1998 Synod Convention Essay
“Let there be Light!” By saying those words, we are asking for two things. 1) We are asking God to bring his light into the world, into our hearts, to enlighten us. 2) We are asking God to motivate us, so that we are willing to be used by God to bring this light to others. We are stating our desire that this light go forth into the world. We constantly have to ask ourselves, “How much do we want there to be light? What efforts are we willing to make for there to be light? Are we motivated for missions?” Motivation is important. Motivation has to do with our will, with what we want and what we decide to do. We human beings need to be motivated in order to act. We have to have some reason for doing the things we do. It is easy to sit back and just let things happen, to “go with the flow” and let things continue as they are. It is especially easy to have an attitude like that when we look at the chaos of the world in which we live. Life is hectic with many activities and changes, but very few people seem to be concerned about their eternal welfare. In these changing times we pray, “Let there be Light.”
I. The Changing Times in Which We Live.
We are living in changing times. It doesn’t take much effort to notice that. “Our world is changing so quickly that we can barely keep track of what is happening. There is more produced (to read, watch, etc.) in one day than you could comfortably take in the rest of your life.”1 As an example, during 1988, ten thousand books or articles on evangelism were produced in the world.2 We need only to make a visit to an electronics store to buy a computer and we notice how quickly things are changing. More important than the changes that we can see are changes in the way that people think. In science there is chaos theory, in social sciences there is postmodernism, in religion and philosophy there is the new age movement. Some social scientists have concluded that “the modern era is over. In nearly every sphere, from academic fields to new social phenomena, the assumptions that shaped twentieth-century thought are being exploded. As we enter the twenty-first century, it seems clear that Western culture is entering a new phase, which scholars are calling “postmodern.”3
These changes are telling the people in our world that there is nothing that can be taken as absolutely true. One university biology professor said, “Ten years from now the things I am going to teach you will no longer be true.”4 We often hear the saying, “Well, that may be true for you, but it is not for me.” Everything is considered relative. There is nothing that is thought to be permanent. As we think of the Christian message of forgiveness of sins through the work of our Savior Jesus Christ, we might then be tempted to keep it to ourselves. Perhaps we think that it is too difficult or too complicated, even overwhelming, to relate that message to contemporary man, who has such a variety of ways of thinking in these times. We may fall into the trap of thinking that it is not as relevant as it once was, or maybe even not as true as it once was, or maybe even only one path among many, true for some but not for others. We might think that the “old time religion” just doesn’t work for people any more. We might be afraid of being called fools, of being accused of ignorance or of being anti-intellectual. We need to be motivated for missions in these times. We need to be motivated to keep on bringing light into the world.
God was motivated by his love to bring light to the original creation. He was making a world that would be the object of his love, especially regarding his chief creation, mankind. The creation was also a time of change. Just compare what existed the first day with what existed after six days. Before the creation there was no change. God was the eternal constant unchangeable being, outside of time. Then there was a beginning in which he created. The first thing that God did after he had created the elements of which this world is made was to create Light. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis 1:3, NIV).
The creation of physical light is not the subject of this essay, but taking a short look at this light will give us some insight into what the spiritual light is. William Overn presented a very interesting lecture concerning the creation of this physical light. He said, “Science has given us a certain amount of insight into what light is.”5 He includes everything that is called “electromagnetic radiation” in the category of light that God created on the first day. The creation of light on the first day is “the fundamental act of creation.”6 Electromagnetic radiation includes radio and television waves, radiant light, heat and some types of nuclear radiation. This type of radiation is what holds atoms together. The term light covers a much broader range of phenomena than that which is visible. In essence all of these types of radiation are the same. Visible light is a very small part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. So we can say “that God created all known physical laws and matter as we know it when He said, ‘Let there be light.’ ”7
Scientists and common sense have determined that light is necessary for this physical earth. Without it, the plants would soon die. The animals would then die. Finally man would die. God had created the light before he made the things that we call living. He knew what he wanted to do with his creation, and every step prepared the way for the next step. He created physical light in order to make possible everything else that he created afterwards.
Before the creation of physical light, “the earth was without form and void: and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2, KJV). Physical light was what gave meaning and purpose and order to the physical creation. It ceased to be chaos, without form and void, and totally in darkness. We can use the creation of physical light as a parallel for the spiritual realm. Spiritual light was placed in the original man and woman in creation to give purpose and meaning and order to their lives. Without spiritual light, their lives would be chaos, without form and void and totally in spiritual darkness, without any meaning or purpose. As the creation of physical light was “the fundamental act of [the physical] creation,”8 spiritual light is the fundamental element in man’s relationship with God.
What is the spiritual light in which Adam and Eve were created? It is called “the image of God,” which, as we all know from our catechism instruction, “consists in true knowledge of God and in perfect righteousness and holiness.”9 God was motivated to place this spiritual light in Adam and Eve at the moment of their creation, when he physically “formed man from the dust of the ground” and spiritually “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, NIV). So, man had this light in the moment in which he was created. He was not created in darkness, having the light added later, but was originally in the light. But he did not remain in the light. Soon after his creation he fell into sin, into darkness. We will first examine this darkness in the light of scripture to determine in what it consists and to where it leads. As we consider spiritual darkness, let us remember that we Christians have been rescued from this terrible state.
II. The World’s Need for Light Spiritual Darkness.
A. The Essence of Spiritual Darkness.
The basic definition of darkness in many dictionaries is the absence of light or the failure to receive, reflect, transmit or radiate light. Darkness is always defined in its relation to light. Darkness exists when and where there is no light.
When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they were enveloped in spiritual darkness. The light with which they were originally created was lost. They didn’t have it any more. The loss of light was complete. They were in spiritual darkness, ignorant of every knowledge of and blessing of the spiritual light.
This ignorance is seen in the fact that they didn’t know who God was any more. It is true that they knew that there is a God. Natural knowledge told them that much. But when this God came to them in the garden, they hid. They claimed that they were afraid. What made them afraid of God was a loss of the true knowledge concerning who God was. They lost sight of God’s holiness, love and mercy, as well as losing their perfect understanding of his omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. They forgot that he was their creator, who had created them out of love and given them all the blessings of paradise. They completely lost all spiritual knowledge of their God.
