I Was Sent

Why did Jesus come into the world? There would be many answers to this question, but in this Advent season let’s give Jesus the opportunity to answer some of the questions that center on His birth. He will give us the straight story. Remember that He said, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

If we will seriously listen to his voice speaking to us through the Scriptures, we will hear some great biblical teachings, which are a part of the Christian confessions. Here is one of these revelations:

Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the Kingdom of God because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43).

The people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth had great respect for Jesus. They could have received him as a rabbi and been proud of his ability to teach. Luke writes, “He taught in the synagogue and everyone praised him” (Luke 4:15). However, when he read the scroll in the service and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord. . . Today this Scripture has been fulfilled” (Luke 4:18-19, 21), those words rocked the synagogue in Nazareth.

The people spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. But when Jesus announced to these people that he had been sent from God, they became furious and drove him out of town.

This is one of the great truths of Christianity. Jesus was not simply a man who was born like all others, he was also the God-Man sent by the Father to live among us. This is the teaching of the Incarnation. God became man. His coming was part of God’s way of salvation.

Listen to other parts of the word of God as they emphasize that God would send his Son to this world.

The first Scripture passage is Genesis 3:15. God says to the tempter, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

God tells Satan the tempter that he has succeeded in tempting Adam and Eve. They have fallen and brought sin to the world. This places them in an imperfect, fallen world and out of relationship with their Creator. Consequently, Satan has brought suffering into this world. The cross is a reminder of sin which brings pain, suffering, hatred, sickness, and death. However, Christ has come, and he will crush Satan’s head. He will destroy Satan. The empty tomb and the resurrected Christ is a reminder that sin, death, and the devil have been defeated.

Jesus was sent to be the Victor. Humans have never been without sin after the fall, but neither have they been without the promise of the Savior.

A second passage of Scripture tells us that Christ lived as part of the Godhead before coming to earth. This is recorded in John 1: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14).

This is beyond human comprehension. Only the Holy Spirit working in our hearts can teach us that Jesus is both God and man. It is the teaching of the incarnation. The babe of Bethlehem’s manger is man, but he is also God. Here he was sent to walk with humans and be in all points tempted as we are, yet remain without sin.

The third passage comes to us from the inspired pen of St. Paul, who wrote in

Galatians 4, “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the Law that we might receive the full right of sons” (Galatians 4:4).

You might ask, “Where did Paul receive this information?” You remember that after his conversion Paul spent three years in Arabia. It was a time for Paul to be prepared for his mission, which was to bring the Gospel of Christ to the Gentile world. It could be that God chose that place to reveal the great teaching of the incarnation Ð that Jesus was God born in the flesh. The apostle wrote to the Corinthian church, “God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself”(II Corinthians 5:19). Paul also makes it very clear that Jesus was sent by the Father.

Many people have been sent, and people can ask, What is so unique about Jesus being sent? The uniqueness is that Jesus was the second part of the Trinity. He was sent from heaven to perform the mission of reconciling God and a fallen humanity. His desire was that people might live in relationship with each other and with their Creator, as was God’s intention from the beginning.

After Jesus had completed his work on earth, he commissioned his followers to go into the world and preach the Gospel, and then he returned to his Father. So we can say that the One who was sent by the Father sends his children as his ambassadors to this world. It is important that we know this truth, for it helps us to understand who we are and what our primary purpose is while we wait for our Lord to return and receive us to himself.

What is the truth about Christmas? Jesus answers the question in these words: Christmas is celebrating that time in history when I was sent into this world by my Father to be your Savior. I love you. Come to Me and we will walk through life together and then I’ll take you to be with Me. I have a place for you. Will you not receive Me?

What Is Truth?

Pilate asked this question of Jesus. He was not the first person to ask this question. The philosophers had debated this question many years before Jesus walked on this earth. In our own practical way, we continue to ask this same question.

