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In This Issue:

Pax Domini

S U M M E R

• God’s Plan for YOU • Eat, Drink and Be Forgiven • Religion vs. Relationship: A Harmful Dichotomy 02

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It's more than just a coloring book. cph.org/illuminatedcatechism


Contents T A B L E O F

Volume 17/Number 2 • Summer 2017

Special Features 4 Pax Domini

By Rev. George F. Borghardt Pax! That’s Latin for “peace”, which Rev. Borghardt points out is at the heart of the Divine Service. After all, forgiveness and everlasting life bring the truest peace we can have, accomplished by Christ on the cross, and delivered to us in water, Word, Body and Blood.

6 God’s Plan for YOU

By Rev. Aaron T. Fenker Are you waiting for a flashing neon sign from God to tell you what you’re supposed to do in this life? Thankfully God has other means that help to guide you with such decisions, such as His Word, wisdom, or the counsel of others. However, as Rev. Fenker encourages us, you don’t have to fret. You’re not going to miss out on some perfect plan for your life because God has it all covered in Christ!

20 Truth and Grace

By Kelly Kyle Truth and grace—these are simple terms, yet for the Christian struggling with mental health issues, they mean survival. Kelly compellingly shows how her Lutheran faith in Christ and His abundant gifts have helped her understand that God works graciously through our weakness and that in Christ we truly find our strength.

22 Behold, They Stand at the Door and Knock

By Joshua Ulm If you haven’t already, at some point you’ll respond to a knock at your door and be greeted by a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses standing there, eager to share their faith. What do they believe and how should you respond to them? Joshua hones in on some of the key contrasts and provides a few tools you can use if you encounter a Jehovah’s Witness.

8 The Law Only Instructs

By Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier In Christ, we are no longer condemned by the Law because He has fulfilled its demands perfectly on our behalf. Rev. Kachelmeier chronicles God’s delivery of His Law to His people and demonstrates how the Law functions in your life as a baptized child of God.

10 Religion vs. Relationship: A Dangerous Dichotomy

By Kelly Klages Ever heard someone claim, “Christianity isn’t a religion—it’s a relationship!” That’s actually a false dichotomy because those are not two choices in opposition to one another. Kelly explains how Christianity is both a religion and a relationship and that we needn’t fear, but can embrace the term “religion.”

12 Back to Bach: Soli Deo Gloria

By Rev. Gaven M. Mize You might have heard at some point that Johann Sebastian Bach was a Lutheran but perhaps you don’t know much more than that. Read up a bit as Rev. Mize gives us a little more background on this famous kantor.

14 Eat, Drink and Be Forgiven

By Molly Buffington Molly explains the reality of college life—that you are surrounded by worldly ideas of happiness and fulfillment. She contrasts this to our reality in Christ, in which we have the freedom to enjoy our college experience, knowing that we are supplied with all the gifts we could ever want, especially forgiveness.

HigherThings

®

Volume 17/Number 2/Summer 2017 Bible Studies for these articles can be found at: higherthings.org/ magazine/biblestudies.html Executive Editor

Katie Hill Art Director

Steve Blakey Editorial Associates

Rev. Greg Alms Rev. Paul Beisel Rev. Gaven Mize Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard Copy Editors

Kay Maiwald Dana Niemi Bible Study Authors

Rev. Aaron T. Fenker Rev. Bryan L. Kachelmeier Joshua Ulm Subscriptions Manager

Elizabeth Carlson ___________

Regular Features 28 Catechism: Our Restless Hearts: The 9th and 10th Commandments

By Rev. William M. Cwirla If you think about it, the root of every sin is covetousness. I want this…I need that…So how do we battle against this perpetual struggle? Rev. Cwirla reminds us that Christ has fulfilled the 9th and 10th Commandments on our behalf. We don’t have to let our “want that” or “need that” lead us into sin because we are immeasurably blessed with all we could ever truly need through Christ’s death and resurrection.

30 Bible Study: Behold, They Stand at the Door and Knock

Be sure to check out this sample of one of our student Bible studies which links up with Joshua Ulm’s article on P. 22.

Board of Directors President

Rev. George Borghardt Vice-President

Rev. Duane Bamsch Treasurer

Mr. Eric Maiwald Secretary

Rev. Joel Fritsche Deaconess Ellie Corrow Rev. D. Carl Fickenscher Mr. Bob Myers Mrs. Sue Pellegrini Rev. Chris Rosebrough ___________

Executive Council Deputy Executive/ Conference and Retreats

Sandra Ostapowich Media Executive

Rev. Aaron Fenker Business Executive

Connie Brammeier Marketing Executive

Ann Osburn

Development Executive

Erica Jacoby

Higher Things® Magazine ISSN 1539-8455 is published quarterly by Higher Things, Inc., PO Box 156, Sheridan, WY 82801. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without the written consent of the executive editor of Higher Things Magazine. Copyright 2017. Higher Things® is registered trademarks of Higher Things Inc.; All Rights Reserved. Printed in the United States. Postage paid at St. Louis, Missouri. For subscription information and questions, call 1-888-4826630, then press 4, or e-mail subscriptions@higherthings.org. (This phone number is only used for subscription queries.) For letters to the editor, write letters@higher things.org. Writers may submit manuscripts to: submissions@ higherthings.org. Please check higherthings.org/magazine/ writers.html for writers’ guidelines and theme lists.

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Pax D

Pax Domini.

“The peace of the Lord.” It’s one of the oldest parts of the historic liturgy. After the consecration, the pastor holds the Lord’s Body above the chalice and says to the congregation, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” It’s as though he is saying, “Here is your peace—right here in the Body and Blood of Jesus.”

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The Pax Domini is so old, in fact, that it is said many Christians in the early Church thought that the Words of Institution ended with Jesus saying, “The peace of the Lord be with you always,” but they don’t. It was a really nice thought! Connecting the Lord’s peace with the Lord’s Supper is theologically spot on! All our peace with God and with those around us comes from Jesus. It was earned for us by the holy life of Jesus. It was won for us when He suffered and died for our sins and the sins of the whole world. The Lord delivers His peace to us in His Supper. “Take, eat My Body given for you. Take, drink My Blood shed for you for the remission of sins.” In other words, “Eat my life and drink my forgiveness. Be raised from the dead. Be forgiven and be at peace with God.” Having peace with God means you also have peace with those around you! That’s why everyone makes peace with each other in the Divine Service. In His forgiveness, there is no more room for anything to separate us from each other. Any sin, any wrongdoing, is confessed and forgiven. We confess to God and to those we have wronged. “I’m sorry.”“You are forgiven. I’m sorry, too.”“You are forgiven.” Each sin, each trespass, each foul word, each bit of slander or hurt, is confessed and forgiven right there in the Divine Service. “The peace of the Lord be with you always” means just that! Peace with God becomes peace with one another. Everyone goes to the Lord’s Supper at peace! The peacemaking among early Christians in the Divine Service even became known as the “kiss of peace.” Maybe they didn’t actually kiss for real. They did at least “kiss and make up” figuratively. The point is, they made peace with each other. This often happens today in our Divine Service. This is the strange and uncomfortable part of the service where everyone greets everyone else around them. Some churches have this either before service or after the prayers of the church. We shake each other’s hands and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you.” True peace—lasting peace—comes from Jesus alone. It flows from His cross to us. It is won by His death which He died for us. It is lived out in His resurrection which justifies us before God and those around us. His peace comes to us in His gifts—the forgiveness of sins. In the Divine Service, it is put into our mouths at His Supper and into our ears by His Word. Often today, peace is a goodbye: “Peace out.” It’s a prayer for world peace. We want the earth and all to be at peace instead


Domini

By Rev. George F. Borghardt

of war. Peace for us is a feeling: chilling with a BFF and watching Netflix with nothing else to do. A full bank account gives us comfort and peace. The perfect girlfriend, a good job, or things going our way—these make us feel peaceful, like God loves us. Our parents not acting nuts—that’s real peace, too. Everyone loving us, being popular and respected—there’s peace in that as well. These things are all gifts from God, but they don’t give true, lasting peace. When bad things happen, we try to make peace on our own—bartering with God and those around us. We agree to disagree with people rather than to actually settle the argument. We form camps of winners and losers. We cut off contact from those with whom we can’t get along. We unfriend them. Block them. Sometimes we do this because they hurt us. Maybe the whole thing is just too much. We’re done. We will make peace with them if they make peace with us first. It’ll be okay when they apologize. Our peace just won’t include them. But in Christ, how could we hold any sins against anyone? The One who gave up His life on the Cross gives us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink at the Supper. Our sins are forgiven. We are at peace with God. How could we not be at peace with those around us, too? “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” Hear the words in the Divine Service again. Trust them. Rely on them for your peace. Believe that everything that you need, everything that you long for, comes to you in Jesus alone. In Christ, you are fed. In Christ, you are clothed. In Christ, you have friends and neighbors. In Christ, you are loved. In Christ, you live. In Christ, you will never die. In Christ, you have peace. Repent of your sins. Turn from those times you have kept peace from others. Be a peacemaker to those around you! Seek those people out, in the service or before the service, and make peace with them. If they forgive you, Jesus has won the day. If they don’t, don’t ever stop seeking opportunities to be at peace with them by praying for them. “God, please grant them peace with me. Please help me forgive them and help that forgiveness enliven them to eventually forgive me.” Impossible. Can it really be that easy? To find peace, and life, and rest in Jesus alone? No, it wasn’t easy at all: It cost Jesus His life on the Cross. He suffered and died to earn your peace with God. Now, by faith, you receive His peace in His Body and Blood. Pax Domini. The peace of the Lord is with you always. Peace today. Peace tomorrow. Peace with God and peace with those around you. Rev. George F. Borghardt is the senior pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in McHenry, Illinois. He also serves as the president of Higher Things.

