For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (NLT2)
6 “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT2)
In times of extraordinary crisis ordinary measures will not suffice. The world lives in such a time of crisis. Christians alone are in a position to rescue the perishing. We dare not settle down to try to live as if things were “normal.” Nothing is normal while sin and lust and death roam the world, pouncing upon one and another till the whole population has been destroyed.
Paul says, “While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:11). Thus, according to his view, the passion and resurrection of Christ are going on all the time. They are always present and not limited to an historical moment. It was rather an historical moment which introduced the eternal values of the cross and resurrection into the whole of time. We participate in Christ’s divine life through baptism and the other sacraments. As a consequence, we must learn how to express the risen life of Jesus rather than our false selves in our conduct and relationships.
We also believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because the one has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other has, when otherwise there is unity with the other in teaching and all the articles of faith and in the proper use of the holy sacraments,
I’ve heard people talking about the “new normal” in relation to both COVID and the price of gas. Just get used to things being broken, and hardships, for life is different now. Get used to the new morality, or at least how it is being re-defined.
And the church hears these things and marshals its people to go to war at the ballot box, and on Social Media. I’ve even heard that such times will find us allied with folk we shouldn’t be allied with, for politics and apparently faith makes strange bedfellows.
And once again the Church has entered the wrong war, and is using the wrong weapons.
Because of that, it is losing the war for control over public opinion, and far, far more importantly, we aren’t even in the battle for people’s souls. We are letting them be destroyed, and dare I say, the church is even helping by destroying people’s faith.
Tozer is correct, and we must realize that we always exist in crisis. Add to that the idea of Keating, that our way of battle is not promoting ourselves, but dying to self, that Jesus may be seen, instead of us. That those who are baptized become the evidence of Christ’s death and resurrection. That must be our strategy, that must be our missional value.
How about this for a mission statement for a church?
Making manifest Jesus’ love, by dying to self!
This is how we see our real enemies, sin, self-centeredness, and Satan defeated.
Our weapons are simply, the early Lutherans identified them as all that is necessary for church unity.
Teaching people what they need to know about Jesus, and sharing Him through Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
Each of these sacraments helps us see how we died to self and have risen in Christ. Each shows us the love and mercy of God. They do so for they are commissioned by Jesus to deliver that promise.
You want the world to change? You want everyone to do what is right? You want to win the war we are in?
Know Jesus, experience His love poured out on you… share that victory with others, seeing them freed from what Christ has freed you- not from – but to… to share in the glorious love of God.
For that … should be what we consider normal.
A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).
Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 223.
Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 516.
Devotional Thought for this Day
7 Our LORD, punish the Edomites! Because the day Jerusalem fell, they shouted, “Completely destroy the city! Tear down every building!” 8 Babylon, you are doomed! I pray the Lord’s blessings on anyone who punishes you for what you did to us. 9 May the Lord bless everyone who beats your children against the rocks! Psalm 137:7-9 (CEV)
896 At this time—and always!—when the Lord wants his seed to spread in a divine diffusion among the different surroundings, he also wants the extension not to lessen in intensity. And you have the clear and supernatural mission of helping to ensure that this intensity is not lost.
The passage in Psalm 139 bothered me for decades. To an extent, it still does. The retribution, the revenge the psalmist proposes seems over the top, it seems beyond belief. How could a follower of God write such a horrid peace, how could they wish that kind of pain on someone else.?
How is this loving their enemies and praying for someone who persecutes them?
The intensity of the faith is some good, the way it ovices itself, perhaps not so much?
Then I see the power of addiction, the brokenness of those who have been abused, the heartache of those betrayed by a close friend, and I want to use that passage to justify praying for revenge, asking God to crush those who cause such damage.
And am I wrong?
Yes, if the enemy is another human.
No, if the enemies are the demonic forces that tempt, that kill, that try to blot out the image of God created in mankind.
I need to be praying for those who seem to be the cause of such, praying for God to reach their heart, to circumcise their hearts, even as I need mine to be. To free them from the enslavement to sin that creates the havoc in their lives, which spreads like a virus, affecting all around them.
