Friday, May 17, 2013

So, Where Do You Keep the Lambs?

Every once in a while, I receive emails or hard copies of letters from individuals or groups, who believe it is their mission to contact pastors and warn them to "preach the one gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." I have no doubt that these people mean well, but it always saddens me to read their stern warnings, wherein they show that they haven't a clue what the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ really is. For them, as evidenced by the most recent warning I received via email this morning, which is posted below, the Gospel is something we must do, which means their Gospel is no Gospel at all, but pure Law. The way they butcher the Scriptures to go out of their way to make sure every last drop of Jesus' Blood becomes meaningless is very depressing.

Every time I receive one of these, I am reminded of the time I spent interviewing a Seventh Day Adventist preacher for a project I was required to do in one of my classes during my undergraduate work. That project consisted of us having to pick a different denomination, attend a couple of services in a congregation of that denomination, interview the pastor or another leader there, and write a lengthy essay describing the official teachings of the denomination, how those teachings were put into practice, what the pastor or leader emphasized about those teaching during the interview, and where the similarities and differences were between those teachings and practices and our own Lutheran teachings and practices.

I chose to do my project on Seventh Day Adventists, since, at the time, I didn't know all that much about that denomination. I learned a lot about them in studying their history and official teachings, but even more when attending a couple of services in one of their local congregations, and still more when interviewing the preacher there. I will say this: They are consistent. What I learned in the books was what I saw being practiced. All Law, all the time. The only Gospel heard was when the readers read from the Gospels, but that was quickly taken away by the preacher, who turned that Gospel into Law.

The preacher was a nice enough guy. He was very cooperative and readily agreed to sit down with me and let me interview him. But, it was sad. Big time sad. The differences between us were astounding. To put it bluntly, His Jesus was really no Savior at all. His Jesus was a stern Law-Giver and Judge. I didn't like his Jesus very much at all. His Jesus scared me to death. If his Jesus was the real Jesus, I was in trouble.

The interview quickly turned into a back-and-forth, as the preacher not only answered the questions I put to him, but began asking his own of me. He also minced no words in letting me know how wrong he believed us Lutherans to be on just about everything. He didn't yell and scream about it. As I said, he was a nice enough guy. But, he was sure to let me know that we Lutherans were wrong in our belief that Jesus had done everything necessary for our salvation, and how the real "gospel" was about us keeping the Law.

As you might guess, he was especially adamant about "keeping the Sabbath Day," and how the greatest evil to ever perpetuate the Christian Church was gathering for worship on Sundays. I was prepared for this and had the appropriate Scriptures handy to refute his claims, but he was having none of it. "The Sabbath Day is an everlasting ordinance of the Lord and we are required to keep it," he declared. That whole thing about Jesus being our Sabbath rest didn't matter one bit to him.

As he continued to thunder away at me - in a nice way - about the Sabbath Day, I finally had a stroke of genius. I don't want to get all hokey about it or anything, but this was definitely one of those "the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say" moments. Out of the blue, I asked, "So, where do you keep the lambs?" This prompted a very puzzled look to come across the preacher's face for a few seconds until he responded, "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, surely you must keep the Passover in the same literal fashion you keep the Sabbath, right? I mean, our Lord makes it very clear in His Word that the Passover is an everlasting ordinance that we are required to keep. So, where do you keep the lambs? Do you slaughter them outside or inside the church?"

Crickets. Seriously. Long, awkward silence.

Of course, I'm not the first one to point out this inconsistency, so it probably wasn't the stroke of genius I'm claiming it to be. Even within their own ranks, Seventh Day Adventists struggle here. How is it that this eternal ordinance must be kept literally, but that one must not be? The "scholarly" attempts to answer this question are as entertaining as they are absurd. So was this preacher's attempt, once he gathered himself and put an end to the long, awkward silence.

He said, "The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments; the Passover is not. The Ten Commandments remain divine ordinances we're still obligated to keep, but the Feasts of the Old Testament, like the Passover, have been abolished by the coming of the Messiah. As Jesus tells us, He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, and to make it clear that we must fulfill it, too."

Wait, what?

I tried to engage him some more on this issue, but he brushed it aside and moved on to enlighten me on their unique, strange, and wholly unbliblical views of the End Times. Amazing stuff, this. They claim to be able to pinpoint exact dates when this or that eschatological happening has occurred, things like when the so-called "Investigative Judgment" began, when Christ cleansed the heavenly sanctuary, etc. But, through all the creative and imaginative twisting of Scripture, which leads to these strange views, it is the same thing driving their eschatology that drives their soteriology: the Law.

