Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 13, Number 2
In this Issue:
The 2006 LMS Annual Conference and Convention
St. Matthew Lutheran Church -- Indianapolis, IN
The theme for our annual gathering this year is - The Great Commission for Today.
At our Saturday Conference, this theme will be developed through presentations given by serveral of our pastors. The Conference will begin at 9 a.m., June 10 and continue throughout the day.
All delegates and guests are invitied to attend Sunday School and Divine Worship on Sunday morning, June 11. Following a noon meal, the Annual Convention of the LMS will convene.
Arrangements have been made for special rates for rooms. If you would like to take advantage of these rates, contact Pastor Spears either by email - email@example.com, or by phone (317) 637-8870.
A reminder to pastors and applicants to the LMS, interviews are scheduled for Friday, June 9. If you should desire an interview and have not as yet made arrangements for it, contact Pastor Spears. The Ministerial will try to get together at a time yet to be determined in the late afternoon.
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A Devotional on Matthew 28:18-20
by N. J. Laache - translated from the Norwegian by Peter O. Stromme
published in America first by Lutheran Publishing House, Decorah, IA
Lord, teach us to know thy power and glory.
Matthew 28, I8-20. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Christ is almighty God from everlasting; here, however, he speaks of his power as our high priest, prophet, and king. The whole world has been given him to save, and he has redeemed it through his death; whereafter the Father gave him a place at his right hand, and "there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom." (Daniel 7:14). All things are at his disposal in his work of extending the church by means of the word and sacraments; he can make use of all angels and spirits in heaven, and of all men and powers on earth. This we should bear in mind, in order that our faith may be strengthened. I wonder, if we have given due consideration to this glorious truth: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." "All power," and all wisdom, and love, and righteousness, are in the service of the Christian church; and what, then, shall do it any injury? He who has dominion over all things for the benefit of the church is with his own alway, Unceasingly, every hour, unto the end of the world. Therefore he is able to command his disciples to go and make all the world subject to him. 1) They are to make all people his disciples; Christianize all nations. Truly, a royal command; and it is obeyed! The whole mission work of the church rests on this command of the Lord. Satan has all the time furiously opposed it, - by means of persecutions, by the secularization of the church, and by all manner of sects, which try to prevent the conversion of the nations to the Christian faith. But his efforts are vain; for no power can nullify the command of Christ: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." 2) "Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." He can speak in the name of the holy Trinity, and has control of the whole power and revelation of God in word and deed. To be baptized into the name of the Father is to be united with the Father of Jesus as his child. Baptism into the name of the Son is to be received into his kingdom, and to have part in his work of redemption. To be baptized into the name of the Holy Ghost is to receive the Spirit into the heart, and become his habitation. "Baptize them," and "teach them;" by these two means the kingdom of Christ is extended. Teach them to "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Have not the apostles done this? We need have no doubt whatever that they have imparted to the church "all utterance and all knowledge;" and when we teach that which they taught, we need not hesitate to declare that it is the full and complete doctrine of Jesus Christ. But neither must we forget to "observe" all these things. Even among the Christianized nations the true disciples are apt to be few. The wheat is there; but the tares are there in still greater abundance. There are many who confess Christ, but few who follow after him. Let this grieve us; and let us fulfill the command of Christ by taking upon our shoulders the sins of our people, and praying, as he prayed, that they may be forgiven; and let us, like Paul, Daniel, Nehemiah, Moses, and all the saints of old, feel ourselves to be one with our people.
Our text brings out with clearness that the Father and Son and Holy Ghost are three persons, but one God, as the church teaches. God has revealed himself as the triune God, because that is what he is in fact. And our faith needs just such a God. We could not do without the Father; what would, in that case, become of our adoption of sons, our right of inheritance, or of the prayer which Jesus has taught us to address to "Our Father"? In like manner we need the Son, our Savior and Lord, who is our only way to the Father. And the Spirit is equally necessary; for who but the Spirit could lead our hearts to Jesus, and teach us to cry Abba, Father? Blessed be the triune God, the God of our salvation, the God of our strength and our song! Amen.
