Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Third Sunday in Advent

Christ is born, by Norma Boeckler

The Third Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 8 Father Who the Light 2. 20
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual     
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #76 A Great and Mighty Wonder 2.2  

Setting Pastors Free

The Hymn # 77:1-8 All My Heart  2.25
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 77:9-15 All My Heart  2.25

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Third Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man, and to come into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech Thee so to rule and govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may seek no other refuge than His word, and thus avoid all offense to which, by nature, we are inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Setting Pastors Free

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

This is one of the great passages of the New Testament, so important that Paul’s words should be used to define all pastoral ministry. Most importantly, these two verses set pastors free to do their work.

The first verse uses a word common to justification – account. Let a man so account of us. Another translation for the general use of the word might be – to calculate or to reckon.

We stayed with a Canadian couple once. The elderly man fell down the basement steps. His wife found him unconscious with a head wound. He was fine, giving credit to his German skull. She kept going over what might have happened. He used the term – “Let’s not reckon.” We are always trying to figure things out, reckon, calculate.

My secular jobs do that. I am routinely audited for everything I do. The charts say things like this – Made weekly announcement, yes/no. Posted grades on time: yes/no. Posted syllabus on time: yes/no. These are called metrics, and they are commonplace today.

The Age of Apostasy is marked by the use of the wrong metrics. It is interesting to note that in days long past, ministers went to one community and stayed there for life. There was very little movement, except among Methodists, who had a strange tradition, called “connection,” where they were moved a lot.

Church executives, who do not see themselves as pastors and do not pay themselves as pastors, apply business metrics, the wrong metrics to the Christian ministry. That has been the downfall of many, and most pastors are oppressed by these false metrics.

The false metrics are numbers. How many are members, how many are attending each week, how fast is the church growing? Subtle ones are – how does the community view this church? How much esteem does this minister have in the eyes of his denomination? The apostates have declared to one and all, if the congregation is not growing, it is the minister’s fault. They have even more metrics. One sheet was sent to me. It was being used by WELS. It included such things as how the minister dressed. One circuit pastor threatened to leak it to me, for publication in Christian News. Soon after that he was pushed out of his congregation. That was years ago, when the Shrinkers were riding high.

These apostates are law-salesmen, as most readers or listeners  can tell. They have a law about everything, except themselves. They remain lawless. They do not care that their own metrics prove them to be worthless, expensive failures. Their answer is to silence and expel anyone who points this out. Not only that – they punish anyone who is aware of their apostasy, keeping many pastors away from any institutional influence while criminals, atheists, and dunderheads are promoted. As one Lutheran said, “When the dumbest person on campus is the college president, it is bad news.”

The Apostle had real opponents, whom we know through his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians. For that reason, Paul defined the ministry more carefully for us. We see the Holy Spirit at work, turning evil into a blessing. The opponents were his cross to bear, but God used this cross to define the Christian Church and its ministry for the entire world.

1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Paul I saying – This is how to measure me as a pastor/apostle. But he also says this – “as a steward of the mysteries of God.” (He perhaps uses “us” to include all ministers.) A steward is an interesting term, often used of rulers who held the throne when a king was not yet mature enough to reign. These royal stewards had to care for a country that was not their own. In the New Testament, “steward” is used as a term for the manager who works for the owner.

A manager is obliged to work on behalf of the owner. For example, I have to deal with repairmen who work on a house that belongs to someone else. They know they can work out some details with me, but the real authority is elsewhere.

In business, middle managers do not last long. My university boss (immediate superior) changes every two years. I ran into one of the owners, a billionaire. There is quite a difference between being a manager and an owner.

“Mysteries of God” is a perfect term for the doctrines revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. They are not arrived at through logic or knowledge. There is some natural knowledge of God, which we can observe from Creation. However, the Holy Trinity is revealed by the Scriptures and defined by the Scriptures – nowhere else. The Bible rules over all books. No one has the freedom to re-define Christian doctrine, so the Real Presence is a mystery of God, not something to accept or reject. Clearly, when people begin rejecting one of the mysteries of God, they end their journal by rejecting everything. The cause is most likely a change in attitude toward the Word of God. As soon as they think, “This must be logical,” they are on their way out.

The trouble with logic is that it is man’s logic, which is often very weak, even by our own standards. People laugh at old predictions, such as, “We will never need more RAM in a computer than this – 1 meg.” (Bill Gates) Supposedly, one man thought aircraft had achieved the zenith of science when a man could stand up straight in the plane. This use of man’s logic has no end, once we start. How does someone submit prayer to logic? The Incarnation is clearly revealed in the Word of God, but if it were logical (on man’s part) wouldn’t every religion have the same doctrine?

Paul teaches us that there is only one way to measure the ministry –

2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Managers have to carry out their duties as they are told by the owners. This verse clearly teaches that “success” is faithfulness, not numbers.

