For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. 2Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. 3God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, 4and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understanding of the secret of Christ.) 5In past times human beings were not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. 6The secret is that by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God’s blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. Eph 3:1-6 GNT
There is in God’s judgment no greater sin on earth than when pious men and women despise those who lie in their sin.
Sin is, of course sin.
Let’s take the sixth commandment – it covers all sexual sin, where the blessing that God gave to a wife and husband is misused, and sexual intimacy is shared between any two that are not married. (in thought and word–as well as deed). Sin is sin.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, it has the same consequence, it divides us from God, each other, and even shatters who we are. Using the 6th commandment again, it doesn’t matter who the contact is between, or whether it is just in words – or thoughts. It is sin.
Luther claims to know that God’s #1 issue is when His people, or those who appear so, hate their brother and sister so much that they leave them in sin, unaware that the Lord has provided a cure and healing for the sinner, and will gladly transform them (2 Cor. 3) into the likeness of Jesus. To leave someone, helpless and unaware of this, to not have this basic level of compassion for them, is wrong. It shows a lack of love that is contrary to the love of Christ dying on the cross.
Compare that to Paul’s words about bringing the Gentiles into the Kingdom alongside the Jewish believers in Christ. He would work with everything he had, with the extent of making this mystery (which wasn’t really–the Old Testament tells over and over that the Gentiles would be called home.) known.
It is our responsibility now – not just pastors and missionaries–our responsibility as the church, to welcome everyone into the Kingdom of God, to see them cleansed from their sins, to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
Does that mean that all my Church needs to move to Ephesus – and walk in the footsteps of Paul? Or all go to seminary? No, but we can pray for these people, love them, and be guided by the Holy Spirit’s love to share with them the hope we have, because of Jesus, and the cross.
Ask God to show you who is ready to hear, Ask Him to give you the words, that they would come to know Him, and be transformed as God promises, as God planned. Listen, love, share… and realize you are a co-worker of Jesus, a person He shares His harvest with, and His glory.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 282.
1 Peter 3:13-18
† In Jesus’ Name †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give the desire to share the hope you have in Christ with everyone around you!
- Apologetics – The Necessity
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, two terms became important in the church in America. The first was “evangelism” as program after program was developed to guide the church in evangelizing the world.
The second, which became needed as people started to try to evangelize their neighborhoods and the world, was Apologetics. Since that time, you can now take college courses in apologetics, even get a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate in it, as one learns to “defend” the faith.
The term apologetics comes from the passage in 1 Peter read this morning.
“And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. “
Where Evangelism is defined as bringing good news, Apologetics is very simply “giving the reason,” in this case, giving the reason we have hope in this life. The question then becomes, how do we explain why we have hope?
What is necessary to explain this hope we have, which means we also define what isn’t necessary.
What have we learned or experienced or do we have in our lives that they need to know in order to have the hope we have?
- What isn’t necessary?
Somehow, in the midst of the church movements of the 70-80’s, the idea of evangelism and apologetics almost became a profession. Radio shows were created like “The Bible Answer Man” with and “Christianity on Trial. Books were written “evidence that demands a verdict, and later-the Case for Christ. Universities created Masters and Doctoral Degrees in evangelism and apologetics. The latter has been re-defined to meaning to “defend the faith”, whether historically or from the basic of logic. Lots of things to memorize – and all of it is good – and somewhat interesting.
But it isn’t what you need to explain to people why you have hope!
I don’t have hope because I can argue about how the Bible was written over 2500 years. I don’t have hope because I can explain some complications inherent in the describing how the Trinity functions and relates to each other. I don’t have hope because I can teach on all the different views about baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
I am not saying that we don’t need to know – and don’t need to pursue the truth about Jesus> We need to, and it must be based on what He’s revealed to us in scripture. We need to do that – that’s why we study the scriptures together! That’s why we test what people teach against the scriptures.
But when someone wants to know why you have hope in the midst of this crazy, messed up world, they don’t need to know the 5 different views about the Lord’s Supper, or be able to express arguments about how much water is needed to baptize someone, or how to accurately explain what the Trinity is, or what the difference between free will and predestination…
All that stuff can encourage hope once we have it—but it doesn’t explain why we have hope in the middle of this broken world.
