Step Seven – Engaging Others

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

ENGAGING – Step 7

 How do you define or describe an active disciple?

 How many people follow your news feed? 

John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

 When Philip encountered Jesus and discovered who He was, he immediately wanted to share it with his friend, Nathanael. Our desire to make disciples should stem from obedience, but also love for others—if we believe Jesus is who He says He is, we cannot be complacent.

Jesus-Andrew-Philip-jesus

According to a survey by The Institute for American Church Growth, family and friends are the main link for bringing others to faith in Christ with about 60% of those asked, “What person was it that led you to come to faith in Christ?”, reporting that it was a family member or friend.

Jesus says to each one of us. “Come!” This is how we are called to faith. We share the happiest events in our lives – births, graduations, promotions, awards, weddings, vacations with family and friends – and faith in Jesus Christ should be the most important celebration in our life because it changes everything!

The essential answer to all our questions about life is in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When we share this answer with others we are proclaiming, witnessing, and demonstrating engagement as an active disciple. We are modeling Philip by sharing the joy and excitement that comes with the peace and understanding about the perspective of life that is known through the gift of faith in Jesus. When we know who Jesus is and why He came into our civilization, the way we talk and live is changed.

witnessBeing an active disciple is sharing our lives with a friend and ice cream and coffee

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Step Six – Sharing Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

SHARING – Step 6 

Why is it necessary for someone to “hear” God’s Word? 

Technology supports disciples!

Romans 10:14–15. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

Paul highlights the importance of making disciples by pointing out that we believe in Jesus because someone shared the gospel with us. Making disciples stems from our own faith—which we have because someone shared the gospel with us.

Hearing God's Word

However, in keeping with his reading of Paul, Luther and other first-generation reformers wondered how anyone can hear the gospel without someone to proclaim it (Romans 10:14). Paul’s answer is that “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).

Luther highlights the significance of the preacher’s responsibility and asserts that the priesthood of all believers enables every Christian to proclaim God’s Word and the promise of salvation. The priesthood of all believers means that all Christians have access to Scripture and to God through Jesus Christ. It does not mean that just anyone should assume the preaching office. The preacher should be someone who has both natural abilities and a divine calling.

For Luther, there is a joining of Word and sacrament along with the benefits of Christ through the Spirit. Christ, through the Spirit, enters one’s heart through a voice and each person who hears the sermon and accepts it takes the whole Christ into his or her heart.

This presence of God through preaching is “as great a miracle as here in the sacrament.” Therefore, the Word preached is sacramental in nature, and serves as the basis for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What the Holy Spirit achieves through the preaching of the Word is nothing less than the work of salvation. Our salvation begins not with any work of our own but by hearing the Word of life.

The 21st century offers a variety of technologies for hearing the Word of God through media, podcasts, email, blogs, newsletters, and publications. The importance of preaching and speaking God’s Word to family, friends, colleagues, students, strangers is also shared through greeting cards, prayer partners, art and music. Active disciples are enabled by the Holy Spirit to nurture what is heard and experienced into a faith that guarantees salvation.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Some of the perspective of this post are taken from an article by Keith Stanglin, published by Pepperdine Digital Commons, 2004. https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1397&context=leaven

Step Five – Witnessing for Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 WITNESSING – Step 5

 Why do we need witnesses?

 Disciples provide us with information that is real truth!

Acts 1:8 “‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”

witness

A disciple is a witness who shares what he or she has learned and experienced about Jesus. A witness helps to determine the truth about an event. Disciples are witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that God’s Word as written in the Holy Bible is the truth. This fundamental fact defies reason which is why humans cannot understand or accept the resurrection, even with historical documentation. In fact, the people in Paul’s congregation in Corinth denied the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It can only be understood and accepted through faith. This is why Luther wrote

“But here you notice how Paul adduces Scripture as his strongest proof, for there is no other enduring way of preserving our doctrine and our faith than the physical or written Word, poured into letters and preached orally by him or others; for here we find it stated clearly; “Scripture! Scripture!”‘

The Lutheran Reformation is all about, the truth of God’s Word. Peter confessed his faith when Jesus asked him what he believed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Paul wrote, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Step Three – Called by Jesus

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Digital Disciples Series

 CALLING – Step 3

 Why did Jesus call you to be one of His disciples?

 I am Spiritually Empowered!

