From Sodom to Jesus

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

(Genesis 18:22-33).

 

  • But there was that one time when God would spare the wicked for the sake of ONE righteous man…Jesus Christ.
  • This is good news to all of us who are wicked…(that’s all of us).

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

(Romans 4:5-8).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:6-11).

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, may God keep you and bless you.  Grace and peace to you.

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Escape From The Château d’Me

At this point in my life God’s grace has me hysterical. I laugh at times when I shouldn’t, see sunshine in rainstorms. I hear the Hallelujah Chorus instead of Hank singing “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  This is how my feels are right now.

singing-in-the-rain

I am Edmond Dantes—running like a madman, laughing over the fact that I am free from the prison that I once was in. Unlike Edmond, the prison that I ran from was forged and locked by my own hands. If you asked me to trace the steps of how I got here on the beach, sprinting and laughing with my arms in the air, I honestly am not sure how to respond (it probably would be best to watch the movie “The Count of Monte Cristo” for the Edmond reference if you have yet to see it).  All I know is that I am here and I know that it was Jesus who brought me here. Probably the best way to tell my story is to rewind to the beginning and fast forward in true flash back fashion.

I do not remember a time in my life that Jesus was not in it. By outward, public appearances my family nucleus was perfect. My mother was the youth director at our church before I was born. I can remember seeing my Father early in the morning reading his Bible in his chair. I didn’t know it at the time, but witnessing my Father’s morning Bible reading had a huge impact on my life. I grew up in a house of love. It was not perfect, by any means, but a house of love and grace. There were strict rules, but I always knew that no matter what happened, I was loved.

Fast Forward—April 27, 1989. I was 7 years old and in the shower when these thoughts hit my heart: “It’s true Zack, it’s true. You belong to Jesus. You are His. Now go tell your mom.” It wasn’t necessarily in those specific terms, and not in an audible voice, but I can remember being pummeled by those thoughts. I knew that salvation came from Jesus. I knew that moment is when I believed what Jesus did 2000 years ago for a sinner like me, was true.

Fast Forward—September 12, 2001. I was in college and conflicted about whether or not I should sign up to go fight global terrorism.

Fast Forward—April, 2003. America had invaded Iraq and I heard someone say: “We need more people to enlist.” I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and got in the best shape of my life. I was injected with confidence and felt like I owned every room I entered. I learned very quickly that girls were no longer pranking other girls by leaving fake love notes on my desk, quite the opposite. It was easy. I was away from home, doing things that I knew were against how I was raised. I had no time for God. I was too busy having fun in my deliberate sin and open rebellion.

Fast forward—2007 Iraq. Bombs were going off all around, also several bombs that did not go off that should have when my Humvee ran over them. God showed me explicitly that he was protecting me on several occasions. I saw death staring me in the face, and I felt God’s sovereign hand covering me. Why God? I had done nothing to deserve His protection. I thought that I was in a spiritual desert far from God. But here, in the physical desert, God showed me that he had been right next to me the entire time.

Fast Forward—2008. In an empty barracks room I watched the Passion of Christ and collapsed In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit.

Fast Forward—2013. I was married and had a little son. I remember wondering one day in the guest room of our new house: “Why do I love Jesus? Well, because He has given me this wonderful life. He has given me salvation, a beautiful wife who loves me, a son who I would walk through fire for, our house that we live in, a good job, good health, love. Jesus has given me so much.”  Then, another thought hit me: “Why do you love your wife? Well, because she is my wife. I love her because of who she is, not because of what she has given to me…” Again, I collapse In a puddle: tears, snot, choking on spit. “Jesus I love you because you are Jesus, because you loved me first, not because you give me stuff.”

Fast Forward—2014. I was in seminary. I got on Twitter and accidently bumped into folks who were sharing messages by Steve Brown, Tullian Tchividjian, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Paul David Tripp, the Zahls and other like-minded individuals. I thought to myself:  “Woah, haha! I can’t believe they just said that… but it sounds good!”  Something sucked me in like a bug to a front porch bug zapper. I became obsessed as I discovered podcasts, blogs, folks on Twitter that were a part of what felt like an underground revival on the internet.

Fast Forward—wait stop! Too far! Go back! Right there. I was struggling with my spiritual growth class in seminary and failing my spiritual growth goals all over the place. I went on an early morning run before work so I could talk to God—just the two of us. I didn’t even make it for two minutes before I passed a Starbucks. “Mmm coffee” was my only thought. Prayer completely went out the window and I was furious. “God! I hate myself! I can’t do this! I can’t even run five minutes without thinking about something stupid like coffee when I am supposed to be spending this time talking with You and working on my spiritual growth. I don’t want to sin anymore. Take sin out of me! I can’t do this. I just can’t. I’m sorry.”