The Law is the "Gospel" for them, and for all those well-meaning, but woefully wrong, individuals and groups who send me messages from time to time, exhorting me to "preach the one gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I have never yet received one of these messages that had even a hint of Gospel in them). Jesus has done His part, but now it's up to us to do ours. He fulfilled the Law to show us how we might fulfill it, too. The "gospel" Jesus preaches is conditional and dependent upon our obedience. As you can see below, they produce nice charts and quote many Scripture passages and include many words in their exhortations, but they haven't the first clue what the true Gospel is, which is the sure and certain truth that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary to live the perfect life we can't live and pay the full price for all of our sins with His sacrificial death on the Cross. He accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. It is finished. There are no conditions on the Gospel. There is not an ounce of obedience left to be fulfilled. There is not an ounce of blood left to be shed. Jesus has done it all. That's the one Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one Gospel I am called and ordained to preach, the one Gospel that is truly Good News for sinners in need of a Savior.

The "gospel" spoken of below is Law, not Gospel, and I am left to keep on asking those who exhort this Law in the name of their false "gospel": So, where do you keep the lambs?

Here's the email I received:

Dear Pastor, and fellow labourer of Jesus Christ,

As one who has tasted the power of the age to come , I must write to pastors to warn them that they must preach the one gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Throughout the world today, only those churches that obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have rejected the doctrines of men, receive the Spirit of truth, as evidenced by the tongue emitting sound. ( λαλούντων γλώσσαις). (And this is not at all like the movement of the mouth in a prayer language we see on television)

The Apostle Paul warned us, that when Jesus returns to gather together His elect, that those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ will meet the same fate as those who do not know God.

And I’m worried that many don’t even know what the gospel of Jesus Christ is, even though the return of Jesus may be very near.  

Jesus gave us His gospel with ten  “if not,” conditions. (ἐὰν μή).

Five of these conditions deal with our heart and our thinking, and the other five tell us what we must do to receive God’s salvation.  

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
John 6:44,65

We must respond to God, who gave His only Son.
“The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner,,,the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”
John 5:19-20 NASB
As sons of God, we must imitate Christ. We begin with His baptism.
Unless you see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
John 4:48 (NKJV adds people)
We must recognize Jesus’ resurrection.
Unless one is (born again) born of water and the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:3,5
We must receive Jesus’ baptism of water and Spirit.
Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 18:3
We must renew our minds and humble our hearts.
Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.”

John 13:8 NIV
We must allow Christ, the body of Christ, to wash our feet.
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone…He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
John 12:24-25
We must realize this world is passing away.
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:53-54
We must remember Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins.
Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:20

We must do the will of God. We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven by the teachings and traditions of men.
“As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
John 15:4,6
We must abide in the Spirit and body of Christ (His Church).

And finally, Jesus gave us one more condition of salvation with the expression “if for no.” (ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ)

Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”

John 8:24 (NASB adds He)
We must know that Jesus is God Himself, “I AM,” who appeared to Moses.

Here are some questions that you may have:

Is the washing of feet really a salvation condition?

Yes because the Spirit of truth can only be received by those who keep the commandments of Jesus. And the Holy Spirit is required for salvation.

After instructing His disciples in the washing of feet and remembrance of His death, Jesus said to them:If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—  the Spirit of truth…”

Did the early church practice the washing of feet as a salvation teaching?

Yes, the writer of Hebrews lists the elementary salvation teachings of Christ as:

Faith in God
Instructions about baptisms, and
The laying on of hands (for the gift of the Holy Spirit, see Acts 8:17, 19:6)

Baptisms is plural because the Greek word βαπτισμῶν can also refer to religious washings, as in the washing of hands in Luke 11:38.

What is the meaning of condition number 6 – “in like manner”

This has to with the unity of God and man, “that they may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and they in Me…that the world might believe that You sent Me.”

As Paul wrote: there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

We observe Jesus’ commandments in like mannerto Jesus.

Just as the disciples broke “one loaf” (1 Cor 10:16-17) of “unleavened bread,” (1 Cor 5:8); they also baptized in “living water,” (John 3:23) bowing their heads, “in the likeness of His death” (John 19:30, Romans 6:5).

And of course, the imitation of Christ, being transformed into His image is the goal of our salvation - so we begin our faith as we would end it.

Where are the churches that obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

As far as I know, at the moment, only the True Jesus Church denomination obeys this gospel, and receives the Spirit of truth as evidenced by the tongue emitting sound.

(As different from the movement of the mouth in a prayer language that we see in many churches.)

There were other denominations and churches in the past who also received this Spirit, but they changed their doctrines, adding religious days and so on,  and lost the Spirit.

The True Jesus Church has the Sabbath Day in its 10 basic beliefs, why is that?

This has to do with the salvation condition:

Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will be no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus did not do away with God’s commandments, but told us that we must keep them, and go beyond them.

God not only wants us to keep the Sabbath day holy, He wants us to dedicate every day to Him.