Many of us today wonder who we can believe. We are frustrated when one person claims his answer is truth, and someone else gives an entirely different opinion. What is truth?

Why did Pilate ask Jesus, What is the truth?

The Jews had taken Jesus to Pilate asking that he be sentenced to death. It was a serious request, and Pilate needed more information to make such a drastic decision. After hearing the evidence, Pilate informed the Jewish leaders that he found no guilt in Jesus. But the hierarchy would not settle for this decision. They replied, “Jesus is a person who can do great harm. He calls himself a king. This is a threat to the Roman Empire and a threat to our religion. You must get rid of him.” This was their demand (John 18:1-33).

Seeing their strong desire to have Christ crucified, Pilate took the Lord into his private chamber and asked if he was a king. Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“Then you are a king,” said Pilate.

Jesus went on, “You are right in saying I am a king; in fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Then Pilate asked, “What is truth?”

If only Pilate had known that the Truth stood before him.

Bishop Ryle, who lived in England many years ago, wrote: “The cynic believes there is no such thing as truth, that all religions are false, that life is all that we have to care for, and that all creeds are only words and superstition, which no sensible person would attend to. It is precisely the state of mind in which thousands of great and rich men in every age have lived and died.”

Isn’t the bishop describing our generation? Here are some of the comments we hear from relatives and friends: “I’ll take as much of Christianity as my mind can comprehend. Truth to me is what has been proven to be true.” For example, a doctor can say, “Antibiotics can cure an infection.” We would all agree because it has been scientifically proven over the course of years. This proof makes it a rational truth that the mind can understand, and so we do not hesitate to take antibiotics as prescribed by a medical doctor.

Someone else might say, “Truth is what experience has taught to me personally. It might not be truth for you, but it is for me.” In other words, truth is subjective. There is no such thing as objective truth. Therefore, we have different ideas of what is right and wrong. This sounds nice, but it leaves society with no agreed-upon rights and wrongs. Each must determine good and bad for himself, which breeds chaos in our world. For some, human life may be held in high esteem, and for others it may be very cheap. This is the problem our country has in dealing with people from another culture. We have different ideas regarding the value of a human being’s life. Each believes his answer is the right one.

But for the Christian there is an answer to the question, “What is truth?” The answer is Christ. Jesus’ teachings often revealed truths that go far beyond what the human can understand. These divine revelationsÑtruthsÑare recorded in the Scriptures. Let me illustrate.

Jesus had three close friends who lived in Bethany: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. You perhaps know the story that is recorded in John 11. Lazarus became ill, and so Martha sent word to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness, expecting that he would come immediately and heal his friend. But Jesus waited a bit. When he arrived, Lazarus had died and was in the tomb. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus replied, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha said, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” It was as if she were saying, I know this. I was taught this by the rabbis, but I need more than this verbal promise.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told Him. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

In this passage one sees how the Holy Spirit, working through the words of Jesus, turned a revelation that made no sense to an unbeliever into a dynamic truth. The dead in Christ will live. The human mind cannot understand this. However, the soul, in faith, can believe it and can live with this great assurance given to us by our Lord.

Jesus, who is the Truth, gives Christians many answers to life’s questions that our minds cannot fathom. However, in faith they become the foundation for our lives. When we can sing, “This world is not my home. I’m only passing through,” we have a much different understanding of this life. Death means going home to God, not annihilation.

These revealed truths are recorded in the Scriptures. They make life new and rich. They move us beyond the limitations of this life and on into eternity. If you are a Christian, God’s revealed truth tells you a heavenly home is waiting for you. Not so with those who have no Savior. At best, these people can only hope something is on the other side. Their doctrine often expressed is, “I hope the man upstairs will have something good for me.” Their own strength to endure the hardships of life is their only help.

The Advent season begins next Sunday. The Advent message prepares us for the coming of Christ. Christmas, according to biblical truth, tells us that the God incarnate came to earth and dwelt among us. So much truth is revealed in these biblical writings relating to the birth of the Savior that we will give them our special attention, so that Christmas may be more than just another holiday.

