The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

5th Sunday of Easter                                                                           May 3, 2015

 

1 John 4:1-11               Why You Can Believe Your Pastor

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

It's not a matter of putting the best construction on things.If you don't trust the police to

begin with, you're not going to believe what they're saying to the public.

* Back on April 12th Freddie Gray was arrested after he ran from police.

At some point, either before or after officers loaded him into a police van, Freddie

suffered a severe spinal injury.A week later he died, and authorities have not yet

explained how or when his spine was injured.

* What we know is this: a prisoner who was in the same police van with Freddie told

investigators that he could hear him banging against the walls of the vehicle and believed

that he was intentionally trying to injure himself.

We also know that police have reported that Freddie did in fact injure himself in the van.

*But the question which remains is, did Freddie suffer self-inflicted injuries which led

to his death, or did this prisoner who shared the same vehicle with him receive a deal for his

testimony?Evidently he was still looking at several years of prison.

*Will the case be made in the end why the community can believe the police?

 

Well, this morning we'd like to make a different case; Why You Can Believe Your Pastor.

*If he's preaching the truth concerning Jesus Christ, yes you can believe him.

It always comes down to God's Word.

*Last Sunday you'll remember we spoke of the pastor's obligation.

As as a shepherd he is to both feed and defend the flock by telling them how the Good

Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep.

* Today we speak of the believer's obligation.You are to be discerning.

You don't feed on everything that's placed before you, or believe everything you're told.

You don't assume, just because someone has the title “pastor” that he's indeed

preaching God's Word and is interested in defending you from the wolves.

*“Beloved,” St. John writes, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see

whether they are from God.”

*You can't believe everything a preacher preaches St. John is telling us.

Determine for yourself whether he’s a true preacher of God and deserving of his title.

Test him!

 

Of course, there are tests, and then there are tests.

*Many want a certain preacher to pass no matter what, so they design the test just for him.

1They test him, for example, by how popular he becomes in the community.

Is he well-liked by those both inside and outside of the congregation.

2 Or they test him by judging whether he’s full of life.

Are people sitting at the edge of their seat and never falling asleep?

3 Or people test the preacher on the basis of their offerings, or whether people pouring into

the pews.

 

But in today's text St. John doesn’t comment on any of this.

* As to whether you can believe the pastor and trust that he really speaks for God,

the apostle mentions only one element.

*After mentioning that many false prophets have gone out into the world, John explains

“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has

come in the flesh is from God.”

*Does the preacher preach that Jesus, who is God, took on our human flesh so that he might

become our substitute?

 

If that sounds pretty basic, we need to ask who's failed in this regard.

* Are we simply talking about those who deny the incarnation; that Jesus is the Son God,

and that as the God-Man he died for us and rescued us from sin? 

* In a matter of speaking we are.

But keep in mind that every one of Christ's teachings relates to the fact that our God in

the flesh died for our sins. And there are many different ways a preacher may deny this.

 

Let’s mention just three.

* In the first place there are those who maintain that Christ did not do many of the things

that are attributed to him in Scripture.

* Some of you may remember the walk out staged by the majority of the St. Louis

seminary faculty back in 1974.It was precipitated by the suspension of the campus

president who was found guilty of teaching false doctrine in his seminary classes.

* Most of the faculty protested his suspension, many would argue, because they were guilty

of teaching the same thing.

*Long story short: with the exception of my father and a few others, the faculty would not teach

what John identifies as the necessary mark of a true teacher of God's Word.

Instead of teaching what Jesus did, they taught what Jesus presumably did not do.

1) Jesus did not die for our sin, many claimed. He simply died to provide a loving example.

2) Many of them denied Christ's statements in the Gospels as being historical, claiming they

were added after Christ's death or that they developed over time.

3) Concerning many of the miracles the New Testament ascribes to Christ, a number of the

professors declared it’s very doubtful he did any of them.

4) Some of them even denied the virgin birth; the incarnation, that the Holy Spirit caused

the Son of God to take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

* So, yes even the Missouri Synod has its history with false prophets.

 

We should know, however, that the false prophet isn't always so cooperative in helping us identify him. 

Jesus remarks of false prophets that “They come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7).

* The next type of false prophet, we should know, can quote Scripture as well as any

Lutheran.They’ll say on paper that Jesus has come in the flesh.

In their pamphlets and brochures they’ll agree with us.

* They’ll answer “yes” to our face if we ask them whether Jesus died for our sins and

whether he’s the Savior of the world.

* But are they preaching Christ?

If we don’t know what it means that Christ has “come in the flesh”, false prophets can be

quite persuasive, and there may be no way to tell them from the real thing.

* I speak of those who preach man rather than Christ.They teach that we get closer to

God and become confident of the afterlife as a result of our personal efforts.