It just makes us feel good to know we know more than them…which can easily lead to the sin of pride, and hurting our neighbor because we didn’t explain why we have hope.
- What is of value – what is necessary to tell the unbeliever?
What we need to tell them is why we have hope….
The fact we know God loves us, as Peter said because “Christ suffered for our sins, once and for all time,” so that, “He died for sinners to bring us safely home to God.”
That’s where we can start – just the facts – God loves us, He died to set us free of sin, to set us free from the fear of death.
If we bring up the sacraments, it’s not to debate them! It’s to simply to relate the promises they give us: the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Spirit, and eternity in God’s joy-filled, glorious presence.
That is what we have hope for, to enter the presence of God, the creator of everything that is,
And as Peter said, the way we do it is through Christ’s death on the cross.
That is why we have hope….
- You’ve brought safely Home
That hope is what the people we come in contact need to hear. Manny’s lesson in Sunday School takes this even farther, as it looks at an example in Acts of this very thing. It talks of people who were curious about the resurrection of the dead, because their religions and idols had nothing like it.
Nor did they have the Son of God, Jesus, who would be appointed judge of all, who loves us so completely that He would come and dwell among us.
Some people have reached the point where they are ready to hear of that hope, others we are simply planting a seed for the future. The hope that comes because, as Peter wrote, “He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.
Therefore… we have risen… ALLELUIA!
Thoughts which draw me to the cross
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had had the demons begged him, “Let me go with you!” But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.” Mark 5:18-19 GNT
1 I praise you, LORD, because you have saved me and kept my enemies from gloating over me. 2 I cried to you for help, O LORD my God, and you healed me; 3 you kept me from the grave. I was on my way to the depths below, but you restored my life. Psalm 30:1-3 (TEV)
Had not these shepherds believed the angel they would never have gone to Bethlehem, they would have done none of those things related of them in this gospel. One might say, I would gladly believe if an angel from heaven were to preach to me. But whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him.
The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation.
Luther points out something we know, at least we should know it. The shepherds, the first of the New Testament evangelists, went to share what they saw in a manger. This is what the angels shared with them, but their message was not about the angels, it was about the Messiah, who came to them.
Likewise, the man posessed by demons, commissioned to bring the gospel to his gentile community, is to talk about what God has done to him.
Hear the Psalmist as well, who understands that they’ve been saved at the gates of hell. Saved from those depths, and restored!
These are the seeds of a revival. These are souls that are being changed by God, souls that have been cured. There is little need ot but point them at their community, at their world and let them go bring the news about God’s ministry in their lives. (Luther goes on to say they shouldn’t remember the messenger – so overwhemed by the presence of God and His love.) This changes communities, it changes the world.
Revival doesn’t just target a demographic. It tells everyone, and they come, for they need God’s love and cure as well. This is so different from the Church Growth Strategies I’ve been taught over the last 40 years! Those strategies want the pastor and leadership to plan the ministry, to control the way the Holy Spirit focuses, bsaed on data and marketing strategies, leadership principles and, to be honest , investment strategies. (Investement of time and resources, not just money).
Revival means the pastor is, as Peterson notes – more focusd on helping people deal with sin and sorrow by planting seeds of grace, and encouraging people’s awareness of the Christ revealed to them in prayer, study, sermons and the sacraments. Done well, the people treasure these moments of being cured, and it is so amazing that they will share it with those they encounter. Their hunger is for Christ, and to see the Holy Spirit at work.
“Seek God first, and the rest shall be added to you” THis is true for the church, as well as for the individual.
Lord, please help us look to You, to cry out for Your minisry, for You to revive Your church. Help us to seek Your face, and then send us to tell others what You have done! Help us hear Your message, and to see You revealed to us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 456.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 65.
22 Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (TEV)
28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)
I think we cannot experience that which we have not believed. I still think we must instruct and urge men and women, toiling along in average and common Christian ways, to move forward and claim spiritual victory they have not yet known.
The joyful and the sad should be advised differently. Before the joyful are to be set the sad things that accompany [eternal] punishment, but before the sad the joyous promises of the kingdom should be set.