“Then….Run!” was the response that hit my thoughts after the fit that I had just pitched. It finally hit me.  God is well pleased with me because he is well pleased with Christ. When I am focused on myself and constantly examining myself, of course it will be a demoralizing enterprise. But when I examine Christ and remember my identity in Him, there is perfection, rest, joy, grace, peace and love. My prison cell popped open like a Coke can left in a hot car in August. I ran out of it and yelled “cannonball!” off a cliff into the ocean of God’s grace. I ran all the way back to the office that morning laughing and crying. I imagined Jesus right next to me running and laughing with me. I imagined Jesus being so thrilled to see me and overjoyed that I was finally at rest in Him.

Fast Forward—Today. I do not have enough space or memory to write down all of the people who God has used to impact my life on social media and beyond. So many have helped me to see that I am not alone in discovering the beauty and good news of God’s grace for sinners. I cannot pinpoint or remember ever being burned or hurt by the church. Many have that testimony but I do not.  I grew up in a house of grace and love. Many grew up in a house of hate, of the Law, or anti-God. Many have that testimony but I do not. My testimony is that I was the Pharisee. I was the older brother before I was the prodigal. Even when I came back to my Father’s house it was I who still peddled and had hope in cheap Law. My testimony is that I thought I was the younger brother returned, while at the same time I was channeling the older brother and his tendencies. My testimony is that I used to thank God that I was not like those “dirty tax collectors.” I was the white washed tomb who thought everything looked good on the outside, but was blind to how bad my flesh heart was on the inside. I was unfaithful to the message of God’s grace and the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done.

Yet Jesus met me on my Damascus road. When I finally confessed while running on that Georgia blacktop that I was too weak to hold fast to Christ…that is when it finally hit me….Christ will always hold fast to me. I’ve been laughing ever since. I can’t stop talking about Jesus. I can’t stop reading and listening to what he has done for others. It is my drug. I geek out with joy when I hear about God’s grace in the lives of others. I am confident that those who have written before me, and those who will write after me, will be used by God to impact my life and put a song in my heart. I feel like I have to write, read, listen, talk about Jesus or I will die. I take heart that if and when that day comes, when I don’t feel like laughing, when my world has been shattered, that Jesus will still remain faithful to me. I am obsessed with the good news of God’s grace for sinners, and I want other fellow sinners to find out. It is just too good not to share and see others enjoy it as well.

woooooooooo

The Fight

Ok,

Maybe you are like me and you have gone through the exact same thing that I am about to explain.  I’m swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and the thought hits me; “well, what I am supposed to do about obedience now?”

Like a flood all of the memories of sermons, lectures, principle offices, family meetings, “come to Jesus” moments at Summer Camp and at Marine Boot Camp come rushing in like an under tow.  “You can do better!”  “What is your major malfunction?!”  “What would Jesus do?!” “Remember your promise, promise keeper!” “You bear the name of Christ, Christian!  It’s time to live like it!”  “How can you do this?”  “Not in my house!”  “I am very disappointed in you!”

What on earth do we who have been set free from the Law of sin and of death (Romans 8:2) do with obedience?  I HATE it when I do not obey the Law.  I HATE IT I HATE IT.  It’s like I am in a fight with myself or something.  Which is truer than you think.  The Old Adam verses the New Man in Christ.  It’s like when it hits you that you are not being obedient and you are all like

liar liar 1

You sin that same sin for the umptienth time in 1 week and your inside doing this

liar liar 7

Someone asks you how your spiritual growth is going and you are all like this

liar liar 6

You are failing at this obedience thing big time.  “You?  A Christian?”, you imagine coworkers, family members thinking.   The gospel set you free!  You have grace!  You are no longer bound to and under the Law!  You should be happy and doing better right?  You have joy in the Lord right?  What about your light?  Aren’t you gonna let it shine?  Can’t you finally take that bushel off now, you smoldering wick you?

liar liar 2

Yet there I am, the sad sack of out of shape spiritual fat body.  Feeding on Christ and his bread?  More like feeding on a disobedience filled

full_metal_jacket_jelly_donut

New Years resolutions shot, spiritual growth chart goals gone and I’m right back in the confessional booth like Pre-Tower Experience Martin Luther.