John 15:16 “‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.’”

Jesus chose His disciples for a purpose which is why we need to be connected to Him as branches are part of the vine. Through reading God’s Word, prayer, repentance, worship, and receiving the Lord’s Supper we mature and bear fruit. We were called to faith and baptized for a reason – to be a 21st century disciple!

Martin Luther explained that there were two realms in the universe, the realm of the flesh and the realm of the spirit, the secular and the religious, the regnum mundi and the regnum Christi, the things of the world and the things of God. The realm of the flesh included not only physical nature but also the fields of philosophy, mathematics, law, history, and what we call the social sciences, indeed the whole man and the whole world ‘apart from Christ’.

Our knowledge of history and life is limited by facts, empirical examples, and important lessons. The social sciences are not able to educate me as a spiritually empowered person because this comes through the study of God’s Word, reading, talking with friends, listening to sermons and podcasts, prayer, personal experiences, and life-changing situations.

A new perspective might be to understand contemporary discipleship as God calling us to become entrepreneurs in doing His business – which satisfy needs instead of wants. Each of us has been given spiritual gifts to use for this purpose. When we hear that God calls or chooses us, we believe. Because we know Jesus Christ, we have the gift of love! It is intimate, personal, and precious!

Imagine a world where people desire a relationship with Jesus as much as they desire a handbag, shoes, concerts or sports!

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Healing the Centurion’s Servant

How was it possible for the faith of the centurion to heal his servant? Do you agree or disagree with Martin Luther that alien faith needs to be rejected?

Luke 7:1-10: When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

JesusHealingCenturionServant

Healing the Centurion’s Servant by Paolo Veronese (1580)

Paolo Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter from Venice known for his historic and religious paintings. His challenge is to tell the story of the healing of the servant while focusing on the faith of the centurion. Two of the centurion’s helmeted soldiers are with their commander as Jesus compassionately gestures to the kneeling soldier. The large painting is at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Luther: Luther preached on the miracles of the healing of the lepers and the centurion’s servant on the Third Sunday after Epiphany in 1529. It is a remarkable message about faith without merit or works. The lepers call upon Jesus for mercy and healing and the faith of the centurion heals his servant. Yet, the gospels are clear that we are called to faith by the Holy Spirit and that the faith of one person does not save someone else. This will raise questions about the faith of infant and young children and prayers of a faithful parent for an unbelieving son or daughter. The question is does the faith of a parent save their child? “Now the question is, what becomes of the young children, seeing that they have not yet reason and are not able to believe for themselves, because it is written in Romans 10:17: “Belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Little children neither hear nor understand the Word of God, and therefore they can have no faith of their own.”

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s sermon in January 1529: “Herein is the great faith of this heathen that he knows salvation does not depend upon the bodily presence of Christ, for this does not avail, but upon the Word and faith. But the apostles did not yet know this, neither perhaps did His mother, but they clung to His bodily presence and were not willing to let it go, John 16:6. They did not cling to His Word alone. But this heathen is so fully satisfied with His Word, that he does not even desire His presence nor does he deem himself worthy of it. Moreover, he proves his strong faith by a comparison and says: I am a man and can do what I wish with mine own by a word; should not you be able to do what you wish by a word, because I am sure, and you also prove that health and sickness, death and life are subject to you as my servants are to me? Therefore also his servant was healed in that hour by the power of his faith.

Now since the occasion is offered and this Gospel requires it, we must say a little about alien faith and its power for many are interested in this subject, especially on account of the little children, who are baptized and are saved not by their own, but by the faith of others; just as this servant was healed not by his own faith, but by the faith of his master. We have never yet treated of this matter; therefore we must treat of it now in order to anticipate, as much as in us lies future danger and error.

First we must let the foundation stand firm and sure, that nobody will be saved by the faith or righteousness of another, but only by his own; and on the other hand nobody will be condemned for the unbelief or sins of another, but for his own unbelief; as the Gospel says clearly and distinctly in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” “The righteous shall live by faith.” And John 3:16-18: “Whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already.” These are clear, public words, that everyone must believe for himself, and nobody can help himself by the faith of others., without his own faith. From these passages we dare not depart and we must not deny them, let them strike where they may, and we ought rather let the world perish than change this divine truth. And if any plausible argument is made against it, that you are not able to refute, you must confess that you do not understand the matter and commit it to God, rather than admit anything contrary to these clear statements. Whatever may become of the heathen, Jews, Turks, little children and everything that exists, these words must be right and true.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Stoning of Stephen

The Stoning of Stephen and the Big Picture of Pentecost

How did Stephen’s faith give him the freedom to forgive his murderers in the pain of his violent death?

