Mark G. Schroeder
Does this sound familiar to you?
- A world that is hostile to God and to all that he stands for.
- A society and a culture that is focused on materialism and the all-consuming desire for pleasure.
- A culture in which traditional moral values are eroding, where families are disintegrating, where human life is devalued,and where violence is rampant.
- A world obsessed with all things sexual, and in which unspeakable perversions are not only tolerated but glorified.
- A society that embraces a belief system that denies absolute truth and rejects any distinction between right and wrong, good and evil.
- A world in which Christian beliefs and teachings are attacked and ridiculed.
- A religious scene in which false teachers entice more and more people with their deceptions and lies.
If that sounds like the world and the culture we live in, you would certainly not be wrong. But, in fact, this is also a description of the Roman world at the end of the first century—the very world in which God placed his first New Testament believers to carry out their God-given mission.
It’s tempting to look around and conclude that the world we live in is worse than ever before and that today’s challenges of reaching unbelieving souls with the gospel are greater than in the past. But in reality, things today are no different from the Roman world and pagan culture. And just as today’s world presents the same challenges to God’s church, so it also has the same opportunities for the power of the gospel to work in the hearts of people.
Consider what God did in that world of the first century. It was only a handful of disciples that gathered around their risen Savior on a hill outside Jerusalem just before he ascended. Jesus sent that little group into a hostile world on what must have seemed like an impossible mission. But armed with the power of God’s Word and with the unbreakable promises he had given them, those first believers did not retreat from that challenge. When Jesus told them to go, they went—with joy, with commitment, and with confidence.
And God blessed their witness. The book of Acts tells us repeatedly that, as God’s people proclaimed the gospel, the Word of the Lord grew—despite the challenges and opposition. As the Holy Spirit worked, the Word grew in the hearts of people. It grew eventually to cross the oceans and to span the centuries. It grew and spread to the point where, through the faithful witness of generations of God’s people, it came to you and to me.
The gospel still faces hostility and opposition in today’s unbelieving world. But that powerful gospel is still at work, changing hearts, changing lives, and changing eternities. We carry out the same mission as those first-century believers, and, like them, we are reminded wherein the success of our mission lies. Our mission and our witness does not depend on us, on our own cleverness, on our will power, or on our abilities. Nor is its effectiveness in slick programs or effective marketing strategies. The strength and success of our mission is found in the power, faithfulness, and love of a God whose Spirit works through the proclamation of his Word and the administration of his sacraments. The success of our mission lies completely in the hands of the One who has promised us that his Word will not return to him empty and that the gates of hell itself will not be able to overcome his church.
Mark Schroeder is president of WELS.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018
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