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1 John 4:1-6

 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.(ESV)  

 

 

Losing the Gospel?

Cyprian of Carthage, Pastor and Martyr 

16 September 2013

We should pray that God does not permit the gospel to be taken away from us because we treasure it so little. As a child I was quite lazy. My mother often had to make me bring my bike into the shed where it was padlocked at night. She reminded me that I must not have appreciated my bike very much to leave it in the yard to be taken by any covetous neighbor child. She was right. That which we will not defend and care for is hardly treasured by us. What we really treasure we vigilantly watch over and protect.

 

We do not protect the gospel from use, but for use. The message that Christ has redeemed the world with His precious blood and innocent suffering and death must never be abused. False teachers can do that by watering this message down, or soft-peddling it. The precious gospel can be opened to attack when we reduce it to works, so that our efforts are most important, rather than God's saving action. There is much that is attractive to the old Adam when we can reduce God's work in Christ to our own activity. Of course, this can be done only where the people no longer know what the message of Christ ought to sound like. God warns us: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos 4:6). Our complacent and lazy attitude to studying and learning the word of God creates a field easily sown by the devil with the seeds of legalism and self-righteousness. This is a field in which God-talk flows in abundance, but where Christ's work as Savior is not easily found. Christ wants His pure Word of the forgiveness of sins to be preserved so that it might be faithfully delivered from the pulpits of our churches.

 

The piety of the speaker is no guarantee of the truthfulness of the message. The appearance of holiness is easily manipulated for the benefit of the inattentive. We ought to listen to the preacher because what he preaches is good, right, and faithful. The preacher who proclaims something other than God's Word of grace, no matter how attractive he is, ought to be repudiated. We should place our fingers in our ears and pray God's pity upon such a benighted preacher, that Christ would show mercy and lead Him into the green pastures of God's word and out of the cesspool of his own speculations and dreams. People often run after the latest notorious preacher to hear what scratches their itching ears. They have been surfeited on the good food of the gospel and begin to seek something with more spice or sugar. They yearn for something more exciting than the same eternal gospel which God the Lord has given to all generations despite our wickedness and unbelief. If we lose the gospel it will not be through the lack of trying on God's part. We will lose the gospel because of our own spiritual laziness.

 

Martin Luther

 

"If we took up this warning and guided ourselves by the words of Christ (Mt 7:15), we could easily defend ourselves against all the false prophets and preachers. They are breaking in all over the place. This is due to the fact that we who hear the genuine gospel do not take it seriously and are not concerned about truly having it and keeping it. We act so sleepy and slothful, as if we could never lose it. As a consequence we are taken in by this lovely outward appearance and show before we have a chance to look around. As soon as a different new teacher comes along and goes to work, the word 'Beware!' is forgotten. Yet it is with this word that we should be armed, listening to each individual as though we did not hear him, looking and paying attention only to the teaching. Some frivolous and fickle spirits only look into the preachers' mouths and chase after them, impelled by a curiosity that makes them think: 'Oh, I have listened to this one already. Now I have to listen to that one, too. He is such a fine, learned, and saintly man.'

 

"There the devil already has a foothold, and he has taken them in before they realize what is going on. Now he drives and directs them at will from one schism to another. Paul says of such people that they are like a reed (Mt 11:7), 'tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine' (Eph 4:14). If a different teacher arises today or tomorrow, they quickly rush over to listen to him. The cause of this is that in their heart they do not have a sure understanding of the Word of God and that they depreciate the gospel. They imagine that if they have heard it once or twice, they know it all and have it all. They quickly become bored with it, so that as soon as someone else comes along bringing something new, they open up their eyes and ears wide. The same thing happens to them that happened to Adam and Eve when they were seduced by the serpent, who made them open up their eyes to see the forbidden tree and who insinuated such beautiful thoughts as these, contrary to the Word of God (Gn 3:1): 'Why should we not eat from this tree, too?' Thus their desires and curiosity were aroused, and they became bored with all the trees in all of Paradise, staring only at this one.

 

"If we took the gospel seriously and if, in our lives, we were concerned to keep this treasure pure and clean, we would not be deceived so easily. I hope that no schismatic spirit could overturn me very easily, since I know that the gospel is true and I would not want to lose it. If someone comes along in his beautiful sheep's clothing, I will not pay attention to his mask, as though I wanted to hear something different or new, but to whether or not he agrees with my gospel. If not, then, thank God, I am well grounded and certain enough to know that he is a false prophet and a ravenous wolf under his sheep's clothing."

 
Martin Luther, Sermons on The Sermon on the Mount, 7.15 
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, forgive us for our neglect of the gospel. Vouchsafe Your eternal truth to us, although we do not deserve it. Send Your Spirit that we not be deceived by false preachers. Bless the humble preachers of the divine truth that God' s people might always have Your mercy proclaimed to them. Amen.

 

For all those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, especially Joanna Karner and Lynn Schueler, that God would give them His strength in their weakness

 

For the work of the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, that they would be led by the Good Shepherd as they meet

 

For pastors who are faithfully preaching the gospel of God's mercy in Christ, that they might be bold in their proclamation, and that those who hear them might be saved 
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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