Acts 7: 54-60  54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stoning of Stephen-Rembrandt-1625

The Stoning of St. Stephen by Rembrandt, 1625

This is Rembrandt’s first painting with a biblical subject. Stephen was a member of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Stephen’s job was to care for Greek widows. “And according to Acts 6:8, Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”

A group of Jews became jealous. In front of the high priests they falsely accused Stephen. He defended himself with a long plea that ended with accusing the priests. Stephen claimed they did not uphold the law, and that they betrayed and killed those that announced the coming of the “Just One” who is Jesus Christ.

The crowd in the temple was infuriated and seized Stephen. Outside the city he was stoned to death. That made Stephen into the first Christian martyr: someone who died for the faith. The yet unconverted Saul (Paul) looked on with approval. (Acts 6, 7 and 8:1).

In the background to the right are the priests. In the top center members of the Christian community watch with fear and worry. Stephen wears a fine gown, common among the deacons in Rembrandt’s days. His last words were “lay not this sin to their charge”. The light that shines on Stephen’s face represents the sign that heaven saw all this happen. The man on horseback is probably Saul, the persecutor of Christians, who will soon take a trip to Damascus where he is converted to the Christian faith after being without sight for several days. His name is changed to Paul.

In the selected passages from Martin Luther’s sermon on St. Stephen’s Day, we discover how faith gives us freedom.

Do we need churches?

“There is no other reason for building churches than to afford a place where Christians may assemble to pray, to hear the Gospel and to receive the sacraments; if indeed there is a reason. When churches cease to be used for these purposes they should be pulled down, as other buildings are when no longer of use. As it is now, (1523) the desire of every individual in the world is to establish his own chapel or altar, even his own mass, with a view of securing salvation, of purchasing heaven. Let us, therefore, beloved friends, be wise; wisdom is essential. Let us truly learn we are saved through faith in Christ and that alone. This fact has been made sufficiently manifest.”

The Faith of Stephen

First, we see in Stephen’s conduct love toward God and man. He manifests his love to God by earnestly and severely censuring the Jews, calling them betrayers, murderers and transgressors of the whole Law, yes stiff necked, and saying they resist the fulfillment of the Law and resist also the Holy Spirit. More than that, he calls them “uncircumcised in heart and ears.” How could he have censured them any more severely? So completely does he strip them of every creditable thing, it would seem as if he were moved by impatience and wrath.

Stephen’s love for God constrained him to his act. No one who possesses the same degree of love can be silent and calmly permit the rejection of God’s commandments. He cannot dissemble. He must censure and rebuke everyone who opposes God. Such conduct he cannot permit even if he risks his life to rebuke it. Love of this kind the Scriptures term “zelum Dei,” a holy indignation. For rejection of God’s commands is a slight upon his love and intolerably disparages the honor and obedience due him, honor and obedience which the zealous individual ardently seeks to promote. We have an instance of such a one in the prophet Elijah, who was remarkable for his holy indignation against the false prophets.

Stephen’s conduct is a beautiful example of love for fellowmen in that he entertains no ill-will toward even his murderers. However severely he rebukes them in his zeal for the honor of God, such is the kindly feeling he has for them that in the very agonies of death, having made provision for himself by commending his Spirit to God, he has no further thought about himself but is all concern for them. Under the influence of that love he yields up his spirit. Not undesignedly does Luke place Stephen’s prayer for his murderers at the close of the narrative. Note also, when praying for himself and commending his spirit to God he stood, but he knelt to pray for his murderers. Further, he cried with a loud voice as he prayed for them, which he did not do for himself.

Who can number the virtues illustrated in Stephen’s example? There loom up all the fruits of the Spirit. We find love, faith, patience, benevolence, peace, meekness, wisdom, truth, simplicity, strength, consolation, philanthropy. We see there also hatred and censure for all forms of evil. We note a disposition not to value worldly advantage nor to dread the terrors of death. Liberty, tranquility and all the noble virtues and graces are in evidence. There is no virtue but is illustrated in this example; no vice it does not rebuke. Well may the evangelist say Stephen was full of faith and power. Power here implies activity. Luke would say, “His faith was great; hence his many and mighty works.” For when faith truly exists, its fruits must follow. The greater the faith, the more abundant its fruits.”

hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Jesus Prayed for His Disciples

Jesus Prayed for His Disciples

Our essential question should be why does God have faith in me instead of why do I have faith in God!

