False Teaching in the Church

In our class about false teaching, we learned there that there are two main ways the church falls into error today. These are not associated with a particular denomination, but one or the other can be observed in any number of church traditions.

The first is legalism. Some churches may require adherence to laws that are impossible to keep. (This is the same problem that the Jewish people faced.) When this kind of error is present, it often leads to the church either diluting the law, to make it easier, or inventing new rules that are easier to keep, but not biblical.

The second way churches can go astray is by espousing antinominanism. This is a big word which basically means that the law is no longer of use to Christians because it has been superseded by the gospel. In this case our behavior really doesn’t matter.

Lutherans, of course would say we need a balance between law and gospel. Both are necessary, neither should dominate. We must teach the law in order to see that we are sinful people who can’t save ourselves. We must teach the gospel to understand that through the sacrifice (once and for all) of Jesus we are saved saints of God. We will never be able to keep the law perfectly, but good works are our response of gratitude to the One who loved and saved us.

Remember the Gospel

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.”  1 Corinthians 15:1-2

My husband says every good Lutheran sermon must contain both law and gospel:  law so we recognize that we are sinners and the gospel message that through Christ’s atonement we are saved.

In our daily world, it’s easy to forget both of those things.  Sin has become a bad word.  We’re told it’s not healthy to feel guilt.  We simply “made a mistake” or “used poor judgement.”  It’s easy to make excuses for our behavior that lessen our responsibility.  It’s easy to deny our faults and blame somebody else.  That goes as far back as Adam, remember?  He told God, “the woman you gave me, caused me to sin.”

But we’re made for God and without Him we feel incomplete, so no matter how hard we try, guilt creeps in.  We doubt and despair.  We try to feel good about ourselves, but the devil continually whispers to us that we’ll never be acceptable.

There’s only one cure:  go to church, confess your sins really are sins and really are yours and then hear the gospel.  My husband says that’s simple, too:  Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for me.

Did you confess your sins today?  Did you hear the gospel?  If so, you may be a Lutheran.

Luther and the Gospel

” For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

For a  long time Martin Luther struggled with this verse.  Interpreting it according to the doctrines of the Catholic church at that time, he saw a wrathful God, intent upon punishing the unrighteous.  The only way to be righteous was to follow God’s laws and do good works.  The gospel was an extension of the law.

Luther was so eager to comply, to be righteous and earn God’s approval, that he spent as much as 6 hours a day in confession.  Still, he knew he could never do enough.  He was convinced of his own unworthiness and failure.

One day, in what is described as his “Tower Experience” Luther had an ‘aha’ moment.  He realized that the gospel was the free gift (grace)  of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith.  God knew we couldn’t measure up and the gospel was the good news that God loved us anyway, and provided a way for our debt of sin to be paid by His Son.

This made a big difference to Martin, and it should to us.  It’s wonderful to have grown up Lutheran and to know the difference between law and gospel.  Here’s the verse that comes right before the one that brought Luther so much confusion and grief:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Are you thankful for the gospel?  Do you understand it rightly?  Send us your thoughts and comments.

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;  and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;  and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Matthew 5:38-41

In this verse, Jesus is telling us not to seek revenge, but to forgive and even do good to the person who has wronged us.  I guess I have always looked at that as my Christian “duty.”  Something I was required to do instead of what I really wanted to do.  Recently I decided I am thinking about it the wrong way.  What if I made it gospel instead of law?  (Lutherans love to talk about the difference).  This kind of situation gives me a chance to show God’s grace to someone.

My husband loves to tell a story about our good friend, Gary.  Gary and his family had moved to a house they were renting.  The first evening they were there, the renter of the other half of the house came home and Gary went out to greet him and introduce himself.  His neighbor responded with curses and a basic message of “leave me alone.”  Gary’s response?  “Gee, you must have had a terrible day, what’s wrong?”  The two became friends because Gary saw his neighbor’s rudeness as an opportunity to share God’s love.  He let him see Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance in the actions of another person.

How often do I let this same opportunity pass?