Whatever Happened to Truth?

In 1973, the world-renowned psychiatrist Karl Menninger (1893-1990) asked: Whatever Became of Sin? In his book he projected the day would come when sin would no longer be a part of conversation because, he speculated, the explanation of sin and wrongdoing would be replaced by rationalizations excusing individual accountability. Today we are there. In 2021, sin is a protected human right. There is no fear of God;  no respect for the Lord. “Scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge” (Proverbs 1:22).

Sin is not determined by the subjective mind of man, or by what offends his sensitivities. “Sin is the transgression of the Law” (1 John 3:4). Sin is missing the mark, missing the target. Which mark and which target? That of absolute holiness set forth in the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God.

‘‘Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and be there, and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and the commandment which I have written, that you might teach them’” (Exodus 24:12). “When He had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). “The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets” (Exodus 32:16).

To not do “What  thou shalt,” or to do “What thou shalt not” is sin. Sin separates from God. Sin constructs a wall over which no one can climb to God. Corrupt minds can rationalize human behavior to deny sin. They cannot make sin, or its consequence disappear. There is nothing beautiful about sin, and there is no pretty way to describe its consequence. Unrepented sin condemns to hell. “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10; cf. Deuteronomy 27).

They who reject God are a law unto themselves. Inasmuch as they are unregenerate recalcitrants, their “lawmaker” is the devil, the father of lies and deceit. Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). They who reject God’s law are a law unto themselves. They serve their own agenda, their own pleasures. They bend the law and will of God to fit their will, the moment, the time, and their own whims.

As we look about us, we echo the question of Karl Menninger. Today, decency, morality, civility, neighborly courtesy are being turned on their ear in a society run amok. Respect for God’s creation of marriage, genders, life in the womb (and outside of it), social mores, speaking truth, honesty, individual freedom, religious freedom—all have fallen victim to man’s innate desire to do what is “right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). “Whatever became of sin?”  Without even considering the deeper consequence relating to the impenitent sinners’ existence in eternity, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). We are seeing that regularly on the streets; we are seeing it in the demise of a civil society.

If one were minded to make an excuse for the behavior of a godless society—and there is no excuse—we might blame ignorance. By ignorance, they who walk in sin sentence themselves to death because they have rejected the truth of sin and its consequence. There is no truth in the father of lies, and consequently no truth in his followers. Not facing the reality of sin, they reject the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is “The way, the TRUTH, and the Life…” (John 14:6). In our 2021 society, in our country, where recognition of sin is passe—but sin itself is not—we see rationalizations excusing individual accountability.  

Since the devil deceived Adam and Eve, there is no new sin under the sun. Living the truth in word and deed, inasmuch as it is a fruit of a sanctified life in Christ is (in a society which denies the true God), a rare commodity. As we observe our society, from the political world to the halls of congress–where truth is whatever fits an agenda–, to the street, to the business world, to the on-going “pandemic”, to the world scene, to the threat of the renewal of war in Afghanistan as this is being written–what is the truth? The expression of truth has gone the way of the denial of sin! Whom can we trust?

One can call a manure pile by another name. It is still what it is. Calling good what God calls sin does not change an evil act. Sin is still sin in the eyes of Him Who said, “Thou shalt…,” and “Thou shalt not…”. If Bible-deniers in society have any acquaintance with the Bible, they hate or twist Bible truth because they do not like what it says about their acts or themselves. They turn on those who speak Scripture because they do not want to be reminded of what the Bible says about sin and its judgment.

But fellow Christian, stop! Think about it, first of all, as it relates to you in society. Among the lost of the world were we. Before feeling smug about oneself, the Christ-believer must examine himself in the light of God’s Word which says, “If you love me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). So how is it going with us? Still in the flesh, and cognizant of the weakness (or is it strength) of the flesh, we cannot claim to be without sin. Our own sins behoove us to go to the Lord daily in contrition and repentance: “I have sinned. Lord forgive me. Help me to reflect your will in my life before the world. Help me to show by my life that my love for You is honest and above reproach.”

It is unconscionable that some churches have accommodated themselves to the world. By design, or out of fear of offending someone, many refuse to call sin, sin. Before God and man, they must answer two questions: “Whatever became of sin” and “Whatever happened to Truth?” The questions are important because without the truth about sin, there is no antidote to sin, and no release from the consequence of sin. Heterodox churches may profess to believe the Bible; they may quote it. If they do not accept and teach the Bible as the wholly inspired Word of God and do not accept or teach the Holy Scripture as divine, unalterable, truth in all its parts, from Genesis to Revelation, they contribute to the sin problem and harm not only society, but destroy souls.

The Gospel, if it is preached, falls on deaf ears, when there is no honesty about sin. Let us say up front—though society, and even the church may deny the truth, distort the truth, twist the truth, and color the truth (which is a lie)–truth  is fact; it is reality; truth is incontrovertible! Truth has not disappeared, and truth is not going away! Before the Reformation the question was asked. It was hidden by the deceit of men, but it did not disappear. The light of the truth overcame the darkness, as surely as the sun rose in the morning. Think of an airplane flight. As the plane rises through the clouds, one sees the brightness of the sun. The sun is always shining.

All men are liars, that is demonstrable. The Triune God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, is Truth personified in Jesus Christ. The eternal God is eternal truth.

“God is not a man, that He should lie…” (Numbers 23:19).

We live “in hope of eternal life which God, Who cannot lie, promised before time began…”(Titus 1:2).

God showed “by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie [that] we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).

The word of men is suspect. The Word of God is truth. Jesus, “The  way, the truth, and the life,” prayed to His Father: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Temples have been burned, steeples have fallen, but the truth of God has endured. Men tried to kill the truth when they hung Jesus on the cross. By God’s grace His blood washed away our sins. He died and reconciled us unto God. He arose. In the darkest of times on this earth the eternal sun shines because the Son of God lives. We are blessed as we flee for comfort to Him and, more so, in faith lay hold of the hope set before us.

The Bible speaks truth of sin—its definition, its reality, its consequence in time and for eternity. It shows the solution to sin—Christ Jesus. The Bible speaks truth, punctuated by our Savior’s resurrection from the dead. It calls to repentance and gives light and life to all who by the Spirit believe the truth.

Truth is found in God’s Word and promise. When trials and afflictions, fears and doubts, sorrows and frustrations, and pain and tears of this life are past, we shall know the fruition of every promise of our God Who says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13), by grace through faith in Christ.

God’s Word and truth are synonymous. “The Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:6-8). Rejecters of the Word will forever be susceptible to the lies of Satan who deceives the unbelieving world.

“Whatever happened to truth?” The truth lives and abides forever. Whether you find it depends on where you are looking, and where your hope lies!

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Preach the Gospel

In a promotional article for her book,* the author wrote, “Most churches do their best to be welcoming places for strangers and non-believers, but there are concrete reasons that church membership in the U.S. is declining.” She notes that many people, except at Christmas and Easter, have no interest. Having not read the book, and therefore not endorsing it as such, nevertheless, among reasons she mentions, one particularly caught our attention.

A pastor has heard legitimate reasons for members not being in church from time to time–sickness, vacation,  perhaps work. We trust that in such circumstances members, recognizing the blessing of the Word of God, and appreciating the need to nourish their faith and to find comfort for their souls, gather around the Word for home devotions, or perhaps engage in private Bible reading and prayer. They hold the Word sacred and are glad to hear and learn it.

Pastors have heard many other reasons why members choose not to gather in public worship on Sunday morning. In our experience we were once told, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” This pastor’s response was simply, “If one is a Christian, why would one not want to go to church?” Where laziness, neglect, and indifference are the drivers for not assembling with fellow believers around the means of grace, it is unlikely that the same people take time for devotions.

Every soul ultimately is responsible for himself before God. Both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:3-4). Why did God accept Abel’s sacrifice, and reject Cain’s? The critical distinction was not in the type of sacrifice but the spirit in which it was brought. “By faith Abel offered to God a more perfect sacrifice than Cain…” (Hebrews 11:4). The one who may attend worship hypocritically for the sake of appearance will answer for his hypocrisy, as will the one who neglects worship answer for his neglect. But might the church bear some responsibility for people giving up on worship? Might it look at itself to determine why people stop attending beyond:  “We do not like the pastor. Church is not friendly. We do not like the  liturgy. Church is too old fashioned. We don’t get anything out of it. Some people in church are hypocrites. It’s boring. I need to sleep.”  We have heard them all.

The aforementioned article named other reasons why people claim not to come to church besides the reason that “nones”, as they are called, believe nothing. What again is the commission the Lord God gave to the Church? The evangelist Mark records, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (person)” (Mark 16:15). Matthew is moved by the Spirit to write, “… baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus sharpened the specific focus when He said, “Thus it was written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations…” (Luke 24:46-47).