liar liar 5

To really make matters worse, what if you are a preacher who has taught the gospel of God’s grace and unmerited favor all courtesy of Christ’s cross and blood and are now tasked with speaking about the Christian life and Christian obedience on Sunday and right now all you have planned to share on that is

liar liar 3

Well, you are not the only one. Even if you are not preaching on Sunday, maybe you have run into a friend who has asked you the same questions.  Well now that you are a Christian, saved and set free by grace what do you do about obedience?  Feel free to be a fly on the wall reading on the following modified conversation between ummm lets say Cack Zole and Brad Chird

————————————————————————–

Brad,

I have had a few things gnaw on me, to try to tell me that things such as a theology of the cross, grace, Law and Gospel distinctives are ultimately too good to be true.  I have had the pull to question and ask “what about holiness?  what about godliness?”  Are these things not to be pursed for the sake of resting in Christ?”  I fully believe that by faith I have been given the righteousness of Christ.  I have faith that sanctification and any pursuit of anything holy or godly is all Christ doing his work in me.  So it feels very dangerous for me to move towards an emphasis of the intentional and conscious pursuit of holiness and godliness.  I do not trust myself in the pursuit of either and only trust in the hope that Christ is working both in me himself.  I often fall back on Galatians 2:20, that it is not me who is living and doing things that could be counted as “holy, godly, etc” but it is Christ who lives in me….

I find it so very hard and quite honest repulsive to go back to a mindset that produces in me a desire to show that I am approved, to display that I am regenerate, and to be as dismissive as I was when looking through the lens of glory rather than cross…

Is the command to a pursuit of godliness meant to crush to cause us to run to Christ or is it a command for us to try?…

I humbly ask counsel all of this, appreciating and valuing your thoughts and understandings on the matters such as these.  I often have come across moments where deep questions are presented to me in a spirit of “I-believe-that-I-am-right-but-I-am-going-to-ask-a-challenging-question-to-prove-that-you-are-wrong-so-that-I-can-feel-more-pride-in-my-original-stance-and-feel-victory-over-revealing-to-you-how-stupid-you-are.”  I cannot stress enough that this is not the case.  My questions have no motive of quarrel or argument but a genuine thirst for counsel and good news.

Because He Lives,
Cack Zole
————————————————————————–
Good morning Cack,
     You’re caught in tension we all feel in this life as those who are simultaneously saints and sinners, who feel the law at work in us and yet find comfort in the grace of God.
     The call to lead a holy life, to pursue godliness, is nothing more than the demands of the law. Yet these demands are good. The law is not bad. It is given by God to show us the life that he desires for us. Yet, as you well know, as you experience in your daily life, no matter how hard you try, you always fall short of the law’s demands. That’s why we say that the law always accuses. It always finds something in our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires that convicts us. The law will never give us rest. And the law will always kill.
     That’s why the Gospel defines our life. This Gospel not only forgives us, but also fills us with the Holy Spirit, who produces fruits in us of which we may not even be aware. The Gospel is that life of Gal 2:20. We have died (by the law) and it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us (by the Gospel). And since Christ lives in us, we are pleasing to God, even if we are not pleasing to ourselves. His righteousness, his life within us, and for us, is all that matters.
     The life of holiness is a gift. You are made holy, your life is made holy, exclusively in Christ. He is your sanctification, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians.
     The struggle between the Old Adam, who is always under the law, and the New Man, who is always free in the the Gospel, is a daily struggle. God is always putting us to death and raising us to life. Every day is Good Friday and Easter for us. It can feel almost schizophrenic at times, pulled this way and that. But above all this is Christ. His opinion of you is all that counts. And he says, “You are holy in me. You are righteous in me. Your are godly in me.”
     The theology of the glory will always take you back to yourself. The theology of the cross will always bring you to Christ. It is the way of life through death, resurrection through crucifixion.
I hope this helps. Blessings to you, brother!
Brad Chird
————————————————————————–

After hearing this Cack was like this

top gun

Man that is good news isn’t?  You are free!  And then leave it at that….Fight the good fight, telling fellow sinners the good news of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Let’s attack licentiousness and sin with more grace so that Fundy’s can always be like

what are you doing

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part VI

PART VI

The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church

by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt

Let me illustrate with a couple of particularly embarrassing examples in my own church’s history.

     (Believe me, you’ve got some parallels in your church, too – no matter which church you belong to.) Two of the lowest points in Lutheran church history have to do with both the Peasants’ Revolt and with our persecution of the Anabaptists in the 16th century. The Peasants’ Revolt deeply frightened Luther (Luther very much feared anarchy as the worst of possibilities). In a letter to the German princes, Luther ordered them to use the sword and to slash and slay anyone who was out on the streets behaving like a revolutionary. (He quickly wrote a letter that appealed to the princes to ignore his first letter, but it was too late!) The peasants, thinking that Luther was backing them, were astounded when they learned that Luther had ordered the princes to “cut, slash, and kill them.” They felt totally betrayed. A real dark chapter in my church’s history.

