MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419
Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
This epistle lesson for this Sunday concerns our life as Christians. It leaves no room for the common excuses of today. We often hear someone say, “I’m only human,” to excuse sinful behavior. They may say, “I’m no angel.” But neither claim can rest comfortably on the Word of God for today. We are to put off the old man, and not play with words in order to excuse indulging in the violation of God’s commandments.
One temptation today is to answer a question in a way that can be interpreted two different ways. This is so common that most people admire someone who can get what he wants and then get away with his crime by smoothly and deceptively explaining it away. It is especially dangerous to all believers because this behavior is admired, promoted, taught, and defended.
When we become believers, a battle begins, even in a baby. The battle is between the old man and the new man. The old man, or old Adam, is selfish, self-centered, greedy, envious, and deceitful. “What are you children doing?” They answer, “Nothing.” If it is really bad, they say angrily, “Mom. Nothing.”
The new man is like Adam before the fall in Paradise, trusting in God, grateful to Him, kind, generous, thoughtful, self-less rather than selfish. The new man or believer is nurtured by the Word. God does not want to wound or harm the old Adam in us; He wants to kill him.
The perfect Law of God condemns all sin against His Ten Commandments. God kills and defeats the Old Adam in us each day by identifying our sin with the Law and removing our guilt with the Gospel. Both Law and Gospel have a positive effect, as long as they remain in a proper relationship with each other. The Law is necessary and spiritual, but it can only do so much. The Law alone does not save. The Law alone does not produce the fruits of the Gospel. The Law alone is like a man who digs up a garden and prepares it in every way, but never plants any seed or digs in any plants. We do not condemn preparing the soil but only someone stopping at that point.
Now we often have the Gospel without the Law, but it is no Gospel at all. The Gospel is forgiveness of sin through Christ. If there is no sin, if everything is approved, then there is no Savior from sin. Therefore, people who get rid of the Law also get rid of the Gospel and Christ.
Sadly, many Christians today think only in terms of feeling good, doing well, being loved and loving, prospering, and never hearing a Word of the Law. Are false teachers condemned? These modern saints are offended. Are sound teachers attacked? Serves them right for upsetting people.
If the Old Adam is powerful in some laity, look at how he reigns in some clergy. They do not want the cross associated with the Word. The Old Adam never does. If they must suffer in any way for the Gospel, and Americans do not suffer in the traditional sense, then why not find a compromise that will leave everyone happy? If the most influential man in the congregation has a girlfriend on the side, besides his wife, then the Old Adam preacher will congratulate himself on being Gospel-centered. Nothing will be said. Nothing will be done. It would hurt the congregation. If he gives millions, it would hurt the synod.
The result of this collusion between the Old Adam minister and the Old Adam layman is that there is no Law or Gospel. Hearts are hardened by preaching, the opposite of what God desires. The minister drifts away from the Word and the congregations learns to hate the Word as well. How else can we explain an ordained minister attacking the truth of the Bible and getting away with it?
Satan did not put on red underwear, grab a pitchfork, and organize the Unitarian Church (actually the Unitarian-Universalist Association). No, the Unitarians proudly trace their origins to the Christian Church. They are not ordinary unbelievers, but products of the Christian Church. The same can be said of mainline liberals, who denounce the truths of the Bible in sermons, Bible studies, and Sunday School materials. A WELS pastor in Columbus, Ohio, taught evolution at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Nothing was done by the synod, because the pastor was a Church Growth advocate, a good guy. St. Paul’s had left the American Lutheran Church because the ALC taught…evolution.
Fuller Seminary abandoned its weak stance on the inerrancy of the Bible under the influence of the founder’s son and a wealthy member of the board – Weyerhauser. The Weyerhauser family began in my home town area, Moline, Illinois, where the founder was an ordinary worker who eventually amassed a fortune. No one imagined the Bible being full of errors when the Weyerhauser family was building its fortune in lumber. Now it is difficult to find any religious leader who teaches what was once taken for granted. This is a prime example of the Old Adam taking over. The truth is suppressed. Souls are destroyed.
Paul urges us to put on the new man. It is not enough be against error. Many times the diagnosis of error is completely correct, but the prescription is wrong. For instance, some would cure the problems of sin with even more Law, stricter law, and good works.
Putting on the new man means loving the commandments of God and seeking to obey them out of desire to lead a God-pleasing life. Anger and deceit run the world we know. The new man cannot help having emotions; he can be anger. But he should not let anger kindle sinful acts. Many people think of physical violence, but we tolerate a great deal more verbal violence and slander violence than we should, because the marks are not visible for many years.
Adam was created in righteousness and holiness. He was perfectly honest until he sinned. Then he deceived and blamed. He even blamed God for making him a defective mate, although he also blamed her as well. All in a few words. That is one of the great reasons for getting married, to have someone to blame, 24 hours a day.