Christ-believers on this earth still sin. They still endure pain and heartache, trial and affliction, trouble and sorrow. They still fear and feel alarm. Believers in Jesus still weep, but not as others who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

What is the cause of the difference in lifestyle and attitude between those who believe in Christ and those who don’t?  The difference lies in the message and power of the Gospel. The Gospel is the message of hope in a hopeless world, a message, however, which is lost to those in the world who see this world and its pleasures as the sum total of all things.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

Bible readers find the Gospel message, foretold in type and picture, in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. The Scriptures flow with the comforting stream of salvation, and the divine assurance of life restored for eternity through the satisfaction of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we are reconciled unto the Father. Jesus assures us, “Because I live you shall live also” (John 14:19). As one is alive in Christ through faith, the death he dies in the flesh is but the portal to life in heaven! That is the message of the Church faithful to its calling.

One reason people stay away from church, the author says, is that the Gospel message is missing in churches today. She wrote, “We hear ‘woke’ conversations and challenges all week long and, increasingly, we hear the same messages at church. Spending time affirming and discussing gender identity and sexual preferences naturally cuts into time spent on what matters: our souls, which desperately need God. Everyone, no matter what their lifestyle, has a soul, and church is the soul hospital.”

Further, she states that hearers need “the promise of eternity with God; and evidence of an ordered universe that includes wrath and wrath satisfied–-Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  Our churches are bowing to the current trend of handling societal issues from the pulpit, and newer or returning church attendees realize they can receive those messages at work, in the neighborhood, or online.”

“Offer us the joy in the Gospel. In my chapter titled, ‘Why Have I Not Heard of this God?’ I share how I forgot about the pure ‘shout it from the mountains’ joy of faith when teaching my own children about God. I forgot that God loves adventure and the natural world He created. He is with my children when they snowboard down a mountain, jump, run, play, and dream. He is a part of every good and healthy endeavor and His joy at our joy should not be overlooked.”

“Offer us something different, faith leaders. Offer us hope and truth. Risk losing us as members to save our souls and we will come back. Focus on the joy and meaning to be found in true relationship with God. Remind us of sin and the critical importance of repentance. Simply, offer us Jesus–-the only way to eternal life.”

As churches address gender identity, sexual preferences, and socially and politically charged agendas, denying Scripture as they do, they fail their mission. In this age, the church professing to be faithful to the Word of God may have to adapt in some ways, but it dare never adopt the idea that it can promote morality apart from the Law and the Gospel. They who do sell their heritage for a mess of pottage. God forbid that, among us, we ever betray hearers by denying them the privilege of hearing the Gospel. The Church should dare to “Risk losing us as members to save our souls and we will come back.”

The Church has always had to compete against the world and the devil. But it errs if it believes that somehow it must compete with the world. The mission the Lord gave to the Church is one to save souls. In this age of apostasy, misfocus, misdirection, mispurpose, and misemphasis, the apostle Paul’s word to his young assistant, Timothy, shouts, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). Yes, to the weak, Paul became weak that he might win the weak. He became all things to all men that he might “by all means save some.” This he did for the Gospel’s sake (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). But he did not change the message; he did not lose focus; he did not identify with the world; He spoke the Gospel in love and with compassion for the lost.

What is wrong in the world is the fruit of the devil. It is called sin. Only the Word of God overcomes the devil. If anything will change in this corrupt world that will pass away, such change will occur through the Word of truth—Law and Gospel. Preach the Word, to the saving of souls by the Spirit!  

Surely as a faithful church, as preachers of the Gospel of Christ, our attention to society and its ills is not to save society as such, but to confirm and rescue souls ensnared by the devil. The responsibility of the Church is to throw the life net of the Gospel out to troubled and dying souls. Churches more interested in social and political agendas than getting people back to church to hear the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ may mock. But on the day of reckoning, souls rescued through the preaching of the Gospel, will remember with thanksgiving before the Lord those who faithfully proclaimed the Gospel.

*Reilly, Deirdre-The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus

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What Does Your Church Teach About. . .?


“What does your church teach about…?” The question may very well be sincere from one who is genuinely interested in what is taught or practiced in another’s church. It is a question an inquirer could  ask of a Lutheran, another protestant, or a Catholic; one could ask the same question, perhaps in different form, of one of the Jewish faith, or of a Muslim. 

A “one answer fits all” does not satisfy. Within the Christian world, what the Catholic Church professes, does not necessarily define what is taught and practiced in individual parishes. An interested individual can learn what the body of the Lutheran faith is from its confessions found in the Book of Concord of 1580; but in today’s Lutheran world, sadly, it is not possible to give a succinct answer to, “What does the Lutheran Church teach about…?”  In today’s world, if someone says, “You are a Lutheran; tell me what the Lutheran Church teaches,” you may well have to counter with the question, “How much time do you have to let me explain what my Lutheran church teaches?”

Within the Lutheran Church there are associations known as synods (Synod–a fellowship of congregations). Theoretically, member congregations of a synod are of one mind in doctrine, faith, and practice. However, within today’s Lutheran world, every Lutheran church does not necessarily teach the established doctrine, right or wrong, of that synod.

What is the cause of this inconsistency? We can try to blame society. But that excuse is akin to blaming society for the breakdown of the family. Society does not make families. Families make up society. Society does not break up the family. The breakdown of the family is the underlying cause of the ruin of society. Family life will not be changed by fixing society. As God wills, society will be fixed by restoring the family! And yes, it becomes a vicious circle as the lines of responsibility are blurred.

As to the confusion and difference in teaching and practice within churches who identify with each other nominally but differ in doctrine and practice, it is a cop-out to say, “Well that is the world in which we live today.” No! Look first of all into the home; look at the theological seminaries and the clergy who come out of those seminaries; look at the pews (perhaps, mostly empty). Society is not the cause of the demise of sound doctrine and godly practice. The church is not corrupted from the outside; the rot begins within, and the disease is indifference. The world has entered the church, but that is not the cause. The cause lies in the fact that many within Christendom have departed from Scripture. They have failed to go into the worldwith the truth. The truth is that the human heart is sinful from birth. It is corrupt, and under condemnation! The Church has not gone into the world with the Gospel message of forgiveness in Christ Jesus, Who heals the human heart, and Who by the Spirit works sanctification in the heart.

Christians are concerned about evil in the world. However, the message in many churches today has become social, permissive, agenda driven.  For the most part, preaching repentance and remission of sins is forgotten because churches to a great degree fear God’s truth will be offensive to their hearers.

The sad reality is that Scripture and sound preaching of Law and Gospel does not attract as much attention as social and societal issues. Hence, even within Lutheranism, some condone abortion, transgenderism, and other moral aberrations that have inundated society. The lack of concern and the smorgasbord reaction of churches to both false doctrine and social evils reflects the forfeiture of sound doctrine and respect for the Lord and His Word. Consequently, for the Lutheran bound by Scripture, giving a meaningful response to, “What does your church teach about…?” is not that simple. Furthermore, if in our amoral and immoral society someone asks why one is against a particular societal activity or way of life, a simple answer, “It is against my religion,” does not say much, but may simply invite the retort, “Then change your religion,” or, “Find another church.” Furthermore, while such an answer may be correct by itself, it still misses the point. Every religion from Christianity, to heathenism, to atheism, is against or for something.

The answer, “Because my religion is against…” leaves the inquirer still wondering, what one’s church teaches and why. That response is also  fraught with peril to true confession of faith. “Your religion (church) is against …my religion (church) is against the same thing. Let’s get together and stand together against what we are against.” That mentality, however well intended, contributes to the divergence of teaching among churches, and within synods, comfortable with agreeing to disagree on weightier points of doctrine and related practice within the church and the fellowship.

The answer to “Why are you against …” is not, “Because my religion says…”. Essential to what a church teaches and what it is against or for, is what it stands upon! We are speaking of churches that claim Christian identity. What the faithful church teaches about creation, God, the person of Christ, evil (sin), the Law, grace, the Gospel, the way to salvation, justification, faith, the Sacraments, conversion, the Church, prayer, sanctification (the Christian life, morality), marriage, one’s relationship to God through faith in Christ, right to life (conversely the evil of abortion), the difference between churches, the practice of fellowship, etc.,etc.—all are founded and established upon the inspired, pure, holy, and certain Word of God.

As a confession of faith, if what my religion teaches is not supported by “Thus says the Lord,” that confession is false. If what my church or church body teaches is not faithful to the divine Word, what is taught is a lie. Further, as a witness to the truth in word and deed, it is not sufficient to say, “I believe…”, unless one gives substance to what he believes, and validates what he believes from the divine Word!

