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The Son of Man Has Authority …

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But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” – Luke 5:24, ESV

… the Son of Man has “authority” …  The Pharisees who challenged Jesus were thinking (correctly) in their heart: “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (5:21).  And yet, Jesus states that HE has the authority to forgive sins.  This statement is a challenge for folks who say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  But it really wasn’t that challenging for the Pharisees and Jews who heard Him say it – they charged Him with blasphemy and wanted to kill Him for His claim that He could do something that only God could do. You can decide for yourself what Jesus meant by this claim to be the Son of Man, and to have the authority to forgive sins.

Further, on this topic of “authority” – consider these additional texts from Scripture:

All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” (Luke 4:36)

And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18).

One amazing thing for us Lutherans to consider, however, is that when it comes to forgiving sins, Jesus has now given that authority to His Church, when He says:

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

So as Marin Luther says in the Small Catechism, in answer to the question “What is confession?”  “when we confess our sins … and receive absolution, that is forgiveness, from the pastor” it is “as from God Himself.”

We still recognize that only God can forgive sins.  But as a called and ordained servant of God, and by His command and authority, I pronounce the forgiveness of sins that God has already granted, and Jesus has already spoken from the cross, when He said “It is finished!”

In Him,

Pastor Augie.

The ABC’s of Salvation

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You can find the “ABC’s of Salvation” in a variety of forms on the internet.  What’s below is how I preached them at the end of my message on Easter Sunday, 2014.  I’ve tried to present these in a way that acknowledges some of our Lutheran distinctives.

A. Admit that you need God.

Some of you are just trying to do life without God.  You think you’ve “got this” all by yourself.  How’s that working for ya?  If you haven’t already, you will encounter something in life that is going to break you and bring you to your knees and show you that you need someone stronger.  And more that that, you need someone better than you.  The Bible says …

No one is good—except God alone (Luke 18:19, NIV).

We know that’s true, because the Bible tells us …

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, NIV).

In other words, none of us is good enough to please God or earn eternal life on our own merit. We may not be as bad as the next guy, but the next guy’s not your standard.  God’s perfection is.  And you need to admit, that if it depends on you alone, you come up empty handed.  You need God.

B. Believe in him.

Jesus said …

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV).

You say, “that’s too easy!”  But why is it that we think that for something powerful to happen, it has to be all magical? – thank you Harry Potter.  We think we have to have the right skills, the right spell, the right supplies, before something dramatic can occur.  But we see a man in the OT cured of leprosy just because he believed enough to get off his horse and wash in the Jordan. (see 2 Kings 5, particular attention to v. 13)  So when Jesus tells Martha, “anyone who believes in me will live” … it’s so simple a child can do it, it’s so accessible that it’s available to everyone – yet it’s so powerful it saves lives.  Believe!

C. Be Cleansed/Claimed in the waters of Baptism.  

Jesus says plainly,

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”  (Mark 16:16, NIV).

But baptism is more than a ritual.  It’s not about something you do, but about something God is doing TO you… It’s about Him placing His Name on you and claiming you as His child, and cleansing you of your sin.

How can a little water do such powerful things?  There’s that faith-thing again.  But the One who told us to be baptized, is also the One who rose from the grave, and is also the One who says – give me your hard heart, and I will give you a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), and make you a new creation!  The old has gone the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Name of God, the forgiveness of sins, a fresh start and a new heart that is restored to God… all of that is yours in Baptism!

So what are you waiting for?  Do you still have questions?  I’d love to hear your comments and questions – just click “comment” on this blog, or send me an email.  And if you’re ready to be baptized – that’s great!  Come to Redeemer by the Sea, or find a Bible-believing church, where the Word is preached in its purity and Truth, and the Sacraments are rightly administered, and ask about baptism.  Let me know how I can help you in your spiritual journey.  May you respond to the Lord’s invitation… Come!

In The Name of Jesus!

– Pastor Augie.

Were You There …

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our sins have died with Christ ...

our sins have died with Christ … Good Friday at Redeemer’s “Crosses of Calvary” display

At last night’s Good Friday service, we all “laid our sins” on the cross of Jesus Christ.  There they were put to death with Him!

