|Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
The Bible was written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ. When we choose to ignore or misinterpret certain passages, the other truths in God's Word become affected, as well. As St. Paul writes in Galatians 5:9, "A little yeast ferments the whole dough". Therefore, we cannot simply agree to only the so-called "fundamentals" and ignore the rest. For as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, showing what is wrong, improving and training in right living so that a man of God is ready and equipped for every good work".
The danger with false teachings, even if they appear to be minor, is that they can result in harming one's faith, and in some cases, even the loss of one's faith. When we put our trust in man's opinions rather than in God's sure word we can become like the man who built his house on the sand: "The rains poured down, the torrents came, the winds blew, and they dashed against that house. And it went down with a crash" (Matthew 7:27)
As pastor, I have ministered to countless people whose faith has been seriously damaged by false teachers. By far the most common of these false teachings is the belief that being a Christian will automatically exempt you from suffering. And so when they find themselves experiencing sufferings, they begin to question God and His Word. As Jack Felton and Stephen Arterburn have written in their book, Toxic Faith -"the expectation of an easy life from God has produced more agnostics and atheist than has any other false belief'.
The Bible never promises that believers would not experience hardships in this life.
Instead, God would use our sufferings to bring us closer to Him and give us a new perspective on life and a renewed trust in God along with the hope of heaven. And so we join the apostle Paul in rejoicing in our sufferings. As he writes in Romans 5:3-5, "More than that, we also feel proud of our sufferings. We know suffering stirs up the power to endure, and if we endure, we prove our strength, and if we prove our strength, we have hope. In this hope we're not disappointed, because the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us, poured God's love into our hearts".
The "prosperity gospel" and other false teachings prevent people from truly fully knowing of God's love for them, His marvelous grace in Jesus Christ, and the joy of their salvation. As a result many people do not truly know Jesus as revealed from God's Word. This has stunted their growth in faith and trust in God when He longs for them to "grasp how broad and long and high and deep love is, and know how Christ loves us - more than we can know - and so you will be filled with all that is in God" (Ephesians 3:18-19)
In the fairy tale, The Emperor Has No Clothes, all the people are afraid to point out that the King has no clothes on, not wanting to be ridiculed by the others. Until
finally, a little kid points out the obvious, "Hey, the King doesn't have any clothes on! He's just in his "fruit of the looms!" Similarly, God is asking us as to hold up the mirror of God's Word on what is being popularly taught in and outside of the visible church of today and say boldly, "The emperor has no clothes!" "Those teachings don't agree with God's Word!" "They're false!" "They're heresy!" Even if doing so means being called unloving, close-minded or "still living in the 20th century" (or even earlier).
This doesn't necessarily mean everyone that has a different confession than us aren't Christians. Thank God for what Lutheran theologians have called the "felicitous inconsistency" of those who err in following God's Word. For if peoplle were always logically consistent and thought all things through to the end, any error or false doctrine would utterly shatter their faith. We acknowledge that there is such a thing as objective truth and pray that the Holy Spirit would open us to that truth through the diligent study of God's Word. We are students of God's Word not just merelly for doctrinal purposes, but ultimately in order that we might really know whom Jesus Christ is in an intimate and loving way that He would want us to.
As a result of our diligence and faithfulness, our spiritual growth and walk with the Lord will be rich and deep, firmly rooted in the truths of God's Word, and not shallow as one who bases their faith upon the rocky soil of human opinions and whims of man! As Jesus explains after telling the parable of "The Sower": "But in another the seed is sown on good ground. He's one who continues to hear and understand the Word and so goes on producing good things, one a hundred, another sixty, and another thirty times as much as was sown" (Matthew 13:23).
As members of a Lutheran church, we follow our namesake Dr. Luther in taking a bold stand on God's Word in spite of the pressures around us to do otherwise. For to do otherwise is to be under the influence of Satan, who still uses the same trick he uSI3d on Adam and Eve to fool people into not following God's Word by saying, "Did God really say that?"
May all of us as God's people be more determined to know the real Jesus, as we open up God's sure Word and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us just what a loving and gracious God that He is! This will not only result in a maturity of our faith. It will also cause us to marvel and say, "No wonder they call Him Savior!!!"
I conclude by citing the following words of caution from 2 Peter 3:17-18: "Now you dear friends are warned. Be on your guard and don't let men without principles sweep you off your feet by their error. But grow in God's grace and in knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory now and forever. Amen".
Rev/Dr. Vernon E. Wendt Jr.
This year's Lenten Series will focus on John's 7 letters to the Churches found in the first two chapters of Revelation. The Book of Revelation was intended to be an encouragement to the Church. It alerted the faithful to the reality of ongoing persecution and yet reminded them of God's love for them in Jesus Christ and His Sovereignty. Above all, Revelation reminds us that through Jesus we are more than conquerors, no matter what we experience in this life. These letters were originally meant to be read aloud to the early Christians in Asia. Because they were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, these letters were and continue to be applicable to Christians in every place and time, including us, as members of Messiah Lutheran Church in !W15. We will focus on these churches as follows:
February 18th (Ash Wednesday) Church of Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7 February 25th, Church of Pergamum, Revelation 2: 12-17
March 4th, Church of Thyatira, Revelation 2:18-29
March 11th, Church of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)
March 18th, Church of Laodicia (Revelation 3:14-22)
March 25th, Churches of Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) and Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)
Worship begins at 7:00 preceded by a fellowship meal at 6:00 p.m. See you, there!
"You have ears; then listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. Be victorious, and I will let you. eat from the tree of life that stands in God's Paradise" (Revelation 2:7).
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