Monday, October 23, 2006

A Beginning and an Explanation

Today I became persuaded in my mind and heart to enter the blogosphere realm. This is new territory for me.

For this I chose the title: "Not Alone."


I chose this because it addresses the way that I observe people feeling in the world. People can feel alone even when surrounded by a crowd of people and even when actively participating with very close friends.

I have experienced this myself and have observed it in the lives of the many people I have met and worked with and conversed with throughout my life.

Often this feeling of aloneness and even loneliness (the two are related but not identical), is not understood. "Why?" is the question that often accompanies this feeling of aloneness. The "why" comes in many forms and is expressed in many ways. Pain of various types and degrees almost always accompanies it.

For those who are saints of God in Christ, this feeling should not exist. But it does. Saints should be entirely free of this feeling because despite whatever circumstances prevail, the true saint is never alone. The baptized believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who continually works to comfort the soul with God’s grace and love. Yet the saint is also a sinner, constantly encountering the fleshly warring against the spirit. Because of this, aloneness is experienced, for the flesh looks not to God’s will but to Man’s will, the will of self. No one can acknowledge the Lord when this is the focus of the heart and mind.

Job, that ancient saint, knew that he was not alone even when everything was taken from him. His children and livelihood and reputation all were stripped from him. His wife urged him to abandon true faith. His ungodly friends badgered him with his sinfulness. All the while he clung to the faithfulness of the Lord his God. But he eventually lost site of God’s faithfulness. He did what we all do when we become tired of persevering with nothing but the faith as our support. He began to imagine that he must begin to rely upon his own efforts and his own faithfulness. As soon as this tragic mind set begins to occur, God’s faithfulness becomes secondary, even nonessential, and most certainly not sufficient. Then the person becomes angry and depressed and resentful. The person becomes filled with doubts and fears and becomes defensive, seeking to find justification in himself. Then the Lord must set the person straight through harsh preaching of the Law so that the person remembers that there is no justification apart from faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This remembrance of the true source of justification, of course, comes not from the harshness of the Law, but from the sweet and tender preaching of the Gospel of Christ crucified that properly accompanies the preaching of the crushing power of the Law. In the moment that the Holy Spirit brings about this amazing reversal, (also called: repentance), the person is no longer overwhelmed by aloneness, but once again is full of God’s grace, mercy, and peace. His heart and mind is again guarded in Christ Jesus by the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.

So, this is my brief explanation for the choice of title for this blog site.

God’s peace to all who come here, in Christ Jesus the Lord.

~ Pastor Paul A. Siems


Joe Fremer said...

An auspicious beginning, brother! Welcome to the blogosphere!

Along with my Amen, I might add this small thought. Hard upon the heels of the miracle of repentance, and the overcoming of that aloneness, we lift up our eyes and look around us, and behold! others also are kneeling at the foot of that cross. We are not alone on the horizontal dimension, either. We have (re-)joined the company of the pardoned. We have a glad story to tell each other, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom. The blogosphere is one place to do this.

We lift our eyes a little higher, and we see also those who are stumbling around, not realizing that this crucified and risen Savior has what they need. We have a glad story to tell them as well, humbly, in love. And I think that a little of that can even happen in the blogosphere too.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Joe,

Thank you for the kindly response and gentle words of welcome. From your response and also from my brief visit to your blog and web site, I perceive you to be a gentle person who looks for the good in everyone. I also expect that you are a pastor who strives to embrace faithfulness in doctrine and practice.

Since this is what I perceive in you, I wish to present to you a challenge to your thoughts regarding who we see kneeling and stumbling and the comfort that you proclaim to be connected to the sight of those kneeling.

My challenge comes from much hard experience, experience that has led me to look beyond those kneeling at the foot of the cross and beyond those stumbling and even beyond the foot of the cross, so that I look only to Christ crucified for my comfort.

Why? Because those kneeling and those stumbling are the same people. If we look to those around us for our comfort, we will be misled in our worship, that is, in our prayers. Our hearts will be turned from knowing nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified to many other things and our hearts and minds will no longer be set on things above and not on earth. (1 Cor. 2:2 & Col. 3:2)

When this happens we lose our clear focus on the marks of the Church and begin to see the Church where it is not. The marks of the Church are still counted as the pure administration of the Word and the Sacraments, but this pure administration becomes redefined so that communion is embraced, or perhaps tolerated, with those who do not bear these marks. Thus 1 Cor. 11:29 becomes the regular practice rather than the thing to mark and avoid. For where the body of Christ is not rightly discerned, the body of Christ is not present and the communion is not the communion of the saints.

