A Call to Recommitment

 

This article is a reproduction of what, I believe, was a presidential address to a convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) about 25 or so years ago. It is reproduced here as it was written; hence the date. It seems apropos considering the circumstances in the church and world today. There is nothing new under the sun as the Preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9. The wisdom of Solomon strikes one as the Lord moved him to write the inspired Word which described Solomon’s own experience, as well as historical reality: “Is there anything about which you can say, ‘Look, this is new?’ It has been there already long before us. Nothing in the past is remembered, and also in the future nothing will be remembered by those who come later” (vv. 10-11- Beck: An American Translation).

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By Daniel Fleischer

In 1995, the Church of the Lutheran Confession will, by the grace of God, have existed for 35 years. By the same grace, there are many members of the church body who can still lay claim to something somewhat unique–they either were involved in, or at the very least observed the formation of a church body. As adults or youth, they were charter members of a church body born of the Spirit, and compelled by conscience, bound by the word of God.

As an active pastor in the pastoral ministry of the church, I feel both nostalgia as well as frustration. With a feeling of nostalgia, I recount the early days of the Church of the Lutheran Confession from the perspective of a seminary student. None of those who began in the seminary in the early days in Mankato at Immanuel Church can forget the walls covered with bookshelves, the drafty north windows in what had been an old coal bin, so drafty that on cold winter days the gas space heater worked overtime, not always successfully. Many were the times students studied with coats on, and even occasionally, if memory serves, with gloves.

It was a glorious time, because there was an understanding of the circumstances that brought us there, and an appreciation of the fellowship which the Spirit had created in and around His precious word. Before us sat professors who, being the first to acknowledge their own weaknesses and laying claim to no personal merit, nevertheless had been compelled by conscience to take their stand upon the word. They, together with all our fathers, would shrink from the reference, yet we who serve in the church today are here because they “endure[d] hardship as [a] good soldier[s] of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2: 3). They would be the first to say it was the Lord who energized and supported them. Nevertheless it was they who, as many others did, testified to the truth and who bore the heat of the day. They faithfully committed their knowledge of scripture, as well as their experiences in the field, to their students. Those of us who sat at their feet, whether in classroom or church pew, as well as all since, need to examine ourselves continually to see whether we be “the faithful men who [are] able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2: 2). I love to tell the history of our church because it reminds me of a time that those of us who have been here from the beginning remember with fondness, in spite of the difficulties, some which we experienced and others which we observed.

The beginning of the CLC was most certainly a testimony to the grace of God, without whom nothing is possible. To Him be glory, and honor, and praise!

I am sure that many lay people of the Church of the Lutheran Confession, who remember the history, can recall the reasons for the stand they took, and can further remember the fervor and commitment that characterized the beginning of the new church body. But herein also lies a source of frustration. As I teach, I realize that I am teaching children, some of whose parents were infants when the Church of the Lutheran Confession was begun. It is so difficult, at least for this pastor, to instill in those parents and children an understanding of the history, an appreciation for the stand that was taken, and the passionate resolve and commitment, under God, that moved the hearts of pastors, teachers, and lay people to do what had to be done under and for the truth, and the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We wish that we could re-create that passion and resolve without the attending circumstances that necessitated it.

Then the realization strikes. One cannot recapture the past. We must deal with matters as they are today. The fact is that in these days when “evil men and impostors [will] grow worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3: 13) and when every conceivable evil is being advanced in the name of religion and even Christianity, God has preserved in the world in general, and among us specifically, the blessed gospel. With no merit or worthiness in us, our gracious Father has preserved to us the gospel of reconciliation. It can be said among us yet at this late date, that the sinner, troubled and burdened by his load of sin, can still enter into any one of our churches, and be comforted with the blessed words of absolution through the word of the everlasting gospel of which Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the heart and life. Such an one can find the comfort of forgiveness, hear the promise of life eternal from our pulpits, and receive the same in the sacraments. Through the proclamation of the gospel, we know that the present is ours, and so is the future. “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1: 21).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is our life. He sums up all that we are. He is the life of our souls. As Christ is our life, then to die is gain. “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11: 25, 26). Only the gospel can speak something so meaningful, though to the unregenerate it remains a riddle. Only they who are in the gospel can, by the Spirit, believe what is otherwise so profound. By the power of the gospel, frustration is overcome, and in the preaching of the gospel lies the power for a forward-looking ministry of the Church, as well as for a confident hope for the future, both here in time and hereafter.

However, if we are to continue to enjoy the blessings of the gospel, it behooves us to continue to preach the whole counsel of God, and specifically the gospel, pure and unadulterated. For only when the gospel captures the heart will there be the understanding and love for it, as well as passion and fervor to defend it, at whatever cost. We cannot live in the past, but our reason to exist may well be meaningless and our future questionable if we forget the past. Our future is worthwhile, not for the perpetuation of the Church of the Lutheran Confession for its own sake, but only as God is pleased to bless us and others through the gospel entrusted to us, as we preach it for the reason He has given and preserved it, namely, for the winning of lost hearts for salvation.

Charles Porterfield Krauth, in his Conservative Reformation (page 20), helps us to understand the importance of not forgetting the past: . . . “The evils of which the Reformation was the occasion have passed away. We must go to the page of history to know what they were. The blessings of which the Reformation was the cause, abide; we feel them in our homes, in the Church, in the State; they are enwoven with the life of our life. Once feeling them, we know that this would be no world to live in without them. And how instructive is this to us in the struggle of our day for the perpetuation of the truth restored by the Reformation. Not alone by Rome, but also by heretical or fanatical Pseudo-Protestants, is it still assailed–and when we see the guilty passions, the violence and odious spirit of misrepresentation excited, and feel them directed upon ourselves, we may be tempted to give up the struggle. But we are untrue to the lessons of the Reformation, if we thus yield.”

