Understanding the Times and What to Do
Greetings to you, friends and supporters of L.E.M. I want to thank you for the invitation to write to youâ€”namely to thank you for your support of the ministry of evangelism within the Lutheran family of churches. Since the beginning L.E.M. has attempted to introduce people both within and outside of the church to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that results in the assurance of oneâ€™s salvation. Those of you my age (76 years old) realize how our Lutheran church has changed. In fact, the whole world has drastically changed.
I grew up in a church in Jackson, Minnesota where the gospel was preached clearly. People were invited to make a personal commitment to Jesus even after theyâ€™d already been baptized and confirmed. My dad, who taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and was on the Board of Trustees, took that step of faith and discovered the difference between being active in a church and knowing Jesus personally. He came to understand the assurance found in that relationship, and it changed his life. At about that time, the ELC (Evangelical Lutheran Church) merged with the ALC (American Lutheran Church), and then they merged to form the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America). What a difference there is today! I constantly hear, â€œYouâ€™re baptized and thatâ€™s enough. Thereâ€™s no need to accept Jesus or to make a faith response to know for sure youâ€™re saved.â€ In fact, lately Iâ€™ve been hearing suggestions that maybe Jesus didnâ€™t really rise from the deadâ€”maybe He wasnâ€™t born supernaturally of a virgin who had been impregnated by the Holy Spiritâ€”and other heresies that deny the clear teaching of Scripture.
There is an interesting reference in I Chronicles 12:32: â€œMen of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.â€ We, also, need to understand the times. Martin Luther was such a man. He saw a corrupt church and a power-hungry, manipulative hierarchy. He saw people who had been baptized and somewhat active in the church who had no understanding or experience of salvation. As he read and responded to Romans 1:16-17, he came to an understanding of the salvation experience through faith. Although he was baptized and already a monk, he had never experienced the transforming power of the gospel to save until he got right with God and accepted Godâ€™s righteousness. Then he began to understand the times and knew what to do for the church of Jesus Christ. He lived his faith and spoke out, standing on the Word of God even though it was against the teaching of the church. He had no plans to leave the churchâ€”surely once they saw the Truth of grace alone, faith alone, and the Word alone they would want that and change. But of course, that didnâ€™t happen.
My invitation to you is this: â€œExamine yourselves to see whether you are in the faithâ€ (2 Corinthians 13:5). Ask yourself, â€œDo I have the faith that savesâ€”heart-faith that trusts in Jesus alone? Do I have the assurance of my relationship with Him?â€ If not, simply come to Him now, confessing your sin and repenting of the way you run your own life. Confess that you believe He died for your sins, rose again, is alive today, and desires to live within you. Ask the Father to forgive you. Ask Jesus to come into your life, and then say, â€œThank you!â€ as a statement of faith that God has answered your prayer, forgiven all your sins, and has entered in.
The next step is to allow the Holy Spirit, who now lives in you, to lead you into a life that is pleasing to Jesus. Get into the habit of reading the Word of God daily. Use a good devotional help. Sign up for an Alpha course (now offered in thousands of churches). Join a small group in which you can share your battles and blessings. Begin a prayer journalâ€”jot down your prayers and leave room for recording the answers. Begin seriously walking in the the power of the Holy Spirit each day.
Finally, be a Lutheran. Measure the teaching of the church, your pastorâ€™s preaching, and everything you read (including this article) against the Word of God. Use Godâ€™s Word as the final authorityâ€”not what the church, a pastor, or a teacher says. They have been wrong before and theyâ€™ll be wrong again. Ask the Holy Spirit to illumine your mind as you seek the Truth and be willing to speak out in a kind, loving way to share with family and friends the possibility of a personal relationship with Jesus.
Luther said it is possible to fall away from our baptism. If that is true, we need to return to Christ via conversion. While we can do nothing to earn our own salvation, we can by faith receive what is offered in Godâ€™s grace. Attend a church where Jesus is the message, where salvation is offered, and where you are challenged to a life of discipleship and service to the community in which you live.
Understand the times! We are in a spiritual battle with the enemy. The church and our seminaries are at risk. We need to know what to do. Remember this: the world is not our homeâ€”we are on a journey and we need to keep our eyes on our true home, Godâ€™s Kingdom. Together letâ€™s pray, â€œThy Kingdom come, Lord. Thy Kingdom come.â€
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