To the great One in Three
eternal praises be,
His sovereign majesty
May we in glory see,
And to eternity
Love and adore.
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The Great Commission of Jesus Christ - Today!
by Rev. Ralph Spears
Same Message, is a deeper application due?
The Great Commission, found at the very close of Matthew's Gospel, states in terms simple and succinct:
Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Many children memorized it in Sunday school with a slightly different ending phrase. It wore a groove in the memory channels and was a regular part of the closing routine of Sunday mornings:
Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every living creature.
Funny, how those things stick with you and "replay" at appropriate times, as when hearing how St. Francis preached to birds and wild animals for instance. Or at various times in one's own experience, the routine of the memory lesson of old suddenly found a real life application in what you were doing at the time. One such time was when as a young pastor covering the streets in the sweltering heat in Cincinnati's Basin area, the words of a song on the radio caught my ear in a run down Vine Street grocery store:
Ah look at all those lonely people! (repeat)
All those lonely people,
Where do they all come from?
Where do they all belong?
What made the sound surreal in the slums of Cincinnati was accompaniment by cellos and not electric guitars backing up those haunting lyrics. It was weeks before I realized that these were the words of the new Beatles's hit Eleanor Rigby! The song went on, by the way, to sing of the ineffective sermon efforts of one Father McKenzie. But it was the refrain that made the impression, and the lonely people like many that I worked with on the street--were those "living creatures" from my memory of the Great Commission.
It also struck me that St. Francis would have had quite a time preaching to the huge river rats, who shared space with us humans and were in no particular mind to hurry away when we crossed their path in the alley or on the landing of the tenements. "Every living creature?" Well maybe for another time!
But the context of the Great Commission is very helpful because of the other words that are not as often repeated, the words that come before and after the imperative to go!
"By what authority do you do the things that you do?"
Jesus was asked this by the Pharisees and Sadducees. There was no doubt of the effectiveness of His deeds (i.e., the Pharisees, Sadducees, and their Scribes could not attack), but where did these powers come from--by what hand or authority--they wanted to know, did he do them? It was so obvious that it was by the hand of God (Nicodemus had that right!). How else could anyone do such things?
So when the niggling questions came to us--as to why we were doing these things in that place, the previous line of the Commission spoke reassuringly:
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me (as Messiah) Matt 28:18
So we were reminded who was in charge, and that any results we might celebrate were not our own, but a part of HIS work! Then comes the most comforting reminder, the very last words of St. Matthew's Gospel:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age!
We had not memorized this part back in Sunday school. These words were yet to be 'discovered'. But once understood, the whole rationale of ministry made sense and provided such a comfort of protection and purpose in the doing of it!
Other Great Commission Passages
Matthew 28 is not only place the Great Commission is stated in the Gospels. The whole thrust of our Lord's deeds are a continual "reaching out to others," especially those "lonely" ones, and indeed to all who realize that they need the help of a physician (Luke 5:31-32). Incidentally, if Jesus here appears to be indifferent to the others, who have no need of a physician, it is only because He, as Son of Man, knew that if you do not realize that you need help from the Great Physician, you put yourself beyond His reach!
There is the time that He observed that "the fields are white unto (and ready to be) harvest(ed)." It would have been only the most dense among His followers who thought that Jesus was saying that it was time for the white headed wheat to be harvested. He was talking of people. "Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the fields." "Come and I will make you 'fishers of men'" was a little more direct. At least four of them were fishermen and the obvious reference of mission to mankind is impossible to miss.
Any good internship in ministry sensitizes the student to the plight of others. This was true of the inner city and the suburbs as well. To realize and be sensitive to the needs of those we work with, we need to come out of ourselves and walk for a time in their shoes even if those we encounter are people who are quite different from ourselves and who we may not be inclined to relate to or even like.
The Apostles were continually being trained for the job Jesus knew that they would soon be doing, and at every turn, he was conscious of bringing them along with His work until they saw it as their own! Always He was prompting them, questioning them, "Where will we get bread to feed this crowd?" or "Don't shoo the children away" rather "become like them so that you might enter the kingdom."
To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to others it has been hidden. This is the meaning of the parable!