Our witness and cause is not as broad as that which came by the Reformation. But, under God, it is as noble, for our witness is witness to the word of God in a day when among the “Pseudo-Protestants” are numbered elements of those who, though they deny fundamental Lutheran teachings drawn from Scripture, still identify themselves by the name “Lutheran.“

In the spirit of self-examination, as well as in recognition of the necessity to remind ourselves who we are and why we are, with prayer that there will be rekindled among us the flame of love for the Truth and recommitment to the declaration of that Truth, we have chosen as the theme of this convention: “A CALL TO RECOMMITMENT. “

In keeping with this call, one of the assigned essays is an encouragement to RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO REMEMBERING THE PAST. We ourselves, as well as the generation to follow, need to know what gave us birth, lest the gospel so wonderfully preserved to us, not without cost or heartache to our fathers, be lost to later generations by reason of a lack of will to stand as they stood.

Remembering the past serves a purpose if it increases our resolve to RECOMMIT OURSELVES TO HOLD FAST TO SOUND DOCTRINE. Paul told Timothy, “Guard what was committed to your trust . . . “ (1 Tim. 6: 20). That charge is no less necessary today. We will not ever want to shrink from being known as a “doctrinal” church, remembering that the doctrine of the apostles and prophets with Christ at its center is the message of salvation, and further remembering that, for life to be right and good, doctrine must be preached, “for life is fathered and fashioned by doctrine” (What Luther Says, Vol. 1, p. 417, 1229).

 

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Testing Our Patience

 

John, the apostle of the Lord wrote Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Revelation speaks of the ultimate victory of the Church over all foes. David said, “The Lord preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:20). In short, there you have a summary of the message of Revelation. The enemies of our Lord with all their bluster, pride, boldness in wickedness, ridicule of the Christ-believer, and their warring against the Church will in God’s time meet their eternal fate at the return of the Lord Whom they rejected. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It is in this world-environment that believers live and in which the Lord God through the gospel has established His Church, by the power of the Spirit. It is into the same world that the Lord sent His apostles, and into which He sends us to preach the whole counsel of God. The Church is to preach the law which uncovers sin and convicts the sinner as it declares the wages of sin which is death. It uncovers the sinner’s guilt and strikes fear into the heart. It shows the need for a change of heart, a turning away from sin. Yet the law cannot work that change of heart. The gospel, the message of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, relieves the guilt and gives peace of heart. The gospel assures the sorrowful sinner that Jesus has paid the price of redemption through His keeping of the law and His death and resurrection through which the sinner is reconciled to God. The gospel works the change of heart and produces the faith unto, and the confidence of, salvation. The gospel produces the sanctified life acceptable to God for the sake of Jesus. The apostles were sent out to preach repentance and remission of sins. That is still the mission of the Church.

As the Spirit of God works through the Word, why the law works acknowledgement of sin in some hearts and not in others, and why the gospel converts some to saving faith in Christ and not in others, is not for us to try to determine. Every attempt to explain that mystery to the satisfaction of human reason ends up in a blind alley, a dead end, because every such attempt either questions the breadth and depth of God’s love and desire to save all, or it attributes to fallen man dead in trespasses and sin some ability to contribute to his own salvation. The former questions the love of God; the latter assumes some ability in man he does not have. Both are wrong! We are not to spend time on such speculation. We are to preach repentance and remission of sins.

The reality in this sinful world is that because of sin and unbelief the message of the Lord spoken through His Church is rejected by the masses. As time rolls on, the message continues to be denied by those who do not believe it and is frequently distorted by many who claim to believe it. We do well to pay heed to the red flags of coming judgment that are flying (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 2 Peter 3: 1-10), though the day, time, and moment of the final judgment is known to the Lord alone (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32).

Believers in Christ Jesus are troubled in heart and spirit at the blatant, open, and in your face promotion of corrupt morals in the world and in our society. The many manifestations of such corruption are of the devil, the father of lies. We must recognize that any sin committed by anyone, including ourselves, is of the devil, for our Father is not the author of sin and evil. Though the Christ-believer “delights in the law of God according to the inward [new] man” (Romans 7:22), there is a struggle between the Spirit and our flesh. “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17). Therefore, it is imperative that we daily live a life of repentance and faith, praying with Luther, “forgive us our sins, wherever we have done wrong,” believing that our Lord “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Through repentance and remission of sins, by the power of the Spirit, we recloak ourselves in the whole armor of God… taking the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6:11-17). Renewed in the spirit, the penitent will daily put off the old man and “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

In the meantime, with heaven as our focus, we pray with some impatience for the Lord to take us from this body of flesh in which we still dwell, to the perfection of life with Christ in heaven. What the apostle wrote in another context is also true in our circumstances as we daily struggle against temptation and the burden of our flesh. Paul had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

As we so pray, we witness the world as it hurdles mindlessly toward judgment rejecting the Word, with no regard for God, the Lord of heaven and earth, and in disrespect for the Savior Who though His Word reaches out with the gospel to save it from judgment. Concerning the temptations to which Christ-believers are exposed, the Lord said, “See, I have told you beforehand” (Matthew 24:25). What has He told us? “False christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “Beware of false prophets…” (Matthew 7:15). The Lord further warned through the apostle Paul, “also from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30).

We must test our own selves to be sure we stay in the Word, and we must be on watch for others who would mislead us. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It can be wearying.

The increasing loss of moral judgment is not unique to our generation; nevertheless, the openness and in your face attitude that promotes what our God calls sin, wearies the spirit. Disrespect for the name of God and vulgarity that punctuates street talk is prevalent. One of the most blatant expressions of disrespect for the Word and will of God in society today is perhaps abortion. With total disregard for the child in the womb, a woman’s “right over her own body” deceitfully sanctions the destruction of the child. In addition, we are subject daily to the distortion of God’s institution of marriage, as well as the in your face promotion of homosexual philosophy and practice. The official sanction of the latter received its stamp in Wisconsin which through the month of June 2019 flies the rainbow flag over its capitol and government buildings. Official promotion of sin is the new societal norm.