     In a similar way, to the degree to which Anabaptist Christians represented any sort of “Spirit-given” ecclesiastical anarchy, one that had no place for church order, Luther unleashed on them, too. Lutherans took part in baptizing such people by immersion for about 10 minutes (Reformed and Roman Catholics went along with us in this, but I’m just speaking about my own church here).

     Reprehensible? You bet! Do I want to defend such executions to one of those “angry” at the church? Not a chance! Hate it as I might, I need to agree with the person with whom I am speaking. Same with some of the anti-Semitic things Luther himself wrote in his later life.

     I said that I recommend that we “cop to” some of the evil things the church has done. We might be tempted to start by trying to balance the charges, viz., mention the wonderful things the church has sometimes done. I recommend against that, too — at least in an evangelistic/apologetic conversation. Later on, we might speak about a book like Al Schmidt’s Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Concordia) that catalogs just how our western world’s every corner was affected to the good by historic Christianity. Not now, however.

     But, since hearing Sam Kinison’s brother, I don’t want to leave the matter there. I hope you don’t either. You and I “copping to” the evil done by the church still leaves the “angry one” satisfied, justified in his anti-Christic state, and still miles from the Gospel. If the law has done its work on him, I want next to talk to this guy about the Gospel. I want to talk about Jesus’ claims – and if I can, particularly about Jesus’ claims regarding what He was going to do for sinners (including me and including him!) on the cross.

     Now you Lutheran pastors, don’t talk to me at this point about the Scriptural truths he would learn in your Pastor’s Inquirers Class about the sacraments! This kind of a guy isn’t going to come to your Inquirers’ Class to learn about the sacraments – or to learn about anything else! He’s too angry! Same for you Reformed pastors. This is not the time to start talking to this guy about the Scriptural truths he would learn in your Pastors Inquirers’ Class about the finer points of predestination! This kind of a guy isn’t going to come to your Inquirers’ Class to learn about election – or to learn about anything else! He’s too angry.

So what am I going to do?

     I’m going to talk about the Gospel as if it can be believed in totally apart from the church! You say to me, “Rosenbladt, that isn’t how Scripture presents the church!” I answer, “I know. But first things first! This guy needs Christ, Christ as priest, Christ as having bled for his sin, Christ as giving eternal life to sinners for free.” And in his mind, the church is what is keeping him or her away from Jesus Christ! If he comes to trust Christ and Christ’s sin-bearing death, the guy might later on deal with passages about “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together . . .” But not now. To this guy, the church and its behavior is the “scandal!” (The real scandalon, according to Paul, is that we are sinners under condemnation, and cannot do anything to make things right with the holy God. The true scandalon is that Someone Else is going to have to satisfy God’s justice for us because we are unable –and unwilling – to do that).

     To put it another way, we sinners are in need of a divine Mediator. And without a divine Mediator, we are doomed. Scripture says, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” At the judgment, the law of God will justly declare us condemned. And the Gospel is that God the Son freely agreed to die our death for us, to suffer our deserved condemnation and doom in our place. And He didn’t just agree from eternity to do that. He actually did it. On the cross. For free! And for each one of us. (Rom. 5:8)

     If your friend can see for just a moment that the truth of the Gospel does not turn on Christ’s church, but only on Christ’s resurrection from the dead, it might be the first time he has ever thought such a thought. Will he bend the knee to Christ as His Lamb and Substitute? Who knows? But you will have done him or her a great service. Would that all people who are angry agnostics or atheists were clear that their animosity toward the church for giving them nothing but morality as soon as they became Christians is really understandable. That we would have that same reaction. Believe it or not, that’s progress. I’ve sometimes said to people who reject Christ and His death as for their sin, “Well, you are one of the few I’ve met who has really rejected the Christian Gospel for the right reasons. Congratulations for that! But I recommend that you keep thinking about it. And keep asking the question, “Was Jesus really raised from the dead, or was He not?” Because if Jesus Christ was raised the third day, that is the best reason in the world to believe that He can make good on His claim that His death was a death for your and my sin, and that His cross and blood will be enough for anyone who dies still a sinner. Me. You.

     Lastly, we might be surprised to find that this guy is a Christian. He’s just vowed never to let a church do to him ever again what was done to him earlier. Do you know a church that won’t? (Don’t answer too quickly. There are not a lot of these – no matter what the “label” on the door.) Most of today’s churches will just re-inflame his anger, giving him “law-Gospel-law.” Find one for him instead that will speak to him of Christ—after he is a believer. If you don’t know one, tell him that. At least it’s honest.