It was nearly 40 years ago that I was “trained” as an evangelist and trainer of evangelists. Somewhere I even have the certificate from Evangelism Explosion, and the neat talking cards they equipped me with, so that I could be an evangelist, and train others to do the same.
Forty years later, I feel less equipped, having seen that a practiced monologue doesn’t make someone an evangelist. I know now that the role of an evangelist, like that of a pastor, is something that can take years, that requires the patience of a shepherd, and the willingness to sacrifice time and energy helping people see the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Because we struggle in this world, because we struggle in our own worlds, we need to hear the gospel-the truth that God loves us-daily ourselves. We need to believe, as Tozer points out, what we are sharing. We need to have revealed the victory that God provides. Otherwise we cannot provide it for those who we love and care for, for we cannot give what we’ve not had given to us.
The other part of this is that we can’t give to someone else when we don’t know where they are at. We have to be like them, as Paul so eloquently points out. All of us are evangelists and therefore serve as a conduit of God’s grace. But conduits connect two points, in this case, God and one or ten or 100 of His people. Some of these know they are God’s people, some are beginning to discover it, and some are fighting it. So we come alongside them, and bear their weakness, we share in their trials, and we love them…
The work of an evangelist is never clean, it is never simple. I learned that when on one of my first EE calls, the door we knocked on to visit a couple was answered by the wife’s “friend”, and she would come to the door, well, not adequately dressed. They both, and the husband, needed God’s presence, in the days ahead, yet no card in my stack addressed their situation in a way that would draw them to Jesus. It would take them years to work through life’s issues, as the gospel and the church showed them God loved them. Not a ten-minute presentation followed by a prayer and baptism. More like a spiritual rollercoaster that seems out of control. But God knows the tracks… we just ride with our people.
This is ministry, an investment of time and love, to help the broken find healing they need for the wounds of life, as they get to know the Lord who loves them. This is whether you are a pastor, or a parent, a elder or just a friend. For we all can share the Lord’s love that we’ve come to know.
Let us depend on God’s love and presence, as we share that with those around us….
A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 93.
So tell the Israelites that I say to them, ‘I am the LORD; I will rescue you and set you free from your slavery to the Egyptians. I will raise my mighty arm to bring terrible punishment upon them, and I will save you. I will make you my own people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God when I set you free from slavery in Egypt. I will bring you to the land that I solemnly promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as your own possession. I am the LORD.’ ” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they would not listen to him, because their spirit had been broken by their cruel slavery. Exodus 6:6-9 GNT
Two blind men who were sitting by the road heard that Jesus was passing by, so they began to shout, “Son of David! Take pity on us, sir!” Matthew 20:30, GNT
Therefore, the discourse of the teacher should be adapted to the character of his audience so that it can address the specific needs of each individual and yet never shrink from the art of communal edification.
As the good works which Christ does to you have no name, so your good works are to have no name. They have no name so that there may be no distinction made and they be not divided, else you might do some and leave others undone. You shall give yourself entirely to him with all you have, the same as Christ gave himself wholly to you, with praying, fasting, all works and suffering, so that there is nothing in him that is not yours and was not done for you. Thus it is not your good work that you give alms and pray, but that you offer yourself to your neighbor and serve him, whenever he needs you and in every way you can, be it with alms, prayer, work, counsel, comfort, apologizing, clothing, food, and if need be, with suffering and death.
It is true that man can, by his natural powers, arrive at a natural and imperfect beatitude. This may include within itself a certain knowledge of God, even a kind of seemingly mystical contemplation. Those who are satisfied with the Pelagian solution find this to be quite enough for them. And if that is the case, we are quite willing to admit that they are right as far as they go. For they can, by their own power, reach what they think is the end of the journey. But what they call the end is not even the beginning.
When I first entered the ministry, I was a last second invite to an exclusive seminar on preaching. Last second because I had called a mega-church about a leadership gathering at 4 pm on a Friday, and someone cancelled out of the seminar a few minutes before my call. So I went…. and learned something not taught to me in the 9 classes I have had on preaching.
They all taught how to prepare the sermon, how to work through the passage or the theme. How to draw up the outline and the summary sentence, and even critique by peers on the delivery. All this was good – and faithful, and absolutely necessary.
