Month: July, 2017

CRUX SOLA EST NOSTRA THEOLOGIA.

CRUX SOLA EST NOSTRA THEOLOGIA.

The Cross alone is our theology. God’s love is manifest in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. God’s love is fulfilled through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. With the New Testament, we proclaim Christ and Him crucified. Luther stated that the cross alone is our theology, echoing the words of Paul: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).

Why We Know Not Peace by Roger Rohde – July 9, 2017

Why We Know Not Peace

Matthew 11:25-30

The text before us presents two interesting challenges to us as Christians.  First, the Bible clearly tells us that God’s desire is for all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4).  In Ezekiel 33:11, God states: “As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”  God makes a point throughout the pages of Scripture that His goal and desire is for everyone to be in heaven.  Yet, out text seems to contradict this thought as Jesus says, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

The second apparent contradiction appears when Jesus says in our text: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus speaks of giving us peace and rest as we draw nigh unto Him.  Yet, in last Sunday’s Gospel reading the Lord stated: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household…. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-36, 38).

Since we believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God, these two references from today’s text cannot contradict the other Bible passages we have referenced.  So what is the answer?  What is Jesus seeking to teach us through His Word for today?  We will seek answers to these questions under the theme: “Why We Know Not Peace.”

We lack peace when the basis of our decision making process is human reason rather than the Word of God.

Who are “the wise and learned” of whom Jesus speaks in our text?  “The wise and the learned” are people who think they have all the answers and seek to find rest in their own abilities and knowledge.  They are like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  They find satisfaction in themselves and believe they have life figured out.  Hence, they pay little attention to the divine revelation of God’s Word.  This does not mean they are not well versed in the Bible’s historical events.  What it does mean is they may know the Bible, but they do no walk by the Spirit of God.

Adam and Eve were well aware of God’s will for their lives in the Garden of Eden.  God had told them: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16).  We know that Adam and Eve did not listen to God and thought that it was in their best interests to eat from the tree God forbid them to eat.  The end result is all the problems we now know in this life.

We need to understand this morning that there is nothing inherently wrong with wisdom and knowledge.  There were great men of faith such as Nicodemus, a teacher, Luke, a doctor, and Paul, a great missionary.  They were all known as very intelligent, well-schooled individuals.  Wisdom and knowledge are not sinful in themselves.  What is sinful is when people discard God’s Word and make human wisdom and knowledge the guiding factors in their lives.

An example of this can be seen in our attempt to assemble something is purchased at the store.  We may discard the instructions for assembly in the belief that we can figure it out with our own human reason and logic.  All of a sudden we find out that we have a mess on our hands, and we relocate the instructions that proper assembly may occur.

Jesus reveals Himself and His will and ways very clearly to us in the Bible.  God said: “The Holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:15-17).

What is happening in today’s world is that the Word of God is not being read, studied, taken hold of, or embraced.  The Bible is no longer the anchor and road map for people’s lives.  Our text tells us that if people do not embrace Jesus in faith, their rational minds have become their god.  Our minds can stand in the way of our hearts embracing the truths of Scripture.  This is why Jesus noted: “The natural man receives not the things of the spirit of God; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually blind” (I Corinthians 12:3).  To reject the Holy Spirit is to live in unbelief and experience a life that lacks everlasting peace.

This leads to a second reason people may not know peace.  We lack peace when true repentance is not a primary element in our lifestyle.  This point is both noted in our text and in the context in which our test is found.

Prior to our text Jesus denounced some cities where He did many of His miracles.  He denounced them because the people did not repent.  They thought themselves to be wise and learned, and did not view themselves as children who needed God’s instruction.  They felt they did not need to come to Jesus, because they did not see their sin and its dangerous consequences in their lives.  This is why Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be fed” (Matthew 5:3-6).  Jesus promises to bless those who in true repentance come to Him weary and burdened because of their sin.

There is no greater invitation we can ever receive than this one found in our text.  Most invitations are directed to people who have had a positive relationship with the one who extends the invitation.  This is not the case with Jesus’ invitation to us.  Jesus does not invite us unto Himself because of the favorable things we have done to Him.  Jesus invites the downtrodden, the sinner, and the one who does not rest in himself but acknowledges his need for help.  Jesus invites people based upon His mercy and grace.  The Lord does not shut us out because of our sins, but He calls us to repentance, asking us to acknowledge our sins with sorrowful hearts.

“Come to Me in that fashion,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.”  The rest of which Jesus here speaks is spiritual.  It is rest for our souls.  It is a peace and rest that is only known when with repentant hearts we come to Jesus and through the eyes of faith behold how Jesus paid the debt of our sins on the cross of Calvary.

Jesus in our text states: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.”  The Greek word here translated, “know,” means more than a factual knowledge found in the head, but a personal knowledge that exists in the heart.  It is more than knowing about someone.  It is living in the truth of what this person has done.

This distinction can be seen between Peter and Judas.  Both of these disciples denied Christ and sinned against Him.  Peter wept but knew forgiveness in Christ.  Judas killed himself for he knew Jesus with his head, but not his heart.  Peace for the soul only comes when the truth of Jesus goes beyond head knowledge to a reality that is believed and lived in the heart.

Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will know rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

At this juncture some might say, “I knew there must be a catch!  Nothing is ever free!”  Yet, this yoke of Jesus is not referring to a burden, but rather how a repentant person lives his life with Jesus.

The word “yoke” is an agricultural term.  It refers to a wooden frame that joins two oxen or cows together in the task of pulling a load.  Jesus is here noting that the repentant person who is sorrowful for his sins and trusts in Christ’s forgiveness yokes himself to Christ to do the will and fulfill the purposes of God.  The yoke is not burdensome rules such as the Pharisees developed, but it is living God’s Truth in God’s way with gentleness and humility.