Go Back to Part V of The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

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The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part V

PART V

The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church

by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt

Secondly, let’s talk about those alumni of Christianity who are not sad but “mad.”

     It is not all that uncommon. I find that these “angry ones” have usually not switched from Christianity to another religion. Nor have I found that they have switched from one Christian denomination to another. Instead, I find that they are angry at any and all religions and anyone who represents any religious position — but especially Christianity. And that is natural. After all, it was Christianity, as they see it, that “used them up and threw them away.” I suppose the most visible examples would be men like the late comedian Sam Kinison and ex-Roman Catholic George Carlin. You may (and probably do) know better contemporary examples than I know. All of us are in the vicinity of people like this at one time or another, maybe know a few of them as friends, or have at least met one or two in passing. Why do I say that? Because such people are, as I said, not all that uncommon these days.

     Now I certainly can’t this evening exhaust the dynamic involved in such people (again, I’m no clinical psychologist). But I still think a lot of the “mad alumni” also often have a nameable history, just as the “sad alumni” have one.

People like this often speak as if Christianity “baited and switched” them — just like a used car salesman “baits and switches” a young couple at a car lot.

     Christians promised them a new life in Christ in such a way that it was going to be a life of victory, God’s designed route to earthly happiness, a new, divine power that would solve the problems so obsessing them. Then, when the promises didn’t seem to work the way they were supposed to, the church put it back on these believers that they were somehow “not doing it right.”

  • They weren’t reading their Bible enough.
  • They weren’t praying enough or praying right.
  •  They weren’t attending enough church meetings.
  •  They weren’t making right use of the fellowship.
  • You name the prescription, you “fill-in-the-blanks” any way you want to.
  •  Some pastor or layman told them that Christianity was failing them because “they weren’t doing it right.”
  • And often, these believers took that counsel to heart and set themselves to trying to “do it better” or “do it right” so that “it would work.”

But again, Christianity seemed “not to deliver on its promises.” It “didn’t work.” As they see it, they “gave it every shot” and Christianity “failed to deliver.” And then, to boot, they were called guilty “for not doing it right!” These people feel not just disappointed; they feel betrayed, “conned.” And they are deeply angry about it.

Or take another example: those who heard much of Christ and His saving blood and cross in an evangelistic meeting, became Christians, and then heard very little of that wonderful message in the week-by-week pulpit ministry of their congregation. Instead, they heard recipes as to how to conquer sin — over and over and over. These people also often “give up on Christianity.” And they are angry about it! Really angry. And I don’t blame them, really. Nor should you. The church has an obligation to preach the Gospel to these people on a weekly basis. And deep down, they somehow know that. But if that isn’t what happens, they react. I would, too! After all, what does the church have for a man, a woman, a child other than Christ & His work on their behalf? Not much! Not compared to the Gospel of Christ preached as crucified for them and for their sin, Christ risen from the dead for their justification. Not compared to being absolved, not compared to eating the body of Christ given into death for their sin and drinking the blood of Christ shed for their sin.

Is there anything we can do that is of genuine help to such angry “alumni” of Christianity?

I think so. And the answer I’m about to give you comes right from a guy close to one of those angry ones. From whom? From Sam Kinison’s brother, Bill! How so?

One night I happened to be watching a “60-minutes” interview with Bill Kinison.

After Sam was in an auto accident on a lonely highway near Las Vegas, he lay dying. Bill was cradling Sam’s head in his arms as Sam died. Some time later, the interviewer asked Bill about Sam’s hatred of Christianity. And Bill looked at the interviewer and said, “What? You think Sam was not a Christian believer? You’re wrong! Sam died as a believer in Jesus Christ. You’ll definitely see Sam in heaven!  Sam never was angry with Jesus. He was angry at the church!” And I jumped out of my chair and yelled, “That’s it! There it is! There is the answer – and from Sam Kinison’s brother!”

What did I mean, “That’s it!”?

We can respond to the angry and say something like, “Oh, oh, oh, I see! You’re not angry at Jesus Christ. You’re angry at the church!” “Boy oh boy, join the club! So am I! And so are a whole bunch of other Christians!” [Here, if we had time, I would digress on how Christians angry with Christ will be saved by His cross, too. But this is not the time for that.]

Now this response takes more than a few minutes of thought on our part.

