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Archive for October 6th, 2013

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith! Luke 17

 We do not have to be slaves to our passions, desires, and lusts for we are in Christ Jesus forgiven slaves, called to be slaves of His forgiveness, freed to serve in faith through love.  The Church only has one calling and that is to be the land of reconciliation in a warring and fretful world.  The Church’s authority does not come from her but her Lord who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. The Church’s authority is the Cross of Jesus Christ.

  Jesus begins by telling His disciples, the 12 apostles but maybe the 72 He sent out earlier, there would be temptations. Jesus knew temptation.  He stumbled, He was tempted, but knew no sin in order to bear our sin, every stumble, every fall from the fall for us all and be our Savior.

 The Greek word translated as “temptation” is “skandalon”, from which we have our word, scandals.   In Greek, Skandalon means stumbling block.  There is much which trips us up but by God’s grace we are not led into the fall. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” The Lord answers prayer. The Lord called His crucifixion a “skandalon”, the chief cornerstone, rejected by the builders, is a stumbling block to His fellow Jews.  The Lord’s apostle called the preaching of the Cross a stumbling block, a skandalon,

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

He says to the disciples, Pay attention to yourselves, it is about rebuke and repentance so that there is forgiveness and reconciliation which My whole and holy journey is pointing Me towards and you and the whole world.  The greatest stumbling block is blocking someone from the stumbling block of My Cross, and not to receive by faith the fullness of My grace for you all, signed, sealed and delivered by My Blood and in the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the preaching, teaching and administering of the Word of God.

 Jesus is clear:  Disciples will be tempted but they must not be like Satan, tempters.  Disciples seducing the little ones to pedophilia, pornography and promiscuity results in the Lord’s judgment: it would be better if a millstone be put around their neck and they be thrown in the sea. We think that if we just find the right program we will turn the Church around.  If we just get the pulse of Gen-Xers or whoever we’ll draw them in.  Maybe with all the horrific stumbling-blocks by which disciples have seduced others spiritually and physically, it is the tug of that millstone that is drawing His Church down into the depths. ‘The world sees the Church distressed, by scandals rent asunder, by heresies distressed, and the cry goes up How long?’ The way up and out is not public relations but repentance and forgiveness. The cry goes up we have to do something or the Church will grow old and die. In other words, we got to do something to save the Church.   The means is not another program, but His promises fulfilled for us all in His death and resurrection. This past year religion polls asking the question, what is your religion, many young people answered the question by checking the box, “None”.   So now those people are called the “nones”. Without His Word of grace, truth be known, I too am a none.  The goal is to help each other on the Lord’s way of eternal life to reach our eternal destination.  Forgiveness is His path as He is the way, the truth and the life.

 President Lincoln in his second inaugural address said of each side of the Civil War that they, “…looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding.” We look for easier triumphs as the Church, as if forgiveness were easy and the Lord’s amazing grace a snap.  It took time for the woman to find her lost coin, the shepherd his sheep, the father his lost son. Repentance and forgiveness is not only a one time occurrence  but a daily one, even 7 times, that is, as many times as it takes and it takes time. Living in a consumer church, looking for a spiritual bargains and cheap thrills,   in order to entice people to come on in is not the way. The way, the only way, is Jesus Christ, bearing our cross, following Him, forgiven as He has done and does for you, brothers and sisters, daily.

 I do not think a congregation turned anyone away by being too forgiving.  But being forgiving does not mean being wishy-washy, feel goody about it. Rebuking does not mean accepting sinfulness.   The Lord is clear if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he says, I repent, you must forgive him.  Notice that first your brother is rebuked.  Nothing sloppy agape about that.  The Greek for “rebuke” means “to speak seriously, warn, in order to prevent an action or bring one to an end”.   Such speaking of the Law brings about a turn around, which is repentance and so forgiveness.  Rebuking does not mean yelling or finger pointing. It means serving.  Years ago, when we were in New Jersey, a colleague and I went to Princeton meet another pastor to talk about his use of the catechism in preparing people for Baptism.  Afterwards, we were in the Princeton Seminary Bookstore.  I was looking at a small book, Shorter Evening and Morning Prayer, a book with Matins and Vespers, which are both disciplined prayer forms to pray the Psalms.  The pastor we came to meet in Princeton came up to me and said, ‘What are you looking at?’  I told Ron.  He asked, Schroeder, do you pray the Psalms daily?  “No”, I said.  “You should you know.”  It was a rebuke.  It was serious speech.  Did it bring about an end something I was not doing and should be doing?  Yes.  I bought that book and ever since have been praying Matins.   

 Disciples must rebuke bad discipline, false doctrine, and open sin, because they are wrong yes, but also and pointedly, these are all stumbling blocks to the stumbling block of His Cross,  the power of salvation for all those who believe.    There must be serious personal speech about it so that the friend hears, listens.   My personal example before is a minor one in the scheme of things, but my colleague, Ron, was forthright. Serious talking with a brother or a sister is hard work, but it is God’s good work, but it is work, labor and in Christ, His labor of love…daily, even 7 times a day.

 The Lord’s forgiveness nurtures and engenders eternal life, even if a brother repents seven times a day and the disciples cried out, Increase our faith!  No kidding!  If you have faith as small as a mustard tree you could say to this mulberry tree, be cast into the sea. Why would anyone want to cast a perfectly good tree into the ocean?  I think that’s the point:  you don’t. But by faith in Jesus Christ, in His Word to you and to us all, you can forgive as you have been so forgiven. Forgiveness is the real miracle. Forgiveness is hard but remember it is as hard nails driven into His hands and feet.   And finally, at the end of the day, when the servant comes in from planting, maybe the seed of God’s Word, or tending the sheep, feeding His sheep the pasture of His Word, will say to his Master now serve me?  Won’t it be just the opposite?  Yet, Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed states that at the Table He is there as One who serves. We have done our duty the servants will say.  Our faith was not so good, weak faith, as weak as  a mustard seed, small, not noticeable. As weak as the Lord upon the Cross, and His weakness is stronger than our strength, His forgiveness stronger than our stumbles and fall. And,

 Why should the Lord God reject a weak faith, when He Himself tells us to receive the weak in faith (Rom. 14:1)? Why should God reject a weak faith, when a weak faith is His work in us? What He has begun He will also bring to completion (Phi. 1:6). Why should God reject a weak faith, when a weak faith, as well as a strong faith, holds to Christ and has in Him the grace of God?’ As many as received Him, he gave the power to be God’s children, to those who believe in His name” ( John 1:12) (Johann Gerhard)

 In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 The peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

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