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Psalm 85

 

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way. (ESV)

 

That Gospel-Centered Guy

Wednesday of Pentecost 15

24 September 2014

A few years ago I started broadcasting a half-hour radio program on a local Christian FM station. It's audience was pretty small. Sometimes, people in Houston were unable to tune in. However, the program was picked up by Pirate Christian Radio, which continues to air programs. Memorial Lutheran Church also started putting the program, called "Dying to Live," out on the web as an iTune subscription. We gave away the gift of Martin Luther's Small Catechism to listeners who request one. We sent them as far as Holland and Norway, but the distance champion so far was a listener in Ginowan City, Japan, who found the program a great comfort. People in faraway places are listening to the podcast of the radio program.

The listener in Japan is young Australian man, about whom I was curious. So I corresponded with him over a couple days. When I asked him what he was doing in Japan, imagine my surprise when his reply included this: "Thanks for asking. I am doing mission work here with a local church. I came out to Japan from Australia four years ago when I was 19 years old. I met people from Calvary Chapel and have been working with them ever since. Last Christmas I read a book on Law and Gospel by an American Lutheran. It was fantastic. A lot of the guy's theses really went against much of what I had learned growing up. I had never known how gospel centered Lutherans were." The gospel centered "guy" he is referring to is, of course, C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. Now if we could just get a few more "Lutherans" to discover how gospel-centered Lutherans are, that would be really great! 

 

Martin Luther

 

"If even the moral law of God, the Decalogue, gives birth only to slaves, that is, does not justify but only terrifies, accuses, condemns, and drives consciences to despair, how, I ask you, could human traditions or the laws of the pope, which are the doctrines of demons (1Ti 4:1), justify? Therefore anyone who teaches or urges either the law of God or human traditions as necessary for righteousness in the sight of God does nothing other than give birth to slaves. And yet such teachers are judged to be the best; they earn the applause of the world and are the most prolific mothers, that is, have an infinite number of disciples (Gal 4:27-31). Since reason does not understand what faith and true piety are, it neglects and despises them. Naturally, it is impressed by superstition and hypocrisy, that is, by the righteousness of works. These things are so brilliant and flourishing that it is the all-powerful empress of the whole world. Therefore those who teach the righteousness of works by the law give birth to many sons, who appear as most free and most shiningly brilliant but in their consciences they are bound and are slaves of sin, who will be thrown out of the house and condemned.

 

Sarah, the free woman (Gal 4:26), by contrast, that is, the true church, seems to be barren; because the gospel, which is the word of the cross, which the church preaches, is not as brilliant as is the teaching about the law and works, and therefore it has few disciples who cling to it. Besides, it bears the reputation of forbidding good works, making men idle and lazy, stirring up heresies and sedition, and being the cause of every evil. Therefore it does not seem to have any success or prosperity; but everything appears to be filled with barrenness, waste, and despair. Hence the wicked are certainly persuaded that the church will soon perish along with its doctrine....Christ and the apostles were oppressed; but when they were dead, the teaching of the gospel spread more widely than when they were living. Thus our adversaries are able to oppress us, but "the Word of the Lord remains forever" (1Pt 1:25). Regardless of how barren and deserted, weak and condemned, and outwardly suffering persecution the church of Christ seems, or how much it is said to teach heretical and rebellious doctrine, before God it alone is fertile, giving birth through the ministry of the Word to uncounted sons of eternal righteousness and heirs of life, who although suffering outward persecution, are most free in spirit. They are not only judges above all doctrines and works, but they are also glorious victors over the gates of hell. 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.27
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, help us remain faithful to Your gospel although the world despises us for believing it. Keep our eyes on You and Your cross that we might be freed from the law and its burdens. Let us live free in You. Amen.

 

For Robert Bennett of the Luther Academy, that he might be kept safe in his travels sharing the good work of the Academy with supporters

 

For the family of Charles Alexander, who were bereaved a dear father and grandfather, that they might grieve as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

 

For those who suffer from psychological diseases that the Lord would bring them peace and healing

 

For those who are undergoing a divorce, that the Lord would grant strength to face trauma, disappointment, and separation from beloved children
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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