Sin, whatever the nature of it, is an affront to the Lord God. It is a denial of the Word and invites divine judgment. Therein lies the reason the Lord Who speaks in love, and in a rescue attempt to save souls, instructs the Church to occupy itself with the preaching of repentance and the remission of sins. The faithful Christ-believer who daily goes to the Lord in sorrow over his own sin and repents, cannot be cowed by the accusation or innuendo that he thinks himself “holier-than-thou.” The Lord did not send angels to proclaim the law and gospel on the earth. He appointed flesh and blood humans, “earthen vessels,” (2 Corinthians 4:7), to proclaim the coming judgment, as well as the remission of sins and salvation in Christ.

Yes, it is wearying and disturbing when the Church is attacked by those who do the devil’s bidding. John wrote Revelation in a time of duress for the Church. He was in exile on Patmos “for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9). It was a time when if one did not bow to the emperor as divine, he was subject to death. Yet, John weary and beset had a positive message: The gates of hell would not and will not prevail against the Church. With joy and anticipation, he prayed for the fulfillment of Jesus’ word, “Surely I am coming quickly,” saying, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

The apostle Peter in his second epistle (Chapter 3) addressed the scoffers who “walking according to their own lusts” mocked the reference to the end of the world. But so did the unbelievers before the flood that killed all except Noah and his family. Scoffers in our day forget that when they die, for them personally that is the end of the world. When death comes, they who die in unbelief are condemned; they who die in faith in Christ have life eternal.

Concerning the end or any other promise, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The world still stands because the Lord is merciful; He extends the time of grace in order that He might save sinners. In reality, scoffers despise and mock the love of Christ. On the other hand, Christ-believers who look for the Lord’s return can do no better than to faithfully preach repentance and remission of sins through which the Lord gathers His elect.

Paul’s reference to his own ministry addresses the trials and afflictions visited upon the faithful and upon the Church. Paul wrote, “But we have this treasure [the Gospel] in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So then death is working in us, but life in you.  And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak,  knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.  For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:7-15).

Yes, we may be troubled, weary, and impatient, over the evil in the world. Turn to the Word. Look to the Lord Jesus, Who has redeemed you, and given you precious promises. As a believer, you are proof that the Lord Jesus did not die in vain; as you are His, He will sustain you and His Church through times of duress. To Him who has purchased for you an inheritance in heaven that will not fade away pray with John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Jesus is not slack concerning His promise. Give yourself to the service of the Lord in praising Him, in sharing the Word, and if necessary, bearing in your body affliction for His sake. He will come. Only “Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7-8).

In the meantime, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

 

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Generation to Generation (II)

Our gracious Lord has left us with no small comfort for these sad days in which the Bible, His Word, is under attack. Such attacks—some vicious, others insidious, equally evil– are not unique to our generation. Praise the Lord for His grace for assuring us as He did our fathers: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Though the truth and the Church continue to be perpetual targets, the Holy Christian Church, like the Word, has endured, and will. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” [“My church,” Jesus called it] (Matthew 16:18), that is, the Church built upon the doctrinal “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

One hundred and thirteen years after the Reformation, Johann Heermann wrote a hymn titled, “For times of persecution and distress of pious Christians.” Of the enemies of Christians, he wrote, “Their craft and pomp indeed are great, and of their power they boast and prate; our hope they scornfully deride and deem us nothing in their pride” (TLH-265). Nevertheless, confessional Lutherans still confidently sing Luther’s strong hymn (TLH-262), “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” in which Luther who fought the battle for the truth wrote, “The Word they still shall let remain.”

What is the Holy Christian Church? It is the whole number of believers in Christ. In it are no unbelievers or hypocrites. Where is the Holy Christian Church? It is found where the means of grace — the Gospel in Word and Sacrament (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) — are present. They, and only they, who through the ages have been called out of the darkness of unbelief by the Spirit of God, and who believe in Christ are members of His Body. They are members of the “household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). The Holy Christian Church is not identified with any visible fellowship. The Lord alone knows and distinguishes between the believers and the hypocrites in the visible church.

Believers in Christ know and believe that in Christ – true God and true Man — they are redeemed from sin. The comfort of the forgiveness of sins is sealed to them each time they in faith receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. They find comfort in knowing that they are the Lord’s and that He knows them by name (Isaiah 43:1). Through faith they believe that where Jesus is, they will be at the Father’s call.

 Since many who identify as Lutheran today are far removed from the soundness of Scripture truth set forth in the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord, we must ask the question: In view of the increasing deterioration of confessionalism, what does the Lutheran name mean to people today? The Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) must be ready to honestly engage in such introspection. In this apostate age will we who still believe, teach, and confess, the Bible as the very Word of God continue to stand upon the solid foundation of the Word? Will we pass on to the next generation our Lutheran heritage anchored in the Word that was recovered and set forth in the Reformation? Will we by word, example, and teaching, bequeath God’s Word and Luther’s doctrine pure to the next generation?

In “Out of Necessity,” a history of the CLC by Professor David Lau, the writer of this article wrote in a foreword: “In an increasingly unchristian, and even anti-Christian society and culture for which the compromising churches must also bear responsibility, the truth of God and faithful confessors will continue to be under attack. The temptations to your faith will be fierce. The siren call of compromise will become louder. We have God’s promise that His Word will endure. It is a fair question, however, when we ask, ‘Will it continue in the CLC, or will the passing of time take its toll on our church’”? Will we avoid the plague of indifference? Luther wrote:

 Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s word as it is hearing today; certainly we read nothing of it in history. If we let it just slip by without thanks and honor, I fear we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague. O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year.” LW 45:352.

