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Christian Freedom

In 1520, Martin Luther wrote a treatise called The Freedom of a Christian. Luther sought to explain the freedoms and obligations of a Christian life. He set down two clear propositions concerning the freedom and bondage of the human spirit that has faith in Jesus Christ. The first proposition is about our freedom, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.” The second proposition is about our obligations, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”

Free from all and subject to all is a contradiction that only makes sense by understanding the work of Jesus Christ. First consider how we become a righteous, free, and pious Christian. The righteousness and the freedom from sin our souls require comes to us as a free gift of Christ. The soul is not helped if our external bodies are adorned with sacred robes or if we abstain from certain kinds of food or do special works. The one thing, and the only thing, that is necessary for a Christian life, righteousness, and freedom is faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). The Christian who trusts in the good news of Christ has everything needed to be free from the unrighteousness of sin. Where the Word of God is missing, where Christ is absent, there is no help at all for that soul. We hold no debt to anyone that must be paid in order to be set free from sin, death, or the devil. Our debt has been paid in full through Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross.

The Word of God brings freedom to the soul burdened by sin and struggle. The yearns and sighs for hope are answered by the Holy Spirit present and active in the Word. When there is a drought or famine of the Word of God, the individual will find healing has become far away. If you are living without the Word of God, then you are starving your soul of the bread of life. The Christian needs neither laws nor good works to be justified. Faith trusts in the gift of Christ’s righteousness. The sufficiency of faith in Christ for salvation will be offensive to those who look to works to signal virtue and righteousness.

The Christian is subject to none and is subject to all. In terms of righteousness we owe no one. Our righteousness is freely given in Christ Jesus. So how does the Christian become a servant to all and made subject to all? The Christian that has been redeemed by the blood of Christ freely makes it his occupation to serve God joyfully with an unconstrained love. We do not serve another person in order to put that person in our debt. As our savior has loved us, so we will love others. We are set free from the opinions others will hold of us. No man’s opinion of me matters compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing I am loved by God. 

We should boldly and purposefully resist those who would require good works of us to have a good opinion of us. Fight against the wolves that would attack your place in the sheepfold of Jesus Christ. Christ is your shepherd, and you know his voice. Do not let the voice of any wolf distract you from the call of the good shepherd. Use your freedom to care for the weak and to help the lost Do not to enrich yourself with the opinions of other people. Your good works are not done to gain credit in the eyes of anyone. Your credit rating is high enough with Christ on your side. You don’t need your good works. God doesn’t need your good works. Your neighbor will be helped by your good works. Do good and love others.

We are free from having to save ourselves, and with this freedom we look to the needs of others.

Posted by Evan Gaertner

Connected to Jesus - Connected to God's People

Connected to Jesus - Connected to God’s People

Membership in a congregation matters. Church membership and attendance throughout the USA has failed sharply in the last few decades. Many of us have on our hearts and minds someone who was raised in the church but has since stopped attending. Some of these people we care about remain on the official membership of a congregation, some don’t claim to be a Christian any longer, and for some church attendance isn’t a priority anymore. Participate in the ministry of Jesus at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, and live as a witness to the mercy and grace you have received in Christ Jesus.

Christians are baptized into a people, a kingdom, a body, a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. If you are a Christian, then you are a part of a larger group. Our Christian faith is more than just our relationship with Jesus. Of course, you have a relationship with Jesus, but you also have a relationship with all other Christians. In the Lord’s Prayer the plural is important. The first words are “Our Father.” Your relationship with your Heavenly Father is linked to your relationship to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Our Christian faith involves a relationship with God and a relationship with the people God has called into His kingdom.

All Christians are part of the group, the body, the kingdom. How we acknowledge, express, and experience our relationship to other Christians is the challenge. Membership in the body of Christ is through faith in Christ Jesus. We will find ourselves judging the works of other Christians, but remember we are part of the Kingdom of God through faith in the grace of Jesus. We hear about this grace of God through the Word of God. The Word of God is read in private devotions and received in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We receive the Word of God through the preaching and teaching of our pastors. We participate in the Word of God with other Christians through Bible study and worship. St. Paul told the Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) 

You became a part of the Body of Christ through the work of Jesus. You receive the righteousness of Christ as a credit to your life through faith in Christ. So that we may receive this saving faith, God has created the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. Through these instruments of grace the Holy Spirit is given. The Lutheran Church condemns those who teach that the Holy Spirit comes to people without the external Word through their own preparations and works. God works through the ministry of the church to deliver saving faith.

