Archive for February 2011
“What do you expect?” The question can mean many things. When people complain how another person has treated them, we might mumble, “What do you expect? He’s always been that way!” When we already have a poor opinion of someone and that person fails us once again, “What do you expect!” is our cry of exasperation.
Asked in a cynical way, “What do you expect?” becomes quite a negative put-down. But that’s NOT how we’re asking the question here. What do you expect… of God? What do you look for when you teach or read His Word? What will God do? What should we expect?
Well, let’s look at His promises. What has He said He will do? Here’s a familiar one: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Make no mistake about it, God’s Word is going to do what God wants it to do. But it will be on God’s timetable, not ours.
Here’s another: “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved… For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:8,9,13)
Everyone. This also means you! And everyone who confesses Christ as a result of your witness to Christ.
Now for one that even the disciples found hard to believe. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53). Where do you expect to find that flesh and blood today? Where does Jesus give life today?
He promised: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven… For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18,20) And again, “Take eat, this is my body… this is my blood of the new testament, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26,28) And once more, the Bible promises, “We were buried therefore with Christ by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4).
Here it is! When we bring one another the word of Christ’s forgiveness, it is Christ Himself speaking that word! When we were baptized, God united us with Christ. When we receive Christ’s body and blood, He forgives, renews, restores, gives life!
Check out this promise: “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides forever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25).
What abides forever is the Word, which includes the whole thing that God does in Jesus Christ to save you, the whole thing that now comes to you in this Word.
What are you expecting God’s Word to do through your witness for Christ? “Oh, pastor, we’ve tried that before…” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that… Could it be that our witness is weak because we doubt that God is really going to do anything anyway? Or because we become discouraged when God does not work on our time table?
God does have His own time table, as we say in the Augsburg Confession, “through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, when and where he pleases.” (Tappert, p. 31). But what God calls US to do is simply to speak His Word of Law and Promise fully expecting God to back it up and bring results on His time table. So do look for results from your witness! Do look for the fruits. Do expect God to be faithful to His promises! Do spread the seed of His Word liberally (i.e., all over the place!), for the Word of God will do what God wants it to do.
+ Herbert Mueller
Surfing the cable channels somewhere, I came across a strange prediction. (Maybe you’ve heard this, maybe not.) It seems that there are those who interpret writings of the great physicist, Sir Isaac Newton, to predict that the world will somehow come to an end in 2012.
I had never heard this before, but it reminded me of the group that was predicting the end of the world in 1988. When that didn’t happen, they came back with a tract listing “89 Reasons Christ Will Return in 1989.” Of course, that didn’t happen either.
But will the world come to an end in 2012? Only God knows – and it could be sooner, too – like tomorrow, or 2020, or 2250, or whenever. We believers are called to be ready at any time and, in the meantime, we are called to proclaim the Word of God.
In fact, whatever the situation we face, our primary calling is to bring the saving Word of God to people. Even if the world is about to end, what people need most is God’s Word of Law and Gospel. There is no other way of salvation.
These words are often read at ordinations and installations: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Note that the charge is given “in view of” Christ’s appearing!
And this passage comes directly after Paul had written to Timothy: “From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus…” (2 Timothy 3:15). Only the Word of God can prepare us for the end, whenever it may be. Only the Word of God brings salvation in Christ Jesus.
So… even if they are right about Isaac Newton, preach the Word! Whether people are ready to hear it or not, we have one thing to give: salvation in Christ through His Word. But this thought applies in all kinds of other situations as well.
What if the Middle East explodes in war because of the unrest in Egypt and other countries? Preach the Word of God’s Law and Gospel! What if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq go on and on? Preach the Word… And if there is some other great calamity? In view of Christ’s appearing and His kingdom, you know the answer.
What about our congregations? We are engaged in witness, mercy and life together, day in and day out, week in and week out, no matter what. We bear witness to Christ, reach out with His mercy and compassion, and seek to live together in peace, moved by the Word that points to Christ. That’s why we are called to preach, teach, study, speak, and tell the Word of God, in season and out.
God makes disciples when the church baptizes people into the triune name and teaches them to hold onto all that Christ has commanded. Thereby God’s Spirit brings us into the worship of the Holy Trinity, the only worship that gives life. Who would draw us away from this task? Only the devil, the world and our flesh, because the devil knows the power for salvation is in the Word of God.
So… whatever happens in 2011, 2012 or whenever, we are called to “preach the Word…” For in the Word of God there is life. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). His promise: “Your sin is forgiven you, go in peace.” His Word: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And His Word again: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:18-19).
We could go on and on with the Scriptures. The Word simply brings life. Whatever is going to happen in the world can only bring death. But in the Word of Jesus there is life. May God richly bless you as you bring that Word of Life, in season and out, because some will hear – and live!
+ Herbert Mueller