Believing the Lie
Tuesday of Pentecost 7
10 July 2018
For Cyprian of Carthage (d. 259) the church's unity is not a structural unity, but a doctrinal unity. He himself defied the Bishop of Rome long before he styled himself the universal pontiff, when Cyprian considered him in error. For Cyprian doctrinal unity was essential to the unity of the church and a unity that Satan attempted to overthrow through his subtle serpentine wiles. Satan does not care if people who have given up the faith both keep the name "Christian" and play at church. Such persons can look the part all they want, but this does not keep them members of the true Lord of the Church by right of purchase price, Jesus Christ. In fact, the enemy is glad to instigate a rear-guard action that attempts to recover to his kingdom those who can be cozened by a false Christianity. Not everything that has the appearance of piety, liturgy, or good works is necessarily Christ's church, not any more than anything called a car might win the Indianapolis 500. The apostle Paul warns us that even those things that have an angelic appearance might be a lie. "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2Co 11:14).
Looks don't make the Church, any more than looks made Christ. In fact, the Messiah had no beauty that would attract us to Him. So Isaiah says, "His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance" (Is 52:14). If appearances tell us anything, we would flee from the crucified Lord, who stands not on His authority, but gives Himself over to death, even death on a cross. This is hardly the God who is interested in pomp and circumstance. He is not interested in our offerings to Him, but His sacrifice for our sakes. He is not interested in the human claims to authority that emanate from capital cities or church headquarters, but He sheds the use of His authority that He might be taken for a "nothing," that in Him we might become everything. The Christianity that preaches this man builds and creates the Church and no other. This is why Cyprian insisted on purity of teaching. For without this Christ who suffers and dies there would be no life for the Church. Without this Christ who rises and lives, the church could not die to sin.
The church must preserve that which creates her or she will be no more. She must be aware of the crafts and assaults of the devil, so that she will not fall into the new darkness that he has prepared for the ignorant and weak. We must not claim to be in the light, while walking in darkness. Only His Word assures us that we are in His light. So we must teach His Word, His doctrine, His blood, His death, His life and He will never forsake us. For these are His and they give what they say: life and salvation. A Christianity that does not focus on these things is a fraud and a demonic counterfeit. Satan would love it if you believed his lie.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Cyprian of Carthage
"Beloved brothers, not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also of what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy [the devil], detected and cast down by the advent of Christ, after light has come to the nations, and saving rays have shone for the preservation of men, that the deaf might receive the hearing of spiritual grace, the blind might open their eyes to God, the weak might grow strong again with eternal health, the lame might run to the church, the dumb might pray with clear voices and prayers-seeing his idols forsaken, and his lanes and his temples deserted by the plentiful concourse of believers-to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious? He has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way, he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness; so that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light. While the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle's word, transforms himself into an angel of light, and equips his ministers as if they were the ministers of righteousness, who maintain night instead of day, death for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy under the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ; so that, while they feign things like the truth, they make void the truth by their subtlety. This happens, beloved brothers, so long as we do not return to the source of truth, as long as we do not seek the Head nor keep the teaching of the heavenly Master."

Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church, 3
Acts 20:24-38

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Almighty and everlasting God, You would have all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. By Your power and wisdom break and hinder all the counsels of those who hate Your Word and who, by corrupt teaching, would destroy it. Enlighten them with the knowledge of Your glory that they may know the riches of Your heavenly grace and, in peace and righteousness, serve You, the only true God; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For all those suffering life-threatening disease, that they might receive the help they need to sustain life

For the Church, that the Lord Jesus would keep her under the wings of His mercy

For the people and pastor of University Lutheran Chapel, Minneapolis, that they would rejoice in their blessings
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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