Pul­pit Notes

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

What’s a Lutheran?

Eph­e­sians 2: 8- 10 If I had a nickel for ev­ery time I’ve heard that ques­tion, I’d have at least $ 4.85. OK, I re­al­ize that that isn’t ex­actly how the say­ing goes, but I hear that ques­tion a lot. “ What is a Lutheran?” The an­swer to that could be as con­cise as, “A Lutheran is some­one who trusts in Je­sus’ life, death, and res­ur­rec­tion for their sal­va­tion and doesn’t back down or make ex­cuses for any­thing God’s word says.” Or the an­swer could take way more words than I’m al­lowed on this page.

I write about this ques­tion to­day be­cause this Sun­day was Ref­or­ma­tion Sun­day, the day we re­mem­ber Martin Luther’s stand for God’s word against the cor­rup­tion of the church of which he had been a faith­ful son. At least he was un­til they told him they didn’t want to dis­cuss God’s word with him any­more and kicked him out. You see, he wouldn’t budge. He couldn’t sup­port things like sell­ing the for­give­ness of sins ( no mat­ter how much cash it brought in) un­til he was shown where the Bi­ble taught that. It doesn’t, so he didn’t. And be­cause of that com­mit­ment to God’s word no mat­ter what — I’m a Lutheran.

So what does it mean to not back down from the Bi­ble? Well, what we call the “ Watch­words” of the Ref­or­ma­tion might help an­swer that. In Latin, they are “ Sola Gra­tia. Sola Fide. Sola Scrip­tura.” For us, that’s “ Grace alone. Faith alone. Scrip­ture alone.” In other words, when it comes to what we do, we’re agree­ing with what Paul says in our text, and what God says through­out scrip­ture: “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from your­selves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s work­man­ship, cre­ated in Christ Je­sus to do good works, which God pre­pared in ad­vance for us to do” ( Eph­e­sians 2: 8- 10).

You see, our nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion, our heart’s de­sire is to find some way to take credit for our sta­tus with God, whether it was a choice we made or a good­ness we had. No. God’s word is clear. We are saved by grace ( that free, un­de­served gift from God) alone.

And our nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tion, our hu­man pride wants to add some of the good things we’ve done to the equa­tion, some­how, even if it is just a cer­tain quota af­ter we’ve come to faith. No. Paul says it is “ not by works, so that no one can boast.” Our sal­va­tion comes to us through faith alone.

Then, of course, we hu­mans like to stand up and try to fig­ure out how we think things would go bet­ter for us, and we nat­u­rally want to find a way to say what we want to hear. But no. Our con­fi­dence, our sal­va­tion, and our guide in life is purely what we find in scrip­ture alone.

Be­cause of those three “ alones,” we have con­fi­dence. I don’t have to de­pend on me. We can de­pend on God, our mighty fortress, who sent his son to take our place in pun­ish­ment. Let’s rely on him alone. Pas­tor Jonathan E. Scharf Abid­ing Grace Lutheran


The Church of Thy­atira:

Then and Now

In Reve­la­tion, chap­ters 2 and 3, there are seven let­ters to seven churches from Christ. To each church he had a mes­sage. He still does to­day.

The let­ter to the Church of Thy­atira is recorded in Reve­la­tion 2: 18- 29. Christ in­tro­duced him­self as the one who has eyes that are a blaz­ing fire and feet like bur­nished bronze, in­di­cat­ing his ul­ti­mate author­ity and judg­ment over ev­ery­one.

Christ was quick to com­mend the Church of Thy­atira for their works, love, faith, ser­vice, per­se­ver­ance, and their con­tin­ual growth.

How­ever, Christ was greatly trou­bled be­cause of a wo­man, sym­bol­ized by the name “ Jezebel,” who had in­fil­trated the church and was mis­lead­ing, cor­rupt­ing and caus­ing peo­ple to com­pro­mise with the pa­gan cul­ture, idol­a­try and im­moral­ity all around them. The church of Thy­atira was tol­er­at­ing this wo­man and her teach­ings, and for this, Christ sharply re­proved them.

In ev­ery age, there are those who in­fil­trate the church with mo­tives and agen­das very dif­fer­ent from that of Christ and his cause. We must care­fully guard against such de­cep­tion and dan­ger­ous peo­ple. One per­son can cor­rupt an en­tire church if left unchecked.

Christ had been more than mer­ci­ful to this wo­man and had given her time to re­pent, but she was con­tin­u­ing her di­vi­sive work in the church, so he said she would suf­fer great con­se­quences and would be cast on a bed of suf­fer­ing. Not only so, but also those who fol­lowed her teach­ings would be killed un­less they re­pented im­me­di­ately and changed their ways.

No one dam­ages Christ’s church with­out great peril to his own soul. Christ loves his church and takes per­son­ally those who do dam­age to it in any way.

To those in the Church of Thy­atira not in­volved in this, Christ gave them words of en­cour­age­ment to hold fast.

He also gave great prom­ise to those who would over­come and re­main faith­ful to the end, promis­ing them author­ity to rule the na­tions and that they would be given the morn­ing star, speak­ing of him­self.

We too, face the same temp­ta­tions at the Church of Thy­atira to com­pro­mise with our pa­gan cul­ture and al­low peo­ple to get into the church to un­der­mine and bring di­vi­sion from the true pur­pose of the gospel of Christ. We too, must guard against yield­ing to the temp­ta­tion of bow­ing to mod­ern- day idols.

Each of us needs to make sure we do not have the spirit of Jezebel but that we are fully sur­ren­dered to the plans and pur­poses of Christ for his church.

As with all seven of the let­ters, Christ closes with th­ese words: “ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” If Christ wrote a let­ter to you or your church to­day, what would he say? He is speak­ing. Are you lis­ten­ing? The Rev. Wayne Ruther­ford LifePointe Church of the


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