Along with the loss of spiritual knowledge of God, they lost their perfect righteousness and holiness. They became sinners. Their lives, as well as the lives of all human beings, were so infected by sin that Paul could say, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12, NIV).
This loss did not just leave man in a neutral state, but also included the addition of something. It is as if monsters pop into existence when we turn off the lights in our house. In the spiritual darkness, a true monster has come into existence. This monster is called concupiscence. It is the tendency of every human being to perform evil acts. We are not free to choose between good and evil. “The evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19, NIV).
B. The Consequences of Spiritual Darkness.
What this spiritual darkness does to mankind can be seen in the results of the fall into sin. In the state of darkness, man cannot spiritually see God. Besides not knowing God, he cannot see his spiritual destiny. He isn’t certain whether heaven and hell even exist, nor can he know the roads that take him to those places. He cannot see what he is doing to himself and to others with his sin. The darkness has made him blind, compounding his problem. The experience of darkness describes the situation of every human being.
You can close your eyes and think of what happens when you are in physical darkness. Suppose you wanted to walk across a city in this state of darkness, a city like Lima, Peru, or even Mankato, Minnesota. First of all, you would immediately lift up your hands before you started walking. You would want to feel your way. You would probably bump into many things. You might make a wrong turn and not know which street you were on. There would be doubts and anxiety. Your sense of direction would be lost. You might trip over something and not be able to continue your attempt to cross the city. This might bring sadness to your voyage. If you asked someone for help, you would not know if they were telling the truth. There would be many lies and deceptions. There would be many dangers. There is the danger that something might tempt you to forget your goal and get onto a side track. Animals would be able to attack you. Muggers and thieves would have no problem sneaking up on you and assaulting you. You would not make it to your destination. You would probably end up dead on the city streets. In a city, even one that is not too big, there are places where we don’t even want to go in the daytime with sight. It is easy to imagine how terrible an experience it is at night or blindfolded.
So it is spiritually, but to an even greater extreme. We don’t just want to cross a city, we want to enter heaven. We human beings, in our state of darkness, aren’t even sure that there is a heaven and we don’t know the way, but we want to get there. So what do we do? Our state of darkness would be like this.
We start trying out different ways to get to heaven. We can’t see where it is nor can we see a road, but we put up our hands and start to feel our way. This description is in the Bible. “At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do” (Deuteronomy 28:29, NIV). “They grope in darkness with no light, and he makes them stagger like drunkards” (Job 12:25, NIV). We might try out one spiritual method for a while, and then discover that it doesn’t work, so we choose another.
There are many different religions in the world that have claimed to be able to get us into heaven through human efforts. We would try them out as we feel our way, changing from one to another as we discover that they are wrong, that they have lied to us and deceived us. The lies and deceptions are deep darkness. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20, NIV). The religion of the Inca empire of Peru was one in which the sun was worshipped. They thought that this was as bright as things could get. They made sacrifices to the sun and considered it their creator.
In this state of darkness we would be convulsed with doubts, uncertainties and frustrations over the possibility of getting to heaven. We would become spiritually lost and spiritually sorrowful or saddened by our inability to find a sure path. Guilt would plague us. We would be captive, in bondage, and the result would be disaster.
There are spiritual obstacles on the way over which we would trip. “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble” (Proverbs 4:19, NIV). There are many temptations with which we would be faced, temptations that are trying to trip us up. In the darkness, we would not even be able to recognize these obstacles, and we would stumble. Anger and bitterness that we had no way to overcome these obstacles would begin to affect our lives.
There are many spiritual enemies, the devil, the world, and even our own flesh, that would attack us. They love the darkness. In the darkness they can have their way. They cause fear and terror as we become subject to their attacks and have to face them without help. They would try to keep us from reaching our goal. In our state of darkness, they would succeed, because we would have no weapons of light with which to combat them.
The final result of spiritual darkness is death, which Job describes as going “to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness” (Job 10:21-22).
Eternal death is the ultimate darkness. Matthew talks about this eternal death as being thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30, NIV). Peter calls this place “gloomy dungeons” (2 Peter 2:4, NIV) or “chains of darkness” (KJV).
The darkness is also complete. There is no human being who is not born in darkness. There is no one who does not sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). ‘’Darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples” (Isaiah 60:2).
C. Spiritual Darkness Today.
What is the condition of the darkness in the times in which we live? Men like to believe that they live in enlightened times, that they have given up the darkness of the past. This is surely what the promoters of new age religion, of postmodernist culture, of chaos theory in science, and of the new ways of thinking in other areas of life have in mind. They truly believe that their new ideas are enlightening ideas. But is it so? History has shown that man keeps on finding ways to remain in the darkness. In another century, man will think that what is regarded as light now, was really darkness, but he will still not have the light. He will just have a new darkness. Any way that men propose from their own thinking and reasoning as a way out of the darkness is just another way to remain in the darkness and prolong it. Every age has its own way of remaining in darkness. The changes that are happening in the world now fill men so full of hope for the future, but those changes are also being used to find new ways to remain in the darkness. The times may change, but some things remain the same. Darkness continues to exist in this world.
The depth and strength of darkness, we even see in ourselves, in our original sin. Our old Adam loves the darkness. How many times have we done something and thought, “I hope no one ever finds out about this?” And then, when someone does find out, we are so full of shame. In our darkness, we are guilty. The darkness is still within us during our lives on this earth. The struggle against our old Adam who wants to remain in the darkness is constant. Luther uses the following words to describe the darkness: “affliction, trouble” (LW, 13, p. 404); “adversities, evil, failure of all things” (LW, 18, p. 290); “misfortunes” (LW, 18; p. 182); “doubtful times” (LW, 18, p. 272); “when things turn out badly” (LW, 18, p. 90). Even Christians struggle against these things in their lives.
