Monday, December 18, 2017
What he should have said. . .
Most folks insist that St. Augustine did say The truth is like a lion; you don't have to defend it. Let it loose and it will defend itself. But I cannot find it and better scholars than I have tried and failed to find it within Augustine's many words. He could have said it but he probably didn't. Surprise then when I find that Charles Haddon Spurgeon said something very close: "The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” Oh well. . . I am going to proceed with the assumption that Augustine could have said it and probably should have and just might have, even if the esteemed English Particular Baptist preacher of the 19th century did say it -- if only because as a Lutheran I am more wedded to Augustine of Hippo than I am to Spurgeon.
Too often we as Christians proceed with the idea that the truth we believe and confess is fragile, weak, and powerless. We circle wagons around it and filter it out to the world. We treat the Word of God as if it were filled with contradictions, half-truths, and untruths that, if people found out, would render our witness weak and vulnerable. So the end result is that we are more comfortable talking about what we think God said than what He did say, what we feel about what He has said, and what God means (as if His Word is either obtuse or unreliable). No wonder our witness has seemed shallow and without great effect.
We believe the Word of the Lord endures forever. Why? Because God said it. God said it over and over again. We will not endure forever and neither will human institutions we erect. We cannot even pass on monuments and memorials to our children and grandchildren without someone second guessing us and then tearing down what we have set up. But the point here is that if we pass on the Word of God to our children, we are passing on to them an eternal Word that does not change and that always accomplishes its purpose so that its words are a promise.
When we say, for example, train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it, we are attesting to the power of the Word to speak into the heart and mind of the child long after he has grown up, rejected it, and walked away from its promise. No one can run from that which God has planted within them. They may still and may always reject it and refuse to believe it but it will stand in them and, on judgment day, will eventually stand against them. In the same way, when we speak the Word of God to our children, we are speaking to them the efficacious Word that does what it says and bestows that of which it speaks. Feelings fail and promises may be broken but failed and broken person who has this Word spoken into their minds has a place to which he or she may return where forgiveness restores.
We may think that the Word of Truth is not capable of withstanding scrutiny but the reality is that God does not need us to defend Him against His detractors. Vengeance is His. Time is on His side. All naysayers will die (just like the believers) and in the awakening of the day of accountability God will have His last word. We do not need to defend the Scriptures as much as speak them. We do not need to reconcile every seeming contradiction or explain away everything that confounds our reason. The Word of the Lord, like His ways, are as far above us as He is. Yet He has granted His Holy Spirit to work through that Word so that faith comes by hearing (not by comprehending) the mystery of God who graciously saves. His Spirit will bring reluctant and confused hearts to faith according to His own will. The elect will not miss even one whom God has appointed. God's time and purpose and power are all on His side.
We may fear that His Word is not enough to address friends, family, and those around us where we live and work. We may fear that we need to add something or even provide some sort of gimmick to make faith easier on an unbelieving world but we were there once and for the sake of the Word and promise of God and the work of the Spirit, have we not believed? But in the end, we only contribute to the false idea that God is helpless to meet the world without us intervening on His behalf. And I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why our evangelization efforts have not been more fruitful. We are too often our own worst enemies. We need to take God at His Word, not only for us and our salvation but for the sake of the waiting world, for the sake of children entrusted to our care, and for the sake of the Kingdom. God is no toothless lion. He is fierce. His Word is a sword. It cuts both ways. Let it speak and believe what it says and loan your voices so it can speak to those not yet of the Kingdom. If we have done all of this and our churches still decline, then it is God's responsibility. But if we have not done this and our churches decline, then we shall be held accountable.