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God’s Plan for “ What’s God’s plan

for my life?” It’s a question so many people ask. We struggle and hope to find God’s will, His blessing, and His plan for our lives in an effort to feel fulfilled, so we can live a God-pleasing life. Maybe you’ve had questions like:“Which college should I choose?”“What should my major be?”“Is this the job for me?”“Should I date this guy or girl?”“Which car does God want me to buy?”

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God’s will for you is simple. He “desires,” that is, wills and wants “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:4–6). Jesus says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). God’s will is to save you, and He’s not only willed it but planned it from before the foundation of the world, “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus’ death and resurrection to save you was planned before there ever was you, or your family, or even the universe itself. This plan didn’t just include Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also involved your adoption. God planned and predestined you to be His holy and beloved baptized child—a plan He realized when you were “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). So, now what? What do you do now? What shall you do? Well, just look at the “shalls” and “shall nots” of God—His Holy Law. The Ten Commandments is where you find what God wants you to do. It’s actually pretty simple—to understand, not to do, of course. (That’s why you needed Jesus to die for you.) It’s straightforward: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” (Small Catechism, 1st Commandment Explanation) That’s Commandments One, Two, and Three. Commandments Four through Ten are also simple: “The commandments…are all

summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:9). “Faith toward God.”“Fervent,” that is, heart-felt, true, sincere “love toward one another.” You pray for that. After receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, you pray that your faith would be strengthened and your love for others would increase that you may serve them the best way you can, the best way you know how, and in the best place where God has placed you. Yes, God has placed you somewhere. Yes, you—specifically you and specifically for that person next to you. That’s what we learn from Scripture, as the Catechism puts it, “Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?” (Small Catechism, Confession: Which are these?) Your heavenly Father planned this, too. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). He planned everything for your salvation. He planned when it would happen (Jesus’ death and resurrection), when it would be delivered (your Baptism day), and what would flow from the new life created in you that day (the good works in which we walk). Now, what does this mean? It means God planned which people you’d love and serve. He knew you’d be there to forgive them, to help them, to serve


YOU

By Rev. Aaron T. Fenker

them, to work for them, to be born from them, to care for them, to have children of your own, and on and on. “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?” (Small Catechism, Confession: Which are these?) All these stations or vocations are a gift from your heavenly Father that He might gift you to others. Now, what does this not mean? This does not mean that you have to worry about God choosing your specific career path for you— that you need to discern, feel, and listen for God’s voice as to which major to choose, or whether you should get this job or that job. God’s Word doesn’t say that. You may have skills in science but also have skills in teaching, and then later on you might choose to do something completely different than doctor or science teacher or whatever else. There’s no dream destiny that God has planned for you that you might miss out on. So many Christians out there struggle with finding out God’s plan. St. Augustine, who was a pastor and theologian in the 4th/5th century, summarized what Scripture says on this. He said, “We grant that all people have a free will. It is free as far as it has the judgment of reason…It is free only in works of this life, whether good or evil. Good I call those works that spring from the good in nature, such as willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to

marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn various useful arts, or whatsoever good applies to this life” (Augsburg Confession XVII: Free Will). So when you’re faced with, for example, deciding which college you should attend or which job you should accept, what do you do? Well first, look at your decision in light of the “shalls” and “shall nots” we talked about earlier. Then look at the wisdom of the decision and in doing so, seek out the counsel of trusted people in your life, like your parents, your pastor or another older, experienced friend. If those most trusted in your life think that college you’ve got your heart set on is NOT for you, you need to very carefully consider that counsel. So basically, God saves in you in Jesus Christ, His Son, He baptizes you, and then you are free. Free to love your neighbor. Free to think about which career suits you. It may change later, and that’s okay. You love your neighbor whether you’re a “father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker.” You’re free to buy this house or that, to work here or there, to study teaching, science, or whatever else. Whether you’re single or not, parent or not, worker or not, your destiny is assured: eternal life with Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit is yours. Jesus has died and risen for you. That doesn’t change. You’re baptized into Christ; you’re God’s adopted child. That doesn’t change. He’s called you to love those around you. And that doesn’t change. That’s all God’s plan: signed, sealed, and delivered. You don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to feel out Him and His will. What’s His plan? He’s revealed His plan to you—Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. His revealed plan continues—Christ baptizing you, living in you, loving through you—all the way to eternal life. Rev. Aaron T. Fenker is the pastor of Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran churches in Bremen, Kansas. He is the media executive for Higher Things.

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he Law only instructs! That’s right! For those who are in Christ it only instructs! Now, I can imagine that you are ready to respond by saying,“But doesn’t the Law always accuse?”“But don’t we as Lutheran believe, teach, and confess that the Law always accuses?” Before we address the notion that the Law always accuses, we must first understand what the Law is and why God gave it to His people. After Yahweh delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He gave them a new identity, with a new way of thinking, speaking, and acting. They were now liberated from serving Pharaoh. They were free to serve Yahweh. God instructed them how to serve. Notice that the Ten Commandments open with a statement of who God is, which directly informs His people of who they are. God says, “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2–3). God teaches His people exactly what type of a God He is. He is One who delivers them from slavery. Therefore, they do not need to enslave themselves to other gods. The people of Israel have been redeemed by Yahweh. They are His people. They belong to Him. As His people, they do not need to speculate about how they are to act as His people. God instructs them. He is basically saying, “This is what you are to do as my people.” The Law of God reveals

they would not sin in thoughts, words, and deeds. In Exodus 24 we read, “Yahweh said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the Law and the commandments, which I have written to instruct them’” (Exodus 24:12). There are two things to note here. First, the word Law is “Torah” in the Hebrew language, which means “instruction.” Second, notice the connection between the Torah and the purpose of writing the tablets of stone. Yahweh says, “I have written to instruct them.” The word instruct is from the Hebrew verb yarah which means “he instructs.” It is interesting to note that when Moses was on the top of Mount Sinai receiving the revealed will of God, Aaron was at the base of the mountain speculating on what he could do to please God. Aaron, without the Word of God, decided to become creative in worship and used the golden calf to assure the people of God that Yahweh was with them. However, Aaron did not

way, O Yahweh, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). With the words of the Torah we are invited to walk with God. The prophet Isaiah writes, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). And again, Isaiah invites us saying, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of Yahweh” (Isaiah 2:5). The Law of Yahweh is like a light that tells us what is right. In John’s first epistle he tells us the reason why he instructs us saying, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1–2). God instructs us so that we would not sin. However, in this life we still do sin. Thus, John continues by saying, “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2). Likewise, John also says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). You see, without Jesus our Advocate (one who stands between us and God’s wrath) the Law always accuses. But with

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have the Word of God. He did not have the instructions given by God. Thus, there was no institution to worship in that way or promise that God would be pleased by it. Without God’s instruction, the people fell into sin. With God’s Word, His people are instructed to walk in His way and not their own ways. With the written Law, that is the Torah, we have the revealed will of God. As His people, we are taught to pray and say, “Teach (yarah) me Your

Jesus, our High Priest by faith, we have the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. When our sins are pardoned by Christ, the Law cannot accuse us. Jesus is your light and your salvation. Of what shall you be afraid? In Christ, we rejoice in the Law’s instruction! Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier is the pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Shutterstock.com

H I G H E R

the will of God. Thus, when Luther teaches us to meditate upon the Ten Commandments as His redeemed people, we are taught that we should fear and love God so that we do what He instructs us to do. We do not need to guess what works are pleasing to God; God teaches us in His Word. In fact, in Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments are called the “Ten Words.” With these words God instructed His people, that


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Religion vs. Relationship A Harmful Dichotomy By Kelly Klages

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I

t’s been a rallying cry in many Christian circles for some decades now: “Christianity isn’t about religion, it’s about relationship!” It pops up in different contexts. Sometimes it’s thought of as an evangelistic slogan that might attract the interest of unbelievers who have already expressed a dislike for “organized religion.” Often it is used as a weapon against other churches: “Those people are all about dead ritual, dogma, and putting God in a box, but not us! We have a real, living relationship with God.” Regardless of the motives of those making the claim, it has the potential to do real harm. Here are some reasons why:

It uses a self-defined concept of religion not recognized by the Bible, church history, or even the dictionary. The meanings of words matter. Religion has to do with a set of beliefs about God or ultimate questions, recognized by a community engaging in regular rites and practices, and the way that worldview and its morality plays out in a person’s life. Christianity is a religion—the true religion. To define “religion” in general as “a bunch of hypocrites going through boring, empty motions without real faith” or “people trying to work their way to heaven” is to concede to an unbeliever’s hostile and biased definition of religion.