Another sign of the depth of the darkness is that the world doesn’t even recognize light when it does appear. Darkness claims to be light, but rejects the true light. Luther says, “It really becomes pitch dark when such darkness and error is decorated with the name of truth, and the darkness becomes worse with the addition of such light. If a person knows the devil and recognizes him as such, and then makes a god out of him, that is putting darkness on top of darkness and yet claiming that it is shiny and bright.” Now, Christ reasons this way: “If the opinion and teaching that you regard as light is really darkness, how great will the other darkness be, namely, the darkness that comes along when you practice this teaching and live according to it?” (LW, 21, p. 182-183). We might think of the religion of the Incas of Peru, who worshipped the sun, thinking that they were in the light. Their worship led to all kinds of atrocities, sexual perversions and bloody sacrifices.
Spiritual darkness is a terrible state in which to be. “Darkness denotes the whole range of what is harmful, or evil” in the sense of the threat to life, of what is bad for me, as well as in that of moral evil “or fatal.”10 It is evil and wicked and its result is only condemnation. The state of spiritual darkness is so terrible that even our Apostle Paul, when he wrote about the sin that was in him, used these words, “What a wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, NIV). When we look at the profundity of the darkness, things seem pretty hopeless. “If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in darkness, Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?” (Job 17:13,15, NIV). The darkness is so deep and affects us all so that it would appear that there is no hope for anyone. We have all been lost in the darkness of sin.
But it doesn’t end there. There is hope. The world obviously is in need of light. Therefore we pray in song to the one who created the world:
Thou Whose Almighty Word
Chaos and darkness heard
And took their flight:
Hear us, we humbly pray,
And where the Gospel day
Sheds not its glorious ray,
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
(ELH, 202, 1)
III. There is a Light for the World — our Savior Jesus Christ.
Paul, who had written those despairing words, “What a wretched man that I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?”, continued with “Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25, NIV). Even the worst effect of the darkness has been defeated, death. Light has penetrated the darkness and defeats it and all of its results.
A. The Essence of the Light.
God himself is the essence of spiritual light. All light (even physical light) proceeds from Him. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5, NIV). He is the one who conquers all the results of darkness. In the spiritual realm, He did this by sending His Son.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV). It is the incarnate God, Christ, who is our light. He himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, NIV). And David wrote, “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1, NIV). The reason that Jesus came to this world was to do battle with the darkness and defeat it forever. He is the only one who could accomplish this task. For that reason He is the only light for all mankind. He is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32, NIV).
If we define darkness as ignorance and lack of knowledge, light would have to be knowledge. “Everything exposed to the light becomes visible” (Ephesians 5:13, NIV). In the darkness, we don’t know where we are going nor how to get there. In the light, we clearly see our goal and the way to get there. We don’t have to grope or guess. We don’t need to tryout different paths, constantly looking for the right one. We don’t have to tryout different methods or works or constantly add new works to try to alleviate our uncertainty. We know the way.
The light is also the restoration of the perfect righteousness and holiness which was lost in the fall into sin. Our lives are no longer worthless. God has given us back the purity and blamelessness which was lost in the fall into sin. He has justified us through the work which Jesus does for us as the light of the world.
B. The Results of Light.
What Jesus does for us as the light is take away the results of darkness which we have mentioned. We can see this in his words, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6, NIV). Instead of our groping around to try to find the way to heaven, he tells us, “I am the way.” This takes away all of our doubt and uncertainty and frustration. We no longer have to go searching for the way. Instead of lies and deception, he tells us, “I am the truth.” Rather than sadness, fear and terror we have joy in knowing that truth. Jesus says, “I am the life.” Rather than ending up in death eternally, there is eternal life for us. John writes, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4, NIV) and says that he is “the true light that gives light to every man.” (John 1:9, NIV). Every bit of spiritual life and energy that we have is due to Jesus as our spiritual light.
In the light, we cannot be deceived. The lies that are told are obvious. If someone tells us to do works in order to be saved, we know that it is a lie and we can avoid it. We don’t even have to doubt. We won’t be frustrated in our efforts to reach eternal salvation. The work is done for us. “It is finished” (John 19:30).
There are still obstacles, but we can avoid them. We can see them so that they won’t cause us to stumble and fall back into darkness. Our Lord gives us the strength to avoid the obstacles. The temptations can be defeated, as our Lord defeated Satan’s temptations, through the Word of God.
The spiritual enemies are still around. The devil, the world and our own flesh want us to fall back into the darkness, but we are watchful. We can be watchful, because their tricks are in the light. We can see that they are there and we can see the truth concerning these enemies.
And finally, our end is life, rather than death. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4, NIV). That life begins here on earth, when we first see the light, but it is also eternal life. We will be living in the eternal light of our heavenly Father and our Savior. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23, NIV).
C. The Light in the Times in which we Live.
In the times in which we live there are many errors concerning the light. We hear stories of people who claim to have died and been resurrected, that they saw a light at the end of a tunnel. People claim to have found the light through meditation or other experiences. Others accept only human reason as light. These are deceptive lights. They are lights that are created. Even the devil himself, the prince of darkness, “masquerades as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14, NIV). We must take care not to be deceived by these false lights.
The fact that God is light shows us his interest in missions. He wants to shine. He wants mankind to see his light. He sent his son to earth to shine as the light of the world, also. Jesus was sent. He is called “the apostle and high priest whom we confess” (Hebrews 3:1, NIV). Apostle means one who is sent, just like a missionary is sent.11
There is light for the world. That light is Jesus. He is the uncreated light. He is the only light. He is the light for everyone. We can pray in song to him:
Thou who didst come to bring,
On thy redeeming wing,
Healing and sight,
Health to the sick in mind,
Sight to the inly blind:
O now to all mankind
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
(ELH, 202, 2)
IV. The Light is Available to Us — the Means of Grace.
Some say that the light is inaccessible to human beings, that we cannot find the light in these modern times. We know that this is true of natural man. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NIV). But it is not true in an absolute sense. We do have the light available to us. It has always been accessible to mankind through the promises of God. Adam and Eve received “a bright ray of light into their hearts” (LW 22, p. 31) shortly after the fall. The words of the prophets were “bright rays and manifestations of the same light” (LW 22, p. 31). The light comes to us, not through some speculation, not through meditation, not through a special revelation, not through human reason, but through the Gospel in the Word of God and his Sacraments, the Means of Grace.