Wise Living Starts With a Right Relationship With God

We love our children and think about what is best for them and how to help them attain it. Let me ask you, what do you want for your children and grandchildren? Of course, we immediately think of things like health, happiness, and productivity in their lives.

And of course, we want them to have character as well. We want them to be good people who do what is right, fair and just. We want them to be prudent in making choices and knowledgeable about those things in life that make a difference between creation and destruction. We want them, also, to exercise wisdom.

There is a book that was put together to help all these things become reality in young peoples’ lives. In fact, the writer says that you’re never too old to benefit from reading it, reflecting and acting upon it.

I can affirm, just from listening to others, that people of all ages are looking for guidance in achieving wisdom: “I’m praying for wisdom,” someone might say, or “I could really use some wisdomÉ”

The recovering alcoholic knows the Serenity prayer used in the Alcoholics Anonymous program: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

God has answered that prayer!

The Book of Proverbs was compiled a long time ago, with the Spirit’s leading, to offer observations about life and insights for wise living. Practical skills for living life well can be found in God’s school of wisdom.

Consider today our “orientation day” to the Proverbs, when the teacher will lay out the class’s purpose and the basic foundational principles for gaining the wisdom it offers. Let’s read Proverbs 1:1-7:

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young Ð let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance Ð for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:1-7).

There are three parts to the orientation. First, we meet the teacher. Solomon, son of David, the king who asked God for wisdom, is the teacher here. He collected these sayings. Next, we need to learn the course purpose and curriculum: this is given in verses two and three. Here it is revealed that the purpose is to give wisdom (practical skills for living) and instruction (teaching and discipline). The goal is understanding (insights for decision-making), prudent behavior, and good common sense in one’s dealings with people. These things will make one righteous, just and equitable (fair), as well as an ethical member of the community.

Notice the target audience in verses four through six. He says this is for both the immature and inexperienced as well as those already mature and discerning. We are never too old to grow in wise living!

Finally, we get to the foundational principle of the course: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Here “knowledge” is used synonymously with “wisdom.” Wisdom for living is found only in a relationship with God. There is no wisdom apart from Him. This statement is the key to understanding the Book of Proverbs. It is what sets this instruction apart from other “wisdom” or “self-help” in the world. Solomon is saying that until we have this relationship, godly wisdom is outside of our reach. This final verse implies that the course is not mere “self-help,” but rather God-based and that its intention is to teach us how to live as God’s people in the world, whether we are at home, work, or in our various relationships. The goal of the course, then, is to make us “set apart” for the Lord in His world. It means to teach us godly living.

That relationship is described as one which has “fear” in it (Proverbs 1:7). We wince a bit at this word when used in relation to God, but there it is: “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7). What comes to mind is awe, reverence such as that experienced by the Israelites as they watched God destroy the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-31). Exodus 15 tells us how they were filled with the fear of the Lord and worshiped!

The word is used to convey a sense of dread and terror, such as when the sailors on the raging sea, in the story of Jonah, asked him “What have you done?” (Jonah 1:10).

The word “fear” is also used in the context of anxiety, as when Isaiah in the Temple experienced the awesome presence of the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-13).

I think too of the end of the story of Abraham as he was in the act of sacrificing his son Isaac in obedience to God’s command, and God stopped him and said, “Now I know that you fear me, because you obeyed” (Genesis 22:12).

There is a rational and an emotional aspect to this relationship described as “fear of the Lord.” It is important for us to remember that when God steps into one’s life, it is not a partnership but a takeover. It’s not a democracy, but a theocracy. This God holds absolute authority over everythingÑlife and death is in His hand.

I remember when I memorized the parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. One of those sections was on the Ten Commandments and their meanings. Luther wrote of the first commandment, “We are to fear, love and trust God above all things.” In other words, this is the very basis of a relationship with Him.