As Christians (we prefer, “Christ-believers”), we will want to study and learn the Word of God, so that in response to the question of what we believe and practice, we can move beyond the common response that does not differentiate between truth and error. To the extent that the Spirit gives us the mind and heart, as well as the courage and ability to speak the truth, the Christ-believer is committed to speak with divine authority, derived from the Word of God.  

Paul wrote to Timothy: “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Teaching implies there will be hearers and learners.  We have the weapon against evil, but we need to utilize it. But before we can, we need to hear it, learn it, and know it. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Beside false doctrine, what is it that the Lord sees and abhors, and against which we are to stand? “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

We are “against” sin and evil because we are “for” that which glorifies our Lord. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).What we are “for” glorifies the Lord, and is to our benefit, and that of the neighbor!

Sin offends the Heavenly Father and mocks the Lord Jesus, our Savior, Who spent His life and suffered death to redeem us from the consequences of our sin—eternal death. This He did perfectly and completely. He says to His redeemed people, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30). The Christ-believer who has the Spirit of Christ is not against sin because he is without sin, or because he chooses to be obstinate. And surely, such obstinacy is not the way to get ahead in this world; on the other hand, that he is for what glorifies the Lord of glory are not merit points, but fruits of faith! The Christ-believer  desires to conduct his life “worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27), ready also “to suffer for His sake”(v.29).

Scripture defines what is evil in God’s sight. Thankful to the Lord for salvation freely given us, we acknowledge with Solomon, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). Psalm 97:10 says, “You who love the Lord, hate evil.” It is not possible to love God and evil. There is no middle ground. “Resist the devil…”(James 4:7).

Given the human penchant for sin, if some troubled soul  asks, “What must I do to be saved?”, what my church (religion) teaches is true and meaningful only if what it says is based upon Holy Scripture, the inspired and true Word of God, the source of our faith and confidence. And what is that? “Your sins are forgiven you” (Luke 5:20). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your household” (Acts 16:30-31). “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13), “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Friend, believe it–not because the pastor said it, or the church teaches it, but because Scripture teaches it!

The answer to the question, “What does your church teach about…?” is, “My church (religion) teaches, and I believe what the Word of My Lord and Savior teaches—for life here, and salvation hereafter.” If we’re honest in our confession of faith, how then can we do or approve of evil and sin against God (Genesis 39:9)?

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Essential?

It is not a political statement to say that we live in a strange world; though no more sin laden than former ages, we live in an increasingly corrupt society. At this writing, a New Jersey woman faces six months in county jail because she drowned a 10-week old puppy. Drown a puppy—jail. Abort a child—no problem.

In our society, the line between right and wrong is not only blurred. It is obliterated. He is no longer “he,” and she is no longer “she.” The bearer of children is no longer a mother, but a “birthing person” because in this godless, and mixed up society a male can bear children. A professor apologized for speaking of a “pregnant woman,” instead of the preferred “pregnant person.” It was not her intention “to offend anyone.” So the correct reference to the bearer of a child is a “lactating person,” not a mother. What used to be “breast-feeding” is now to some, “human milk feeding.” (The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine [new guidelines]).

“The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL)…claims that the term ‘mother’ was ‘specifically gendered’ and that ‘it’s not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth.’ When we talk about birthing people, we’re being inclusive. It’s that simple,’ the pro-abortion group said. ‘We use gender-neutral language when talking about pregnancy because it’s not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth. Reproductive freedom is for *every* (sic) body’” (Dailywire.com August 12, 2021).

Much of what is occurring in society today is not only ludicrous. It is sinful, and dangerous, not only to a dying world, but to souls eternally. What is happening confirms  Scripture: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

Theodore Roosevelt said correctly, and we are seeing the truth of his observations, “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” And, “To educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” 

All who speak the truth will be mocked. Those who have no use for the Lord, will say, “first remove the plank out of your own eye” (Matthew 7:5). They know enough Scripture to be deceptive. We shall let them argue with the Lord Who said:

“Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: ‘How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke,I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge  And did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them…’”(Proverbs 1:22-32).

Apart from the spiritual deterioration of our society, there is a political component, which affects the church. The constitutional freedoms we have enjoyed in our country are eroding before our eyes. It appears the only ones with the right to freedom are the scoff-laws, from the highest places of authority, to the street. Whether out of ignorance or malice, the recent pandemic protocols restricted the right to attend church, ignoring riots and protests. Certain businesses were unimportant, while some (questionable at best) were open. Church was not essential.

Apparently in anticipation of more lockdowns, the New Hampshire legislature passed a bill, signed by the governor, “designating church as essential services.” According to the Associated Press, House bill  542  “Allows such religious organizations to operate to the same degree as essential businesses during a state of emergency” (Western Journal—August 1, 2021). Such is the state of affairs in the United States of America in 2021.

Is church essential? The Greek word for church is εκκλησία (ekklaysia), which means the “called out one’s.” The Church, properly speaking, is the sum total of believers in the world, of all times and all nations who through time have been called through the Gospel by the Holy Spirit out of unbelief to faith in Christ. “Wherefore we hold, according to the Scriptures, that the Church, properly so called, is the congregation of saints (of those here and there in the world, who truly believe the Gospel of Christ and have the Holy Ghost” (Apology Art. VII, 28; Triglot, p.237). The Church is the Body of Christ, and in the proper sense of the term consists of believers in Christ, and only believers. The members of the Church are known to the Lord, Who reads the heart. The Head of the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, is Christ, Who preserves and governs. Members of the Holy Christian Church are brought into the Church by the Spirit through the means of grace—the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Every member of the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints as confessed in the Apostolic Creed is saved. In this context, questioning whether the Church  is essential is absurd, for it questions the person of Christ, and His redemptive work. Apart from being, by the Holy Spirit, in Christ and of Christ one cannot be saved.

The Holy Christian Church is identified with no visible group—Catholic, Lutheran,  Reformed or any other protestant church. Therefore, to say one must be a Catholic, or a Lutheran to be saved is false! On earth there are heterodox churches (visible organizations), yet by the grace of God where “so much of the Word still remains that men may be brought to the knowledge of their sins and to faith in the forgiveness of sins, which Christ has gained for all men,” there will be members of the Body of Christ. (Mark 16:16, Luke 17:16, John 4:25), (Brief Statement, 1932).

Of course government entities have no concept of the Holy Christian Church. But then why do we call a physical, external, visible, organization, church? We speak of going to “a church,” like going to “a school.” What makes a school a school? Not the pile of bricks. What is a school of fish. A school is a school because students are gathered for studying the assigned curriculum. A school of fish is a school because of the gathering of fish (hopefully around your hook). In our manner of speaking, a church is called church because it is the place—whether made of bricks, a tent, or under trees, where believers, indeed known to God, are gathered around the means of grace. We make no distinction between the true believers and hypocrites who may physically gather together. To put it another way, we believe as Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Where the means of grace are evident, in that church the εκκλησία will be assembled.

In that assembly, Christ-believers gather to confess their sins, and to be assured through the Gospel that their sins are forgiven. In that assembly, if the truth is taught, care is taken to focus the hearer’s attention upon the Lord Jesus Christ and heaven. There, together, believing hearts offer up songs of praise and lay their concerns in prayer before the Heavenly Father. From there they depart with the blessing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Is a church as a gather place essential. Absolutely! Yes…Our Lord said through the holy writer: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:22-25).

If one reads carefully, one understands why church is essential. Where members of the Church are gathered in church, they hear the word and receive blessing for time and eternity. There we are assured of the forgiveness of our sins. There Christ-believers are mutually encouraged in the faith and join together at the communion altar. There fellow believers enjoy fellowship with one another and with Christ (1 John 1:3)! How important this is as the day of judgment approaches! How important as Christ-believers are more and more isolated by and from the world, and sometimes even from family!

The Word of God is essential! Is a church essential? Yes, but only if from it is heralded the truth of God! In another sense we can answer, no. A deathbed convert may never have been a member of a church, or even inside a church. Illness or not having an orthodox church of one’s faith to attend may deny a Christ-believer opportunity to go to church. If under such circumstances one cannot attend or be involved, the Lord is present at your home devotion. He hears your prayer and praise. Jesus had church on the seashore; He prayed in the hills. Paul and Silas had church in prison. No authority or no power can rob us of our right to worship! It is not the lack of church attendance that is sin. The sin is indifference and neglect of church, worship, and the means of grace

In its sphere of activity, the government may deem church and worship unessential. We disagree. Protesters, and government may close our church on the boulevard or avenue, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against the εκκλησία (Matthew 16:18). As a member of the Church, support your church. Pray for its welfare, and for blessing upon its message and witness. But fear not, members of the Holy Christian Church, “For whoever listens to Me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:32-33).

