Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Good example of exhortation

Things are often clearer when we see examples. So here is an example of the last paragraphs of a sermon (not mine) that I think does a great job of ending a sermon with exhortation to faithful, godly living. These paragraphs come after some solid, direct, Fordesque Gospel: not talking about the Gospel but actually preaching the Gospel.

I don't think anyone could accuse this sermon of legalism, even though it would even be a great way to end a sermon if the elders are after you for "more stewardship talk"!

So have a look and comment below.

This is not the end of the restoration but the beginning. God wants more happiness for us than only that between us and Him, thought that is the number one happiness and runs through every happiness. We are happy indeed to know that God does not condemn and cast us off as we deserve. We are no longer bargaining with God, no longer scared of Him. He has given us to be His children who love now from the resources of His gifts.

When God can give, He is happy. When we are given to by God so unimaginably abundantly, we are happy. Being made happy with God's giving, we multiply our happiness when we also give. The opportunities are plentiful to spouse, family, friend, and others knocked about beside the road. Our enemies provide the opportunities of purest giving, for then it is not so easily mixed with getting. As God's happiness increases, as His giving increased, so does ours. For this purpose God gives us abundance of gifts so that we may have joy in giving them further.

God's gifts always grow; they grow by being given away. If they are not given, they wither and die. That is, above all, true of the Gospel. God, you see, is not greedy of His happiness. He did not insist on having all the joy of giving it away. God gave it into our hands. Just think of that! When you have given Christ away to somebody, then is Christ more richly and powerfully yours.

We are, perhaps, not so willing to agree when it comes to some of God's other gifts, our work and business and money, for here the emphasis is so strongly on getting. These things, however, we must see in the light of their purpose. If we work hard, strive to increase our wages or business to get for ourselves, then we are only breeding further restless wanting and getting and wanting. If we work and earn so we may have more to give for God, for friends, family, and others, then happy is our work. Our work is worship, for it is performed in God's way of doing things.

The increase of happiness' treasures is by giving, not by getting. As the loaves and fishes were multiplied by being given away, so all the gifts of God are multiplied by being given away. It is far happier to give than to receive. God knows that, and He wants us happily to know it too. Amen.

34 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I Like this: "Our enemies provide the opportunities of purest giving, for then it is not so easily mixed with getting."

    Not so much this:"As God's happiness increases, as His giving increased, so does ours."

    And not at all this:"When you have given Christ away to somebody, then is Christ more richly and powerfully yours."

    Is my faith strengthened by my giving?

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    1. I think there is a danger is over interpreting sermons. For example, even the phrase "we are saved by Christ" can be found defective with enough analysis: 'Do you mean that we are saved by Christ as our example? That's not true...we are saved by Christ's work on the cross..."etc.

      I don't think there is anything offensive in the words you don't like "at all." Don't you find that in sharing Christ your faith in Christ is strengthened?

      +HRC

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    2. Particularly there will be danger of over interpreting sermons - and suffocating the Word of God in the process - when taking a sermon apart and analysing its individual element is somehow set as an agenda. When each and every sentence and each and every choice of phrasing is subject to scrutiny and judgement as to whether or not it fits into the straitjacket of our choice, there will be very little room left for the Word of God to run its free course among us, nor for the Wind to blow wherever God wills.

      Of course the congregations should judge preaching, namely in the sense that they should know the Word of God and react if what they hear is not it.

      But to establish at the outset an attitude of distrust towards their Pastor, so that the agenda for the hearing of his sermons is nitpicking and analysing and evalutating every little detail rather than hearing the Word of God spoken to me, that is not only to sabotage his ministry, but also to poison the hearts of the hearers and make it difficult for them to ever hear the Word of God again through the overwhelming and obnoxious cacophony shouted into their ears, and thus it is also to set up hindrances for their life with God, and their santification and service to Him, and ultimately it is to jeopardise their salvation.

