Pastor's Message



DISCIPLEGRAM

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Preschool & Child Care

743 22-1/2 Avenue, Cumberland, WI

Area Code 715; Office 822-8690; FAX 822-5018

Web Site:www.stpaulcumberland.com; E-Mail: spc100@ centurytel. net

Pastor: John Miels, jmiels89@gmail.comt

Secretary: Barb Ohlemann (Tue-Fri, 8-1)

Preschool Director; Gretchen Frendt (822-8404)

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE DIRECTOR OF FAMILY MINISTRY BLOG:forfaithandfam 

Disciplegram

What Does the Word of God look like for us Sinners?


Saving faith

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!—James 2:18–19 How do you know if you are really a Christian? How do you know if your faith is true? The answer is not “get busier for Jesus.” The answer is found in the sufficient grace of God received by faith in Jesus. The book of James can feel like a stern rebuke—because it is. James was a pastor who needed to bring a hard truth to confused congregations, people who misunderstood the gospel and failed to grasp what the Holy Spirit effects through it—love and generosity.

Mistaken Faith

Among these congregants were proud, wicked people who favored the rich above the poor (James 2:1–7); who spoke good words of blessing in one moment and destructive curse words of condemnation the next (James 3:9–10). There were people in this congregation whose hearts—filled with selfish ambition and demonic suggestions—had little place for the gospel (James 3:13–18). These were the sort of people whose hearts were at peace with a world that opposes God’s reign (James 4:4); who boasted of their worldly accomplishments and pursuits (James 4:13–14); who built lavish lives upon poverty-stricken backs (James 5:1–6); and who had failed to address the most basic issues in helping suffering people: patience, prayer, forgiveness, love, and service (James 5:7–20).

Chapter two of the book of James attacks the heart of the matter. Churches had twisted the gospel of grace into a self-serving message of personal prosperity and human achievement. James didn’t just attack their injustice and sinful practices. He identified the core problems—a faith that even demons can live with and an insufficient gospel. James acknowledged that these congregants affirmed the faith of their fathers: "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" (James 2:19; see also Deut. 6:4–5). Yet, believing in the oneness of God was not enough. They needed more. They needed saving faith. They needed to hold on to God’s promises; proclamation of the Word (preaching) and the promises of forgiveness in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper 

Saving Faith

James issued a bold challenge to his congregation: "But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18).

His point was simple: The faith that saves will always express itself in good works. Saving faith—a trust in who Christ is and what he has done—spills out in love for God and love for neighbor. This is the wisdom from God: the gospel that is received by faith alone gains both Christ and the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is the down payment of God’s promised salvation, and he is the one who produces love, generosity, and a heart for restoration and reconciliation.

This is the challenge for us today: if we say we trust Christ for salvation, do we really understand what that means? Do you really think that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection from the dead was enough to save? Do you really expect to receive what God promises? Do you really expect the blessed presence of the Holy Spirit to enter your life to wreck your worldly pursuits, draw your heart to Christ, and produce a grace-loving, mercy-seeking, restoration-pursuing attitude that only God could create? James was addressing the problem that occurs when we fail to understand what Jesus’ saving work on the cross means for sinners in both their justification and their sanctification (Romans 6:1-6).

True faith doesn’t just know that God is one, or that Christ died for sinners, or even that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father as king over a new creation. True faith trusts and receives the whole package of God’s promises—acceptance with God and the Holy Spirit’s love-producing presence Acts 2:38-39.

If you trust in Jesus for salvation, the good news is that God has also given you the Holy Spirit; and He will produce what God commands: love, joy, peace, assurance, and obedience. You won’t be perfect—at least not yet—but you will experience a taste of this good God, the Lord who pours His love into your heart. Your weak faith in Jesus is enough to receive what God promises.

Afterlife

Most religions agree that your status in the afterlife will depend on how well or how poorly you lived in this life. In other words, if you were a good person, you will be rewarded in the next life. If you were a bad person, you will be punished.

Not every religion or view about the afterlife believes in a continuation of life. Some people believe that after death you will cease to exist. Christianity, on the other hand, affirms a continuation of life, and this is based not on speculation, but on fact.

It sounds overconfident (especially in an age of skepticism) to assert that we can know for sure what will happen to us after we die, but the fact of the matter is, we do know! 

The Christian's confidence and knowledge of the afterlife depend not upon the ability to gaze into the future, like some palm reader, but on looking back at the past to just two thousand years ago in the small region of Palestine. There, a man named Jesus claimed to be God—and proved it.

Those who trust in Christ as their Savior shall be raised even as he was raised. The resurrection of Jesus Christ in the first century is the primary reason for the believer’s confidence in this future reality.

Because Jesus has already been raised from the dead in real time, space, and history, all Christians can be certain that—for all of those who look to him in faith—they too shall be raised. This is God's promise to us and was accomplished for our benefit (Rom. 4:23–25).

The apostle Paul believed this and lodged his hope in the secure foundation of Christ's bodily resurrection from the dead. He said:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:14–20) Our hope about the future rests secure in this historical fact from the past. 

There are a number of reasons to believe in the resurrection: 1) the cowardly disciples, 2) the testimony of women, 3) Peter's transformation, 4) and the martyrdom of the earliest disciples all testify to the veracity of the resurrection. Suffice it to say that there are many good reasons to trust that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the grave. His bodily resurrection in the past is our hope for the future.

What happened to Jesus will happen to all those who believe. We will be raised. In the mean time we have the Divine Service where Jesus promises to be with us.


We don't go to Divine Service to win points with God nor to feel better about ourselves. We go rather because God commands us (His commands are always out of love for us) to and because of His glorious and great promise to meet us there with His forgiveness and grace. We go because we poor sinners need Jesus' gifts; and we go to encourage our fellow Christians and be encouraged by them. That is why we go. To be where Jesus promises to be for you.



 


Your brother in Christ,

Pastor John