May 31, 2005

I Cor. 16:9 For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

THE ARTICLE BELOW was written and submitted by Pastor Bruce Naumann, SleepyEye, Minnesota, U.S.A.   Pastor Naumann is the chairman of the C.L.C. Board of Missions.

Dear Brethren,I have been asked by Missionary Koenig to send you a message as part of the B.A.S.I.C.newsletter series.   It is my privilege to bring you some thoughts on our mutual work of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the world.   The task before us is so great!   Please consider the following estimates of the religious beliefs of our modern-day world population:

Christianity   2 billion
Islam   1.4 billion
Hinduism   900 million
Secular/Agnostic/Atheist   850 million
Buddhism   360 million
Chinese tradition   225 million
African Traditional   95 million
Sikhism   23 million
Judaism   14 million
Other   207 million

We hear the world “million” and even “billion” so frequently that they do not make much impression anymore.   But these are not just statistics,   they are the SOULS of people for whom God gave His only Son, and for whom that Son died.   God is not willing that any of them should perish, but that all should come to repentance and eternal life.   God has shown the extent of His love and care by providing a completed salvation for each one of these billions.   His care should be our own, as well.   It has been said,   “A missionary is one who never gets used to the sound of heathen footsteps on their way to a Christless eternity. “These numbers should produce a deafening road of “footsteps” in our ears.   According to these figures, about 2/3 of the souls in the world openly adhere to pagan beliefs and idolatry.  Even among those who profess Christianity, a large share are being led in the teaching of self-salvation under the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths.   Only about 10% of the world’s population belong to churches that claim the heritage of the Reformation.   Sadly, the majority of these churches are falling prey to apostasy.   Since they have abandoned the Scriptures as the only authoritative rule of faith and life,   they have abandoned the true Gospel, or are in the process of doing so.   The poet paints a somber but accurate portrait of the world in which we live:

Fearful scenes are flung our way; Masses jostle to a judgment day,
Led by liars headed for fire;Death they ignore and demons admire;
Helpless, hopeless, tricked, but proud–Who will go and love this crowd?
He who bravely met the test leaves for us the scene impressed:
Who will die as Jesus died, calmly setting self aside?–Byron Harting

No one, of course, can die as Jesus died.   He alone could selflessly take the guilt of the world on Himself and suffer on the cross for all.   However, our Lord does call on us to take up our own crosses, follow in His footsteps, and be His ambassadors to the world.   The mission of the Church is to act on Jesus’ command which He gave in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 Fulfilling this commission involves setting self-interest aside.   In view of the gift of eternal life that Christ has given us, and the tremendous cost that He paid to redeem us, what could possibly keep us from doing our utmost in this most urgent and blessed calling?   Unfortunately, many things do get in the way, all of which have our sinful flesh as their common denominator.The Lord’s call to us, His disciples, cannot be more clear:   “You shall be witnesses to Me”(Acts 1:8); “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15); “Let your light so shine” (Matthew 5:16).   Surely, it is good and right to give glory and praise to our Lord for the ways in which He has worked among us toward these ends.   We ought to take note of what the Holy Spirit has accomplished through us and thank Him for it.   We see His active presence in our ministry, and the upbuilding of His Church through our witness.   We see how He has preserved the pure teaching of His Word in our homes, classrooms and churches, and the need for us to guard and treasure this sacred trust. However, if we look at ourselves honestly, we will also see our many failures.   We see neglect when it comes to feeling the urgency of carrying out our mission Church, because we do not fully appreciate the consequences of God’s judgment on unbelief.   Every person with whom we come in contact — whether they are friend or enemy — will spend eternity in torment and separation from God, unless he comes to know the Lord Jesus as his only Savior from sin!   More than that, we fail to fully appreciate the treasure we possess in the Gospel of full and free forgiveness through Christ.   This message has the power to change the eternal destiny of sinners bound for hell to saints bound for glory!   It is surely a grievous sin to take the Lord’s righteous wrath lightly and to take His forgiveness for granted.   Martin Luther bemoaned the fact that so soon after the start of the Reformation his countrymen had lost their first love for the Gospel: “When the Word of God first arose, twelve or fifteen years ago,   people diligently listened to it,and everybody was glad that “good works” were no longer to plague them.   They said: “God be praised that we now have water to drink.”   For then we were thirsty, and the doctrine tasted fine; we drank of it and found it a precious teaching.   But now we are sated; we are tired of the drink and are surfeited with it, so that our Lord God must depart and let us die of thirst; for He remains only with those who feel their misery.   But there are few who know this.   The majority turn the Gospel into liberty for the flesh.” (What Luther Says, p. 1199). Are we also in danger of losing our first love, like the Ephesian church addressed in Revelation chapter two?   Has the day come that we are more interested in fleshly self-preservation than Gospel proclamation?   May the Spirit graciously work in our hearts to prevent these things!  As we count on His strength, let us be aware of our own weakness.

*World population and religious faith figures taken from www.adherents.com