Anyone who uses another calculation is wrong. Strangely, many ministers point to examples of suffering, martyrdom, and working without apparent results as good examples. As long as these exemplars are in the past, the ministers mentioning them are happy. But they are not content to join their ranks.

The Old Adam in every minister wants comfort, approval, and security. It would not be “bearing the cross” if people welcomed hardship, disapproval, and insecurity. The trouble is that coveting sets in, and that leads to being unfaithful to the Word in order to generate success. That success may be advancement to a better, bigger congregation. It may be in attracting more people because nothing is expected of them. Willow Creek began in a movie theater with the leaders asking the community, “What do you want in a church?” They did whatever the people said, and so that principle of marketing worked for them. Can anyone imagine Paul asking the pagans what they wanted? It is too funny, yet those marketing experts quote Paul without blushing. I have seen it myself when I was at Willow Creek to observe and to eat at their food court.

The world’s largest church, they claim, is Paul Y. Cho’s in South Korea. He teaches the occult and ancestor worship. He was so bad that the Assemblies of God kicked him out. Is that being a faithful steward? And yet a WELS pastor I know brought a case of Cho books to one seminar and sold them to the participants.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

This is an important verse, because it warns ministers against judging themselves. By the standards of the world, most ministers are failures. They get little esteem from the community. Their pay is average. Many or most are in declining congregations. Using Church Growth metrics, their younger members are a small slice of the congregation, the elderly are the majority. Their denominations are likewise in the same state of decline, if measuring younger members is the gold standard.

Paul would have judged himself a failure, because he started congregations in many places, and those congregations were in a state of upheaval. He could have said to himself, “You are not much of a minister, because your teaching does not stick very well.”

The term tent-maker comes from Paul, because he worked as a tent-maker to relieve the Corinthians from supporting him. One way to be made fun of today is to be a tent-maker like Paul. It’s much better to roll up to the Kiwanis Club in a new BMW, say the invocation, and drop by the country club for a snack. Then people will say, “Rev. Jim Bob is sumpun else. He could be a success in anything he wanted to do.”

As Paul teaches, God alone is the one Who judges. No individual can justify himself (an interesting and illuminating use of “justify” – to declare innocent).

5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

The only possibility from this lesson is to be faithful to the Word of God and bear whatever hardship comes with that fidelity. As I pointed out to a pastor-friend, the entire world is disgusted with infidelity. No one likes a traitor to his country. No one likes someone who promises one thing (to be faithful) to his wife and runs around on her. But people do like infidelity to the Word. It is popular because there are no divine obligations when the Word is corrupted. There are no Satanic temptations when someone is already enrolled in his legions.

Does anyone stop to wonder, “Why should I take lessons in being a Lutheran pastor from a non-Lutheran minister who will NOT put a cross on the church building and will NOT put one in the worship area?”

This lesson sets pastors free to preach and teach the true Word of God. We cannot even torment (or praise ourselves) with self-judgment. Only God can judge the results. But the Word of God assures us that His Word will bring His results, whatever they might be.

Luther put it this way – wherever the Gospel is preached,  death is conquered and new life begins. We live amid death (from unbelief) but the Gospel brings life.
There is no real life on earth without forgiveness, and the Gospel brings that forgiveness to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no eternal life except for that forgiveness, earned by Christ on the cross, distributed to us by the Means of Grace, received only through faith.

Sound Doctrine

"Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom [the entire Church of Christ], we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God's grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it; and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it, but, by the help of God's grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation, we have, in God's fear and with the invocation of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands."
Thorough Declaration, Of Other Factions and Sects, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1103.

"'If there ever was a strictly conservative body, it surely is the Missouri Synod. Nevertheless, this growth!...It is a mark of the pastors and leaders of the Missouri Synod that they never, aye, never, tire of discussing doctrine on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. That is one trait that may be called the spirit of Missouri. People who thus cling to doctrine and contend for its purity are of an entirely different nature from the superficial unionists who in the critical moment will declare five to be an even number. God will bless all who value His Word so highly.'"
(Dr. Lenski, Kirchenzeitung, May 20, 1922)
cited in W. A. Baepler, "Doctrine, True and False," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 515f.

"We should not consider the slightest error against the Word of God unimportant."
What Luther Says , An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 637.

"Error and heresy must come into the world so that the elect may become approved and manifest. Their coming is in the best interests of Christians if they take the proper attitude toward it. St. Augustine, who certainly was sufficiently annoyed by wretched sectaries, says that when heresy and offense come, they produce much benefit in Christendom; for they cause Christians industriously to read Holy Scriptures and with diligence to pursue it and persevere in its study. Otherwise they might let it lie on the shelf, become very secure, and say: Why, God's Word and the text of Scripture are current and in our midst; it is not necessary for us to read Holy Scripture."

What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 639.

“You cannot of a truth be for true doctrine without being unalterably opposed to false doctrine. There can be no 'positive theology' where the God-given negatives have been eliminated from the Decalog."
Norman A. Madson, Preaching to Preachers, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1952. Preface.

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