Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Listen to Him

Matthew 17:1-8 (ESV)
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. [2] And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. [3] And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. [4] And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." [5] He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." [6] When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. [7] But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." [8] And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

“Listen to him.” This is the command of the Father, concerning his beloved son Jesus Christ, that we listen to him. I suppose this is where law and gospel meet. We are commanded to listen to Jesus, but when Jesus speaks, we hear “your sins are forgiven.” It is the conundrum of faith, to not believe this is to sin. To reject this is to break the first commandment. Yet believeing it our sins are forgiven.
Listen to him. There is a question here as to how one does that today. People talk a lot about believing in Jesus Christ. Yet it seems to me, they don’t often listen to him. Somehow it seems, they think they can believe in him, without actually believing him or listening to him.
This happens in many different ways. There is the denial that his sacraments do what they say they do, and are what they say they are. When people refuse to believe that it is his body and blood in the lord’s Supper, they are not listening to Jesus. When they reject Baptismal regeneration they are not listening to Jesus.
When they turn to the law for salvation, and this inevitably comes about wherever the sacraments are maligned as being works of men that amount to nothing but symbols, they are not listening to Jesus. Where it is denied that men have the power and authority to forgive in the name of Jesus Christ, they are not listening to Jesus. When they deny that infants can have faith, they are not listening to Jesus.
But where people turn to the law for salvation, another phenomenon inevitably occurs, they begin to qualify the law in whatever way they can. This is where fundamentalists turn into liberals. I find it often quit dumbfounding how God’s law is ultimately ignored where the gospel is not heard. If you are a fundamentalist this comes about in a hyper elevation of some commandments over others, and a replacing of God’s law with the tradition of men. So you will find a heavy concentration on the sixth commandment, and out of the blue with no word from God whatsoever, commandments against smoking and cussing. Even a direct contradiction of God’s word with the forbidding of alcohol. But the rest of the commandments get short shrift.
In Liberal circles you get a bit more sophisticated, and it becomes a sin to not recycle, and a good thing to approve women’s ordination and the gay rights movement. This is pulled off by writeing off Paul as an apostle. There arises the idea that you can ignore what Paul says without ignoring what Christ says. And then perhaps we can even try to get behind what Jesus says and determine with some ingenuity that Jesus didn’t say all those things attributed to him in Scripture.
But what you end up with in all of this, is that we no longer listen to Jesus at all, and no longer hear that our sins are forgiven. And in not listening to Jesus, we no longer listen to the Father either. Really what it comes to is we want to be our own God, and determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

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