Thank God for Good Doctrine!

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost 20C, October 6th, 2013

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What is good doctrine?  Well simply put it is the teaching of God as revealed in His holy scriptures; in other words it’s the teaching of the Bible.  Ok, then what is the teaching of the Bible?  Well, the entire Bible has been written, gathered, and preserved so that you might know Christ unto salvation.  We sing this truth most every Sunday just before the Holy Gospel is read in these Words.  “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

Good doctrine is so easy to receive and understand that even comic book characters understand it.  Listen to the dialogue between Lucy and Linus in a Peanuts comic strip:  Lucy and Linus are looking out the window at a steady downpour of rain. “Boy,” said Lucy, “look at it rain. What if it floods the whole world?”  “It will never do that,” Linus replied confidently. “In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow.”  “You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” said Lucy with a relieved smile.  “Sound theology,” said Linus, “has a way of doing that!”

In our Old Testament lesson (Habakkuk 1:14, 2:14), good doctrine would play an important part in bringing peace and hope to the people of Judah a people who were about to be taken away into captivity.  Through the prophet Habakkuk God’s Word would bring hope for a better future and comfort for the present uncertain times.

While Habakkuk is a prophet of God, he was also simply a man; a man who must be led by faith just like us.  So when he finds himself surrounded by uncertainty and unanswered questions, he turns to God with a question repeated over and over… “How long?!”  Lord your people are afraid, how long will we be surrounded by evil?  Lord your people are being taken advantage of and abused by crooked politicians.  How long will you let this continue?  Lord there’s destruction and violence everywhere and the threat of war looms.  How long will we have to put up with this?  Lord, even the laws that are in place to protect us are being ignored.  How long will you keep silent?  When are you going to fix this?

Yes Habakkuk is frustrated and worried; he might even be afraid, but he knows where to take these things; he takes them to the LORD his God.  He says “I will take my stand at my watch-post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what (God) will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.” [Habakkuk 2:1]

This dear friends is good doctrine; it is sound theology because it directs the eyes of faith to the only One who is faithful to save and able to deliver His people of faith from the hands of the enemy.  God alone, the author and perfecter of our faith is able to as Lucy says, “take a great load off of our minds.”  When He speaks, we are to listen and trust in His Word; we are to search for that Word and wait for His promises to be fulfilled.

God did speak; He did answer Habakkuk and that same answer is given to us.  Listen: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”   [Habakkuk 2:2, 3]

What is the vision that should be written down?  What is it that should be made plain so that people may run who read it?  It is the Word of God… good doctrine.  It is the promise of God that declares that God see’s all and He is not ignorant of your suffering nor is He unfeeling.  God sees and He has acted and He will act.  It is good doctrine that reminds you not to judge God’s will and work by what you see, but on what He has promised.  Wait for it, even if God seems slow in responding.

The faithless refuse to wait for God, they want change and they want it right now, so they are willing to do anything to bring the kind of change THEY WANT, even if it is the kind of change that will hurt others and offend God.  They are puffed up in pride and no longer seek God nor care about what He says.  “But (you) the righteous shall live by (your) faith.” [Vs. 4b]  And your faith tells you to hold on, change is coming!  Even in the middle of turmoil, God’s people hold onto faith, because they know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

It was good doctrine, the pure Word of God that sustained St. Paul in hope as he wrote our Epistle lesson (2 Timothy 1:1-14) to Timothy while in prison, waiting to be put to death as a criminal, simply because he believed, preached, taught, and confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as the only provision that God had made to save a dying world from their sins.

It was good doctrine that moved Paul to write to Timothy and provide courage in the middle of persecution with these Words which are directed and filled with the very Spirit of God: “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words (the good doctrine) that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”

You see, Paul knew that what he believed was God’s truth, because Jesus Himself revealed it to him.  And Paul wanted Timothy to continue fighting for this hope so that we would have it as well.  What is that hope?  It is faith in the message that declares that even if evil seems to surround you every day and others loose hope, God is still the one who stands guard as the watchman; He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill the final prophecy of all things, when all things will become new and right.  It is a message that declares that God is still the one ensuring that others will receive the simple message of faith, the doctrine of hope and like you, will be empowered to share it with others who need hope as well.

What is that message, that doctrine of hope?  It is the very power of God that saves, frees, and heals those who are trapped in their sins.  It is Christ Jesus, crucified and resurrected.  By His death He abolished death and by His resurrection he brings and gives an eternal new life.  This is the ultimate message of the gospel; this is good doctrine.  And this doctrine is to be given as a gift to each and every child of God who repents, that is turns to the Son of God Jesus Christ, and receive forgiveness of sins.

It is good doctrine, which proclaims, “Baptism now saves you.” [1 Peter 3:21] It is good doctrine, which teaches that those who take and eat, take and drink, are receiving the very body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of their faith.  It is good doctrine, which teaches us to trust and believe that when the pastor or a brother or sister speaks words of forgiveness, that is the absolution, it is not them who speak but the very mouth of God proclaiming these things to you.

In our gospel lesson (Luke 17:110), Jesus warned people then and us today, that God’s simple message of grace, His good doctrine, was being muscled out of peoples lives by false teachers, phony baloney preachers, and the philosophers of our day.  They bring a false message of prosperity or a message of self-help and a “do it yourself” life of independence from God’s care.  It’s a message that has lost the aroma of Christ and instead smells of something else.

There’s an old saying that illustrates what I mean: “Old Fisherman never die—they only smell that way.”  And that is a good way to describe false teachers and their false doctrine.  They never die, they only smell that way.”

Another way to look at false doctrine and the effect it has on the church and our lives is to examine the resourceful way that scientist control, or bring death to pests such as ants.  In order to destroy the ants, scientists have developed pellets that resemble the ants favorite foods.  The pellets are laced with a tasteless, odorless poison and sprinkled around the mound.  The worker ants immediately begin gathering up the tainted food and take it down into the heart of the colony.  Then they unwittingly feed the poisoned pellets to their queen, slowly killing her.  When the queen dies, no more workers are produced, and so in a couple of weeks the entire colony starves to death.  Isn’t it ironic that food that looked so good was the very thing that brought starvation and then death?  Yes, that is a good way to illustrate the damage that false doctrine can do.

What is good doctrine?  It is the very Word of God that produces faith to hold onto and trust in Christ alone.  It is Biblical teaching that is taught by the Word of God and caught by the mentoring of other Christians in our lives who not only taught us the faith but were living examples of it.  When they were attacked because of their faith they did not fight back with weapons of this world, but instead turned to the promises of God’s Word and waited.  When someone close to them sinned against them, they did not get even, but when asked, they freely and fully forgave that brother and sister.

What is good doctrine?  It is the truth revealed in the teaching of Jesus that declares that simple faith, the size of a mustard seed can declare to a mulberry tree, which is a metaphor for the human heart, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  We see this play out every time we hear the absolution, “You are forgiven.” You are forgiven, now go and live for the God who has saved you from sin, death, and the devil.  Go, and by the power of God live a life of faith, trusting in a God who alone has saved you and will save you!  Go and proclaim the good doctrine you have received here and share it with others; live it out so that they will see the hope of the nations, Jesus Christ! And when you see others turn to Jesus and His church for forgiveness through your testimony, simply declare with St. Paul, Timothy and all of the church, “We are unworthy servants (saved by grace, through the message of good doctrine); we have only done what is our duty.”

May Christ continue to protect His church and the simple message of grace, which we proclaim… AMEN!

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