Saturday, June 19, 2010

People Aren't Dying without Christ

I hear all the time that people are dying without Christ, so we must do something. And normally, I end up taking issue with the later half of the statement - that it isn't I who do anything, but the Word that does it. Proclaim the Word and salvation will arise. And often I get blank stares, befuddlement, and wonder as to what I am talking about. I had thought a lot of the misguided mission talk was centered around a lack of understanding of the 3rd article of the Creed - that I by my own reason or strength cannot believe in Christ Jesus my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me. . . and ditto the Church.

That is something that is messed up, something that is missed - but I think I have made a breakthrough. The reason why people don't understand the 3rd Article of the Creed is because they don't believe the impact of the Law and the 2nd Article.

Consider the phrase "People are dying without Christ". Scripturally speaking - is that true - is that the fullness of what it is to be without Christ? To be dying?

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." - Ephesians 2:1-3

It's not that people are dying, it's that they are already DEAD. Period. Dead as a doornail. To not have faith is to be dead, dead, dead.

You see, it's not that the people out there are dying and *we* can rescue them, that we can stop them from drowning, even that we can convince them to come on in and be rescued. They are dead. I can't raise the dead by my own reason or strength - I can't find the magic program that will suddenly give life to the dead. I am not able to breath into man the breath of life. . .

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. . ."

But God can. God excels at breathing into the nostrils of man the breath of life -- or to be all Hebrew about it, Gos excels at Spiriting into man the Spirit of life -- you know, the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of Life. . . I cannot do anything, but the Holy Spirit, who always accompanies the Word of God, the Word of Christ, the Word that points to and gives Christ, He can and does raise those dead in trespasses and give them life.

And this is totally and completely the work of the Spirit by the Gospel, by the Word of God. Seriously. Totally and completely - without any merit or worth in me bringing about my salvation. . . "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

There is nothing I bring to the table as regards my salvation. And now I will make a bold claim that will drive many folks nuts. There is nothing that I bring to the table regarding anyone else's salvation. Not my awesome plans or programs. Not my brilliant ideas for outreach. Not any simple 7 steps outlined in my best seller.

Why do I say that? "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Oh, sure, I do good works - but they aren't "my" good works. Not properly speaking - it's not as though I create the good works, or that I have to find them or plan them or micromanage them, or that I do anything of myself to bring them about. No - I am God's workmanship - I am created by God in Christ Jesus for good works - for HIS good works that He has prepared before hand -- and He simply makes me to walk in them.

Why is it that we focus on our plans? Why is it that like the wise fool we look at our programs and our barns and say, "Ah, now we can do stuff"? You want an outreach plan - here's one that isn't something I made up, doesn't involve any steps. It's God's plan - go live your life, and you know what, God has prepared good works for you to walk in.

There it is. Will God put people in your life for you to care for? Yep. Will God put people in your life for you to encourage with the Word? Yep. Will God even put people into your life who are dead, dead, dead, and then have you speak out the Word He had spoken to you, have you breath out the Spirit who has been breathed into you? Yep.

You want outreach - be in Christ's Word. Receive the Word and Spirit of life in preaching, in the Supper. Then go live your life. Hear Christ, be forgiven, be strengthened by Christ's Body and Blood in the Supper. That way you may fend off Satan when he tries to keep you from carrying for people. That way you won't worry about what you will say (WHAT? You mean we don't have to check the program's notebook for what we have to say at point 2.1 b in our script? Or determine what stage of interest the person might be?) - for "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.""

Why don't we simply listen to Christ - and then speak back what He has said to us in His Word? We used to do that. Our lives were shaped by the liturgy (which is us simply speaking back to God His Word), our training shaped by the Catechism (which is us simply speaking back to God His Word in an orderly, German way), our daily prayers (which is us simply speaking back to God His Word, often exactly as He has taught us to pray. . .) - oh foolish Americans, who has bewitched us that we would substitute for the simple, clear proclamation of Law and Gospel in season and out of season for the plans and ideas of men.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.


scott said...

Bingo. I think Pastor Curtis was just up in NE talking on this very topic. When we say the meaning to the 3rd Article we get that it is not by our own reason or strength that we come to Christ. But then we turn around and think that by our own reason and strength we can get other people to come to Christ. This is the weird way by which apologetics has been turned around -- the word means a defense, but the modern church thinks it is offense. The feeling is that, if only we could say the words in the right way, with the right emotions and reasons, a whole lot more people would be saved.

You are right -- by abiding in Christ's word, by the preaching and teaching of the church, Christ draws people to Him. We can't screw that up if we wanted to. Nothing can tear Christ's sheep from His hand -- not height, depth, angels, demons, or even us. It really is all by God's grace. And that's a good thing.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Great, great post. Evangelism was intended to happen through vocation, not through programs, and certainly not through guilt for letting all those people out there die.

Rev. Gregory W. Brown said...

I tell my people that if they know and believe the Apostles' Creed they can all live and share their life they have with Christ in service to others. Love God, Love your neighbor by living your vocational life.