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John 3:23-26


John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison). Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness- look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him."


John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."


He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)  








Church's Core Values

Wednesday of Pentecost 18

25 September 2013

Natan Sharansky argued that Western democracies could not compromise on their defining values in an article printed in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. The democracies must never give up their national identities in favor of the generic approach popular in the postmodern world. In that generic approach to national identity, the democracies of the European Union are now turning a blind eye to the application of Islamic cultural norms in favor of "underage marriage, genital mutilation, and honor killings." The vapidity of European culture is inviting these Islamic incursions. Mr. Sharansky suggested that Western democracies will begin to take their national and democratic identities much more seriously as they see their unique and genuinely free ways of life threatened by their own weakness ("Democracies Can't Compromise on Core Values," WSJ).


Perhaps the Christian churches should also pay attention to Mr. Sharansky's warning. Many churches have been giving up the church's core values in favor of the values of the world that surrounds them. It was certainly thought that the church could invite many more people into its community if it showed some openness to the world's views. Most American denominations are headed down a path that has shown more of that "openness." On one extreme, churches have attempted to placate the world's fleshly ways by encouraging and blessing immoral sexual relations; as though the freedom given in Christ is really about sexual liberation. Other churches, while attempting to hold the line on moral issues, have soft-pedaled doctrinal distinctives such as the doctrine of the holy Trinity, original sin, repentance, the divinity of Christ, real presence in the holy communion, or the doctrine of justification by faith. As much as we might deplore the openness to immorality in the sexually promiscuous churches, a far worse problem is the rejection of basic Christian theology. Such "openness" to the world implies being closed to God (Jam 4:4). The churches cannot stand in the world and on the truth at the same time. Ultimately, openness to the world results in complete defection from the church as is now happening in the old line liberal churches as a recent NYT article shows (See "After a Crisis of Faith, a Former Minister Finds a New, Secular Mission").


The core of Mr. Sharansky's advice is that we should be who we are. Go figure! While he elegantly makes the case for this in the political realm, the churches have a much greater reason to pay attention to this truism. Often churches are madly running after the latest mass marketing fad, seeking to increase market share, and trying to "reach people where they are." The bottom line of this pandering is that the churches are giving up the very teachings that make them the church of Christ. The modern churches are not seeking to raise people to a relationship with God through Christ the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, but are falling into the very mire from which the Lord Jesus wants the church to rescue the fallen and depraved. The churches are seeking to avoid offending the bent moral, political, and theological sensibilities of the world. Every compromise with the world is enmity with God. The churches can't compromise on core values, or the churches will cease to be the church.


Martin Luther


"Since we preach the Word of God, we staunchly maintain that God has called us. These two facts are entirely logical: that those who preach the Word of God must necessarily be sent by God; and, conversely, that those who are sent by God cannot proclaim anything but the Word of God. It is impossible to derive the Word of God from reason. It must be given from above. Certainly, we do not preach the human wisdom of philosophers, jurists, medics, or of any other profession. To be sure, we are conversant with the arts of poets, philosophers, and jurists; yet we do not preach about them. We are also acquainted with all the doctrines of the papacy and of the monks. Still we proclaim nothing that was born of our reason.


"A different dominion was assigned to reason, namely, over the fish, the birds, and the beasts, as we see in Genesis 1 and 2. Whatever you may do in that sphere is agreeable to me. I stand ready to appoint you and reason to be rulers and regents. I will let you decree, if you deem it proper, that an acre of ground be appraised at four guldens and that a bushel of grain be priced at so and so much. I am ready to yield you the privilege of fixing the price for a house or for clothing. Reason holds sway in all law books, in all arts and trades, in laws, in courts of justice, etc. Into these areas we do not trespass with our sermons. All this properly belongs in the realm of reason. Politicians must reign over cities and country and people.


"On the other hand, neither reason nor cows nor fields know a bit about this: that God is Creator of heaven and earth; or that from eternity God begot His only Son; or, that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead; that God's Son became man; or that the Christian Church believes in the forgiveness of sins. Therefore the proclamation of Christ's gospel had to convey this to us, and the apostles were commanded to proclaim it. The apostles transmitted it to us, and thus it will continue until the end of the world. Those who preach this message are said to be sent by God."


Martin Luther, 
Sermons on John's Gospel, 3.34

Lord Christ, You have transmitted the divine truth to the church through the mouths of the prophets and apostles. Grant that those whom You send to proclaim that truth would ever and always preach only the gospel of forgiveness of sins through Your life and death. Help those whom You send to be steadfast in the proclamation of that gospel, that they might call the churches back from friendship with the world so the churches might again be Your church. Amen.


For Andrew Clay, that Andrew would be kept under the care of His Good Shepherd and that and his parents Daniel and Emily Clay would be upheld in their service of their son by the Holy Spirit


For all those who oversee the churches' teaching office, that they would be encouraged by God the Holy Spirit to confess the biblical truth and encourage those under their supervision to do the same to the glory of God and the salvation of sinners


For all those who are unemployed, that the Lord would bless their search for work in a calling that will bring blessings to those for whom they labor


For all those who are adopting children, that the Lord Jesus would provide a home for these children according to His good and gracious will
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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