We cannot say that we have seen Jesus with our eyes. We do not see the light in that way. God uses the Means of Grace to bring the light of Jesus to us. Jesus is the light of the world, but this light only enlightens us through the Means of Grace. The Word and Sacraments illuminate us by uniting us with him who is the light. The Means of Grace are a message for us and for all mankind. That message is called the Gospel. It tells us who the light is and what he has done. In that way it enlightens us. “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Timothy 1:9–10, NIV).
Without the message of the Gospel, the light does not shine. The light is not shining where the Means of Grace are not being used. Luther says, “If we do not have the Holy Scripture lighting and governing our actions, this whole life and the universal light of reason, all wisdom, and in short, all plans are darkness and confusion” (LW 6; p. 335). Paul says, “At his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me” (Titus 1:3, NIV). The Psalmist writes, “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Psalm 119:130, NIV).
The light began to shine when the word began to be preached. The light shines where the Means of Grace are used, and does not shine when the Word is silent and the Sacraments are not rightly administered. This is the way the preface to the Book of Concord spoke about the light also. It says, “It is a remarkable favor of almighty God that in these last times and in this old age of the world He has willed, according to His unspeakable love, forbearance, and mercy, that after the darkness of papistical superstitions the light of His Gospel and Word, through which alone we receive true salvation, should arise and shine clearly and purely in Germany.”12
Our Confessions state that the distinction between Law and Gospel is a “special brilliant light.”13 Where this distinction is maintained, the light shines forth. The Law clearly shows us our darkness, our sin. It doesn’t hide any part of our wickedness from us. The Gospel clearly shows us our salvation through our Savior. There can be no clearer spiritual light.
Peter wrote, “We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (II Peter 1:19, NIV). God’s Word is “a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV). The Word of God is a light because it shows us the way, the truth and the life.
V. The Light Comes to Each One of Us — Conversion.
When we consider the light of the world and the means by which that light shines in the world, we have to talk about the way that the light becomes ours. A person could talk about a light that exists somewhere, but he doesn’t know where it is. Or one could talk about a certain light, but he doesn’t know how it can get to us. But we Christians know what the light is, Jesus, and we know how it gets to human beings, through the Means of Grace. When we speak about how those Means of Grace cause the light to come into our possession, so that we can say that the light is ours, we are speaking about the doctrine of conversion. The light is made available to us so that we might believe. Conversion is the way in which the light becomes ours. Illumination is one of the synonyms of conversion.
The first thing that we need to realize is that we cannot convert ourselves. Our darkness is so deep and our blindness so severe that we cannot even get a glimpse of spiritual light using our own powers. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him”14 are words that are familiar to all of us. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14, NIV). “As. for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1, NIV). A dead man can do nothing. A man without the Spirit has nothing to do with anything spiritual. We cannot convert ourselves. We are in darkness.
Conversion begins with the sinner in darkness, but he does not remain in the darkness. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8, NIV). Conversion is what happened to us when we were brought out of the darkness and into the light. Conversion is not our work, but God’s, and his alone. It is due to his grace alone. Luther continues, “but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”15 God “has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Timothy 1:9, NIV). “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13).
This is “that work of the Holy Spirit by which he changes the spiritually blind, dead, and resisting unbeliever into a believing child of God. Because man is born in spiritual blindness and darkness, he cannot see the wisdom of God for what it is. Thus the work by which the Holy Spirit causes men to see things in God’s way, so that the truths of salvation are no longer foolishness to him, is called ‘enlightenment.’”16 For an individual, conversion changes darkness with all of its results into light with all of its results.
We can clearly see why it is called conversion by comparing the results of the state of darkness and the state of light. In darkness we are ignorant, with no knowledge concerning spiritual matters. In the light, we know who our Savior is. In darkness we are groping to find the way to heaven. In light, we see clearly that the way is our Lord Jesus. In darkness we are lost. In the light Jesus has found his lost ones. In darkness there are lies and deceptions. In the light our Lord is the truth. In darkness there is fear, anxiety, worry, terror. In the light there is the joy of salvation. In darkness is death. In the Light there is life, eternal life.
Someone might ask, “How can we tell whether we are in the light?” There are several things that can be put into evidence that show us this. The first of these is our faith. One can ask himself, “Am I trusting the Lord Jesus?” If I am, then I have been converted. It doesn’t matter if I have had an emotional experience or some external sign of the Holy Spirit apart from God’s Word. As results of our conversion, we also look at our fellowship. John wrote, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7). Those who are in the light seek each other out and find each other. Other evidence is our love, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (I John 3:14).
Strictly speaking, conversion is that point at which we become Christians. The effect of that conversion continues throughout the life of a Christian. We are saint and sinner at the same time. We still have our old Adam, along with the new man. When God converted us into Christians, a beginning was made, but we continually struggle against the darkness that remains in us. It is a daily struggle in which we continue to repent of our sins and receive the forgiveness which God gives through his Son Jesus Christ. We need the continued operation of God’s Holy Spirit in order to lighten our darkness.
“God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). God is the one who works by His Holy Spirit. It is his light that is now shining in our hearts.
Spirit of truth and love,
Lifegiving, holy Dove,
Speed forth Thy flight;
Move on the waters’ face,
Spreading the beams of grace,
And in earth’s darkest place
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
(ELH, 202, 3)
VI. We are the Light of the World
God spoke to us in his Word. That Word worked conversion in our hearts, giving us faith in Jesus. It is natural for Christians to speak about that faith in Jesus. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV). It is the nature of light to shine. If it doesn’t, how can we call it light? It is the nature of Christians to let their light shine, to talk about their Savior and show forth his glory.
