Posts tagged Life

There Is Only One Life

What do you think of that statement?  There is only one life.  In some ways it sounds wrong.  Is this all there is?  Is our present life on this earth the only life we get? 

Many naturalists and secularists would agree.  Our natural, physical life here and now is all we know.  You are born, you live and you die.  Hopefully you can give your life some meaning and purpose by what you do, but don’t look for anything more.  This is all you get.  There is only one life. 

What’s the matter? Have I lost my faith?  No, not at all.  But I still say, there really is only one life.  You may be thinking that I am referring to a distinction between physical life and spiritual life.  Yes, but not entirely. 

You see, there is only one life, and that is the life God gives.  When you were conceived in your mother, your life was worked by God (Psalm 139:14f).  Every breath you take is a breath God gives you.  You are alive because of God. 

Yet we still die – life ends. “Sin pays off in death,” the Scripture says (Romans 6:23).  Death contradicts God’s work of life.   It even seems to have the last word, for we all die.  No one is excepted. 

In the face of this reality, the Scripture says of Jesus Christ:

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5). 

There is one life death could not destroy.  Oh, death thought it had Him (if we can speak of death thinking) when Christ was dead and buried.  But death could not hold the one who is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26).  God’s gift of life cannot be extinguished, for Jesus lives, and lives forever. 

Now Jesus promises,

“This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). 

There is only one life – this life, the life of Jesus Christ.  Knowing Him you have His life.  Anyone who does not have Jesus has no life (1 John 5:12).

“The thief,” Jesus says, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).

So, you see, there is only one life, the life God gives, the life that is ours in Jesus.  It begins now but continues forever. 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life;  he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).

Eternal life is a present possession for the believer in Christ.  And when Christ returns, this eternal life will be revealed in the resurrection of the body. 

One more thing.  You probably already know that Jesus gives this life wherever people come together to hear His Word and to receive His body and blood.  But do you know anyone else who does not know or trust in Jesus?  Who is not close to Him?  Without Jesus, they have no life. 

You have this life.  Did you know you can give it away?  Tell them about it.  Tell them what you have.  Bring them into the worship of the Triune God where life is given.  For there is only one life.  His name is Jesus. 

Did you know that your congregation is a mission outpost?  A place where Jesus gives His life for you and for others?  You also are sent by God to bring life, to invite people you know to receive life in Jesus.  As Jesus promised,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). 

So it’s true.  There is only one life – eternal life in Jesus.

+Herbert C. Mueller
First Vice President

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?

“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

On the Side of Life

By now you have more than likely seen or heard of the study recently out in the New England Journal of Medicine seeking to show that women who have had abortions have no more psychological problems than other women who are pregnant.  This article, by Danish researchers who followed a number of women who gave birth along with a number who had abortions, will probably be used by the pro-abortion folks to say, “See, it’s no big deal.  You can have an abortion with no real consequences.  The pro-life people are lying to you.”

For another perspective on this, go to an article by Dr. Priscilla Coleman at www.LifeNews.com.  Dr. Coleman, a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Bowling Green State University, shows that not only is the Danish study biased, but she cites at least 35 recent studies that do show a definite link between abortion and increased threats to mental health.  Check it out.

But while the scientists fight it out, if you are interested, go talk with any pastor with a little experience.  More than likely he has dealt with women who have had abortions or are struggling with the question of abortion.  In reviewing my own pastoral work, without breaking the confessional seal, I can personally attest to this.  The problems are numerous and long lasting.  After all, no matter how you spin it, an abortion is the death of a defenseless human being.  No amount of cover up or ideological fulminations can change or soften that.

The scourge of abortion, however, is just one facet of our culture’s fascination with death.  “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the saying in news rooms.  Blood, death and scandal sell. What’s the death toll? We ask.  Nine people dead in Kabul from a bombing by the Taliban. (Of course, it’s too “politically incorrect” to ask what is the death toll for abortion!)   Let a famous person be shot, say a congresswoman along with a bunch of others, and the topic takes on a life of its own on the talk shows.   Will the perpetrator get the death penalty?  If so, what will that solve?

Yes, this “culture of death” (as Pope John Paul II called our society) even holds out death as a solution to problems – euthanasia, the death penalty, and especially abortion, are actions people think will take care of a problem.   But when you really think about it, no death solves anything.  It’s always ultimately a sign of a deeper issue, our estrangement from the God of Life (indeed, one big issue for a woman post-abortion is the question, “how can God love me now, after I’ve done this?”). 

Our God lays out in His Word the way of life for us.  Yet human beings in their sin choose to go their own way.  We want what we want, not what God wants.  And often what we want will come only at the expense of another.  There’s the reason we die.  There’s the reason we attempt to make death a solution.

In the midst of all this talk about death, Jesus has planted His church as a sign of life!  Life here and life forever!  We proclaim Him as the one who bled and died for us and rose again in victory over death.  If you look into the tomb of every other religious leader, you will find nothing but bones and dust.  Looking into the tomb of Jesus, they found nothing but some grave clothes.  There was no body there, because Jesus lives!

“‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’” the angels asked the women.   “‘Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.’ And they remembered his words…” (Luke 24:5-8).    

What the world sees as final, God has turned inside out.  What our culture considers the end, in the hands of Jesus, becomes a new beginning.  It is counter to everything we normally expect.  When all is said and done, the only thing we have to give to God is our death.  But in the cross of Jesus, God Himself received our death, and in the resurrection of Jesus, God Himself reverses the rule of death.

Now when we are baptized, the Spirit of God unites us with Jesus in His death and resurrection. That’s why, when you confess your sins, even the sin of abortion, you are bringing to God your death, but in the absolution, in the forgiveness of sins by His blood, Jesus gives you new life in place of your death.  

Christ has destroyed death, our destroyer.  “This is the will of my Father,” Jesus said, “that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).  The whole world is headed for death, but Jesus promises life and the resurrection of our bodies.  It is as if Jesus were to say, “Here, give me your death because in return I give you my life. Let me have even THAT sin,” says Jesus to the person wondering how God can love her, “for I have already taken it to my cross.”

When you receive the body and blood of Jesus in His Supper, this is also the sure sign of this resurrection life Jesus gives, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).  It takes faith to see it, but it’s there!  Jesus promised!

Because He lives, I pray our churches can be sure signs of life in the midst of death, signs of the resurrection, signs of the mercy of Christ, signs of eternal hope for all.  I pray that we speak loudly for life.  I pray we are the arms of Christ’s love and care for people so desperate they are considering something as terrible as abortion.  Much more can be said here, but baptized into Christ we are called to do everything possible to be sign posts for life – pointing always to the life that God gives in Jesus.

Jesus lives now, calling each of us to follow Him, and to believe that, in Him, despite all the evidence of death, we shall live also!  By that life, He sends us into a world of death, to be On the Side of Life!

 

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President

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