A couple of modern-day snapshots might be helpful in further understanding the fear of the Lord:

I loved my father. I trusted him as he raised me, provided for me and loved me. I also feared him in a healthy way. His word was final and to disobey would lead to serious consequences. Another example: the police. I love the police and what they do for us. I trust them to come when I am in need of their help and feel safer with them around. But when I’m speeding down the road and I see those flashing lightsÉI fear them!

Solomon says the fear of the Lord is the beginningÑthat’s a Hebrew way of saying “the chief thing, the controlling principle, the prerequisite.” Living in reverent submission to God is the prerequisite to a relationship with Him. One commentator wrote in reference to this verse, “What the alphabet is to reading, notes are to music, and numerals are to mathematics, the fear of the Lord is to attaining the revealed knowledge of this book [Proverbs].”

So if the wisdom we pray for begins with a right relationship with God, how does one enter into that relationship?

In the New Testament book of Colossians there is a wonderful little verse in chapter two that reads as follows: “In Christ lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

It’s in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that God’s wisdom is made available. Christ has made a saving relationship with God available through his death on the cross. There he paid the penalty for our sins and opened the way for a relationship with God as we entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. When a person enters into that relationship with Christ, Paul tells us, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge become available to us.

So parents and grandparents, back to that original question: What do you want for your children and grandchildren? As a parent myself, I know I want the best for them, don’t you? That means doing everything in my power to make sure that child knows the Savior. A right relationship with God (fearing, loving and trusting), is the beginning of that wisdom we want our kids to have.

Maybe this text is calling us to a time of personal inventory and decision. Not just for your loved ones, but what is your relationship with God? Are you living as a fool without God’s wisdom, trying to make life work on your own? We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that we have life by the tail and we know what’s best for ourselves. God’s Word today calls that living as a fool. Maybe it’s time to turn around and put God back where he belongs in your lifeÑat the center.

Hypocrisy

From your knowledge of the Scriptures, which of the following sins was treated most sternly by Jesus? Was it the sin of stealing?

In the nineteenth chapter of Luke, we find the story of Zacchaeus who became wealthy by stealing from others. He was a tax collector and assessed the people far more than was reasonable. This was extra money in his pocket. Jesus spent some time with Zacchaeus and reminded him that over assessing the citizens was wrong. It was a form of legalized stealing. His counsel to the tax collector brought Zacchaeus to see his wrong. Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin, received Christ as his Savior, and became a changed man. As a fruit of his faith, Zacchaeus was a new man. Half of his money he gave to the poor, and from those he had stolen he gave back four times as much as he had received from them.

What did Jesus say to the crowd about Zacchaeus? “Today salvation has come to this man’s house.”

Adultery. Turn to the John chapter eight and you find the story of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses said that she could be stoned. Her accusers asked, “Now Jesus, what do you say?” Jesus replied, “If any one of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

They all went away, and Jesus asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” He did not condone her sin, but instead forgave it.

In today’s text we find Jesus describing the scribes and Pharisees as people who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” Now turn ahead in your Bible to our text and listen to Jesus’ words. “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important places in the synagogues, and the place of honor at the banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely” (40). In other words, don’t let your lifestyle contradict what you teach.

Bishop Ryle once said, “Of all the sins into which people can fall, none seem so exceedingly sinful as false profession and hypocrisy. It is bad enough to be led into open sin and to serve lust and pleasure, but it is even worse to have a religion while in reality we serve the world. Let us be real, honest, and sincere in our Christian faith.”

You find at least two types of hypocrisy in the Bible. Peter represents one of these types, and the Pharisees another type.

These hypocrites are people who by nature present themselves to be something they are not. These people are seen in every age. It is their lifestyle. Sometimes they are described as people who cannot be trusted. Their word is no good. They say one thing and do another, and it doesn’t seem to bother them. Let me illustrate.

