Living Anew

They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations.
Ezekiel 29:26-27

What I’m about to say (write) is going to be very unpopular. It may even get me banned from some places and put on a black-list for some organizations. But here it goes:

Every human being is born sinful, spiritually dead and blind, and an enemy of God.

There, I said. I’m not going to apologize for saying it – because it is true. I suppose I could apologize for the way I say it, but I can’t think of a better, more softer, way to say this.

And I need to say it because we all need to hear it!

I didn’t make this up. I’m not the first person to stumble upon this.

Nearly 500 years ago, a man by the name of Philip was taught by another man by the name of Martin and wrote these words (albeit in German and Latin and not English):

“Our churches teach that since the fall of Adam, all who are naturally born are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin, called concupiscence. Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit” (Augsburg Confession, Article II, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, pp 31-32).

I was born a sinner. I would have perished eternally unless God saved me – which he did! Through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ on the cross, I am forgiven of all my sin. Through the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ I am assured of eternal life in heaven.

I still sin much and I still sin daily. But I also have my baptismal grace which gives me the power of daily contrition and repentance and receives the forgiveness of God through the blood of Christ on a daily basis!

There is a picture of this in the Bible. It is the Old Testament people of God, Israel.

They were created by God and called out by God to be separate from the rest of the world. But they continued to reject God. They were less than 100 days from the time they left Egypt and slavery when they rejected God and built a golden calf to worship!

They would continue to be called back from their sin, forgiven by God and then reject God yet again. Over and over again. Still, God continued to pour out his grace and mercy on them over and over.

But there will come a time when the need for over-and-over-pouring-out will come to an end! The prophet Ezekiel foresees a time when there will be an end to all sin. God will take his people to heaven where there will be no more sin, tears, pain, or death.

Nor will we remember that we were sinners. We will certainly focus all our thoughts and lives on God alone and his glory and majesty and love!

He says that we will “dwell securely” because there will be no more enemy, no more death, only light and love and God!

This is certainly good news!

Too good to keep to myself!

Please join me in living anew and tell others about this wonderfully good news!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Sharing the Love

Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Luke 24:46-47

Today’s devotion contains some healthy quotes from Martin Luther and the Lutheran Confessions.

The reason for this is because the Ascension of Jesus happened a long, long time ago. What we know of the work of the Apostles comes to us from the Book of Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament.

There is also the evidence that the Christian Church has spread from its starting point in Jerusalem to the entire world.

By the time of the Lutheran Confessions in the 16th Century, much of the Church lost its focus and got off-track. Martin Luther wanted to bring the Church back to its roots and to its original mission: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.

That’s what we want to do as well. Learning from out the reformers in the 16th Century went about it will help us do the same five hundred years later.

In Luke 24, Jesus is calling the Church to proclaim Law and Gospel. This would be how the love of God would be shared in all the world.

The Church is to follow Jesus’ model of using the Scriptures to proclaim the message.

1500 years after Jesus, a group of faith Christians in Germany did just this!

Luther would write:

“All Scripture and the Word of God point to the suffering of Christ, as He Himself declares in the last chapter of Luke that Scripture contains nothing else than the promised grace and forgiveness of sin through the suffering of Christ, that whoever believes in Him, and none other, shall be saved” (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works American Edition, Vol 14, p 168).

Luther has adamant that Christians know their Bibles in order to share the love of Christ with the world (and thus be fulfilling the Great Commission).

Christ himself opens the Scriptures to his disciples. If Christ does this, it must not only be important but absolutely vital to proclaiming the Law and Gospel!

And I don’t think anyone would argue that this world definitely needs to hear about the love of Jesus!

With multiple terrorist acts committed each week, with daily murder in our cities, with people all over the planet hurting, you and I have a message that can bring peace, comfort and hope to them!

We can tell them that God loves them and this is how we know:

“God is superabundantly generous in His grace: First, through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world. This is the particular office of the Gospel” (Smalcald Articles, Part III, Article 4, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, p 278).

I suppose it has to start with us. Yes, Christ tells us to go out and make disciples. But we start in “Jerusalem.” One what to look at this is that we start with ourselves.

We have to understand who God is, who we are, and what God has done and wants to do with us.

It starts with repentance.

“… to repent means nothing other than to truly acknowledge sins, to be heartily sorry for them, and to stop doing them. This knowledge comes from the Law. It is not enough for saving conversion to God if faith in Christ is not added. The comforting preaching of the Holy Gospel offers His merits to all penitent sinners who are terrified by the preaching of the Law. The Gospel proclaims the forgiveness of sins, not to coarse and self-secure hearts, but to the bruised or penitent. The preaching of the Gospel must be added so that the repentance may lead to salvation and not to the Law’s contrition or terrors” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration Article V. The Law and Gospel, The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, ©2005 CPH, p 554).

