Friday, March 31, 2017

Pastor Borghardt explains the unpardonable sin

It really makes sense, if you think it through: only by the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Jesus can we believe. In the last analysis, what Jesus is talking about when He speaks of the one unpardonable sin is final unbelief. It's unforgivable not because God is unwilling to forgive it, but because the person who commits it refuses to be forgiven the only way such a thing is possible- through faith in Jesus, enabled by the Spirit Who always bears witness to Jesus, and never to Himself.

Remember, I said final unbelief. One thing that Pastor B. doesn't say that should be emphasized is that Paul and C.S. Lewis and many other great Christians rejected Jesus at one time. Having done so at some previous time is not the unpardonable sin! The unpardonable sin is the persistent and determined rejection of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Jesus which hardens a heart against Him. Testifying to Jesus and bringing about faith in Him is, after all, the Holy Spirit's main work.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A matter of simple logic.

Are you saved? It's the devil's job to create doubt about that. It's the Holy Spirit's to convince you that if you believe in Jesus, you are saved. After all, despite all the teachings and preachings of the doubt-mongers, that's what Jesus taught.

But do you believe in Jesus? Do you really and sincerely believe in Jesus? Give me a break. Where do you see all those adjectives in the New Testament?  I'm not even going to get into the question of whether you believe in Jesus enough because there is no "enough." Any faith in Jesus at all saves. And you're no more justified how well you believe than by how well you do anything else.

Salvation isn't about you. It's about Jesus. It isn't about what do. It's about what He has done.

But the fact remains that if we do what OCD tells us to do- to look inside ourselves to discover whether or not we believe- we will never find assurance there. The strongest faith is mixed with doubt. That's why Jesus gave us an external, objective, verifiable historical fact to look to instead.

If you put your trust in the promise Jesus made in baptism, you put your promise in Jesus. And your baptism is a historical fact, a datable event. Sure, people can be baptized and fall away, or even be baptized without believing. There is no magic here. But people who don't trust in Jesus don't look for reassurance to the promise Jesus makes in baptism!

That is where certainly resides because that's where Jesus has placed it (by the way, while it's true that in classical Greek the word "baptize" means "immerse," the New Testament was written in Koine Greek- a dialect further removed from classical Greek than American English is from Shakespearian English- and that in Koine it simply means "wash." Matthew even uses it to describe the ritual washing of tables and couches!).

If you doubt your salvation, ask yourself whether you're baptized! Sure, you can fall away from the faith by willful and unrepented sin. But people who do that don't ask the question! And even if you fear that you're in danger of that, remember what baptism is all about:

What is Baptism?--Answer: Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.

Which is that word of God?--Answer: Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nationsbaptizing them in the name of the Fatherand of the Sonand of the Holy Ghost.

What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer: It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer: Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.

How can water do such great things?--Answer: It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghostwhich He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christour Saviorthatbeing justified by His gracewe should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

What does such baptizing with water signify?
--Answer: It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?--Answer. St. Paul says in Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into deaththatlike as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Fathereven so, we also should walk in newness of life.

To claim the promise of baptism is to claim the promise of new life, a new start, a fresh beginning, and a new identity as a child of God, perfect in His sight with the perfection of Jesus Himself.  Your weakness doesn't matter here. The strength of your resolution to better doesn't matter; if you want what baptism offers, you desire to do better, and that's all that counts. To trust the promise is to want what the promise promises.

The weakness of your faith doesn't matter; all that matters is that you cling to the promise. The unbelief that always is mixed together with faith doesn't matter. It's not your response to the promise that matters, but the promise itself: a promise not dependent on something which may or may not be present within you, but to an objective, historical fact in time and space, a personalized promise that doesn't come and go with the wavering of your fickle and fallible heart  but is always there, as certain as only  a promise from God Himself can be,

Friday, March 17, 2017

Jesus is the very opposite of "out to get you!"

In fact, I don't know how much more opposite His reason for coming could be!

As Jesus tells us in John 3, He came into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it. Folks with scrupulosity often act as if God were looking for an excuse to send us to hell on a technicality. Probably bad horror fiction plays a role in that delusion, as well as sick, sub-Christian religion. But the real God because a human being just like you precisely to keep you out of hell. He lived those thirty-odd years on this planet for you. He volunteered to suffer the punishment you had coming for your sins. He literally went through hell to keep you out of it!

I won't go into the Christological and sacramental misunderstandings which cause many Protestants to dislike the crucifix. other than to say that it's strange that they forget that the same God Who forbade worshipping graven images also commanded Moses to construct two metal cherubim to sit on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. And they also overlook the immediate context of the most beloved and most important verse in the entire Bible, the one about the brass snake:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. --John 3:13-16, ESV

The crucifix can remind us of the very metaphor Jesus uses to describe the heart of his mission on Earth, of His entire reason for coming. Just as the Israelites who were bitten by the poisonous snakes God sent among them as punishment for their grumbling could be healed and live merely by looking with faith upon the brass snake God ordered Moses to erect in the midst of the camp, so sinners dying from the venom-filled bite of sin are healed by looking in faith to the Man hanging on the cross.

Not, of course, that there is anything magical about a crucifix; it's merely an ordinary piece of wood and metal. Nor does merely looking at it work forgiveness of sin, any more than merely the external act of looking at the brass snake saved anyone from the venom of the snakes. But a crucifix can remind us that Jesus came to Earth not to "get us" for our sins, but to "get us" to be His own. He came to be the One to Whom any sinner, no matter how great his sin or how long he has strayed or how often they have come, can look upon with the eyes of faith, and be healed, and live.