Membership and participation in a local congregation is important and yet challenging. Since Christians are sinners called to holiness, the life we seek to live will not always show up in what we do. This internal spiritual struggle will externally look like hypocrisy. We condemn the very things that we find ourselves guilty of doing. We Christians know that we don’t perfectly walk the talk. A Christian congregation is a collection of people that gather around forgiveness first and foremost. Everyone is spiritually struggling. Join and participate in the ministry of Jesus at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church,  and find a community where there is healing and forgiveness delivered in regular shipments through the Word of God.

Look at what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the book of Acts. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). Through the last two thousands many things have changed in the church and in the world, but the continuity is clear: teaching, fellowship, and worship.

TEACHING

We remain a gathering of people that the Spirit has brought together to share in the same faith as the apostles and the Church throughout the ages. We believe, teach, and confess in unity with the apostles’ teaching. We care deeply about doctrine. Truth matters. 

FELLOWSHIP

We continue to devote ourselves to the fellowship. We understand ourselves as members, not individuals. Do not reject, ignore, or become apathetic to the fellowship. Being a participating member in a local congregation is the very least one can do to remain devoted to the fellowship like the people of Acts.

WORSHIP

If you want to be like the first followers of Jesus and live in unity with the people of Acts, then you should frequently participate in worship services. The book of Hebrews reminds us to stir one another up to love and good works and, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

Posted by Evan Gaertner

Power of God's Word to Make us Alive Again

This summer I have taught to the Thursday Morning Men’s Bible Study group a unit on the history of the Bible. As I prepared the lesson packets, I was reminded that the authority of the Word of God begins with God. God is the author of our salvation. Even in Genesis 1 we are introduced to a speaking God. God communicates. Genesis 1 uses the verb “to say” eleven times. Then Genesis 2:16 shows God talking with man. Genesis to Revelation shows a communicating God in the action of communicating. God speaks and light happens. God speaks and relationships happen. God speaks and there is life. When God’s word is absent and placed far from our ears, we find ourselves in the dark about God’s will. Sinful people replace the authority of God’s Word with our own selfish and sensual desires.

If you hold to a view of the Bible as a creation of men and women, then it is just an anthology or collection of writings by people that are limited by their powers to share anything meaningful. People are limited by their own experiences and intellectual abilities to tell you how God is at work in this world. Peter cautioned us from abandoning the apostolic message in this naturalistic manner when he wrote about false teachers, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:2). We naturally bend the truth to serve our own desires and self-justify our sinful lives. 

A supernaturalistic worldview understands that God purposefully speaks into our lives through the Bible. God inspired the writers of the books in the Bible. God speaks into our world his truth. Peter wrote about the character of inspiration, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The Word of God is not limited by the knowledge or experience of people to speak truth for our lives. The Word of God is more grand than anything we can produce from our experiences.

The authority of the Bible is not found in how it confirms my own desires to do what I want or desire. The power of the Bible is found in its ability to be a witness to the will of God. The fruitful use of the Scriptures is centered in the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. I find the Law of God which shows that I fall short of God’s created order and purposes. I am a sinner, and I cannot rescue myself from this truth. I need the truth of salvation that Jesus Christ is my redeemer.

Reading the Bible is unlike any other reading. I become involved in the story that the Bible reveals in the inspired words. God speaks to the estranged world. I find the truth that I am lost and condemned. The Word of God slays my soul. This very same Word of God that reveals that I am dead in sin reveals that by faith in Jesus Christ I am made alive. I am born again through the Spirit to live in the kingdom of God. Faithful reading of the Word of God shows God’s desire to kill my sinful self and to raise me up new again. Become a faithful reader of God’s Word. Discover Jesus who is more than confirmation of your own sensual desires. Jesus is the way, truth, and life. 

Posted by Evan Gaertner

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