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2 Timothy

4:1-8

 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

 

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
(ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Would You Die For?

Wednesday of Reformation

30 October 2013

Yesterday, I visited with a class of future Roman Catholic priests at the local diocesan seminary. They received me politely and asked very good questions. However, at the end they wished to center the benefit of our discussion in the act of discussion itself, not in the truth value of the clearly differing positions highlighted by the discussion. I merely commented in reply that when you are staking your life and your eternal salvation on these statements of God from His holy Word, then such indeterminacy as they were advocating won't do. When they come for you to confess the truth or die, you should not die for things about which you are uncertain. The cross of suffering and truth of God's Word cannot be separated. If it's not worth believing, it's not worth dying for, and vice versa. All muddling about the truth dies upon the point of this fact.

 

The truth matures in suffering and crosses. God's truth is identified by the cross of Calvary. If God's truth is revealed and presented to us in cruciform shape, what would make us think that we could digest it without also being shaped by the cross? St. Paul warns against the theology of those who are immature (1Ti 5:22). That immaturity may be temporal, that is, the young may exhibit a lack of wisdom and considered opinion. They are unwilling to suffer for their confession and flit from opinion to opinion like a fast food junky flits from McDonald's to Wendy's. However, a settled theological opinion may also elude those who are relatively mature in years. They may still exhibit the weakness of confession by which they easily are blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14) and seek to have their itching ears scratched by the latest new doctrine (2Ti 4:3). Age is no guarantee of theological maturity. This is especially true of the aging baby boomers (I am one of them), who are constantly seeking the latest new teachings and are loath to settle unequivocally on any statement, let alone a theological statement.

 

Sometimes I listen to late night radio. I am amazed by the nonsense that is broadcast over hundreds of stations on syndicated programs; much of it is pseudo-scientific and pseudo-religious garbage. Yet hundreds of thousands of people listen eagerly to this and nod knowingly about all the secrets the U.S. government is hiding from them. Here is the theological silver bullet for religious ennui: a conversation about the end of the world "as we know it" caused by earthquakes. We will listen to all manner of nonsense with perfect equanimity, but when the truth incarnate looks us in the face (Jn 18:38), we can only reply: "Well, that's your opinion."

 

If you confront people with the settled, ancient doctrine that God has become man in Christ, well, now that is old, uninteresting and includes no conspiracy of silence (unless you listen to Elaine Pagels!). Only if we can cloak nonsense in conspiracy will people believe it. The Lord Jesus calls us to spiritual maturity, so that we would take our stand upon the ancient faith of the holy church. This faith was taught by Him to Adam and Eve in the garden when the hope of the world was imparted to the first sinners. The Bible proclaims openly this truth without conspiracy or revision in its every page. In fact, the open, public nature of the church's faith was always its hallmark in the face of pagan mystery religions that were often secretive, like a Masonic society. There never were any secret handshakes, hidden books, or secret decoder rings in the Christian religion.

 

This is why the church only calls the mature to preach the faith publicly. Those who are just "making it up" as they go along, testing the waters, taking public opinion polls, or just entertaining the immature, should never be called to teach the faith to the holy people of God. The teachers of the church must be settled and established in the faith, even to the point of death. What are you willing to die for? Robert Barnes was burned by the government of King Henry VIII in 1540 for being a Lutheran. The flames of martyrdom confirmed the confession of this man. He never wavered from that confession, no matter who demanded recantation. In the end, he died with this truth on his lips. What do you believe? What would you die for?

 

Martin Luther

 

"Timothy and Titus were young men, but they followed Paul very closely. He is speaking not only about one who is a young man in age but also about him who is young in understanding and the knowledge of Scripture. He speaks especially about the age in understanding and in saintliness, when a person is a newcomer in the Scriptures. I shall give an illustration. I had this fault when I first got into the Scriptures. Speculations seemed to me to be the very best ideas, and no one understood them except me. That's the way it is for those who are fresh newcomers in Scripture. They don't have the patience to teach the little things. They must grasp the text of 1 Peter 4 and the anathema of Rm 9:3.

 

"Those are dangerous theologians who are carried away by a fervor and ardor for new doctrine and want to have something special. Those Satan can drive wherever he wants, as we see. The novice is new to Christian doctrine, whether it be a newness of age or of practice, he who is new either in age or in knowledge or understanding. Holy Scripture does not want to be understood by knowledge alone, but also and certainly wants to be inculcated through experience. Let a man make the test to see what he has presented in his trial without practice, faith, love. As far as the cross and the remaining virtues are concerned, let him test whether he was present with his theology."
 
Martin Luther, 
Lectures on 1 Timothy, 3.1
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, we praise You that You have conferred the settled faith upon Your holy church. Help us to confess that faith without shame or doubt, even to the point of death. Give us the courage of Robert Barnes, who was martyred unto Your purposes. Amen.

 

For Diane Garner, that the Lord Jesus would be with her and her family while they struggle with the last enemy

 

For marriage and family, that husbands and wives, parents and children would live in ordered harmony according to the Word of God

 

For the family of Barbara Meek, whom the Lord has taken home to Himself, that they might be comforted by the faith of the cross of Christ and His resurrection unto life
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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