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December 20, 2015
I know my sin is forgiven, I get it! But I fall short no matter how hard I try to keep my full armor of God on. This happens in one part of my life, is this the devil after me, because I feel like he pumps into my body, then I feel like crap and spend the rest of my day in repentance and not understanding why, cause that wasn’t me. 

I’d be careful to assign credit to the devil for something that leads you to repentance and recognize your need for Christ. Human beings, even ones who are generally under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit, are capable of great evil. The sins we commit make us not only “get” our need for forgiveness, but lead us to “feel” that very real need. That’s not to excuse our sins, but to illustrate the importance of remaining connected to Christ. It also points to the need for Christ to return and get rid of sin and the effects of sin for good. 

The reason why Christians still sin is because we live in this present evil age. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh are still given some room in which to operate. They have all been defeated by Christ, but they have not been annihilat-ed. They don’t call it the Church Caribbean Vacation; there’s a reason why it’s called the Church Militant. Remain connected to the vine, Jesus Christ, and he will sustain you through all of it. He has defeated sin and death and knows what it means to be tempted by the devil. Remain in him; his words and the sacraments, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.


December 13, 2015
What do we do when communion is offered when attending services at other than an LCMS congregation? 

This is a very good question! There is no one answer to this question as far as what you should do. Instead, there are a couple of truths to consider when you find yourself in this situation; reasons why you would want to commune (despite there being differences in faith) and reasons why you would not commune (despite knowing what is being offered in the bread and wine). 

You would commune in a congregation that believes differently from what you do because you really want what is being offered there: Christ’s body and blood, and you are willing to give the false impression of unity in order to receive it. You might do this if your conscience was particularly troubled with a specific sin, hard an extraordinarily rough week, or if you either had not or knew you would not be able to commune with like-minded Christians for an extended period of time. 

You would refrain from communing in a congregation that believes differently from what you do because you don’t want to give the impression of unity where is none; remaining in your seat as a silent protest against what you believe to be the false doctrine taught in that church. You know that you will be back with like-minded believers in a short period of time, and you are trusting that Christ has forgiven all your sins. 

In either case, it would be good to spend time during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper praying for true Christian unity and for our Lord Jesus to return quickly, that we might drink the fruit of the vine with him in his Father’s kingdom!


December 6, 2015

Was Judas sitting next to Jesus in the last supper—he dipped in oil/wine with Jesus? There’s actually a lot more to this question than meets the eye. Ultimately, we do not know the answer. At one point during the supper, Judas was close enough to Jesus that they were both able to dip into a bowl together. What Theologians wrestle with is whether or not Judas was in the room with Jesus when the Lord’s Supper was instituted. Those who argue for a more “open” com-munion try to prove that he was; whereas those who argue for a more “closed” communion try to prove that he was not. 

Will we eat and drink in heaven other than Lord’s Supper? If by heaven you mean after Christ returns, raises the dead and gives everlasting life to those who are in Him, then yes… I sure hope we will. There are many pictures of life in paradise that in-clude banquet feasts. If could be that these are metaphorical im-ages for joy, celebration and abundance. But even if that is the case, there would be more than enough food to go around. And if they are literal images, well then, bring your stretchy pants be-cause there will be plenty of the best of meats and the finest of wines to go around. 

What if a person is unable to examine if they are sick—or disa-bled—illness? This is a difficult question. Scripture says that in order to receive communion properly, a person should be able to examine them-self and discern the body. Can we say that those who are sick, who suffer from dementia, or who have diminished capacity, can-not do these things when they have previously demonstrated an ability and willingness to do so? More than that, it raises the ques-tion as to whether or not communion should be done on an indi-vidual basis, or if it should only be celebrated in a group (communal) setting.

 


November 29, 2015
Q: How old was Jesus when he went to God? 
A: This is a good question, Bradyn.  We do not know exactly how old Jesus was when he went to God.  (If by “he went to God” you mean when he died or as-cended into heaven.)  The best estimates say that he was somewhere between 30 and 33 years old, a young man by today’s standards.

  
Back in Jesus’ day, the average lifespan for a person was a lot shorter than it is today.  Today, people regu-larly live into their 80’s, and even living into your 90’s is not uncommon.  What made the average lifespan so short in Jesus’ day was infant mortality (dying young).  If you made it out of your early childhood years, it was not uncommon to live into your 60’s or even 70’s.  So even though the average lifespan of a person was shorter than it is today, it would have been uncommon for a man, having survived infancy, to die in his early 30’s.

October 28, 2015
Office of the Keys: “…withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant…”
Jesus: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
Please comment.

Jesus also said things like “You therefore must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:47). And“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven….  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:21, 23).  And “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; the will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).  

