Justified Journal

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Observations on Jesus as church builder

Jesus stunk at building a megachurch ministry.

Just read Mark 6:1-5.

Think about how He intensified the Law in Matthew 5-7.

How about the parables?  These were spoken to keep people from seeing clearly.  Jesus had to explain them to his own disciples.

How about calling religious people a brood of vipers?  Or, whitewashed tombs, full of old bones.

Read John 6, especially from verse 51 – on.  At verse 66, it states, ‘As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.’  Even his own disciples, (not the 12), walked away because of his teachings.

So much for seeker-sensitivity :-(

The pendulum of faulty biblical interpretation

I have been guiding people through the book “According to Plan” by Graeme Goldsworthy.  In this book, He explains that there are two common errors when approaching Scripture.  The first is Literalistic (not Literal) interpretation.  The other is Allegorical interpretation.  One of the participants said, “It’s like a pendulum”.  She was exactly right.

People who come out of Literalism (like Dispensationalism) with a bad taste in their mouths swing over to the allegorical interpretation of Scripture.  Allegory is an approach whereby you set aside the historical background of the Scripture.  Literalism approaches the Scripture as if there is no further need for the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture.  The history is self-evident.  There is no need to interpret it Christocentrically.  Literalists view Revelation without the idea of symbolic language.  Instead, they talk about helicopters and Russia and modern Israel, completely forgetting about the context in which it was written.

Both of these approaches are man-centered.  Really, they are Adam-centered.  The Old Adam remains in control of the interpretation of Scripture, so the mind (and self) remain it’s own god.

Goldsworthy says the path of interpretation that Biblical theologians should  maintain is Type – Anti-type, wherein Christ is the fulfillment of both literal prophecy and ‘types and shadow’ of the Old Testament (i.e.s Jesus is the true David; Jesus is the true Moses).  Anything that would flatten Scripture to Christ-less Christianity or History-less Christianity is not Christian interpretation … At all.

Law and righteousness in a nutshell.


The law never made anyone righteous, and never will.

Sin, Righteousness and Judgment

Today we celebrate Pentecost. Just as we will remember those who gave up their lives in defense of this nation tomorrow, people are wearing red in remembrance of Pentecost. In fact, there are numerous similarities between Pentecost and Memorial Day.

To start with, many people are ignorant or indifferent to the meaning of Memorial Day. Many people post pictures of relatives who served and gave their lives defending this country in war to remind others of their sacrifice. Some of these accounts breathe life into the significance of their deaths. The United States would not be what it is without them.

Pentecost is like that, too. It is just a word until we are reminded of the events of that day 2,000 years ago. It has to come back to life as we read from the pages of scripture.

But, what is Pentecost? Why is it so important?

Pentecost means fiftieth. It is the fiftieth day after Passover. The Jews celebrated this day long before Jesus came. It was one of three feast days on the Jewish calendar. The Jews would recall God’s giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai at this feast. It was a celebration of the birth of Israel. New life in the world. God’s representative to the nations was born.

This is truly significant to what happens to the disciples in Acts. They receive the Holy Spirit on this important Jewish feast. The one who breathed life into Adam, the Spirit who hovered over the waters of God’s creation, the spirit who descended like a dove upon Jesus; descended upon the disciples after Jesus went up into heaven.

Instead of giving a new law, God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. The Third person of the Trinity. The nation of Israel never could keep the Law. The Law’s ministry was a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3:5-9). It never delivered what it demanded; perfect obedience. No one could meet the Law’s demands. Only God, himself, could meet the uncompromising requirements. That God is Jesus.

But, by giving the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ 120 disciples, He birthed a new Israel. He birthed the church! One which would not live according to the Law, but according to the Spirit. This is our celebration today! God reversed the curse of the Tower of Babel where mankind was divided by language. In an instant, the disciples were proclaiming the works of God in languages they apparently were educated enough to possibly learn.

Jesus had prophetically spoken about this day in our passage in John. He told them that the Spirit would come to them after He went to Heaven. He told them that the Spirit would testify about Jesus. That was the Spirit’s ministry, to point to Jesus; to remind the disciples of who Jesus was, and how he fulfilled not only the Law, but the prophets, too.

Then Jesus explains:

8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world sis judged.

The key word here is ‘convict’. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of three things. The first thing is sin. Not just any sin. The Holy Spirit isn’t only working through the Law. The Holy Spirit convicts the world about the capital sin; unbelief in Jesus.

This means that people have to hear about Jesus first. In order to reject Him, you have to know what the disciples said about him. You have to hear the Gospel. Sin is not only about breaking moral codes. Believe it or not, all of these infractions can be forgiven by God through Jesus. It is the deeper sin of rejecting the testimony of the Spirit of Life concerning Jesus that brings death.

After all, faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, according to Romans 10:17. Unbelief is the rejection of the Good News that God has given His Son to die for your sins and mine.

Then, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of Righteousness. Jesus was the one who did this before. When He was asked, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God”, Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Righteousness does not come from efforts to keep God’s law. It never has, it never will. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Since Genesis, righteousness has come by believing in the promise made by the living God.

Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of Judgment. We usually think of this as the judgment of the world and its sin. But, just as the Spirit convicts the world of sin in relation to Jesus, the Spirit convicts the world about the Judgment of Satan. That Judgment is not temporary, but the eternal damnation of the Devil. This Judgment took place at the cross.

Even this last bit is good news for those who are being saved. Our enemy has been judged and will ultimately be defeated. We will live, and he will meet his end.

It was this way back in 1944, too. Once the Allied troops from America, Britain, Canada and its allies got a toehold on European soil, it was only a matter of time before Hitler would be defeated in World War II. For the Europeans, like my parents, they knew their liberation was coming. Hope was kindled. Freedom was no longer a distant dream. Life would be restored.

The underground resistance was emboldened at that point. And the Disciples were emboldened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They began to proclaim the life-giving message of the savior, Jesus Christ.

Righteousness and life does not come through the law. It never has, it never will. True righteousness comes through faith in Jesus.

So, on this Pentecost Sunday, you might be thinking, “Where’s the Holy Spirit?” After all, our witness is not as bold as the disciples. We don’t have tongues of fire resting on our heads.

Maybe you think to yourself, where is my faith? I struggle to believe this good news for myself. My life doesn’t reflect the power of believing that these others had.

Or, maybe you could care less. This church stuff is only for Sunday mornings, anyhow. It doesn’t really make a difference in my life.

That is the work of man, to disbelieve. And disbelief leads to the last place you’d never want to be, an eternal place not meant for humans. A place of true death.

You see, with all of the good works of the law set before them, Israel could never believe in Jesus. Righteousness never came through the Law. It never has, it never will. Unbelief can only be taken to Jesus.

“I do believe, help thou my unbelief” I cannot keep myself believing. That is why you have truly come here today; to receive faith. To have your faith fed.

And faith is fed by the testimony the Holy Spirit gives. It is not a testimony about himself. It is not a testimony about God the Father. The testimony is about Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. Today, we could use a little resurrection of our faith.

That resurrection occurs here, at the table of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. In the words of institution, Jesus becomes present in the bread and the wine for your faith. In the words of absolution, Christ forgives you all of your sin. In the proclamation of the Gospel, Faith is reborn in your hearts.

Because Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. I testify to you today that there is life in no other name in heaven and earth. He has taken your sin and mine, and nailed it to the cross. More than this, he has been raised to make us righteous before the Father. And through the waters of your baptism, he poured out the living Holy Spirit into our hearts to make us new creations in this life, in his name.

This baptism doesn’t just make you a Christian. It makes you a disciple of Christ Jesus. Deputized for the work of God. That work is to testify to Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit’s witness to you.

You have been baptized to continue the powerful work of God in this world. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. To tell those who are perishing, Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Come to him, you who are heavy-laden, and He will give you rest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

It is the day of God’s blessed favor. As we celebrate Pentecost today, remember, Jesus has already taken all of your sin and mine. The Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts that this is true. And if we struggle to believe, we can come to him and confess this. He is not ashamed of you. He does not turn away sinners, in fact the Spirit testifies, this is exactly why Jesus Christ came.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,


Memorial sermon for a friend

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

In parts of the San Gabriel Valley, people have been buying homes, usually two properties next to each other.  You might think they do this in an attempt to keep family together.  That’s true, but not in the way you imagine.  They buy these side-by-side properties with tract home on them and then demolish them.  Once the dumpsters are full, they are taken away, and something interesting happens.  The new owners built one large house which takes up the new properties.  They call them “McMansions”.

Maybe you wish you could live in a house that’s so opulent, so rich, so luxurious.  I comfort myself at times like that by saying, “but there’s so much space to clean, I wouldn’t want that”.

Today, you have heard a lot about Jesus, heaven, God and ‘churchy’ stuff.  It’s expected, because we are in a church to remember and celebrate, the life of Pastor Donald Wilkowski.  This is not exactly the place where you drink a beer and reminisce around a firepit in the backyard and commend an old friend to his maker.

No, this is the place where we read from an ancient book, partake in traditions and sing some songs.  The question is why do we do it?  What’s in it for me?  Can’t I get the same benefit from listening to music on my headphones and taking a walk on the beach?  After all, that’s a great place to recharge my batteries.

That’s true, in part.  We can definitely benefit psychologically from taking time off to reconnect with ourselves and nature in a beautiful location.  We can become whole again, at least, for a little while.

But that’s where the benefit ends.  That beautiful sunset never guarantees another sunset.  That ‘time off’ transitions to work time and all the expectations, pressures and demands return again.  The demands and expectations of family life flood back in.  The burdens of life return and you might feel like a beast of burden.

Kind of makes you wish you stayed at the beach, doesn’t it?

Jesus of Nazareth said the following:

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11)

He didn’t say he would pull you out of your circumstances and put you on easy street.  He simply says that He will give you rest.  Psalm 55:22 states, ‘Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you’.

Today, many of you come burdened.  A dear friend, neighbor, and family member has died.  This weighs heavy on the heart.  Where can we go to unload the feelings, all the feelings we have?