A young man in our church was killed while serving in Vietnam. He was shipped home with permission to show the body if his family so desired, and that was their wish. It was very emotional. He was a fine young man with many talents.

After the funeral, three men from our congregation came to visit with me. They were very upset that our nation went to war in Vietnam, but now it was evident to them that we should leave before other men and women die in battle.

The spokesman for the three men wasted no time in letting me know why they were in my study. With very profane language, the one said to me, “You *@#$%^* hypocrite! We see you on Sunday morning dressed in a white robe and a stole with a cross hanging around your neck. You present yourself as a pious child of God. You know what to say and when to say it. You taught us in our confirmation class that we were to love one another. Now our country is in Vietnam killing and being killed. In no way can it be labeled a holy war!

“You have been schooled by the elders in the congregation to keep politics out of the pulpit, and you did. You were not willing to stand up and be counted. You are a hypocrite preaching to other hypocrites while people on both side are dying. We want you to know that we want nothing more to do with the congregation!”

At first the spokesman for the three made me angry. But then I got a hold of myself and thought, “Listen to what they are saying. They have something to teach you.”

Many other times, when young people would come to me with their concerns, a common complaint went something like this: “You don’t know our family. We appear as a strong Christian family, but living in our home is often difficult. It is off to church on Sunday morning, but during the week a lot of anger is voiced in our family. When I remind them of what we heard in church on Sunday, they simply say, “The home is the place where you can be yourself and blow off steam when necessary.”

Jesus denounced this type of hypocrisy. Yet, there is a second type of hypocrisy. It is also sin, but a bit different. This type of hypocrisy does not characterize the way a person lives. However, it does not mean they are free from all hypocrisy.

Would you consider Peter, our Lord’s disciple, to be a hypocrite? I would not, and yet there were times when Peter said one thing and did something else.

Remember the night Jesus was betrayed and the enemies took him to Pilate’s court. A slave girl recognized Peter as one of Jesus’ disciples. She said to him, “You also were with Jesus in Galilee.”

Peter, who had promised Jesus he would never leave him, denied the Savior with an oath: “I don’t know what you are talking about!” He denied Jesus not just once, but three times. Was Peter a hypocrite? Yes, he was, but hypocrisy was not the way Peter normally lived. In fact, when Peter realized what he had done, the Bible says he went out and wept bitterly.

Hypocrisy should be a concern for all Christians. We are all guilty of this sin. Yet, where we have fallen, Christ will forgive us. With God’s strength, may we rise up and be people of conviction living a life that supports what we confess.

An Ongoing Reformation

Last Sunday we celebrated the Festival of the Reformation. We were introduced to Martin Luther, who, while studying the Scriptures, discovered something was seriously wrong in the church.

The biblical teachings that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ had been changed. People were being taught that to be saved they had to do good works in addition to grace through faith. To add to this heresy, a man named Tetzel, the Pope’s representative, was selling indulgences. He taught that if one would buy a letter of indulgence, the soul of a departed loved one would be released from purgatory. “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs,” the teaching went.

This teaching was so contrary to the Bible that Luther came forth and exposed the wrong teachings in the Church, which had been accumulating through the centuries. The Reformation became a reality.

Now, hundreds of years have passed and biblical teachings again are being denied by leaders in the church. Changes have been made to accommodate the culture of a particular generation. We are far away from what God has said in his inspirited Word. Is it not time for an ongoing reformation?

First, let us say that the church is very much alive in many places today. Congregations are growing, not simply in numbers but also in spirit. Many are being converted or spiritually awakened, and know what it is to live in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The buildings are packed on Sundays. There is outreach to unbelievers and a concern for the social and physical needs of people.

However, this is not so in all congregations. Many are experiencing decline in membership and, more important, church attendance. People are angry and refusing to contribute financially to the congregation or denomination. In these churches, there is little or no talk about conversion, spiritual awakenings, or a relationship with God. Parents are careless about having their children attend Sunday school, and some teachers have no relationship with God and are teaching purely out of obligation. These congregations are destined to die.