That we should worship Him “neither in Jerusalem or on this mountain, but in Spirit and truth,” not according to “the basic principles of this world.” 

God blessed the Sabbath day in the beginning of creation as a day for rest for man.

Rest to be shared by Jews and Gentiles as the commandment says - that man might rest in unity with God and one another.

The church broke the unity of this day when it changed the day of rest for the Gentiles to Sunday, because of their tradition.

And so Jesus said to the Pharisees “in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will be no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

God wants us “to remember the Sabbath day,” and rest, if this is not burdensome – “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

Almost all of the True Jesus Church members are Asian, does the Bible prophecy this?

Ezekiel tells us the Spirit and glory of the Lord will come from the east in the last days.

“And behold the glory of the Lord came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters…”
Ezekiel 43:2

The sound of “many waters” is that sound we hear after the fall of that Great Harlot.

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of many waters…
Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
And His wife has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:6

Paul’s prophecy of lawlessness and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

To fully understand Paul’s meaning, we need to read from the original text or a more literal version, and understand the background of Paul’s comments.

Paul tells us that when Jesus returns, those who do not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be eternally separated from God, along with those who do not know God.

“there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ, but even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Galatians 1:7,8

“it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,  in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,  when He comes, in that Day”
2 Thessalonians 1:6-9

Paul told us the “mystery of lawlessness” is already at work. And “t
he coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.”

Jesus told us that false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

And, “at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Matthew 13: 40 -43

Those who obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will be saved

There is only one gospel by which we receive God’s guarantee of salvation.

May all glory be to our God who has revealed to us the great mystery of His gospel, “the power of salvation to everyone who believes.”

That all who fear and trust Him might share with Christ all of the riches of His eternal goodness.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I Have a Problem - Or So I'm Told

I have a problem. Or so I'm told. Actually, some would probably say that I have many problems, but that's neither here nor there. For the sake of this post, it's just a single problem I have - or so I'm told.

What's my problem? I see Jesus, His Church, and His Holy Word and Sacraments everywhere in the Old Testament. I see the same story of salvation told over and over again, the story of Jesus living the perfect life in our place, paying for all of our sins with His sacrificial death on the Cross, rising from the tomb on the third day, ascending to reign over all things until He returns in great glory on the Last Day, and how that salvation He accomplishes is applied to sinners through His life-giving and life-sustaining Word and Sacraments. I see that story already in the Garden of Eden, and retold in the stories of Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings . . . you get the idea. I see Jesus everywhere. I see His Holy Church everywhere. I see His Holy Word and Sacraments everywhere. And, don't even get me started on the Psalms. I know they are supposed to be neatly organized into different categories, one of which is titled, "Messianic Psalms," but, Lord help me, I see every last one of them as Messianic.

Why do some say that I have a problem here? Because, evidently, I'm only supposed to see Jesus, His Church, and His Holy Word and Sacraments in the Old Testament when the New Testament tells me to see them. For example, it's okay for me to see a type of Holy Baptism in the parting of the Red Sea, since the New Testament tells me to see that (1 Cor. 10:2). But, if there are stories of salvation which include water in the Old Testament that are not specifically mentioned in the New Testament as types of Holy Baptism, I'm not supposed to see those stories as types of Holy Baptism. The same rule applies for the Lord's Supper, the Church, and even for Jesus Himself. In fact, those who say that I have a problem are quick to ridicule me (and others - I'm not the only one who has this problem) by saying, "You absurdly see Baptism in every drop of water and the Lord's Supper in every crumb of bread or drop of wine." I know! I do. I admit it. But, they tell me that the first step to overcoming a problem is to admit that you have one, so maybe there's still hope for me?

Actually, no, there is no hope for me here. Try as I might, I can't shake it. The more I read the Old Testament, the more my problem increases. I actually see more types of Jesus, His Church, and His Holy Word and Sacraments the more I read and study the Old Testament. Where I didn't see them before, I see them now. They're everywhere!

Oh well. Some problems are just not meant to be overcome. And, that's okay with me, since the problem I have here is actually a fun problem to have. It makes reading the Old Testament - even the more mundane, drab parts - a blast. In fact, it's so much fun that, while I enjoy all the Bible Studies I have going where I serve, I'd be lying if I didn't say that our Thursday morning Bible Study, where we have been going through the Old Testament chronologically for years now (we began at Genesis and are currently in the midst of 2 Kings), is the most fun, precisely because we keep seeing Jesus, His Church, and His Holy Word and Sacraments popping up everywhere, even in places where you'd least expect them. It could be that we're seeing Jesus, His Church, and His Holy Word and Sacraments simply because we want to see them. Maybe we're forcing things a bit. But, then, I'm not so sure that's as big a problem (if it is a problem at all) as some seem to think, as our Lord did make it clear that these are the Scriptures that testify of Him.