One year after the Diet of Augsburg, out of which came the Augsburg Confession, Luther said in a sermon: “After the death of the present pious and sincere pastors, others will appear who will preach and act according to the pleasure of the devil” (LW 23, 261-262). After his own death, such conditions necessitated the Formula of Concord, completed in 1577.

If we who claim to be confessional Lutherans become indifferent toward the Word and worship, if we neglect the education of the young in matters of faith, if we compromise any part of God’s Word, what is happening in much of Christendom today, including Lutheranism, will happen to us. Said Luther again: “Our church will not be endangered as greatly by the oppressive measures of tyrants as by the indifference of our own people” (WLS, Vol. II, p.870, para. 2714). Indifference spawns and is comfortable with false doctrine. Tyrants can rob us of our physical life. Indifference to the Word and truth risks the loss of the truth, if not eternal life!

Martin Luther wrote the catechisms because of the horrendous spiritual ignorance he found among the clergy and the people. Before the Small and Large Catechism were published in 1529, Luther had been teaching and preaching their substance, setting forth the fundamental truths of God’s holy Word. At the center of his preaching and teaching was the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Christ Jesus—alone.

Do we respect the Lord our God? Do we care about the truth? Do we care about our soul? Do we care whether the generation following will have a church that teaches and practices in accord with the whole and perfect Word of God? Do we care about the church and its confession before the dying world? Are we troubled by the questions?

To the questions, surely the answer of every faithful Christian is, “Yes.” Then pray the Lord for strength to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of…” (2 Timothy 3: 14). “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your soul(s)” (James 1:21). Look to your Savior, Jesus, “The author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2), Who said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). We are to teach faithfully all that He has commanded us (Matthew 28:20), adding nothing to, or subtracting nothing from.

Bente, in his Historical Introduction to the Symbolical Books (Triglotta, p.74) wrote: “It was due to the neglect of Christian teaching that Christendom had fallen into decay.” Luther decried the ruination of the Church saying, “If ever it is to flourish again, one must begin by instructing the young.” In the Large Catechism, he exhorted that the young, “ought to be brought up in the Christian doctrine and understanding.”

If preceding generations are indifferent or neglectful of their responsibility to instill in the next generation appreciation of the gospel of our Lord, and understanding of Christian doctrine as confessed in the Apostolic Creed, as well as watchfulness to maintain true teaching, Israel’s fate will be repeated: “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done in Israel” (Judges 2:10). Might we learn from history?

Again, Luther in the Large Catechism (Triglotta 773:85): “For the old are now well-nigh done for, so that these and other things cannot be attained [learning and practicing what they learn], unless we train the people who are to come after us and succeed us in our office and work, in order that they may also bring up their children successfully, that the Word of God and the Christian Church may be preserved. Therefore let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by the command and injunction of God, to teach these things to his children, or have them learn what they ought to know.”

It is our responsibility to instruct God’s children faithfully in the Word of God so they know the message of salvation in Christ Jesus, their Savior. It is our responsibility to instruct the next generation “in the Christian doctrine and understanding,” so that they continue, by the grace of God, to stand uncompromisingly in the truth, and in appreciation of their Lutheran heritage based on that Word, so they can teach the generation after them. It is our responsibility to bequeath to them a fellowship, a church, in which the perfectly pure, the only, and the certain Word of God is the foundation of faith and the means of grace faithfully maintained. Only through the Word of God, only by God’s grace manifest in that Word, will they have the desire and strength to withstand the poisonous darts of indifference and satanic error and compromise. Only then can they be steeled to confess Christ Jesus, and “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Before God, we dare not cheat the next immediate generation by shirking our responsibility to faithfully and prayerfully instruct our children in the Word!

In his last sermon in Wittenberg in January of 1546, (He died in February 1546), Luther counseled that without faithful preachers and teachers, the devil would destroy the church. He urged prayers for “pure teachers,” and further said, “Therefore earnestly pray God to let us keep the Word, for matters will take a terrible turn in the future” (WLS, Vol. II, p.869, para. 2713).

The Lord said, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Now, we are not speaking of technology or other modern approaches to sharing the gospel. We are speaking of Scripture, of walking in the truth, in the way of godliness, in the way that Enoch trod (Genesis 5:22, 24). We are not speaking of walking in the old way because it is old, but because it is right.

The devil, the world, and our flesh will fight us every step of our faith walk. God help us by His Spirit to keep the narrow way unto salvation. Pray for the Church that it will stay faithful to Scripture and the heritage of faith. Confess the faith without compromise and pray that future generations will have a church that is without reservation faithful to the Word, preachers to proclaim it, and that they will continue in it.

If you care about your legacy, let it be that you told “the generation to come, the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Psalm 78:4).

 

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From Generation To Generation (I)

In Deuteronomy 6, God said, “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess,  that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.  Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you— ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’” (1-3).

These words were transmitted through Moses before Israel entered the Promised Land. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (4-5). Then follow these significant words with reference to parental responsibility toward the children placed by the Lord God in their care: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (6-7). Note the correlation of these words to those in chapter 11: “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul… You shall teach them to your children (our emphasis), speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (18-19).

Does anyone doubt the Lord is serious about parental responsibility toward children?

Soon Moses would depart the scene. We might call these words part of his farewell address. He instructed the people to have the Word continually in their heart. Only then would they be blessed in the land to which they were going. Obviously, specific circumstances were different than ours today. Nevertheless, however history and circumstances differ, with respect to parental responsibility toward their children and instruction of children in the Word of God, biblical principles remain the same. Moses spoke to parents who were to remind their children of the wonderful things God had done for Israel in bringing Israel out of Egypt. The Lord had heard their cry; He delivered them from bondage, clothed them, fed them, and protected them. They were who they were, by the grace of God, and were about to enter where the Lord would take them—the Promised Land. Parents were to share faithfully with their children what presumably was in their own heart concerning the love of God, the Father.