This is the intensity we need in our faith, that dear Josemaria speaks of, that focuses our battle where it should be, crushing the gates of hell which tries to stop the power of the gospel.
This is the seed which must be sowed, in more and more places, but not with any less intensity.
May we increase in our intensity, may we realize the damage the powers of hell try to create in life, and may our hearts be set on seeing God’s love free and heal those who have been so damaged.
Lord, Lead us into this battle, and protect us, we pray. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Moses built an altar and named it “The LORD Gives Me Victory.” 16 Then Moses explained, “This is because I depended on the LORD. But in future generations, the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again.” Exodus 17:15-16 CEV
Raw belief, a passion for others
grows in me,
encircling each moment
with instinctive prayer.
I will carry the freshness
of the dry lands after rain.
Compassion lives in me again.
Perhaps thy views of the Gospel plan are confused, or thou mayest be placing some little reliance on thyself, instead of trusting simply and entirely to the Lord Jesus.
As I am going through advent, the Old Testament readings each week promise life in a way that seems, impossible. A complete utopia where enemies have become friends, where those that can’t do, where those who prey on others, now protect and nurture them. A time when those who are broken, rejoice in being restored, in being healed.
It is as Paul says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has any man imagined…” (my Adaptation of 1 Cor. 2:9)
As I read the lesson this morning from Exodus, one concept stuck more in my mind than anything else. “the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again.” Maybe it is because I’ve fought the same battles over and over again. That has led me, personally into a tired, nearly pessimistic view, on which wonders about Christ’s return. I get tired of the battles, I get tired of the traumas, I get tired of seeing people manipulated, and division being the cause of the day.
Even as I write this, I am being drawn back to Spurgeon’s gentle correct… about relying on myself. While I saw the promise of more battles, I didn’t see it is the LORD that will fight them, and I forgot the battle in context, where they just had to depend on God’s promise for victory.
When I stop trying, and simply entrust it to Jesus, some wonderful, miraculous things happen. I see that raw belief growing in some people I work with, I see their passion for others growing, and for them to see God ministering through them. I look around at what some would call amazing coincidences, and I see God’s hand at work, for the coincidences are too amazing.
When I leave it in God’s hands, I see the victories, not the promise of more challenges, and even then, I realize what Moses did, those challenges will meet God head-on and will suffer defeat again.
Prayer will grow in me too, for seeing God at work stimulates prayer, knowing He will respond. Then I will see the growth, and the freshness that comes, as God pours out the blessings, just as they always are being poured out.
The difference is my eyes see them…. and my heart begins to resound with praise.
An excerpt from Today’s Meditation in the Morning Prayer at northumbriacommunity.org/offices/morning-pra yer for December 9th. written by Andy Raine
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10 But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation. 11 To him be the power forever! Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 GNT
Nineteenth, let no one presume to perform such things by his own power, but humbly ask God to create and preserve such faith in and such understanding of his holy sacraments in him. He must practice awe and humility in all this, lest he ascribe these works to himself instead of allowing God the glory. To this end he must call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel,13 the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints,14 especially since God has granted him exceptional zeal for this. However, he dare not doubt, but must believe that his prayer will be heard. He has two reasons for this. The first one is that he has just heard from the Scriptures how God commanded the angels to give love and help to all who believe and how the sacrament conveys this. We must hold this before them and remind them of it, not that the angels do not know this, or would otherwise not do it, but to make our faith and trust in them, and through them in God, stronger and bolder as we face death. The other reason is that God has enjoined us firmly to believe in the fulfilment of our prayer [Mark 11:24] and that it is truly an Amen.
Today, in the Roman Catholic Church, they celebrate the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, and as I started my devotional reading, that sat in the back of my mind. Not as a major thing, but I had seen on facebook for or five references to it.
Given some of the things I am dealing with, the idea of a heavenly warrior having my back is quite… comforting. But I dismissed it, until I got to my reading in 1 Peter 5, and the warning that Satan is still out there, trying to drag us away from Jesus.
That isn’t myth, that is reality.
And as Satan exists and demons exist, so do angels. Not as heavenly beings to worship, but rather as servants of God who minister to us. Reading the Book of Daniel you see this as Gabriel and Michael do battle on his behalf.
