longer be ignored without great harm to our Synod. No discord, strife, and disunity can remain unresolved without grave consequences to the Church and her ministry and mission, for as Jesus says, “a divided house falls” (ESV Luke 11:17). ... There was a time when our Synod enjoyed a wonderful and blessed unity of doctrine and practice in her fellowship. That time also corresponds with her greatest growth as a Synod. ... Unfortunately the LCMS has strayed off her orthodox foundations. Some within our fellowship even seek to disassociate our Synod from our grandfather’s Church. Corresponding with this we also find our Synod declining in both unity and church membership. Although numbers are not an indication of a church body’s orthodoxy we are reminded that when Missouri had her doctrine and practice right, the Synod flourished. In these latter decades when changes in our doctrine and practice have taken more permanent root there has indeed also been a corresponding decline in our unity and growth. We would in part attribute this to the truth that God does not promise to bless our unfaithfulness, but rather our faithfulness to the teachings and practices that hold His promised blessings. There are errors within the fellowship of our Synod. Unfortunately, attempts to fraternally address these errors through the convention and resolution process have proven unfruitful, failing even to gain consideration on the convention floor. This gives us grave concern, for the current direction of our Synod away from our orthodox foundations has shown that this can only bring us to further decline. Only correction of these errors can help to stem the tide of decline on all fronts. 
The correction of error is included in Jesus’ work to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), including the devil’s work to falsify God’s Word and so cause His people to stumble and sin. We are blessed to have the sure and certain Word of God to reveal our sin and error and lead us back to right understanding and practice, the very evidence that we are indeed the children of God (1 John 3:9-10). So also do we have the New Testament Epistles that were written largely to rebuke and correct error in the early Church, which also command us to do the same in our time. As disciples of Jesus and His teachings we are responsible to correct errors among us so that we ourselves may not be found teaching and living contrary to God’s Word and so profane His name in the Church and in the world. Error can happen inadvertently and with the best of intentions. However, error remains error and can only come to no good. Therefore right doctrine and practice are the very stuff of Christian faith and life in the Church. Recognizing this, we, as the bearers of Christ’s infallible Truth and most blessed Gospel must diligently maintain it among ourselves, lest we not only become a flickering and faltering light in the world, but even more frightful, find that light removed from our church as the Lord clearly warns in His Revelation to St. John (2:1-7). Along with this, Christian faith and love compel and commend us to their correction. Error is sin, and the very ministry and mission of the Church is to address sin through the public proclamation of repentance and forgiveness in Christ’s name (Luke 24:46-48). Correction of error is at the very core of the Gospel’s proclamation--error against both God’s divine Law and His holy Gospel, the very means through which God saves and applies His salvation to lost sinners. Therefore, in good faith and as a matter of Christian conscience we cannot stand idly by and watch our beloved Synod decline into further error and disunity. Errors are by their very nature dangerous and destructive to all that is right and true and good. And such things are worth fighting for. It is our sincere contention that the Gospel, the Church, and the very souls they seek to save and preserve to eternity are at stake.


I think that gives you a pretty good idea of where ACELC's heart is in all of this as well as the Biblical reasons as to why they have decided to take it upon themselves to contend for and defend the faith.

Please read the rest of that Fraternal Admonition since it will give you ACELC's full statement regarding their purpose and plans, God willing, of course.

Then there's these direct statements from the ACELC FAQ section of their website...


1. What do we hope to accomplish? 
It is the hope of those joining together in the association of congregations that we make public the official and tolerated errors of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in such a way that a productive discussion can be held within and around our Synod to address, correct and resolve those matters that are in dispute among us. This is done with a Christian, fraternal, and loving intent, to restore the unity of our Synod in its doctrine and its practice.

2. How do we propose to accomplish our goals? 
First, it is our intention to make the errors within our Synod public through the publication of those errors in a letter to all LCMS congregations. Then, in connection with that letter, we will seek to bring about a group of congregations that intends to fraternally request that our Synod correct those identified errors so that the unity of doctrine and practice might be restored within our Synod.

3. Are the proposed actions by the ACELC schismatic? 
No. To be schismatic means that one is seeking to break fellowship or separate themselves from the Church without sufficient doctrinal cause. The ACELC is not suggesting that we break fellowship or separate ourselves from the LCMS at all, and therefore is not, and cannot be considered schismatic in any way. Rev. Dr. Francis Pieper, (Fifth President of the LCMS, President of the St. Louis, MO, Seminary, and author of Christian Dogmatics - the primary dogmatics textbook for all LCMS pastors), wrote in his well-known dogmatics work: "By the term 'schism' we mean a division in the Church which God's Word does not enjoin, but which is begun by men for carnal reasons and therefore is sinful, e.g., a separation [emphasis added] because of differences in church customs, church terms, order of worship, etc. In practice it is important to distinguish between schismatics acting from spite and schismatics acting from weakness in Christian knowledge and prejudice. Such, however, as separate from a church body because it tenaciously clings to false doctrine are unjustly called schismatics, separatists, etc. This separation is commanded in Scripture (Rom. 16:17) and is the only means of restoring and maintaining true unity in the Christian Church."


You might also find these articles about and from ACELC over the past few years very helpful when it comes to forming your own opinion on those individuals who make up that group and the work that they've done and are continuing to do at this time.

Personally, these are some of the key reasons why I am so grateful that I just discovered them, and why I will definitely be supporting them in any way that I can.


Introduction To ACELC [PowerPoint Presentation]

2014: Why The ACELC?

2014: We Need To Learn From History

ACELC Teaching Materials [Multiple Subjects]  

ACELC 7 Theses On Worship

2014: It's Time And Unnecessary Wrangling. What Is The State of The Synod?