That is, “Am I ready to say such a thing?” And that’s not an easy question. For many of us—especially for us clergy—this question can be really difficult. Why? Because there is a predictable psychological profile of the clergy, including our closer relationship with our mothers, but not with our fathers. For most of us pastors, the link between Jesus and the church (a mother symbol) is so tight, so identical, that to be angry with mother church is the same as rejecting Jesus! It is not. But I’m recommending, at least in conversation with “the angry”—that we, all of us—identify with the anger of these people at the church, that we say, “Well, of course you are angry! With what it did to you? It would be insane not to be angry at it! I just misunderstood. I thought you had dismissed Christ, were rejecting His death for your sin. Thanks for clarifying.”

Again, I know that this is tough stuff. It raises questions in us that are not easy ones—particularly for us pastors who were closer to mom than to dad (and, unfortunately, that is most of us pastors). But I recommend that “we take the hit.” It’s not unlike the case with something like the Crusades or the Inquisition. I think most of us don’t want to defend everything the church has done in the past—at least I hope we don’t. And, believe me, the “angry” alumni are listening closely to see whether we are going to defend the church as much as we defend the Gospel. I recommend that we do not defend the church as much as we defend the Gospel! I recommend that we immediately “cop to” horrendous things done by the church. (And, for those of you who are Lutheran, this is not the time to try to catechize this guy into the finer points of Luther’s “Two Kingdoms” theory!)


To be Continued in The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part VI

Go Back to Part IV of The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

The Home of the Lecture and Permissions Can be Found at 1517 The Legacy Project

Citation link to White Horse Inn, Inc. blog mentioned above where I obtained the transcript and other media for Dr. Rosenbladt’s sermon “The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church”  – Dad Rod Thursdays – The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part IV

PART IV

The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church

by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt

     As C.S. Lewis put it, “. . . there are going to be a lot of surprises” at the eschaton. There are going to be people there that we just don’t imagine will be there (think of the non-Israelite that C.S. Lewis purposely put in heaven at the end (The Last Battle))! Boy, did that ever “get the goat” of some Christians! But read what Aslan said to him, “I suppose you’re wondering why you’re here?” And then tells him why. There are going to be in heaven believers in Jesus who never darkened the door of a church. (That’s no encouragement not to attend, not to be baptized, not to receive the Lord’s Supper. It is just saying that faith in Jesus saves — saves all by itself, “nude,” “apart from works.”) There are going to be scads of Roman Catholics, people who never listened – not really – to the theology preached by their priests, but just believed in the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood — no matter what their priest was preaching. People of all sorts who just believed in Jesus and His blood shed for them, for complete payment for their sin. There are going to be call girls, there are going to be drug dealers, maybe even a couple of lawyers! There are going to be members of the cults who never really “got” what the cult leaders taught, but just trusted that Jesus’ blood and cross was for their sin and for their hatred of God, for their wickedness. Surprises, lots of surprises. It bugs me to say it, but there might even be a couple of I.R.S. employees, maybe a congressman or congresswoman. (Everyone has some class of people they really don’t want to die as believers in Jesus! Those are mine!)

     But, to put it closer to home, there might even be a theologian or two who believed in Jesus, “bet the blue chips” on the blood of Jesus and nothing else than, or in addition to, that blood. There might even be a despicable leftist socialist college professor or two! Academics who daily sold out the wonderful American Constitution and instead filled their students’ heads with statist drivel and mush. In heaven we will meet cowards, scum, “bottom-of-the-barrel”, reprehensibles, jerks, deadbeat dads, murderers, all sorts of rabble. And they died believing in Jesus and His blood as their only hope.

Ask yourself: Is sola fide true or is sola fide not true in the case of failing Christians?

     Is Paul’s letter to the Galatians true or no? And if Galatians is true (and it most certainly is, but an apologia for that is not our subject tonight!), can a failing Christian be saved simply by the cross and blood of Christ? Or can he or she not be so saved just by Christ’s shed blood alone? If you answer, “Yes, he or she can,” well, that’s the message that’s gotten lost on most “jack Christians” — at least the ones I’ve met.

Many times the law has already done its work on them.

     Boy, has it ever done its work on them! They need more law like they need a hole in the head. The law was (is?) killing them. True, Paul says, the law kills. He writes as if that is what the law is for. The law is designed to crush, to crush human pride and supposed self-sufficiency toward God. It is intended to kill, designed to kill. The Biblical connection is law/sin. What gives sin its power is the law. And moreso, the law is designed to make the problem worse! It is to be gasoline on an already blazing fire! (Want to have sin run out of control? Go to a church in which the law is preached, then the law is preached again and more stringently and deeply, and then the law is preached even more!)

