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Pastor's Corner

February 2019

Basic Christianity

I’ve been thinking for a while that it might be helpful to go “back to basics” in our newsletter articles. That’s because, over my time as a pastor so far, I’ve encountered many Christians who are simply unfamiliar with the basics of our faith. My hope is that our church members will be even better equipped to respond when these kinds of misunderstandings come up.

Note that I’m not talking about “basic Lutheranism.” My plan is not to cover teachings unique to the Lutheran Church. I’m intentionally calling this “basic Christianity” because I hope to address topics that should be familiar to everyone who claims affiliation with the followers of Jesus Christ, whether Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, or anything else. I am of course passionate about what distinguishes us as Lutherans, but I’m also passionate about the Christian faith in general, and I would like to take some time to address issues on which all Christians should be able to agree.

That said, the things I plan to cover as “basic Christianity” are actually not agreed upon by all modern Christian denominations. That is because many denominations today (not just Lutheran ones!) have forsaken their own roots and accommodated themselves to our corrupt, declining society. For example, it is basic Christianity to believe, teach, and confess that God Himself instituted marriage as the lifelong union of man and wife for the procreation of children. There are individual, modernizing denominations that deny that scriptural truth, but it remains basic Christianity, because it is the historic teaching of the whole Christian Church on earth, and it continues to be the teaching of all churches (not just Lutheran ones!) that still accept the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

So where shall we start? How about this: It is basic Christianity to assert that we shouldn’t sin.

This seems obvious, doesn’t it? Of course we shouldn’t sin! But there are many who misapply the Christian teaching of the forgiveness of sins, as if God doesn’t mind our sins too much, or as if we can sin as long as we don’t hurt anyone and God will forgive us. But that’s not how forgiveness works, and it’s not the teaching of Holy Scripture. God forgives those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus in faith—a faith that is always active in love (Galatians 5:6). And love is opposed to sin.

What does the Bible have to say about what our attitude toward sin should be? “From now on, sin no more” (John 8:11). “Let not sin reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12). “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cloak for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). “Everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning” (1 John 5:18). The Bible is crystal clear: Christians are not supposed to sin.

Of course, we all still do sin. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). That is because we remain weak, sinful flesh until our deaths, or our resurrection on the Last Day. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18). But the sin that we still commit should grieve us. We should want to do good, and we should not want to sin. “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). When we contemplate the sin that still afflicts us, we should say with St. Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ. But until the time of our deliverance from sin, we should strive with all our might against the sin that we find within us. That means praying to God for strength to resist—and avoid—temptation, and trusting that when we do sin, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Try not to sin! That’s basic Christianity.

 

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf

 

 

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