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A Rust-Proof Confirmation Faith

There it was, what used to be my good shovel! Left outdoors underneath a snowbank all winter, the spring thaw revealed a now badly rusted spade. With a packet of heavy duty sandpaper and lots of elbow grease I knew I could remove the rust and save it for useful work. The shovel would never be the same again, though. The rust had forever deprived it of some of its strength and sturdiness.

Rust eats away and makes a strong object into a weak one. It turns the beautiful into something ugly. If left unchecked, rust can totally destroy.

The world, our flesh, and Satan — like rust — can eat away at our faith. They can turn strong Christians into weak ones. They can turn beautiful spirit-filled lives into ugly, self-centered lives.

It’s not hard to see the corrosive work of these enemies to our faith — we see it when our actions are motivated by guilt rather than by a thankful heart cleansed by Jesus’ blood; when dependence on the Lord for solutions to life’s problems is replaced by self-made solutions; when loving commitment to spouse and family are pushed aside for personal pursuits; when God’s gifts to us of time, treasure, and talents are poured back only on to ourselves; when our language is tarnished by gossip and course jesting; when we find easy excuses to be away from God’s house on Sunday morning; when we remain silent during opportunities to proclaim the cross and empty tomb.

At this time every year many of our young people give witness to their Christian faith through the rite of confirmation. Do you remember your confirmation day? Do you remember your confirmation faith? What does this have to do with our topic? Maybe we have a need to ask: what happened to that fresh, vibrant, glowing faith that was so in love with Christ and His Word? Has it gotten a bit rusty over the years? Has spiritual rust set in?

No Man-made Remedies

How is the problem fixed? How is the rust removed? There are no man-made remedies. The “I can be a better Christian if I try hard enough” mentality will do nothing to stop the corrosion. Our innate spiritual powers (which are non-existent) can stop “soul rust” about as well as scotch tape can keep a rusty muffler from falling off the car.

Human efforts to fix spiritual problems never work. God must do the fixing. God’s mission, for example, to save us from eternal damnation was just that, God’s mission. It was He Who sent His Son to rescue us. It was He Who took the world’s sin and placed it on Jesus so that He suffered and died for it instead of us. It was He Who raised His Son from death so that we could live forever in pure joy and glory! God did it all! Even the faith that believes all this wonderful truth comes from God.

Martin Luther was one who recognized how easily his own faith could get rusty. He saw a personal need to return again and again to the truths which he taught in his Catechism — to the saving truths of Christ. He writes: “I, too, am a theologian who has attained a fairly good practical knowledge and experience of Holy Scriptures. . . . But I do not so glory in this gift as not to join my children daily in prayerfully reciting the Catechism. . . . If I do not do this but am preoccupied with other business, I feel a definite loss because of the neglect. For God gave the Word that we should impress it on ourselves. . . . Without this practice our souls become rusty, as it were, and we lose ourselves.”

With these words Luther calls us back to what the apostle Paul calls “the simplicity of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). With his catechism he bids us return to God’s mighty Word, the one and only power which can fix our spiritual ailments. Luther understood that God’s Word alone can rust-proof our faith.

We pray: “Dear God, forgive our sins. With Your Word renew in us a glowing and growing confirmation faith! Give us a sturdy spiritual life which You can put to good use! AMEN!”

— Pastor Michael Wilke