Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Doctrine

(To read the first sermon in this series click here.)


What did 3000 people do after they had been baptized?  They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching.  They began soaking up Christian doctrine.

                Now, I think I know what you are thinking when I say “Christian doctrine”.  You think: “Ugh!”  How boring.  How dreadful.  How pointless.

                But doctrine is nothing more, and nothing less, than what is taught.  It is the teaching of the Christian faith, the content of what we actually believe.  So 3000 people were baptized at Pentecost, as we discussed last week, and they immediately immersed themselves in Christian doctrine.  

                Obviously teaching is important.  And teaching and learning go hand-in-hand.  The Christian Church is called to teach.  The Christian Church is called to learn.

                Of course this means that you, as a Christian, need to learn.  We all do.  Pastors do not stop learning just because they have finished seminary.  We continue to study the Bible, read books, and attend classes and conferences, continually deepening our understanding of theology.  This past week I spent three whole days at conferences and seminars attempting to learn, not only to be a better pastor, but what the Bible clearly teaches us about Jesus.

                So, if I can still grow in knowledge after 4 years of college and 4 years of seminary, you can learn more too.  Confirmation, as my 8th grade catechumens can tell you, is not a graduation.  It is not an excuse to assume that you know everything there is to know about Jesus.  While a confirmed Christians has the essentials of Christian teaching under their belt, they can always, and should always, attempt to grow in their understanding and appreciation of those teachings.

                This means that you need to attend worship.  Through the reading and reciting of Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us.  He pulls us into the world of the Bible and shapes our minds according to His will.  Through the sermon we not only have our sins condemned and forgiven, but we learn about the Biblical text and where we fit into that story.  Hymns, prayers, symbols, and rituals all serve our education in Christ.

                This also means that you need to attend Bible class.  Yes, Bible class.  Children need Sunday School.  So do adults.  You are not done learning.  

                Think about it this way: 500 years ago Martin Luther’s congregation could assume that he would preach for around an hour.  Even only 100 years ago Christian sermons ranged from 30-60 minutes.  Today I preach for roughly 15 minutes.  No, I am not going to preach for 60 minutes this week, or probably ever.  I don’t think our attention spans could take that.  

                And that is why attending a class, where you can interact with the teacher, where you can discuss questions of the faith, where you can raise your concerns, is vitally important.  Men’s Bible breakfast, Women’s Bible study, adult Bible class, adult Sunday school, Ladies Aid, and Men’s Club are all times where the Scriptures are engaged and people learn what the Bible has to teach them about Jesus.  Take advantage of them.

                I know, you think it will be boring.  But you do not have the right to be bored with the Scriptures!  This is God’s Word.  This is what He has revealed to us about Himself and how He rescues us from sin, death, and hell.  These are the words of eternal life.  Read them.  Study them.  Be strengthened by them.  Be transformed through them. 

                The Apostles did not teach the 3000 new Christians simply because there was information they did not have.  They needed instruction so that their minds could be conformed to the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

                One major problem with Americans today world is that we think the Bible was written to us about us.  The truth is that the Apostles did not write the Bible to you.  They wrote it to their own congregations 2000 years ago.  And it certainly is not about you.  The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, is its subject.

                The Bible is written to ancient people, about Jesus Christ, for you.  When we study, as we are taught from the Scriptures, we are enabled to see Jesus more clearly, and by seeing Jesus we are saved.

                When we are taught from the Word of God we see Jesus more clearly in the Old Testament.  Learning about the history and culture of the ancient world helps us to see that Jesus was clearly prophesied in those books from Genesis to Malachi.  More than that the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Jesus, was present and active in the Old Testament working together with the Father and Spirit to save God’s people from their sins.

                When we are taught from the Scriptures we can see Jesus more clearly on the cross.  We learn, not only that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, but that He did this for me.  Jesus was not just another unfortunate victim of Roman oppression.  He was an intentional sacrifice so that my ignorance and boredom would be forgiven.  

                The blood of Jesus covers my sins.  His death atones for all the evil that I have done, including my lack of enthusiasm to hear and learn His doctrine.  

When we learn from the Scriptures we see Jesus more clearly at the right hand of God, still actively shepherding His Church.  The resurrection of Jesus promises me new life, a new life that is never separated from the loving care of Christ my Savior.  

He is always with you, specifically through His Word and Sacraments.  In the Bible Jesus speaks to you.  In baptism Jesus chooses you.  In the Lord’s Supper His body and blood are given to you.  He never leaves us.  He never loses us out of His care.

We need to hear this, not just once in our lives, but every single day.  We need the faith that only this Gospel can give.  We need to learn from our pastors and teachers the same truths that were taught to those 3000 newly baptized so long ago.

That is why the Church teaches.  That is why it learns.  That is why pastors, teachers, parents, and others seek both to give and receive the truth of God’s Word.  Jesus has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures.  And we can’t get enough of Him.

May we all continue to receive God’s Word with thanks and joy.

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