Monday, July 7, 2014

In Whom Do You Trust?

In Whom Do You Trust?
by Mr. Vernon Kneprath

… “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). When people hear the words – prophet, pastor, minister, reverend, priest, pope, elder, deacon, monk, nun, religion, church – many automatically assume that whatever these people and groups say and do is God-pleasing truth. Not so fast Jesus says – don’t be fooled by outward appearances – watch out. Just because a person comes to you bearing the title pastor, just because a group of people claims to be a church or a religion, just because the music and pastor are hipper and trendier – that doesn’t mean they are providing eternally soul nourishing truth to those who are listening to them. Watch out for false prophets Jesus says and for good reason. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) …

These words are taken from a sermon preached by a WELS pastor in recent weeks to his congregation. The words of this pastor sound familiar to me; and for good reason; they are familiar because they faithfully reflect the words of Scripture.

Compare the words above to the words from a WELS Devotional Essay and Discussion, Outreach That Any Congregation Calling Itself ‘Evangelical Lutheran’ Will Do”, dated May 18, 2011:

… Evangelical Lutherans who are united in faith, trust one another. I trust my brothers in the WELS. Like me, they have been trained in the Word by the Word – all blessed by the Holy Spirit. They have been Called by God to serve in different communities as gospel-sharers to different cultures – ministering to a variety of Calling bodies. I can’t begin to know how they wrestle with the unique challenges in their congregations and communities. I trust they understand our Savior’s mission to preach and teach the gospel to those inside and outside their church’s walls. I trust they grapple with balancing their ministries and family lives like I do. I trust they, like me, work to nurture and reach out with the gospel – doing one without leaving the other undone. When I hear that a fellow pastor uses different worship styles than I do – I trust their use of Christian freedom and rejoice that they are sharing the gospel in a way they feel is best for their circumstances. When I hear that a fellow pastor is having a pumpkin-fest, a children’s carnival or some other unique gathering – I don’t think for a second that he believes pumpkins are creating faith or that his cleverness can make the gospel more powerful. I know exactly what he’s doing – he’s being shrewd in dealing with his community’s unbelievers so he can gather an audience. In time he will unleash the power of the gospel for the salvation of everyone who believes. I trust him. In the rare event that he gets a tad careless in his practices, I know he has a circuit pastor and a district president. I trust them too. And I trust that should these leaders offer loving cautions to a pastor/missionary that he would humbly take their cautions under advisement …

These words in this essay are unfamiliar to me, because I find no supporting Scriptural references. I see claims made to trust, but I find no evidence or basis upon which to place that trust.

Trust ...
    … is not blind.

    … is not automatic.

    … is the result of evidence seen and actions experienced.

    … is earned.
The Bible is clear that we are to put our trust in the Lord.

The Bible is clear that we are to test what we hear from men against what God has said in his Word.

Does membership in the WELS exclude anyone from the warnings Jesus gave? Surely we still recognize that there are hypocrites in every visible church - even the WELS.

Is association with a visible church body the basis for a “blind” trust?

Should variations in practice within a visible church, whether it be with regard to worship or any other church activity, not be tested against Scripture?

What are the lessons from Scripture regarding trust? How trustworthy did Israel prove to be throughout the Old Testament, in remaining faithful to God and his promises? How trustworthy did many of the Jews prove to be in Jesus’ time? History, whether it be recorded in the Bible or in history books since then, give us many examples of the visible church straying from God, over and over again.

There is only one deserving of our complete trust, the One and the Almighty. We have all the evidence we need for the basis of that trust in Holy Scripture. But, like the Thessalonians, we need to use God's Word to test everything of and from men, rejecting the harmful and holding on to the good (paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

1 comment:

John J. Flanagan said...

Indeed, there are many false prophets today. The problem is that some Christians look to the flamboyant and likeable Pastor or teacher for truth, instead of focusing on the substance of their words and the content of their teaching. Our first loyalty is always to God's word, unscripted and plain. The Holy Spirit will often nudge the conscience of the believer to be cognizant and discerning when under the preaching we hear seems contradictory or wrong. One thing to beware of is the absence of humility, a common trait of false prophets, who wear pride like a chain around their necks, and arrogantly set themselves up as authorities of scripture. The truly humble Pastor or teacher will declare the word of God and insist we cannot know all things, and must practice our faith.

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