The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity, 2017. Matthew 7:15-23.
Beware of False Prophets

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity  2017

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

The melodies are linked in the hymn title. 
The lyrics are linked in the hymn number.

The Hymn #12         This Day at Thy Creating Word           
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Hymn #260                       O Lord Look Down   

Bearing Good Fruit

The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 309                         O Jesus Blessed Lord                

KJV Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

KJV Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Eighth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, heavenly Father, we most heartily thank Thee that Thou hast caused us to come to the knowledge of Thy word. We pray Thee: graciously keep us steadfast in this knowledge unto death, that we may obtain eternal life; send us now and ever pious pastors, who faithfully preach Thy word, without offense or false doctrine, and grant them long life. Defend us from all false teachings, and frustrate Thou the counsels of all such as pervert Thy word, who come to us in sheep's clothing, but are inwardly ravening wolves, that Thy true Church may evermore be established among us, and be defended and preserved from such false teachers, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Bearing Good Fruit

KJV Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

When Luther preached on this topic, he suggested ending every sermon with a warning against false teachers, because this warning is at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus' teaching might be divided into two categories - 

  1. Illustrations from His Creation,
  2. Illustrations based on human nature - like the Prodigal Son.
This is quite arbitrary, but I have been struck by the ways in which the Savior connected His teaching to vivid pictures. They are impossible to forget, so phrases like "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and "a prodigal son" are common in everyday life. 

Below - the unrepentant drug addict and fraudster who spoke to the Thrivent convention, to inspire them no doubt, is called The Wolf of Wall Street.

Belfort's publicity photo omits the fact that this money
was stolen from investors through fraud.

 Thrivent convention speaker - The Wolf of Wall Street.
Note the illuminated sign - a cross plus $ =

Confession Means a Positive Message with a Negation
One of the great seductions of the modern age is thinking we can have a positive message without warnings. Everyone is trained against being "judgmental" and "upsetting others." If we listen closely to these people who admonish us so often, they are always condemning others and upsetting people for being wrong about burning coal, global warming, or other issues. 

The Savior and the Confessions have this in common - teaching the truth and warning against error. The Reformation did begin because Luther discovered the Gospel. In fact, he had a lot of help from others, including his advisor, Staupitz. Luther was different in that he said, "If this is true, then the Church is teaching error." That sparked the Reformation, separating the good from the bad, as Paul urged - there must be divisions to prove what is good. 

The Institutional Error
Luther warned his followers not to compare the other guys with their own guys. He said, "We have the same problems." This invariable leads to denouncing the scandals of the other side while hiding the scandals of the feature sect of the day.  Or there might be a comparison based on trivia, such as the common cup versus individual cups; kneeling; high church or low church. 

Luther taught the Word of God, not the institution. The Book of Concord is devoid of institutional claims and very light on issues concerning polity or organization. The truth of the Scriptures will sort those things out. Institutional comparisons do not.

Today's world of Lutheranism is more like the Animal Farm, by Orwell, where we learn that - in spite of all the claims - the animal leaders are working with the hated humans, and selling their fellow animals down the river, like poor Snowball. Picture all the speeches and official pronouncements against ELCA and then all the meetings and joint projects with ELCA. It is the same story. We drove 100 miles to Luther Seminary and looked up the facts in the insurance magazines and published the names. My wife found the articles and said, "I've got you, Bob, you fat little liar." We tracked down another case and a synodical spy asked, "How did you know?" When told, she said, "You drove all the way there and looked it up?" The first example made the insurance companies AAL/LB (now Thrivent) go silent on LCMS-W/ELS cooperation with ELCA. The second example led to a certain amount of revenge. No gratitude.

Sheep's Clothing
The first issue concerns the false teacher pretending to be an innocent lamb while teaching against the Word of God. A good example comes from the founder of Church Growth, who got people to say, "God wants His Church to grow." That seems like an indestructible foundation, but the Scriptures teach that God wants people to be faithful to His Word and trust in the Word. 

The statistical model is so evident. I just learned that WELS allows people to look up every parish and see the statistics graphed for that congregation - worship and membership. Some are downhill slides and some are ski-jumps. But what does that matter? It is an entirely false way to look at the Gospel, going back to Church Growth and McGavran. What makes us have more members? Popcorn and soda in church? Let's do it.

Paul also warned against the wolves, from outside and from within:
Thus St. Paul also did, Acts 20:28-31, when he was about to depart from Ephesus, among other things, he said: “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears.”

