The Reformation was ultimately about the return of the central doctrine of the Christian faith; that God justifies (declares righteous, forgiven and not guilty) sinners for the sake of Christ, apart from any works of the Law. Sadly, the default position of human beings is that they have to earn salvation or do something. If they don’t think that they believe that there is a spark of goodness in them that Jesus died to fan into flame. It is a really anti-scriptural and sad when the witness of our life and the witness of the Bible is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. The Reformation brought about the separation between churches that “confess” the central doctrine and those that do not.
Today it is difficult to get people to see what the churches task is because many have come to see religion as a moralistic enterprise and Jesus as life coach and a means of having your “best life now”. Rather than seeing Jesus as Savior, he is a moral example. His job is build your self esteem which the Bible says we have an overabundance of in the first place. Anyway I can yammer about this all I want but here another persons view…………………………
I’ve come to realize at the tender age of 47 that sometimes church doesn’t work.
What I mean is what the church is here to do, spread the Gospel, doesn’t seem to be on the agenda much of the time.
Of course, what I understand by the word Gospel (the message of Christianity) is that it is, at the least, good news. The news I hear promulgated by the various churches out there seems to break down to a laundry list of stuff for us to do.
Jesus had a word for teachers who ‘multiply tasks and don’t lift a finger to help’. It was one of many versions of ‘Go to Hell’. Unless Christianity is about rescue from above and a hope beyond this war-torn, weary world, then it is not bearing witness for the one whom it claims to represent.
When the Church preaches and teaches something else, it isn’t working. When it misses the great reversal, the perfect sacrifice that surpasses all sacrifice for all sins and transgressions for all time, the ultimate buy-back, when God took the burden of all the evil in the world upon Himself to redeem the world for Himself, the Church is broken.
When the Church misses God invading at various points in the history of man–specifically ancient Israel–finally showing up in person as Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrificial Lamb, it really misses.
When the Church doesn’t understand that, at the heart of Jesus’ message of the advancing kingdom is the crucified King who is leading captivity, pain, loss, death and the devil captive and giving gifts to men, it misses everything.
When it doesn’t see the face of God in the stories that Jesus told and the way He lived His life while on earth and the joy He had… and has… of finding and rescuing the lost, the least, the lowest… even the dead, the Church is not doing it’s job.
When the church doesn’t see and promote the joyous, raucous party in the midst of the sadness of this despairing world and see beyond it to the world to come where that wonderful party never ends, how can it call itself the bearer of the gifts of God?
When the churches’ preaching doesn’t call us to despair of our so-called ‘good works’ and our paltry attempts at sanctifying ourselves, bringing us, even at our best, as sinners to the foot of the cross, it does less than nothing.
When the church takes from us the gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, either by sophistry, neglect, absence or modification, it denies its Lord.
I’m not saying that salvation is promised anywhere else. It’s just sad to me when the church sells its birthright so cheaply for programmatic drivel and a devil-devised message of ‘my best life now’.
Lord, have mercy on your broken church and the broken people who look to it instead of You for rescue.
Steve Byrnes is a member of First Lutheran Church in Lake Elsinore, California. He is a graduate of Christ College Irvine (now contained within Concordia University Irvine), majoring in English Literature, and Westminster Seminary in Escondido, where he took a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies.
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