The following joke was told to this writer at a pastoral conference several years ago. Two Lutheran pastors met for their monthly study club. “How’s it going?” the one asked. The other answered, “Not so good. We have a problem with a bat in our church.” “Have you tried catching it?” asked the first. The other answered, “I’ve caught him three times now, but I can’t get rid of him! The last time I caught him and drove way out into the country and let it go. The stupid thing beat me back to the church!” The other one says, “We used to have that problem too, but I took care of it.” “What’d you do?” asked the troubled pastor. “Well,” answered the other, “I caught that bat, sat him down in catechism class, confirmed him, and he hasn’t been back since!”
While it is amusing, they say that the best jokes are those that have their roots in the truth. Sadly, this joke is all too true for Lutheranism today.
We can all think of examples of people who were confirmed in years past and have rarely been seen in church since. But that is not how God intends it to be. He wants us to delight in His will and to continue in His ways.
Those things that we like to do, we do as often as we get the chance. For some people it’s golf. Others enjoy skiing or running, hunting or fishing. Students have favorite subjects in school that they’d rather do to the exclusion of the rest of their schoolwork.
While we delight in many earthly things, for the believer in Christ the greatest delight will be in the LORD and doing His will, as the psalmist declares: “A day in Your courts is better than a thousand!” (Ps. 84:10) If we truly delight in the Lord’s will, then we will delight in His Word, for not only is His Word the revelation of the will of God; it is His will that you delight in His Word, as He proclaims: “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it” (Lk. 11:28).
And how can we not delight in this Word? It is in the Word of God that we hear the message of the forgiveness of sins. These are the Scriptures that are able to make one “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
A Promise Was Made
In Catechism class we have been made wise unto salvation through the study of God’s Word. At confirmation we promised to remain faithful unto our Lord and His Word even to the point of death. Believers for thousands of years have given up their lives rather than give up their confession. How were they able to do this? Because they knew and believed the promises of their Lord, knowing that the delight that He promises is not only for this world. It is eternal delight.
When Christ our Savior rose from the dead, He guaranteed our resurrection as well, as He promises: “Because I live, you will live also (Jn. 14:19). He promises us that we will never die (Jn. 11:25f). To whom does He promise this? To all who believe in Him as their Savior from sin. To know and trust in the true God for the forgiveness of sins is to have life eternal, as Jesus Himself said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:3).
Our motivation for pleasing our Lord is this enduring love that He has shown unto us. He “called us by the gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept [us] in the true faith.” God has done everything necessary for our salvation. He has provided the perfect life to replace our imperfect, sinful lives. He has provided the sacrifice needed to pay for our sins. He has worked the faith in our heart–faith which clings to God our Savior. And He has promised to keep us unto life eternal.
That is the goal of His love–to forgive us our sins, to bring us to faith, and to grant unto each of us eternal life. This is what the Lord God desires for all people, as it is written: “[God our Savior] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
Confirmation shows that we have grown in this knowledge since our Baptism. But were we confirmed in the faith so that we could “graduate” from church? No, we were confirmed because following our course of Bible study we had shown ourselves to have a firm grasp of the chief parts of Christian teaching. But, young or old, we still have much learning to do. We need to continue to grow in the faith and knowledge of God’s Word throughout our lives.
As believers in Christ Jesus we, with all believers, delight in the Word of God and in spending time in His courts where that Word is proclaimed. We heartily agree with the psalmist who says, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps. 84:10).
–Pastor Joel Fleischer