His blood became your blood as He died to take the punishment you deserved … and I deserved … and the whole world deserved.  Why? … Because He loves you.  How? … Because He is the Son of God.  Only His Blood has this power – to do what no other blood could ever do.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

Now as we wait for Easter Sunday, we wait patiently with hope – because we know the end of the story!  Jesus does not stay dead …

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime” – Martin Luther

… and neither will you and I!  Look around you – flowers are coming to bloom.  Seeds are sprouting to life.  They were lying dormant in the ground, only to burst forth in beauty and splendor!

It is so fitting that Easter is in Spring.  What a great reminder that Christ’s death … and our death too! … only looks like it’s the end.

May you be filled with hope as you await the Resurrection!

Only by God’s grace,

Pastor Augie.

“I Have Done No Wrong … “

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Since we are in Holy Week, the Psalm reading in the Life Journal for April 17th, struck me to be applicable to Jesus’ Passion (i.e. His suffering and journey to the cross) …

I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
  (Psalm 59:4)

Doesn’t this remind us of Our Lord, Jesus?  In His perfection, He was attacked and sent to the cross for our sins.

And the Psalmist’s crying out in anguish, “Arise to help me; look on my plight!” sounds much like Jesus’ plea in the Garden at Gethsemane, “if it be your will, Father, may this cup pass me by” (Luke 22:41-43) … and again from the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

May your “triduum” (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter) be filled with thoughts of reflection, penitence, and ultimately … joy!

Contemplating Christ’s sacrifice with you,

Pastor Augie.

A Switch and a Dimmer

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Switch and Dimmer image

Illustration of Justification and Sanctification

A while back an image formed in my mind that I thought would be helpful in illustrating an important theological concept.  The image is that of an electrical circuit; one containing both a switch and a variable resistor.  The theological concept that it illustrates is that of the distinction between “justification” and “sanctification.”

People, even theologians, often confuse the two.  This can be frustrating at best, or at worst it can obscure God’s gift of salvation.  This simple electrical concept makes a good analogy because you’ve likely seen it at work already in your own home.  A variable resistor is known in more common terms as a “dimmer switch.”  Whereas a simple switch only allows you to turn a light on or off, a dimmer allows you to make your lights bright or dim to your liking.   How can this example from electronics help illustrate the theological concepts of justification and sanctification?  To understand, let’s turn to the Bible …

  1. The act of God forgiving a person who has sinned, by their faith in the righteous life, suffering and death of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) on their behalf is called “justification.” Read Romans 3:22-24. It clearly states that we all fall into this category, but it is God’s grace alone through the work of Jesus Christ that entitles us to be saved-or as the NIV text reads, “justified.” Romans 4:5 and Ephesians 2:8-9 further clarify that this justification is not based on any worthiness or merit of our own (see also Romans 3:28, Galatians 3:3). How the electrical circuit analogy helps us better understand this concept of justification is this: just as a simple switch is either on or off, so a person is either saved or condemned (Mark 16:16). There is no middle ground. Just as a woman cannot be only “somewhat pregnant,” we cannot only be “partially saved.”  This means, that their is nothing for us to add to our salvation, nor can we weaken it by our sins.
  2. It is important to note that the act of justification is not to be confused with the process of “sanctification.” Whereas justification (also referred to as salvation or conversion) is a one-time completed action, sanctification is an ongoing process. The Apostle Paul, as sanctified as he was, acknowledged that he had not attained perfection (Philippians 3:12); none of us ever will during this life. We can, however, strive to become more Christ-like in our actions (Philippians 3:10). This process is called sanctification. Sanctification can be stated in simple terms as “the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life” (Titus 3:5). Or, put another way, “my demonstration of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’” (Galatians 5:22-23). While our justification is not dependent upon us (Acts 16:31), mankind is entirely capable of embracing or resisting the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (John 14:15). It is our “resistance” to the Holy Spirit’s work that is represented by the dimmer!  You can think of it this way: the “light” of the Holy Spirit in your life is on because of your justification.   How brightly it shows in your life, however, is determined by how much you welcome or resist the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).  In electrical terms, a bright light meets with little resistance from the dimmer switch, whereas a dim light encounters a high measure of resistance.