Downplaying “religion” has not helped Christianity in North America over the last several decades. Some Christians have thought that if they act as though they hate religion as much as unbelievers, they’ll win them to their side somehow. But have these semantic tricks worked? Of course not. Unbelievers have responded with, “You hate religion? Good, so do I– including yours.” Christians who insult “religion” are merely despised by unbelievers as dishonest fools. Religion as a category has found increasing disfavor in North America in the last several decades. Religious rights are viewed with more and more suspicion in the secular square. Tragically, Christians themselves are to blame for giving the word “religion” a bad name. Among Christians, “religion vs. relationship” is really an American sales pitch. In 19th- and 20th-century America, amidst its so-called revivals and the ecumenical movement, Christians began looking for membership for their churches not from the unbelieving world, but from other churches who might want to try a different experience. Revivalism set aside concerns about doctrinal unity in favor of the biggest tent, the most thrilling and entertaining speakers, and the most emotionfilled atmosphere. These consumerfocused concerns became the marks of a desirable church, rather than the faithfulness of the Gospel message preached and the right administering of the sacraments. We can see this influence well into the 21st century. It has created a cafeteria-style Christianity that would be unrecognizable to centuries of Christians. Rather than bringing unbelievers into the church,“religion vs. relationship” as a sales pitch merely tells some Christians that their churches aren’t good enough because they’re insufficiently emotionbased, and tempts believers to favor a weaker Christianity.

Relationship without religion becomes whatever I make it. For believer or unbeliever, the word “relationship” tends to be a comfortable one. Relationships can be highly individualistic, self-determined, and private. They make us think of nice, warm feelings, happy and informal bonds, and good times. Religion, on the other hand, takes self-determination out of our hands. It is much bigger than we are. It involves a community of people, including millennia of those who have gone before us. It is not a self-chosen country club for family and social programs or a way to enjoy personal nostalgia. It cannot be merely informal or private. Defining Christianity exclusively in terms of relationship over and against religion has led to the label of “spiritual but not religious.” The net effect of this is that people make up and define their own truth about God. They may like the idea of the happy, comfortable, informal bond, but not the connotations of a transcendent, absolute truth, suffering, or obligation. And anyway, who are you to butt in on anyone else’s private relationship? There is a better way. It is true that Christianity is a unique religion. Because of Jesus’ gift of salvation and forgiveness, freely given by grace, we have something that can be found nowhere else. Christianity is God reaching out to save man, not man trying to figure out a way to reach God. But to pretend that what we have isn’t religion at all would be both dishonest and harmful to the soul, which is in need of more than a cosmic buddy to hang out with. All human beings have some sort of relationship to God, good or bad. But that needs to be defined through the unchanging Word of God, and fleshed out and supported in the communion of saints—the Church. And that means we’re talking about religion. It’s not that the Bible is antirelationship when it comes to God.

We stand in relation to God in many different ways. Do you know someone who struggles with understanding what it means for God to be their Father? You can point him to the Lord’s Prayer, explaining how our Creator desires us to come to Him with all our wants and needs as children ask a dear father. Or, what does it mean that Jesus is our Brother? You can direct him to Hebrews 4, which explains that Christ is the God who took on our flesh, understands all of our temptations and weaknesses, and has mercy on us. A relationship with God isn’t experienced by trying to work ourselves up into a state of strong feeling, hoping to sense spiritual vibes that prove God loves us. Nor is it looking to our own works to sustain a bond with an invisible friend. It is the daily walk of faith, the receiving of His Word and gifts, the worship with saints on earth and saints in heaven, speaking to God in prayer, and service to our neighbors. In other words, relating to God through Jesus Christ is what true religion is all about! Kelly Klages is an artist, writer, and member of the Lutheran Church-Canada. She lives in Morden, Manitoba with her husband Alex and her children Ana, Micah, and Timothy.

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Back to Bach: By Rev. Gaven M. Mize

I

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t’s night and it’s quiet. It’s dead quiet, yet you aren’t quite sure you are ready to move toward your goal for the evening. Everyone else is asleep. You live with your brother because your parents unfortunately died early on in your life. Your brother can be very protective of his music because he holds it as sacred. So for you, it’s hands off. You creep stealthily upstairs. You listen at your brother’s door and you hear nothing but snoring. It’s time to put your plan into action. So, you move quietly through the dark night of the house because your heart’s desire is that precious to you. You creep into the music room, making sure the door doesn’t creak. You find the cabinet that you have been intently eyeing with musical need since you were very small. You’ve mastered all of your beginner’s music sheets and they are getting very boring. You slip your hand between the bars of the cabinet, roll up the precious sheets of music, and slip them through the bars. Now, all there is left for the night is to copy your brother’s sacred music onto a new piece of paper so you can play it later in secret, and then replace the original to its rightful place. If indeed this is you, then you are young Johann Sebastian Bach, part of a musically gifted family in 17th century Germany.


Bach had a love for music from his earliest years. He thought in notes, compiled ideas in chorus, and expressed himself in music to the glory of God alone. Even while young he once said, “I play the notes as they are written but it is God who makes the music.” With this mindset, Bach continued to trust in God that all his work would be sanctified by His glory alone. With his understanding of music as being God’s work and not man’s, Bach was able to reach great musical heights. In doing so, he composed and proclaimed God’s Word. Bach began his first “real musical job” when he was 17 (about the age of many of the readers of this magazine). He was an organist in a Lutheran parish. Even though his family was very proud of him, his musical talent didn’t go over very well with the folks in the parish. “People are complaining about your compositions,” the Lutheran priest said.“They are

saying that your music is too showy and too proud.” This didn’t sit well with Bach and he held firm that the main purpose of his music was to “glorify God...and it comes from my heart as a humble gift to God.” Some years after that first job of Bach’s youth he would continue to play for those who believed that his playing was too showy. However, that apparently wasn’t the case for the Duke Wilhelm Ernst in Weimar where Bach would play for royalty. After some time with the Duke, Bach wrote “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” which is one of the world’s most famous classical pieces. From this point forward, wherever Bach went or whichever position he accepted he never let it slip out of his mind that he was playing for the glory of God. He once said, “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” Dangling at the end of each composition that Bach wrote were the letters “SDG”. These letters were a summary of Bach’s mentality and faithfulness: Soli Deo Gloria. “To God alone be the Glory” was his constant motto and understanding. It is no coincidence that Soli Deo Gloria was one of the driving forces of the Reformation and still is a fundamental focus of the Church.

While much of Bach’s work was not recognized and appreciated until nearly a century after his death in 1750, we commemorate him as the predominate Lutheran kantor on July 28th each year. He faithfully served the four Lutheran churches in Leipzig, Germany during his last years. His roles as a kantor and as a magnificent composer remind us that we are rooted in the faith handed down by our fathers and that all talents, gifts, and even our everyday vocations are to be to the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And perhaps, just perhaps, there is a young person who will pick up this magazine at some point in time and read this article. That young person just might by inspired by Bach and desire to make the liturgy come alive through beautiful music. Perhaps, just perhaps, the next Bach is holding this magazine right now—one who is willing to foster his or her musical abilities in an effort to glorify God alone with music. Perhaps, that same person will hope to be a kantor one day and will help bring our church to its proper form that the spirit of the Reformation understands. To God alone be the glory! Rev. Gaven M. Mize is the pastor of Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hickory, North Carolina.

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College years

are a challenging time for us Lutheran students—perhaps one of the most challenging periods in our earthly lives. While these years are meant to be a time of growth, learning, and service to our neighbor, most university campuses have a very different worldview from the one we hear preached in church. Campus life has a lot in common with the craziness of the ancient pagan world, and both have the same motto:“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This philosophy has been preached everywhere from the Coliseum to your dorm room, and it says that the most important thing is to do what makes you feel good. Life’s short, so just have fun! Pick any commandment—third, fourth, sixth, eighth—and break it because it’ll make you feel good. And what’s wrong with feeling good?

So our professors tell us God is dead, classmates tell us to ditch church, and friends tell us that honoring our parents is lame. Everybody cheats, gossips, says this, does that. And if we don’t join in with them, we’re losers. Maybe we follow them in search for pleasure. Maybe we hide our faith to avoid looking uncool. Maybe we harbor hatred in our hearts for them to make us feel better about ourselves. We’ll do anything just to get that grade, that guy or girl, that financial aid. We’ll do anything to feel good. But none of it works. We end up overwhelmed with homework, stress, loneliness, and temptation. In the midst of the sadness, fear, and sin, we eventually find ourselves flat on our faces, realizing we can’t do it. We can’t meet our own standards for “feeling good”, let alone God’s perfect standards for how we ought to live. We discover that the campus motto is actually the world’s lie. When Satan tempted Eve, he told her that the fruit would make her feel good—it would make her be like God. In following the promises of the world, we end up rejecting God and replacing Him with our own desires. Just like Adam and Eve, we look upon ourselves with shame and try to cover our nakedness, but we can’t. Who can free us from this weakness and sin?