In God’s Word, timeless as it is, nothing has changed. Through Moses the Lord laid (lays) upon the heart of the parents their responsibility concerning the training of children in their home where such instruction was (is) to begin. By sharing the love of God with their children whom God loves, the children would be (are) enlivened in their own heart to love and trust in God above all things.

Moses further instructed that the children be included in the larger hearing: “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law,  and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).

How shall children learn of the Lord and His love unless they are taught (Compare Romans 10:13-14)? In application of the principle, parents have the first responsibility (the Church assisting them) to instruct their children in the love of God the Father Who through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, redeemed the children from their sin, and Who by the Spirit brought them to faith through the washing of regeneration in their baptism. Blessed are the children, whose parents say and insist, “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11).

This theme is carried out in the New Testament. Paul enshrined the name of Timothy’s grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice (2Timothy 1:5) who looked after the education of Timothy. Through them, Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures which made him wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15). Paul also laid on parents, particularly fathers, the responsibility for the instruction of the children in the way of salvation, and the statutes of the Lord. He said to the head of the household, “ Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). To quote Martin Luther, “Therefore let every father of a family know that it is his duty, by the instruction and command of God (our emphasis), to teach these things to his children, or have them learn what they ought to know” (Bente Intro- Triglotta, p.69).

Luther recognized that it was up to the home, the church, and the school to work together for the spiritual welfare of God’s children in the home. The Heavenly Father loves little children. Surely, parents will not be upset when they, as caretakers of the heavenly Father’s children, are exhorted to look faithfully after their children’s foremost need — the welfare of their soul for whom Jesus died, especially if they remember how Jesus said, “Do not forbid them” (Mark 10:14).

There is a saying, “Families who pray together stay together.” Not as catchy, but more to the point is the blessing that falls to families in which parents by word and example faithfully study the Word, see to the instruction of their children, and with them hear the Word, and regularly worship together.

Instruction of the children is important for two reasons. The first is for the welfare of their own well-being. Children need to know the law of God, the Ten Commandments, so that they not only know what the will of God is, but so that they recognize their sins. They need to be instructed in the gospel so that they know, not only the person of the Triune God, but that through the Lord Jesus, true God and true Man, they have been redeemed from their sin. Such knowledge of which faith is born does not fall out of heaven as the rain. It is found in the Word of God, the Bible. Through the Gospel, the message of salvation, the Spirit of God produces the sanctified life. Through the Word their faith, as that of their parents, is nourished and strengthened. In the Word they learn the power and blessing of prayer.

Luther further emphasized the importance of memorization to implant the Word in the heart. In our day this is becoming less and less practiced, unfortunately and to great loss. Memorization is indeed to be accompanied by faithful instruction in the meaning of what is memorized. That is the importance of catechism instruction in which the Word is explained and applied. In the old days when pastors made hospitals calls, the patient to whom he ministered often could recall what was memorized in his/her youth. With loss of vision, hearing, or inability to read, often the elderly Christian would join with the pastor in saying certain passages of Scripture or hymns. What had been committed to heart in early youth was a comfort to them. Will that happen if we fail to insist on memory work as well as instruction in the fundamental truths of Scripture? Thus Luther who wrote it said of the Small Catechism: “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”

We live in a convoluted society where killing a baby in the womb is considered a right, but failing to nourish, clothe, or protect a child who was given the right to be born is a punishable crime. Abortion is sin. Neglecting the physical welfare of a child is sin. Equally heinous, and more so, is parental neglect of the spiritual training, nourishment and care of God’s child in the home, a neglect that can have eternal consequences both for the child and the parents who fail to bring up their children in the Lord.

 

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When The Foundations Are Being Destroyed

Consider what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” History frequently repeats itself. Time and again this truth is proven. If we fail to appreciate and remember history, we are doomed to repeat its mistakes and suffer the consequences. Surely, we are seeing that in our nation. Sadly, as the world seeps insidiously into the church, Christendom is aiding and abetting the deterioration.

Solomon (who later repented) repeated the idolatrous practice of Israel in Canaan as he turned to idolatry under the influence of his many heathen wives. The Lord warned him of consequences (1 Kings 9). Upon is death, his son Rehoboam became king. Rehoboam forsook the ways of the Lord and also continued the heavy taxation instituted by Solomon. Israel revolted. As Israel divided, only two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) of the twelve remained faithful to the house of David. Those who renounced Rehoboam’s rule chose Jeroboam to be their ruler. He instituted false worship. After the division of the kingdom there was not a godly king in Israel. Ultimately the Assyrians carried idolatrous Israel  into captivity. God is not mocked. His judgements come to pass! Though a handful of righteous kings ruled in Judah, because of its own unrighteousness it too was carried away into Babylon. By the grace of God, Judah returned from captivity because the Lord had promised that the Savior of the world would be born of the tribe of Judah. Midst judgment there is mercy. The Lord keeps His promises.

Before Solomon, David suffered the consequence of unrighteousness to which he responded in Psalm 11. The Psalm contrasts the righteous and the wicked and encourages us to confidence in the Lord in the face of wickedness. The Lord’s judgment upon unrighteousness is real, as is His mercy to all who call on Him. So it is today as God’s word speaks through time to every generation! His Word does not change!

The event to which David refers is not mentioned. It is likely a reference to the personal burden David endured when his son Absalom rebelled against him in an attempt to assume royal authority (2 Samuel 15-18). Some suggest it may be a consequence of King Saul’s efforts to destroy David (1 Samuel 18-19). Whatever the event, a severe trial had tried David’s soul.

David was the 2nd king of three in Israel before the division of the kingdom. Saul was the first, and Solomon the third. Each of the three ruled Israel for 40 years, David’s reign occurring, B.C 1055-1015.

