It's a phrase that usually inspires change at any cost, especially when it involves breaking free from the traditions or common ways of doing things that so many believe are a hindrance to the 21st Century Global Citizen.
Yes, unfortunately, even the Christian Church has fallen prey to this line of thinking, which explains how we can live in a reality where a Synod President once infamously commented that "It's not your grandfather's church!"
If you're active on social media like I am, then you've no doubt seen the very public debates over all sorts of issues that are supposed to be settled already (or "old news" if you will).
Everything from Antinomianism, to the Qualifications of a Pastor, to Article XIV, to the Sacraments, to Politics & The Two Kingdoms, and even a Proper Distinction Between Law & Gospel has been openly thrown into question, which has generated confusion, doubts, and uncertainty.
Of course, none of this should surprise us (as frustrating as it is). After all, we are the "Church Militant" and every generation of Christians has had to fight for the truth through a faithful confession to some extent.
Even so, I think it would be wise for all of us (myself certainly included) to "pump the brakes" a bit and recognize what's really going on here.
2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Genesis 3:1 (ESV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"
Galatians 1:6-10 (ESV) I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 2:4-5 (ESV) Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in -- who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery -- to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
1 Corinthians 11:18- (ESV) For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (ESV) And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Jude 1:3 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
In addition, I think 1 Corinthians 14:33 sets the record straight here in cases like this when it says, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace."
Amen! This is most certainly true.
Yet, the Church Militant is constantly engaged in a battle against Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh. So, while all of that is most definitely true, another popular idiom comes to mind and it's the one that says, "The More Things Change, The More The Stay The Same!"
It reminds me of another Bible verse whenever I hear it...
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV) What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Generations, winds, waters, and even heavenly bodies simply repeat their circuits.
As for fallen, sinful humanity? Well, that's another story! It's as Martin Luther observed: "But it is we who do nothing new, because the same old Adam is present in all of us."
We keep searching incessantly for something "new" that will provide us with "deeper" meaning and purpose, but fail to remind ourselves (even as Bible-believing Christians) that life has meaning only through the redemption offered to us by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"God being perfect becomes perfect man, and brings to perfection the newest of all new things, the only new thing under the Sun, through which the boundless might of God is manifested. For what greater thing is there, than that God should become Man?"
-- John of Damascus
A Select Library of Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers of The Christian Church (Series 2 9:45)
You know, come to think of it, I find it quite ironic that in this world where we change our Facebook profile pictures every "Throwback Thursday" to honor and remember our roots and where we came from, Christians by and large prefer to change what they believe, teach, and confess as they are "carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:14).
We do this all in the name of being "missional" and "relevant" because we somehow assume that *this* is precisely the kind of help that God needs from us to grow Christ's Church here on earth.
What arrogance! Who are we to think we know better than God? Who are we to presume that He even needs our help with anything!?!
I seem to recall God being angry with David for taking a census in Israel when he thought it made perfect sense to do so (1 Chronicles 21; 2 Samuel 24). Let's not forget Uzzah who no doubt believed he was doing a "good work" and "doing it for God" when he placed his hand on the Ark of the Covenant to steady it (2 Samuel 6:1-7; 1 Chronicles 13:9-12).
How soon we forget. Woe to anyone who comes along to try to speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) about such things to others, because such members of "Grandpa's Church" are then guilty of breaking the new 11th Commandment that is "Thou Shall Not Offend..."
Speaking of "being offended" in this day-and-age...
"The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive that anything of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretense, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, and intemperance to our adversaries."
-- Martin Luther To Pope Leo X, 1520
Boy, "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same," huh?
That was 1520, and even though we're almost 500 years removed from Luther's charge, it's surreal how accurate such words are to the current state of affairs.
It reminds me of something else I read by Hermann Sasse that's applicable here...
"We are witnesses to all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree; but God raised Him on the third day and made Him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead" (Acts 10: 39-41).
It was always the same message, repeated with sublime monotony by the apostles, who were eyewitnesses, and then after their death by those to whom the apostolic proclamation was committed. The church of all times lives from the doctrine of the apostles. But does it really? Must not the church adjust its message to the contemporary situation? The reproach of not moving with the times was heard in Germany through the 18th and 19th centuries from those who held a naive faith in progress. Why go on preaching the same as Peter did in the Acts of the Apostles? How many theologians, indeed whole churches, finally had enough! They did not continue in the apostles' doctrine. They preached something else. Forty years ago they preached sermons on Goethe and Schiller. They preached the current view of the world, although most world views are lucky if they last as long as 30 years. And the churches did not become fuller, but emptier. And rightly so. For since 1848 any member of German society could read in the newspaper every morning as he drank his coffee what the latest and only acceptable world view is. For this I do not need to go to church.
But where the church continued in the apostles' doctrine, there the congregation remained. To the world it is inexplicable that the church lives on, always preaching the same old thing. In fact, it is because the same old thing goes on being preached, the apostles' doctrine, that the church goes on living. This is because the apostles' doctrine is the everlasting Word of God to all men, to all nations, to all times. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, "who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven ... and was made man." He "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" [Romans 4:25]. He "is seated at the right hand of the Father ... and His kingdom shall have no end." The apostolic doctrine witnesses to the Word of God become flesh. In this witness, in the simple words of the apostles, in the straightforward words preached in the church, Christ, the eternal Word, is Himself present. Therefore the church lives from the apostolic doctrine.
-- Hermann Sasse
We Confess Anthology, Trans. Norman Nagel (St. Louis: CPH, 1999) 132.
I think that's a very important reminder for all of us to prayerfully consider.
As previously mentioned, after reading some rather eyebrow raising discussions between Christians (both Pastors and laity alike) on social media, I'm struck by the importance of simply being CONSISTENT in what we Lutherans who want to be faithful believe, teach, and confess.
It's like Christ's Church has gone completely insane after suffering from "spiritual amnesia" for far too many years and the condition seems to be exacerbated by the current election cycle. Once again, none of this should be surprising too us. Galatians 5:9 is crystal clear when it warns us that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump."
Please just give me "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) by giving me the Word of God faithfully preached and the Lord's Sacraments faithfully administered week-after-week at my local church, because that's all a saint and sinner like me really needs.
Yes, the world may promote "Out With The Old, In With The New!" every chance it gets, and our churches might even follow its lead to our dismay, but the end result is always that "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same" which I suppose reflects the fact that God has the last laugh so-to-speak in response to the men and women who think they know better than Him.
Remember, "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25), but we need to remember that "the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
In a Lutheran layman's terms, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), which means the fact that He died for my sins so that I may be forgiven and have eternal life with Him never changes, and so, in that sense, I thank God that "The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same!"
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!