In other words, identify with the humble, the poor, the meek, the downtrodden--even the plight of the Prophet, for it will only too soon become your own plight!
"Look at them," Jesus said, "they are like sheep without a shepherd! Who will be their shepherd?" Always "have eyes to see and ears to hear" and be sensitive. See them as brothers and sisters, even that Canaanite woman who is crying after you and that untouchable Samaritan woman with the six men friends who came down to draw water near the end of a hot day. Perceive what it is that is going on with her. And, oh by the way, at the end of that day, don't seek the place of honor. See what I, the Messiah, do and you will get the point.
Jesus did not just teach them the Great Commission. He walked them through it step by step in practical application, illustrating for them and teaching them. Only once did He seem to become impatient, or was it a kindly prodding?
Have I been with you so long and still you do not know me?
But just two sentences later, Jesus tells them that as a matter of faith:
You will do the works that I do and even greater works than these will you will do because I go to the Father! (John. 14)
Perhaps the greatest undercurrent in the Gospel narratives beside the increasing pressure from the Sanhedrin, is the continual monitoring of the internship of his twelve sidekicks and the growing number who followed Him.
The Plan to Spread the Great Commission
The plan was that this package, this Gospel, was to be carried from Jerusalem to the world and to "every living creature" none too great, none too small. Jesus himself acted as the first Evangelist after the Resurrection, appearing to be everywhere at once, first, in the upper room, after meeting Mary. He walked the roads with them, teaching over and again (the Heilsgeschite) the whole history of the Salvation story "from Abraham to the Resurrection through the texts of the Psalms, and the Prophets, and the Torah. He IS the Great Commission in action - in a way known then as "The Way." He appears, encourages, upbraids, and challenges, but takes nothing away from the job they must do and the path they must follow.
So the Apostles went off as witnesses according to plan:
...to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem... (Luke 24:47)
Peter went to England, according to some traditions, Andrew, his brother, to lower Russia, James to Spain, and John, his brother, eventually to Patmos and the South. Thomas went to a portion of India, Bartholomew to Turkey. Nine of the Twelve Apostles, do not even appear in the Acts of The Apostles. They go off to a noble ministry and an ignoble death in their adopted country. Jesus' followers radiate to all of the world from that cardinal point of origin, Jerusalem.
So begins the most remarkable spread of any message in history. And it spread following the Roman network of roads in every direction "to every living creature". It could hardly have been organized in a better way for just then the West, the Roman Empire, was transformed into the Holy Roman Empire of Christ's Church, and in wave after wave, throughout Europe, Africa and Asia Minor.
The Message, called the Gospel, spread like wild fire in nearly unimaginable ways to the fabled four corners of the earth and only a small part of that story is covered in the Canonical books. Many stories of brave Apostles will probably never be told in full. Just a few are reflected in surviving legend-type fables.
But what of that great commission in the recent past?! Has the objective been met?
First, some more recent history
Here in our city, there are many congregations, large and small, with Missionary in the title, for example, Missionary Baptist and Missionary Evangelical and just plain Missionary emulating in their own way the command of the Great Commission. At least, that for the most part was their original intent. Many of these independent congregations, as they are able, still sponsor a missionary on some foreign site as part of their name's banner. This was the result of a predominant emphasis from the late 19th century that lasted well into the last century with a thrust, often more romanticized than practical, fueled by fiery rhetoric and a zeal of mission boards to find exotic places in Africa, India or South America where people had not yet heard the Gospel.
A century or so before that, the liturgical Churches of Eastern Europe were directing much of their mission effort to the young American continent to organize congregations, seminaries and colleges in the name of mission with circuit riding pastors founding congregations, which still have the word Evangelical in the title. These American Lutheran and Methodists congregations, once established, likewise organized mission boards for Foreign Service long before the above mentioned missionary churches. A classmate of mine went off to the mission field where Albert Schweitzer had first set up a mission site in a remote corner of Africa. By that time, there had begun to be not only a great duplication of services, but also a saturation of mission fields. Has the objective of "going into all the world to preach the Gospel to every living creature" been met then? Is it ever and, or, is it over?
The Great Commission of Jesus Christ in these days!
