Sermon for Trinity 8

Sermon from Sunday, in which I explain the importance of doctrine.

We’ve been hearing about the growth of the Christian for the last couple of months – how we mature in the faith, growing in faith toward God and in love toward our neighbor. Today, Jesus has a warning about false teachers. And it isn’t a topic change at all from what we’ve been talking about.

It’s ordination season in the church. New pastors graduated a few weeks ago, and over the course of the summer they will be ordained and installed in their new parishes. Our district welcomed a new pastor last week at our sister church Christ Lutheran in Rawlins.

New pastors coming from seminary means that somewhere a pastor will be told, “Well, you learned all that doctrine. But now forget that and just love your people.” Thanks be to God, it wasn’t the message last weekend for the new pastor in our district. Those who say these things do not know the scriptures nor the power in them. Imagine a new doctor being told “Well, forget all that stuff you learned in medical school, now it’s about healing patients.” Imagine a lawyer being told, “forget all that stuff you learned in law school, now it’s about defending clients.” Imagine a pilot being told, “Forget all that stuff you learned in flight school, now it’s about the flying the plane.” Absurd. And yet for some reason people think the church – God’s creation, the bride of Christ – can do without the teachings of Jesus. That’s what doctrine is – it just means a teaching. Christ teaches the church – his three year ministry is filled with his sermons. He constantly taught the people. That was his daily schedule – wake up, breakfast, teach and heal, lunch, teach and heal, dinner, teach and heal, sleep. Today’s Gospel comes at the end of the sermon on the mount. He sat down and opened his mouth to teach the people… In a few more verses, Matthew records, “And when he had finished teaching the people they were amazed because he taught as one who had authority, not as their scribes.” He taught as one who had authority – he taught them doctrine, teachings. And he spoke as one who had authority because he did have authority. He was given these teachings from His Father. He spoke the words he was given to speak. He taught the things he was given to teach. His doctrine is the doctrine – the teaching – about his Father and the plan of salvation for the world. The word theology just means “The word of God”. So when people say, “Well, forget theology, let’s talk about Jesus.” They are saying, “Forget what Jesus says, but let’s talk about him.” Uh, ok. How do we do that?

We can’t ignore the word which God speaks. In the Old Testament he speaks through the prophets – over and over it says, “The word of the Lord came to the prophet…” In the new Testament, the Word of God is Jesus. He comes and teaches the people. And the apostles wrote down what he said so that even today we have his teachings. And they tell us that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary redeemed me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil with his Holy Precious Blood and with his innocent suffering and death. That’s what scripture teaches – who Jesus is (the Son of God made flesh), and what he did for us (died on the cross to save us from our sins). The prophets talk about him and point to him constantly in the Old Testament, and the Apostles in the New testament are witnesses of his resurrection.

And false teachers – Jesus calls them wolves – want to come into the flock of God’s little lambs with their false doctrine and tear apart the sheep. They bring a message that sounds good, but really leads you away from Jesus and his work for you. That’s why Jesus says “beware” and “you will know them by their fruits”. What is a fruit of teaching – of doctrine? Where does it lead you? If the school teacher teaches falsely – 2+2=5, Z comes before A in the alphabet, then the fruit of the teaching would be children that can’t read or count. A false teacher in the church leads away from Jesus and his work – that is how we can identify them: by their fruit: Where does the teaching lead.

In the book of Acts, when the apostles went to Berea, we’re told that the people listened carefully, and then compared what was said to what Scripture says. And that’s what the church still does today. You come and listen to the sermon, hear the word proclaimed, and then compare the teaching to scripture – does it say what scripture says? Does it lead to Christ, or away from him? And how is it that someone comes in sheeps clothing, but is inwardly a ravening wolf? How can the church be fooled, if we’re talking about Jesus? Well, it depends what we say about him.

An example might help. Take the classic sentence – the answer to just about every Sunday School question “Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.” Notice it talks about Jesus. And it does it in a very specific way. Jesus is the subject – he is the one doing the action. In the sentence “Mom baked a cake”, Mom is the subject – she is doing the baking. Cake is there. But it’s the object. It isn’t doing anything. So in the sentence, Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, Jesus does the action. He is the one dying, the one saving. We are receiving the gift. We are the object.

If you listen to a false teacher, they may talk a lot about Jesus, but Jesus will be the object. The subject will be you. You must do this for Jesus. You must do that for Jesus. In common terms, that means that the cake bakes mom. It doesn’t work. Jesus is the shepherd – he gives his life for the sheep. He DOES. And then you receive. There are a lot of false teachers who talk endlessly about Jesus – but Jesus says at the last day, he will say, “I never knew you.” How can you tell a false teacher – their fruit. Where does their message lead? Is Jesus saving you, or are you doing for him? Who is the object, who is the subject – who is doing, and who is being done to. Mom bakes the cake. Jesus does the saving. The cake gets the baking done to it. You get the saving done to you. If you are the one who starts doing for Jesus, then it doesn’t matter how much talk there is about Jesus, it’s the wrong talk. The cake is baking him, and in the end, Jesus will say I never knew you.