In a world literally dying to hear good news, you and I can share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Can, should, and will!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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C.F.W. Walther

Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (1811-87), the father of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, served as its first president from 1847 to 1850 and then again from 1864 to 1878. In 1839 he emigrated from Saxony, Germany, with other Lutherans, who settled in Missouri. He served as pastor of several congregations in St. Louis, founded Concordia Seminary, and in 1847 was instrumental in the formation of the LCMS (then called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States). Walther worked tirelessly to promote confessional Lutheran teaching and doctrinal agreement among all Lutherans in the United States. He was a prolific writer and speaker. Among his most influential works are Church and Ministry and The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel.

Frederick the Wise

Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony from 1486 to 1525, was Martin Luther’s sovereign in the early years of the Reformation. Were it not for Frederick, there might not have been a Lutheran Reformation. Born in Torgau in 1463, he became so well known for his skill in political diplomacy and his sense of justice and fairness that he was called “the Wise” by his subjects. Though he never met Luther, Frederick repeatedly protected and provided for him. In all likelihood he saved the reformer from a martyr’s fate. Frederick refused the pope’s demand to extradite Luther to Rome for a heresy trial in 1518. When Emperor Charles V declared Luther an outlaw in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, Frederick provided sanctuary for Luther at the Wartburg castle. On his deathbed, Frederick received the Lord’s Supper in both kinds–a clear confession of the evangelical faith.

Leviathan

“On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.”
Job 41:33

Knight George had been there the entire summer. And he was getting extremely frustrated.

He wanted desperately to return home and get back to work. But he couldn’t. Not yet, anyway.

He tried to spend his days wisely. He studied Greek and Hebrew and set out to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into the language of his people.

He had made good headway towards the end of the summer and was nearly done translating the New Testament by the time the snow was flying.

His days were occupied with studying, writing, and translating.

But nights were something else entirely.

He would try to sleep. But his foul mood and his deep depression at being away from his home and work weighed on him like an oppressive millstone.

He also felt oppressed and attacked by Satan himself. He knew he was doing the work of God. He knew that he was called by the Holy Spirit to be who he was. He knew that he had been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

But still Satan attacked! Breathing the flames of doubt and accusation like a fire-breathing dragon!

Night was Satan’s favorite time to attack. Knight George was tired, hungry, cold, bitter, and depressed. And Satan would use this time to press his attacks.

On one such night, Junker Jörg was feeling attacked by Satan. So much so he was provoked to violence. He picked up the nearest thing to him – an inkwell – and hurled it at Satan.

It smashed against the wall, staining it.

Within a few months, Junker Jörg, Knight George, would leave the Castle Wartburg, return to his post at Wittenberg, and resume his true name – Martin Luther.

The story of the inkwell is a legend, most likely based on his own statement about his stay in the Castle Wartburg where he had “driven the devil away with ink” (quoted from Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach’s website here: http://www.redeemer-lutheran.net/Articles/1000039345/Redeemer_Lutheran_Church/Media_Center/Pastors_Articles/Throwing_Ink_at.aspx).

But what is not legend is that Luther fought against Satan, as do we all! Satan is real. He is a fallen angel – and thus a creation of God and under his authority. He hates God and also hates us!

In Job 40, God describes Satan – so it is thought – as Behemoth. This is likening Satan to a wild and ferocious land beast.

In Job 41, God describes Satan – again, so it is thought – as Leviathan. This is a sea monster of some type. A giant sea serpent or squid. But one that has scales like armor and breaths fire.

This brings to mind a dragon. And this fits in with how Satan is described in the Book of Revelation.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him (Revelation 12:7-9).

At the end of Job 41, God says that there is nothing like Satan on the earth.

Martin Luther – who fought the devil all his life – would describe Satan this way: auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen. This is commonly translated “on Earth is not his equal” (from stanza one of A Mighty Fortress is Our God, composite translation from the Pennsylvania Lutheran CHURCH BOOK of 1868).

God’s point in Job 41 – and Luther’s in stanza 1 of A Mighty Fortress is Our God – is that left to our own resources, we are powerless in fighting Satan.

Only God can defeat Satan.

And he did through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us!

That one little word – Jesus – defeats Satan every time. And that one little word is ours through our baptism into Christ!

Satan may be able to take away all that we have. He took away Job’s wealth, children, and health. Luther poetic states that Satan could take away “our life, goods, fame, child and wife.”

But because of Christ, we will live forever and Christ’s Kingdom will be ours!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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The Countenance of Job

“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”
Job 36:15

It was a cold Wednesday. The harvest had been good that year and it was now stored for the winter.

Everyone was content and waiting for the first snows of the long winter.

Everyone, that is, except Martin Luther.

He had finished an extensive writing project and now walked over to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and posted his project – the 95 Theses.

Six months later, Luther would defend his position at a meeting of the leaders of his monastic order, the Augustinians.