We see this natural speaking of the wonders of God in the Old Testament. David wrote, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you” (Psalm 51:12-13, NIV). When we have been converted, we will naturally teach others. We see this in the example of the early Christians, even in times of persecution. “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4, NIV). They didn’t wonder or doubt if they should do it. They just naturally did it. Peter and John said, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NIV). Paul wrote, “It is written, ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore we speak” (II Corinthians 4:13, NIV). We pray with the early church, “Enable your servants to speak with boldness” (Acts 4:29).
Continuing with our example of light, Paul gives a good summary of what we are now that we have been converted and what this means for our life after conversion in Ephesians 5:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: Wake up, a sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (verses 8–14, NIV).
There is a light for the world in Jesus Christ. That light has become available to us through the Means of Grace. We have been converted from darkness to light. Therefore, God encourages us to live according to our new state. We are encouraged to do away with the darkness that remains in our lives. “Live as children of light.” “The light of the righteous shines brightly” (Proverbs 13:9). God wants us to be “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15–16, NIV).
Because God has converted us, we are to show forth his light that he has placed in us. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9). We have been called out of darkness, but there are many who remain in darkness. The words which the Lord spoke to Paul are also words which can be spoken to us, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17:18, NIV). That is why he has brought us to faith and has left us in this world.
It is this that led men from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod to seek out a dark place in the world where the ELS could let its light shine, where we could say, “Let there be light,” and do our part under God’s grace to spread the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were following the example of Jesus who looked at this dark world and entered it in order to save it. It wasn’t hard to find dark places in this world, but they were looking for the darkest place which was accessible to us considering the resources available. After due deliberation and exploration, it was decided to begin in Lima, Peru. On July 16, 1968, thirty years ago, our first missionaries arrived in Lima. They arrived at a truly dark place on the earth, a place where the pure Gospel light was not shining.
Although Christianity has been in Peru for 460 years, hardly any effort had been made to cause people to trust in Jesus or live a Christian life. Luther wrote “Under the papacy there was a great darkness that completely blacked out the light of Christian teaching” (LW 21, page 181). The people in Peru were still living in that darkness from the 16th century and many still are. The time and place have been right for Lutheran mission work in Peru. Each conversion is like a little Reformation. Since our missionaries first began preaching to the Peruvian people, the light has been shining there.
Thirty years later we can still say that the light of the ELS is shining in Peru. It has since begun to shine in several other places. But we have to constantly take a look at what we are doing, take a look at what God has done for us and through us and ask ourselves some questions. “Is the light going to keep on shining through our ELS?” “Is it possible that our light could shine even brighter?” “Is it possible that our light could be shining in new places?”
VII. Our Motivation for Mission Work.
We are often frustrated, or in other ways feel that we cannot participate in mission work. When we look at the darkness, we may feel overwhelmed, thinking that the task is too great or too difficult. It is true that there are many difficulties in mission work. A well known church historian wrote, “Christian missionary work is the most difficult thing in the world. It is surprising that it should ever have been attempted.”17 While Lima isn’t always an unpleasant place to be, it was once described in this way: “Chaos is omnipresent. Survival and sanity depend on one’s ability to bob and weave through an unbelievable obstacle course marked by snarled intersections and bombed buildings. It quickly becomes apparent that Peru is a profoundly sick nation.”18 Who would want to go to such a place? We may also feel our own inadequacies, thinking that we are not capable of shining. Or we may have become discouraged by the lack of response to the message of the Gospel. We need to be motivated.
We see our motivation in all of the things that have been discussed so far. From them we learn several reasons why we are encouraged to do mission work. These are our motivation in all times and serve as our motivation in the changing times in which we live. We are not motivated by selfish reasons, none of these things are for ourselves. The reason for that is that we don’t need anything ourselves. God has given us everything in his Son Jesus. He has even given us our motivation. When we are motivated for mission work, we are motivated by our relationship with our Lord and, through him, by our relationship with other sinners.
A. Our Relationship with our Lord.
God loves us, and we love him. There are several things in this relationship with our Lord that motivate us to do mission work. We do mission work because it is what God wants us to do. He has given us his command. When we look at God’s commands to us, we must not be thinking, “I will do this because I have to” or “I am forced to do this,” but we serve as the light because we want to. We can thank God for telling us his will because we want to do his will, and if he doesn’t tell us, we will not know what that will is. We are all familiar with the commands, the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV). “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV).
Our attitude toward the commands show us that it is the Christian’s nature to shine as a light in the world. It is his nature to take the Good News to others. Our nature as light is a motivation. We cannot ask the sun not to shine. In the same way, we cannot ask a Christian not to let his light shine. He won’t do it. He will be like Peter and John, whom we quoted earlier. When they were told not to shine, commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, they responded, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, NIV).
God has done so much for us in sending his Son to die for us. We cannot keep it a secret. “The first step toward mission action is to heighten personal awareness of sin and salvation, through the preaching of Law and Gospel.”19 Because of what God did for us, gratitude is a motivation to do mission work. This is one of the reasons why we cannot keep from speaking. We are so thankful for what our Lord has done for us. He has forgiven us. He has even forgiven us for our sin of not spreading his Gospel. He is giving us the chance to forget our errors of the past and start all over. He won’t be punishing us for our sins. He punished Jesus for them.
We do mission work out of love and fear of God. What do we mean by the love and fear of God? Our catechism explanation states, “We fear God above all things when we honor and respect Him so much that we will not want to offend Him.”20 In the Bible we read, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men” (II Corinthians 5:11, NIV). “We love God above all things when we desire Him more than anything else in heaven or on earth, so that we cling to Him with our whole heart and gladly do His will.”21 His will is that we speak his Word.
We also do mission work for the glory of God, to glorify him. The glory of a person is “that which makes him impressive and demands recognition.”22 Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV). When we show forth the light that is in us, it isn’t to glorify ourselves, but our heavenly Father, our God, who has saved us. Any proclamation of God’s Word ends with glory to him.