If there is anything clear today, it is that past standards, and goals, former mottos and even Scriptural interpretations are NOT clear, certainly not as understandable as they might have seemed to be in the past. And this can be a scary thing AND a very good thing at the same time.
The real strength is, as always, in the words of the Lord:
ALL AUTHORITY is HIS as much as ever - and "LO HE IS WITH US TO THE END OF THE AGE" however we decide to interpret that one!
Baptism is the mark of service to mankind, the hallmark in the element of being "Fishers of Men!" The Church of the day is instituted primarily to do that: to nurture the teaching and the ministry. All that is the substance of Mission. But then Jesus says to teach ALL that He has commanded. That is a lot and yet it is so simply stated: the command to LOVE. "Love one another!" The work of Mission begins there and becomes the form for everything that the Church does and should do.
There will always be those who feel great constraint not only to do something, but to do something different! There will always be those who act first and pray later, if at all. There were the Gnostics and the heretics who bent truth to their standards, the schweimer of Luther's day and the mega-church heresies of today. In every age, when the institution becomes more important than the Word of God and the Words of Our Lord, heresy and confusion lie at the door. THAT is true of ANY institutional church of ANY time!
I am reminded of the story told of St. Francis of Assisi from his later years when a young monk, apparently fresh from debates about the second coming of Christ, approached the venerable old monk as he hoed cabbages in the community garden. "Father Francis," asked the young man, "What would you do if the world was ending and Christ was returning this very hour?" With hardly a thought, Francis answered, "Finish hoeing this row, my son!"
"The fields are white unto harvest"- still! Laborers in the field who are doing the work, know what they are about, whether hoeing cabbages or working with men.
Along with the heresies of today, we fight complacency, lack of faith, and insensitivity in others and ourselves. We find so many who forget the all-important instructions to be humble and be the servant. We struggle to hear the clear voice of Jesus, which gives us to know the Way. That is not always so terribly comforting at first because it means that we need the discipline of following that Way. We have to work at it, in other words. But away from the trends of the world and the struggle with one's own ego ("Not my will but thine be done!"), it's not all that difficult. Yes, both the Inner-city missions and Foreign missions have been over glamorized and misunderstood. But at least the work in both areas has stood, for many, as a template of interest in their own Calling. It did for me. The Lord of the Harvest sends workers into the vineyards where they are needed most. The work is not easy, and we must check with the Boss -" the Lord of the Harvest" - at regular intervals because He has sent us.
Is the message now different?
No, but the application is. In fact, the application of this great and simple message has changed in every age. Some have never really heard, as a great preacher once said, "who have, for years, sat in our own pews." Witness one of the most often repeated parables of the various types of soil and the seed sown in them. It's the same seed!
In this day, the Great Commission of Jesus' teachings demands sincerity, strong determination and a loving spirit that reaches out to "every living creature". We don't hear of Peter and Paul retiring with a good retirement package and benefits at age 65 or 70. Oh, they may have mellowed, but they did some of their best work at those ages. We work with what we have as long as the Lord allows us, and He doesn't forget our needs!
And may we get over the numbers game that catches us up today as never before, how many numbers of people go to this group and don't go to that one, or how we really need to change the form of our Worship to attract the young or the old. In our country, very few new souls are being won by any group, they are only transferring from one group to another, from the seamier parts of town to the suburban areas. And so, if they do transfer, have WE fed them well before they go?
Those are the kinds of questions that we should be asking. The Christian Church today is "so soft, and so vulnerable" to the simple pressures of the world around it. What would it do with real persecution, the kind faced by the Apostles and the early Church Fathers and Mothers?
We PREACH (or DON'T preach) the Gospel to every living creature even a little bit, every single day, by our attitude or demeanor our acceptance or indifference, our smile or our frown. THAT is the Great Commission in its basic form and personal application.
Remember the sheep and the goats in the great judgment just three Chapters before St. Matthew's Great Commission (25:31)? Neither group could remember doing or not doing for Jesus. That's as should be. That should be a matter of habit in caring and love in the doing of the WORK. And don't beat yourself up for not doing, just follow His lead and His voice more carefully in the future and live The Great Commission.