     Think of John Lithgow’s portrayal years ago of a law-preaching pastor in the film “Footloose.” Didn’t you just cringe? I mean even if you’re a Southern Baptist, you had to cringe at that character. Drawing the Christian “line in the sand” at the possibility of a high school dance? Lithgow could not listen to his daughter even if hearing her would have instantly resulted in world peace! Man, was he righteous! In “Footloose,” Lithgow’s wife should have been the pastor!

     [Don’t quote me! I could be thrown out of the Missouri Synod for even joking about such a thing! You Missouri Lutherans, that’s a joke! Chill out! Or, as Phil Hendry says in his radio ad, “It wouldn’t hurt you to laugh!” You non-Lutherans, all of this is an “inside joke.” Ask your Lutheran friends later why that’s a joke in our circles.]

     My point is that the whole film “Footloose” was “Jesusless” — no cross, no atonement, nothing of Christianity, really. Same as “Chariots of Fire” — completely Christless, completely Gospel-less!

     Back to the point, for many of the “jack Christians” we’ve met, the law is all their ears ever heard! For them, the Gospel often got lost in a whole bunch of “Christian life preaching.” And it “did them in.” So they left. And down deep there is a sadness in such people that defies description. If you and I don’t understand that, we should! They were crestfallen. So great their hopes, so devastating the failure.

C.F.W. Walther said that as soon as the law has done its crushing work, the Gospel is to be instantly preached or said to such a man or woman — instantly!

     Walther said that in the very moment that the pastor senses that the law has done its killing work, he is to placard Christ and His cross and blood to the trembling, the despairing, the broken.

  • “Be of good cheer, my son. Your sins are forgiven.”
  • “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  •  “Fear not, little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
  • “Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden. Take My yoke upon you, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
  •  “And He, when He comes, will neither break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoldering wick.”
  • “When You return, remember me.” “I tell you, this day you shall be with Me in paradise.”
  • “It is finished!”
  •  “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us . . .”
  •  “. . . He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree . . .”
  •  “God made Him to be sin who Himself knew no sin . . .”
  •  “. . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
  •  “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and that [faith in Jesus is] not of yourselves, but it is a gift of God, lest any man should boast.”
  •  “And to the man who does not work but trusts the One who justifies the wicked, his faith is counted as if it were righteousness.”
  •  “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith, apart from works of the law.”
  •  “. . . knowing a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”
  •  “But now a righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, . . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
  •  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • “There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

To be Continued in The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part V

Go Back to Part III of The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

The Home of the Lecture and Permissions Can be Found at 1517 The Legacy Project

Citation link to White Horse Inn, Inc. blog mentioned above where I obtained the transcript and other media for Dr. Rosenbladt’s sermon “The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church”  – Dad Rod Thursdays – The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part III

PART III

The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church

by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt

     Now even though I am not Reformed, and don’t speak “Reformed” very well, let me see if I can use a couple of categories from The Heidelberg Catechism to guess how you might have the same dynamic and its problems (at least when executed badly)?

     Think of the paradigm of “Guilt – Grace – Gratitude.” Don’t you have the same sort of problem that we Lutherans had with pietism (at least when the paradigm is executed badly)? If I am elect and regenerate, why is it that my gratitude is so small, so lacking on a daily basis? “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!” Or, “If I really were elect, my life would certainly reflect that fact more than it does.” “Maybe I’m just fooling myself. Maybe I’m not really elect – because the peace, the joy, the confidence Paul says the Christian is to have (and that other Reformed believers seem to talk about) I don’t have. I’d be lying if I said I did. Maybe I never was part of the elect, and I’m still not?”

     And for those of you who are Wesleyans, you are in this mess “up to your eyeballs.” Wesley’s charge to his pastors was very clear. They were called to (1) evangelize pagans (something for which Wesley gets an “A” in my book!) and (2) to urge their parishioners on to Christian perfection (something for which Wesley deserved an “F” — at least in the way he executed it, preached it to Christian believers!) Sunday after Sunday of exhortation (that is, law). If it’s of any comfort to you Wesleyans, you can blame us Lutherans for a lot for this stuff! (We Lutherans try to blame the Strasbourg Reformed for Lutheran pietism, but I’m not so sure we didn’t do it “all on our own steam.”) Through Nicolas von Zinzendorf at Herrenhut and Peter Böhler, we Lutherans bequeathed a lot of this mess of ours to Wesley. I wish I could say that it all came from Wesley’s reading of the church fathers, from reading William Law  and others like Law, but I can’t. In fact, it was we Lutherans who managed to corrupt all sorts of denominations with this junk — not just our own Lutheran churches, but also the free churches, the brothers Wesley, Cotton Mather in the New World (about Jonathan Edwards I don’t know) — this stuff knew (and knows) almost no bounds! And almost all of it traces to Lutheran Germany in an earlier century. If this stuff was done to you in some “Protestantish” church, I apologize to you. We Lutherans might just have been the ones who bequeathed it to your denomination, to your pastor’s seminary profs. At any rate, if I’m right here, I’m sorry.

