Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Core Values for Christians: Justification"

(This article is taken from the July Newsletter of Concordia Ev. Lutheran Church of Sikeston, MO. That entire newsletter can be viewed as a pdf file at: At the end of the below article I will include the text - and introduction - of Article IVof the Augsburg Confession -- or, go to this link and read it yourself: .)
As you look around our community or other communities, do you get a clear picture of what the Church’s “job” is? Here’s a short list of impressions which you might get if you just looked around (in person and on the internet):

+ to put catchy sayings on  billboards

+ to get members from other churches to join your church

+ to make people feel good

+ to tell people how to “get along” in life (marriage, life in general, home, work, ...)

+ to host youth events (the bigger, the better)

+ to take trips to special places (for fun and recreation or for “missions”)

Well, those are just a few which your pastor thinks it might be easy for people to start to think of as the Church’s purpose — some are OK, but some of them are plain sinful. If you want some hints as to what the Church’s true purpose is, then see the pictures which are included in this article.
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Article IV
The truth is: the holy Christian Church will stand or fall on the basis of her belief in God’s message of justification to our fallen world. 

Please go read Article IV of the Augsburg  Confession on p. 3 of this newsletter — it’s really short. Then come back here. Please? Thanks! I’ll wait . . . 

So . . . assuming that you have read the Article, what does it mean? Is what the reformers wrote a “no-brainer” to you? If you think so, then it means that you have been properly catechized (taught), and your pastor is so very thankful for that! If you are inclined to disagree with Article IV, then you are in big trouble — and not just now but someday when you are on your deathbed.

The fact that God pronounces you and I “justified” or “righteous” in His sight for the sake of Christ’s holy work at Calvary (Jesus suffered for all of our sins and died as the perfect payment for all sins!), should be of the greatest comfort to you. It will, when you come to believe it properly, take away your natural fear of God, AND it will motivate you for a life of service to God which will (probably) astonish you!
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The Greatest Need of Every Sinner is . . . 
Back when we looked at Article II of the Augsburg Confession (a couple of months ago), we noted that the reformers wrote about the greatest need of every person in the world, namely, original sin. It is the sin which we have inherited from our parents. With the sin has come guilt. Because we are sinners. Just as the drug addict, whether or not s/he craves a “fix” at a particular moment, is still an addict, so the sinner, whether or not s/he is sinning at a particular point in time, is a sinner.

Therefore, it stands to reason to say that, since the greatest need of every person in the world is their sinfulness, then the greatest gift which can be given to them is the forgiveness of their sins. This truly is the great gift which our Lord Jesus Christ came to our fallen world to give us. When Jesus died, He uttered one word, a word which means everything to us who hope in Him: it is the word which, translated into English, is “It is finished!” What was finished, of course, was the perfect payment for all the world’s sins.
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The Right Motive for Anything is . . . 

Forgiveness! It changes things. Years ago, this pastor became aware of a man who had been “on the outs” with his wife for a number of years. There were terrible hurts which the man had inflicted upon his wife. They had been painful. He came to be deeply sorry for those hurts which he had caused. He wanted, with all his heart, to take those hurts away (but he could not, of course — and there’s a powerful lesson in that fact for all of us!). His wife told him that he had to “re-earn” her love. He waited and he tried. But  her required wait backfired on her. He became resentful and angry. Your pastor’s counsel to him was: quit trying because you cannot earn your wife’s (or anyone else’s) love. Your pastor’s counsel to her was: forgive him and love him even if you do not think he deserves it. Result: a marriage saved and a future hope for that home.

God’s forgiveness changes everything about our lives. Your pastor cringes when he hears or reads about how church leaders in our own church body and/or church leaders in other church bodies try to motivate  (a better word is manipulate) people to serve God out of a sense of personal or corporate guilt. Make no mistake: guilt is a quick motivator, that is, it gets people to try to do things. But guilt is a wrong motivator. People tire of trying to earn their “forgiveness.” Then they become resentful. Then they are no longer motivated. Or, worse, they think that they actually can earn their forgiveness. Then they become arrogant. Then they are no longer motivated. 

Your pastor knows that it will take much longer to get people “motivated” to serve God by telling them that God truly does love them! But your pastor knows that love is the only right and the only lasting motivation for your life of service to God. God loves you! God forgives you your sins for Christ’s sake! As you get to know that and are reassured of it again and again, then lives of service will surely follow.
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What does the Church “Dispense” . . . ?
Have you ever thought about that? Is the Church’s purpose to dispense “motivation” to folks ala Joel Olsteen? Or, what about the old mantra of “self-esteem?” Are we supposed to make people feel good about themselves? Some churches think that their job is to try to predict the future. Others dispense parenting advice. Still others offer Sunday morning sex advice (really — at least that’s what they have advertised). Other churches want to give you “an experience with God” of some sort. But none of those are the proper function of the Christian congregation! 
On Easter evening our Lord Christ appeared to the disciples and said to them: “ . . . If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” (John 20:23) That, friends, is what Christ’s Church is supposed to “dispense:” the forgiveness of sins which Christ has purchased by His suffering and death!
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Learn to Expect This at Church . . .
Your pastor prays that you will expect to  hear him preach to you about God’s love for you, about Christ’s perfect payment for all of your sins, and about how God, because you have been brought to faith in Christ’s work, declares you righteous in His sight. 

Your pastor prays that the message of your justification in God’s sight through faith in Jesus Christ, will motivate you in your attendance at God’s house, in your offerings for His work, and in your resolve to invite your family and friends to God’s house. He also prays that you will encourage him NEVER to deviate from this central and most important message of Christendom, because it really is true that the doctrine of “Justification” is the doctrine by which the Christian Church finds her reason to exist.

This teaching of “Justification” truly is, then, a “core value” for us Christians. It is the message about how God permits us to have life with Him. It is the message about His grace that makes us righteous in His sight. It fills us with His love.  +

(Oops! Because I got behind on my blogging, I neglected to save what I had keyed in as the text of AC IV. But you can go read it yourself online at

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