Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us- eternal life.
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything- and is true and is no lie, just as it has taught you- abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.(ESV)
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Let the Wind Blow
Monday of Advent 2
9 December 2013
The enemies of the Church cannot tear down or destroy the Church's unity. Some years ago, as a young pastor I lamented to an elderly, now sainted, colleague how distraught I was when a particularly difficult and cantankerous member left the membership of the flock I served. As a young pastor, I was tortured by the presumption that I had done something to cause this painful defection from the faith. The more experienced pastor said something both distressing and comforting to me, "You can't lose what you never had." First, he wanted me to understand that those who were only members of the Christian community to make a show of their piety and to throw their weight around in the Christian community, were not Christian believers in the first place. If they would leave the church, they would be leaving that which they had never joined by faith. Second, he was reminding me that church members were not mine. They were the Lord's. I didn't create them nor did I control them. They either belonged to their Lord and Master or they were servants of the enemy of the Lord. In either case, they weren't mine to lose.
The Church is Christ's possession in such a way that those who belong to the Lord cannot be lost. Those He knows in both compassion and action will never be lost to Him, for no one can snatch them out of His hand (Jn 10:28). No matter how the winds of trouble blow, even the hurricanes of heresy cannot uproot the faith of those who are held in the hand of the Lord.
We need to be reminded by our Lord that the wind blows away the chaff and never the grain. The sifting process, though painful, leaves the faithful on the threshing floor while the wind blows away the wicked and their place remembers them no more. And such threshing must come. There will be no time of idyllic peace in the church until she is redeemed to heaven by the King of peace. Although the Lord will ultimately triumph, the battles must still be fought until the warfare of this life is brought to its end.
The chaff and the wheat often reside side-by-side until the flailing of the threshing floor beats out the truth so that the chaff might be blown away. The wheat and the weeds grow up together until the Lord takes the wheat into his harvest barns and the weeds are burned with unquenchable fire. This requires careful discernment and acceptance of suffering under the sign of the cross. The flail of the threshing floor beats the wheat and the chaff, not to hurt the wheat, but to separate it from the chaff. But such a beating results in suffering, although that is not its purpose. Its purpose is to make clear the truth of the Lord within the church. The church militant must fight for the truth if she is to live in it. Modern indifference to truth in theology fails to recognize the truly militant nature of the church's life here on earth. That battle for the truth, which is both won by Christ long ago and our war to conduct every day, will ultimately strengthen our faith and set us firmly in the truth of the gospel. The wind carries away not the wheat, but only the chaff. So let the wind blow.
Cyprian of Carthage
The Holy Spirit came as a dove, a simple and joyous creature, not bitter with gall, not cruel in its bite, not violent with the rending of its claws, loving human dwellings, knowing the association of one home; when they have young, bringing forth their young together. When they fly, they remain In their flights by the side of one another, spending their life in mutual community, acknowledging the concord of peace with the kiss of the beak, in all things fulfilling the law of unanimity. This is the simplicity that ought to be known in the Church. This is the love that ought to be attained, that the love of the brotherhood may imitate the doves, that their gentleness and meekness may be like the lambs and sheep. What does the fierceness of wolves do in the Christian breast? What the savageness of dogs, and the deadly venom of serpents, and the bloody cruelty of wild beasts? We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should destroy the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion. Bitterness cannot consist and be associated with sweetness, darkness with light, rain with clearness, battle with peace, barrenness with fertility, drought with springs, storm with tranquility? Let none think that the good can depart from the Church. The wind does not carry away the wheat, nor does the hurricane uproot the tree that is based on a solid root. The light straws are tossed about by the tempest, the feeble trees are overthrown by the onset of the whirlwind. The Apostle John execrates and severely assails these, when he says, 'They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us' (1Jn 2:19).
"Hence heresies not only have frequently been originated, but continue to be so; while the perverted mind has no peace-while a discordant faithlessness does not maintain unity. But the Lord permits and suffers these things to be, while the choice of one's own liberty remains, so that while the discrimination of truth is testing our hearts and our minds, the sound faith of those that are approved may shine forth with manifest light. The Holy Spirit forewarns and says by the apostle, 'For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized' (1Co 11:19). Thus the faithful are approved, thus the perfidious are detected; thus even here, before the day of judgment, the souls of the righteous and of the unrighteous are already divided, and the chaff is separated from the wheat. These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the incautious assemblies, who appoint themselves authorities in the church without ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopacy. These the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence (Ps 1:1), plagues, and are spots on the faith, deceiving with serpent's tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech creeps like a cancer (2Ti 2:17), whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of everyone."
Cyprian of Carthage,
On the Unity of the Church, 9-10
Lord Jesus, You have warned us that there must always be factions among us through the mouth of Your blessed apostle, St. Paul. Keep us from despair as we see and lament the doubt, unbelief, and indifference to the truth rampant in the world and our flesh. Help us to see that the battle over the truth, though it causes suffering, also separates truth from falsehood and faith from unbelief. When You send the cross of warfare for the sake of the truth to be laid upon our shoulders, enable us to fight the good fight of faith confident that You will be our champion upon the field of battle. Amen.
For Paul Lindemann, President of the Northwest District of the LCMS, that he would rest securely in the grace of Christ and the truth of His Word
For Kathy Wayne Galler, that the Lord his God would grant him strength and healing
For President Lawrence Rast and the faculty and staff of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that they might preach the Word to the glory of God and the salvation of those who hear
For public safety officials that they might be strengthened in their resolve to protect the innocent and thwart the will of those who would do evil
Art: WEYDEN, Rogier van der Annunciation Triptych (c. 1440)
© Scott R. Murray, 2012