We have a God who loves us. He loves us more than we can imagine. He has proven that love by giving us the greatest gift any lover could give, the life of his only Son. Through that Son he has given us the gift of eternal life. The Son rose again from the dead and has a mansion prepared for us with his Father in heaven. God loves us. His love for us is why we love him. We are members of his family, his household. We are citizens of his kingdom of grace. His love for us is why we give money to send missionaries. His love for us is why we pray for our mission work. His love for us is why some go to other nations. His love for us is why we witness to our neighbor. We really need no more motivation, but there is more! There are some things that motivate us that are clearly linked to the Gospel, that are results of the Gospel. We could call them subordinate motivations.
B. Our relationship with other sinners.
Our Lord hates the darkness and loves all sinners. He chose to enter his creation that had fallen into deep darkness. He did battle with that darkness and he rescued lost sinners from that darkness. He wants us to do the same. He is our motivation even in this. The motivation in this sense is one of opportunity. A Christian knows that Jesus has saved him out of love. Now, Jesus has placed opportunities before the Christian to spread that love to others. When we see these opportunities, we want to make Jesus’ love known. He is the one who has done it all. We spread the news of what he has done.
1. Warfare against the darkness.
There are two things regarding our relationship with other sinners that motivate us. First of all, we are in a battle and cannot let darkness win. We have a relationship of opposition to darkness. Letting the darkness take over unopposed would put ourselves and our loved ones in danger of being enveloped by it. We do mission work to brighten the darkness. We need to shine. We need to combat error. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV). When the light doesn’t shine the darkness takes over. We who are the light cannot let that happen. We cannot cease to proclaim the Gospel.
If we fail to fight against the darkness, our light doesn’t shine. Then there is the danger that it will go out completely and we will be left once again in darkness. We need to “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV). It is he who has won the war. We are at war, but we will win, because the blood of our Savior has already defeated the devil and his forces.
We need to remind ourselves of the greatness of the darkness and the wonderful blessings of the light. The message of Law and Gospel serves to motivate us all of our lives. It is easy to get cold and lose zeal. It happens to missionaries, too. The Gospel is what renews our motivation. In the frustrations of life, we might think, “Let those heathens stay in darkness,” or, “Let someone else take the light to them.” On occasion, our light shines more brightly. Perhaps a sermon or book or an inspiring mission festival leads us to this. “Our mission joy shines more intensely for a season, but then the flame dies down and only the pilot light is left burning.”23 Luther comments, “The question of justification is an elusive thing–not in itself, for in itself it is firm and sure, but so far as we are concerned. I myself have had considerable experience of this, for I know how I sometimes struggle in the hours of darkness. I know how often I suddenly lose sight of the rays of the Gospel and of grace, which have been obscured for me by thick, dark clouds” (LW, 26, p. 63). Paul wrote something similar. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us” (II Corinthians 1:8-10). We need to constantly remind ourselves, by remembering the Gospel, that Jesus has made us the light of the world. We do battle with the weapons that God gives us, but it is “not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (II Corinthians 3:5). We can never defeat the devil on our own. Christ has given us the victory in our battle with darkness.
2. Compassion for lost sinners.
Secondly, we work at missions out of compassion for those who are in darkness. There are some who will be brought out of darkness by hearing the Word of God. On the mission fields we hear some wonder why it took the Christian Church so long to get the Word to them. We might think of the Macedonian call that Paul heard. “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” (Acts 16:9, NIV). Recently I was talking to a member of our church in Lima about how the decision was made to begin work in Lima. One response was, “It is good for us that the decision was made to work in Lima and not somewhere else.” But there are many “somewhere elses” where we are not yet working. We must recognize that there is still much to do. There are still many places where we can work. We cannot yet say that we have done enough, so now we can rest. The Lord will decide when our rest comes.
As was said earlier, there are many who believe that we are living in enlightened times. Perhaps they feel that the Christian church has already done its task of shining in the whole world. However, we must not think that just because we live at the end of the twentieth century that there is no more darkness. In a book called Joy to the World by Philip Bickel, one chapter carries the title “A World in Need of Joy.” In that chapter he describes the learning experience of a young man making an imaginary trip around the world. The man had thought that there was not much more need for mission work. If he looked at the 215 or so countries in the world, he saw that Christians were at work in 90% of them. But looked at a different way, there are almost 6 billion people in the world. About 2 billion “claim” to be Christian, although they might not practice nor believe the Christian faith. (The U.S. Center for World Missions estimates that “approximately 200 million Christians in this world are seriously concerned about sharing Christ with others.”24) That leaves 4 billion “without Christ’s cleansing pardon.”25
Another way in which he learned to look at the situation was to think of ethnic groups. The Greek word “ethneî” is the word used for “nations” in the great commission. It means a group that shares “a common language, culture, philosophy, and world view.” “The U.S. Center for World Mission has determined that there are 24,000 different cultural units in the world.” Of these, “only about 8,000 have a strong Christian community.” The remaining “are the unreached peoples of the earth, living and dying with little or no opportunity to hear the precious name of Jesus proclaimed in a manner they can understand. In India there are 3,000 major people groups, and the Christian church is still weak or nonexistent in over 2,900.”26 Perhaps there is a child being born in this instant. We can ask ourselves, “How many years will it be before that child will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it possible that he may live an entire human life without hearing that Gospel?” It is still happening in our world. Roney Gonzales in Chile “has expressed one regret: that our church was not established sooner in his community.”27 How many more communities are there like that? There is still darkness, profound darkness, even after 2000 years of Christian witness. We might think that just because we live in the 20th century, that there is no more darkness, but that is not true.
Peru is still called a dark country. It is the least evangelized country in the Americas. There are so many people who have placed their hope in this life, which is what liberation theology, begun by a Peruvian Gustavo Gutierrez, teaches them. There are also many who are involved in pagan religions, praying to the gods of the hills, leaving sacrifices for fertility in their fields, seeking to appease the spirits in various ways. There is a veneer of Christianity over much of what they do, but they basically practice the same religion they had before the message of Jesus Christ first came to Peru 460 years ago. The light of the Gospel is shining there, but there is much still to be done. That is also true in other parts of the world. A pamphlet from a sister mission in the Czech Republic asks us to “consider a gift to spread the light of Christianity in a land once covered by the dark shadow of communism.”28 The light is shining there, but there is much still to be done. We can’t quit shining yet.