The first followers of Jesus felt troubled about something Jesus had said in John chapter 13.  You see, Jesus told them, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (Jn. 13:33).  These followers had given up their entire lives, reputations and livelihoods to follow Jesus.  They had followed him everywhere.  They had gone to God-forsaken places and the Temple, synagogues and lowly homes.  They saw Jesus healing the blind, curing the lame, and raising the dead.  They were with him everywhere.

Now, though, He was going somewhere that they couldn’t.  At least, not yet.  We know this because  John writes that Jesus was talking about his own death and return to God the Father.  That He was going to be falsely accused, tried, and unjustly sentenced to death.  That He was going to be beaten, whipped, spat upon and crowned with thorns upon his head.  That He was going to carry a heavy burden; a wooden crossbar upon which he would hang.

Then, God put a burden on Jesus that no one else could bear.  In that God-forsaken place outside of Jerusalem, Golgotha, Jesus became our scapegoat.

Then, the follower of Jesus, John, writes that Jesus told them that he was going ahead of them for a purpose.  He was going ahead of them to prepare a place.  He was going ahead of them to be a good host for when they arrive.  Jesus, who lived a selfless life, would continue this selflessness after his death and resurrection.  He gave up everything for them.

And that’s just what impacted John so powerfully.  You see, the Gospel of John is all about God’s Kingdom arriving here on earth through His Son, Jesus.  All of the miracles, His birth, baptism in the Jordan, preaching and teaching pointed to the fact that the King had come.  But He didn’t come to exact judgement upon us.  Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to rescue you and me.  He came to rescue us from the greatest burden we bear, the burden of death.

On that cross outside of Jerusalem, 2,000 years ago, Jesus became the scapegoat for every man, woman and child in the entire world.  The wandering King, who had no place to lay his head in this world, was crushed for all.  He was crushed for you, dear friend.

He was crushed for the Reverend Donald Wilkowski, too.  The impact this made on him lead Don Wilkowski to give up being an engineer to follow His savior into God-forsaken places, Temples, McMansions, lowly houses.  He followed Jesus here, to serve and care for God’s people, helping them to bear their burdens in this life.  He followed Jesus to the Father’s House where Jesus has prepared a place for him.

And the Jesus he followed is calling you, too.  Jesus tells you now,

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

Acts 4:12 states:

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

This Selfless King has become your savior.  He has already taken on the burden of death.  You don’t need to get cleaned up first.  You don’t need to fix your issues.  Not every ‘i’ has to be dotted and every ‘t’ crossed.  That’s Jesus’ job.  He simply says to you “Come”.

It is God’s will for you.  Paul write in 1 Timothy 2:

3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

The great rescue has begun.  Heaven awaits.  It is a place free of the burdens of life in this world.  Jesus is there waiting for you and me to arrive.  It is a place of Joy, peace and Love.  All made possible because of Jesus, who is the only way there.

Random thoughts

Question: Where do I find God?

Answer: Crucified on a cross

Deicide comes before infanticide.

Theological ‘liberals’ are trying to keep the ‘Old Adam’ alive.  Most theological conservatives behave the same way.

Springs of life

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” ― Martin Luther

These words were penned by the church reformer, Martin Luther, about 500 years ago.  Since then, spring has come every year, without fail.  Maybe some springs were warmer, some were cooler, and some were rainier, but spring always came.

And with it came the birds, flowers, and animals.  New life!  This is what led Luther to declare that ‘the promise of the resurrection’ was not confined to ‘books alone, but in every leaf in springtime’.  Spring is a new beginning.

Winter comes first, however.  It is the time where everything goes dormant, hibernates, or just dies.  We don’t really look forward to winter (I’m sure those who were living in Boston this year won’t look forward to winter next year!).  If we could do things our way, autumn would change straight to spring, and we would skip winter altogether.

So it is with the Lenten season.  We would rather avoid this somber period in the church calendar altogether.  Why can’t we skip it and go from Christmas to Easter?

The answer goes all the way back to a leafy garden.  In this garden, God instructed Adam and Eve, “…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  We know that they did not follow this rule, but ate the fruit of the tree in defiance.

Thus, Paul tells us in Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death …’ Death is the consequence of sin. Its finality is absolute. Its sentence is sobering.

But, that is not the end of the story.  In fact, it is just the beginning.  The latter half of Romans 6:23 tells us, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 5:17 states, ‘For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!’

God didn’t wait until spring came to bring life.  The Son of God came during the season when sin and death reigned.  He came and lived during this winter season and was crucified.  But his cross put an end to winter forever.  His cross is the beginning of an eternal spring!

Upon a tree barren of leaves, the crucified one was put to death to face eternal death for us.  He paid for our sin and the consequence of our sin; death.  At Jesus’ resurrection, that mustard seed sprouted.  Eventually, it became the largest tree in the garden, and it’s still growing.

As the Easter season begins, we can point to this new life that is not merely declared in books, but also by God’s creation.  This creation replays the story over and over again, declaring, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!”

Pastor John


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