Can we still be saved? All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a filthy cloth. All of us have withered like a leaf, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is no one who calls on your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you. (Isaiah 64:5-7 – EHV)
Can we save ourselves? We have been trained to answer that question with an emphatic, “No!” And that is good—that is the correct answer, we can’t save ourselves. But the truth is, there aren’t many people who realize this. The natural religion of fallen mankind is that of work-righteousness. There is a tendency in all of us—even Christians, to think that we contribute, in some way, to our salvation. Every false religion is a religion of works—they have to follow some sort of laws and regulations in order to please some made-up deity in hopes of getting into a version of the afterlife. Again even Christians fall into this sinful thinking from time to time because its inherent in our sinful nature. How many times haven’t you heard someone say at a funeral, “He was such a good man…God gained a good one.” Or at times someone might say, “there is a little bit of good in all of us.” Throughout history Christians have thought that there is a little bit of good, a little spark that allows us to make a move toward Christ, or that we can decide for ourselves to believe in Jesus.
But what does God say? First of all, he tells us again and again that nothing good lives in us, that we are completely corrupt by nature—Genesis 6:5 (from this past Sunday) and Romans 7:18 are just two of many examples that teach us this. Still, what about after we are brought to faith—aren’t we good then? Again, the Lord says, no. And he says so emphatically! Look at our passage above—we are unclean by nature. And all our acts, which we consider righteous, or perfect, are really tainted by sin. They are unclean in the sight of the Lord. So, even the best things that we do are tainted and corrupted by sin. If we were to stand before the Lord by our own merit we would have nothing to stand on, and we’d whither like a life, our guilt is too much for us to bear before the Lord.
So we go back to our question—and the question posed by Isaiah: can we still be saved? The answer again, is: by ourselves, absolutely not. But what is impossible for us is not impossible for God (Luke 18:26-27). In fact, only in the Lord are we saved. Christ lived a perfect life that we could not, shed his innocent blood on the cross, and rose victorious on Easter for our salvation. By the work of Christ, received through faith in him, we have the forgiveness of sins, a perfect life, and an eternal life to come! This gift of salvation was given to us at our baptisms. Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-27, In fact, you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Indeed, as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. At our baptisms, the Lord not only washed away our sins and adopted us into his family, but he also clothed us with Christ’s righteous perfection—making us pure and holy in his eyes!
Our acts of righteousness that are really filthy rags? They have been washed clean by the blood of Christ, it is only in him that we are able to do anything pleasing to God (John 15:5). In fact, our entire selves have been made clean by the blood of Christ; and it is he who clothes us with his righteous perfection. So when the Lord looks at us and what we do, he doesn’t see sinners who do filthy things; but he sees his own dear children, striving to do what is right out of love and thanks for all that he has done for us!
Can we still be saved? Yes. But not on our own, but because of Christ, who gave up his life and gave us his perfection so that we would be saved eternally!
Pastor Andrew Frey
Christmas For Kids
The Christmas for Kids to-go kits are now available for pick-up. The devotions start today—please pick yours up when you are able to do so.
Poinsettias For Christmas
If you would like to purchase a poinsettia plant to decorate the church for Christmas, please sign up on the sheet in the narthex. The poinsettias are available in red, white, pink and marble. The cost is $14.00. Use the envelopes by the sign-up sheet for your payment and place it in the box in the entryway. You may take your plant home after the Christmas Day worship service. The last day to sign up is Monday, Nov. 30.
New Bible Classes:
Pastor Gartner is starting a new Bible Study on Sunday November 29 at 9:15 am entitled: “Catholicism Today — A Study of What the Catholic Church Teaches and How It Measures Up to God’s Word.” Join us as we look at some of the key teachings of the Catholic Church in light of God’s Word, and we will also look at ways on how we can share the truths of God’s Word with those in the Catholic Church who may struggling in their faith.
Pastor Frey is leading a Bible Study on Mondays and Tuesdays called, "Counterfeit Christianity." The devil is called the Father of Lies (John 8:44); he uses his web of lies to lead Christians away from God Word and thus away from the one true faith. This study, based on the book, Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Jonathan Fisk, will examine these lies of the devil and their antidotes from Holy Scripture.
If you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
Midweek Advent Services
Our Advent mid-week services will be on December 2, 9, and 16 at 10:30 am and 6:30 pm. Plan to attend these mid-week services as we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of our Savior. This year’s theme will be “The Songs of Advent.” Each week we will be looking at one of the three songs from Luke.
December 2 — The Song of Mary.
December 9 — The Song of Zechariah.
December 16 — The Song of Simeon.
Children’s Christmas Service
Due to the ongoing pandemic it has been decided to alter our format for our Children’s Christmas Service this year. After surveying parents and discussing it among our Sunday School Teachers and Council members, it has been decided to have our children sing parts of two Christmas hymns and recite a few Bible Passages together as one large group at the beginning of the service before sitting back in the pews with their parents. The date will be the same as it always is—the Sunday before Christmas—December 20th. The children will sing and recite during both services.
Because of the uncertainty of how many will attend these services (and we still want to be able to socially distance), we are strongly urging everyone to sign up ahead of time. If both services are too full, we’ll add another service. The sign-up is now live. Please click on the link below to see more information and for a link to the sign-up.
Christmas Eve Worship
We are still planning on holding our normal Christmas Eve Worship services—at 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 pm. However, like the Children’s Christmas Service, because of the uncertainty of how many will attend (and we still want to socially distance), we are strongly urging everyone to sign-up ahead of time, either online or by calling the office. If all three services are too full, we’ll add another service. The sign-up is now live. Please click on the link below to see more information and for a link to the sign-up.
Our congregation will be adopting families for Christmas from our congregation. If you would like to give a monetary gift, the money will be used to purchase appropriate gifts. Please give any money to Pastor Frey or Pastor Gartner by Friday, December 4.
We will decorate the church for Christmas on Saturday, December 12th at 9:00 am. All are welcome to come and help. Please contact Pat Gowey if you have any questions.
If you are not comfortable sending your child to in person Sunday School, we have weekly recorded videos of each weeks Bible Lesson and the Lesson sheets that we can send to you so that your child can still learn the valuable truths of God's Word. Please contact us if you would be interested in these materials.
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. We are offering 8:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
We rejoice that we have been able to return to the Lord’s house to worship together, but at the same time we want to do so in a safe manner. The 8:00 am service is the most attended service, which perhaps will make some of you feel uncomfortable. First off, if you feel uncomfortable in this more attended service. we encourage you to attend either the 10:30 am or the Monday evening service which offer plenty of room in order for you to socially distance. In addition, our Council has decided to remove the ropes for the first few pews of the lectern side of the sanctuary. People deciding to sit in these “unrestricted” pews should use their own good judgment on social distancing. We hope that, with enough worshipers sitting in this section, it will leave enough space in the rest of the sanctuary for everyone else to socially distance. If you have any questions, please speak to one of the Pastors or a Council members.
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 8:00 am service which means you can watch anytime after 8:00 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.