“Live and Let Die”

Toleration is an important word in our culture. It may be important to you. In a “live and let live” society such as ours a certain amount of toleration is expected and necessary.  But tolerance is not the same as indifference. A person may appear to be tolerant simply because he or she carries no convictions.  This is not tolerance. It is indifference rooted in a practical nihilism, and it is all around us.  Is it also a part of us?

 The indifference toward belief which often accompanies the absence of authentic faith is one  thing.  Such unbelief can easily lead someone to conclude that there really is nothing to believe in beyond the self.   Indifference on the part of those who have come to know Christ is something else again. 

 We Christians dare not worship at the American cultural altar of toleration if it leads to this damning indifference. The Christian cannot be neutral or indifferent about belief, not without denying the Lord of the Church.  This we simply cannot tolerate. For the fact is that if we have truly been grasped by the Gospel of Christ we will not be indifferent about the matter of beliefs. 

 If your neighbor were attacked by a robber, wouldn’t you go to his assistance? If a close friend were stricken with a disease of the body, wouldn’t you go to her aid?  So, if your neighbor is captured by false beliefs or no belief at all, is it not your duty as a Christian to wage war against what is ultimately more destructive than thieves or disease? Thieves and disease can rob us of aspects of our lives. Ideas can take the whole person – body and soul. To practice indifference toward our neighbors beliefs in the name of tolerance is, in fact, to “live and let die.”

 Jesus calls you to be vigilant about the matter of beliefs, for there is “one name by which we are saved.” Belief in Jesus is the path God has laid down by which human beings come to authentic faith.  We believe and confess that in Jesus Christ all truth, meaning and purpose are revealed – for all.  This is not a popular idea, nor has it ever been, as the blood of the martyrs will attest.  God may have other avenues by which people are saved. We do not know. What we do know is that our Lord, in viewing the human landscape has said,  “Go in all the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  This is not a formula for toleration as our culture defines it, to be sure. It is something much better.

 These words resonate from the heart of God, who in His love and grace has provided the way of authentic trust and belief through Jesus. When the life-changing truth of the Gospel of this same Jesus Christ is openly and courageously shared, people are freed, by God’s grace, from false belief and no belief.  Their lives are set on the hopeful course of a living faith.  Someone you know needs to hear this life-changing message. May God grant us the grace and courage to care less about the bland tolerance advocated by the culture and more about the truth that God has revealed in Jesus Christ!

                                                                                      Pastor Mark Anderson

 

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From the revamped website of Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA

http://www.lightofthemaster.com/

 

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‘The Concrete Spirit’

 from Lutherans-online

 

Luther’s Use of Larvae Dei: the Concrete Spirit

 

As a result of man’s sin, the Spirit cannot dwell among us otherwise than in physical things. God could have saved the human race in another way but it is His will to save fallen mankind through external means and to reveal Himself to us in this way (LW 6:128). It is in these forms that the Holy Spirit is clearly exhibited to our eyes (LW 4:121). Therefore, since the Holy Spirit works nothing without externals, it is the responsibility of mankind to apprehend Him where and in what manner He has chosen to make Himself known (LW 4:144). Yet, not every visible or external thing reveals God. Luther believed that only in Christ, and in the forms instituted by Him, does God reveal Himself to man. In the earthly medium of the Incarnation, the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, God is clothed and meets us through these external means. They are the God-given means of knowing God. “They are places where He reveals Himself and where He is present” (Bornkamm 1958:98).

In His goodness, God chose to reveal Himself in these physical, concrete and tangible forms. Luther offers five reasons why God comes to us through His concrete Spirit. They are as follows:

(1) Since the beginning of the world, divine wisdom has so ordained and arranged things that there is always some public sign toward which all people might look, in order that they might find, worship, and pray to the true God and be saved (LW 3:107).

(2) These outward and visible signs have been placed alongside the Word so that men, “reminded by the outward sign and work or Sacrament, would believe with greater assurance that God is kind and merciful” (LW 1:248). By means of these visible signs of grace, God shows us that He is with us, takes care of us, and is favorably inclined toward us (LW 3:109).

“I have always displayed Myself to the eyes and ears of men in such a way that they could have become aware of My presence in the sacrifices, in circumcision, in burning incense, in the cloud, in the Red Sea, in the manna, in the brazen serpent, in the tabernacle of Moses, in the temple of Solomon, and in the cloud. And it was My delight to display and reveal Myself in this manner to the children of men” (LW 1:248).

“In the same way the very Word, Baptism, and the Eucharist are our lightbearers today, toward which we look as dependable tokens of the sun of grace. We can state with certainty that where the Eucharist, Baptism, and the Word are, there are Christ, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life” (LW 1:249).

(3) He presents Himself to us in these visible forms in order that we might be kept from degenerating into the erratic and vagabond spirits who boast of visions, revelations, and enlightenment and follow them (LW 2:46). Since we cannot ascend to Him, He has chosen to come to us and reveal Himself within the range of our comprehension (LW 2:47) so that He can be found and known. The true God is not a wandering God but has limited Himself to a place and certain external forms.

As God has provided reliable, concrete marks of His presence, so it is the mark of all false spirits to cast aside the external Word and signs (LW 24:69) and to tell God how He must deal with them (LW 24:69). As a result, they place God and His externals in heaven and devise their own externals (LW 24:69). Yet these fluttering spirits lead us, not to God, but to the devil (LW 6:128).

(4) As God comes to us in these concrete forms, He deals with us in a twofold manner, FIRST OUTWARDLY, THEN INWARDLY. He draws us outwardly through Christ’s Word and the Gospel and inwardly through the Holy Spirit (LW 23:94).

“Outwardly He deals with us through the oral Word of the Gospel and through material signs, that is, baptism and the Sacrament of the altar. Inwardly He deals with us through the Holy Spirit, faith and other gifts. But whatever their measure of order the outward factors should and must precede. The inward experience follows and is effected by the outward. God has determined to give the inward to no one except through the outward. For He wants to give no one the Spirit or faith outside of the outward Word and sign instituted by Him…Observe carefully, my brother, this order, for everything depends on it” (LW 40:146).

(5) He comes to us in the Word, the Sacraments, and the Keys in order to prepare us for His second coming and to remind His people that, until He comes, they are the true church (LW 4:402).

Therefore, in order that God might be known and comprehended, the Spirit of Christ meets us in simple, earthly, and concrete ways. These concrete forms of the Holy Spirit are God’s way to us and a rejection of every way from man to God. They are the common epiphanies or appearances for all Christians (LW 3:168). When God comes to us, He does not hide Himself in a corner but He appears publicly before us all. When we get to heaven, concludes Luther, we shall see God differently but here we see Him enveloped in an image, namely, in His Word and Sacraments.