Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 13, Number 3
In this Issue:
The Annual Conference Convention of the LMS-USA
The 12th Annual LMS-USA Conference and Convention was held at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, IN, June 12 and 13, 2006.
Ministry, the doing of ministry, has always been one of the cardinal concerns of our Lutheran Ministerium and Synod. So it was fitting that the thoughts and presentations at our twelfth annual gathering centered about the very last words of Matthew's Gospel known as The Great Commission and what it means for the act of ministry today!
Synod President, Pastor John Erickson led in the Order for the Opening of Synod and then turned the floor over to the first of the thoughtfully prepared sometimes provocative - devotions by our Chaplain, Seminarian, Tylan Dalrymple from Christ Lutheran Church of Chetek, WI.
Next a measured word study of the later 28th Chapter of Matthew by Pastor Erickson, directed a contemporary appreciation of Our Lord's directive to reach out to the world with Word and Sacrament by way of parsing the words of The Word, quite well done as usual!
This was followed by a study Ken Howes was doing as a part of his theological studies as a seminarian in training on some of the errant departures that have posed a problem to faithful ministry such as the church growth movement and the efforts of institutions such as Fuller Seminary which has shifted to a "success" driven outcome with large numbers and mega churches which have become full service Wal-Marts of religious marketing.
Our friend, Pastor Jack Keeler who passed away in April was remembered with fitting commentary and prayer by Pastor Rich Barley who had been Jack's classmate since Seminary and an early Greek class. Their typical blessing of one another at the end of an E-mail exchange just hours before, had been their final benediction. Pastor Keeler's deeply spiritual celebration of life had left its mark on us all.
We moved to the less formal setting of All Saints Hall down stairs, for an inter-active presentation by Dr. Bob Hotes on how we might plumb the depth and riches of Gospel Ministry with joy while maintaining freshness and dignity that provoked much lively discussion. This borrowed also on the major points of the previous presentations quite well!
The final presentation was on the 50's book the title of which WAS the point of the presentation; How the Church Can Minister to the World Without Losing Itself, by Langdon Gilkey The book with its title proved itself prophetic now a half century later with the author's concern for meaningful and spiritually driven ministry from Worship to Service - which already seemed to be slipping into just 'giving the people what they want' back then. The timelessness and authenticity of Our Lord's Great Commission to service in His Way is remarkably vital and important in every period of history of His Church - as it shines through to the present.
All discussion was continued at the lovely 'cook out' at the home of the Dorns, Bob and Ruthann president of St. Matthew (the host Church) - for the second year now.
Once again the annual LMS Conference was a time of theological study and sharing for the clergy and laity of the church. This year our focus was on the most important function of the Church, i.e., the ministry and service in the Calling of The Great Commission of Our Lord.
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Choose For Yourselves Whom You Will Serve
by Rev. John Erickson
I recently read a book where one of the characters was a World War Two pilot. This pilot, the author writes, believed in God, although he had not always done so. He thought he believed when he went to fight in Europe, but he later decided that it had been more like a "sincere hope" there was a God. When he had found himself facing death in the skies over Germany, he called on God on a number of occasions. He had thought of this as "believing." However, later, when he was in his forties, he came to know what believing really was. Then he came to realize that there was always fighting going on in this world between good and evil... a fighting in which he saw forces quite evenly matched.
He figured there had to be a name for the good he saw, and he decided it might as well be God as anything. He also thought about which had come first, good or God. But either way, it seemed right. It was after he had come to accept all this, that he believed with all his heart.
In Joshua 24, Joshua called the people of Israel together and challenged them, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve..." I have come more and more to wonder if most people understand Joshua's challenge of choosing, and believing in God, in pretty much the same way that WW II pilot decided on God, and what "believing" in God meant.
We live in a consumer driven society. We want things. We want to be free to pick and to choose for ourselves the things we want, and which we think might be best for us. I think of how we decide on food. The experts - even though they never agree - try to tell us what is good for us and what is not. We listen - sort of - but quite often we choose what we want in spite of what the experts say. If I can eat what I want and like, and if, at the worst, it makes a difference of a year, or two, or three, in my life expectancy, then so what? It will be worth it if I can enjoy those things that I want and like.
The same with regard to life-style. If I want to involve myself in some more risky life-style choices - maybe it is to smoke, or go into driving race cars, or sky diving - so what? I am not going to live forever anyway. So if the odds catch up with me, and I end up dying a few years before my time, at least I will have enjoyed life and lived it to the full.