 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20-21).

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Journeying to the Promised Land

“According to His own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9), the Heavenly Father chose Abram (Abraham) to be the father of the nation through whom Jesus, the Savior of the world would be born. He initiated His plan by telling Abraham, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12 1-2). The Lord had a plan He would bring to pass through Abraham. He would make Abraham a blessing to all nations through the birth of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, Who would be born of the seed of Abraham. In the interest of keeping His promise, the Lord was protecting Abraham from the idolatry that prevailed in his father’s house. Without knowing where he was to go, Abraham proceeded in faith, confident in the promises of God.

Ultimately the descendants of Abraham would  arrive in the “Promised Land,” but not without trial and affliction, or divine discipline necessitated by their sins. They also were objects of wrath and scorn of heathen enemies.

The Lord led Abraham to Canaan. Abraham himself would be tested in many ways. Among the tests was the lack of offspring. In due time, the Lord faithful to His promises, gave Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac, to perpetuate the seed from whom Christ would be born. In the ancestral line of Jesus, Jacob would be born of Isaac. Because of famine in Canaan, by the intervention of Joseph, Jacob’s son who had been sold into slavery in Egypt, Abraham’s descendants would end up in Goshen, part of  Egypt, where Jacob would die.

The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were men of God through faith in God’s promises yet were sinners whom the loving God disciplined.  They  suffered anguish, pain, and heartache. At times, their faith was severely tested; nevertheless, in every circumstance they trusted in the grace of God and waited for His salvation. Their faith was counted unto them for righteousness.

In Egypt, the Israelites were blessed by the Lord beyond measure, but not without abuse from the hand of the Egyptians. They cried unto the Lord, and after the institution of the Passover, a distinct shadow of the saving sacrifice and blood of the Lord Jesus, God led them by the hand of Moses from the bondage and slavery of the heathen country. By night and day, the Lord led them as they traveled, but not by the shortest route, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war [have to engage in fighting] and return to Egypt” (Exodus 13:17).  The Lord led His people through the Red Sea and then through the wilderness on the way to the promised land.

Forgetting how the Lord had delivered them from Egypt, they murmured and complained against the Lord and Moses because of the harshness of the wilderness. They forgot how the Lord God had miraculously led them to freedom through the Red Sea.  They were confronted by enemies. They stood at Sinai as Moses received the Ten Commandments, but in forgetfulness and impatience they worshiped the golden calf. Moses prayed to the Lord and interceded for the people, reminding the Lord of the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses, as a mediator of the people before God, prevailed through prayer! The Lord withheld His just punishment. The fervent prayer of a righteous man changes things. They moved on to the land of promise.

When they arrived, spies spied out the land. Upon the report of the spies, the majority of Israel rejected the counsel of Caleb and Joshua, who trusted the Lord would give them the promised land. Israel instead listened to the spies who feared to take possession of what the Heavenly Father had promised to give them. As a result of their unbelief, Israel was sentenced to wander in the wilderness. Forty years after leaving Egypt they would enter the promised land. However, no one twenty years or above when they left Egypt would enter it. There are temporal, as well as eternal, consequences for sin. What consequences the people suffered along the way were a result of disobedience—sin. Additionally, on their journey to the promised land, they were beset by enemies who sought their harm, destruction, and death.

Graciously, the Lord continued to provide food, drink, and protection. Still the people complained. As the Lord disciplined them, they confessed their sin. The Lord told Moses to put a brazen serpent on a pole, promising that whoever looked at the cross believing the Lord’s promise would be saved from the sting of death of the poisonous serpents. Faith in God’s words and promises save. Jesus spoke of the lifting up of the serpent on the pole as a type (picture) of Himself saying, “whoever believes in Him should  not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14). Anywhere along the route to the promised land, the Lord could have forsaken Israel but He did not. The Lord is gracious and merciful! He is faithful to His promises, faithful to those who believe His Word, faithful to all who call upon Him in repentance and faith.

Even Moses, the man of God, did not enter the land promised to Abraham. Joshua was appointed by the Lord to lead Israel. Before he died, Moses was given a view of the land from Mount Nebo. Because Moses died in the faith, the Lord, gracious, merciful and forgiving to as many as confess their sins and call upon His name, took Moses to the better land, the better country, which is the gift of God to all who die in the faith! Moses, with all the Old Testament believers, entered into eternal rest, freed of the sinful flesh, from the power of the devil, and from all enemies. Such is God’s gift of grace received through faith by all who trust in the Savior.

We in these last days can see certain parallels to Israel’s journey. In that better land we shall be in the everlasting presence of the Lord God with whom the Old Testament believers and the faithful of the New Testament era who died in the faith now dwell.

As our earthly pilgrimage moves us toward the promised land, eternal in the heavens, we have been so richly blessed, materially and spiritually, by our gracious Lord, but we must confess that we frequently are as forgetful as were the descendants of Abraham as they traveled their way to Canaan. We  also have to fight against our flesh. We too murmur and complain, rather than appreciate, all the Lord does for us each and every day through our life.

Though we do not always recognize it, as children of God we know from Scripture that whom the Lord loves He chastens. No chastening is joyful, and occasionally it may be painful (Hebrews 12). Because our God is a loving  God Who directs our eyes on the path to the promised land, thank Him for His discipline that produces repentance, lest we come under the indictment, “They certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers” (Numbers14:23). As Israel did, let us cry out to the Lord for deliverance, forgiveness in Christ. Let us consider the weightiness of our promise and its meaning when we respond to the Lord’s will with, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). “God, help us to do as You command, that we may be confirmed in our faith, and serve to your glory.” 

As Israel traveled to the promised land, assailed by those who hated them and intended them harm, we certainly in our pilgrimage are put upon by enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Church, His message. More and more the forces of evil are seeking to isolate Christ-believers from society, as the enemies in their godlessness try to make us strangers in our land.

Living in an inglorious and dying world, let us focus on the glory that awaits. Keep in mind, there will be twists and turns, bumps and bruises, snares and traps, on our path. Pray the Lord for strength to control circumstances over which we have influence. With the help of God, we do have the authority to say, “No,” to sin. Pray the Lord for help to bear those things that are hurled at us from the enemy. Recognize the reality. “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), and again, “Beloved do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” ( 1 Peter 4:12), and say with the apostle Paul who in prison said. “I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Moses did not enter Canaan, the promised land, but he saw it from the mountain. From Nebo the Lord took him to the better land. From our vantage point–no matter how smoky and hazy the sky, or how dark the earth–we have in the Holy Word a glimpse of heaven. It is beautiful, peaceful, joyful, and we shall indeed enter it to be with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.

Christ-believers are comforted as they confess their sins unto the Lord, call upon His holy name, and give attention to His Word. “No one shall be able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29). And when it is asked on the last day, “Who are these”, the answer will be, “These are the ones who come out of great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

After the long, tedious, often difficult road, because our God is faithful, good, and gracious, through faith clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we will be home at last. So when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith, keep marching on, for the “Promised Land” is in sight–

The golden evening brightens in the west;

Soon, soon, to faithful warriors cometh rest.

Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia! (TLH 463,8).

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Who is Teaching Your Children?

“Why I am Leaving a Great Career in Public Education,” was the headline of an article written by a “Disillusioned Administrator” in a major American city. It was not a city in the state in which this writer resides. But as one pays attention to what is happening in states and school districts around the country, including Minnesota, one can appreciate the teacher’s frustration and concern as he addresses the various philosophies and mind-bending social influences that are now part of the educational system. One can admire his boldness to speak out, albeit anonymously for obvious reasons.

The article was written earlier this year, 2021. As we are approaching the new school year, we read, “Educators from across the state [Minnesota] are gathering for a training this week with … a controversial equity consultant with a history of promoting theories like “Christian privilege.” (Alphanews-8-5-2021). A U.S. senator said, “America’s public schools don’t teach our nation’s founding principles anymore.” It is difficult to contradict that when one  reads, for example, the second draft of social study standards for public schools in Minnesota.

These illustrations are sufficient to inspire the question that certainly every Christian parent should consider. “Do you know who is teaching your children? Do you know what they are being taught?”

What is taught in government schools does not equate to the level of concern that inspired the Spirit to address false doctrines taught in the church when He said, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18). Christian are instructed by the Lord to avoid false teachers and their false doctrine, because it is contrary to God’s Word, it undermines faith, and it can destroy faith. It is insidious because it is presented in enticing words that deceive the simple—souls who do not expect to be misled.