Eat, Drink, and Be H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 14

By Molly Buffington


Jesus can. Christ Jesus died for everyone, including college students. The very Son of God took on our frail human flesh and bore all of our sins and burdens. He felt the suffering we feel daily as we struggle with pain and temptation on campus. Christ knows our sins, and out of supreme love, took those sins onto Himself to save us. Hanging on the cross, the sinless God in the flesh died the death we deserve, atoning for all the sins we commit, and did so also for our siblings, parents, friends, and professors. And on the third day, Christ rose to give us salvation and eternal life. And as we died with Him, on the Last Day we will also rise with Him—all our sin taken from us—to live in eternal blessedness and peace with Him and the Church Triumphant. But what about all that stress and sin? What about those friends and professors? What about right now? In the midst of college craziness and our own brokenness, we are given the Sacraments, where Christ comes to us physically, in our own time and place, to bring us comfort and forgiveness. In Baptism, through water and the Word, Jesus takes our sin and clothes us with His righteousness. In Vocatio Taste of the Sem our pastors une 21-26, the 2014Absolution, January 18-20, 2014 declare that Jesus high school guysforgives and girls) (For high school guysthose only) our sins, even that plague us most in our college years. In the Lord’s Supper, eady to register? Visit www.csl.edu or call 800-822-9545.

Christ Jesus gives us His very Body and Blood

t h i s with w athesbread k i and r kwine to forgive our sins and grant us everlasting life. f o u r y e aYes,rcollege s a gis hard. o The devil, the world,

and our own sinful flesh are constantly warring against us, leading us to death and ruin. But whether we’re heading off to our freshman year or preparing to graduate, we college students can dare to be Lutheran, knowing that no matter who makes fun of us, no matter what grades we make, no matter how worried or lonely we feel, no matter how much we continue to stumble, none of that can harm us, because we are in Christ. In Word and Sacrament, Jesus Christ cleanses us from sins and gives us salvation. When temptation comes, when despair strikes, when we fall into sin, we can come again and again to the altar. Jesus takes the motto of the world and flips it on its head: “Eat, drink, and be forgiven,” He says as our pastor hands us the host and the cup, “for on Good Friday I died—for you!”

N o w I m g o in g t o s e r v e God in the world!

Molly Buffington is a student at the University of Alabama and enjoys being a College Conference Volunteer (CCV) at Higher Things conferences whenever she gets the opportunity.

en from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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T h e s e m in a r y h a s c h a n g e d K i r k s l i f e . Check out how you can serve God in ministry!

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(For high school m

Vocatio

June 24-29

(For high s

, 20

17 chool men and wome n)

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South Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois

Carleton College Northfield, Minnesota

The University of Kansas Lawrence, Kansas

July 24-27, 2018

Pacific Lutheran University Tacoma, Washington

July 31-August 3, 2018

Visit

Sanctified2018.org or email conferences@higherthings.org for more details.

“You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.“ (Leviticus 20:26)

Higher Things is pleased to announce the 2018 conferences: “Sanctified.” Join us next summer as we look at the Commandments and how God has called us to be His own people in Christ.

You will have no other gods before my face. You will not misuse my Name or despise My Word. You will keep my Sabbath Day holy. You will honor your father and your mother. You will not murder. You will not commit adultery. You will not steal. You will not bear false testimony against your neighbor. You will not covet—not your neighbor’s house, or his neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

“I’m the Lord God, Who brought you out of Egypt. I have saved you. I’ve saved you from slavery in Egypt. I’ve saved you from your sins. You will be holy to me. You are holy to me because I’m holy.

July 10-13, 2018

July 3-6, 2018

2018 HIGHER THINGS CONFERENCES

2018 HIGHER THINGS CONFERENCES

Sanctified Sanctified

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Check Out Our Weekly

HT Vlogs and Simulcast! Daring to be Lutheran... and having a blast!

H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 18

Higher Things Vlogs: Each week Pastor George Borghardt, president of Higher Things, and Pastor Harrison Goodman put out new HT Vlogs. Pastor Goodman is working his way through Luther’s Large Catechism on Wednesdays. Pastor Borghardt answers questions from youth and on current events on Thursdays. If you have a question or topic that you’d like covered in a Vlog, please email them to support@higherthings.org. HT Simulcast: Pastor Donovan Riley and Kate Olson discuss current events and topics inside and outside the Church from a biblical, catechetical, pastoral and practical perspective to explain how these events get in the way of, or help deliver, Christ and His gifts. Keep up to date with all HT content on Facebook: facebook.com/HigherThings.


Upcoming HT Retreats! www.higherthings.org/retreats

Sola Gratia. Sola Fide. Sola Scriptura.

August 11-12, 2017 Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church, Black Hawk, SD Speaker: Speaker: Rev. George Borghardt III

I Believe I Can’t Believe:The Third Article

November 3-4, 2017 Faith Lutheran Church, Plano, TX Speaker: Speaker: Rev. Ryan Ogrodowitz

Nails

November 3-4, 2017 Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in McHenry, IL Speaker: TBD

The Mother of God: How are Are Lutherans to Regard RegardMary Mary? February 2-3, 2018 St. Paul Lutheran Church, Chatfield, MN Speaker: Speaker: Rev. Richard Stuckwisch

Mark your calendars for these HT Retreats! February 16-18, 2018 – Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheboygan, WI February 22-23, 2018 – Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, SK, CAN April 20-21, 2018- Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hankinson, ND -Spring 2018Gillette, WY Camp IO-DIS-E-CA, Solon, IA Waterloo, ON, CA

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Trut h and Grace By Kelly Kyle

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.� Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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Being a Christian does not exempt us from pain

or suffering, nor does Baptism necessarily heal us from all of our ailments. Rather, it is often through our own weaknesses that we learn to hold fast to Christ. It is through our vulnerabilities that we learn acceptance and how to genuinely love our neighbor.


Shutterstock.com

I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. Apparently, my brain was wired a little differently, a little too tightly wound. As a child, I managed this anxiety to the best of my ability, but by the time I was 16 my world started to slowly crumble. I was a junior in high school and I found myself lost in the throes of a serious depression. As my parents were in the midst of a divorce, I searched for something or someone to hold me up. My friends were touring college campuses and anticipating their next stage of life; I was just trying to maintain my day-to-day existence. At 18, I checked myself into a hospital. While my friends were trying on their graduation caps, anticipating Grad Night and the excitement of new beginnings, I was in a small, secluded, non-furnished room, stripped of all my personal belongings. I managed to find some solace and comfort in the Psalms. I was a million miles away from my classmates’ future hopes. My hope was to find the will to live, and to figure out who I was. I silently suffered for years in church pews, convinced that I was somehow spiritually responsible for my illness. I pleaded with Christ to remove my anxiety and depression, believing that without this thorn in my side I would be a better person and live a better life. I diligently tried to rid myself of it; I read up on the fruit of the Spirit, participated in Bible studies on joy, and waited for my healing miracle. While in waiting, a dear friend introduced to me to my future husband. Not only was I blessed with a good man, I embraced a Scripturally grounded theology and became a Lutheran. I was catechized in the faith by one of the best. For the first time, I heard Law and Gospel explained in a way that reassured me I didn’t have to earn my salvation. I learned to appreciate liturgy and love hymns. The sermons I heard each Sunday were all about CHRIST. I had found my resting place. Over the years, I have gained more insight into my struggle with anxiety and depression. I think we become anxious over our own vulnerabilities and want our thorn removed to alleviate the pain we are experiencing and to convince others we have our act together. We hide behind addictions and other kinds of dysfunction. We become impatient with Christ and believe we know what we need and how we would like to be seen by others. We hustle to cast off the parts of ourselves that are not beautiful, the intangibles we believe to be unsightly. Nowadays it is even more difficult to see ourselves as Christ sees us. There is constant pressure around us to appear like we have everything together—we must project success. We put our best foot forward on social media, and we carefully select and crop pictures of ourselves so others see only what we want them to see. Unless they are close friends (and maybe not even then), they know nothing of the moments before or after such carefully selected photos are taken and shared. They

see our graduation photos but nothing of the reality of agonizing exam preparation; they see the engagement and wedding photos but nothing of the time it took to learn to love sacrificially, the mistakes made and the heartache experienced. They see our lives out of context because that is what we believe we SHOULD show them. Sadly, we deprive our friends of the opportunity to love us, and miss out on the ways in which we can truly love our neighbor. We stop being honest, and instead live in the pursuit of whatever our culture dictates, to the point of not remembering our own authentically beautiful hearts and minds that Christ created, but more importantly, has forgiven. Sometimes the people around you with the most painful of thorns are the most charismatic and dynamic at sharing Christ because they have delved into the utmost despair and understand they have been spared by the spilling of the blood from Christ’s wounds. They grasp Christ’s mercies and know that Christ never forsakes them. I love these people! They live with the resilience and faith that come from experiencing suffering and pain. They are the ones who will stand next to you when there are no words to say. I still have my thorn—my struggles with anxiety and depression—but Christ has healed me. He did not heal me exactly when and how I asked, but over the last 25 years He has slowly and patiently taught me about His love, truth and grace. He opened my eyes and I saw that I was not alone and that He remained with me in the darkest of hours. Every time I hear His Word faithfully preached, each time I receive Absolution, and whenever I partake of the Lord’s Supper, I remember that I am at the foot of Christ’s cross, and I can have the courage to live imperfectly but forgiven. I am free to truly love my neighbor with Christ’s love. We all share in this life and are bound by the joy and sorrows it brings—no one is spared pain. But just like Paul prayed for God to remove his thorn and was told by the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you” it is the same with all of us who are in Christ. The more we remember that, we can be kind, loving and patient with others and ourselves, which is living in light of TRUTH and GRACE. Kelly Kyle is the wife of a loving husband and the mother of three active kids. She frequently writes about mental health and recovery in the hopes of encouraging others who are struggling. She is a member of First Lutheran Church in Lake Elsinore, California.