All this choosing and deciding on this thing, as over against that, and to do so in most all aspects of life, has, I believe for many, carried over in the area of religion and faith. Garrison Keillor, some years ago, joked about a church that was on the cutting edge. You could attend via computer. The advantage was that you could pick and choose the parts of the worship service you wanted to participate in. If you liked the hymns, you could choose them. If you didn't want to deal with the confession of sin, you didn't have to... and you could skip the sermon... and... you could skip the offering... you could take just the "good parts."
Is this kind of choosing what Joshua meant when he challenged the people in his day to choose whom they would serve? Does it mean that I can pick and choose the kind of god I want, or the makeup of the god I want, much as I might pick and choose what I want on my plate at a buffet dinner? I want my God to be loving and forgiving... so I will take that. I want my God to be understanding of my weaknesses... so I will take that. I am not so interested in a God who says that in all things, He must have absolute first place in my life... so I won't bother with that. I like a God who says I am saved if I believe... so I will take that. The God who says only those will be given entrance to heaven who "do the will of my Father who is in heaven" ... I'm not so interested in that. I don't like the idea of a God who says that I need to put the needs and concerns of others before my own needs... so I'll leave that. In other words, does "choosing this day" mean that I can make God into the image I want?
Just crossing my desk this week was a newsletter making note of a recent Newsweek magazine article which reported how people are leaving Christian churches to look for more than teaching. They want "a deeper, more personal religion, often a religion they can 'feel'."
Like they pick and choose everything else, people think they can pick and choose what they want to believe with regard to the salvation of their souls. And, I suppose it is true, people are free to choose what they want. And, some choices might be better than others. Some choices might bring more fulfillment than others, both for now, and for eternity. Not so few people really do believe that no matter what one chooses, if one firmly believes in the choice, or choices that are made, then in one way or another, and to some degree or another, that person will come to experience the blessings of life eternal in heaven. Some may, because of the choices they made, have things a little better... some less so... but all who "believe" in "God," will come to know some kind of life with God.
There are others, a bit more conservative in their thinking, who would suggest it does make a difference what one chooses. You can't choose just anything. You can't for example, be a Hindu and think of God in those terms, or you can't be a "new-ager" and think of God as being in, for example, the grass or a tree and hope to get to heaven. You must at least think of God in terms of what we find in the Bible. However, for many such persons... the God of the Jew today, is the same God as that of the Christian... and likewise the God of the Muslim. Since both the Jew and Muslim understand their God to be the God of Abraham, he must be the same God as that of the Christian. There is no consideration given to the fact that the God of the Christian is not only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... he is also the God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Or we have those who call themselves "Christian," who think they too can do some picking and choosing. Many of these people see God as understanding, loving, and forgiving. Granted, the Bible clearly says that certain things are sin, and an abomination to God. Maybe it is that I am living in a relationship with someone outside the marriage covenant... or maybe I am living in a same sex relationship... or I am involved in some unethical, even illegal, business practices. But God understands me... he understands my situation... he understands my particular weakness. And the Bible says that if I ask for forgiveness, God forgives. So, in other words, everything is okay. I am not perfect - but I am forgiven. Such a God is therefore my God.
Many of us, if we will honestly face up to it, will have to admit that there are teachings of our Lord that we are ready to accept. There are others we will reluctantly go along with. There are others we want nothing to do with... and which we will try to rationalize in our minds that the Bible simply has it wrong - or that - it really isn't that big a thing if I yield to it or not. But are we then free to more or less decide what we think God will "go along with," or what the extent of his limits might really be?
In Isaiah 44 the prophet describes for us the futility of laboring to make a god out of wood or metal or stone. After working on it, the craftsman "bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, 'Save me; you are my god.' They [the idols] know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so that they cannot see, and their minds closed so that they cannot understand" (vs. 17-18).
Well, it is just as futile for us to think that the true God should be exactly what we make him out to be in our own minds, as it was for the craftsmen in Isaiah's day to think of their creations as having any value. "I am who I am" (Ex. 3:14) is the way God described himself to Moses.
The God which the Bible presents to us, is the one true God. The Bible is His revelation to us of himself. A search of Scripture for God apart from whom there is no other, is most interesting. Again and again we find that the things that are shown to us in Scripture are shown to us for that purpose, that we might come to know the one who truly is God. For example: "Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other" (Deut. 4:39). "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other" (Is. 45:22). "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). But back to Joshua... what did he mean when he told the people that they should choose whom they would serve? Well, for one thing, he is in no way suggesting that it makes no difference who one serves... that it makes no difference who one's God is. "Fear the Lord and serve him," Joshua says, "and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:14). Joshua knew that all the other gods that people might call gods or consider to be their own god, were worthless, they were nothing. He knew there was (is) only one God, there is no other. So his concern was that the people did not waste their time on that which is nothing, that they did not stake their hope and their future on that which, in reality, did not exist, and would be of no benefit to them. The Lord that Joshua challenged the people to serve, was the only and true God. The God who created and brought all things into existence... He was the God of their fathers - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was the God who brought judgment on all of creation because of the sin of Adam... but who made provision that man might be restored in relationship with himself by means of the Savior he would send to the world. The God they should choose to serve was He who gave these very people a most vivid picture of the salvation that would one day come to all men, in the saving of them from slavery in Egypt.