The shepherds of the church – the pastors – are given the task of watching out for the sheep – to keep the false teachers out. And you are given the task of hearing what is preached, comparing it to the Scriptures, and making sure it matches. And if it doesn’t, whether the person is your pastor or district president, or even an angel from heaven, you must call him out and say, “Pastor, Reverend President, Mr Angel, that is not what is taught in the Bible.” The idea of listening and evaluating sermons isn’t just some sort of quirk in our synod because we’re so concerned about doctrine, Saint Paul, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Galatians says it, “there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” We must keep the Gospel pure, because the Gospel is the medicine that saves us from sin. If you went to a doctor and he said, “We’ve got the medicine you need, but it’s tainted – it’s mixed with poison. Do you want that, or do you want to wait until tomorrow, when the shipment of pure medicine comes in.” No one would say, “give me the one that has poison, I want to take my chances.” Of course not! You say, “Give me the pure medicine that will do the work it must do.” So also with the Gospel. We don’t mix our works in with Jesus work. We let him do the saving. We keep it pure, and don’t get distracted from his work for us on the cross.

Today we welcomed Nora into Christ’s church through the waters of Holy Baptism. Notice – she didn’t do anything. It was all done for her. Bringing her here, speaking on her behalf, pouring the water, and placing the name of God on her. But do not doubt – Jesus gave himself to her, as He promised. He saved her. She has been saved. She didn’t do it. He did. And even though our hands poured, and our mouths spoke the words, it was done at the command of Jesus, and he gave us the words to speak, and put his heavenly Father’s name not only on the washing of water and the word in Baptism, but on Nora through that water. It is God’s Baptism, giving his salvation through Jesus to her. We give thanks for the great gift of salvation given to her this day. But it isn’t her work or our work, it is his work for her. That’s why Scripture calls it a new birth – only God can give that.

Jesus warns us against false prophets, because he wants us only to hear his voice, only to hear those who bring His Word. We are not to hear hose who come in his name, with lots of seductive talk about Jesus, but eventually, you are the one trying to save you. It doesn’t work. Jesus must do the saving. He is the subject. He does the work. And the fruit of this teaching is people who are saved by him. The fruit of Jesus teaching is little children being given Jesus and being blessed by him, the fruit of Jesus teaching is the people of God being forgiven their sins for Jesus sake. The fruit of Jesus teaching is the dying leaving this world in peace, and being given the new life of the new heaven and new earth in Jesus, that he promises to all those who believe on his name. Thanks be to God for the great salvation he has given us. May we always treasure it, and treat it as our most precious possession, not only in this world, but in the life of the world to come.

Amen.

We’ve been hearing about the growth of the Christian for the last couple of months – how we mature in the faith, growing in faith toward God and in love toward our neighbor. Today, Jesus has a warning about false teachers. And it isn’t a topic change at all from what we’ve been talking about.

It’s ordination season in the church. New pastors graduated a few weeks ago, and over the course of the summer they will be ordained and installed in their new parishes. Our district welcomed a new pastor last week at our sister church Christ Lutheran in Rawlins.

New pastors coming from seminary means that somewhere a pastor will be told, “Well, you learned all that doctrine. But now forget that and just love your people.” Thanks be to God, it wasn’t the message last weekend for the new pastor in our district. Those who say these things do not know the scriptures nor the power in them. Imagine a new doctor being told “Well, forget all that stuff you learned in medical school, now it’s about healing patients.” Imagine a lawyer being told, “forget all that stuff you learned in law school, now it’s about defending clients.” Imagine a pilot being told, “Forget all that stuff you learned in flight school, now it’s about the flying the plane.” Absurd. And yet for some reason people think the church – God’s creation, the bride of Christ – can do without the teachings of Jesus. That’s what doctrine is – it just means a teaching. Christ teaches the church – his three year ministry is filled with his sermons. He constantly taught the people. That was his daily schedule – wake up, breakfast, teach and heal, lunch, teach and heal, dinner, teach and heal, sleep. Today’s Gospel comes at the end of the sermon on the mount. He sat down and opened his mouth to teach the people… In a few more verses, Matthew records, “And when he had finished teaching the people they were amazed because he taught as one who had authority, not as their scribes.” He taught as one who had authority – he taught them doctrine, teachings. And he spoke as one who had authority because he did have authority. He was given these teachings from His Father. He spoke the words he was given to speak. He taught the things he was given to teach. His doctrine is the doctrine – the teaching – about his Father and the plan of salvation for the world. The word theology just means “The word of God”. So when people say, “Well, forget theology, let’s talk about Jesus.” They are saying, “Forget what Jesus says, but let’s talk about him.” Uh, ok. How do we do that?

We can’t ignore the word which God speaks. In the Old Testament he speaks through the prophets – over and over it says, “The word of the Lord came to the prophet…” In the new Testament, the Word of God is Jesus. He comes and teaches the people. And the apostles wrote down what he said so that even today we have his teachings. And they tell us that Jesus Christ, true God begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary redeemed me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil with his Holy Precious Blood and with his innocent suffering and death. That’s what scripture teaches – who Jesus is (the Son of God made flesh), and what he did for us (died on the cross to save us from our sins). The prophets talk about him and point to him constantly in the Old Testament, and the Apostles in the New testament are witnesses of his resurrection.