The same thing could be said concerning large segments of the world, including our own country of the United States of America. People of northern European descent, like most of our church body, will be in the minority in California by the year 2,000.29 It may not be too many more years before the same is true of the rest of our country. There is a world mission field right on our doorstep, walking among us. It is getting more and more difficult to distinguish between home and foreign missions. You can be a foreign missionary without leaving home. We don’t have to go very far to find darkness in this world. We don’t even have to be with people of another race, another culture or another language. God is constantly providing us with neighbors who need our love, who need to be shown the light. No matter where we live there is still darkness to be combated. There are still souls lost in spiritual darkness that are waiting to hear the message of our Lord and Savior. Our sympathy for them motivates.
As we deal with other sinners in their sinful condition, we need to remember that we are motivated by Christ’s love for us. Sometimes those other sinners seem so unlovable. They are hard to love, and it is hard to put up with them. There might even be some who look to harm us. It might seem so difficult to deal with them that we feel like giving up. We need to remember the love of Christ, as well as the example of the apostle Paul, “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God” (II Corinthians 1:9, NIV). We can put up with the unlovable, we can overcome our fears and frustrations remembering that we love because Jesus first loved us.
When our Lord entered this dark creation, he did it willingly and even joyfully. He is called “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV). He entered the world of darkness to do battle with the darkness, and found joy in that battle, because it resulted in the salvation of sinners. Without the justification that he accomplished for us, there would be no joy, but now there is joy in the proclamation of that good news.
We do mission work for the joy that it brings. It brings joy to the angels in heaven. It brings joy to the lost sinner. And it also brings joy to us. We learn from life in a materialistic society that there isn’t much joy. It isn’t really enjoyable to have to “keep up with the Joneses” all the time. Life is often a struggle and rewards us with difficulties. Even Jesus knew the struggle when he was tempted, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38, NIV). But in spite of such great distress, “for the joy set before him [he] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NlV). So, too, is there joy in the life of every Christian. We believe the message of the angel, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11, NIV). This is a joyful motivation for us and a message that brings joy to “all the people.”
Our motivations for missions are not selfish. We think of the command of our Lord, of what he wants rather than what we want, and we think of sympathy for the condition of those who are in darkness, what their needs are rather than what ours are. We don’t do mission work because of any reward we might expect. We already have everything we need through the grace of God. But there are rewards for us in mission work. I remember a time when I made a visit to one of our youngest congregations and I marveled at the fact that someone would pay me to do this work. I won’t say that there are no frustrations, that there are no times when I felt like abandoning everything and giving up. But there are other times when mission work is so enjoyable, so full of joy. Other missionaries have expressed similar sentiments to me. The joy that we receive during our time on this earth is greater than the sacrifices that we might have to make. We see many of these rewards in the stories of our people, a joy that all members of our ELS can share.
Leopoldo Bernabe was a blind man who lived in Pacllón. He died a few years ago. A visitor from Lima had asked him what he believed, and he made this strong confession of his faith, “I believe that Jesus Christ is my only hope and my only Savior from sin.” What spiritual sight to be able to confess so boldly his faith! The light was surely shining on this blind man, and it was shining through him in the confession of faith that he made.
Ambrosio Carrera was the visitor who asked Leopoldo the question. He is a very simple man, who commits many blunders in his life, and yet when Leopoldo asked if his faith was correct, Ambrosio answered, “You are right, Leopoldo. Keep on believing that.”
There is another simple man, Fermin Lozano, who became a member of our congregation in Chimbote. In a service with public individual absolution, the pastor announces the forgiveness of sins to each person with the laying on of hands. When Fermin received the absolution in this way, he said in a voice strong enough for everyone to hear, “Thank you.” He has since started a congregation in his home town of Coris in one of the least evangelized areas of the Andes Mountains in Peru.
Jorge Estrada and his stepdaughter, Milagros Ccahuay, have big smiles on their faces every time the missionaries visit their home. Jorge is so content to have come to know the Gospel and Milagros is so joyful that she can share that Gospel with the children of their neighborhood. The children jump up and down when they see the missionary’s car approaching.
There is Augusto Cruz from Pocpa, who gave a strong confession of his faith when many members were tempted to join a religion that teaches salvation through the works of men. He would not go to them, even though they offered many free gifts of food and clothing. He wouldn’t even go if they took away what he currently had. He was not going to give up the free salvation which Jesus gave him. He was not going to return to the darkness after having come to know the light.
There is the look of relief in the eyes of Victor Suarez as he heard the absolution of the forgiveness of sins. He knew that he was dying and that there was no hope for a cure from the cancer with which he suffered. He also knew that he would be going to heaven. In his final days, he watched from his deathbed as his baby daughter was received into the Kingdom of God through Holy Baptism and was so grateful to see this before he died.
Lidia Soplin came into contact with our mission at an especially troublesome time in her life. Many times there were tears during her periods of instruction, tears of lamentation over her sins and tears of joy over her Savior from sin. The day she was baptized was a joyful day in the congregation in Año Nuevo. Tears of joy were shed. Since then Lidia has dedicated her life to teaching the Gospel to the children. She has maintained her zeal, her love for the Lord and her love for the children.
Roberto Berrospid listened to the missionaries from another room in his house. He didn’t want anyone to know that he was listening, because he was trapped in the thinking that Christianity was not for men. This machismo is common in Peru. But he listened. Gradually he came to believe what he was hearing. One day he came out from the other room and joined the group. Now he has become one of our first national pastors in Peru.