The key is found in what Peter says after , that as we endure, God himself perfects us. That is what Martin Luther points out in his sermon on preparing for death above as well, as we look to God for the strength, and ask for intercession in our ability to grow in faith, to depend on God’s work, and give glory for what is being done.
The end game is sure, God’s work guaranteeing it, His command to those He sends to serve confirm it, as they point us to Jesus, to the promises the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of, as we dwell united to Christ’s and to His death and resurrection.
This is something to take serious, this spiritual battle we are involved in, to recognize it for what it is, and yet, to have confidence in our endurance, which God provides.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize that we are no in this life alone, but that you surround us with Your people, the church, and with the angels you send to protect us, to point us to Christ. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 113.
A Devotional Thought for our Days:
The truth is that, although of course we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not those of human warfare but powerful in God’s warfare for the destruction of the enemy’s strongholds. Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defence that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5(Phillips NT)
824 Do you feel as if goodness and absolute truth have been deposited with you, and therefore that you have been invested with a personal title or right to uproot evil at all costs? You will never solve anything like that, but only through Love and with love, remembering that Love has forgiven you and still forgives you so much!
It seems in the last week another religious crusade has erupted. On one side there are those who are signing a creed that defines proper marriage and marital relationships. On the other side a creed that defends people who don’t seem to fit within those relationships. Both have proponents that say unless you support their new creed, you really aren’t a Christian. And that is definitely true if you do support the opponents Creed.
Thousands have proudly affixed their names to one or the other creeds. They call them declarations, but when you define your understanding of the Christian faith by them when you say this is what you believe or what you condemn, they are creeds or confessions. ( Ironically, a lot of those signing these documents come from church brotherhoods or denominations that were against having formal creeds!)
Which is why I will sign neither.
Simply put, I want a creed and confession that gives me hope. I want one that promises reconciliation, one that isn’t condescending or treats those with other beliefs like their enemy. I want one that talks of God’s work in our lives.
Paul says it clearly, our weapons are spiritual, they pull down Satan’s strongholds, revealing to people the true knowledge of God. It doesn’t tear them down but rather reveals God in such a way that people’s thoughts are about Him.
That’s what the historic creeds and confessions do, they bring people to Jesus, and leave them in awe, knowing they are loved, that their sin is forgiven, and that the Holy Spirit is renewing and reconciling them, transforming them into the image of God.
St. Josemaria states it so well if we think our job is defending God’s truth that has been deposited with us (as if He left the building ). Apologists are to give the reason we have hope, not wield a rushing and condemning offense. Our job is to love, knowing the mercy of God, and treasuring is so much we want everyone to have it revealed to them.
Yes, we need to show them the need for it, but we need to do so with love, not with anger, or with statements made without the chance for conversation and revealing God’s grace. That is why there is a call to remember our own brokenness, and how Jesus addressed that with mercy, and do likewise. From out of our brokenness, we approach others differently than if we were the self-appointed morality police. From out of our brokenness, we realize the blessed truth found in creeds and confessions that talk of God’s love and redemption, of His works through one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
Love them, pray for them, ask God to bless them, and do battle for them, with the intent of saving their souls. This is spiritual warfare, this is the hope our creeds give us!
That the Lord is with us! AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3390-3393). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)
223 Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.
For decades I think we’ve bought into an idea of spiritual growth that is both childish, and damaging. It begins with telling stories of the great people that precede us in the faith as if they were perfect, as if they had no faults, as if they weren’t broken.
King David was perfect, and not an adulterer and murderer. St Paul was a theologian par excellence, without a doubt or any struggle with sin. ( I can even find commentaries that say the above quote from Romans was St. Paul talking about prior to his conversion! ) We will whitewash Luther’s bi-polar nature, or Mother Theresa’s dealing with both depression. We do this all the time, even with the modern folks we believe will be the next generation’s heroes of the faith.
That idea seems to be revealed for what it is, immature at best and perhaps deliberately misleading.
Paul struggled with sin, he realized that he had to battle for what was his in Christ, not to achieve it, but to receive it, to believe in, to depend on it. Even when our heart is trying to get us to focus on our sin, on our failures, on our spiritual growth not being as great as it should be.