      And that is why it is such a sad thing that some of our leaders have been so busy teaching our people not to listen to the Word of God, nor to listen for the Word of the cross or words of absolution, but instead to keep count of how often the Pastor looks down at his manuscript, how many times he makes eye contact with you (at the times you happen to looking up), and, most important of all, whether or not he uses an ILLUSTRATION today.

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    3. Dave,

      You asked: "Is my faith strengthened by my giving?" Hearts follow treasure. "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." So it seems that in some way it is. In giving away what God has given to us, we trust and rest on the trustworthiness of God and His promises.

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    4. O, and for evaluation of sermons to be meet, right, and salutary requires much, not only in terms of knowledge of the Word of God, but also in terms of spiritual and intellectual integrity and honesty. It requires a such attitude and awareness with regard to one's own personal preferences and prejudices that they do not end up as the criteria based upon which one judges, nor one's desire to prove that "I know better", nor "how our old Pastor used to preach", or "how I have heard other Pastors preach".

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    5. Hi Jason,
      I think that we share the gospel because we trust in God's promises; not to build that trust.
      The deacons in Acts were chosen because they were of strong faith; not in order to build their faith. So too, I don't like it when a man is chosen for church council in order to encourage him to be more active.

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    6. "I think that we share the gospel because we trust in God's promises; not to build that trust." I think the Bible says both.

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    7. My reference to Luke above. But also 2 Peter 1:3-15.

      The distinction is in the kind of cause. We share the gospel *because* we trust is God's promises (material cause). We share the gospel to build that trust, in other words, to cause that trust to grow in us and others (final cause).

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    9. As soon as we in preaching move into the are of experience,and how things affect us, we also move beyond what we can say with absolute certainty, since Holy Scripture does not give us that. As such, we should always be very careful not to speak as if our experience will always also be the experience of others, or even always be our own experience.
      When it comes to the sentence: "As God's happiness increases, as His giving increased, so does ours" I would probably have thrown into it a specific reference that this is what we will often experience, or sometimes.

      I am not sure I understand the sentence: "When you have given Christ away to somebody, then is Christ more richly and powerfully yours."
      I assume this is not to be understood in a sacramental sense, with reference to the indwelling of Christ, or in terms of justification, of one's standing with God.
      I do know the blissful experience of being reminded of the reality of Christ, and of the power of His Word, by sharing His truth with others, and particularly by seeing it actually working that which He said it would work.
      And I can see how "When you have given Christ away to somebody, then is Christ more richly and powerfully yours." would be a good attempt at expressing this forcefully and poetically - if that is what is meant.

      I have also had different experiences, though. And even if I had not, I would know that others may have. Which, for me, would be reason enough to phrase it differently.

      But again, just like hindsight, our vision is always twenty-twenty when it come to what others should have done instead ...

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    10. RE: Jason's comment,

      "We reject the papistic doctrine “that our good works preserve salvation, or that the righteousness of faith which has been received, or even faith itself, is either entirely or in part kept and preserved by our works” (Formula of Concord, Thor. Decl., IV, 23) ; for from this would follow that the believer must depend at least in part on himself. Jer. 17,5; Prov. 28,26."

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    11. Dave,

      You asked: "Is faith strengthened by our giving?" My subsequent comments were in answer to that question. We weren't talking about the righteousness we have by faith but rather the role of works in the perseverance of faith. Here FCSD VI:33ff clearly ascribes some role to works in the perseverance of faith in which is quoted the 2 Peter 1 passage that I cited above. Good works do not make us or earn us righteousness before God, which is by faith alone. That is why I wrote "So it seems that in some way it is," in response to your question: "Is faith strengthened by our giving?"

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    12. Pastor Braaten,
      If you believe that faith is preserved, or strengthened by works, you are badly mistaken. That is not what Scripture or the Confessions say.


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    13. Pastor,
      There's a big difference between discerning our faith by our works, and building our faith by our works. The former is scriptural, the later is not.

