Posts tagged Scripture

A Glimpse Into Unseen Spiritual Realities

The focus and purpose of Scripture is to reveal Christ, that we may

gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of [our] own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

The apostle John also explained that

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

On the way to fulfilling that purpose, however, the Scriptures occasionally give us fascinating glimpses into spiritual realities normally unseen. To be sure, the Word of God reveals also here everything we need to know for salvation, not necessarily all there is to know, or all we might want to know. For instance, we are told that God sends His angels to preserve and protect us, “to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). The angels carry us home to Jesus when we die (Luke 16:21). God gives His angels to be “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). But these realities are, for the most part, unseen.

Sunday, September 29, is the day the Church gives thanks for “St. Michael and All Angels” in the context of spiritual battle with the forces of evil going on behind the scenes. The Scriptures read this day comfort us with the promise of complete victory also in this unseen spiritual realm. The Gospel of Luke, for instance, records that when the 72 return (whom Jesus had sent out to announce His kingdom), they are full of joy at what they had seen and heard. Jesus saw even more, telling them, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed, Satan falls. He’s done for. “One little word can fell him,” Luther’s hymn sings.

In the Book of Revelation, in a passage also read on September 29, we hear that Michael, the leader of all the angels, fought against and defeated Satan and his minions. St. John writes it down:

the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…’” (Revelation 12:9-11).

Many of the details are beyond us, but this we know for sure: Satan is defeated. He cannot take us down, not unless we capitulate to him. He is a liar and murderer, the father of lies, Jesus says (John 8:44). When he tempts us we can call him out for what he is, a liar and, in the name of Jesus, send him packing. Indeed, the devil can’t stand the truth, particularly the truth that Jesus defeated him. When Satan seeks to convince us that we have done things Jesus could never forgive, we can remind him of this Word of God: by His death Jesus broke

the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and [set] free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus has thrown him down so he can no longer accuse God’s own. So the church also sings this day:

Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken
By the devil’s seething rage,
Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions,
Wins the strife from age to age,
Conquered sin and death forever,
Slams them in their steely cage.

Michael fought the heavenly battle,
Godly angels by his side,
Warred against the ancient serpent,
Foiled the beast so full of pride,
Cast him earthbound with his angels.
Now he prowls, unsatisfied.

Long on earth the battle rages,
Since the serpent’s first deceit
Twisted God’s command to Adam;
Make forbidden fruit look sweet.
Then the curse of God was spoken:
You’ll lie crushed beneath His feet.

Jesus came, this word fulfilling,
Trampled Satan, death defied,
Bore the brunt of our temptation:
On the wretched tree He died,
Yet to life was raised victorious,
By His life our life supplied.

Swift as lightning falls the tyrant
From his heavenly perch on high,
As the Word of Jesus’ victory
Floods the earth and fills the sky.
Wounded by a wound eternal,
Now his judgment has drawn nigh.

Jesus, send your angel legions
When the foe would us enslave.
Hold us fast when sin assaults us;
Come then, Lord., your people save.
Overthrow at last the dragon,
Send him to his fiery grave.  (Lutheran Service Book 521)

What comforting words! Victory is ours, in Jesus. But remember, the greatest comfort is this, as Jesus said,

do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20),

written that is, in the blood of the Lamb, the blood shed for each of you!

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President

Is 2012 the Year?

 

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

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