The “yoke” of which Jesus speaks can be looked at this way.  When you fly a kite, is the string that holds it a burden to the kite?  No.  The string helps control the kite.  If the string is disconnected from the kite, the kite’s flight will not be enhanced, but the kite will tumble to the ground.  You cannot cut the string from a kite and expect it to keep flying.  So it is that the yoke of Christ is not burdensome to us.  He yokes Himself to us that we may soar to His honor and glory.  As we live with Christ in faith, we can be blessed to be used by Him in accomplishing His purposes for our creation and redemption.  That brings peace and purpose to our living.

Finally, we lack peace when we make earthly comfort more important than spiritual comfort.  Throughout our text Jesus is speaking about spiritual comfort not earthly comfort.  He speaks of “rest for the soul.”

Too often we know not peace because we base our peace upon the situations in life.  When things go well, we have peace.  When difficulties arise, we have not peace.  That is because all too often we look for peace in the worldly realm rather than the spiritual realm.

Peace is what a Christian’s soul can have when he remembers that in every situation he goes through in life.  Jesus has him in His arms.  The Christian can have a peace that is beyond all human understanding when he rests his life in the crucified and risen Savior.  The Lord will not let any harm befall us that could destroy our souls.  When by faith we rest in the certainty of Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation, heaven is our certainty no matter what storms in life we encounter.

Do you want to know this kind of peace each and every hour of your life?  Then don’t seek out the things of this world.  Rather come to Christ in faith.  Confess your sins to Him with repentant hearts, and know that Jesus yoked Himself to you when on the cross He died in your place that you may have life and have it more abundantly.  Be guided by His Word and let the Holy Spirit fill you with the peace that is found only in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Rejoicing in Christ’s Friendship by Roger Rohde -June 18

Rejoicing in Christ’s Friendship

Romans 5:6-11

The words of Paul preceding our text find him writing to Christians about having joy and hope in the midst of difficult times.  This makes the message found in our text relevant for us today.  None of us here is immune from heartache, pain, or sorrow.  As we live out our lives on earth, we have to deal with broken relationships, deteriorating health issues due to sickness or aging, and challenges within the home, at the workplace, in the world, and yes even in the church.  Life can be and often times is very challenging.  We don’t always handle these situations as God would have us to do.  We encounter situations and we know restless nights, irritability, impatience, physical problems, and the list can go on and on.  Yet, Paul in speaking to Christians in the midst of struggles speaks to them of dealing with these struggles with joy in their hearts because of Christ’s friendship.  What is it about Jesus’ friendship that can empower us to have joy in times of sadness and peace in times of turmoil?

It begins when we realize the depth of Christ’s love as He befriended us.

It is not unusual to hit it off with certain people.  In Scripture that is referred to as philia love.  It is a bond that we have with people that like the same things we do, have the same values, and live by the same principles.  Philia love is wonderful, but it is not an in-depth kind of love that is endures.  If people are only joined by philia love, they may be friends for a time, maybe many years, but if something happens upon which they disagree that relationship may be severed forever.  Philia love is always tied to what a person can get out of the relationship for himself.  It is self-serving in nature.

An enduring relationship is founded on agape love.  This is the love that Christ has for us as noted in our text.  He befriended us when we were not at all friendly to Him.  Notice exactly how our text describes us when Christ lovingly laid done His life for us on the cross.  We were helpless and ungodly.  We had nothing to offer Jesus that He should befriend us.  In fact, we were His enemies.  We did everything that worked against the very will and purposes of God.

Now some may say, “I know I was and am a sinner, but don’t go too far.  I’m not like other people who don’t go to church and use Sundays to sleep in.”  Maybe our lives are a bit more God-conscience than other people, but don’t forget that God does not call for us to be better than others.  He commands us: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven in perfect”           (Matthew 5:48).

Our love for God and our fellowman is anything but perfect.  Our act of forgiveness toward others is not near what God commands of us: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

The love of Christ that befriends us is what can bring us joy and peace through whatever circumstances in life we are encountering.  The depth of Christ’s friendship is so deep that Paul presents a  question that in the Greek indicates that the answer is to be a positive one:  “God Who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32).  Of course He will.  If He loved us with His life when we were His enemies and gave up His life to pay for our sins, most certainly He will love and care for us now as we are His beloved friends.

Christ’s love has not only befriended us, but we are now His beloved children for all eternity.  We are sons and daughters of God.  We belong to Him as we “have been justified by His blood.”  Hence, we are saved to be with God eternally in heaven.

The concept presented here is of a verdict that has come down in a court of law.  It is God’s courtroom and God the Father declares us innocent of all sin through the blood Jesus poured out for us at Calvary.  The Bible tells us in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us.”  In Jeremiah 31:34, the Lord declares: “For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”

To know that God the Father has declared us to be His forgiven and redeemed children through Christ’s death and resurrection frees us from the burden or our sins and living in fear that God is going to punish us every time we sin.  To be sure, God does disciple Hi children, but disciple administered in love is far different than being punished under the righteous wrath of God.

What Christ’s friendship offers us can be seen on this Father’s Day in the life of a father whose earthly life was coming to an end.  His children had gathered around his bedside and were singing some hymns of comfort.  Suddenly the father stretched out his arms and said, “The Lord is calling me now.  He is calling me.  I am going home.”  With those words the father passed away.  The Lord had befriended him in his earthly life with goodness, mercy, love and forgiveness.  In the end his Friend, Jesus, called him to the kingdom that had prepared for him and all who would ever believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

God wants us to rejoice today and every day.  We have been befriended by Christ with His amazing love and as Paul tells us: “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).  Let us then rejoice in Christ’s friendship always.  Amen.

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