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    15. Good Morning Pastor,
      Yes, unfortunately I have to agree, you do seem to be at a loss there.
      Please read FCSD IV, 23 and note that it says that not even faith itself is kept or preserved in any way by our works.

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    16. Pastor Braaten,
      I understand that taking yourself to church is a good work (following God's command) and that in doing so you receive the forgiveness of sins and your faith is strengthened. Now the Catholics would say; "see good works do strengthen your faith". I understand the difference between "The Four Causes", but I'm Lutheran, I don't like philosophy. Yes, taking myself to church resulted in my faith being strengthened, but in no way is this to be construed as works strengthening faith. Taking my child to be baptized resulted in his conversion, but in no way can I attribute his conversion to my good work.
      No one should preach that faith is begun, preserved, or strengthened, in any way, by works.

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    17. Dave,

      I understand your frustration, and I'm trying to stick with the sound pattern of speech here. First, our works contribute nothing to salvation or to righteousness. Second, what we do or leave undone can and does effect faith, for faith can not remain in those who lose the Holy Spirit and reject repentance (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5; Rom 8:13; Col 3:6; 2 Pet 3:10).

      That is why I said in *some sense* your faith is strengthened by your giving for in relying upon the Word and promise of God faith is reinforced, faith is doing what faith does.

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    18. So, in other words, you are saying that the fruit of the tree (good works), fertilize the tree and cause it to grow stronger?

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    19. I don't know that I would say it exactly like that. I would say this:

      "Faith is the only proper and only means through which righteousness and salvation are not only received, but also preserved by God" (FCSD IV:35). And at the same time this must be rejected, "that faith, and the righteousness and salvation that they have received, cannot be lost through sins or wicked deeds, not even through willful and intentional ones. They imagine that a Christian retains faith, God's grace, righteousness, and salvation even though he indulges his wicked lusts without fear and shame, resists the Holy Spirit, and purposely engages in sins agains conscience" (FCSD IV:31).

      So, what we do can and does effect faith. These works are not an efficient cause of our salvation. Nor are they the material cause of salvation. That is the Word of God and the faith that clings to this Word of God. Rather I think it could be safely said that works are a final cause, or a final cause, of salvation and saving faith.

      Thus when faith is used as it is intended to be used, we are given the purpose of why good works should be done: "so that the calling [to saving faith] may be sure, that is, should they fall from their calling if they sin again. Do good works in order that you may persevere in your calling, IN ORDER THAT YOU DO NOT LOSE THE GIFTS OF YOUR CALLING. They were given to you before, and not because of works that follow, and which now are kept through faith. Faith does not remain in those who lose the Holy Spirit and reject repentance" (FCSD IV:33, Ap XX:90). In other words, when by faith we trust in the word and promise of God and do what it says, faith is exercising this perseverance and refraining from what would cause its departure. Is it the work alone that causes this? No! It is the word of God and the faith that trusts this word of God.

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    20. Pastor,
      We agree on a lot! Indeed "Faith is the only proper and only means through which righteousness and salvation are not only received, but also preserved by God" And, it is very true that faith, and the Holy Spirit can be lost.
      I never said that what we do does not effect faith. And, no I do not think you are saying that works merit salvation in any way. Also, I believe very strongly that pastors should (indeed they are commanded) to exhort Christians to do good works and also preach what these good works consist of.
      We don't seem to agree on what power, if any, good works have.
      Good works have no power to begin, preserve, or strengthen faith.
      If we are going to ascribe to good works the power to strengthen faith because, for example, taking myself to church availed me to God's Word and resulted in my faith being strengthened, then we would have to ascribe the same power to evil works. God often uses the evil of men to begin, or strengthen faith.
      If it is true that "in *some sense* [my] faith is strengthened by [my] giving", then how can the Confessions (which you and I both hold to) plainly say that it isn't; i.e. "We reject the papistic doctrine “that our good works preserve salvation, or that the righteousness of faith which has been received, or even faith itself, is either entirely or in part kept and preserved by our works”? Please note that it says, "or even faith itself".
      You are not saying that the Confessions do not say this are you?

