Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coffee and the Gospel

I was drinking coffee today, not an uncommon thing. My first cup was the good 'ole Reformers Roast. It's a strong coffee with a good full flavor. Since I didn't want to be wired for the entire afternoon, my second cup was Colombian Decaf. It tasted really good too, but I began to think to myself,
"Hmm, this is hot like coffee. It smells like coffee. And by golly it even tastes like coffee. But is it really coffee?"
Now you may disagree with me, but in my opinion it had lost it's right to call itself coffee. It is not as it should be. The caffeine which made up what it was, was missing. Decaf is not coffee, even though it smells and tastes like it is.

Why do I bring this up? Well, in too many churches today - and you can see it everywhere - we hear about the Gospel. Now what does the Gospel look like? The first and most important is that it always focuses around the birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the heart and soul of the Gospel.

Yet, there are other things that are present often when the Gospel is heard, the Word of God Himself in the bible. Often, there is great ceremony. In most instances there is music of some sort which is accompanied along with the proclamation of the Gospel. Many times there is actual heartfelt emotion which is produced from the hearing of the sweet Gospel itself. There are many things which often accompany the Gospel of Jesus Christ which brings salvation.

But now I ask the question, is everything that is called Gospel, really Gospel? Just as in Decaf coffee is not really coffee. So neither is the Gospel really the Gospel if the atoning work of Jesus Christ is left out. If the Gospel becomes deJesus-ed, then the Gospel is not really the Gospel anymore.

You can see men waving the bible around in their hands, but does that mean what they are reading from that bible is always the Gospel? You can have great ceremony, but just because there is great ceremony is the Gospel necessarily present? You can have great music, Bach or Thousand Foot Krutch, but does that mean the Gospel is always present along with that music? Pleasant heartfelt emotions that are present, are they always borne out the Gospel? All these things can be present, but without the message of Justification in Christ Jesus, is the Gospel message still the Gospel message?

Or do the things, which cause you to taste and feel like the Gospel is present, simple provide the illusion that the Gospel is there? Just as decaf coffee is not coffee without the caffeine, so also are the things which look like the Gospel not the Gospel without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Lord, help us to always look to you. Keep us steadfast in Your True Word of Salvation in Jesus Christ.

+Kyrie Eleison+

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christ is Arisen! Alleluia!

He is not here! He is Risen!

Why does Easter bring so much joy? The answer can only be found looking back.

When we look back from Easter we see what Jesus went through. We see the death of Christ. We see Him hanging on the tree in bloody and sweaty agony. We see Him carrying His cross forward from Jerusalem to Golgotha. We see Him being sentenced by the crowd saying, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” We see Him being beaten and whipped within an inch of His life. We see Him being spit upon and slapped around. We see Him being taken and bound. We see Him also crying in agony from the garden, that the cup of God’s wrath be taken from Him. We see Him being cruelly attacked by the Pharisees and Sadducees. We see Him being challenged by demons. We see Him being rejected in His hometown of Nazareth. We see Him being tempted by Satan himself. We see Him bearing our sins in His baptism. We see Him being plotted against even as a little child. We see Him finally born in the flesh as a man.

This was the road that Jesus chose. This was the road He chose to walk. Did the Son of God deserve any of this? Certainly not! Yet, in order to save man, He walked this road of suffering His whole life long until His death.

If we look back upon our own lives, there is pain and suffering. Everyone has lost a loved one. If you haven’t then you will. Everyone has seen the sufferings of a fallen world, be it through a bad economy, or through warfare, or through drought or flood. Pain and suffering is a constant companion throughout our lives. And even more so we have made poor choices. We have sinned against our neighbor time and time again. If not in deed, then by word. If not by word, then in thought. If not by thought, then our own sinful corrupt nature sinned all the more keeping our eyes off the One True God. Our lives are filled with pain which indeed we ourselves can create as well. Yet, at the same time, there is nothing we can do about it. The corruption is too deep. The pain is too real. Any belief that we can change it substantially by ourselves is only a mere illusion. We were stuck in this world, and, believe Jesus, we were content with our sinfulness, though it drove us to destruction.

But then again, that is why Christ came, that He might walk that road for us. And walk that road He did. For, we have looked back on the road He chose to walk. The path that was ours leading to destruction, to our death and eternal death. Yet, now this morning we see the end! Christ is Risen from the grave. He has paid for our sins. He has released us from all guilt. He has set us free from our bondage to sin. He has stayed the Fathers wrath. He has declared us righteous in His resurrection.

Brothers, in this life the road that Christ walked still lays before us. For we as sinful men must still suffer, we must still have trial and temptation come against us. And we will falter on this road. We will stumble. We will fall. We may even break our back and our necks in each fall. Yet, Christ has walked the road. Christ has completed the journey. And as Christ has completed the journey, so also shall Christ raise you again to continue your walk on this sorrowful road. And when you come to life’s end, you shall die as Christ died. You shall be struck down by the very sin that corrupts your nature. Yet, you will not remain dead. For Christ, has walked the road of death as well and has overcome it.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

You have been baptized into Christ. What does this mean for you? It means that as you walk through this evil of tears, through this valley of the shadow of death that is life, you have the assurance that all your sufferings are not without purpose and are not without end. For you know the end. Christ has walked the road to cavalry for you, and there is no longer death, but life at the end of the road. Christ has arisen and so shall you with Him. For you have life in Him.

This is why Easter is such a blessed and wonderful day. For when we look back at our lives, they are all clouded and tainted with evil and sin. Yet, Christ has undone it all. Christ has covered it all, because He loves you. So, rejoice this Easter day! And again, I say rejoice your whole life long. For your road is paved. Christ is with you on the way. And the end is life eternal. Alleluia! Amen.

+Christe Eleison+