We do not know the particular date of the writing of Psalm 11. However, given the occurrences of today it could have been written yesterday. The cause of the animosity directed toward David and the persecution he endured is replicated by events in this present evil world. History repeats itself. We are slow to learn, if ever we will.

Of Absalom’s rebellion, Professor George Stoeckhardt wrote:

“This is the picture of a revolutionary. These are dishonorable, rejected men, who are disobedient to their parents, and then oppose the government, who estrange the hearts of the subjects from the lawfully appointed rulers, with slander, lies and trickery, and finally grab the sword to shed blood and commit murder.

“Still worse than the revolution in the civil government is the rebellion in the church. Those are most wicked, who oppose Christ, the Anointed of God, with lies, false doctrine, and hypocrisy, and with pious words turn the hearts and consciences away from God and Christ and make them serviceable to hell.” (*)

David himself was not without sin. He stole Bathsheba from her husband and arranged Uriah’s death as part of a coverup. David uncomfortably covered his sin until he was confronted by Nathan the prophet and confessed his sin to the Lord (Psalm 51:1-17). What should make us uncomfortable is Stoeckhardt’s reference to the church. Departure from the Word of God, failure to preach law and gospel, and accommodation by the church with the world invites divine corrective action (chastisement), as well as judgment upon those who will not repent.

Despite his own unrighteousness, David was a child of God. As he repented he as the patriarchs before him, and the prophets and apostles after him, all of whom were sinful mortals, he found forgiveness and righteousness in Christ, the Savior of the world. But he also found that he was hated and suffered ill will because he would not identify with the world. This is also history replicated in the life of Christ-believers.

There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Despite his sinful flesh, David was through faith in the promises, and by the grace of God, a child of God. Though sinful according to the flesh, we are cleansed, redeemed, and justified in Christ, and through faith in Him are counted as children of God. As David was a marked man because he did not identify with the world, so are we. As we hold fast to the divine Word, faithfully speak the truth before the world, and preach repentance, we will have, as David did, a target on our back. The world hates Christ-believers who do not walk lockstep with it, and who are bold to confess the Lord Jesus. As the world winds down, we are seeing come to pass the word of our Lord: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you…I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

One of the ploys of the ungodly world to bring down Christianity and the Christian is to strike at the foundation of our faith, the eternal Word of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world mocks and ridicules our faith and challenges our resolve. But as we stand fast in the Word, and as our faith remains anchored to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Victor over sin, death, the devil, and the world, the Church which is the Body of Christ, believers in fellowship with each other will prevail (Matthew 16:18). Death itself cannot rob the child of God of his eternal inheritance.

When the foundations are being destroyed, what shall the righteous do? Turn to same gracious, merciful God to whom David prayed, and in Whom he trusted. Turn to Him in repentance and faith. Call upon Him, trust in Him, Who says, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-29).

                                                                  Psalm 11

 In the Lord I put my trust;How can you say to my soul,

“Flee as a bird to your mountain”?For look! The wicked bend their bow,

They make ready their arrow on the string,That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.

If the foundations are destroyed,What can the righteous do?

The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven;

His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.

The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
Shall be the portion of their cup.

For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness;His countenance beholds the upright.

The foundation of our faith, Jesus Christ, is stronger than the mightiest men and weapons of the devil. With David we say in another Psalm:

Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up;

Fighting all day he oppresses me.

My enemies would hound me all day,

For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.

Whenever I am afraid,

I will trust in You.

In God (I will praise His word),

In God I have put my trust;

I will not fear.

What can flesh do to me (Psalm 56:1-3)?

*) Stoeckhardt, George- Biblische Geschichte Altes Testament, CPH 1896, St. Louis; reproduced, 1969, in Wisdom for Today, Arthur Beck, Swanville MN

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The Bible IS The Word of God

The Bible does not contain the Word of God.

The Bible IS the Word of God!

The source of Christian teaching is the Bible, commonly referred to as Holy Scripture (sacred writings). “Bible” itself is used occasionally in common usage in a broader sense than the sense in which Christians use it. In the Christian sense the Bible, meaning books, is the collection of 66 sacred writings (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). Though consisting of 66 books, the Bible is unique in that it is a testament with a unified purpose and message.

Contrary to generally held views that the Bible is the work of multiple authors, there is one Author of the Bible. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” [Literally, “All Scripture is God-breathed”] (2 Timothy 3:16). The eternal, holy God is the Author of the Bible.

How did the Bible come to us? The divine Author transmitted the very thoughts and words (verbal inspiration) through the pens of holy men. They are described as holy, not because they were without sin, but because they were men redeemed and washed by the blood of Christ. They were men of faith through the working of the Spirit of God. What they wrote is inerrant and infallible and without contradiction, not because the writers were incapable of erring but because the Author is holy and cannot err or contradict Himself. “… no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1: 20-21). The holy writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament were not mindless robots. Frequently the Holy Spirit made use of the writers’ own experiences– their faults, their fears, their lack of understanding. What the holy men wrote was written because the Holy Spirit moved them to write and gave them the words and utterances they should write. Not a word or thought appears in the Bible except the Holy Spirit moved the writers to write it. The Bible from Genesis to Revelation is the eternal, unchangeable word of God; if it isn’t who decides what is? To those who question the divine of inspiration of Scripture we say: “Read the Bible without bias and see where the Spirit leads.”

To suggest that God’s Word changes to fit the times and whims of corrupt mortals contradicts the Lord Who said, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). Jesus Who changes not (Hebrews 13:8), is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14).   Not some of the Word, not part of it, but all of it is described through Isaiah who wrote what the Spirit gave him to write: “The Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). To teach otherwise makes of God a liar, and they who teach so are deceivers to be avoided forthwith (Romans 16:17-18).