But it left out something critical to know. We have to study more than the scriptures. We have to know more than theology.
We have to study, to know our people, and where they are at in their journey.
Moses had to realize the people of God could not listen, because their spirit was broken. They could not trust in the wonderful message of being rescued from Egypt. Notice is say – “You will know, I am the LORD-your God-when I set you free. Moses has to realize this, if he is to be patient with the people of God. (he had to learn this – like all pastors!) The two blind men were not ready to hear about the cross, they needed to know God’s pity extended into their lives, were they were at sitting by the side of the road. Merton’s gnostic person, not far from God, still needs to encounter Him, and have his entire life reset, even though he is spiritual and discerns there is a god. These examples, are found over and over–those who minister to others, need to know whom they are ministering to!
This is not new – Gregory the great – a Pope from 1400 years ago, taught this in his book to train pastors. We have to adapt our preaching and teaching to minister to those people we are encountering. This is true about pastors, and their example should lead their people to do the same thing–to know who they are trying to draw closer to Jesus. We have to meet the spiritual needs of the individual and the entire Bible study or congregation. (That this was one of the 4 major lessons from Robert Schuller was, I believe, part of the reason his ministry reached so many that would not give time to other pastors!)
So this brings us to the quote from Luther, the lesson we need to know, if we are to communicate and communicate God’s love to our families, our neighborhoods, our communities. Those words in green sound challenging – to imitate Christ – to love and give of ourselves the way He loves and gives Himself to us. Again – how we communicate this is critical! People (and pastors) need to know how Jesus loves them, and gives Himself to them before they can do the same! Luther notes it rightly, giving ourselves completely looks different with every person, and even day to day.
That’s a lot of sacrifice–but if we are to minister to people – whether 5000, 100, or 2, we have to know them, and that comes from being there for them.. Then we know their struggles, their pains, and where they are with God.
So if you want someone to know Jesus, if you want to see them live in the peace that only Christ can instill in them, love them and dedicate yourself them.
And then, bring them to Jesus- from where they are at… and know He loves you both!
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 87.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 422–423.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 28.
This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 GNT
I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2 GNT
With the Lord’s Supper God has bound up his own honor, for in Christ alone he desires to be acknowledged and worshiped as our God. So far as the Holy Supper is a confession before men, the communicant proclaims Christ and teaches faith in him. He helps to spread and preserve the kingdom of Christ, strengthens the influence of gospel and sacrament, aids in the conversion of sinners and in storming the devil’s kingdom.
Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be “given.” And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.
More seriously, the question is not only whether the discipline is doing good but whether it might actually be doing some harm. Could it be that systematic theology as usually practiced actually frustrates the proclamation of the gospel?
I have been in many missional seminars, and read many books about making the church more evangelistic. Read a ton of books about apologetics, and church growth, and personal, lifestyle evangelism; while beneficial to my faith, they haven’t really been as effective as I would have hoped in helping me share Jesus with others.
No where near as effective as experiencing Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians notes the missional value (the benefit to sharing our faith) found in the Lord’s Supper. When we are partaking, when we are in communion with God, we are naturally proclaiming His death. Specifically, that His death was “for us”.
I always thought we were preaching to the choir, to the other men and women that are with us there at the altar. But Luther noted that proclamation is more than that. When we realize this is God is in this moment, giving Himself under the bread and wine, the moment can and should become life transforming. We come to the altar tired, broken, plagued by the things of the world, tormented by guilt and we leave, our spirits lifted, our hearts set free, and our outlook on life changed.
This is the gospel that systematic theology should drive pastors and professors to talk about in Bible studies, sermons, books. This is the outside factor that Merton talked about, the revelation giving definition to our lives. it is what Abraham learned from God, that he was blessed, and part of that blessing, a major part is that God’s work through him to bless us, and all who depended on God throughout history.
The blessings come, as Abraham learned, because God is present with us. He is not just the topic of conversation as we ponder the mysteries of our faith. He is present, joining in the conversation, present in the bread and the wine, present as we realize we share in His death and resurrection.
And then we leave church, and see people experiencing the brokenness, and realizing how He is healing ours, and we share with them that His death was for them as well.
