Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we rejoice that You have saved our bodies and souls from eternal destruction in hell. We rejoice that You have risen from the grave to give us a new lease a life—a life in, with, and under Your loving care. And we rejoice that in a world filled with uncertainties, You have made our future certain—with You in heaven. May we always cling to that comfort and hope. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE VICTOR OVER THE GRAVE!
TEXT: I Cor. 15: 12, 16-20
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What makes Pinewood Lutheran Church so important? What makes our synod so unique? Why should you attend here instead of some other church, even another Lutheran church, that might be closer to home? Of course, the answer is: we teach God’s eternal truths—all of them—without neglecting those that might be currently politically incorrect, or out of vogue with the masses. And in doing so, we provide the highest moral ground on which to stand and in which to invest the welfare of your eternal soul.
The January 19th, 2004 edition of “Christian News” had a fascinating little article which I think you’ll find quite interesting. They quote from a recent poll by George Barna, whose research group tracks trends in Christian churches. This poll was conducted last November and December. And it revealed that only 51%, one half of the nations senior pastors held to a biblical worldview. What does that mean? Well, let me quote from the article.
“For the Barna poll, the requirements for holding to a biblical worldview were minimal. Those holding to such a view had to embrace the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone and the personal responsibility to evangelize. In December, Barna released another poll showing that only 9% of people categorized as “born again” held to a biblical worldview.” The article then goes on to lay out the statistics for many main-line church denominations—Methodists were ranked last at 28%, and the Northeast part of the country also ranked last at 43%.
This poll comes as no shock for me. As I have said many times, the organized church in America today is basically a social club intent on doing social work and which uses (perhaps I should say: abuses) the Bible only insofar as their generic term “love” will allow. We’ve seen that played out this past week with the debate on gay marriage in our state. We’ve seen Episcopalians, Methodists, and a host of other “Christian” groups supporting gay marriage and the gay lifestyle, and ignoring God’s definition of marriage in Genesis and repeated by Christ in Matthew’s Gospel. We seen them ignoring what St. Paul wrote by inspiration in Romans 1 about the perversity of the homosexual lifestyle. And generally ignoring the word: sin. If you accept Barna’s poll numbers, in which Massachusetts ranks at the bottom of the ladder in terms of a biblical worldview, should we be surprised?
How did we get to this sad state of affairs? Well, let’s look back at a little history. First came the attack on Genesis and the creation account found there. Once evolution became the accepted norm in many churches, other politically incorrect teachings followed. The commandments were jettisoned because they seem too “intolerant.” The virgin birth of Jesus was cast aside because it tested our reason. The miracles became “myths.” And finally, the resurrection of Christ became a fanciful story which is unproveable in the science lab, so therefore it also must be a myth. Hell—hah! Heaven—well, as long as getting to a “better place” after death makes people feel better about themselves, that truth is still taught.—But only in human terms, not Bible terms.
About 30 years ago another poll was taken of what the different Lutheran denominations taught and believed. I looked for it in my files this week, but I cannot put my finger on it. However, I do recall that even then there was a sizeable number of clergy in the forerunner to the ELCA, the largest Lutheran group, who denied the physical resurrection of Christ. Whereas in our synod and the Wisconsin synod, 100% believed it and taught it. And my friends, that has not changed today! We still teach, believe, and confess that our supernatural God intruded into time and space to save our souls with His life on the cross. We still teach that He died for our sins and then raised himself from the grave on Easter. And we still teach that because Christ announced those facts beforehand, His resurrection proves that everything He said and did was true, perfect and holy. All this leads us to today’s lesson which clearly answers the question:
WHY IS THE RESURRECTION SO IMPORTANT?
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ (died believing in Him) are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Most of you have seen the statistics about how the mainline churches—Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregational, and even the ELCA Lutherans are declining in membership, but how smaller church bodies that hold to traditional Christian teachings are growing. This should come as no surprise. For once you strip Christianity of its supernatural components and reduce God down to the confines of your own mind or societal whims, you stand for nothing. And as Paul correctly says: “such people are to be pitied more than all men.”
To be sure, there are still fairly traditionally minded Christian pastors in all of the groups I’ve mentioned. Likewise, there are many fine Christian people in these groups. Yet, they are in turmoil because they hear one thing from their denomination and another from their Bibles. And they wonder: Who should I believe? Likewise, because “tolerance” has replaced truth as their guide, God’s Word—including the resurrection—gets left in the dust outside the tomb. In today’s OT lesson Jeremiah writes this quote from the lips of God Almighty: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” 17:5
But, then, Jeremiah also includes these words: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.”
We don’t do doctrine based on poll numbers. We don’t tell people what they want to hear because we believe people are sinful and they won’t make Godly choices on their own. We don’t base our faith on what is currently in vogue just to placate some special-interest group, either. No, we believe, teach, and confess God’s Word—all of it—because it all points us to Christ Who is the Way of salvation, the truth of eternity, and the life everlasting! And it is for this reason, and this reason alone that Pinewood is and will be blest! Amen