Now transfer to the public arena the issue that Romans 16:18 addresses with respect to the “simple,” to the children whom you send off to school. Parents who have the first responsibility to train up their children are entrusting the educational responsibility of the children to teachers of different  faiths, different cultures, different abilities, different agendas. In a plural society that is the way it will be. That is understood. But parents, do you know what your children are being taught? The teachers, sitting at the feet of the aforementioned consultant, are being informed on the subject “Islamophobia and Christian Privilege: What Educators Must Know.” This is an unveiled assault on Christianity.

 No faithful Christian denies that Christians are sinners. No one denies that scoundrels and false Christians have done things in the name of Christianity that have contradicted the Lord God’s directive to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Lord will judge them for abusing His holy name. Deceptions and enticements will continue to allure Christians to believe evil is good, and good is evil. In addition, enemies of Christ will deny the Lord God. Enemies will mock the Word of God; they will try to destroy, if it were possible, the Christian faith, and even the Christian. Attacks will continue and increase in number and intensity. Satan’s  agents will use his approach in Eden, “Has God said?” The bolder will declare, “If there is a God, He is wrong.” What better way to try to change society and to plant the philosophies and mores of the world than by deceiving children?  

Until the Lord calls us, we cannot get out of the world. In a dying and ungodly world we cannot escape being subjected to evil, and godless philosophies. Some may advance the argument that children need to hear what is being said in the schools so they can recognize the evil when they see it. Should we then introduce children into the drug culture so that they can recognize the dangers when they see them? Others may argue that Christians, including children, will be strong enough to resist the deceivers. If the sign warns, “Beware of dog,” who would put a child over the fence to check the validity of the sign?  

Beware of  purveyors of that which poisons the mind and heart and destroys faith and confidence in the Lord God. Of such, the Lord says, “Avoid them. Flee the devil.”

This is not an indictment of  teachers. It is an indictment of the system in which  teachers who object lose their job if they refuse to conform.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). Who is teaching your children? Do you know what they are being taught? Wisdom, personified in the Lord says “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:32-36). “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding, for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:13-14).

Time for self-examination! Dare we assume Christian parents are speaking with their children? Dare we assume Christian parents are faithfully bringing their children up in the Word of God, speaking to them at home about matters of faith, training them up in the way they should go?  Dare we assume Christian parents are exercising disciplinary love by sharing with the children  the will of God as He declares it in the Ten Commandments and talking to them about sin, sharing with them the good news of the Gospel, that in Jesus their sins are forgiven? Dare we assume parents are instructing their children that life on the earth is not the measure of the good life, but that the good life is found in heaven, and attained by grace through faith in Jesus? Finally, dare we assume that Christian parents are in word and by example setting a pattern of life in keeping with the directive, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)?

Whether you are or aren’t, someone is speaking to your children. On television, in a book, in the neighborhood, on the street, in school—a cartoon character as a prop to teach worldly morals, a friend with no morals, possibly a teacher with an agenda. Who is teaching your children, and what are they teaching, or what are your children understanding? Have you checked?

Are others who speak to your children teaching the  divine word of truth, sharing the way of salvation,  supporting your faith, your moral teaching, your godly principles of life? Or are they undermining your godly teaching and life by sowing doubt in the Lord God and His Word, and making aspersions about Christ, and the Christian faith. There is no in-between. One either speaks for the Lord or against Him!

In the context of today’s twisted societal concept of love toward God and man, are they teaching that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that love is of God (1 John 4:7), and that we are to love all people (love our neighbor as ourselves-Matthew 22:39) as God loves us (John 3:16, Jeremiah 31:3)? Or are your children, through bad examples and flattering speech in society, being enticed to love the world and the things that are in it? Are your children being weaned from your godly influence, and more dangerously from the Lord, whose children they are through Baptism and nourishment in the Gospel? 

The substance of the Christian hope is not found in man. It is found in Christ, Who upon the cross offered the necessary and perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. The confidence of salvation in heaven when this weary and confusing life is over is nourished by the Spirit Who called us to faith by which we are reconciled unto God. Likewise the Spirit nourishes this faith and confidence through the Gospel. And through the Gospel, the message of Christ’s redemptive love, the Christian is called to a life of sanctification which the world tries to ape, but does not know, much less manifest. People of faith do not ask, “Who is my neighbor and why should I love my neighbor?” Instead he asks, “Why should I not love my neighbor as God loves me?”

Love does not approve of evil. Love tells the truth—about the Holy God and the gods of the world; about the love of God and the hatred in  of the world; about the sinful earth and the way to heaven; about sin (the Law) and forgiveness (the Gospel); about eternal death and eternal life.

Faithful Christian parents know who, and what the children are being taught at home.  Christian parents know who and what they are being taught in church, if they faithfully and diligently bring their children to worship. The only place where parents cannot be sure who is teaching the children, and  much less what they are being taught, is in government schools–whether in the classroom or on the playground.

The approach to Christian education is far different than that of the public system. This is certainly true as the public system tends more and more to social engineering and indoctrination in the ways of countercultures than to “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Christian education is education for heaven and eternity; it addresses the full person of the child, soul and mind. A nation and society are beneficiaries of a godly education. Public education addresses only the here and now. It not only ignores the education of the soul but contradicts it! It’s social engineering, morals, and secular humanism, are not only the death of the soul if they are imbibed, but the death of  society for which the promoters claim to care.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) was born into an evangelical home. He fell away from the faith, but later returned. He remained “extremely critical of society, clergy and Church people who did not practice the moral teachings of Christ.” We understand his point, though we are quick to add that there is more to Christian education than “moral teachings of Christ.” Such teaching begins at Sinai, recognizes sin, and finds new life- as well as strength in practice for this life–from the cross of  the Savior. Nevertheless, addressing education itself, Ruskin makes a point. “Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave. It is not teaching the youth the shapes of letters and tricks of numbers and then leaving them to turn their arithmetic to roguery and their literature to lust…” (A Christian Pedagogy-Koehler, CPH, 1930, p.2). What Ruskin says can be accomplished only through the Gospel, and by the Spirit of God! Woodrow Wilson said, “Our civilization cannot survive materially unless it be redeemed spiritually…by becoming  permeated with the Spirit of Christ…” (ibid. p. IV).

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Keeping Gospel Focus

Scripture alerts us to the enemy we face. The apostle, Peter, who knew something of the wiles of the devil, described him as “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Of Satan, Luther said, “The old evil Foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might are his dread arms in fight…” (The Lutheran Hymnal [TLH]- 262).

Oblivious to the consequences in time or for eternity, those under the sway of the evil one feed his ego. However, alert Christians, recognize the roaring of the devil as we witness societal destruction today.

Beside the roaring lion, there is a deceptively angelic side of the devil. The apostle Paul was speaking of false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into “apostles of Christ,”  to the harm of the Corinthian Christians, but what he said of the devil’s attempt on the Church can also apply to its activity within today’s society. As he described the mentor of the false prophets, he continued, “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).

The world as such, already subject to the devils roaring and roaming, is not the target of satanic subtlety, deceit, and guile. Satanic guile is a distinct danger to Christians and to the Church. First, he repeats his deceit of Eden. “Has God really said?”  Today many within Christianity have apparently forgotten what God said as they excuse aspects of immorality practiced today, e.g. abortion, homosexual practice, same sex hookups they call marriage.  Further, when Satan gets the ear of his target, he holds a carrot before the enamored listener and contradicts the Lord God. The devil promises what he cannot give. Remember what he told Eve. He tried this on the Lord as recorded in Matthew 4. When the Lord Jesus responded to temptation by saying “It is written,” the devil misquoted and twisted Scripture. He failed with Christ, but he has not given up trying to deceive God’s people.

The devil comes as an angel of light. Within the visible church, deceivers carry Bibles. The Lord warns us. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Again, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). If they do not claim to be Christ, false prophets will claim to speak in the name of Christ. They are recognizable because they do not warn the flock against the deceit of Satan; they do not name sin as sin; they preach another way to salvation than through faith in Christ alone. They fall under the indictment of the Lord. “Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ “Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord” (Jeremiah 23: 31-32). No one should sit at the feet of any pastor and, because he is a pastor, just believe what he says. The Bereans who heard Paul and Silas “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness…” But they, “Searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” ( Acts 17:11).

Every word spoken by men in the name of the Lord is to be compared to and validated by Scripture itself. Every pastor, faithful to the Word of God, invites his hearers to search the Scriptures for their own edification and growth in faith, and to confirm that what they have heard is truth. Such faithfulness of pastor and hearer infuriates the devil.

Sadly, however, much of Christendom has distorted the Biblical message. All who see Scripture as just another book of religion thereby deny divine inspiration of Scripture. A faux Christianity, buying Satan’s lies, accommodates itself to social, political, philosophical, and secular agendas. When divine inspiration is denied, the message of the Gospel unto salvation is compromised.

