Monday, April 24, 2017

The worldview I share

Eight Answers to Basic Questions that convey my worldview

1. What is prime reality – the really real?  God, and what He chooses to allow to exist.
2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? Around us we have the created material universe that we inhabit and explore and, also around us we have an immaterial creation, founded prior to us, populated by evil spirits who hate us, and seek our destruction, and good spirits who are fascinated by the salvation that our Creator has provided for us, and love us with a love that reflects God’s mercy, rejoicing at His love for every repentant sinner (Luke 15.10).
3. What is a human being?  A creature made to demonstrate to ‘all things visible and invisible’ God’s love and mercy toward sinners..
4. What happens at death?  Humans were created capable of two kinds of death, physical and spiritual.  At physical death, the person’s spirit goes to face their eternal destiny (everlasting life or everlasting torment), as their body decomposes to await the resurrection of the body on the last Day.  All human beings have been redeemed from spiritual death by the atonement made by God’s Son, but spiritual death still awaits those who do not have a living connection to God’s Son, through trust in Him.
5. How is it possible to know anything at all?  God has given us minds to process reality, and He has made knowledge possible through both natural revelation, and special revelation.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong?  Natural revelation gives some guidance, but ultimate morality is revealed to human beings by God, through His word in special revelation (Holy Scripture).
7. What is the meaning of human history?  The Redemption of humanity, by the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the central event of all human history.  From the foundation of the world, God has created human reproduction (‘marrying and giving in marriage’  Matthew 22.30), and permits generation after generation of sinners to be born, as long as the worship of His Son for being our Redeemer continues to grow among every ‘nation, all tribes and peoples and languages’ (Revelation 7.9).
8. What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?  Only a commitment to ‘hear the word of God, and keep it’ (Luke 11.28) is consistent with the worldview described in the first seven questions.  And the most crucial word of God to keep is the ‘Word…made flesh’ Jesus Christ, for only in communion with Him – including His Church – is there salvation.  (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus est)  At the same time, those who keep God’s word for themselves will also want to share the Gospel with others, so that the worship of God’s Son may grow all over the world.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

True Freedom - Part Two - Free to Fight

'whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and  this is the victory that has overcome the world—our  faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' (John 5:4–5).

Many examples exist, on both sides of the European conflict in WWII, of downed airmen, who - having escaped from prison camps - went on to re-join the fight in the air. In this I see a picture of the way the Gospel works in the life of a Christian.

Sin and guilt have a way of ending our 'flight' as Christians. We find ourselves, not only grounded, but out of 'the fight' as well. Do you feel that your failures and past sins have down-graded you to the position of being useless as a Christian witness? If so, this is a known tactic of the devil to cripple people who would otherwise serve to advance the kingdom of Christ.

Christians so held in the bondage of guilt are like 'prisoners of war', grounded and unable to challenge the evil that threatens the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven. Forgiveness of sins is not only intended to restore us once more to be aloft with the angels, so to speak, but forgiveness of sins, through trust in Christ, our Redeemer, sets us free from the power of guilt to hinder our Christian life.

This means we can be more than forgiven. We can be 'conquerors' and 'overcome' the forces that would keep us down and out as Christians.  Look at all that God's word has to say about 'overcoming', and how often Christ encourages us to remain steadfast through trials (Revelation 2:26; 3:21; 21:7). This is because the Christian lives in a world that is not a playground, but a battleground. Look at the theology of 'spiritual warfare' in 'the Church Militant'.

We speak of 'the Theology of the Cross', because the cross is not just something Christ carried to atone for the our sin, it is also a burden we take up, as His forgiven people. As one of our hymns puts it, 'Then let us follow Christ our Lord, and take the cross appointed; And, firmly clinging to His word, in suff'ring be undaunted. For those who bear the battle strain, that crown of heavenly life obtain'  ('Come, Follow Me', by Johann Scheffler, 1624-77).

God is challenging you and me, to get back into the game! He has forgiven our sins. We should consider ourselves re-furbished, re-habilitated, and ready for action. He expects us to suit up with the body-armor He provides, escape from the clutches of diabolical doubts, and fight on! Ephesians 6:11–17 describes 'the armour' available to all believers, to put on 'with prayer and supplication to God'. 

Because He offers such heavenly support, God is able to issue the order to 'stand firm'. Sometimes all it takes to overcome temptation is to 'stand your ground'.  We have God’s promise, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from you' (James 4.7)

And, when we are weary from the fight, and have taken a few hits along the way, He offers healing and wholeness again, by His Gospel word and sacraments.  At every Divine Service we are re-armed as well as renewed.  Then, in the days to come  '… when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,  Steals on the ear the distant triumph song.  And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.  Alleluia! Alleluia!