Not only is the Word unchangeable, it is clear. The Word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Bible declares in human language the will of God, primary of which is His will for our salvation. Whether Old Testament or New Testament, it brings to us in clear, understandable words the message of our salvation. Whether prophecy of the Old Testament or fulfillment of the New Testament, Scripture is written to make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). To say that God is not clear in what He says is to accuse the Author of being unable or unwilling to be clear.

There are difficult passages and concepts in Scripture. What man cannot understand of Scripture is not the fault of the Spirit, or of those who wrote what He inspired. In our fallen state, we cannot comprehend the depth of the mysteries of God. If it were possible to understand with our reason His unsearchable judgments and “His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33), we would be God. For example, who can grasp the depth of God’s love that would move Him to sacrifice His own Son for such wretches as we? Nevertheless, the way of salvation is abundantly clear – we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, without works (Ephesians 2:8). We believe it because the Spirit has worked faith in each believer’s heart through the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

Apart from the mysteries of God that stymie our reason, inability to understand often occurs because of an unwillingness to search the Scriptures. Frequently, also, the reason lies in the sinner’s dislike of what God has said.

The ultimate reason for lack of understanding and unbelief is the corrupt heart and mind of man who ignorantly and boastfully thinks he can set himself up as an authority over God. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The acceptance of the inspiration of Scripture as well as faith and confidence in the Word is not a product of scientific proof. The Word of God is its own convincer and converter, as well as interpreter.   The responsibility of the Church is to proclaim the Word of God, neither adding to nor subtracting from it, trusting that His Word will bear fruit according to His promise (Isaiah 55:11). Furthermore, the Lord declared through the prophet Jeremiah that His Word—law and gospel– is to be preached faithfully (Jeremiah 23:28). Every pastor (under-shepherd) should read Ezekiel 34. Thank the Lord for a pastor who faithfully preaches the Word of the Divine Author. Do not expect a faithful pastor to bend or accommodate his preaching to the whims and fancies of society.

We grieve that we must ask, “How shall we witness in a world where churches are forsaking the truth and are letting the world into the church?” To doubt, question, or deny, the Bible or any part of the whole, casts doubt on all of it, including the message of, and our confidence in, our salvation. If God did not, could not, would not, tell the truth in the Bible, who decides where He did? Such arrogance that denies the Bible as the Word of God is blasphemy.

Witness to the truth begins with honest and forthright confession of our own sins, “for we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment.”(*) As we confess our sins, the Lord assures us personally, “Son (daughter), be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). Who else can witness to the truth of God and His love than that one who believes the Scripture, has been comforted by the Savior’s words, and in faith embraced the promises of the Lord? And finally, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Colossians 3:15-17).

Many churches within Christendom deny all the Bible is the Word of God. They opt for a pick and choose attitude toward Scripture. Many teach differently than Scripture concerning the way of salvation; many deny the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament; many teach differently than, or make optional, what Scripture teaches concerning divine creation of the world; some deny original sin; some teach differently than Scripture on the end of the world. Some are more interested in social gospel. In today’s corrupt world some have accommodated themselves to what God calls sin as they teach what is right in their own eyes.

Frequently we are challenged by critics (occasionally by genuinely interested folks) about matters of faith, church practice, and life (most likely it will be to question what we believe and teach about homosexuality, same sex unions, abortion, role of women in the church or some other hot topic social issue). They ask, “What does your church teach about…? Frequently our response is, “Our church teaches…”

That is the wrong answer to the wrong question. Unless a (my) church teaches “all Scripture” faithfully and practices according to the Spirit inspired pure Word received and recorded by the apostles and prophets, what a (my) church teaches is at best suspect, and at worst wrong. Truth is not what man thinks it is. Neither is something false or wrong because one thinks it is. Some teaching or practice is not true or right because the church says it is. Conversely, something is not false on the authority of the church. Most certainly, society is not the arbiter of what is true or false, right or wrong in matters of faith and life. The correct answer to the wrong question is, “The Bible teaches…”. What a church teaches is correct only if it teaches what the Bible teaches!

On every issue of faith and life, of teaching and practice, the question is not, “What does the church teach?” The question is “What does Scripture teach? What does God say?” “He who is of God hears God’s Word…” (John 8:47, 1 John 4:6).

Where a pastor and church are bound by the Bible, thank the Lord. Hear God’s Word gladly and praise the Lord by word and deed. On the other hand, if any pastor or church teaches contrary to the Word of God, Scripture says, “Avoid them.” (Romans 16:17-18). No less than one’s eternal salvation is at risk if one sits at the feet of teachers who teach otherwise than what the Bible says of itself or teaches. As the Bible is God’s Word, it is the final authority in matters of faith and life. They who teach otherwise are those of whom the Savior warns in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets.”

If it is not Scripture, it is not Lutheran. Period. We ask no one to believe what we believe simply because our church teaches it. We invite and urge everyone who hears us to search the Scriptures daily to find out whether what we preach is so (Acts 17:11).

The Bible IS the Word of God! His Word is truth.

*) Luther, Martin – Small Catechism, expl. to the 5th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

 

 

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Religious America

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23).

After the fall there remained only an imperfect  knowledge of God. But even such imperfect knowledge supported by God’s creation of the world, conscience also testifying to His existence, testifies to the unregenerate that there just might be a god somewhere out there– a god to whom they will one day be accountable. However, since they reject the Holy Scriptures, the revealed knowledge of the Triune God and the Savior, they proceed to create idols of wood and stone or of their mind or try to appease their god through works. They create their own form of worship whether it is private or corporate worship of some nameless, faceless god.  “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and change(d) the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things”

May 2, 2019 was National Day of Prayer.  In 1952, Congress set aside a day “for Americans to turn ‘to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups and as individuals.’” Almost 70 years ago this legislative nod to God had at least a tinny ring of religiousity. In congress today such a resolution as a show of piety rings of ludicrous hypocrisy. With a recent report, we were told, however, that many Americans pray every day – not just on the Day of Prayer. Out of 102 countries examined for frequency of prayer, Pew research says the United States is unique in that it has both a high level of wealth and high level of daily prayer among its population.