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The Great Commission Within The Prison
By Rev. Luther Baugham
St. Matthew gives us the "GREAT COMMISSION" in Matthew 28:19-20; "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." And in Hebrews 13:3 St. Paul tells us, "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners."
Most people look at the "Great Commission," mandated by our Lord, as implying that it is the duty of all Christians to be missionaries and to spread the knowledge of Christ to certain countries. But Scripture clearly says to "all nations" meaning all people on this earth.
It has often been said that the greatest missionary field is right in our back yards. You may ask where? They are the prisons located throughout this great country of ours. They are the men and women often referred to as, "THE LOST SOCIETY."
Over the past 9 years, I have served as a prison chaplain in 3 of Virginia's prisons, including Deerfield Correctional Center where I am the staff chaplain, spending some 30-40 hours a week with approximately 490 men of different faiths. That number will increase to approximately 1200 men the end of this year or the first of next year.
Those men are a big and important part of my life, and my ministry. It is a joy and humbling experience to minister to those men. What better place is there to take the Great Commission? Let me share with you some of the exciting things that go on behind those walls.
Each of the 12 different religious groups meet once a week for their services. We have Bible studies in each of the 7 buildings nightly. In addition we have a four-year Bible college in the prison for men to further their Christian education; plus a four-year Seminary that graduated 2 men with a Masters in Sacred Theology and 3 men with a Bachelor of Sacred Theology. All five of these men have been licensed and ordained by Amherst Theological Seminary as pastors, and are now serving in the Christian Church within the prison.
In addition to the above we have anywhere between 2 and 4 revivals a year, plus 5 to 6 outside Christian groups to come in with different religious programs. (All programs are open to all inmates no matter what their religious belief or affiliation may be.)
Two years ago we averaged approximately 50 men a Sunday attending Christian Services, (not including the Catholics). By making one small change in the time of service (from night to morning) and by the inmates inviting other inmates to attend, we now average approximately 90-100 inmates per Sunday Service. This does not include the other religious groups or the Bible studies.
Let me give you some shocking statistics:
Including all religious groups and Bible studies (not including the Bible College or Seminary), we average about 58% of the general population attending some type of religious service.
Considering the highest income an inmate can make per hour is $.47, we have a monthly offering of approximately $350.00 to $400.00. The offering is used to purchase different type of cards, i.e. Birthday, Easter, Thinking of you, etc. in addition to other materials.
The Christians and Catholics receive Communion once a month. I give Communion to 2 Lutheran inmates at another prison monthly.
On an average, we have about 15 baptisms per year. Each person being baptized must go through a week of religious instructions.
On any average Sunday, we have anywhere between 2 and 4 men giving their life to Christ.
If you would consider an average congregation of about the same number of people attending service as you have inmates, I think you would have to agree that the prison population has a better average of participation in all areas.
Now I would like to share with you some of my personal experiences while serving as a prison chaplain.
While serving at another Virginia prison, one of my jobs was to minister to the inmate at Death House. Death House is where an inmate comes about 3 days before he is executed. One inmate stands out above all others. Having spent 3 days with that inmate I got to learn a great deal about his spiritual walk in life.
One day I asked him why he took the electric chair over the gurney where the inmate is strapped with arms extended out before he is given the lethal injection. His answer to me was: "Chaplain, no man is worthy to die on the cross the way our Savior did. He died for the sins of all mankind, past, present and future. I am dying for the man I killed. His last words to me were 'Chaplain I will see you in heaven.'"
A comment was made by someone, "Now come on chaplain, you know better than that." My reply was "You and I don't know what was in the heart of that man before he died. Remember the thief on the cross and what our Lord told him, 'Today you will be with me in paradise.'" Yes, I don't think but I know I will see that man again in heaven.
Another case was when a young man was being released and came by my office to say good-bye. "Chaplain, I want to thank you for the time you have spent with me telling me about Christ and his love and forgiveness. As you know, I have given my life to Christ."
A few months passed and one day I got a call from that inmate telling me that he was married to a wonderful Christian girl and that they were very active in the church. I could go on and on about such things as this.