Joshua was not giving the people a choice as to what God they might serve as though any god they might choose would do. Rather, he was trying to get the people to come to their senses, and to realize that there is no hope outside the one true God.
So for us, the God we are to serve must be the same God the people in Joshua's day were to serve. He is the Alpha and the Omega... the same... yesterday, today, and forever. The only true God... the God which is above every other god... the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob... and the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There is only one true God. He is the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three in One, One in Three. The Bible is the word of this God, to us. God is who the Bible says he is, and to serve him... to believe in Him... that He is our God... that He is my God... means that we accept by faith all that the Bible says about Him, about us, as well as about His will for us.
Some years ago I came across something that has been most helpful to me. The question was asked as to whether a person has to believe in all the major doctrines of the Bible, for example, the total depravity of man, the virgin birth, the sinless perfection of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ - in order to be a Christian... in order to be saved. To which the answer given was "no." After all, what could the thief on the cross have known about some of these doctrines? Or what about some of the other people whom Christ healed and sent on their way, their sins forgiven? But, this writer said, if you are a Christian, you will believe these doctrines.
I should know, and understand, and have come to believe much more about God today than what I did some forty or fifty or even five years ago. The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead God's children into the truth (John 16:13). As we are in the Word of God, God reveals things to us about himself, and his will for us. He reveals these things to us to the extent that we are able to receive them. As these truths are made known to us, it is for us to take them to heart, to believe them. It is for us to - dare I use the word - to "choose" to take these truths to heart and to serve Him. There is a sense in which we should, each day, "choose" Him and "choose" to serve him... rather than that we "choose" to follow after our own thinking and desires, or those things which others might suggest to us.
There is so much in the teachings of our Lord as we find them in the Gospels, as well as in the letters of the New Testament, that speaks to the importance of not going off to take hold of teachings just because they sound good to us, but rather that we hold firmly to the truth.
Where is truth to be found? It is to be found in God's Word, the Bible. "God's Word is truth" (Jn. 17:17). The Bible is the standard against which all other "truth" must be measured. And the God we serve must be the God which the Bible truthfully reveals to us. It is to those who serve Him faithfully, that the crown of life [eternal life] is promised.
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The following article is chapter one from Dr. Jacob Tanner's volume, Ten Studies in Church Doctrine. This book was one in a series of studies published by Augsburg Publishing House, for the instructon of Sunday School teachers in the former Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Nothing is of greater importance to man than his god. As his god is, so will man be himself. History proves the truth of this. A nation's life and development is controlled and determined by its religion. No nation will rise higher than its religion.
The center, and therefore the most vital part of a nation's religion, is the deity. As its god is, so is its religion.
God's revelation. We know God from the Bible. He has revealed Himself. Our knowledge of Him is therefore not a result of man's search or speculation. God's revelation of Himself is many-sided and successive. It is many-sided because there is much to reveal. It is successive because the purpose of God's revelation is to save man from sin, and the revelation could therefore not be made more rapidly than men could be led to make a saving use of the knowledge. God's revelation of Himself was completed in Christ.
God has revealed Himself as a Person. He wills, He plans, He speaks, He acts. As a personal God He meets us in the first chapter of the Bible, and continues to reveal Himself as such throughout the entire Bible.
God's attributes. God is one God, He is loving, holy, just, merciful. unchangeable, faithful, wise, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal. These characteristics of God we call His attributes. The attributes do not merely represent man's thoughts about God, but are qualities in God Himself, which He has made known to men through His Word and exemplified in His dealings with them. Each of these attributes reveals a certain aspect of God, tells us something definite about Him.
The attributes of God are in the Old Testament mostly connected with the name Jehovah. God Himself has explained the meaning of this name in Ex. 3 :14. When Moses asked God what His name was, He answered: "I AM that I AM (Jehovah)." God here designates Himself as the unchangeable, faithful God who fulfills His promises. This became God's covenant name, that is, it was as the unchangeable, faithful God who keeps His promises, that He made a covenant with Israel. His purpose was to carry out the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that He would bless their descendants and made them a blessing. Thus Jehovah in the Old Testament came to signify what Jesus Christ means in the New Testament: the Savior of the people.