There are many historical examples of this, because once the congregations build up with the Gospel Word, and bear fruit, others come in who want the benefits for themselves without the labor or sacrifice. The apostates always gather where the money is, so an endowment fund set up by the faithful will prove to be a moral hazard from that time on, attracting those who want the Benjies for themselves, but not the cross. Our friend says that at work, the employees explain all the problems of the day with - "It's all about the Benjies." (the money) 

Paul had false teachers following him to take away congregations they did not establish, attacking Paul while praising themselves. 

5. Thus it will come to pass also among us. God be praised, we and others have the Gospel in greater purity and abundance than at any time since the days of the Apostles. But when we and those who now assist to promote it are gathered to our fathers, you will have false teachers enough, as many have already commenced and they already bestir themselves. And blessed are they who are diligently on their guard according to this Gospel and believe not every wind of doctrine, but remain steadfast in what they have learned. This Christ first teaches here with the words: “Beware,” be warned, as if to say: you will most certainly have to contend with false teachers.

After the death of Luther, the Evangelicals fell into disputes and errors, so great that they realized a need for doctrinal agreement. That gradually, slowly developed into the Formula of Concord and the Book of Concord, 1580, 17 years after his death. Now there is not even the slightest effort to correct the wrongs of Fuller's Church Growth or ELCA's attacks on the Faith. One can wonder if that will ever happen at all, but I think the Lutheran Church is like Mt. St. Helen's. One day an explosion will mean a new landscape. But that is only a guess.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 

I see this in our yard all the time. Some plants appear to be horrible weeds, but prove to be useful and good when they flower and fruit - Poke is a good example. Others seem harmless, like a little Bermuda grass, but take over with stupendous growth, choking worthwhile flowers and plants.

One plant, growing tall and strong, proved to be a thistle. I was never going to get anything from that six-footer, no matter how long I waited. Weeds are prolific but sterile. They do not produce anything worthwhile. How many say, "Look at those weeds! That is great. You have so many weeds. How do you get such lush growth?"

On the other hand, this sermon reminds us that Gospel fruits grow from the Gospel. There we do not need to emphasize the fruits, which grow from the Spirit in the Gospel Word. Instead, we need to rely on the Gospel for those fruits.

Any gardener would laugh at making something happen to a plant, though we try from time to time. On the contrary, a wise gardener improves and protects the soil, the foundation for what the plant achieves. A Creation gardener does not do much that is complicated, because God takes care of the intricacies of His own Creation. I pulled up a large pile of crabgrass (a grain, not a weed). Some of the seeds may have matured. I did not care. I put that pile under the Crepe Myrtle, to feed the soil. After that point, my work is done. I pile food on the ground beneath the myrtle and the soil creatures complete the feeding process. Large piles of leaves, grass, and mulch have disappeared beneath the plant. Enormous blooms have popped out of the branches, followed by big seeds the Cardinals love to eat.

Likewise, the teaching of John's Gospel, just as it written, without speculation or salesmanship, is enough to produce Gospel fruit. The Gospel itself protects the believer against false doctrine, leaving very little room for competition. Norma Boeckler's garden is all flowers, not that weeds never appear. But the flowers exclude most of the weeds by their vitality.

The vitality of the Gospel displaces false doctrine a large part of the time. I learned the Means of Grace early but not appreciate how much that was hated and set aside. Then, when it was despised and ignored, I could see how strange and bizarre the false claims were. However, to refute those claims I had to know the errors better than they did - and to teach the unity of the Means of Grace, chapter and verse.

Opposition is good because that provokes us to study when we would false asleep if left alone unbothered, only enjoying the benefits and not the cross.

So one test is - what are we studying? Here are some basic warnings.
  • Calvinists deny the Means of Grace and mock the Sacraments. I do not know what I can learn from them, because they begin in error. C. S. Lewis has some clever comments, but he is a kind of Universalist. so that wars against him as a Christian leader.
  • Pentecostals largely hate infant baptism. I had one walk out of the room when I discussed the topic, her lips pursed in anger. One Baptist professor said to me, "You're a Lutheran, so you have to believe in infant faith." The true Pentecostals are Lutherans who teach the Holy Spirit working on through the Word. The true Baptists are those who know the power of the sacrament to be in the Word - which means rebirth, renewal, washing, forgiveness.
  • Roman Catholics intend to awe people with their pageantry in worship, and they do that well, even in poor, out of the way churches. But as long as they require works for salvation, teach Purgatory, and other such dogma, they should not attract anyone faithful to the Word. 
Many who call themselves Lutheran are a mixture of these three, flitting from one dogma to another, like hummingbirds or butterflies. If they mock the Book of Concord, as many do, they are not Lutheran. If they make fun of Luther, they obviously have not read Luther. Those who do read Luther do not have to prove it. Others, who like Luther quips, are no more Lutheran than Calvin, who read Luther and supposedly agreed with the Augsburg Confession.