Is there any place to go for help? Yes! Your Bible can lead you to new life in your congregation and your denomination if you will take this word seriously. Let us look at our Scripture text for this day.

Timothy was a young pastor and Paul, the writer of these words, was a seasoned soldier of the cross who was about to be martyred for his faith in Christ. Note verse three that reads: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (II Timothy 4:3).

Does this describe your congregation or denomination?

Note the words “sound doctrine.” How serious are we about the Bible today? Does it stand as God’s unchangeable truth or does it demand updating? Culture and education are the cause of some of these biblical changes.

Paul tells us what to do when we see these changes being made in the Scriptures. In preaching the Word Paul tells Timothy to correct, rebuke, and encourage.

1. Correct. Soon we will celebrate Christmas. This is the season when the Bible tells us that a virgin conceived and bore a child, and his name was called Jesus. Many do not believe Mary was a virgin and have tried to convince others that a better translation for the word is “young woman.” The fact is, the Bible says, “before they came together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”

This denial of the virgin birth is serious. It must be corrected before the biblical teaching is cast aside as a teaching of the past that does not speak to our society. Letting such heresies stand in the name of the Church calls for an ongoing reformation, and those responsible should be disciplined, despite academic freedom. We are bound by the Word of God!

2. Rebuke. Paul gives us an example of rebuking when he spoke to Peter in Galatians 2:11-16. According to their rabbinical laws, the Jews were not allowed to eat with Gentiles. However, the Christian faith said there was no discrimination between Jews and Gentiles. All were one in Christ Jesus. Peter accepted the Christian teaching and freely ate with the Gentiles. However, when a group of Jews came to visit, Peter then refused to eat with the Gentiles. His hypocrisy was so offensive to the Christians that some were led astray.

Seeing Peter’s error, Paul writes, “I said to Peter in front of them all, ÔYou are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not ÔGentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified'” (Galatians 2:14b-16).

Nipping Peter’s error in the bud was necessary because it could have been the beginning of a wrong teaching. An ongoing reformation is always needed.

The E.L.C.A., as an official voice, stands in need of correction in passing the sexuality statement, making it possible for practicing homosexuals to be pastors in this church. It is also contrary to Scripture that we should endorse and even officiate at same-sex marriages. It is time for an ongoing reformation in our church.

Imagine if Luther, after seeing the error in the church of his day, had said, Well, we have to learn how to live with one another and be brothers and sisters in Christ. If that had been the reformer’s attitude, we would have no evangelical church. Instead, this fiery man stood in front of the pope and the emperor and said, “I will not recant!” We must have an ongoing reformation in the Church in every generation, for we are weak and easily led astray from God’s Word.

3. Encourage. All correcting must be done in love. It matters not if it be Paul in Antioch, Luther in Wittenburg, or you and me in our hometowns. God in his love will forgive our shortcomings and send us on our way again. We must correct and rebuke, but we must also come with the message of forgiveness and encouragement.

How can such an ongoing reformation start? It starts with you and me. We have plenty in our lives that is out of line with God’s Word. Let us confess our sins and let Christ cleanse us. Let God’s Word drive us to the cross, where we will be cleansed, and then move on to do greater things for our Lord.

It needs to continue in our congregations, where we also put God’s Word on the shelf from time to time. We follow our leaders, and those leaders are not always right. Test what is happening in your church with one question: Is it according to God’s Word? If it is, then you can be sure your congregation will be a vital voice in your town.

This ongoing reformation needs to continue in our denominations. Politics prevail in these large bodies making them much more difficult to reform. However, our witness must be heard.

Someone once said, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” That is true. However, being a faithful follow of Christ and his Word is not for sissies either. For it calls us to suffering, and that is never easy.