Missional thought, being evangelistic comes from hearts and souls touched by God and responding to it.
Consider what God is giving you in the Lord’s supper… and then.. in awe, ask Him to show you others that need it.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 392–393.
Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 6–7.
Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), viii.
Thoughts that encourage us to adore our God,
3 With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation! 4 In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the LORD! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is! 5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done wonderful things. Make known his praise around the world. Isaiah 12:3-5 (NLT2)
Our Lord commands us to pray the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest field. What we are overlooking is that no one can be a worker who is not first a worshiper. Labor that does not spring out of worship is futile.… (1)
I think the post enlightenment church has evangelism all wrong. Especially as it tries to address the post modern age, and the world which gave birth to post modernism.
Evangelism is ultimately nothing more than worship. That is all it is, where the joy of seeing God at work in our lives is so celebrated that we share that joy (and the comfort) with those around us.
This is far different than evangelisms programs today, which train people to prove Chirstianity, to argue about its logic compared to the other religious systems, or against the logic of prominent atheists. It takes the form of combat, or at least a competitive debate. We talk of proofs and confrontations, and it seems some are as happy when some walk away in frustration as when someone gets baptized.
That is not why the world will know about God according to scripture. It is not about the victory of logic, but the transformation the Spirit causes as Jesus is preached. That is where God’s might is focused, on our redemption, on making us who were sinners into the people He has set apart to dwell with Him.
Evangelism is simply what happens when we realize that God removes all of our that causes the shame and guilt which burdens us, and promises He will care for us forever. We just have to tell somebody!
Which means that just as Evangelism is simply praising God for what He has done… worship is simply a reaction to His love and mercy that is at work transforming us.
It is that simple – so if you want to see the world saved…(and you should!) praise God for what He has done….
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Thoughts to deepen our devotion to Jesus
The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Get up! Go to the great cityc of Nineveh and preach against ite because their evilf has come up before me.” 3 Jonah got up to flee to Tarshishh from the LORD’s presence. John 1:1-3 CSB
“Erasmus, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, and Karlstadt want to measure everything by their wisdom and so they become confused. I thank God that I know and believe that God knows more than I do. He can do what is above my ability to comprehend. From invisible things he can make visible, for everything that is now happening through the light of the gospel is making visible things out of invisible.
Oh, how many spiritual persons there are who do not become saints, because they will not do themselves the violence to break away from certain little attachments!
All the evil arises from the little love they have for Jesus Christ.
Anyone can do the possible; add a bit of courage and zeal and some may do the phenomenal; only Christians are obliged to do the impossible.
I never like reading Jonah.
We always talk about his running from preaching to “those” people, but the message wasn’t easy to preach either.
Luther talked about preaching the real law- preaching where the people you are talking to fail, where they sin, where their pride leads them to fall. In the passage above, Luther nails four contemporaries – guys that were all polar opposites from each other – but who all thought they knew more than the next guy, indeed, more than God. He went after them, and the people sitting before him, for their sin.
DeLigouri notes a similar thing – that there are people so addicted to certain sins that they won’t break away from them, because they love their sins more than they love God.
Neither the monk-turned-reformer or the priest held back much! They went after people – not to condemn them – but to save them!
I am going to be honest, the reason most of us don’t go after the specks in other’s eyes is that we know there is a log in our own. Or perhaps a redwood forest. To deal with others sin means we have to let Jesus deal with ours.
It is a hard thing to try and rescue people form sin, in fact it is impossible. We can’t do it, but Tozer says we need to, we are obliged to do the impossible. THe reason is simple – it is what Jesus did – for us. Whatever it took – calling us on our sin – and providing a way for it to be covered.
Whatever it takes to save them from sin, means that we have to be willing to identiy the sin – ours and theirs, and bring it to God so that, as promised, they can be cleansed of it. And in the process of their being cleansed, we find our sin dealt with as well, just as Jonah had his sin and rebellion dealt with, as God drew Jonah closer.
You and I, as believers, need that ministry that occurs while we minister to others.
So stop running, stop being afraid of God deling with the log… and as He does,,, look on with wonder as God heals those who you were sent among.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 147.
