Dear members and friends of our ELS:
The time for the writing of this column is filled with tension for Christians. 147 Christian students murdered at a Kenyan university. In Iraq and Syria, the ISIS terrorists pursue their torture of Christians. At home, a debate rages over “freedom of religion” legislation in the state of Indiana. To what extent, if any, can Christian business owners refuse for the sake of conscience to offer their services for ceremonies they regard as immoral (e.g., gay weddings)? Some also wonder what a national discussion on this portends for confessional Bible-believing churches. Will tax-exempt status be revoked for churches that address homosexuality as sin? The world presses in on the Christian community, squelching its life-breath and making the proclamation of God’s Word almost impossible.
But wait! Is that so accurate? The pressure on Christianity is real. But the fallacy is to assume that when persecution arrives, there is less ability for the powerful Seed to be sown and to do its mighty work. Two church festivals in the month of May bring a necessary message for believers in Christ in the midst of the chaos—May 14 and 24 are dates worth remembering.
The first is Ascension Day. The ascension of our Lord Jesus to heaven is confessed by the church in these words: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” This means that our Lord Jesus is no longer in His humiliation state where He willingly chose not to make full use of His power and majesty so that He could be our substitute in suffering and dying to atone for our sins. Jesus is now in His exaltation state where He, even according to His human nature, exercises His full powers and majesty as God—which He has possessed as the Son of God from eternity. This almighty dominion of Jesus assures us that, even in the periods of severe distress for the church, He rules with His divine glory over all things for the benefit of His believers. The Ascension motto is: Rest assured. Christ is in control!
The second May day of significance is Pentecost. This festival highlights the work of the Holy Spirit. As the Book of Acts shows, the Holy Spirit carries out the spread of His Word in our sinful world, convicting people of sin, converting sinners to saving faith in the Redeemer, and changing hearts and minds to follow the new life. He does this even when winds of oppression are blowing strong. In fact, hard times for the early church caused a scattering of the Word like a well-intentioned wildfire (Acts 8:1–8)! The Pentecost motto is: Don’t forget. The Spirit and His Word are on the move!
Believers in the Savior, we need not worry or despair as we pray for the future work of the church. The Triune God of heaven and earth is in control and has a plan for the spread of His Word until the day of our Lord’s great return. When Moses was tempted to give up as he led Israel wandering in the wilderness, didn’t God ask him a stop-and-think rhetorical question? He asked Moses: “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” (Numbers 11:23). So, the church is well-armed!
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President