Except that such a day may give some people pause from mayhem, chaos, and protest, a National Day of Prayer for the Christ-believer, as well intended as it might be, is unnecessary, and for the denier of the Triune God and idol-worshiper, meaningless. Who is the God to whom people are to turn—yours, mine, theirs? Is it Allah, Buddha, or some self-proclaimed egotist? The God of Israel says, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20: 2-3). And even as Israel   rejected Christ Jesus it did not and does not worship the true God: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either…” (1 John 2:23).

Christ-believers who accept the Bible as the inspired word of God worship the true God Who is the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier. He is Triune. He is eternal. He alone is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, unchanging. He is the God beside whom there is no other (1Corinthians 8:4). He is the God of love (1 John 4:8). He is the God of grace and mercy, as well as the Judge of all mankind, Who has redeemed the world from death and hell, and Who by His Spirit creates the faith which moves the regenerate to say, “I believe.” He is the God who has in Christ prepared for all who believe a home in His presence. He is the God who will come on judgment day and say to weary but waiting souls, “Enter into your rest.” The Christ-believer does not need to be told to whom to pray, or when to pray.  Furthermore, true prayer is addressed to the Heavenly Father by His children in the name of Jesus Christ. Such are the prayers the Heavenly Father hears.

On the other hand, every god of man’s imagination died, is dead, is dying, or will die. Perhaps they who create their own god need a special day, but to what end? Of idols Isaiah said, “Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing” (44:9-10)?

Simultaneous to the article on prayer, an article in the April 2019 Daily Signal, an on-line news source, said that 15% of people in Europe say they believe in God, while 63% of Americans say they believe in God. Again, there again is no reference to which God.

Said the Daily Signal:: “Yes, America is much more religious than Western Europe, but that doesn’t seem to be making much difference on the big-ticket cultural issues of the day… “Despite our religiosity, we continue drifting in Europe’s direction on issue after issue.”

The article proceeds to speak of how the United States is following Europe’s lead. For example, according to a Gallup poll, so called same sex-marriage now finds 67% approval in the United States as compared to 60% 20 years ago.

Also, on gender issues, “Americans are becoming more accepting of transgenderism as pop culture, media, and schools promote the idea that gender is based on feelings, rather than an objective standard tied to biology.” Notice the reference to public schools!

Another poll revealed “Most Americans also are fine using transgender pronouns. According to the poll, only 1 in 5 Americans would use the pronoun of a transgender person’s biological (real) sex” (Ipsos survey from 2017).

NOTE: The drift toward Europe is a drift away from the Lord and His Word and true Christian teaching with Christ at its center which drift, as a consequence, leads to the same cultural and societal evil that envelopes Europe.

Though the Lord has His elect out of every nation, Christianity itself is dying in Europe. America is on that path. “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

It is not a secret that morals in America are deteriorating, in part sadly, because generally even among the majority of those who profess it, understanding what constitutes Christianity is no deeper than, “What would Jesus do?” This is, however, not the essence of Biblical Christianity. Christianity is not defined by what Jesus would do, nor by the imposition of moral codes and rules. The substance of Christianity is the proclamation of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus whose blessings are transmitted to the hearer through the means of grace— the gospel in word and Sacrament. The gospel is the power of God unto conversion from spiritual death to spiritual life. It is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Christian teaching proclaims the divine law which uncovers sin and condemns the sinner, and the gospel which teaches and seals to the troubled sinner the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ Jesus. The exhortation to put off the old man with the corruption that infects the flesh and society is not accomplished by promoting what Jesus would do. Putting on through repentance and faith the new man “created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24), is the work of the Spirit through the gospel. The gospel creates faith and the sanctified will in the life of the regenerate to the glory and praise of God.

The source of true Christian preaching and teaching is the Bible. The focus of true Christian preaching, teaching, prayer, and worship is the Triune God. The source and focus of secularism and morality-based Christianity is man. That America is more religious than another country, or prays more, is no more than a pharisaical feel-good exercise because the beginning, center, and end of its focus is not Christ, the divine Word.

Though the article does not address the real mission of the Church which is the proclamation of the gospel, nevertheless, it describes the sorry state  of what most Americans understand as Christianity:  “What we have in America is a radical separation of God from “reality”—the real world that we claim to live in. It’s not that we reject “God” per se, but we reject a God who comes with a certified worldview package—a God who orders the universe, sets moral norms, defines our being, and binds our consciences to a moral code in this world—today” (Our emphasis).

 Reference is made to secularism that is overtaking Christianity: “This secularism is more pronounced in Europe, no doubt. Yet it wields extraordinary power in America because so many of us—even religious believers—have conceded vital ground, saying that divine truth has little or nothing to do with this world. In relegating “belief” to the realm of private opinion, we have made our bed and are now living in it” (Our emphasis).

Secularism is the national religion. It is promoted in government, in educational institutions, and in society. To the shame of the apostate church, secularism is abetted by the departure from the Word of God.  Another writer is quoted as saying, “We have become a nation of heretics.” Heretics individually or corporately teach contrary to the Word of God and promote opinions contrary to the law of God. They proclaim another gospel.

The Church and the apostles were beset by heretics who undermined the cardinal doctrine of Christianity – justification and salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Read Romans and Ephesians). The same heresy spawned the Reformation. The world promotes its own righteousness. Social gospel purveyors impose rules and codes of conduct instead of pure preaching of law and gospel. This is an attack against the Lord and His Church and undermines the authority of divine truth as well as the substance and blessings of the means of grace.

America may be more religious and pray more than other countries. But apostasy in the church and the abandonment of morals in society suggest, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8).

 

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