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 333.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Devotional Thought of the days:
7 “As for you, son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel.a When you hear a word from my mouth, give them a warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’b but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. 9 But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself. Ezekiel 33:7-9 CSB
When the Church does not come out of herself to evangelize she becomes self-referential and then gets sick.
There are two images of the Church: the Church that evangelizes and comes out of herself, and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself, falling into a sterile, theological narcissistic limbo.
This should shed light on the possible changes and reforms which must be done for the salvation of souls.
The church talks about mission a lot. It writes books, it hires consultants, it attends conferences of defending the faith, and how to be a missionary for Jesus. Some of the Church revamps and changes what it does, while other parts of the Church spend time and resources doubling down on how it is faithful. (But faithful to what?)
So much time is spent on this that we never get out of the church. We don’t seek out the lost, we expect that we’ve built our ministries, hired our staff, developed our programs and therefore people will come.
and then we wonder why they aren’t coming……
The warning that God our Father gave Ezekiel needs to be heard again. It is the responsibility of the church to be out there, working with the broken, those who have been entrapped by evil. It is our responsibility to do so, not to earn our salvation, but because we have been saved. We have this relationship where we hear God speak a message of wanring, but a warning issued in love. After all, God will tell Ezekiel, “As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord GOD—I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live!” Ezekiel 33:11 CSB
It is a scary thought that we will be held responsible.
But that should not be as scary as to think people could live their lives with no hope for their brokenness, that they could die, enslaved to sin.
These are people we are called to love…. even though they may seen unlovable. Being unlovable is the damage that sin does, damage easily healed by the Spirit as they are drawn to Jesus.
It should be further noted, that we are responsible for them knowing the option to being broken and shattered by sin. Their conversion and transformation is up to the Holy Spirit.
All we have to do is share the news…
God loves them
God wants to care for them, cleansing them sin, healing them from unrighteousness,….
even as He has done this for us.
So let’s stop talking about it, stop studying it, stop preparing for it, and planning change…. and let’s get out and love people.
Pope Francis, A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings, ed. Alberto Rossa (New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013), 197.
Devotional Thought for the Day:
1 Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. Romans 10:1-2 (NLT2)
49 “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:49-50 (NLT2)
In apostolate, respect for the inner sanctum of personal conscience is essential: “It is necessary to banish any form of intolerance, coercion and violence in the dealings of some men with others. In apostolic action, rather, especially in apostolic action, we want no slightest trace of coercion. God wants to be served in freedom; therefore, any apostolate that failed to respect the freedom of consciences would not be honest.”
It should be simple, but it is a strange paradox.
The greatest gift we can give to a person, to reveal to them the love of God, we can’t force them to accept. We can’t try to overwhelm them with the logic, we can’t force them to believe.
I have struggled with this most of my ministry, as a lay person and as a pastor. I have struggled with so desiring family and friends to know God’s love. Even to the point of ringing their stubborn necks as they reject God. The opposite approach doesn’t work either – to leave them in peace, hoping and praying tht they might come to their senses.
Mark’s gospel seems contradictory – for salt attcks, it stings, even while it preserves and brings healing. How can we sting and bring peace? How can we long, with God, that all come to repentence, and put our heart into the ministry of reconciliation. How do we correct those who have misdirected zeal, who long for justice without righteousness, who long for love without morals, who long for heaven on earth, without a relationship with the Lord of life?
Is there no easy way to do this? Is there no short and simple approach to saving the world? Can’t we find some Machivellian ruse that brings them into God’s kingdom, and creates enough fear that they live a life free of sin and doubt?
The simple answer is to have faith in God. To simply share with people why they need God, because of sin and death. And then share that God si there. merciful and loving. Then the hardest part – to trust the Holy Spirit to work in them. Just like we have to trust the Holy Spirit to work in us.
To realize the heart of God, and simple live in that heart. To allow God’s message to course through you, and be communicated in love, and know that God will cut open the stong heart, and bring healing. For the will fall in love with God without our coercion, as the Holy Spirit brings them into His presence.
Know the God you have faith in.. and trust in… His desire will make His word, spoken through you, not return void.
Fazio, Mariano . Last of the Romantics: St. Josemaria in the Twenty-First Century (p. 91). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.