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or a Christian trying to navigate through life in a secular world, a brother or sister in Christ is a sight for sore eyes! Since all the baptized are members of the Holy Christian Church, finding a fellow Christian who is willing to speak of his or her faith can be encouraging and exciting. This was my thought when a friend from high school handed me a pamphlet about his church. The pamphlet was full of familiar images of Jesus: teaching His disciples, holding a lamb, greeting a group of children. I was thrilled to find a friend who believed what I did! Unfortunately, my excitement quickly faded when I saw in large print “JW,” which stands for Jehovah’s Witnesses. At that time, I wasn’t very familiar with all of their teachings, but I knew that they were not Christians.

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The Jehovah’s Witnesses (also known as the “Watchtower Society”) are known for their door-to-door mission efforts. They use familiar Christian imagery and terminology in order to appeal to Christians, but behind their appeal lie dangerous and destructive teachings. Here is a quick rundown of a few Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs, how we

Behold, They Stand


can be aware of the differences between our beliefs and theirs, and how we can engage our Jehovah’s Witness friends with the true Gospel! The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not follow the Christ of the Bible, but instead worship a false Jesus who is not God. They reject the God of the Bible and follow a false God who is not triune. They believe that Jesus was a man who lived a perfect life and that the man Jesus sacrificed His life for the people of the world, but they do not believe that Jesus is God. However, because they believe that Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross, they speak in much the same way that Christians do about Jesus. They will say things like “Jesus came to earth from heaven” or even “We believe in Jesus,” but when it comes to who Jesus is, their confession falls flat. They do not believe that Jesus is God, so they do not pray to Him or worship Him. Their understanding of the key events in salvation history like creation, the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection change because they believe in a different Jesus. What this boils down to is that they do not believe that Jesus accomplished salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Again, they believe Jesus died and rose but they don’t acknowledge what the Scripture says He came to do. We should beware of the Jehovah’s Witnesses because the Jesus that they present is an imposter in whom there is no salvation. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Bible The Jehovah’s Witnesses use a Bible that has some similarities to ours. They use their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which has the same 66 books as your Bible. Unfortunately, their Bible has also mistranslated key words and phrases that describe Jesus as God. For example, their translation of

John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god,” instead of “the Word was God.” This is one of many examples of God’s Word being twisted in an attempt to leave out references to the divinity of Jesus. Their very flawed translation of Scripture fuels and rationalizes their false teaching. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that there is one God, Jehovah, but they do not believe that there are three persons of the Trinity. They believe that Jesus was a man who lived a perfect life and that the Holy Spirit is a “force,” but not a person. They speak of Jesus and the Spirit, but not as Persons of the Godhead. In doing so they reject the orthodox Christian belief in a triune God as an unbiblical teaching that compromises the “oneness” of God, claiming that the doctrine of the Trinity has pagan roots. The Creeds remind us of what we believe! Though the image of Jesus holding a lamb may be inviting, and the picture of Christ teaching others might be appealing, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the same Jesus that we do. It might seem difficult to remember and look out for the errors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It seems as though you need to be a walking theological encyclopedia to be on guard against everything that isn’t pure and true. But the church has provided an answer: the Creeds. The simple words confessed on Sunday morning by the people of God—the words that you have been taught in confirmation—help guard against harmful teachings. The Creeds are short and easy-to-memorize statements of what we believe, but they are also a powerful check against those who would try to lead us astray. When it comes to discerning whether or not the Jehovah’s Witnesses speak the truth, the Creeds are a mighty

help. On the one hand, the Creeds are organized into three articles, confessing the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity, showing themselves to be outside the Creeds and the Christian faith. The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus is not God. In contrast, the Nicene Creed says that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God,” and that He is “of one substance with the Father.” These Scriptural truths remind us of who Jesus is when we are presented with a false picture that contradicts what we have been taught. An Opportunity While talking one-on-one with a JW friend is fine, it is very important that you not invite Jehovah’s Witnesses into your home for serious discussion without the support of a mature Christian. Your pastor is an important resource who can guide you through discussions with unbelievers and help answer any other questions you might have! If you have a friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness, the situation may seem discouraging. I was certainly saddened that my friend was not a fellow Christian. There is, at least, some basis on which to start a discussion. After all, they already know the name Jesus and have an understanding of the Bible, incomplete and flawed though it may be. And although we cannot trust the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, armed with the Creeds and the faithful preaching in our local congregation, we have a wonderful opportunity to share with them what we believe! If you have a friend who is wrapped up in these teachings, you can share with them the true Gospel of Christ! Joshua Ulm, a seminarian at Concordia Seminary St. Lewis, is a vicar at Zion Lutheran Church in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.

d at the Door and Knock

By Joshua Ulm

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In light of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this year’s CD dares you to listen to hymns by Martin Luther and other Lutheran Reformers, Pastors, and poets and to sing along with Lutheran youth and young adults from around the country from one of our conference locations. Visit us at www.higherthings.org/herewestand for ordering information!

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The mission of Higher ThingsÂŽ is to assist parents, pastors, and congregations in cultivating a distinctly Lutheran identity among their youth and young adults.


SS UU MM MM EE RR 22 00 11 77 __ ­227 7


Our Restless Catechism

The 9th and 10th By Rev. William M. Cwirla

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or husband), his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey (or Porsche 911), or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

C

an you sin without even doing or saying anything? You bet you can! You do it all the time, and you probably don’t even give it a second thought. I can do it while at the dinner table with my family or even while standing in the pulpit, and no one would even have the slightest notion I was breaking not one but two of God’s commandments. In fact, I could look perfectly innocent, pious, and holy while doing it and you’d be completely unaware of it.

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I’m talking about coveting—the desire to have what you don’t and can’t have. It’s a sin that goes on entirely in the heart without so much as an external twitch. It may not seem like much of a sin. Who gets hurt? What’s the harm? Why make so much of a fuss over what appears to be a victimless sin? Coveting is the root cause of all kinds of trouble. “You desire and do not have, so you kill. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and wage war” (James 4:2). The externals always begin internally, with the heart. “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). Coveting someone else’s spouse can lead to adultery. Coveting someone else’s donkey or Porsche can lead to theft or fraud.

Every external sin begins with the sinful heart—the heart that does not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The 9th and 10th commandments loop back to the 1st commandment. Coveting is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5)! Our sinful hearts are restless, wanting more and more, seeking security, identity, meaning in things, especially things we don’t have. If only I were with that person, I’d be happy. If only we had a nicer house in a better neighborhood, we’d be content. But the problem with the heart unbuckled from God is that it’s like a dog chasing its own tail. There’s no end to it. We’re never at rest; we’re never content—always chasing after newer, brighter, faster, better. We have a big problem. We can curb the externals and more or less keep ourselves in line with a little “just say no” self-discipline and a few threats and punishments. You can choose not to “follow your heart,” and therefore not steal or commit adultery. But those desires of that restless heart of yours are not going to go away with teeth-gritting self-discipline any more than a strict diet will make you stop wanting that chocolate shake. How do you deal with sins of the heart? How can


Hearts:

Commandments you discipline yourself not to desire? It’s a bit like saying, “I’m going to try very hard not to yawn while reading this article.” I’ll bet you’re starting to yawn already! The apostle Paul said he wouldn’t have even thought of coveting until the Law said, “Do not covet.” You know what happened next? It was like a gallon of commandment gasoline was poured on a little covetous spark. Sin grabbed hold of the commandment and Paul began coveting like crazy. It wasn’t the Law that did this, but sin, inflamed and magnified by the Law, that turned Paul’s sin-filled heart into a coveting machine. “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7)

There’s only one solution. We need new hearts. You can’t fix a sinful heart. It’s beyond repair. God needs to do a heart transplant and give us new hearts that beat to His will in the fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That’s what God does for you by your Baptism into Christ. You get a new heart. Oh, the old one is still there. This is more like a “piggyback” heart transplant where the old and new are simultaneously present until the old one dies. That’s Luther’s famous “simul justus et peccator” (the Christian is at one and the same time righteous and sinful). Old Adam’s covetous, idolatrous heart still beats on to its death. But you also have a new heart in Christ: a heart turned to God in fear, love, and trust; a heart that is content with what God gives and desires what God wills; a heart that beats forever to the rhythm of God’s love for you in Jesus. The great Latin church father St. Augustine once prayed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” In Christ, the emptiness of our coveting is filled with the gift of contentment. Our hearts are at rest and at peace, faithful hearts fearing, loving, trusting in God above all things. From of all places prison, the apostle Paul said, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him (Christ) who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). Even in prison, the heart is content in Jesus. “You shall not crave your neighbor’s house Nor covet money, goods, or spouse. Pray God He would your neighbor bless As you yourself wish success. Have mercy, Lord! (Lutheran Service Book #581) Rev. William M. Cwirla is the pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, California, and is a president emeritus of Higher Things. He can be reached at wcwirla@gmail.com.

