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There is No Room for Despair in the Christian’s Life

March 18th, 2011
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One of my favorite quotes from the Book of Concord is this one:

We see the infinite dangers that threaten the destruction of the Church. In the Church itself, the number of the wicked who oppress it is too high to count. Therefore, this article in the Creed shows us these consolations in order that we may not despair, but may know that the Church will remain ‹until the end of the world›. No matter how great the multitude of the wicked is, we may know that the Church still exists and Christ provides those gifts He has promised to the Church—to forgive sins, to hear prayer, to give the Holy Spirit.

(Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, Edited by Paul Timothy McCain, 144 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005).

Here is another great quote, in light of the recent debacle with Rob Bell, the disaster in Japan, the unfolding theological meltdown in much of world Lutheranism, with the ELCA leading the way, and in light of whatever challenges we each face in our own individual callings:

“The present is a time not for ease or pleasure, but for earnest and prayerful work. A terrible crisis unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith. And now there are some indications that the fiction of conformity to the past is to be thrown off, and the real meaning of what has been taking place is to be allowed to appear. The Church, it is now apparently supposed, has almost been educated up to the point where the shackles of the Bible can openly be cast away and the doctrine of the Cross of Christ can be relegated to the limbo of discarded subtleties.

“Yet there is in the Christian life no room for despair. Only, our hopefulness should not be founded on the sand. It should be founded, not upon a blind ignorance of the danger, but solely upon the precious promises of God. Laymen, as well as ministers, should return, in these trying days, with new earnestness, to the study of the Word of God.

“If the Word of God be heeded, the Christian battle will be fought both with love and with faithfulness. Party passions and personal animosities will be put away, but on the other hand, even angels from heaven will be rejected if they preach a gospel different from the blessed gospel of the Cross. Every man must decide upon which side he will stand. God grant that we may decide aright!

“What the immediate future may bring we cannot presume to say. The final result indeed is clear. God has not deserted His Church; He has brought her through even darker hours than those which try our courage now, yet the darkest hour has always come before the dawn. We have today the entrance of paganism into the Church in the name of Christianity. But in the second century a similar battle was fought and won. From another point of view, modern liberalism is like the legalism of the middle ages, with its dependence upon the merit of man. And another Reformation in God’s good time will come.

“But meanwhile our souls are tried. We can only try to do our duty in humility and in sole reliance upon the Savior who bought us with His blood. The future is in God’s hand, and we do not know the means that He will use in the accomplishment of His will.”

—J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, (New Edition; Eerdmans, 2009 [orig., 1923), 150. HT: Justin Taylor.

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Categories: Christian Life
  1. Guillaume
    March 18th, 2011 at 08:08 | #1

    “By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith.”

    I find it interesting that this is made by a Reformed Fundamentalist being that the Reformed of all stripes tend to do this when engaged in conversations with Lutherans.

    IOW, when it comes down to it all the Reformed are liberals, it’s just a matter of degree and not kind.

  2. Kevin Golden
    March 18th, 2011 at 10:14 | #2

    Paul Gerhardt captured this truth in beautiful hymnody. He did so in the face of having lost his wife and all but one of his children to death. He penned:
    Why should cross and trial grieve me?
    Christ is near with His cheer;
    Never will He leave me.
    Who can rob me of the heaven
    That God’s Son
    For me won
    When His life was given?

    • March 18th, 2011 at 10:40 | #3

      Thanks, Kevin, for your comment. I can never sing a Gerhardt hymn without thinking of the grievous trials he experienced. It makes the hymn all that more powerful. Pastor Gerhardt was preaching to himself when he wrote his hymns and we are blessed for it!

  3. Steve Foxx
    March 18th, 2011 at 11:44 | #4

    Amen; not always the easiest to say but always true. Thanks for this post.

    Steve

  4. Rev. Kevin Jennings
    March 19th, 2011 at 08:05 | #5

    Hi, Paul!

    This quote from Machen is incredibly timely. I hear members of the church I serve echoing the sounds of the evangelicals around us, saying we need to take America back for God before it’s too late, we need to get God back into schools, etc. They shake their heads in disbelief whenever I tell them that the Church will survive into eternity because of her Lord, echoing the words of the hymn, “The Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend…”

    Machen’s comments that the Lord of the Church will continue to deliver her as He has in the past sound a welcome note.

    God bless!
    Kevin

  5. Markus
    March 20th, 2011 at 23:01 | #6

    @Rev. Kevin Jennings

    ” ….the Church will survive into eternity because of her Lord, echoing the words of the hymn, “The Church shall never perish, her dear Lord to defend…” ”

    So true. If Rob Bell and liberalism are the bogeymen the church Evangelica is afraid of, then it’s not very strong on where it stands. God has taken the church much much worse than liberalism…. black Death, anyone? 30 Years war? to name a few.

  6. Jami
    March 21st, 2011 at 12:18 | #7

    I can’t help but think of my mother’s favorite hymn, which we sang just six weeks ago at her funeral:

    “What a friend we have in Jesus,
    all our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit,
    O what needless pain we bear,
    all because we do not carry
    everything to God in prayer.”

    • March 21st, 2011 at 14:31 | #8

      Jami, may our Lord and Savior Jesus continue to strengthen and sustain you, and your family, as you grieve the death of your mother. What a comfort to know in Whom she trusted, yes, we do have a friend in Jesus!

  7. Bob Gruener
    March 21st, 2011 at 15:58 | #9

    “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32 (ESV)

    “… and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt. 16:18 (ESV)

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