FROM THE PASTOR
The world is after you. Yes, that certainly could sound alarmist, and the world would label it as an extremist position, but it is the truth. The world does want you. It wants your heart.
The world is not alone, of course. The allegiance of your heart is valuable. Where your heart goes, your treasure will follow. Along with your love, your attention, and your faith.
So it should not surprise you that the more you engage with the world in your workplace, your school, and even in casual social groups, the more the world will work through these things to win your heart-- to win you. Whether it is to turn you into a workaholic, to make you believe that politics is the most important thing, or simply to influence your mind, the world wants you.
Along with the devil and our own sinful flesh, the world is listed by Martin Luther in the Small Catechism as being one of our enemies in this valley of sorrows Ė this sinful life. In the Lordís Prayer, we pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.í When asked how Godís will is done, Luther wrote (and we believe): ĎGodís will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow Godís name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.í
Thereís much more to unpack there than there is space here, but if you took just one thing away from reading what your church sends you in the mail, it should be this: the goals of the world are simple; the world does not want you to hallow Godís name or let His kingdom come. Anything that distracts you from those things is an example of the world (working in concert with the devil and your sinful nature) going after you.
Now, the world may look like it is doing a very good job of winning people. Evil things condemned in Godís Word are practiced and promoted everywhere. Sins against all of the Ten Commandments are rampant Ė not just the Ďbiggiesí like all kinds of killing (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) and adultery (divorce, promiscuous behavior, pornography, etc.), but also misuse of the Lordís name, dishonoring preaching and the hearing of Godís Word, gossip, avarice, covetousness, and idolatry Ė you name it, itís happening. And are we in the church guiltless? Certainly not.
I know that comes as no surprise, because we confess our sinfulness and our sinful deeds week in and week out, but the world will use even this to lull us into complacency or a false sense of security. The world will try to fool you into believing that as long as youthink the right way about something, and maybe even told others about it, you can be assured that you have done your duty. As if holding or sharing an opinion were a virtue in and of itself! On all kinds of media, for instance, opinion seems to be the gold standard currency for determining virtue. From talking heads on television to Facebook and Twitter, you cannot escape the posturing. But opinions are not virtues. Being for or against something fulfills no commandments. Having an opinion about something does nothing for your neighbor who is in need. It is as useful as faith without works, as St. James reminds us: ĎIf a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?í (James 2:15-16)
So what do we do? Worldliness would lull you into an equal, yet opposite kind of false security, that bydoing something you are now virtuous. Itís an even stronger temptation because it takes much more out of us to help someone who is struggling in some way than it does to have an opinion, especially a stranger. But works, even virtuous works, will not earn Godís favor any more than opinions; soÖwhat do we do?
Do we avoid doing good, especially for a young woman or a young family struggling through a pregnancy? Do we avoid caring for those who struggle with temptation, or greed, or slander? Do we retreat from the world around us? No, of course not. Paul wrote in Galatians, ĎAnd let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.í (6:9). And the author of Hebrews encourages us, ĎAnd let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.í (10:24-25)
We listen to Godís Word. We come to church. We hear the commands of the Lord and fight against our own flesh, the world, and the devil to follow those commands. We confess our sins and our sinful nature and we receive absolution. We live in our baptism, daily drowning the old Adam and rejoicing in the new man who emerges and arises to live before God in purity forever. We partake of the Lordís Supper. It is the body and blood of Jesus, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink, for the forgiveness of our sins. Indeed, Christ has died and risen from the dead for us, and as he taught us to pray, ĎThy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,í He will strengthen and keep us in His Word and faith until we die. That is His good and gracious will..