St. Josemaria describes in a way that resonates with me, that there are times where we are going backwards, rather than forwards, that things are getting worse rather than better. I resemble this at times, more often that I want to admit.
Which makes it challenging, because my mind will then move to why be a pastor, if I can’t grow deeper in faith myself?
Evaluating our spiritual growth is good, if we understand what spiritual growth is, what it really looks like, how it is measured.
The struggle with our sinfulness is part of it, we should never become complacent with our sin. It shouldn’t haunt us, for Christ has won the victory over it, but we shouldn’t become complacent either. Our sin still needs to irritate us, disgust us, make us uncomfortable.
Not so we hide from God, but that we depend upon Him to purge that sin from us, that He would transform us. Growth that has as its goal that we would treasure His love and mercy more than we treasure the sin.
This is growth, this battle, this fight, a growth which seems unending, but it will end. He has promised and He is faithful. As He hangs on to us, we learn to hang on to Him.
May we be transparent enough with the generations that follow us, that they clearly see our trusting in God, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we think we don’t deserve His mercy and love.
For then they will know this growth as well.. and not be as dismayed when Satan assails them.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 959-964). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion Thought of the Day:
23 All this I do for the gospel’s sake, in order to share in its blessings. 24 Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. 25 Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. 26 That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. 27 I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest.
1 Corinthians 9:23-27 (TEV)
22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:22-25 (NLT)
209 In your personal prayer, whenever you experience the weakness of the flesh you should repeat: Lord, give the Cross to this poor body of mine, which gets tired and rebellious! (1)
I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true. (2)
As I look at my social media feeds, it seems there many Christians are calling others to join in the battle against evil. Some are targeting the recent bathrooms issues; others are targeting abortion, or homosexuality. Others are waging other battles against divorce, or perceived injustices. Some want to take on the entire community of Islam, or at least the terrorists who are creating martyrs of our brothers and sisters.
There are cries in the church, as some want Equal rights for everyone in the church, or at least equal access to roles. Others want to purify the faith, returning to eras when they think everyone was pure and without sin. They base this on a form of worship, or the use of a translation, or some other thing, overlooking the sin and division of those days.
There are many, many pleas, people begging us to join the battle, and each battle promises some form of heaven on earth, should we be faithful and win. They promise utopia, if only our side can win, and the other be crushed in defeat.
But the war which is more critical, a true war for our souls. One which we so easily overlook, one which is simple in theory to win, yet so difficult to execute and realize the victory.
The war for my soul. The war for your soul.
This is a battle for holiness, one which has faded into the background, because these other battles are easier to gather people around, they are less insidious, and we can be the heroes that are lauded and praised. We can even find theological precepts, or create them, warning people about this horror called pietism, without extolling piety. We will call people to focus on God declaring people to be righteous while ignoring the sanctification that makes the declaration true.
The personal war in our own souls, the souls which the apostle Paul describes at war, that St Josemaria describes as tired and rebellious, the soul Luther describes as requiring the Holy Spirit to cleanse and make holy. For we don’t have the ability to do it, save in our surrendering to the Spirit’s work.
What generations of the church called mortification comes from letting the Spirit purge us of sin, of bringing healing to that which is broken, to cleanse those parts of our lives that are rotting spiritually.
Or do we imagine Paul was speaking hypothetically when he talks of being disqualified?
Mortification is not about whipping your body physically; it is by no means that easy. It is not about fasting to purify yourself, but it can help you to focus and prioritize. In advocating the mortification that the Spirit controls, I am not talking about some kind of self-abuse. Then again, we have to do something about the abuse that does crush us, our tendency to sin, even though we are Christ’s. The sin that leads us to dare confess our wretchedness, and be guided to healing and strength by the Spirit.
Mortification is allowing the Spirit to guide you to take up your cross and walk with Christ. The quote from Romans 7 is preceded by that very discussion in chapter 6. We are nailed to the cross with Christ, and it is back to that cross we must go to deal with sin and temptation. If we are to find the strength to withstand the temptation this time, and the grace for those times in the past and the future when we will fail and fall.