The Christian confession is all about the Word of God—that Word which in substance, recorded in the  Old and New Testaments, is not only about Christ but is Christ (John 1:1). The message of Scripture is that the sinner, indicted by the Law of God, is saved through the sacrificial, substitutionary, atonement of the Savior. His finished work, from birth to ascension, sealed by His resurrection from the dead, is the assurance that the sinner who casts himself at the mercy of God in penitent sorrow is saved—by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, alone! The devil hates this message, because it robs him of his prey. Knowing he cannot overcome the message, he tries a ploy to entrap those who believe the Bible and share its message.

The devil knows what is right and wrong. He knows the commission the Lord gave to the Church to preach the Gospel—indeed, the whole Word of God. He knows that children of God are called and empowered to live sanctified lives to the glory of God.  Satan has no care about the welfare of society beyond destroying it and, with it, blood-bought souls To accomplish his end, he feigns concern by playing on the legitimate societal concerns of the faithful. One of his ploys is to turn the attention and concentration of individual, well-meaning Christians, and the Church, toward lamenting and attacking the evil and away from proclaiming the whole counsel of God in the divine Word. He wants to change the focus of the Church and individual Christ-believers from sharing the way to salvation through faith in Christ, to the idea of saving society. He knows he cannot overpower the Gospel, so he seeks to silence its voice while making Christians feel good about doing something. So he says to Christians who recognize the sins rampant in society, “Spend time, effort, and emotion on addressing what evils concern you in society. Further, since Christians have similar societal concerns, why not get together to address the evils in society, and agree to disagree on Bible doctrine?” His purpose is to change the focus from Jesus, from heaven, from the  person of the Triune God, from the redemptive act of God the Father in Christ, from the merciful, providential care of the Lord.  He beguiles well-meaning Christians to change the focus from eternity to the earth.

The purpose of this writer over the years has been to look, in the light of Scripture, at the Church in the world with its manifold blessings, its mission, its confession, its divine commission, as well as the dangers it faces. At the same time, because we are not unconcerned about societal decline, we have also  addressed these concerns in light of Scripture, since they impact, not only the societal life of all, but the life and ministry of the Church, and the eternal welfare of souls. We have tried to address “both-and,” while keeping our focus where it is supposed to be!

This has been the approach, because “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).  We will not be dissuaded from our purpose! In his last epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

But herein lies the challenge. As the world, including our society is crumbling before our eyes and our nation day by day slides deeper into ungodliness, many citizens, including Christians, are becoming emotionally spent.   But  if Satan misleads us into concentrating on trying to save society, he has succeeded in His misdirection. As Christians deeply and rightly concerned about evils in society–abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, socialism, communism, corruption—we, nevertheless, are being misled by Satan if we  lose our focus and do not concentrate on the issue of sin and its eternal consequence, and if we do not keep the Gospel and eternity in the forefront. The Gospel then becomes an “Oh, yes, and also” add-on to preaching, conversation, and life, rather than the substance of our message and our attention. If that happens, the devil wins, but souls in need of comfort lose. The devil’s misdirection ploy has worked.

To reiterate,  the Church is not on earth to save society. The apostle Paul lived in the Roman world, hardly friendly to the  whole counsel of God which Paul preached. He preached it—Law and Gospel, sin and grace. He called a spade a spade, yet had in his heart, not the Roman civilization, but the eternal welfare of those to whom he spoke. Except for Christ Himself, there was no greater messenger of the Gospel than he. His epistles glow with the brightness of the Gospel in a world of darkness.

As we traverse this world as strangers, we will pray for balance. We will address the sins that invite divine wrath upon the nation, praying that people will return to the Lord. But we will keep in mind that, while we are concerned about the evils and their impact on a nation, the primary purpose of our mission and preaching is fulfilled when we preach, “Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus,” to the salvation of souls. When all is said and done, only preaching that focuses attention on heaven and eternity creates also residual benefit to a nation through the sanctified lives of all who look to Christ. Only when the Church speaks truth does it serve God, save souls, and benefit the nation.

As we keep focus on Jesus, believe in the promise of eternal life, and confidently look ahead, we will thwart the devil. Peter exhorts us, “Resist him [the devil], steadfast in the faith…” (1 Peter 5:9), and we close with the confidence of Luther as we believe with him, “The Kingdom ours remaineth” (TLH – 262).

Do not be misdirected by the devil in life or witness. Keep focus. For “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). And what is the will of God? It is the work and will of God that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation.

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The Lord is in Charge. . .Are We Listening?

Some believe we are living in the best of times. Others believe we are living in the worst of times. It is a matter of perspective. What we do know for a fact—and even here there will be disagreement—is that the life of all people—bar none—changed, when sin came into the world. The disagreement exists between those who believe that God is, and that the God Who was, is, and ever shall be, is the Creator Who created all things in a state of absolute perfection. Those who disagree reject the Scriptures, the reality of  God, and certainly the Creator God. There is no God to whom they feel accountable. They are what they detest—slaves—slaves to sin.

Another reality is that sin has corrupted mankind and all creation so that there is no distinction between the best of times and the worst of times. With the coming of sin  into the world came slavery to sin and to the devil. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin, is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). “Whoever” are those whose thoughts, feelings, and deeds of  heart and mind are contrary to the will of God. In other words, they live in sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” The apostle Paul did not hesitate to call himself “chief of sinners.” Including himself, he said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Then Paul says, “For when you were slaves to sin, you weren’t free to serve righteousness as your master”  (Romans 6:20-AAT). Were slaves to sin?  Since all  people in the flesh sin, what does Paul mean?

Since the fall, the unregenerate, in bondage to Satan, feel free to sin because they have no respect for Christ Jesus, Who bore the sins of the world in His own body, and broke the chains of sin, death, and the devil, which held mankind captive. As they love sin to which they are slaves, they reject the means through which the Holy Spirit changes the heart. On the other hand, they who are baptized into Christ, hear the Gospel, and believe in Christ and His atonement are through faith reconciled unto God the Father. Alive in Christ, they are dead to sin. Sin is no longer the compelling force, or the pleasure of their life. They have been delivered from slavery to sin, which is death and are now slaves to Christ whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Thus Paul says, “You once were slaves of sin.” Christ-believers rejoice to live for Christ, abiding in the truth which makes them free (John 8:32). They hate sin with the same passion the rejecters of Christ and the slaves to sin love sin.

Believers in Christ still have the flesh about them, which is no excuse for sin as in, “Well, you know I still have my flesh.” No! Unlike the ungodly who have rejected Christ and love the world, it is the Christ-believers’ new status in Christ that brings them to grief and shame when they sin. “Father, I have sinned.” But we have the promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John1:9). Daily, the penitent will confess his sins in the quiet of his heart and mind and join with fellow believers as we do in worship: “Lord, have mercy on me, for I have sinned against You in thought, in word, and in deed. I have offended You, Heavenly Father. For Jesus’ sake forgive me my sins. By the power of Your Spirit, create in me a new heart, and help me to resist every temptation.”

Nothing which is dominant in the world today—hatred, greed, disobedience, pride, etc.–occurred before sin. With sin came sickness, misery, sorrow,  every discomfort of body or mind, and every kind of evil, perpetuated day after day. The ultimate scourge of mankind is death. Physical death for all; eternal death to those who are slaves to sin.

Yet, it is not the will of God that any should perish but that all should repent and be saved. Our Lord in His patience calls all through His holy, inspired Word. To that end He has preserved His Word among us and has assigned to His Church the authority and responsibility to preach repentance and remission of sins. They who take this call faithfully will preach the Law of God which breaks hard hearts, and the blessed Gospel of redemption through the Lord Jesus that heals broken hearts and restores life.   

The  deterioration in the churches today is troubling to faithful Christ-believers. Christianity in practice has become more deed oriented[DF1]  than creed oriented, more socially inclined than spiritually, more political than theological. Here we might ask questions of ourselves. Are we looking after our own spiritual life and that of our family? Is our Church preaching God’s Word faithfully? Are we taking seriously our responsibility to preach Law and Gospel? Are we willing to confess our sins before the Lord, and to our neighbor whom we have hurt? Do we immerse ourselves in the Gospel which is the source of comfort and renewal of our spirit and our hope? Are we living as lights in the world, or keeping our light hidden under a bushel?

Civil discourse in society and in the political world is passing away. There is no new sin under the sun, but society has become bolder in its exercise of sin. What used to be done in secret is now promoted and defended in the highest offices of government. Morally, we have become Sodom. Interactive relationships among different ethnicities and cultures in this country and in the world are strained. Our constitutional republic is being severely threatened by those who seek to remake the nation. The question is being asked, “What has happened to our country?” People who dare to declare the Word of God concerning faith and morals, as well as those who seek to exercise their Christian faith in the public market, are being intimidated and canceled.