John 17: 1-26   After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Jesus Face

Head of Christ by Warner Sallman (1940)

With over 500 million copies printed, this is the image of Jesus Christ (wavy hair, pensive, radiant) that people have embedded in their memory. It is a popular picture found on greeting cards, church bulletins, announcements, and public areas. The image conveys Christ’s righteousness, power, reverence, love, and compassion.

Warner Sallman’s parents were immigrants from Sweden and Finland who lived in Chicago. In addition to the Head of Christ his paintings include Christ Our Pilot and The Lord is My Shepherd.

Luther:  In 1528, between August 8 and October 31, Luther wrote a series of sermons on this prayer. We see in the words excerpted from his sermons that Jesus Christ was part of God’s creation, that even though God is present everywhere, the work of Jesus Christ was to save us from sin. The perspective of Luther in the words below is that whatever challenge we face, we have a friend in Jesus who is praying for us! Luther understands our faith in Jesus Christ as the knowledge God reveals to us that He is a God of abundant love and mercy. This knowledge is revealed to us in v. 15-19; 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

“Consider thou and fully weigh the reason why Christ came, and what He did for the world—He came down from heaven, and was made man, that He might finish the work which the Father gave Him to do (as you will find He Himself hereafter saith); that is, that he might take the sins of the whole world upon himself, and might die to blot them out, and to appease the wrath of the Father; and that he might in His own person overcome death and the devil, and redeem us unto Himself.”

“If God is so omnipresent, how, then, could Christ say that He was going out of the world?”

Luther answered: “This question may be answered and in two ways. In one way, according to frothy, human wisdom, that He has as­cended upon high, and sits above as in a swallows’ nest….But I, according to the Scripture, give this answer, and say that ‘in the world’ means to be in its external and sensible state, that is, to enjoy this life which the world enjoys, which is called the natural life in which we eat, drink, sleep, labor, and take care of our families; in a word, in which we make use of the world; and all things necessary unto this life….Therefore He (Christ) no longer lives a life after the manner of this world; that is, He no longer is in a corporal life, which is to be supported by meat, drink, and other cor­poral necessities.

But we say, that we are to hear that word from the mouth of Christ only. He that hears and believes this, has rightly the truth of God which sanctifies without believing His word, then you can hold fast no hope or confidence in your own reason and wisdom, nor in your strength and works; nor can you arrogate to yourself any holiness because of them, as to be able to avail before God. Therefore, those that are of this mind cannot be proud and arrogant; for they can find nothing in themselves, on account of which they can boast. And you see, that unfeigned humility always follows where there is unfeigned faith. And, true patience and love to the fellow believers upon true humility. When we are under the influence of this, we despise no one, we serve and are kind to all; and whatever evil comes upon us, we endure it with a patient mind; we are not wrathful, nor do we revenge injuries, when we meet ingratitude, perfidy, grief, ignoring, and reproach.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Ascension of Jesus Christ to Heaven!

Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven

 How do you understand the perspective of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven?

 Acts 1: 6-11     So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

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The Ascension by Dosso Dossi, 1520

The Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven is documented as 40 days after His resurrection on Easter. It is one of the most important dates in the Church and it is a statement of faith in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. It is accepted by Roman Catholics, the Eastern and Russian Orthodox Churches, and Protestants.

He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

It is through faith that we understand heaven as the community of all believers or what has been called the invisible church. There are many things we cannot see or understand in this life and perhaps an analogy is that microscopes help us to see molecules, telescopes the depth of space, and magnetic reasoning images the secrets of our body, we are able to see heaven through faith and the reading of God’s Words.

The people of this world will challenge our faith and instincts which is why our understanding, explanation, and actions are powerful illustrations of God’s kingdom and heaven.

Saint Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is greater than all understanding and reason. The Scriptures document the truth – authentic news and not fake news.

