December 1, 2017
The blog is a little late this week because of our holiday travel.
Joke of the Week
Two factory workers are talking. The woman says, “I can make the boss give me the day off.” The man replies, “And how would you do that?” The woman says, “Just wait and see.” She then hangs upside down from the ceiling. The boss comes in and says, “What are you doing?” The woman replies, “I’m a light bulb.” The boss then says, “You’ve been working so much that you’ve gone crazy. I think you need to take the day off.” The man starts to follow her and the boss says, “Where are you going?” The man says, “I’m going home, too. I can’t work in the dark.”
News of the Week
President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he was donating his $100,000 third-quarter salary to the Department of Health and Human Services to fight the opioid epidemic. As I understand it, opioids are not narcotics but rather prescription drugs like Oxycodone and Fentanyl. They are prescribed to fight pain, but are used recreationally to induce euphoria, like true narcotics. Opioids are addictive, and overdoses can lead to death.
Why an opioid epidemic now? Are Americans suffering more physical pain? Probably not, though our willingness to endure pain may be less in a world where we have come to expect a life free from suffering and discomfort, indeed, a life where we have a right to feel good all the time. Opioids produce euphoria like narcotics; that is almost certainly why so many who suffer no physical pain take them, whether legally (with a doctor’s prescription) or not.
I am not nostalgic for “the good old days,” but I do not remember being taught, either at home, in school, or at church that we have a right to a pain-free, trouble-free, happy life all the time. (Qualification: some gospel songs did contain lines like, “And now I am happy all the day.”) Quite the contrary, the Bible tells us to expect unhappy episodes and trouble. Paul told Timothy to take his share of suffering for the gospel (2 Tim. 1:6). Paul himself was able to rejoice in spite of his sufferings, including physical suffering (his “thorn in the flesh). He, like other saints (David, Elijah) was depressed at times, but he didn’t seek out poppy juice to feel better.
David gives us the Christian’s key to dealing with unhappiness and depression: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Ps 42:11). And Paul told the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7)
Prayer, not opioids, is the way of genuine peace.
Looking Past Christmas to the New Year
Christmas is coming soon, and then the New Year. Some of you will be beginning a new Bible study in your church or individually. If you are in a class or study group, ask your teacher or leader to consider using one of Saluda Press’s study guides. Guides are available for Galatians, the letters of Peter, and James. They contain study questions, answers to the study questions (a feature very well received by members of any study group), and study notes. Go to Buying My Books at the top of this page and proceed from there. I offer a 20% discount on orders of 5 or more, all the same or a mix of titles. You will be charged full price, but I will send a check for 20% of the order (not including shipping). This discount runs through January 15.
Also looking past Christmas, those of you who are homeschooling may want to do a unit on Islam. Christian young people should know the truth about Islam, not only what Muslims believe but also how the Gospel of Jesus Christ meets our true spiritual needs whereas Islam does not. The Crescent and the Cross teaches that by means of the adventure-packed eighth voyage of Sinbad, who sets sail a Muslim but turns to Christ through the witness of his Ethiopian Christian friend Selassie. A FREE study guide (Word or PDF format) is available for the asking; email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for it.
Luther’s 95 Theses for 21st Century Christians
This meditation is longer than usual, but well worthwhile.
VII. The true treasure of the Church: Theses 56-66
The Catholic Church taught and still teaches that some saints were so holy that their good deeds, added to those of Christ and the Virgin Mary, exceeded what they had to do to avoid purgatory. Those good deeds constitute a “treasury of merit” that can be shared with other, less holy Christians. .The church hierarchy claimed then and still asserts the right to issue indulgences based on the treasury of the Church, reckoning good works from this treasury to the sinner as satisfaction for the demands of purgatory. Luther took issue with Catholic teaching regarding the treasures of the Church. He held that the true treasures of the Church were altogether different. Theses 56-66 present his views on the subject.
- The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
Luther knew that lay people did not have a good grasp of the true treasures of the Church. They accepted the teaching of their priests and of the indulgence sellers without question. He hoped to enlighten them by discussion of Theses 57-66.
- Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
Luther says that the treasures of the Church are not the merits of Christ and the saints (Thesis 58). What then are those treasures? Luther says the keys of the Church are that treasure (Thesis 60). In Thesis 26 Luther denies that the pope has personal custody of the keys: the whole Church has the keys. All this raises the question, What are the keys? They are the treasure of the Church—what is that treasure?
The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
Here at last we have the answer to the question, What are the keys that constitute the treasure of the Church? That treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The treasure of the gospel message can be considered the keys of the Church in that faithful preaching of the gospel opens the gate of heaven to sinners. By believing the gospel our sins are forgiven and we are saved from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of Christ.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Mt. 16:18-19
[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Col. 1:13-14
Jesus addressed Peter in the first person singular in Matthew 16:18-19. However, Jesus did not speak to Peter exclusively, making him the first pope; rather, he spoke to him as representative of the apostolic band, indeed, as representative of the whole Church. The gospel is committed to the Church. By making the gospel known to men and women we open the gates of heaven to them, if they will but enter by faith into the gospel promises.
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s classic allegory of the Christian life, the author has Christian, his protagonist, use the key of the gospel promise to escape from Doubting Castle, where Giant Despair had imprisoned him and his fellow pilgrim Hopeful:
Now a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That’s good news; good Brother pluck it out of thy bosom and try. Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the Dungeon door, whose bolt (as he turned the Key) gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out. Then he went to the outward door that leads into the Castle-yard, and with his Key opened that door also. After he went to the iron Gate, for that must be opened too, but that Lock went damnable hard, yet the Key did open it. Then they thrust open the Gate to make their escape with speed.
Christians today, as in all ages, have the privilege and duty of freeing men and women from sin and the despair it engenders by giving them the key of the gospel. On the other hand, if we fail to proclaim the gospel to people, we bind them in the domain of darkness.
Have you offered the key of the gospel to your family members, friends, and neighbors who need to enter the kingdom of God?