The church that does not preach the whole counsel of God, or professing Christians who do not let the light of Christ shine in their lives, contribute to the social, political, and moral deterioration we are witnessing. One of the factors contributing to social and moral collapse is the fear and unwillingness of the church to address sin. Where the Law of God is not preached clearly and faithfully, the Gospel message of forgiveness in Christ, and the power to sanctified living, finds no room in the human heart. Consequently, the message of the church has become “another gospel,” a perversion against which the apostle spoke (Galatians 1). The consequence of another gospel is that souls are lost eternally. That is the greater and greatest tragedy!

As Christians and citizens express their concerns, the well-intended response frequently is, “The Lord is in charge.” Of that, there is no doubt. The omniscient, almighty, and merciful God hears and knows what is happening. He is acting every day to guard and keep His children through whatever trials, tests and afflictions must be borne. Yes, the Lord is in charge. Just because He is in control, He could come in judgment today! In the meantime, He is calling people both in the church and in the nation to repentance. Storms, droughts, plagues, pandemics, and the like, are a call to repentance that support His divine Word and warning. More than the welfare of a nation is at stake!  The question is, “Who is listening?”

The believer’s focus is on heaven and eternal life with the Lord, Who is even now preparing our place in heaven (John 14). We pray for the Church that, as the case may be, it remains steadfast in its doctrine and faith, and thus that it serves to the glory of God and the welfare of sinners for whom Jesus suffered, died and rose again, or that where it has departed from the truth, it will return. Believers in Christ pray and wait with earnest expectation for the promised deliverance to heaven where His own, delivered from this vale of tears, shall be with Him forever. In the meantime, while we are here, we pray for the country that is our home until the Lord calls us to heaven—O blessed relief! Thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The whole Old Testament, which shows how the Lord God shepherded His people, is instructive, is a warning, and is comforting. The Lord is in charge. But who is listening to His call to repentance from the path of sin?

The world will go its own way. If slaves to sin call on anything higher than themselves, they call on idols who neither hear, nor see, nor understand. Therefore, we do not expect the world, which does not know the Lord, to listen. The responsibility falls heavily on Christ-believers, and all who call themselves by the name of Christ. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).  It is for the children of God to let their faith to be heard and seen in word and deed. It behooves us who are waiting for heaven to speak the truth to the world—both Law and Gospel–with the confidence that God’s Word will not return to Him empty handed (Isaiah 55:11). Do you care about this nation while you wait for the heavenly? Then live your faith. The Lord blesses a nation for the sake of His children. Are we listening to Him, and sharing Him?

All who listen to the Lord will repent of their sins, trust in the Lord Jesus, and pray for strength to walk in His ways. They will love the Lord God above all things and despise  evil. They will speak the truth and walk in it. Their words and lives will be a witness to the neighbor that they have seen Christ through faith, and invite others to forsake the world, and identify in faith and life with the Savior. They will pray for just and honest authority, that truth and justice might prevail, and that under such authority the Word may go forth to the edifying of many souls unto eternal salvation.

The Lord is in charge. Let those who know the Lord, say, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10). They who hear, reap blessing for themselves from the Lord and are a blessing to the nation. 

What the Lord wills in response to our prayer will be to our benefit in the midst of a godless world. In the midst of a chaotic world, the Lord is in charge. Listen to Him as He says: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take 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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

He is calling. Listen to Him Who said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Listen to Him Who for Jesus’ sake assures His children who are waiting for the heavenward call in the midst of a hell-bent world, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15).


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Education–Where and to What End?

In Christianity and Liberalism, authored by J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), and published in 1923, the author laments the decline of Christian orthodoxy in the early 1900s. This is history, which is being repeated in the early 21st century, in part because of a refusal to appreciate, and therefore to learn from history.

With respect to our point, whether one thinks the present deterioration in the world and in our country is because we have departed from the pure and certain Word of God, or that the influence of the world is responsible for the church’s departure from the Word of God, is immaterial (We hold to the former). The decline of Christian orthodoxy that  concerned Machen, a Presbyterian, as well as our Lutheran fathers, is still true. The case can be made that it has escalated.  

Decline in Christian orthodoxy, manifested by a departure from the Word, and denial of the Holy God, has a deleterious effect on society. The consequence is evident today in our fractured society. As the world ages, the biblical reality is confirmed–because of sin, the world will end in God’s time. That certainty was sealed already in Eden.

Yet, already in Eden the gracious and merciful God elected to save fallen man from judgment. He promised the Savior from sin. In the fullness of God’s plan, the Father  sent the Savior Who bore the sins of the world in His own body. Jesus suffered and died to satisfy the debt we owed. Jesus paid our debt, and gave us the receipt, “Paid in full.” God the Father promised that all who in faith accept the receipt shall be saved. That was and is the message of the Gospel. It was the message of the apostles of the Lord, who in their day suffered pain and loss because they dared to faithfully proclaim Christ crucified, and risen again.

Orthodox Christianity is many faceted. It begins with holding forth the divinely inspired Word of God, through which we are made wise unto eternal salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus, Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit is True God—the Triune God. From the Holy Scripture we are brought to a knowledge of the Triune God—the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier–without Whom nothing came into existence, and apart from Whom there is no salvation, only a fearful judgment to hell “for there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the seal of the Savior’s victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. The Lord does not gather His children by strong-arm methods or intimidation. He gathers them through the still-small voice of the Gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The vehicle of this message is the Means of Grace—the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. The Gospel call goes out to all. Through the ages, many are called but few chosen (Matthew 22:14). The Gospel achieves its goal in all who by the Spirit respond, saying, “I believe.”  On the other hand, Satan has ceaselessly worked to undermine the message, and thereby destroy souls. If satisfying reason were our point, we would have to conclude it makes no sense that the majority cast their lot with Satan, the loser.

Faithful Christian parenting begins from the womb to educate or indoctrinate children into a way of life. Caring parents teach their children the love of God. They teach them by word and example to discern the ways of the Lord. If you want a child rearing manual read the book of Proverbs. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Paul wrote to Timothy, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Indoctrination itself is not wrong. The question is, what kind of indoctrination?

The world also understands the benefit of early indoctrination—however, for its purpose, and in contradiction to the wisdom of God. Godless indoctrination (a distortion of a true education) contradicts the wisdom of God and bends hearts and minds toward godless philosophy. It poisons the souls of young people who are constantly subjected to anti-Christian philosophies, manners, and lifestyles, of the world. Society and its godless philosophy and lifestyles will pass away; hell for those who imbibe the philosophy of the world and cast their lot with the loser is forever!

While training the young in the truths of God and His Word while IN this world, true Christian education also warns them about living FOR this passing, transitory world.  Because godless philosophies undermine and contradict the Lord God and His will–God’s truth of sin and grace–essential to understanding the way of eternal salvation as well as God-pleasing life in society—Christian parents dare not overlook the many theories and lifestyles now promoted in the name of  “education”. For example:

“According to the Zinn Education Project, a pledge has been signed by more than 5,000 educators in all 50 states…The ‘Pledge to Teach the Truth,’ identifies left-wing methods of analysis like critical race theory as ‘the truth,’ and decrees that the signees—all of whom are educators—refuse to be ‘bullied’.”

This pledge, addressed “To State legislators” and signed, includes, among other things: “We, the undersigned educators, refuse to lie to young people about U.S. history and current events—regardless of the law.”

Among comments in support of this practice one teacher wrote: “How can we teach future generations to disrupt systems if we are not willing to speak the truth about the systems?” (Underlining ours).  (Source: WorldNetDaily, online, July 5, 2021; Article from The Western Journal).

(Note: Not all  teachers are on board; however, the National Education Association (NEA), more than two million teachers strong, voted during its annual assembly to support teaching critical race theory (whiteness is racist) in K-12 schools. Many school districts in the country are on board with this social indoctrination.)

Education includes imparting knowledge, instruction in “reading, writing, and arithmetic”. Education in the full sense includes the entire physical, intellectual, moral or spiritual development of a child. Such education begins at home, but only an educational system that is built upon Holy Scripture can “educate the whole person.” Education in the public system cannot do that. In fact the public system increasingly undermines the moral and spiritual aspect of education. Note the above quotes!

Concerning education, in 1921, Machen said, The “enormous benefit” of public education, “is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education to those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times. But when it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny” (p.14). In 2021, are we there yet?

More from Machen: “Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the conviction of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist” (p.14).

Another. (Remember, this is 1921, 100 years ago.) “When one considers what the public schools of America in many places already are—their materialism, their discouragement of any sustained intellectual effort, their encouragement of the dangerous pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology—one can only be appalled by the thought of a commonwealth in which there is no escape from such a soul-killing system” (p.13). Machen was not a prophet. But was he wrong?

