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Galatians
5:1-15

 
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.  (ESV)
Diet of Worms
Friedrich Wyneken, Pastor and Missionary
4 May 2016
In a dramatic moment forever immortalized in history on 17 April 1521, Dr. Martin Luther stood before the earthly powers of his day and confessed the freedom of his conscience. This was no academic declaration delivered in "a safe space." This confession, delivered at the Diet of Worms, drove the banner of freedom through the heart of every coercive temporal power. Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy, nor Roman, nor a true empire, nevertheless did have life-and-death power over Luther certainly, if not over the German electors who were present at this parliamentary meeting of the German people. On the night before it was delivered Luther himself agonized over his declaration before the diet, because he realized that his fate could easily be the same as that of Jan Hus, who a century before had been burned at the stake for declaring his conscientious opposition to accepted Roman dogma. Luther himself, I believe, was actually shocked to find himself quite alive in the days and months following the Diet of Worms. Luther's declaration of conscientious freedom comes down to us in this way: "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen."

What mind-boggling hubris for the temporal powers to think that they can command, create, and control the beliefs of their citizens. This is as likely to be successful as the attempt to push a string. First, temporal authority does not have control over minds and hearts, but actions and mouths. Yet, this is the madness that is being perpetrated by our federal government when it coerces with fines and potential jail time those who, like Barronelle Stutzman, refuse to support morally abhorrent actions with the skills and abilities with which their Creator has endowed them. Confessing Christians, like Barronelle Stutzman, are not even saying that other businesses should not serve in this way; simply that they will not. Indeed, Mrs. Stutzman actually recommended other florists to the gay couple who had requested that she provide floral services for their gay union. Interestingly, Bruce Springsteen has refused to provide musical service to the state of North Carolina because he feels conscience bound to support a same-sex bathroom law, which the people of North Carolina have declined to pass. Personally, I don't understand why "The Boss" is not being subjected to the same scrutiny and legal harassment by the federal Department of Justice as Barronelle Stutzman. Both have freedom of conscience, unfortunately some consciences are more free than others.

Coercion is especially damaging for weak consciences, who may feel that they are opposed to certain morally aberrant things and yet don't have the moral fortitude to act in keeping with their conscience. They are bullied by the cultural elites and their media mouthpieces into accepting what is against their consciences. This bullying simply pushes everyone into complicity with sins against conscience. Of course, those whose consciences are being violated and those who are bullying them into complicity are both sinning. The freedom of conscience with which our Lord and Creator has endowed us frees us from this complicity. We will confess His truth.

Unfortunately, the temporal authorities desire to coerce and control all aspects of life including the mind and heart will result in a terrible cost to society; especially as conscientious people refuse to bow down to the gods of this age and confess the truth against those gods; then there may be another diet of worms to come, as we Christians learn to swallow the bullying and legal jeopardy to which we have become subject. And no one wants to risk swallowing a diet of worms.

 

Martin Luther

"Every person runs his own risk in believing as he does, and he must see to it himself that he believes rightly. As nobody else can go to heaven or hell for me, so nobody else can believe or disbelieve for me; as nobody else can open or close heaven or hell to me, so nobody else can drive me to belief or unbelief. How he believes or disbelieves is a matter for the conscience of each individual, and since this takes nothing away from the temporal authority the latter should be content to attend to its own affairs and let people believe this or that as they are able and willing, and constrain no one by force. For faith is a free act, to which no one can be forced. Indeed, it is a work of God in the spirit, not something which outward authority should compel or create. Hence arises the common saying, found also in Augustine, 'No one can or ought to be forced to believe.'

"Moreover, the blind, wretched fellows (in temporal government) fail to see how utterly hopeless and impossible a thing they are attempting. For no matter how harshly they lay down the law, or how violently they rage, they can do no more than force an outward compliance of the mouth and the hand. The heart they cannot compel, though they work themselves to a frazzle. For the proverb is true: 'Thoughts are tax-free.'

"Why do they persist in trying to force people to believe from the heart when they see that it is impossible? In so doing they only compel weak consciences to lie, to disavow, and to utter what is not in their hearts. They thereby load themselves down with dreadful alien sins (sins done by another), for all the lies and false confessions which such weak consciences utter fall back upon him who compels them. Even if their subjects were in error, it would be much easier simply to let them err than to compel them to lie and to utter what is not in their hearts. In addition, it is not right to prevent evil by something even worse."

Martin Luther,  Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, 2
 
Prayer
Almighty God, Creator and Preserver of all things, you have granted us freedom within the civil realm to follow the dictates of our consciences. Inform our consciences by Your infallible Word and by the Spirit enable us to confess the same before men. the Help us to defend the rights of others that the same might be done for us. Restrain wicked who desire to command our hearts and minds, a right due only to You, eternal God, who lives and reigns with the Son and the Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For all those whose consciences are being coerced by temporal power, that they would have the courage of their moral convictions and stand up for the truth

For Christian preachers that they would proclaim law and gospel, that the work of Christ for poor sinners would be glorified in their preaching

For seminarians Matthew Bless, Garrett Buvinghausen, John Stebbins, and Keith Emshoff, that they would be established in the divine truth through faithful instruction
Art: RUBENS, Peter Paul  The Resurrection of Christ (1611-12)

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