One time I was in the middle of a discussion with a man who was completely helpless from ALS. He claimed something was true on his computer, but his wife was right. She danced around and said, “I was right. I was right. For once I was right.” Larry was usually correct about all his facts. It was funny to see his wife rejoice while he did a slow burn in his bed.
The old man wants rights. The new man give up rights. That is a hard thing to do. It is much easier to say. Claiming rights and playing topdog causes anger. Giving up rights and giving in causes peace. When I visit Saget and Bergen, two of my favorite dogs to pet, they spend most of their time fighting over who gets to be the favorite. It is odd to have a chocolate lab lunge into one’s lap and pretend to be a cute little lapdog. The dogs would get more attention if they didn’t spend so much time rolling in the dust, fighting off the rival.
We can see that Satan rules this planet, because honesty is not valued but hated. Nevertheless, we should not covet the prosperity of the deceitful nor be envious of their success. Envy can lead to copying their twisted words and logic. It is easy to want to be as powerful as they are.
Honesty is manifested in a number of ways. First of all, it is direct and open and not secretive and devious. This is most important in the area of God’s Word. Our doctrine must be clear and plain, so that any errors or any lack of clarity can be addressed.
It is like the story where a theologians was asked to speak to African natives, using a translator. He began, “The quest for the historical Jesus is a monumental task for the post-modern age, filled as it is with angst and dread.” The native translated into the African tongue, “This is what Jesus means to me.”
If someone believes this or that doctrine, he should say so plainly and not frame his words so they are taken both ways at once. The speaker or writers owes this. It is nonsense to say, “His words can be interpreted correctly,” as if there is also an incorrect meaning left in the air. For instance, when people started to quibble about the infallibility of the Bible, a confession of the Bible’s infallibility no longer meant anything. The word was being watered down on purpose. So a man needs to say whether there are errors or contradictions in the Bible, yes or no.
Another aspect of this honesty is to say something and mean it. When a group formed in opposition to the liberals in ELCA, they signed a pledge about the infallibility of the Scriptures. Then the word came out that some of the signers did not agree with what they signed. This is a dishonest pledge and the worst kind of deceit.
People need to be honest with themselves. If they no longer believe in Luther’s doctrine, they should leave Lutheranism and say why, not try to export their rotten and twisted teachings into the Lutheran church while pretending to be faithful Lutherans. The crypto-Calvinists played the game of deceit in the old days and play it again, Sam. They are liars about their doctrine and they are full of wrath when anyone identifies their dishonesty.
Honest separation is always better than a dishonest union. But deceivers can always find an advantage in slipping in, wearing 100 fleeces to cover their mangy hides, so they can rob, rape, kill, and destroy.
In another area, people are to honest about their feelings toward others and not honest enough about their own feelings. If someone has offended us, we need to ask ourselves first if it is really worth a lot of emotion. Emotions are funny. They can be aggravated by bad circumstances and pacified by good circumstances. If someone is trying to rile you, for instance, try following Proverbs, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.”
Why does something non-essential bother us? Many times it dregs up an event with a lot of bad memories. When we are honest with ourselves about it, this helps us put the emotion in perspective.
Being tired, worn out from stress, in pain, or hungry can distort our emotions. People associate food with happiness and social gatherings, for good reason. A tired hungry baby cries. A tired hungry adult makes other people cry.
In all things, Christ is our sanctification, our example, our Savior. Putting on the new man means putting on Christ. That means assuming His nature as much as possible. As forgiven sinners, we can only think in terms of what God has done for us already. It helps us think in terms of our own shortcomings and sins first, then of God’s grace and love, and finally of how we can help and defend our neighbor. Christ did not assert His rights as God’s only-begotten and perfect Son. Instead, He came to serve, to suffer, to endure the cross and the shame.
As children we think, What do I have to give up? Why should I? He has a bigger piece of pie. He gets treated better by our parents. He gets me in trouble when I have done nothing wrong. He even tells on me.
God teaches us to give way to our brother, to give in, to care for him first, to give him the better portion. This is painful and doesn’t seem right. That is the Old Adam yelling in pain. But then, over time, we see that it is the greatest joy to give, to sacrifice, to step aside. In fact, it is just the opposite of pain. It is fulfilling.
Mothers learn this over time. That is why the baby of the family is doted upon so much. The first child is expected to walk, talk, dress, and stay clean and dry fast. It is a sign of good parenting to whip that kid into shape. But years later, the mother says, “I miss that tiny, little, cuddly, dependent, weak little baby.” At first parents think in terms of progress, the football scholarship at Notre Dame and all that. Later, they think, “Each moment is so special with a child. It goes by so quickly. I love providing the care and the time.”
Only God can create those self-less urges through the Gospel.