To what he spoke, add today the critical race theory, the bending of young minds to accept immoral lifestyle, homosexuality, transgenderism, denial of the male/female reality as God created man and woman etc.,etc.

Education today, under government control, has become a social indoctrination clinic as well as promoter of it. Instruction in the real sense is secondary. The educational system is co-opting parental responsibility. It has an agenda that affects society negatively. Further it has a dangerously negative impact on the spiritual—on faith, and upon souls whose eternal salvation depends on hearing and believing divine truth!   

As Machen was, we will be accused of hypocrisy, of hatred, of being pharisees, and of intolerance. Nevertheless, Christians who profess to believe the Scriptures and glorify the Lord must speak out—yes, in love and without rancor, but we must speak the truth. Machen again, “Few desires on the part of religious teachers have been more harmfully exaggerated than the desire to ‘avoid giving offence.’ Only too often that desire has come perilously near dishonesty” (p.17). Of the philosophy of the world as well of  an apostate church that promotes the idea that all creeds are true and as good as the other in spite of their departure from the divine Word, Machen said, “If all creeds are equally true, then since they are contradictory to each other they are equally false, or at least equally uncertain” (p.19).

God’s Word is truth! Jesus said to His Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17: 17). Error is only overcome by Truth. We are unfaithful to our Lord, unfaithful to the Word, unworthy of our calling, unloving of our neighbor, if we do not speak the truth!

Where to begin and to whom better to speak truth than to our children with whom, God willing, the future of the nation lies, and more importantly whose eternal salvation is determined by what, and in whom, they believe. As parents, there is no need to indoctrinate children in the ways of the world. It is in the air they breathe. They are surrounded by it in schools and social media. On the other hand, the wisdom of God both as to the sanctified life on earth which serves society, and as “the power of God unto salvation” is found only in the Holy Scriptures. There is no greater love than that which is of God, Who for Jesus’ sake desires the salvation of all people. Therefore, as Scripture speaks, we to whom it is given must speak truth concerning man’s sin and the solution to the sin problem in time, and for eternity. Christian parents who take responsibility for the children God has given them begin the child’s instruction in the cradle, will also care about the education of their child and who is doing it.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). There is no better education than that, and it is not in the public system. So then, to whom will Christian parents feel comfortable entrusting the education of their children, who by Holy Baptism are God’s children? To whom will Christian parents who are responsible for their children–and God’s—feel comfortable entrusting the training of their child for life—here, and in eternity?    

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THE DEVIL AS A ROARING LION…RESIST HIM, STEADFAST IN THE FAITH”—1 Peter 5:8-9

As we see the inarguable moral and social  decline of America, we appreciate that there are still some who are fighting the fight. A United States Senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, said, “I look around the country and I see a move over the years away from what used to be a defining American trait, which is toleration. Our founding fathers talked about the toleration for the views of others, especially for different religious creeds. But the Left is no longer content with toleration, by any means. They’re really not even content with acceptance. They want to demand celebration [of] their views about gender and race. They want to force them on the entire country.”

Toleration, which Cotton described as a “defining American trait,” is an important and necessary element in our national right to speak, live our life, and engage in worship. In exercise of this American trait, at least to this point, Christian’s still have the right to speak, to preach the Law of God, including calling sin, sin, and to preach the Gospel. At the same time, there is no question that in our civil life as citizens in a corrupt world, we as Christians, though we speak out against them for conscience reasons, must begrudgingly tolerate some views in society that are abhorrent to conscience.

But the Senator touches an important point. Once those who push for toleration of their philosophy and lifestyle have gained it, they insist on acceptance of the same, and finally supremacy, or as he said, “They want to force them on the entire country.” In this scenario, those who push and speak for toleration are the most intolerant when confronted or challenged by others who disagree with them. This is the upside-down world in which we live.

What Senator Cotton said relative to America has application also to the churches, many of which have strayed from the sure, certain, binding Word of God, and from practices in line with the inspired Word. There is no condition under which error or departure from the Word of God is good for the soul. Therefore Scripture warns us and tells us to be watchful. It tells us to turn away from false teachers–avoid them–because they deceive the hearts and minds of those who want and need the truth of God.

Since Satan knows he will be exposed by the clear Word of God, he seldom introduces error as a broadside. Instead he works patiently, deceitfully. He knows “error loves ambiguity.” He conditions his victims to accept his way. First he asks for toleration, then acceptance, and finally supremacy. The devil’s methods are found already in Scripture; he plied them during the Reformation. Bente’s Introduction to the Book of Concord addresses Melanchthon’s dissimulation/ambiguity in the altered Augsburg Confession. 

The following quotes also expose the wiles of Satan. These are found in The Conservative Reformation and its Theology, written by Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-1863). This classic, published in 1871, speaks with a boldness seldom heard in our day. Krauth is described as “one of the giants of the church who helped stem the tide of radical anti-confessional theology in the Lutheran Church in the last half of the 19th century.”  It is to the shame of the church of which he was part (now ELCA), a church with which he could not identify in the 21st century, would he come back.

Krauth asked the question immediately below. It is a question to which we pray that all who claim to cherish the Reformation will both in word and practice give the correct answer!     

“Must Lutheranism be shorn of its glory to adapt it to our times or our land?” ( p. 208).

“Yet the establishment of the work of the Reformation has richly repaid Europe for all it endured. The earthquake has gone, the streams of desolation have been chilled, and the nations make a jubilee over the glorious anniversary of that grand movement which, by the depravity of men, was made the occasion of so much disturbance and misery. 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 inwoven 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.” (pp. 20-21).

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“But the practical result of this principle is one on which there is no need of speculating; it works in one unvarying way. When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages of its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: You need not be afraid of us; we are few, and weak; only let us alone; we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine ; of course  shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions. Indulged in this for a time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are two balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy.”  (pp. 195-196).

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“Melanchthon fell into a hallucination by which his own peace of mind was wrecked, his Christian consistency seriously compromised, the spirit of partisanship developed, the Church distracted and well nigh lost. This was the hallucination that peace could be restored by ambiguous formulas, accepted indeed by both parties, but understood in different senses. It is a plan which has often been tried and which never succeeds, where men are in earnest. It not only does not bind men more closely, but leaves them more widely alienated, more full of bitter mistrust. Men must be honest in their difference, if they are ever to be honest in their agreement.

“Connected closely with Melanchthon’s vacillations, various Controversies rose among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession, which may be stated as generically the conflict between the Philippists, or adherents of Melanchthon, and the more consistent Lutherans. The great name of Melanchthon was used to shield much which there is no reason to believe he would have approved. Much that he wrote could be taken in two senses. The Lutheran-Philippists, who took the more charitable view, put the best construction on them, and were reluctant to abandon one to whom the Church owed so much, and whom Luther had loved so dearly. The Reformed put upon Melanchthon’s words the construction most favorable to themselves. The Crypto-Calvinists made them their covert. The enemies of the Reformation appealed to them as proof that the first principles and doctrines of the Reformers had been abandoned.” (pp. 290-291).

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“It is true that Zwingli signed the Articles of the Marburg Colloquy (1529), which were prepared by Luther, the fourth of which treats of Original Sin, but which shows, in common with the others, that Luther designed to make the way to harmony of view as easy as could be consistent with principle. In the Confession which Zwingli prepared to be presented to Charles V. at the Diet of Worms, he says: “Whether we will, or will not, we are forced to admit that original sin, as it is in the sons of Adam, is not properly sin, as has just been explained. For it is not a deed contrary to the law. It is, therefore, properly a disease and a condition.” ” Infants have not guilt, but have the punishment and penalty of guilt, to wit, a condition of servitude, and the state of convicts. If, therefore, it is right to call it guilt, because it bears the inflictions of guilt, I do not object to the term.” That is he did not object to the term, provided it was clearly understood that the term meant nothing. In his book on Baptism, Zwingli says: ” There is nothing in the children of believers, even before Baptism, which can properly be called sin.” (p. 448).

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Finally, the Formula of Concord, which in 1577 settled the controversy within the Lutheran Church, unequivocally concluded: “Wherefore, in the presence of Almighty God, and of Christ’s whole Church, both of the living, and of the generations which shall follow us, it has been our purpose to testify, that of the Articles in Controversy, the Declaration we have now made, and none other, is in very deed our doctrine, faith and Confession. In this Confession, by God’s grace, we are ready with fearless hearts to appear and render an account before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ. Against this Declaration we will speak nothing, and write nothing, openly or secretly, but, the Lord helping us, will remain steadfast in it to the end. In testimony thereof, with mature deliberation, in the fear of God, and calling upon His name, we have with our own hands set our names to this declaration.”

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