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Behold, They Stand at the Door and Knock A HIGHER THINGS BIBLE STUDY • Summer 2017

1

Recite the second article of the creed and its explanation (LSB 322-323).

2

What are some of the names given to Jesus in the Bible? What do they tell us about who He is and what He came to do?

3

The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods.” Luther’s explanation of this commandment states that this commandment means “we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” This commandment forbids the worship of other gods and idolatry of any sort. Why would the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Christians break this commandment by worshipping Jesus?

4

Part of God’s identity is that He is the creator. Creation is God’s first great act on behalf of humanity. God created the world and all that is in it from nothing. Read John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 1:10-12. Who is responsible for the creation of the world according to these verses?

5

Look again at John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 1:10-12, this time considering the concept of time. When do these verses say that Jesus existed? Why is this important? H I G H E R T H I N G S __ 30

6

Read Luke 1:50-53. In verse 52 Luke tells us that the disciples worshipped Jesus. If Jesus is not God, what does this worship amount to?

7

Read Revelation 5:11-14. Who is the One sitting on the throne? Who is the Lamb? What do the elders say about them?

8

In the New Testament, Jesus receives worship—something that only God ought to do! The next two questions will show Jesus doing something else that only God can do. Read Matthew 9:1-8. What do the scribes accuse Jesus of doing?

9

Does Jesus truly forgive the man’s sins in Matthew 9? Who has the power to forgive sins? How is this significant for you?

10

Close by singing Crown Him with Many Crowns, LSB #525. To access the Leader’s Guide for this study, as well as Bible studies for articles in this issue and previous issues, as a part of an HTOnline subscription, point your browser to: higherthings.org/ magazine/biblestudies.html.


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“Our Restless Hearts” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction As Pastor Cwirla points out, we often try to fill our emptiness with things. We pursue the goods of this world, thinking that they will give us identity, security, and meaning. In the end, however, the only person who can fill our emptiness is Christ and the everlasting blessings that He brings. As you go through this study, you will be confronted with the fact that you have broken the 9th and 10th commandments in one way or another. We will look at an extreme example of a couple with restless hearts, and we will see the result of their covetousness. Then we will compare and contrast the temporary possessions we often covet and the eternal gifts of Christ. 1. Recite the 9th and 10th commandments and their explanations (LSB 321). 2. Has there ever been something you just had to have? A possession that you thought about over and over again? Did you get it? Answers will vary. Everyone has struggled at one point or another with the allure of material possessions. This question should cause the students to reflect on how they have broken the ninth and tenth Commandments in their lives. Encourage them to think of ways they sinned in their desire of worldly things. 3. For our study of the 9th and 10th commandments, we will turn to 1 Kings 21. This chapter shows King Ahab and his wife Jezebel scheming to take the vineyard of a man named Naboth. Ahab and Jezebel were the King and the Queen! They lived in a palace, had servants to attend to them, and had command over their subjects. What do you think it would be like to live like that? Answers will vary. Encourage the students to get creative. This question is intended to show that if anyone should be satisfied and content, it should be someone like a king or a queen. 4. Read 1 Kings 21:1-4. How does King Ahab try to get the vineyard from Naboth at first? Why won’t Naboth give in? The King offers Naboth a good deal for His vineyard. He will even pay him more than it is worth! Naboth refuses because it is part of his inheritance. It would be a betrayal of his family to give up the land, even if it was for a great sum of money. 5. Was there anything wrong with Ahab’s offer of payment for the vineyard? How does he react when he is turned down? The first offer that Ahab makes to Naboth is appropriate. Ahab finds the location of Naboth’s vineyard desirable and he is willing to pay him more than it is worth because of that. However, His reaction when Naboth rejects his offer shows that pursuit of the vineyard is controlling him. He throws a tantrum! He is vexed and sullen over the fact that the vineyard isn’t his, and even refuses to eat!

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


6. Luther’s explanations to the 10 Commandments each begin “we should fear and love God so…” He ties each of the commandments to the 1st Commandment. Breaking any of the commandments stems from breaking of the first. Breaking of the first commandment (you shall have no other gods) is called idolatry. Something becomes an idol when we fear it, love it, or trust in it more than God. How might a possession become an idol? How has the vineyard become an idol for Ahab? A possession becomes an idol when we value it more than we value God. Money can become an idol when we look to it for security rather than God. Our friends can become idols if we are more afraid of what they think of us than what God thinks of us. This vineyard has become and idol for Ahab because he loves it more than God. It has controlled him to the point of anger and despair. 7. Read 1 Kings 21:5-14. What is Jezebel’s solution? How is it different from Ahab’s original offer? Jezebel writes a letter in the king’s hand. She initiates false charges against Naboth, resulting in his death. Ahab originally offered to pay Naboth for the vineyard. Now his wife has taken the vineyard, and Naboth’s life! Be sure to note that even as she plots the murder of Naboth, Jezebel is doing so in a way that maintains the king’s reputation. Luther points out that getting something from our neighbor in a way that only appears right is also a breaking of these commandments. 8. Very rarely do we only break one of the commandments. So often one sin can lead to many others! Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, breaking the 1st, 9th, and 10th commandments. By the end of verse 15, which commandments have been broken? The authority of the king has been misused, breaking the 4th Commandment. Naboth was murdered, which is a transgression against the 5th Commandment. Naboth’s vineyard was stolen from him, which is a breaking of the 7th. False witness was brought against Naboth, breaking the 8th. 9. Read verses 15-24. After Ahab takes possession of the stolen vineyard, the prophet Elijah comes with a message from God. What is the tone of this message? What is God going to do as a result of this great sin? The tone of the message is one of judgement. God cannot be mocked, and he will not allow this evil to go unpunished. He is going to put Jezebel to death as a result of her great evil. 10. Ahab sinned his way to possession of Naboth’s vineyard, but in the end what did he have? The vineyard would only be his for a while, and Hebrews 13:5-6 compares the assurance we have in Christ to the love of money. How does salvation in Christ compare to something like a vineyard? Any of the possessions you have chased after? The promises of God far outweigh any material possession we can find. We can spend our entire lives chasing after one thing or another, but the free gift of God in Christ Jesus is more precious than gold or silver! Remind the youth that while we tend to make idols out of many things, that Christ’s forgiveness is always there for them.

Closing Sing together, “One Thing’s Needful,” (LSB #536).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“Our Restless Hearts” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Recite the 9th and 10th commandments and their explanations (LSB 321). 2. Has there ever been something you just had to have? A possession that you thought about over and over again? Did you get it? 3. For our study of the 9th and 10th commandments, we will turn to 1 Kings 21. This chapter shows King Ahab and his wife Jezebel scheming to take the vineyard of a man named Naboth. Ahab and Jezebel were the King and the Queen! They lived in a palace, had servants to attend to them, and had command over their subjects. What do you think it would be like to live like that? 4. Read 1 Kings 21:1-4. How does King Ahab try to get the vineyard from Naboth at first? Why won’t Naboth give in? 5. Was there anything wrong with Ahab’s offer of payment for the vineyard? How does he react when he is turned down? 6. Luther’s explanations to the 10 Commandments each begin “we should fear and love God so…” He ties each of the commandments to the 1st Commandment. Breaking any of the commandments stems from breaking of the first. Breaking of the first commandment (you shall have no other gods) is called idolatry. Something becomes an idol when we fear it, love it, or trust in it more than God. How might a possession become an idol? How has the vineyard become an idol for Ahab? 7. Read 1 Kings 21:5-14. What is Jezebel’s solution? How is it different from Ahab’s original offer? 8. Very rarely do we only break one of the commandments. So often one sin can lead to many others! Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, breaking the 1st, 9th, and 10th commandments. By the end of verse 15, which commandments have been broken? 9. Read verses 15-24. After Ahab takes possession of the stolen vineyard, the prophet Elijah comes with a message from God. What is the tone of this message? What is God going to do as a result of this great sin? 10. Ahab sinned his way to possession of Naboth’s vineyard, but in the end what did he have? The vineyard would only be his for a while, and Hebrews 13:5-6 compares the assurance we have in Christ to the love of money. How does salvation in Christ compare to something like a vineyard? Any of the possessions you have chased after?