It is significant that nearly all the attributes are ascribed to God as Jehovah. The reason is that the main purpose of the manifestation of His holiness, love, justice, omnipresence, omniscience and all the other attributes is by saving His people from sin, to "purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works." (Tit. 2:14.)
The Bible teaches that love is the motive for all God's dealings with the world. God is love. He is also holy, that is, He is absolutely pure and good and wise in nature and activities. When we combine God's love and holiness we have His holy love. It was this holy love that determined the nature of His salvation. He wants to save us from sin unto a life of love and holiness in fellowship with Himself. (I Pet. 2:5.) It is towards this purpose that all God's attributes, His faithfulness, righteousness, wisdom, omniscience, omnipotence and all the others are working.
We can thus see that if we know God's attributes, we know God's very nature and being as well as His motives, purpose and plan. His attributes enable us to see why God has planned and acted as He has.
God has revealed all this to us that we may learn to know Him, and knowing Him may fear, love, and trust Him. To know God is eternal life, as Jesus says. (John 17:3.)
A Triune God. God has also revealed Himself as a Triune God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As a person God is different from human personalities. There are three persons in God. When we in this connection use the word person, it is because it is the only word we have to designate an individual. The word, however, does not adequately describe the individuality of the three persons in God and their relation to each other.
Nowhere in the Bible is it expressedly stated that God is one God in three persons. It is, however, revealed as a fact. There are indications in the Old Testament of this fact. The oldest name of God, Elohim, which is plural, is used with singular verb. The Aaronitic blessing is another indication. (Num. 6:24-26.) We further find that the Son revealed what God had said to Him. (Ps. 2:7.) The Holy Spirit at times is spoken of almost as a person. (Ps. 51:11; Is. 63:10-l1.) In Isaiah 48:16 the Trinity is nearly revealed in plain words.
It is, however, in the New Testament that God fully reveals Himself as a Triune God. At the baptism of Jesus we have all three persons. The Father speaks, the Son is baptized, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell upon Him. Jesus speaks to and of God as His Father, and as a person distinct from Himself. When He is ready to yield up His Spirit, He says: "Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit." (Luke 23:46.) He says to His disciples: "When the comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me." (John 15:26.) Here we have all three persons. When Jesus institutes the baptism, He places the three persons side by side as equals. "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19.) Paul does the same in his prayer for the Corinthians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (II Cor. 13:14.)
In these quotations the three persons in God are spoken of in the same sentence. This is, however, not generally the case. The holy authors were presenting what they had come to know as a fact, that God was one God in three persons. This fact was an integral part of all their preaching and teaching. They speak, therefore, with the utmost freedom of God the Father, of Jesus Christ the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, sometimes mentioning only one of the persons, sometimes two, and sometimes all three. Their aim was not to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, but to set forth the facts about God. The books of the New Testament are permeated with the fact that God is a Triune God. The whole New Testament rests on this fact.
One God. While the Bible thus teaches that God is a Triune God, it never deviates from the original and fundamental declaration that He is one God. Though there are three persons who have their individual activities, they are at the same time the one indivisible God. We can not explain how God can be one God in three persons. We believe it, because God has revealed Himself as a Triune God.
God's Work. In the three Articles of Faith, we confess that God the Father is the creator, Jesus Christ the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the sanctifier. This we believe because it is the teachings of the Bible.
At the same time the Bible also teaches that each person is co-active in the work of the others. The Father is active in the redemptive work of Christ (2 Cor. 5:19), and in the Holy Spirit's work to sanctify man. (2 Thess. 5:23.) The Son was active in the creation and the world is preserved through Him. (John 1:3; Heb. 1:3.) He is also active in the work of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:26.) The Spirit was active at the creation (Gen. 1:2), and He came down and abode with Christ while He was on the earth. (Matt. 3:16.)
Relation between the three persons. The Bible emphatically teaches as we have seen, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equally eternal, and one God.
The relation between the Father and the Son is expressed by the word "begotten." When the Bible says that God the Father begot the Son Jesus Christ, the meaning is not that there was a time when the Son was not, for the Son is as eternal as the Father; so is the Holy Spirit. The expression simply observes that between the Father and the Son there is a relation which in human language can be stated only in this way. The word begotten expresses a relationship. Consequently the Father begets the Son from eternity to eternity.
The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 15:26) and therefore is said to proceed from the Father and the Son as we confess in the Nicene Creed.