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    21. "If we are going to ascribe to good works the power to strengthen faith because, for example, taking myself to church availed me to God's Word and resulted in my faith being strengthened, then we would have to ascribe the same power to evil works. God often uses the evil of men to begin, or strengthen faith."

      I'm not sure I understand your comparison here, perhaps it is a typographical error. The Scriptures and Confessions ascribe no power to works, good or evil, in strengthening faith but they do ascribe the losing of faith, the weakening of faith, to evil works.

      What then is the power of good works? "In believers good works are signs of salvation when they are done from true causes and for true ends." What are these? Faith and trust in the word and promise of God by the Holy Spirit. In this way and only in this way, could it be said that good works strengthen faith, namely, they are signs that faith is living. But we are not to trust in the works but rather in the word and promise of God.

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    22. "The Scriptures and Confessions ascribe no power to works, good or evil, in strengthening faith.."

      We agree Pastor!

      Thank you for the great discussion. Joyous Christmas.
      Dave

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  3. Only in as much as it is the Word that I'm sharing - Not the act of me sharing.

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  4. I think there is a danger in accepting a sermon because it sounds good.

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  5. I'm in agreement with Luke. "Where your treasure is there your heart will be also." is exactly what I'm saying. Because, by faith, I treasure the promises of God, my heart is moved to share those promises.
    I am also in agreement with Peter. When Peter says, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, etc.; " supplement" does not mean "to increase". If it did, Peter would also be telling us to increase our virtue with knowledge.
    When Peter says "For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." He is exhorting us to good works - no doubt about it. The command to exercise our faith is not given so that our faith should be strengthened by such works, but rather in accord with "love thy neighbor". It is the same with prayer. Neither prayer, nor works, are means of grace. They are commanded though.
    I am still of the mind that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

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  6. I am still of the mind that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." -- Mr. Schumacher

    Or, in other words, faith comes about by a work (i.e., the act of hearing); which hearing is made possible through the Word's efforts. The finger of God, the Word's Spirit, probes our ears (cf. Mk 7:33) far better than any board-certified ENT surgeon can accomplish; the Word of God sighs "Ephphatha" (Mk 7:34), and our graced ears can't help but obey (Mk 7:35).

    And note what happens when the ears work, and hear the preaching: why, the tongue loosens, too, and it proclaims the Gospel: "Behold, the Kingdom of God has come and works among you!" So faith multiples (that is, it grows, even as the Church grows). The more the Messiah "charges" the ears and the tongues (Mk 7:36; AV), the more widely the energized proclaim His glory and comfort.

    Since the Word shall not return to His Father empty or void, it follows that His working hands ... that is, His preachers, His ordained and faithful men ... will not be found empty either. As God wills, faith WILL increase, inevitably and as promised ... just as the tiny mustard seed soars into a mighty tree, harboring the birds of the air. The Body of Christ WILL enlarge, either visibly as to numbers; or, and no less wondrously, through a maturation (or "burning") of the individual believer's heart (cf. Lk 24:32).

    Lutheran preaching ... a work, without a doubt ... is essential to this remarkable nurturing and, yes, growing process of the faith which saves. St. Paul recognized this fully. As he rhetorically reminded the faith-full Roman church of his day, "And how shall they hear, without a preacher (Rom 10:15)?"

    As an aside, the gentle reader will note that the Apostle did not say "without a teacher" or "without a synod bureaucrat" or without a slick billboard" or even "without Duck Commander and his Bible."

    He said "without a preacher." This, from an unabashed "laying on of hands" advocate. Interesting, no?

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor, S.S.P.

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  8. I actually don't really think this is all that good of an example, personally. I don't care if it is Dr. Nagel.

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