There are countless other stories that could be told. These are the rewards and joys of mission work, and you have read of these people in the Lutheran Sentinel and in Mission News, so that you could share the joy of the missionaries in the results of this work. Our missionaries in other places besides Peru tell of many more people like these. We just read in the Lutheran Sentinel of Roney Gonzales, the young Chilean man who “decided to get off the Road to Death and to dedicate his life to the study of God’s Word. He is currently faithfully preparing himself for confirmation and he hopes to become a member of our church before the year is over.”30 Our congregations in the Czech Republic, Ukraine and the U.S. could also share encouraging and rewarding results of their mission work, stories of people who have been freed by God from the spiritual darkness in which they live and have come into his marvelous light. And all of this is your work. It isn’t just a few missionaries who have worked in Peru. It is the whole synod, this whole group of the people of God. We who are missionaries want you to share the joy because it is your work. A recent letter stated, “we pray that you will get a real sense of joy as you read stories about the way that the Holy Spirit is using our humble work to bring people to faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”31
Think about what is done in our synod. Babies are born and baptized. They are often placed on a cradle roll. The congregation sees that they are cared for spiritually. They then enter Sunday School or Christian Day School. They are instructed and confirmed by their pastor. Members support this education through their offerings for local work. Many members encourage the young people in their congregations through their words and the example of their Christian life. If there is opportunity, they are sent to a Lutheran High School. The synod gives them the opportunity to attend Bethany Lutheran College. Some are able to attend Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary and become pastors. Those pastors do local mission work, and some of them become foreign missionaries. Members and congregations support all of these aspects of the work through their offerings to the synod. Everyone in the synod is doing mission work. Many times this is done without our even realizing it. Who knows if that child you are teaching in Sunday School will someday be called to do foreign mission work? Your influence may be greater than you think.
Paul describes our feelings well when he looks at a group that had received his teaching. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (I Thessalonians 2:19–20, NIV). I have told the Peruvian members of our church that this is the way we missionaries look at them. The Peruvian believers are the glory and joy of the ELS. The Chilean, Czech and Ukrainian believers are the glory and joy of our synod. Those who have come to faith inside the United States or anywhere else in the world are also our glory and joy. They are the proof that God has blessed our work. They are one of our rewards. They are our glory. They are the result of letting our light shine and they are now lights who are shining to their fellow countrymen. “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 2:3, NIV). We give thanks to God for those rewards, as Paul thanked God for the people who believed the Gospel through his work, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).
These motives due to our relationship with our Lord and our relationship with other sinners are as valid today as they ever were. The world needs our testimony now more than ever. There is much darkness in the world, many still lost in sin. There is a light for the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. That light is accessible to the world through the Means of Grace. That light has come into our lives through our conversion. We are the light of the world. So we request of God, “Let there be light. Shine on our darkness, and let us shine on others.” And so, dear Christians, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:1, 3, NIV).
Holy and blessed Three,
Wisdom, Love, Might!
Boundless as ocean’s tide,
Rolling in fullest pride,
Through the world, far and wide,
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
(ELH, 202, 4)
1 Anderson, Leith. 1992. A Church for the 21st Century. Minneapolis: Bethany House, p. 17.
2 Bickel, Philip M. 1989. Joy to the World. St. Louis: Concordia. p.59.
3 Veith, Gene Edward, Jr., Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture, Crossway: Wheaton, Illinois, 1994, p. xi.
4 Anderson, p. 41.
5 Extracted from Overn, W.M. “Bible-Science Research, a Wide Open Field.” Lecture delivered at the Lutheran Research Forum, Tacoma, Washington, April 6;1973.
6 Letter from W.M. Overn, April 26, 1998.
7 Overn, W.M. “Bible-Science Research, a Wide Open Field.” Lecture delivered at the Lutheran Research Forum, Tacoma, Washington, April 6;1973.
8 Letter from W.M. Overn, April 26, 1998.
9 An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Lutheran Synod Book Company, Mankato, Minnesota: 1981, p. 101, question 116.
10 Friedrich, Gerhard, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume VII, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1971, page 428.
11 More detailed study of the missionary character of Christ’s work can be found in the essay for the 1988 ELS convention, “Current Issues in Mission from a Lutheran Perspective” by Martin Teigen.
12 Preface to the Book of Concord. Concordia Triglotta. St. Louis: Concordia, 1921, page 7.
13 Formula of Concord, Article V. Concordia Triglotta. St. Louis: Concordia, 1921, page 801 (Epitome) and page 951 (Solid Declaration).
14 An explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Lutheran Synod Book Company, Mankato, Minnesota: 1981, p. 135, The Third Article, What does this mean?
15 An explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Lutheran Synod Book Company, Mankato, Minnesota: 1981, p. 135, The Third Article, What does this mean?
16 Becker, Siegbert. The Holy Ghost and His Work. Milwaukee: Northwestern. 1984
17 Neill, Stephen, quoted in Bickel, Philip M. 1989. Joy to the World. St. Louis: Concordia. P. 91. Originally written in Neill, Stephen. 1970. Call to Mission. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
18 Cadorette, Curt. “The Deconstruction of Peru: Social Chaos as Ecclesial Kairos.” Missiology. Volume XXII, No.2, April 1994, p. 177.
19 Bickel, p. 53.
20 An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Lutheran Synod Book Company, Mankato, Minnesota: 1981, p. 39, question 23.
21 An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, Lutheran Synod Book Company, Mankato, Minnesota: 1981, p. 39, question 24
22 Kittel, Gerhard, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume II, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1964, page 238.
23 Bickel, p. 12.
24 Bickel, p. 34.
25 Barret, David B., and Johnson, Todd M. “Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 1998” International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Volume 22, found in Bickel’s book.
26 Bickel. The information in this section is described in Chapter 2, A World in Need of Joy, especially on pages 14 and 20
27 Rodriguez, Oto, “The Road to Death versus the Way of Life,” Lutheran Sentinel, Volume 81, Number 5, May 1998, page 6.
28 “Assisting in the rebirth of Christianity after the fall of communism–A special Lutheran mission in the Czech Republic,” from Four Corners Mission, Inc
29 Anderson, p. 24.
30 Rodriguez, p. 6.
31 Letter from Rev. David Meyer, administrator, Thoughts of Faith, Inc., April 17, 1998.