Independent of and active in the world. God as a person is independent of the universe. The whole world is His creation, but He Himself is not a part of this world nor in any way dependent upon it. He is before the beginning of the world. (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1.) At the same time He is active in the world. He did not create the world, lay down a certain number of rules for its operation and then withdraw from all active relationship to His creation. He supports, preserves and governs all things that exist. (Ps. 145:15-16; Heb. 1:3.)
According to the Bible, God stands in a special relation to mankind, and in a still more special relation to His children. As we confess in the explanation of the First Article, He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger and guards me and preserves me from all evil. He even makes all things work together for good to them that love Him. (Rom. 8:28.)
How does God govern men in their sins? The answer is that He permits them to sin, places a limit to their sinning, and makes even their sin serve His great purpose, to save and sanctify the believers. (Gen. 45:5; Ps. 2.)
According to the Bible the holy angels are servants of God in His work to guard and keep His people. They are messengers sent to serve them that shall inherit salvation. (Gen. 48:16; Ps. 34:7; 91:11-12.)
What the Church confesses: The Church has expressed its belief in the Triune God in several documents, which we call confessions or symbols. Of these the Lutheran Church has five: The Apostolic Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Augsburg Confession, and Luther's Small Catechism.
The confessions do not attempt to explain what we as Christians believe, but to state this belief in a brief, correct, and clear form so that all essential parts of the truth are included, and all error excluded. The confessions are therefore human attempts to express God's revelation in the Bible in a clear, correct, and inclusive form. Such doctrinal statements became a historical necessity. From time to time false teachings were being spread among the people. These teachings were false, because they were contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Many of these false teachers were able men and made their falsehood look very plausible. This compelled those who believed what the Bible taught to formulate their teaching in a clear and truly Biblical form. It was a necessary part of the Church's work. Otherwise the Church would have been swamped with false teachings, which would have seriously hindered and partly even destroyed God's work to save man.
The Apostolic Creed we have learned in our Catechism. The Nicene Creed is an enlarged form of the Apostolic Creed. The Athanasian Creed was directed against the teachings of Arius and his followers. Arius taught that Christ was not of the same essence as the Father, but was a created being, though the highest among God's creatures. The Athanasian Creed goes into considerable details presenting the relation of the three persons to each other, as well as the nature of each person, and His work. We shall quote some of the statements of this creed:
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The First Commandment
From Luther's Large Catechism
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
That is: Thou shalt have [and worship] Me alone as thy God. What is the force of this, and how is it to be understood? What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.
Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: "See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another," i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.
This I must unfold somewhat more plainly, that it may be understood and perceived by ordinary examples of the contrary. Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth. He who has money and possessions feels secure, and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. On the other hand, he who has none doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God. For very few are to be found who are of good cheer, and who neither mourn nor complain if they have not Mammon. This [care and desire for money] sticks and clings to our nature, even to the grave.
So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts.
Besides, consider what in our blindness, we have hitherto been practicing and doing under the Papacy. If any one had toothache, he fasted and honored St. Apollonia; if he was afraid of fire, he chose St. Lawrence as his helper in need; if he dreaded pestilence, he made a vow to St. Sebastian or Rochio, and a countless number of such abominations, where every one selected his own saint, worshiped him, and called for help to him in distress. Here belong those also, as, e.g., sorcerers and magicians, whose idolatry is most gross, and who make a covenant with the devil, in order that he may give them plenty of money or help them in love-affairs, preserve their cattle, restore to them lost possessions, etc. For all these place their heart and trust elsewhere than in the true God, look for nothing good to Him nor seek it from Him.
Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man's entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say: Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever [things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things.
Lo, here you have the meaning of the true honor and worship of God, which pleases God, and which He commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart know no other comfort or confidence than in Him, and do not suffer itself to be torn from Him, but, for Him, risk and disregard everything upon earth. On the other hand, you can easily see and judge how the world practices only false worship and idolatry. For no people has ever been so reprobate as not to institute and observe some divine worship; every one has set up as his special god whatever he looked to for blessings, help, and comfort. . . .
But let this be said to the simple, that they may well note and remember the meaning of this commandment, namely, that we are to trust in God alone, and look to Him and expect from Him naught but good, as from one who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, and all necessaries of both temporal and eternal things. He also preserves us from misfortune, and if any evil befall us, delivers and rescues us, so that it is God alone (as has been sufficiently said) from whom we receive all good, and by whom we are delivered from all evil.
Let everyone, then, see to it that he esteem this commandment great and high above all things, and do not regard it as a joke. Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god.
In order that it may be seen that God will not have this commandment thrown to the winds, but will most strictly enforce it, He has attached to it first a terrible threat, and then a beautiful, comforting promise which is also to be urged and impressed upon young people, that they may take it to heart and retain it.
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