Luther on righteousness

The serpent on the pole

“Paul explains what constitutes true Christian righteousness. True Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us. We must look away from our own person. Christ and my conscience must become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christ crucified and raised from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, I am gone.

If we lose sight of Christ and begin to consider our past, we simply go to pieces. We must turn our eyes to the brazen serpent, Christ crucified, and believe with all our heart that He is our righteousness and our life. For Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom we live, who lives in us, is Lord over Law, sin, death, and all evil.”

Source: Galatians commentary

You Are Mine

I first heard this beautiful, contemporary hymn when my husband was the supply pastor at a small Lutheran congregation. It was composed by David Haas (b. 1957), and the themes include God’s care, strength during difficult times, baptism and confirmation. It has also been used at funerals and healing services.

For more contemporary hymns see these posts:

A Favorite New Song

Hymns for a Funeral

A Song about the Omnipotence of God

More about the book of Revelation

This past week in our Bible study we began to look at chapters 2 and 3 — the messages from Christ to the churches. Each of the letters follow the same pattern. I’ll illustrate how that works using the first letter, the letter to the church in Ephesus:

  1. Salutation

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus …” (by the way, the ‘angel’ is not a heavenly being–angel actually means ‘messenger’ and refers to the pastor)

2. Christ describes Himself

“… write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.”

3. Christ’s praise

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

4. Christ’s condemnation

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had a first.”

5. Christ’s warning

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen;”

6. Christ’s exhortation

“… do the works you did at first. If not, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place…”

7. Christ’s promise

“To the one who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

It is interesting to note that the way Christ describes Himself, relates to the punishment that will befall the church if it continues in disobedience.

For more posts about the church see:

What Is the Church?

We (the Laity) Are the Church

The Ship of the Church

What is the White Stone?

In Revelation 2:17 Jesus says:

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

What is this white stone? The short answer is, we don’t really know. The apostle, John (author of the book of Revelation) was writing in a genre known as apocalyptic, prophesying about the end of time in highly symbolic language. Bible scholars have posited a number of educated guesses about what the white stone might mean. Here are a few:

  1. In those times, a person who was taken to court and acquitted was given a white stone he could show to others to prove his innocence. Here, the white stone might mean that as Christians, we are no longer condemned, as Jesus paid the price for our sins.
  2. In certain athletic games, the victors were given a white stone which allowed them admittance into a special banquet. So, the white stone might signify our entry into God’s Kingdom, and the marriage feast of the lamb.
  3. A white stone was given to the High Priest and worn on his ceremonial robes. It was called the seer stone, and it enabled the wearer to discern revelations from God. Possibly the white stone indicates that the believers who have overcome, are now in the presence of God and now completely understand His Will.

However we choose to interpret this symbol, it is obvious that the white stone is a reminder that in time all believers will be reconciled with God. It is a token of His love and a promise that our relationship with Him will be completely restored. In acknowledgement of that fact, we will each receive a new name, one chosen by the Father before we were born — our true name, reflecting the person God created us be.

For more about the book of Revelation see these posts:

A Glimpse of Heaven


What Happens in the End Times?

True Piety

Yesterday I posted about false piety … today I am listing the qualities of true piety, as taken from my Via de Cristo talk.

  1. First, true piety is authentic.  It springs from a desire to know God and must honestly reflect our beliefs. Acts of true piety are not about earning God’s favor.  They are a grateful response to His love.
  2. True piety nurtures our relationship with God. We will come to see ourselves as children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
  3. True piety requires courage. It takes courage to live up to the potential God sees in us, to be a light in the dark world.  And it takes courage to call others to do the same.
  4. True piety is natural.  God doesn’t call us to become a different person, He calls us to be the person He made us to be. Our piety is to be lived out in everyday life, in the place and with the people He has given us.
  5. True piety is joyful.  Living a truly Christ-centered life is exciting.  We will find the strength to do greater things than we ever imagined, things that will attract and inspire others.

God promised that we would not have to walk through life alone, so authentic piety is only complete when it is shared. When we direct our lives to Christ that primary relationship will affect every area and every other relationship in our lives. We will experience a radical change of perspective that will alter the way we interact with God, ourselves, others, and even the world.

For more about piety see these posts:

A Mother’s Piety

What Does Piety Look Like #2

Piety and Me

False Piety

In my last post, I wrote about what John Newton had to say about piety. I also mentioned that I’ve been working on a talk for an upcoming Via de Cristo retreat weekend. In that talk, forms of false and true piety are described, and I thought those ideas might be of interest to our readers. In this post, I’ll be writing about false piety and the forms it can take.

All Christians are sinners, and we sometimes engage in superficial or deceptive behaviors that masquerade as piety. Such false piety is destructive because it keeps people away from the church and from coming to a true understanding of God and His purpose for their lives. I’m going to list some of the forms false piety can take, and if you’re honest, you’ll see yourself in at least one of these four examples.