Mortification is confessing our sins, and receiving absolution, it is found in remembering the promises that were made sure in our baptism, that we are called to know, as we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ. As we kneel in prayer, as we adore the God, who calls us His. These spiritual blessings, these things we call disciplines, are the place where we are reminded that spiritual warfare is the victory that comes in walking with Christ.
It prepares us for the other battles, giving us the reminder about what those battles are. They aren’t the decisive battle between good and evil, but a rescue mission for the souls of the people we engage with, knowing that God desires that they too are declared righteous, and made holy by the power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead. Because we need to remember that, for it is our hope when we begin to stray.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 914-916). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 345). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press
Devotional Thought of the Day:
6 I am tired of living among people who hate peace. 7 I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war! Psalm 120:6-7 (NLT)
304 Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude you need so much to keep your interior life going.
I am getting very tired.
Tired of those who yearn to fight, whether trying to tempt others into confrontations or verbal arguments, and especially those over spiritual things. I’m tired of watching those who would try and dominate over others, forcing their opinions, even opinions about inconsequential things, on others.
Tired of seeing people react without thought, assuming the worst, rather than letting things settle down and work out. I can think of international issues, issues in our cities, issues in the Church. People trying to take advantage of those emotions, encouraging division, encouraging the battles that can rob people of any comfort, of any peace.
So do we just walk away, do we fail to minister to those on embroiled in conflict? Do we hole up in a cave, like some in the early church did, creating our own monastic fortress, a place where heaven is on earth, and there is no conflict, no battles, no one trying to take over our world?
Or do we stand and minister to those in the fight? Do we enter the fray, with the intention, not of fighting, but simply giving aid and pointing out to those in turmoil the hope of peace that is always there in Christ?
It is not so much that we find peace; rather we need to know that we have it already. We have it because the Spirit dwells within us, because the Spirit brings that peace into our lives from the beginning. Therefore, our presence in the conflict can bring peace there.We become the point of peace, not only for ourselves, but all of those involved in the conflict – even the aggressors.
For us to have the ability to do so, we must take time to be with Him, in solitude, to pour our heart out, to let Him take our burdens. We need to let Him not only bear the weight fo the sins committed against us, but to deal with our sin as well. That’s what it means to be still, and know that He is God.
For being involved in conflict, even as the peacekeeper wears you down, and it isn’t your strength that will sustain you. Even more so, if you are the one involved in the conflict, if you are the one being engaged,
We need Christ; we need to know Him, depend on Him and trust Him, in every situation, in every moment.
For as we grow in our relationship with Him, even in the middle of a battle, or an argument, or as our frustrations grow, we ill depend on His presence, and that will give us the hope and peace needed to survive. That is the result of spending that time Saint Josemaria talks of, that time in solitude and silence,..with our Lord.
Lord, have mercy!
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 789-790). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.“ Matthew 17:19-21 (NKJV)
Again you say, “The temporal power is not forcing men to believe; it is simply seeing to it externally that no one deceives the people by false doctrine;85 how could heretics otherwise be restrained?” Answer: This the bishops should do; it is a function entrusted to them86 and not to the princes. Heresy can never be restrained by force. One will have to tackle the problem in some other way, for heresy must be opposed and dealt with otherwise than with the sword. Here God’s word must do the fighting. If it does not succeed, certainly the temporal power will not succeed either, even if it were to drench the world in blood. Heresy is a spiritual matter which you cannot hack to pieces with iron, consume with fire, or drown in water. God’s word alone avails here, as Paul says in II Corinthians 10[:4–5], “Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty in God to destroy every argument and proud obstacle that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and to take every thought captive in the service of Christ.”[1)
Over the last few days, I’ve given a bit of thought to how to deal with those who promote heresy or heterodoxy, and to those who attempt to deal with it. It is a bit of a focus in the higher echelons of my denomination presently. Or at least some are making the case that it is, and they are struggling to determine how to deal with it, or not deal with it.
Yet in the parish, we have to deal with both heresy and heterodoxy. It may be someone who has strayed into it. It may be someone who deliberately comes into the church, or posts something on FB. So how do we approach those who would lead people away from the mercy of Christ?