* It's something all Christians should note: Every false prophet makes the same claim:

“We gain God's approval by what we do.”

 

Of course, if we’ve been well indoctrinated we may have no difficulty recognizing those who

preach works.And we’d like others to know, “you’re not going to snow me with your lies!”

* I'm reminded of the con game that goes on through emailing, and I've received a number

of them over the years.

1)                One was entitled, “Pre-approved Loan amount: 15 hundred dollars. “Our loans have

helped thousands get their finances caught up. We are ready to help you today.”

2)                Another one speaks of my having an outstanding invoice from FedEx that is ready for

paying. To pay, please sign in . . . by clicking on this link.

3)                Another communicated that my tax payment recently sent from my bank account was

returned by my financial institution. By checking out the details below presumably I can

pay it again.

4)                Or how about this one? After many attempts to reach you on the phone, I deemed it urgent

to contact you via your e-mail and notify you about your outstanding compensation

payment of 2,811,041.00 dollars.For more information, contact the agent, listed below.

 

“Phonies posing as the real thing”:It serves as a pretty good definition of a false prophet.

*And they're not always so difficult to identify. They may come dressed in sheep’s clothing,

but the discerning believer can spot them a mile away.

* Other times, however, it can prove more challenging determining whether you should

believe the preacher. In our final example, spotting the false prophet is recognized not so

much by that he is saying as by what he's not saying.

* Recall the words of John: “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”

That’s pretty straight forward.He’s telling us if someone isn’t preaching the Gospel,

they’re not from God.  They’re a false prophet!

* We’re talking about preachers who may be quite good at preaching about love but they

neverdefine it properly. Love is thought of as our human capacity to set aside all our

prejudices and to accept those who are different than we are.

Or love is seen as completing this exhaustive catalog of good deeds.

* In any given case, the pastor's job, it would seem, is to help his parishioners tap into this

love which can often remain buried or dormant in someone.

* The problem with this love is that it has nothing to do with Christ who shed his blood on

the cross for us.

 

We may think of many preachers today with their endless “how to” lists.

* Their big interest, clearly, is not to preach the Gospel so that this Gospel can work on

someone. Instead, they'll use a secular strategy in order to help people act Christian and

claim that the results are what count.

* Now, certainly, teaching people how to behave has its place. 

But is it the bottom line?!After all, anyone can act like a Christian!

*However, the only time that a person can truly love God is if his heart has been changed

by the Gospel; the message which consists of God’s love.

“In this is love” John informs us: “not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and

sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

*Sooner or later we must ask of every preacher: “Is he preaching the Gospel?”

If not, his message is worthless and we should regard him as a false prophet.

 

The Bible’s definition of love is so simple and easy to understand.

* Greater love has no one than this”, Jesus says, (John 15) “that someone lays down his

life for his friends.” That’s the Gospel and the message we crave.

* That Jesus lay down his life for us, you see, is the message which causes us to trust in

him for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

* It’s the message which encourages us to get up on Sunday morning and travel to this

church to listen to God and his Word.

* Greater love has no one than this; that God comes in the flesh. 

He sheds his blood for us and then he gives us the means by which we can believe the

preacher and know that he’s giving us God’s truth.

* So just go ahead and ask the question: “What about my pastor?”

1 “When he tells me that God became a man so that he might take my place in life and

death shall I believe him?”

2 “Shall I believe him that when I come to the altar I will receive God’s body and blood for

the forgiveness of my sins?”

3 “Shall I believe him when he tells me that even as sinners we can love one another, just

as surely as he first loved us?”

* Yes you may, so long as your pastor preaches Christ without hesitation.

 

“But isn't trust something that is earned?” you may finally ask.

* We're already entering the campaign season, when various candidates are announcing

their intention to run as president.

* And we can pretty well predict what many of them will tell us.

“You want to know why you can believe my promises?Check my record.”

* But that's not how the Christian pastor receives people's trust.

You and I know very well that trust in Christ's teaching is not earned.It's a gift.

And I need to remember that just as much as you, for I'm just as much of a sinner as

you are.

* And that's why I'll never point you to my record but Christ's.

You may believe I'm doing my job, but it's Christ in whom you trust for your salvation.

 

Having said that: every one of you here at Triune God should know something.

* If you, for whatever reason, you should wish to ask me what I believe, you have my

full cooperation and blessing.If you ever hear something which doesn’t quite make

sense, please ask me about it.Maybe I could have said it more clearly.

* If it’s during Bible Class, of course, you can ask me right there.

Or come to my office to visit with me about something I’ve said.

* I’m not a politician, but I will make you this promise: with God’s guidance I will preach

Christ and every single one of his teachings.

* Yes. This is why You Can Believe Your Pastor; by my confession: “Jesus Christ has

come in the flesh.”                                                                              Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

                                                                                                                        Amen.