Introducing an inmate to salvation not only fulfills the "Great Commission," but it enhances his successful return to society as well. I have witnessed that the return rate of a Christian inmate to prison is much lower than that of those never introduced to the saving power of Jesus Christ.
However, do you realize that one of the hardest things for an inmate to do is to find a church that will accept him especially if he was involved in a sex crime?
Yes, my friends, the Great Commission is working within the walls of our prisons. For that, I thank God for the men and women who have dedicated their lives spending time behind the prison walls ministering to the so called "THE LOST SOCIETY" of our nation.
Yes, The Great Commission is working very well behind the walls of our prisons. The question I would like to leave with you: "Is the great commission working in your church?
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Go Make Disciples . . .
by Rev. John Erickson
It is most interesting to consider our Lord's words in the Great Commission for what they really say. Our Lord does not say, "Go find people to sign up on your church rolls." What he does say is that we should go and make disciples. And we are to do that by baptizing them into the name of the Triune God; and secondly, by teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded.
Our Lord is not so much interested (as we are) in numbers, as he is in faithfulness. I look at some of the new mega church facilities today that cover acres of land, and I wonder, if Jesus was the pastor of any number of these churches, would they have the numbers of people and the means to put up such facilities?
I raise the question because in the closing verses of John 6 it does not appear as if Jesus was a very successful "pastor." After hearing what he had to say, many of those who had been following him, left him. He even turned to the Twelve to ask if they too wanted to go. What kind of evangelism approach is that?
After three years, the greatest preacher and teacher the world ever had, or ever would have, ended up with a group of followers that was not much larger than some of the smallest of churches today - some 120 souls (Acts 1:15).
However, it is clear that those who stayed with Jesus, stayed because they were willing to be instructed by him, and were willing to "do," to "observe," that which he taught them.
Paul was most "up front" with young Timothy when Timothy was preparing for ministry. He was to "Preach the Word... [and] correct, rebuke, and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). But, he was also told that many would not put up with "sound teaching and preaching;" rather, they would go and find teachers who would "say what their itching ears wanted to hear." But this young pastor was not to despair. He was to "keep his head in all situations, enduring hardship, doing the work of an evangelist, and discharging all the duties of his ministry." (vv. 3-5).
People have not changed. Whether in the days of Jesus, or Paul, or Timothy, or now today, people want to be included in the benefits of discipleship, but they do not want to pay the price. They are not interested in the discipline required of those being "taught" and "observing." There is no interest in taking to heart the teaching, or of the need to obey, all that Jesus has commanded. They would rather give their attention to teachers that are not so demanding, who will tell them things that will make them feel good, or at the least, feel better.
It is frustrating for the faithful minister of the Gospel. The faithful pastor explains to the parents, anxious to have their child on the church roll, what Baptism is all about and the responsibility that falls on them as parents. Confirmation students are told what the confirmation vow is all about and what is expected of them as full fledged church members.
"Oh yes! Yes, we will be faithful in doing that!" the parents, as well as the confirmands, answer. "We want to be active in our faith and in the life of the church."
But what do we often see in so far as the carrying out of these promises? Parents fall short, and many out and out fail, in their promise to teach and to bring their children to worship. The majority of recently confirmed soon drop out. Entire families may be seen in church once or twice a year, or they go off somewhere where things are more "fun" and where people are not so "stuck" on the Bible.
It is very easy, as pastors, and as faithful church members, to begin feeling like Elijah of old... like I am the only one left (1 Kings 19:14). But if we are faithful in efforts to make disciples, we can be sure we are not alone. We may "feel" like we are alone at times, but we are not. In Elijah's case... there were seven thousand faithful that he was not aware of (Rom. 11:4). It is no different today. God has his faithful remnant.
So, let us not despair in our efforts to make disciples. Let us preach and teach the Word (Law and Gospel) to the end that men, and women, and children will learn to observe all that our Lord has commanded. For it is those, and only those who hold to - who believe and observe his teaching - who are really Christ's disciples (see John 8:31). Such are they who enjoy the blessings of discipleship now (the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation), and who will gain entrance to heaven on the last day (Matt. 7:21).
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