The question, no matter the situation, whether large and prevailing, like Arius, or the lady who watches Joel Oseteen, is whether we can confront is love, and call the person to repentance. This is why force cannot be used, or power and “authority”. That is not the pastoral approach, nor is tt that of Matthew 18, where it is not the individual or the elders that deal with the sinner, but the community of God.
Why does this work this way? Simple, because as faith and prayer, leaving it in the hands of God.
You see, when you fight heresy by your own strength, by your own will, what you are doing is falling into heresy, for you have created a idol out of your position. Worse than heresy is this… for it is blasphemy.
You see, when dealing with history, one must be pastoral, one must care for souls. Doing so is critical, to have the people of God be the correcting source, the church is the one who has the witness. Not just any one man has the ability to defeat heresy or heterodoxy. You see, dealing with it through force, through authority doesn’t evangelize, either the heterodox or heretical, or those who are watching the confrontation. You see, they need to hear the clear gospel as well, those who would challenge it. By using authority, by using force to bluntly crush heresy and heterodoxy, you fail in that regard, you don’t show the people the true gospel, the light that will always shatter the darkness, that will reveal clearly Christ.
That’s what is important, not seeing them crucified, but seeing them crucified with Christ.
This is ministry, it isn’t easy to bear this cross, and not everyone is able to….. but this is how He did it, embracing, reconciling transforming….
That is what those who follow Him pray to see… not to win a battle, but as we see Christ victorius over sin and satan and death.
May we pray for all souls.. even as we desire to see all reconciled.
(Side note – seeing the church work together in this – also allows for the humility that corrects us when we go astray…)
85 On Luthers approval in another connection of the position here rejected, see Kawerau (ed.), Kötlin’s Martin Luther, I, 584.
86 Cf. Titus 1:9ff.
 Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 45 : The Christian in Society II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 45, p. 114). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
devotional thought of the day;
We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to really hearing (obeying) Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (adapted from the NLT)
3 Long ago the LORD said to His People “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3 (adapted from the NLT)
764 Now, when the Cross has become a serious and weighty matter, Jesus will see to it that we are filled with peace. He will become our Simon of Cyrene, to lighten the load for us. Then say to him, trustingly: “Lord, what kind of a Cross is this? A Cross which is no cross. Now I know the trick. It is to abandon myself in you; and from now on, with your help, all my crosses will always be like this.” (1)
I see a lot of talk on line, and indeed, I’ve probably got 50 -75 books on Spiritual Warfare.
Some dismissing it, some exhaustive guides on what to do when you face this, face that. Books on praying for those who are spiritually oppressed, even a couple of odd guides on exorcism. ( Having read them, and knowing about the sons of Sceva… I wonder why those without experience dare write such!)
Ultimately, spiritual warfare is a fight to trust in God. To abandon ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our souls, in Christ. To realize the cross we bear… the anxieties, pains (yes physical/emotional/spiritual) we endure, are endured differently, because we are united to Jesus. That they can’t separate us from Him, that He has promised these things will be a blessing.
When I replaced the word “obeying” with “really hearing” Jesus in the quote above, I do so because that is what the Greek means. Hyper – which translates as…well “hyper”; and the work akou, which simply means to hear. We need to hear Him, we need to hear of His love, of His mercy. We need to understand that He became man, suffered under pilate, was crucified, died and was buried – not for His own personal gain, but to gain us… His people.
That is where spiritual warfare begins, at the baptismal font where we are claimed by Jesus, and joined to His cross. Where we are made His people – as He desires, as He and the Father planned from before the foundation of the world. Where the promises are sealed to us, guaranteed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. (see Titus 3:1-8)
Yeah – there are spiritual battles, there are demons, and Satan, but they cannot steal someone from God. Knowing that our burdens, our battles, the things that cause our anxieties, worries, fears… they were defeated at Jesus death.
All spiritual warfare is, including exorcism (and yes, in some cases that is a necessity) , is a battle to make that known…. that we may find refuge, sanctuary, peace.
We must know our cry, “Lord, have mercy” is heard……
And we must hear, as Jesus heard at baptism, “You are my child, and in you I find great joy”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.