  1. One way we can be falsely pious is to wear our salvation as if it were a badge of honor. This can cause us to retreat from the world, becoming self-centered and self-righteous, more concerned with looking like a perfect Christian than the salvation of others. I saw a bit of this in myself when I recently had the opportunity to meet someone from a different culture and religious background. My first reaction was to stay away. Then I remembered that Jesus befriended all sorts of people. He didn’t see anyone as contamination to be avoided — He saw them as human beings who needed to hear the good news. If Christians like me avoid others, they may never hear about Jesus.
  2. Another form of false piety occurs when our faith life becomes mechanical. We go to church, pray before meals and participate in other Christian activities thoughtlessly. It’s just part of our routine. Do you ever find yourself rushing through the Lord’s Prayer without really contemplating the meaning? Have you forgotten the thrust of the sermon before leaving the church parking lot? Been more intent on getting to your after-church lunch date than worshipping God? There are times when I have. If you allow this to become your regular habit, your faith will be stagnant instead of growing — your piety will be based on what you do instead of who you are.
  3. We’re all familiar with the false piety known a hypocrisy. The hypocrite claims to be virtuous while behaving in a way that contradicts her expressed values. My tongue sometimes leads me into this kind of behavior. Before I retired, the employees in my small office would often eat lunch together. The talk would turn to complaints about the boss, other employees, or our spouses. It was so easy to join in, to criticize or share a bit of juicy gossip. But the Bible tells us that our speech should encourage and bless others. My co-workers knew me to be a Christian, and when my words didn’t match my beliefs, I wasn’t being a good ambassador for Christ.
  4. Finally, there is the social butterfly. This Christian goes to church in order to see her friends, or to enjoy church programs. I’ve always belonged to small churches, and part of the appeal is being needed, and being involved in many church activities. Sometimes during Sunday worship my thoughts were consumed with who I needed to see afterwards about an upcoming meeting or event. When this type of behavior begins to dominate our faith life, we are treating the church as our club instead of the body of Christ.

As you can see, false piety is self-centered while true piety is God-centered.

More about true piety tomorrow …..

For more about piety see:

Part 3–Our Piety

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

What Does Piety Look Like #2

The Simple Life

Recently I was called to do a talk on an upcoming Via de Cristo weekend. The title of the talk is Piety. As I read and studied in preparation, I came across a concept promoted by John Newton — gospel simplicity.

Newton’s premise is that the faithful life, a life of true piety, is simple but challenging. He wrote:

“If I may speak my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply upon Christ, as my peace, and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling.”

How do we know if this dedication to Christ has taken place? Well, there are two aspects: simplicity of intention and simplicity of dependence.

Simplicity of intention means that we have one overarching goal in life — to please and glorify Jesus through all of our actions. Our happiness and God’s glory are inseparable. It is self-denial–denial of self-righteousness, self-wisdom and self-will. It is imitating Christ in all things.

If simplicity of intention is about our aim in life, simplicity of dependence is about trust. All of our pain and trials are made worse by unbelief. When we direct our lives completely to God, we accept everything we experience as coming from God’s hand, and ultimately all of these things will be for our good and for His glory.

These two “simple” qualities will lead to a mature Christian life of genuine obedience. It won’t come automatically, because we are constantly distracted by sin which muddles our intentions and motives. Newton suggests that in every decision of life, we ask ourselves these two questions:

  1. Sustained by the all-sufficiency of Christ, am I motivated by God’s glory alone?
  2. Eternally secured by the blood of Christ, am I dependent upon God’s wisdom, timing and His power alone?

Are you living a life of gospel simplicity? It’s good food for thought.

For more about John Newton see these posts:

Out of the Depths — Book Review

Amazing Grace — The Musical

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

The Things God Made by Andy McGuire — Book Review

This book artfully combines realistic illustrations and interesting scientific facts with the creation account from the book of Genesis. Best A for older elementary school readers, some of the topics covered are:

What is light?

How were islands created?

Why do plants look green?

How do birds use plants?

At the end there is a list of animals readers are encouraged to find in the book. There is also an author’s note referencing the Genesis verses that apply to each page. Andy McGuire, both illustrator and author has done an excellent job of teaching Biblical truths alongside tidbits of information from a variety of scientific disciplines.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. Homeschoolers will love it!

For more books for children see these posts:

The Creator in You by Jordan Raynor–Book Review

Let There Be Light by Archbishop Desmond Tutu–Book Review

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

Red Sea Crossing, Part 3

The water of baptism combined with the Word is God’s victory for His people. When we view our story and our salvation in light of the Old Testament, we understand that God is always victorious. He is always acting. He is always about the business of saving His people.

The yearly Passover meal celebrating their deliverance from slavery in Egypt was a way to remind the Israelites that they were the people of a mighty God, a God who was with them and who had saved them. According to the Large Catechism of Martin Luther, recalling our baptism serves the same purpose.

“This is how we must regard baptism and make it profitable to ourselves; when our sins oppress us we must strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless, I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life both in soul and body.”

You are a child of God. You have been saved. Remember your baptism.

For more about the victory of God see these posts:

And Speaking of God’s Victory ….

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 3

God’s Victory Over Our Sin

Red Sea Crossing, Part 2

The Exodus, and in particular the account of how God rescued the Israelites at the Red Sea is a prime example of how the Old Testament is a foretaste of things to come in the New Testament. As I read chapter 14 of Exodus, I see that this is a truly desperate situation. Facing the people is the sea; Pharoah and his army are pursing them from behind. They are trapped and cannot save themselves. Moses understands that they must rely completely on God. He tells them:

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today … The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

God is in complete control. He not only directs Moses, He hardens the heart of Pharoah and repositions the pillar of fire and the angel. He drives the sea back so that the Israelites can cross on dry land and the returns it to its normal course, destroying the Egyptians.

This is not only an event involving water, it is a watershed event! It is one of those moments when history is changed forever. The Israelites never forgot their rescue, commemorating it every year in the Passover celebration.

As individual Christians, our baptism is a similar watershed event. Through water and the Word of God, we too are rescued. Just as God defeated Pharoah through the water of the Red Sea, in the water of our baptism, God defeats the world, the flesh and the devil. Like the Israelites, we are no longer condemned to a life of slavery; we are new creations, united with Christ and promised eternal life with God. Whether we are baptized as an infant or an adult, it is the grace of God alone that finds us and saves us, the crux of faith as summed up by Paul:

“For by grace you have been saved by faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

More to come tomorrow ….

For more about baptism see these posts:

United with Christ in our Baptism

Baptism, A New Beginning

The Freedom of Baptism