7. When God gives us his Word, his gifts and Spirit, it is not his will that we should be lazy, sleepy and idle. For if you have the true Word and its true meaning, the world will attack you on one side, and the devil will attempt to tear you from it on the other, not only by means of worldly tyrants who persecute the Word with the sword; but also by means of our own reason and the wisest people in the world. Thus God desires to develop you by his Word, and to give the Holy Spirit whom he has bestowed upon you something to do, so that you may learn that God’s wisdom is wiser than the world’s wisdom, that God’s strength is stronger than the strength and power of the world, which you will not learn unless you pass through this conflict with false teachers.

8. Wherever he permits the devil to create factions, he would thus stir you up, and say: Defend yourself, lay hold of the Word, and learn to experience God’s wisdom and power against the wisdom of the world and the lies of satan. Thus the strength and wisdom of God’s Word will appear, that you may learn that it is not to be conquered with power and wisdom; but it conquers, and puts to shame all power, cunning and wisdom opposed to it.

This is one reason why God permits factions and sects among us, who enter in as it were edgewise, as though they were beneficial and served to the end that the Word, the truth and Spirit prove themselves to be better and plainer; however aside from this factions and sects serve no good purpose.

I know a couple that makes a point of reading Lutheran material as part of their Sunday routine. One would do well to have a good translation - KJV or KJV21 - and study the two Catechisms, the Augsburg Confession, and the Apology.

If Lutherans across the US did that, they would have a gradual, powerful, national renewal. More importantly, each individual would have the Word of God as a powerful shield and weapon against error, plus the comfort of the Gospel of grace.

Jesus teaches here that these basics cannot bear evil fruit, just as evil trees cannot bear good fruit. There are people who like to identify with the wilderness, so they taste various things they find when going through the woods. Some of them look good but are either powerful irritants, enough to put someone in the hospital, or even worse, deadly poisons. I had a beautiful green plant growing in my future hosta garden. I had planted a row of seeds from that plant family, so I thought it was one of those, or two of those as it developed. But it grew so big and looked so impressive that I had to identify it. That was Poison Hemlock, part of the large, insect-friendly carrot-dill family. Many plants in that family are great to grow and to enjoy. Others are not. My gardening friend said, "Just don't eat it," but I dug it out 

The sad truth is that few believe the positive message from Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount - it is impossible to broadcast the Word of God and be without good results. Opposition tells us that the Word threatens the opponents, no matter how deeply they are dug in - district presidents, synod presidents, professors, council members, local clergy. But in the midst of that opposition, the Gospel tree will grow and bear fruit in many lives.

I had weeds take advantage of heavy rains and brilliant sunshine. In the midst of this Japanese beetles invaded every rose. I was ready to order a Caterpillar tractor from Peoria. But then the roses began blooming again, as they always do.

19. Hence the saying is true, the holy Scriptures are a book for heretics, that is, they are a book to which heretics most of all lay claim. For they misuse no other book so much, yea, they do not know any other worthy of praise, and no heresy was ever so wicked or gross, that did not attempt to strengthen itself and recommend itself by the use of the Scriptures. Just as a man might say: God is the God of all rogues and rascals, because the largest crowd in the world take his part. Not because their rascality comes from God or is acceptable to him, but because they thus take his holy name in vain. So then, the holy Scriptures must be a heretic’s book, not that the book is to blame, but because of these rogues who so shamefully misuse it.

In like manner people are accustomed to say in the proverb: All misfortune begins in God’s name. This is also true. Well, you say, then I will be careful not to make use of God’s name. What is that you utter? How can you blame the name, that is given in order that I might be saved? He will indeed find and punish these rogues and rascals. Well, then, the Bible is a heretic’s book, but I will not throw it away on that account; on the contrary, I will study and read it much more, so that I may know how to avoid the misuse of it.

20. Then let every one be prepared and armed, that he may not so easily allow himself to be misled by the brilliant pretensions of false teachers, although they at the time quote the Scriptures. For within certainly lie concealed ravenous wolves. And when you think they will feed and satisfy your soul, then they rend you, murder and devour you. But no one will so readily judge or decide this matter, except with spiritual eyes. The common man and the rabble cannot, for the largest multitude despise the Gospel and are unthankful, while the smallest flock receive it and can appreciate it.

One reader said, "I wish I had known these insights in my job. I had the same experiences of opposition." That is the sad part. We only learn those things by experience, reading, and worship. They are not intuitive but seem to oppose common sense. However, when we recognize how the world is organized by evil and for evil, God's grace existing in islands here and there - that is miraculous and shows His power.