My thanks to Matt for inviting me to blog here at Planet Augsburg. For those of you who are curious, I am a university student in Illinois who will be attending seminary (http://www.ctsfw.edu) after a National Guard deployment to Afghanistan next year.
Ironically, my first contribution to this blog is not something that I wrote. Following this introduction is the address given by my roommate, JJ, a few weeks ago during the Sunday service at the church we attend here at school. For many years it has been the practice at our Lutheran Student Center (which is apart of the local Lutheran parish) to have graduating seniors get up and say a few words during one of their last Sundays here.
The following is JJ’s address. As you read this, know that these are words that needed to be said–not only to our congregation here at school but also to the greater synod and Church. I cannot add anything to what he said because, in my opinion, he hit the nail on the head in his admonition of our congregation.
Here is what JJ said:
2 Timothy 4:2-3 says, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
There’s that word that makes many Christians cringe: doctrine. Maybe it makes you cringe a little bit as you think of how many ‘doctrines’ are out there and how many different beliefs there are about it. Whatever you may think of that word, it’s biblical and it is commanded of us to keep in accord with sound doctrine. Which means this: there is truth when it comes to doctrine. There is one view that is right on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, original sin, election of grace, etc. and all the others are not only false, they are unbiblical.
Do not give into your itching ears. They will lead you astray. Believe me, I know. My itching ears lead me to disobey God. My itching ears want me to put aside sound doctrine.
Hold fast to sound doctrine. The way that you practice things at Immanuel Lutheran will affect what you believe and vice versa. Doctrine and practice are united in a symbiotic relationship. You cannot separate the two. Your itching ears may want something new and something more creative than the same old stuff that we do every week. Your itching ears may convince you that we need to change styles in order to attract more people, to grow as a congregation. Biblical change can be good and it is important to recognize that the only way this congregation will grow is by that very Word that you are currently hearing weekly.
So come to Church every week and listen. Recognize that Christ is serving you. Sit at His feet and let Him teach, let Him serve. It’s what He wants to do more than anything. Pay attention to what is being said to you and know that God Himself is saying it. Go to bible study. Go to Catechism class. Read the Lutheran Confessions. Let Jesus serve you as you study His Word. Spend time in God’s Word at home, in your dorms, or apartments.
Keep in accord with sound doctrine. Hold fast to the teachings of our Lord. Let Him serve. Continue to proclaim Law and Gospel. Continue to Baptize. Continue to come to the Lord’s Supper to be fed by His body and blood. You will grow if you spend time in the Word and listen to what God has to say. That growth should not be measured in numbers. Ultimately numbers are irrelevant. Christ’s command to be the Church is relevant. To be the church you must have sound doctrine. People may leave because of it. That’s ok. Pray for them and winsomely talk to them. If this church is pure in doctrine and 100 years from now there are only 8 members left because itching ears have got the best of everyone else, this church will still be strong as ever because church is not about people. Church is about doctrine and doctrine is all about Jesus. So long as Christ crucified for sinners remains the cornerstone, the church will go on and Immanuel Lutheran will be a shining light in a world of darkness.
That 2 Timothy 4 section does not end with law, it ends with Gospel. By being the Church you may one day join St. Paul in saying:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”
Thank you for welcoming me as a brother in Christ. The peace of Christ be with you.