Closing Sing together, “One Thing’s Needful,” (LSB #536).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“TheA HIGHER Law Only Instructs” THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction The purpose of this study is to give the youth additional examples of the understanding that Law of God is good and it is God’s instruction to us. God teaches us to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. The Law cannot justify, but it can instruct. This study will take the youth through passages in Romans, Psalms and Philippians. 1. Read Romans 3:20, 28. What does it mean to be justified? Can the Law justify? What can the Law do? According to the Hebrew understanding of the word “justify,” to justify means to pardon from the guilt of sin. The Law cannot justify. The Law cannot pardon from the guilt of sin; instead, it accuses the guilty conscience. Yet, the Law is good. The Law instructs. 2. Read Romans 7:10-13. Is the Law bad? Ultimately, what brings our death? The problem is not the Law. The problem is our sinful flesh. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. We all stand condemned before God. Our sin gives us a guilty conscience before the face of God. The Law instructs us in what is pleasing to God, but the Law cannot make the guilty pleasing to God. Only God can justify, that is, pardon from the guilt of sin. 3. Read Romans 8:1-8. Can though Law condemn the baptized believer in Christ? How did God do what the Law could not do? What does it mean to set the mind on the Spirit? Read Romans 5:206:1-4. Should we continue in sin? Why not? The only way for the righteous requirement of the Law to be fulfilled was for the perfect Man who knew no sin to fulfill it in our stead. Then He became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. In Christ, we are pleasing to God. In Christ, the Holy Spirit is beginning to work in us so that we set our minds on the things of the Spirit and begin to keep the commandments of God in our lives. To walk in the Spirit is to listen and learn from the written scriptures through which the Holy Spirit enlightens us and leads us. By nature, we hate the Law of God. In Christ, we are beginning to love the Law and starting to willingly and joyfully keep it although we can never keep it perfectly. 4. Read Psalm 25. Then read out loud only verses 8 and 12. What does it mean to say that Yahweh is good and upright? Why and how does He instruct sinners? What is the connection between fearing God and being instructed in His way? Explain that the Psalms teach us how to pray to God. With the inspired scriptures, the Holy Spirit instructs us to pray in faith trusting in the Father’s mercy for the sake of Jesus. In verses, 1, 3, 6-7, 11, 16-18, and 20-22 we learn to humbly draw into God’s presences confessing our sins, asking that he would forgive, and trusting in His promise. In this life, sin will continue to remain in the baptized; yet, sin shall not reign in the baptized.

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


5. Continuing in Psalm 25, find the places where we are taught to pray for God’s instruction. Are there also verses which teach us to trust in God’s mercy? If so, which verses instruct us to trust in God above all things? Look at verses 6 and 7. What does it mean to ask to remember or to not remember? We are learning to struggle and fight against the temptation to sin. As His forgiven people, we ask that He lead us in newness of life. In verses 4-5, 8-10, and 12 we learn to ask for His guiding and leading as our thoughts, speech, and actions begin to conform to the Image of Jesus the perfect Man. NOTE: The fact that God instructs sinners and does not just eliminate them, shows forth His mercy. In our daily baptismal identity, we are learning to put to death the old ways of the old fallen creation apart from God’s Word and beginning to put on the new way of life in the light of God’s Word. 6. Read Psalm 119:33-40. Look at each verse. What is the common theme? What are the different ways of saying, “Teach me.”? Point out that in the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray that God’s will would be done in our lives. God is our Instructor. He instructs us in His will through His revealed Word. The written scriptures teach us the will of God. 7. Read Philippians 1:1-2. Who is Paul addressing? What does it mean to be a saint? Read Philippians 1:9-11. How does Paul teach pastors to pray for the church? How does one grow in knowledge and discernment? What does it mean that love is to abound more and more? Read Philippians 3:7-9. What is the difference between the righteousness of the Law and the righteousness of God? Explain the difference between God’s righteousness and human righteousness. God’s righteousness one that we receive passively and it is this righteousness, outside of us, that saves us. By faith, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, put to our account. It is a gift freely given to us by God’s grace. Human righteousness is an active achieved righteousness. It is begun in the life of the believer who is being renewed by the Holy Spirit but it is not this righteousness that saves us. Paul is addressing the baptized believers who are saints, that is, holy because of the holiness of Jesus. Christ bestows His holiness upon us as a gift. We cannot generate our own holiness. He makes us His holy people who are learning to discern the things in life that would desecrate His holiness in our lives. Only through the God-breathed scriptures can we know what is unholy in God’s sight.

Closing Sing together, “These Are the Holy Ten Commands,” (LSB 581).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“TheA HIGHER Law Only Instructs” THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Read Romans 3:20, 28. What does it mean to be justified? Can the Law justify? What can the Law do?

2. Read Romans 7:10-13. Is the Law bad? Ultimately, what brings our death?

3. Read Romans 8:1-8. Can though Law condemn the baptized believer in Christ? How did God do what the Law could not do? What does it mean to set the mind on the Spirit? Read Romans 5:206:1-4. Should we continue in sin? Why not?

4. Read Psalm 25. Then read out loud only verses 8 and 12. What does it mean to say that Yahweh is good and upright? Why and how does He instruct sinners? What is the connection between fearing God and being instructed in His way?

5. Continuing in Psalm 25, find the places where we are taught to pray for God’s instruction. Are there also verses which teach us to trust in God’s mercy? If so, which verses instruct us to trust in God above all things? Look at verses 6 and 7. What does it mean to ask to remember or to not remember?

6. Read Psalm 119:33-40. Look at each verse. What is the common theme? What are the different ways of saying, “Teach me.”?

7. Read Philippians 1:1-2. Who is Paul addressing? What does it mean to be a saint? Read Philippians 1:9-11. How does Paul teach pastors to pray for the church? How does one grow in knowledge and discernment? What does it mean that love is to abound more and more? Read Philippians 3:7-9. What is the difference between the righteousness of the Law and the righteousness of God?

Closing Sing together, “These Are the Holy Ten Commands,” (LSB 581).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“Behold, They Stand atA the Door and Knock” HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction There are many differences between Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the most important difference is how we look at Jesus! The work of Jesus on your behalf—His death that paid for your sins, His resurrection that guarantees your resurrection on the last day, His ruling and reigning at the right hand of God—is the core of what we believe. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is not God and that the Holy Scriptures teach something far different about our Lord! This study will examine several Scripture passages that present Jesus as God. 1. Recite the second article of the creed and its explanation (LSB 322-323). 2. What names are given to Jesus in the Bible? What do they tell us about who He is and what He came to do? Answers will vary. If students struggle, you can point them to Matthew 1:23 (Immanuel "God with us”), Matthew 16:16 (“The Christ, the Son of the living God”), or Philippians 2:11 (“Jesus is Lord”). This question should start the conversation and begin to show the gravity of the names given to Jesus. 3. The 1st Commandment is “You shall have no other gods.” Luther’s explanation of this commandment states that this commandment means “we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” This commandment forbids the worship of other gods and idolatry of any sort. Why would the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Christians break this commandment by worshipping Jesus? Luther grounds all of the commandments in this first commandment. Every commandment begins with the refrain, “we should fear and love God…” This is the foundation of our lives as Christians. Jehovah’s Witnesses would say we break this commandment by worshipping Jesus because they do not believe that Jesus is God. If Jesus is not God and is worshipped as God, He is an idol and worship of Him is a breaking of this commandment and blasphemy against the one true God. 4. Part of God’s identity is that He is the creator. Creation is God’s first great act on behalf of humanity. God created the world and all that is in it from nothing. Read John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:10-12. Who is responsible for the creation of the world according to these verses? The Psalms extol God as Creator of all things. Psalm 8 gives praise to God for His wonderful work of creation. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4. In his explanation to the First Article of the Creed, Luther says, “the Creed is nothing else than the answer and confession of Christians arranged with respect to the First Commandment. As if you were to ask a little child: My dear, what sort of a God have you? What do you know of Him? he could say: This is my God: first, the Father, who has created heaven and earth; besides this only One I regard nothing else as God; for there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.”. The verses in this passage state that through Jesus all things were made! One way that we know that Jesus is God is because He creates!

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


5. Look again at John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 1:10-12, this time considering the concept of time. When do these verses say that Jesus existed? Why is this important? This issue was important in the Christological controversies in the early church. Arius, a heretic during the days of the early church, said “There was when he was not”, asserting that there was a time when the Word did not exist, that He is a creation of God rather than God himself. These verses tell us that Jesus was there at the beginning, before all creation. The Athanasian Creed, which we recite on Trinity Sunday, was a response to Arius and other like Him. 6. Read Luke 1:50-53. In verse 52 Luke tells us that the disciples worshipped Jesus. If Jesus is not God, what does this worship amount to? We discussed earlier that idolatry in all of its’ forms is strictly forbidden. We are to worship the One True God and Him alone. If Jesus is not God, then the disciples are idolaters and blasphemers because they worshipped Jesus. If He is God, then this is true and fitting worship. 7. Read Revelation 5:11-14. Who is the one sitting on the throne? Who is the Lamb? What do the elders say about them? God the Father is the one sitting on the throne. The lamb is Jesus. The elders address their praise and worship to both Jesus and God the Father. If Jesus is not God, then this worship is utter blasphemy (in the presence of God, no less!). Rather than calling out the worship of Jesus as blasphemy, John demonstrates that it is right and proper. 8. In the New Testament, Jesus receives worship—something that only God ought to do! The next two questions will show Jesus doing something else that only God can do. Read Matthew 9:1-8. What do scribes accuse Jesus of doing? The scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy. They are right if Jesus is not God! If Jesus is claiming to forgive sins apart from God’s authority, than He is guilty of a great sin. Jesus forgives sins because He is God and has the authority to do so. 9. Does Jesus truly forgive the man’s sins in Matthew 9? Who has the power to forgive sins? How is this significant for you? Yes He does. God alone has the power to forgive sins. Jesus then appointed His disciples to forgive the sins of repentant sinners only in the stead and by the command of Jesus. This is significant because we know that when our sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus they are truly forgiven. For more information on this, see the catechism on “The Office of the Keys”.