And false teachers – Jesus calls them wolves – want to come into the flock of God’s little lambs with their false doctrine and tear apart the sheep. They bring a message that sounds good, but really leads you away from Jesus and his work for you. That’s why Jesus says “beware” and “you will know them by their fruits”. What is a fruit of teaching – of doctrine? Where does it lead you? If the school teacher teaches falsely – 2+2=5, Z comes before A in the alphabet, then the fruit of the teaching would be children that can’t read or count. A false teacher in the church leads away from Jesus and his work – that is how we can identify them: by their fruit: Where does the teaching lead.

In the book of Acts, when the apostles went to Berea, we’re told that the people listened carefully, and then compared what was said to what Scripture says. And that’s what the church still does today. You come and listen to the sermon, hear the word proclaimed, and then compare the teaching to scripture – does it say what scripture says? Does it lead to Christ, or away from him? And how is it that someone comes in sheeps clothing, but is inwardly a ravening wolf? How can the church be fooled, if we’re talking about Jesus? Well, it depends what we say about him.

An example might help. Take the classic sentence – the answer to just about every Sunday School question “Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.” Notice it talks about Jesus. And it does it in a very specific way. Jesus is the subject – he is the one doing the action. In the sentence “Mom baked a cake”, Mom is the subject – she is doing the baking. Cake is there. But it’s the object. It isn’t doing anything. So in the sentence, Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, Jesus does the action. He is the one dying, the one saving. We are receiving the gift. We are the object.

If you listen to a false teacher, they may talk a lot about Jesus, but Jesus will be the object. The subject will be you. You must do this for Jesus. You must do that for Jesus. In common terms, that means that the cake bakes mom. It doesn’t work. Jesus is the shepherd – he gives his life for the sheep. He DOES. And then you receive. There are a lot of false teachers who talk endlessly about Jesus – but Jesus says at the last day, he will say, “I never knew you.” How can you tell a false teacher – their fruit. Where does their message lead? Is Jesus saving you, or are you doing for him? Who is the object, who is the subject – who is doing, and who is being done to. Mom bakes the cake. Jesus does the saving. The cake gets the baking done to it. You get the saving done to you. If you are the one who starts doing for Jesus, then it doesn’t matter how much talk there is about Jesus, it’s the wrong talk. The cake is baking him, and in the end, Jesus will say I never knew you.

The shepherds of the church – the pastors – are given the task of watching out for the sheep – to keep the false teachers out. And you are given the task of hearing what is preached, comparing it to the Scriptures, and making sure it matches. And if it doesn’t, whether the person is your pastor or district president, or even an angel from heaven, you must call him out and say, “Pastor, Reverend President, Mr Angel, that is not what is taught in the Bible.” The idea of listening and evaluating sermons isn’t just some sort of quirk in our synod because we’re so concerned about doctrine, Saint Paul, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Galatians says it, “there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” We must keep the Gospel pure, because the Gospel is the medicine that saves us from sin. If you went to a doctor and he said, “We’ve got the medicine you need, but it’s tainted – it’s mixed with poison. Do you want that, or do you want to wait until tomorrow, when the shipment of pure medicine comes in.” No one would say, “give me the one that has poison, I want to take my chances.” Of course not! You say, “Give me the pure medicine that will do the work it must do.” So also with the Gospel. We don’t mix our works in with Jesus work. We let him do the saving. We keep it pure, and don’t get distracted from his work for us on the cross.

Today we welcomed Nora into Christ’s church through the waters of Holy Baptism. Notice – she didn’t do anything. It was all done for her. Bringing her here, speaking on her behalf, pouring the water, and placing the name of God on her. But do not doubt – Jesus gave himself to her, as He promised. He saved her. She has been saved. She didn’t do it. He did. And even though our hands poured, and our mouths spoke the words, it was done at the command of Jesus, and he gave us the words to speak, and put his heavenly Father’s name not only on the washing of water and the word in Baptism, but on Nora through that water. It is God’s Baptism, giving his salvation through Jesus to her. We give thanks for the great gift of salvation given to her this day. But it isn’t her work or our work, it is his work for her. That’s why Scripture calls it a new birth – only God can give that.

Jesus warns us against false prophets, because he wants us only to hear his voice, only to hear those who bring His Word. We are not to hear hose who come in his name, with lots of seductive talk about Jesus, but eventually, you are the one trying to save you. It doesn’t work. Jesus must do the saving. He is the subject. He does the work. And the fruit of this teaching is people who are saved by him. The fruit of Jesus teaching is little children being given Jesus and being blessed by him, the fruit of Jesus teaching is the people of God being forgiven their sins for Jesus sake. The fruit of Jesus teaching is the dying leaving this world in peace, and being given the new life of the new heaven and new earth in Jesus, that he promises to all those who believe on his name. Thanks be to God for the great salvation he has given us. May we always treasure it, and treat it as our most precious possession, not only in this world, but in the life of the world to come.

Amen.

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