Formally called The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Luther would expand on his 95 Theses and, in doing so, set the path of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and elsewhere – a Reformation that would change the world.

At The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther would refer to the Book of Job and make the connection of Job’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ.

It would become known as the “Theology of the Cross.” Martin Luther echoed Elihu’s words extoling the greatness of God, especially as God works through a person’s suffering, in Job 36.

Luther said, in part:

The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. [“1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

Luther would go on to argue that if preachers and teachers led people to seek God’s grace through good works, they completely misunderstood (either ignorantly or intentionally) how God works through suffering!

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ (Rom. 4:15).

Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.” [1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

As Luther would go on to explain these points, he would describe the righteousness of Christ as “‘the countenance of Job’ (AE 31:64). God called wounded and suffering Job to intercede for his friends and avert God’s wrath (Job 42:8). In a similar way, the wounded and suffering Christ interceded for all sinners, averts God’s wrath from us, and grants us His righteousness. The Lord looked upon the diseased and battered countenance of Job and heard Job’s plea for his friends. In a similar way, when the Lord looks upon the battered face of His Son, He hears Christ’s pleas on our behalf” (taken from the article The Countenance of Job, in The Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, p 837).

3,300 years earlier, Elihu expresses much the same thought (obviously not referencing Christ, who wouldn’t be born for another 1800 years).

This tells me that this is something that is most certainly true. And since Elihu’s expressed thought is actually part of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, I think I’m on safe ground making this assertion of truthfulness!

This I need to remember when I go through bad times. When I’m suffering pain or sorrow, I must remember – or be reminded – that God is good and that he will use this suffering for my own good and for his glory.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Repentance

“I have born punishment; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more….”
Job 34:31-32

He approached the river from the wilderness. He looked like he had been living out there for quite some time, possibly years.

Wild, tangled hair. A cloak made of some rough and itchy-looking material tied with a belt around his waist.

His first words were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

At first, the toads and crickets, and whatever animals lived along the river bank, seemed to be his only audience. But that quickly changed!

People from the capitol and surrounding villages and towns flocked to see this strange man with the powerful message.

For it was a powerful message. “Repent!” Why did that resonate with so many people?

Soon after, this man’s cousin – his younger cousin by six months – also began to draw crowds. This time, up in Galilee. His message? The same!

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17)

This message was short and to the point. “Repent” means to turn from your ways to a new way of living. And this is a message that touched people’s hearts. They were yearning for a new way of living, a new way of life. They lived in an oppressed society, ruled over by an authoritarian and ruthless empire. Who wouldn’t want a new life?

This message resonates no less today. Are you looking for a new life? A new way of living? Do you need a change? Are you ready for your life to take off, to become the adventure you always dreamed it could or should be?

I have good news for you! This is exactly what Jesus came to give you!

And it all starts with repentance.

In chapter 34 of the Book of Job, Elihu shows – by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit – the way of repentance.

While it looks like a 3-Step Plan, I don’t mean to imply that it is a step-by-step process. Not at all! In fact, it is a way of life – a life that Jesus came to give you!

Repentance starts, and maybe this surprises you, with the Holy Spirit and not with you!

You are a sinner (and so am I!) and cannot get to this new life on your own. We are all conceived and born in sin. That is, “by nature [we are] spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, as the Scriptures teach (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:8-9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3); therefore, ‘I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him’” (Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, ©1986 Concordia Publishing House, p 150).

The Holy Spirit uses the Law of God (the Ten Commandments) to prompt repentance in us.

And this life of repentance looks like this according to the Book of Job: Stop offending people, be taught, and strive to not sin anymore.

It starts with verse 31: “I will not offend anymore….”

This is a recognition, a realization, that our sins are an offense. They are an offense to other people, especially when we sin against them.

But they are truly an offense to God. God is perfect. God is holy. And God created us to be perfect and holy. But because of our sinful human nature, we offend God’s perfection and holiness. Repentance is realizing this and wanting to stop.

Verse 32 says, “Teach me….”

This is a willingness to learn from God. Who better to learn how to stop sinning and how to live a life free of sin than God? Repentance is putting yourself under God’s tutelage. We learn from God how to live because he is the Author of life itself!

Verse 32 also says, “I will do it no more….”

This is a resolve to live a life of not sinning. I know, I know! Nothing is easier said than done! And while I don’t think we can actually get to this point in this lifetime, the Scriptures do tell us to try!

And I think we can get better at this. It is like getting to the point of being able to lift 300 pounds worth of weights.

When I started lifting weights in earnest a little over a year ago, I could barely lift a 45-pound bar. Now, a year and a month later, I’m lifting over 100 pounds 8 times (repetitions) 3 days a week!

When Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), he meant a life lived in repentance to the glory of God.

I pray you and I can do this and will do this by the power of the Holy Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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