This is why so many dear folk in the "confessional" or "conservative" Lutheran church bodies are hurting so badly. Those with whom people join themselves in outward communion are those with whom they are in communion. They know it in their hearts and their spirits fight within them because of it.

When a person looks left and right for comfort, that person chooses to remain in a communion where purity of doctrine and practice is corrupted. When a person remains in communion with corruption, no matter how rightly the pure doctrine is pursued, the heart knows that it is far, far away and eventually gives up ever being one with a true communion where doctrine and practice are not mingled with impurity.

The "horizontal dimension" that you rightly acknowledge exists only because of the singular knowledge of Christ crucified. Our Lord warned us that there would be many who knelt at the foot of the cross calling out "Lord! Lord!" who never really knew the Lord nor were known by Him. Thus we learn that the "horizontal dimension" must be rightly understood.

Since we are not able to look into the heart of another person and since we are forbidden to try (for this is blasphemous), we can only go by what is produced in the person’s life. Are the marks of true faith present? What are those marks as declared in the Scriptures? Repentance, which is worked by the Holy Spirit and manifested by contrition and humble confession of one’s unworthiness, begging with confident faith God’s forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Then, also, the outward communion to which one binds himself is the other sign, as St. Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 11:26, 28, & 29. For the proclamation of the Lord’s death is the pure administration of the Word and Sacraments. The head of the house is to examine himself (his house) to be certain that they are of the true confession that relies solely upon Christ’s merits imputed in Baptism and rightly to judge the body of Christ, that is, to judge the communion to which he binds himself and his family to be certain that it is truly the body of Christ gathered and not a mixture or corrupt body. For to continue in a communion that is not the body of Christ would be to bring judgment upon himself and his family.

So as we examine what the Scriptures declare as the true definition of the “horizontal
dimension,” we discover that the horizontal dimension is defined not by our kneeling, but by what we receive. Are we truly receiving nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified or are we receiving a corrupt and adulterated offering of Christ in a body that is other than the body that is joined only to Him?

To bring this into focus I’ll utilize a couple of examples from the communion I formerly
embraced, the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod.

For 121 years this church body continued in the understanding of the Scriptures that women are not to “have a say” in the Church. This was held to be the historic exegetical approach in
keeping with apostolic doctrine and example. Then, in one convention this was reversed. The convention acknowledged this as a change in approach to exegesis, thereby declaring the previous
exegesis to be erroneous and false, though they were careful to avoid such sharp language. Since I continue with the old exegesis and proclaim this to be the true Word and will of God, can I
continue in a communion that rejects this as the Word and will of God? If I continue in such a communion, what do I proclaim regarding the death of Christ till He comes?

Another example is the LCMS Mission Statement, as it can be easily found on the “About Us” page of the LC-MS web site, which says:

“In grateful response to God's grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments, the mission of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod is vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.”

According to this mission statement the mission of the Church of Christ is “vigorously to make known the love of Christ in word and deed.” This is quite a different mission than that of Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15. Since I believe the Scriptural mission of “preaching the Gospel so as to disciple all nations by baptizing and guarding all that Jesus commanded for His Church, ‘do this into My remembrance,’” how can I possibly count myself in any way to be in communion with a communion that ignores this in favor of a nondescript knowledge of the love of Jesus demonstrated through the sinful and damned words and deeds of men?

So my gentle friend, I will continue to find my communion and freedom from aloneness solely in Christ crucified. On the horizontal dimension I have been betrayed by absolutely everyone I have ever trusted, including myself. There is no comfort in looking to those who are like the grass, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire. While I will rejoice wherever and whenever I encounter the true communion of the saints, I will look only to the One to whom the Holy Spirit leads me for my refuge from aloneness.

However, in this I join with you: I continue to long for and to seek true communion with those who are the saints of God. Nevertheless, in Christ, I shall never be alone, whether I am with other saints or standing on the Rock of my salvation with no other person in sight.

Peace to you in the One who is our peace.