The point is that context matters.  The words Jesus speaks from the cross are the words Jesus speaks from the cross.  He has the authority to forgive the sins of anyone for any reason at any time.  In other places, Jesus turns people away.  In other places, he teaches people to cut off hands and gouge out eyes to prevent them from continuing in sin.  He then goes on to say that those who refuse to repent should be removed from the church (Matthew 18).  St. Paul says that those who persist in sexual sin should be excluded from the fellowship of the church (1 Corinthians 5).  And Paul mocks those who think that salvation by grace gives license to sin in both Galatians and Romans.  John writes in 1 John 1 that those who refuse to acknowledge their sin (let alone repent) do not have the truth in them and make Christ out to be a liar. 

We have not been given permission to speak forgiveness in the name of Jesus to people who call themselves Christians, but who refuse to acknowledge or repent of their sins.  May Christ find a way to forgive them?  Yes.  Maybe.  But we do how have authority to proclaim forgiveness to people who call themselves Christians who claim not to need it.  


October 25, 2015
How do you explain 1 John 3:6-10 in relation to 1 John 1:8-10, and in relation to Confession & Absolution? 

The texts being considered are: 

1 John 1:8-10
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we con-fess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all un-righteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 

1 John 3:6-10
"No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices right-eousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." 

On the one hand, 1 John 1:8-10 makes the claim that all Christians sin. On the other hand, 1 John 3:6-10 says that the one who sins is of the devil and has never seen or known Jesus. Wait. Does it really say that? Look closely. 1 John 3:6-10 says that those who keep on sinning, or who continues to sin or makes a practice of sinning can-not claim to be “of God.” And so, when taken together, 1 John 1:8-10 and 1 John 3:6-10 go together. There is a difference between sinning and continuing in sin. When I commit sin, I have an option: I can either confess my sins and receive forgiveness, re-pent, and amend my ways. Or I can sin again. And again. And again. And before you know it, I am now under the controlling influence of sin and have cut myself off from Christ and his righteousness. 

Sin is like a disease. It begins as a single act, word, or thought that disobeys God. But it must grow. It must spread out and consume more of its host if it is to stay alive. And like a disease, the earlier it is identified, the easier it is to treat. For exam-ple, gambling. Maybe it starts with going out with some friends to the Casino to have fun. You justify the $20 you lost on slots as the price of a good time out with friends. But you got the itch. And so you go back. Next time, it’s $50. The cycle re-peats. Maybe some days you come out ahead. But over the long term, the house al-ways wins. And you end up spending more and more time trying to win back all you lost and then you realize: you have a problem. Or maybe it’s the downward spiral of pornography, telling lies with greater frequency, or finding more and more excuses to avoid spending time with the family God gave you. Sin starts small—many times as a “grey area,” but, left unchecked, it grows and spreads and results in destroying your faith in Christ and moves you out from under the controlling influence of the Holy Spir-it. This is why it is important to confess our sins to a faithful and just God who will for-give our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness; who alone has the power to de-stroy the power of the disease of sin in our lives.

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October 12, 2015
I still don’t fully understand baptism.  It links us with Christ and should be taken seriously, but it is not necessary for salvation and does not save us—faith does.  You can be baptized and still resist the gift of Christ to lose salvation. 

I’m not sure I “fully understand” baptism either.  I did my Senior Research Paper in college on studying what different denominations believe about baptism.  It was alarming and disappointing how no two Christian groups agreed on what baptism is, who it is for, how it should be done, and what it does.  I tried to cover where I think people tend to generally go wrong when it comes to baptism with the “Rookie Mistake” portion of the sermons over the last four weeks (linking the baptism of John with the one commanded by Jesus; taking descriptive passages of Scripture prescriptively; claiming to be baptized a denomination instead of into Christ; and not taking the promises God made to you when you were baptized seriously).  What I was not able to do was expose the roots of the mistakes people make when it comes to their understanding of baptism, choosing instead to focus on the visible fruit.  For example: the belief of some in something called “soul liberty” results in their not baptizing infants.  Another example: the sacramental semi-pelagianism of others prevents them from accepting the absolute promises Scripture connects to baptism.  In other words, there are presuppositions many in the church have that cause them to not take the promises God makes (and that Scripture teaches) about baptism seriously.  The result is confusion.  (Not helping matters in Lutheran circles is a lack of understanding amongst many of our clergy and an inability to simply teach what the Bible says about Baptism.  But that’s a story for another day.)

On the one hand, baptism is not necessary for salvation.  God is able to save you without baptism. 

On the other hand, baptism connects of to Christ and therefore is used by God to save us.  The question is not a matter of what a person must do to be saved, but seeing from Scripture ways in which God has promised to save us (by connecting us to Christ). Baptism is one of those ways.  That being said, you are absolutely right in saying that those who are baptized can deny what God has done for them in baptism; they can reject the gift.  In the same way we can hear the gospel proclaimed, or read about it in the Bible and say, “no.  Not for me.”  This is unbelief.  And unbelief condemns. 

I hope this is helpful.  I know baptism is a hard topic.  But, as you continue to learn and grow in your faith, the key is simply to read Scripture: what does the Bible say baptism does?  Trust that, praise God, and live your life with the confidence and joy that comes from knowing that you have been baptized into Christ!. 