Now what does this mean for you? It means that because your salvation (justification) is dependent only upon the completed work of Jesus Christ, you need never fear that your earthly life and deeds are not good enough to get you into heaven!  John 3:16 says nothing about our works. Furthermore, you have the assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). You are secure.  And your ability to profess (and believe) “Jesus is Lord,” shows that you have the Holy Spirit in you (1 Corinthians 12:3).  This gift of salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then creates a life change in you that compels you to live according to God’s commands (Psalm 119:41-48).

It is great news that the Lord loves you just as you are (Romans 5:8)!  … But He loves you too much to leave you just as you are.  The Father justifies the sinner through His Son, and sanctifies the spiritually re-born “saint” (one made holy in Christ) through His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit in you will continually work to conform you to the image of His Son Jesus until that day He calls you home!

If you want to better understand justification, sanctification, or the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, send me an email, give me a call, or stop by on Sunday!

In His Holy Name,

Pastor Augie

John 3:16 – The Greatest Story Ever Told

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For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,
So loved – and longed to see forgiven,
The world – in sin and pleasure mad,
That he gave – the only Son he had,
His only Son – to take our place,
That whosoever – Oh, what grace,
Believeth – placing simple trust,
In Him – the righteous and the just,
Should not perish – lost in sin,
But have everlasting life – in HIM.

I referenced this poem in a recent sermon.  It is very fitting for our Lenten contemplation and preparation.  Not only is it poetic, but it captures the simplicity and essence, and yet the power and profound nature of each phrase within the well known, and much loved, John 3:16.  I do not know who the original author is, but I found it in a sermon entitled “John 3:16 – The Greatest Story Ever Told” by preacher Joseph Wallis.

May we recognize and appreciate the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus, which opened to us the gates and glory of Heaven!

In Christ’s Name,

Pastor Augie.

Does the Bible Say There’s Life After Death?

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Q: A loved one, who is nearing death, asked me if the Bible actually says there is life after death. Where in the Bible does it say that we will live forever after our death on earth?

A: The first is perhaps the most obvious and well known John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 5:13 is probably my favorite: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Not just because it tells of eternal life, but it gives the confidence in salvation not based on our works, but simply believing in the name of the Son of God!
The 23rd Psalm is really popular at funerals, not just because of the wonderful imagery of green pastures and quiet waters, but because of the last verse (23:6) which reads, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

We’re in the season of Lent right now, so these words of Jesus from the cross, as he was dying, to the thief dying at his side, state very strongly that there is life after death: “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23:43)

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he told Lazarus’ sister Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

So you see, the Bible speaks very clearly about the reality of life after death.  It holds out MUCH PROMISE for those who believe in Jesus. (Not just that they’ve been good, or tried really hard, or are a “spiritual person.”)  Because it is also very direct about the fate of those who reject Jesus:

Right after John 3:16 & 17 which give hope, comes this stern warning in verse 18: “but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

People mistakenly think that when you die, that’s the end.  But that is not the case.  1 Thessalonians 4 16-17 tells us “for the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. “

This was meant to be an encouragement to the disciples, because of their faith.  But Jesus himself warns in Matthew 25 that after we meet the Lord in the air, comes judgment …

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.…  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Jesus also says in John 14:6“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So there is much hope for the believer in eternal life, but a warning for those who do not believe in Jesus to put their trust in Him!  You might ask your family member if he has been baptized, and then simply give him this promise from the Bible: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).  If he believes, but doubts His faith, remind him that even weak faith isn’t no faith.  And to let Jesus be his strength when he is weak.  And to put his trust in Jesus.  Even the thief on the cross was received into heaven with a life of sin, but a repentant heart!

May God bless you as you minister to others with the clear hope from Scripture that we are promised eternal life with God through Jesus Christ!

In His Name,

Pastor Augie.

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