Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wolves in sheep's clothing and works-righteousness

This morning I worshipped with brothers and sisters at Hockinson Apostolic Lutheran Church in Hockinson, Wash., and was very blessed by the preaching of Pastor Ron Holmgren. We also received the sacrament of Holy Communion this morning and it was a great joy to break bread with these brothers and sisters for the first time. When I make the 2-hour trip home to Battle Ground on the weekend it usually means worshipping either at Battle Ground Foursquare Church or at Hockinson Apostolic Lutheran. Hopefully soon I will also have a church to call home in the Lacey area near where I work.

Pastor Holmgren made two interesting points in his sermon this morning that I wanted to post on this blog. His text was Matthew 7:15-29. The first point he made was from verse 15, the warning about false prophets as ferocious wolves in sheep's clothing. I liked something he said and I'm paraphrasing here but it was something like, the false prophets want the people for themselves - to devour them, but the true prophets, the true preachers of God's Word, also want the people, but they want them for Christ.

I think the two on the surface can have some similarity (sheep's clothing) but for the false preachers, their own worldly benefit is the end for which they preach or prophesy, while for the true prophet or preacher the only end is God and His glory. When I heard Pastor Holmgren's statement I thought of the celebrity culture within so much of Evangelical Christianity where many ministries seem all about the glory of whoever is running the ministry and not about Christ's glory. I think the point being made here is also a good example of the extreme counter-cultural values of Christ's church - while in the world people seek to misuse whatever they've been blessed with to get a good name for themselves or gain riches and power, in the church we should be using properly all the things God has blessed us with to point only to Him, boasting only in Christ and His cross, knowing that every good thing we have is not because of some inherent goodness or merit of our own but solely by the grace of God.

The second point that really hit me from today's sermon was from verses 21 through 23, Christ's warning that not everyone who says to Him "Lord, Lord," on the last day will enter the kingdom of heaven. Pastor Holmgren drew many points from this Scripture but the one that really struck me was that those who said "Lord, Lord," here but do not enter the kingdom of heaven seem to proudly point to their own works, even works done in Christ's name, as a reason why they should be allowed into heaven. I had never thought of this Scripture in this way but it is a frightening example of those who rely on their own works, outwardly "good" works, to get into heaven. But to those finding security in their own works the Lord declares, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness."

One thing I've come to appreciate about Pastor Holmgren's preaching is that he always reminds us of the gospel, that all of our hope is in Christ and His work and not in our own. For anyone aware of their sin, for Christians who love the Lord and yet see so much rebellion remaining in their sinful flesh, only this message of Christ and His righteousness imputed to sinners can bring comfort and joy. I was thankful to hear that message this morning.


Jacob M. Aho said...

Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your post.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

I hope you had a good first day.

So, gathering for themselves vs gathering for Christ. Now, how does economics factor into this? Explain to me salaried vs volunteer clergy. It seems like some salaried ministers are pretty well to do. And certainly, some volunteer ministers--who are employed elsewhere--could be giving more to charity than they are. So, what makes one a wolf or a sheep? Or is this even a factor?

Have a good week.

love from