Conclusion Jesus is shown by the New Testament to be both God and man. This study has focused on the first part of that dichotomy; Jesus is truly God! Jesus existed at the beginning, before anything was created. He creates; He is not a creature. Jesus receives the worship that He is due because He is God. Jesus also forgives sins on the basis of His divinity. This fact is good for us to know as we guard ourselves against false teachers and the assaults of the devil. But more than a fact to be known, this is a glorious reality to be received! Jesus, true God and true man, came down to die and rise for you that you might be His own.

Closing Sing together, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” (LSB #525).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“Behold, They Stand atA the Door and Knock” HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Recite the second article of the creed and its explanation (LSB 322-323). 2. What names are given to Jesus in the Bible? What do they tell us about who He is and what He came to do? 3. The 1st Commandment is “You shall have no other gods.” Luther’s explanation of this commandment states that this commandment means “we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” This commandment forbids the worship of other gods and idolatry of any sort. Why would the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Christians break this commandment by worshipping Jesus? 4. Part of God’s identity is that He is the creator. Creation is God’s first great act on behalf of humanity. God created the world and all that is in it from nothing. Read John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 1:10-12. Who is responsible for the creation of the world according to these verses? 5. Look again at John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 1:10-12, this time considering the concept of time. When do these verses say that Jesus existed? Why is this important? 6. Read Luke 1:50-53. In verse 52 Luke tells us that the disciples worshipped Jesus. If Jesus is not God, what does this worship amount to? 7. Read Revelation 5:11-14. Who is the one sitting on the throne? Who is the Lamb? What do the elders say about them? 8. In the New Testament, Jesus receives worship—something that only God ought to do! The next two questions will show Jesus doing something else that only God can do. Read Matthew 9:1-8. What do scribes accuse Jesus of doing? 9. Does Jesus truly forgive the man’s sins in Matthew 9? Who has the power to forgive sins? How is this significant for you?

Conclusion Jesus is shown by the New Testament to be both God and man. This study has focused on the first part of that dichotomy; Jesus is truly God! Jesus existed at the beginning, before anything was created. He creates; He is not a creature. Jesus receives the worship that He is due because He is God. Jesus also forgives sins on the basis of His divinity. This fact is good for us to know as we guard ourselves against false teachers and the assaults of the devil. But more than a fact to be known, this is a glorious reality to be received! Jesus, true God and true man, came down to die and rise for you that you might be His own.

Closing Sing together, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” (LSB #525). © 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“Religion vs. Relationship” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY Leader’s Guide

Leaders’ Introduction As “Religion vs. Relationship: A Harmful Dichotomy” shows, pitting “religion” against “having a personal relationship with Jesus” can lead to dangerous thinking about organized religion and the church. While there are times when it is appropriate to discuss your relationship with God, to do so at the expense of religion can be harmful to your faith. In this study we will look at what the Bible and the catechism have to say about the Holy Christian Church. A restored relationship with God isn’t something to be found apart from the Church, but in the Church where God forgives the sins of His people. 1. Recite the third article of the creed and its explanation (LSB p. 323) 2. The catechism says that God does some important things in His Church. How does the explanation of the third article say the church is brought together? What does God do through His Church and how often does he do it? The explanation of the third article says that God brings the Church together by the power of the Holy Spirit. God forgives our sins in His church, and He does so daily and richly. The forgiveness of Jesus is complete and final, overwhelming your sin and guilt. 3. As we begin our study, let’s look at some of the names that God gives to His Church. Read 1 Peter 2:9. What is your favorite name given to the Church here? How do these titles show the importance of the Church in the eyes of God? Answers will vary. These titles show just how precious God’s people are to Him. They are the people that He has called to Himself. They are His treasured possession. They were in the darkness of sin and death, but He has made them His own and called them into His marvelous light. 4. For the next several questions, we will be looking at Ephesians chapter 5, where Paul describes the connection between Christ and His Church. He uses the analogy of marriage to describe this bond, and exhorts husbands and wives to follow the example of Christ in their marriages. Read Ephesians 5:22-23. Verse 23 gives two titles to Christ and one to the Church. What are they? Christ is the head of the Church and He is her Savior. Here at the beginning of this passage Paul establishes that Christ is the source and authority over the church. His authority comes from the fact that He is the Savior of the Church, buying her with His own precious blood. The Church is called the body of Christ, an analogy that Paul uses elsewhere in Scripture (1 Corinthians 12:27). The Church has been called by the Gospel and now each Christian is part of His Body. Elsewhere Paul speaks of us as being members of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 6).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


5. Read Ephesians 5:25-27. What did Christ do for the Church? How did He cleanse her and for what purpose? Christ gave Himself up for the Church. Apart from the atoning sacrifice of Christ, all humanity stands against God as His enemy. Christ laid down His life for the sins of the world, and His Church rejoices in His death on our behalf. Christ cleansed the Church by water and the Word in Holy Baptism. Each day we should remember and rejoice that Christ has cleansed us and washed us clean! He does this so that we might be blameless and holy in the sight of God. 6. Paul invites us to think of a bride presented before her husband. While there are some differences between modern weddings and weddings at the time Paul wrote this, it can be helpful to think of how a bride dresses on her wedding day. What does a bride wear on her wedding day? What does this represent? A modern bride typically wears a white dress, representing purity. As the husband stands at the altar waiting for His bride, he doesn’t notice any of her imperfections or flaws, but rejoices in her purity and love for him. In a similar way, the Church is presented before God, holy and righteous in His sight. In the baptismal liturgy, often a white garment is given to the newly baptized child, representing the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all his or her sins. 7. Read Ephesians 5:28-31. Paul continues his discussion of marriage, bouncing back and forth between how husbands and wives should act and what Christ does for His Church. What does verse 29 say that Christ does for the Church? How does He do this? Christ nourishes the Church. He does this through His Word and Sacraments, continually feeding His people and strengthening their faith through the preaching of His Word and His Holy Supper. 8. Now look at Ephesians 5:32-33. Paul wraps up his discussion of marriage and the Church, noting that husbands ought to treat their wives as Christ treated His Church, and wives ought to love their husbands as the Church loves Christ. How could pitting “religion” against “relationship” poison the description given in this text? Christ does have a relationship with us—one of love and forgiveness that is found in the Christian Church. Despising this Church is something that we simply must not do! The Church is precious to God and we, as His bride, the Church, are precious to Him as well. Using the false dichotomy of religion vs. relationship can lead us to either reject the Church entirely or say that relationship with Christ is to be found outside the Church. A harmful dichotomy indeed!

Conclusion When we discuss religion and relationship we cannot help but discuss the Church. When we do so biblically, we see that the Church is a precious thing: precious to God because He calls people to Himself in the Church, and precious to us as baptized, cleansed, forgiven, members of the Body of Christ.

Closing Sing together, “The Church’s One Foundation,” (LSB #644).

© 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017


“Religion vs. Relationship” A HIGHER THINGS® BIBLE STUDY 1. Recite the third article of the creed and its explanation (LSB p. 323) 2. The catechism says that God does some important things in His Church. How does the explanation of the third article say the church is brought together? What does God do through His Church and how often does he do it? 3. As we begin our study, let’s look at some of the names that God gives to His Church. Read 1 Peter 2:9. What is your favorite name given to the Church here? How do these titles show the importance of the Church in the eyes of God? 4. For the next several questions, we will be looking at Ephesians chapter 5, where Paul describes the connection between Christ and His Church. He uses the analogy of marriage to describe this bond, and exhorts husbands and wives to follow the example of Christ in their marriages. Read Ephesians 5:22-23. Verse 23 gives two titles to Christ and one to the Church. What are they? 5. Read Ephesians 5:25-27. What did Christ do for the Church? How did He cleanse her and for what purpose? 6. Paul invites us to think of a bride presented before her husband. While there are some differences between modern weddings and weddings at the time Paul wrote this, it can be helpful to think of how a bride dresses on her wedding day. What does a bride wear on her wedding day? What does this represent? 7. Read Ephesians 5:28-31. Paul continues his discussion of marriage, bouncing back and forth between how husbands and wives should act and what Christ does for His Church. What does verse 29 say that Christ does for the Church? How does He do this? 8. Now look at Ephesians 5:32-33. Paul wraps up his discussion of marriage and the Church, noting that husbands ought to treat their wives as Christ treated His Church, and wives ought to love their husbands as the Church loves Christ. How could pitting “religion” against “relationship” poison the description given in this text?

Conclusion When we discuss religion and relationship we cannot help but discuss the Church. When we do so biblically, we see that the Church is a precious thing: precious to God because He calls people to Himself in the Church, and precious to us as baptized, cleansed, forgiven, members of the Body of Christ.

Closing Sing together, “The Church’s One Foundation,” (LSB #644). © 2017 Higher Things, Inc.

Magazine Bible Studies - Summer 2017

Profile for Higher Things: Dare to be Lutheran!

2017 Summer - Higher Things Magazine (with Bible Studies)