Friday, March 16, 2007

Note to reformers, 2

The church of God in our day is in dire need of reformation once again. I believe that is a given among us. Yet, this is a daunting task and if we put our hands to it we will face exhaustion, desperation, despondency and frustration in addition to open resistance. In this then we ought to look back to those who have gone before in the reforming work to learn from their lessons. Luther again instructs us here reminding us of a truth that we certainly know but very easily lose sight of in our labors. Hear his counsel in two excerpts from his letters:

"Christ knows whether it comes from stupidity or the Spirit, but I for my part am not very much troubled about our cause. Indeed, I am more hopeful than I expected to be. God, who is able to raise the dead, is also able to uphold his cause when it is falling, or to raise it up again when it has fallen, or to move it forward when it is standing. If we are not worthy instruments to accomplish his purpose, he will find others. If we are not strengthened by his promises, where in all the world are the people to whom these promises apply?"[1]

"I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And when, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philp and my Amsdor, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a Prince or Emperor inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing. The Word did it all."[2]

The Word of God will do this work. Our task is simply to be like Ezra of old setting our hearts to study the Word, practice it and teach it (Ezra 7:9-10). Then whether flourishing in our hands or simmering, lingering after our apparent defeat, the Word will do this thing.

Jeremiah tells us the Word of God is like a hammer crushing the rock (Jer 23:29). The Word has the necessary power. Our task then is- whether you can handle only a small hammer’s worth or whether you can wield a huge sledge hammer’s worth- take up whatever of the hammer you can and bring it to bear on the rock around you. Compare not your swings with others, simply take what you have to offer and bring it to bear. And do so in faith- for the Word will do this thing! God has promised.

[1] Martin Luther, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Vol. 18 of Library of Christian Classics, ed. Theodore G. Trappert (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955), 146‑7.
[2] Quoted by John Stott in in Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 25.


Shep Shepherd said...

I liked those two quotes from Luther. Very nice.

My own personal goal in going to the ministry is to help bring about a new Reformation. Sometimes I have wondered if that was too big a goal to aim for - but then again, it isn't about my abilities to change things, but God's. It is actually a relief that we merely have to be faithful in preaching the Word and God will do the rest.

Thanks for the quotes. They put things in perspective today...

In Christ,

Ray Van Neste said...

I am glad these can be encouraging to you as they have been to me as well. It is a relief indeed