     For our purposes this evening, the upshot is always the same: broken, sad ex-Christians who finally despaired of ever being able to live the Christian life as the Bible describes it. So they did what is really a sane thing to do: they left! The way it looks to them is that “the message of Christianity has broken them on the rack.” To put it bluntly, it feels better to have some earthly happiness as a pagan and then be damned than it feels to be trying every day as a Christian to do something that is one continuous failure — and then be damned anyway. Trust me on this one. This is how things look.

It seems to me that the key question here is a very basic one: Can the cross and blood of Christ save a Christian (failing as he or she is in living the Christian life) or no?

     I hope that most of us would say that the shed blood of Christ is sufficient to save a sinner? All by itself, just Christ’s blood, “nude faith” in it, “sola fide”, “faith without works”, “a righteousness from God apart from law,” a cross by which “God justifies wicked people,” etc. So far, so good, right?

     But is the blood of Christ enough to save a still-sinful-Christian? Or isn’t it? Does the Gospel still apply, even if you are a Christian? Or doesn’t it? It seems to me (1) that the category “sinner” still applies to me, (2) that the category “sinner” still applies to you, (3) that the category “sinner” still applies to all Christians. (If you are a Wesleyan and have reached perfection, what I have to say here doesn’t, of course, apply to you.) But for the rest of us, it seems that what Luther said of the Christian being “simultaneously sinful and yet justified before the holy God” is critical. Is what Luther said Biblical? Or isn’t it? Is it Biblical to say that a Christian is “simul justus et peccator” or no? Are we Christians saved the same way we were when we were baptized into Christ, or when we came to acknowledge Christ’s shed blood and His righteousness as all we had in the face of God’s holy law? That all of our supposed “virtue” – Christian or pagan – is just like so many old menstrual garments (to use the Bible phrase)? But that God imputes to those who trust Christ’s cross the true righteousness of Christ Himself? We are pretty sure that unbelievers who come to believe this are instantly justified in God’s sight, declared as if innocent, adopted as sons or daughters, forgiven of all sin, given eternal life, etc. But are Christians still saved that freely? Or are we not? We are pretty clear that imputed righteousness saves sinners. But can the imputed righteousness of Christ save a Christian? And can it save him or her all by itself? Or no? I think the way we answer this question determines whether we have anything at all to say to the “sad alumni” of Christianity.

We Lutheran pastors haven’t done a great job of getting across the central nature of righteousness by imputation alone. I hope you’ve done a better job at it than we have!

     Decades ago, a gigantic survey of our clergy and laity showed that we Lutheran pastors hadn’t even convinced our own members of the sufficiency of Christ’s cross and blood and death for them! (And I mean Lutheran members who might never have sneaked out to attend some evangelical revival, might never have spent 5 minutes watching crazy Trinity Broadcasting Network). Proof: A Study of Generations [results: 75% gave perfect Roman Catholic answers!]

  • “When you die, are you sure you will enter heaven? [“I hope so.”]
  • “I was president, tithed, sang in the choir, taught Sunday School,” etc.
  • Perfect Roman Catholic answers! And this survey was done decades ago!

What the “sad alumni” need to hear (perhaps for the first time) is that Christian failures are going to walk into heaven, be welcomed into heaven, leap into heaven like a calf leaping out of its stall, laughing and laughing, as if it’s all too good to be true.

It isn’t just that we failures will get in. It’s that we will probably get in like that! We failures-in-living-the-Christian-life-as-described-in-the-Bible will probably say something like, “You mean it was that simple?!” “Just Christ’s cross & blood?! Just His righteousness imputed to my account as if mine? You gotta be kidding!” “And all of heaven is ours just because of what was done by Jesus outside of me, on the cross — not because of what Christ did in me” – in my heart, in my Christian living, in my behavior?!” “Well, I’ll be damned!” But, of course, that’s the point isn’t it? As a believer in Jesus as your Substitute, you won’t be damned! No believer in Jesus will be. Not a single one!


To be Continued in The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church | Part IV

Go Back to Part II of The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church

The Home of the Lecture and Permissions Can be Found at 1517 The Legacy Project

The Citation link to White Horse Inn, Inc. blog mentioned above where I first obtained the transcript and other media for Dr. Rosenbladt’s sermon “The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church”  – Dad Rod Thursdays – The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church