2014: Trying Out Rev. Bremer From The ACELC Speakers Bureau In Naperville

2013: The LCMS And 'Peace' 

2013: Will The Real 'Koinonia Project' Please Stand Up?

2013: Attempts To Find Concord (Not Compromise) In Texas!

2012: What About The 'Koinonia Project'?

2012: How Can Unity Be Found?

2012: Confessions And Conversion of A Former 'Jesus-Firster'

2012: Inquisition Time -- The ACELC Chairman of The Board

2012: ACELC –- Are They A Big Bunch of Divisive Meanies?

2012: Costa, Costa, Costa, Costa Concordia

2012: Saving Thelma And Louise

2010: News of ACELC Meeting In Kansas City, MO

2010: ACELC -- A Loving Challenge To The LCMS

ACELC ADMONITION & ERROR DOCUMENTS
Definition of Confessional Lutheranism [SHORT] 
Definition of Confessional Lutheranism [LONG] 
Evidence of Errors In The LCMS [With Corresponding Study Guides] 
ACELC How Can We Give A Witness for Jesus Christ In The Public Square While Avoiding The Errors of Unionism And Syncretism?

ACELC ANNUAL FREE CONFERENCE PAPERS
2014 Papers 
2013 Papers 
2012 Papers 
2011 Papers


Finally (and if reading's not your "thing"), here's a documentary of sorts that ACELC recently produced and distributed as a labor of love to help in their efforts to bring their genuine, heartfelt, and warranted concerns to light.

Why has ACELC produced and released this film? Why now, you ask?


Anyone who is honest must admit that there are serious issues troubling the LCMS, issues that have been growing in intensity over the years. There seems to be much division, in both doctrine and practice, over topics like fellowship, Holy Communion, pastoral formation and the divine call, the propriety of mixing business principles with theology, and the giant elephant in the room, worship. Some of these issues were addressed at the recent synodical convention, however, all the issues that were addressed were simply delayed to a later date, generally for more study. Perhaps the church militant was simply put on hold. 
[Via]


If Not Now, When? 
This film by the ACELC is a riveting look at the issues that are dividing the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Beginning with the historical background of modern-day divisions in light of LCMS history, noted LCMS pastors and theologians define ten of the crucial questions that are dividing the Synod, and point the way to orthodox Lutheran doctrine and practice. The film is a call to action for pastors and laypeople alike to engage the problems we face so that the LCMS may once again enjoy a God-pleasing unity in conformity with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

FROM THE ACELC WEBSITE
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:9 
It has only been a short time since the release of the ACELC Film Project, “If Not Now, When?” but in that time the response has been overwhelming. The most common response has been one of gratitude, thanking us for addressing the topics honestly and head on. We have received comments ranging from, “The divisions among us are real, here is an example...” to “I had no idea things were this bad...” to “You have given us a good introduction to the issues, but we need more...” The segment of the film that has generated the most discussion seems to be the topic of unionism and syncretism. Since the tragic events of 9/11 and the Yankee Stadium interfaith worship service that followed, our church body has been divided. To have the issues clearly defined and to see with your own eyes what actually happened during the worship service prompted one viewer to respond, “This is the best treatment of the Yankee Stadium issue I have seen, bar none.” I am happy to announce that “If Not Now, When” is now available in DVD format. It will continue to be available free of charge on YouTube, but the DVD format will allow greater flexibility for viewing and teaching purposes. Individual “chapters” of the film will be able to be viewed, studied and discussed one at a time, and the DVDs are a great way to introduce people to a serious discussion of the issues that are causing division among us. 
Remember, several study guides are already available on the ACELC website with more in the works. If you haven’t already done so, please take some time to view the film (on YouTube). After you watch it we would love to hear your reactions and responses. If you like what you see, want to own your own copy, or would like to give copies to your friends, you may purchase from one to ten DVDs right from our website (one DVD is $5.00, and ten are only $27.00), or if you want more than ten copies, you may contact us for bulk pricing. If I may brag, the quality of the DVD packaging and the DVD itself is absolutely stunning. Pastor Perry Copus has done a masterful job in the planning, filming, production and layout of this project. May God continue to bless us as we seek true unity in our midst, under the live giving, life changing Word of God. 
In Christ, 
Rev. Clint K. Poppe

***********************************************

Lesson #1 Study Guide - We Are A Divided Synod

Lesson #2 Study Guide - History of Theological Deterioration

Lesson #3 Study Guide - Pure Doctrine


That video right there is fantastically faithful and "Required Viewing" not just for a "Newtheran" like me, but lifelong Lutherans as well.

Quite frankly, these are the kinds of Biblical resources that I will have to put in play at my own church before I decide to leave for a more faithful congregation, because I want to know that I at least tried to do all I could to call my dear brothers and sisters to repent of the false doctrine and false religious practices. To not say anything at all makes me a truly more unloving sinner than I already am, IMHO (Romans 7:24).

Again, we are supposed to care about these things (and these people) to the point where we are willing to suffer the personal cost even if it means having a "difficult" conversation with loved ones that will only result in being attacked or ignored completely.

Besides, the other possibility is that God uses resources like this to finally open some eyes and ears to the truth, which leads to repentance and redemption.

I firmly believe that forming a group of congregations and individual Pastors and laymen in response to heterodox practice and teaching within the parent denomination (LCMS) is actually a good thing.

Remember, what we all should be doing (whether we're rostered members of ACELC or not) is loving our erring brothers and sisters to the extent that we are willing to expose the Synod's errors (Jude 1:17-23).

Remember, right doctrine leads to right practice.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, ACELC is rightfully contending and defending, and I hope that you will consider joining them, especially as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and reflect on where we are in relation to where we came from.

I pray that God would use this forum to guide us and lead us into all Truth.


John 8:31-32 (ESV) 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. 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 not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. 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 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). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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