 In 1534 Martin Luther preached on Ascension Day. Luther speaks about the history and the fruit of the ascension. This history states what happened, how Christ was taken up and hidden by a cloud. If this is preached only as history, Luther says, it does not benefit us. Yet it is preached for our sake!

As he preaches the fruit and use of the ascension for us, Luther proclaims that Christ has made captive all those things that held us captive. Sin, death, devil, etc. no longer hold us captive. Christ has bound them in captivity on high. Since Christ has captured our captors, we are now free from the things that would hold us captive before God: sin, death, hell, and the devil. Luther is drawing here on Ephesians 4:8.

A key fruit of this for us is that we are free from sin. Luther says that we can now taunt sin. If sin threatens to terrify us, we can say to sin: “You are my servant, I am your lord. This is one component of being free from sin, the freedom from fear before God. Another component is the freedom to turn away from sin. Luther preaches both components:

“If you believe in Christ, then the text says that you believe that He sits above, and that He has taken captive my captivity, that is, my sin. In what way? It should not terrify me before God…. I believe in Him who is above, who has captured sin.

Free in Christ, we can stand against temptations because Christ has led sin into captivity by His ascension.

hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Decision: The Wide or Narrow Gate?

The Narrow and Wide Gate

Why does the Christian faith describe such a difficult journey through life?

Matthew 7:13-14: 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

broadandnarrowgerman

The Narrow Gate – a drawing by Charlotte Reihlen (1862)

Charlotte Reihlen was converted to the Christian faith by the Rev. Ludwig Hofacker of Stuttgart. Her conversion made her husband angry and he left her and took a boat to the United States. While in America, her husband repented of his sin and decided to return home to his wife in Germany. Charlotte founded a Deaconess House and a middle school for girls. She probably educated 500 young girls and women.

The painting is an allegory of passages from Scripture and there are many points that are unexplained, ambiguous, and subject to criticism. For example, the fence between the two paths and the Prodigal son on the narrow path.

Luther: Martin Luther touches on this in Concerning Christian Liberty, when he writes, “Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is.”

Luther understood that faith does not lead to a journey on the easy path. In Concerning Christian Liberty, Luther writes of our obligation to our neighbor and people we may not even have a relationship with. Following the life of Jesus, accepting those who hurt and abuse us, forgiving sins, and resisting temptation are the most difficult things in life. People who have faith in Jesus Christ discover the meaning of life and the joy of living an abundant life in God’s grace!

 Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Jesus is the Great Physician

Will our children inherit our values?

Matthew 9: 12-13: On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus Great Physician

The Physician’s Prayer

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Chief of Medical Staff

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The Family of God

Nathan Greene is a freelance artist known for his Christian art and historical and geographic scenes. One of the most difficult assignments for an artist is to paint Jesus Christ because our image of the historical Jesus has been influenced by artists throughout history. Nathan Greene’s art illustrates the personality of Jesus as a picture of love, grace, and comfort. The paintings above are about Matthew 9:12-13.

The pastor, priest, artist, this blog writer attempts to translate Jesus into the realism of our daily lives. For people of faith, the presence of Jesus Christ with family, in times of serious illness or accident, and in the context of the big picture of the diversity of God’s presence in lives throughout history is one of comfort and confidence.

For people who lack faith, it is the words of Jesus in Matthew 9:12-13 that have deep meaning. The presence and love of God comes to us in His Holy Spirit when we need it the most because of sin, guilt, loneliness, and physical, mental, and emotional needs. The words of Matthew assure us that Jesus knows our name and He comes to us in different ways every day. But it is when we need a physician or Savior that we see His grace and love.

Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Matthew 9:13, “Therefore, what He is saying is that it is His Father’s will that He should call sinners and not the righteous. He comes not to judge the world but to save the world (John 3:17) and this by the will of the Father.”

Jesus is saying, “I am calling sinners to repentance according to the forgiveness of sins, to make them righteous twice over, that is, by grace and in truth. (John 1:14,17). By grace, because their sins have been forgiven. In truth, because they are truly beginning to be good and to do good works.”

Repentance is putting sins to death! In forgiveness we are called to the continuous effort of recognizing the evil of hating, prejudice, judging, and separating ourselves from God. Our children will inherit our wealth when we die but we also want them to inherit our values – values of forgiveness, acceptance, love, grace, truth, justice, understanding the eternal promise of God and worshiping Him as Savior and Lord!

hbitten@reverendluther.org