October 11, 2015
If we can baptize infants with a promise to teach, why do we typically teach an adult about baptism before actually baptizing them?  Would it not be better to baptize sooner?

·      Scripture does not require us to do one before the other; it leaves that up to logical and reasonable discretion.  There are examples in Scripture of adults being baptized after a period of teaching.  The question you raise is a good one, however: how much teaching should one receive before being invited to be baptized?  I could see why it would be good to invite a person to be baptized after covering the basics of the faith, but not waiting until all of the new-member or adult catechesis took place. 


Also why would the unbaptized children be at eternal risk w/out baptism?  There is a passage that states, “those who believe and are baptized will be saved.”  However, I thought baptism was not necessary for salvation.

  • The passage you are referring to is Mark 16:16.  Jesus is speaking these words, and the entire verse read: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  There are a couple of issues with this text that make its relevance in a discussion about baptism difficult (but as you will see, not impossible). 
  • First, this text is from the second half of Mark 16.  The earliest and most reliable manuscripts we have of Mark do not contain this verse.  Many believe that it was added later, and not part of the inspired original.  So there is a good reason to question whether we treat this text as authoritative at all to begin with.  Let’s assume that we agree with those who say that this text was part of the inspired original text and that it is authoritative..  We still have to figure out what it means.  Which brings us to our second issue with the text.
  • Second, this text makes a positive statement about baptism, but not a negative one.  If one believes… will be saved.  Whoever does not believe will be condemned.  Whoever… is baptized will be saved.  But, unlike “belief,” there is no corresponding negative statement about what happens to someone who is not baptized.  You can draw two very different conclusions from this.  First, you could say that the clear meaning of the passage is that a lack of belief or baptism condemns; Mark is simply using shorthand in the second half of the verse, and “or is not baptized” is clearly implied.  On the other hand, you could say that “or is not baptized” is omitted because it is only unbelief, not a lack of baptism, that condemns.  So, which one should we choose?  I think, when you look at the totality of Scripture, you do not come away with the clear teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation.  Therefore, I am more likely to side with those who say that “or is not baptized” is not implied and it is only those who do not believe who are condemned.  (However, I also believe that the original Gospel of Mark did not include this passage to begin with, so a discussion about what it means is not as important as some suggest.) 
  • Children who are not baptized are “at risk” because there is no concrete point in time of which we can say: “here is where God delivered the goods won by Christ in his death and resurrection to this child.”  Can God create faith outside of baptism?  Absolutely!  But why would we want to withhold the gifts he gives in baptism simply because we know he is not limited to baptism?  This would be like if you were really looking forward to getting a package in the mail.  And when the day comes, you do not answer your front door when the mailman is delivers the package because you know he knows about the back door to your house. 

What about parents of children who were never baptized, these children had no example from their parents, never taken to church.  Maybe never hear the Gospel.  What happens if they die and were never baptized?

  •  There are a couple of questions here.  First: what about parents of children who were never baptized?  I would say there are doing their children a tremendous disservice.  Think of it this way: in the Christian Church there are two main beliefs when it comes to baptism.  First, there is the belief that God does something good for us in baptism.  People who believe this also believe infants should be baptized.  Second, there is the belief that we are doing something in getting baptized; we are publicly professing our faith in Christ, or some such thing.  People who believe this generally do not baptize infants.  So here’s what I would ask parents with unbaptized children: if baptism is something we do for God and you get your child baptized, they can still ask to be rebaptized later and do their thing for God.  You aren’t hurting anything.  But if God does something in baptism, you are hurting your child by not having him or her baptized as soon as possible! 
  • The second question is: what happens to children who die and were never baptized?  It’s an uncomfortable question to ask, isn’t it?  I’m not going to play God and decide the fate of every unbaptized deceased child here on this post.  Realizing that children die every day without the benefit of baptism or hearing the gospel of Jesus should not get us to question to the grace or sovereignty of God; it should cause us to grieve and then get about the business of sharing the good news of Jesus. 

Why do Baptists believe it’s a sin to baptize a baby?

  •  The “Material Principle” of most Baptists is something known as “soul liberty.”  They say that individuals are responsible for spiritual matters pertaining to themselves; that no one can interfere with what you believe, or matters of conscience.  This is why Rhode Island, the first American colony to practice religious toleration, was founded by Baptists.
  • Baptists believe that Baptism is something a person chooses to do as a response to the Gospel as an act of obedience demonstrating their faith in and commitment to Christ.  But the REASON they believe this is because they have ruled out the involuntary baptism of infants as encroaching on the little one’s “soul liberty.”  In other words, they do not believe we have the authority to choose for someone else that they will be baptized. 
  • Some of the consequences of adhering to this belief are that anyone who was baptized as an infant needs to be re-baptized as an adult and that baptism becomes something we do for God, not primarily something he does for us.