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Understanding Our Faith

–Pastor Daniel Fleischer

(From a series of bulletin articles)

“Is religious practice after a disaster an effort to appease God? Why is religion after a disaster important, if it isn’t important when there is no immediate past or impending disaster? . . . “

Spiritual commitment

The terrorism on 9/11 is said to have had an impact on spiritual life. After that day many people gained a new appreciation for religion; people rushed to buy Bibles; church attendance increased. Nonetheless, things are now returning to pre-9/11 levels.

This raises a question–Why?

Is religious practice after a disaster an effort to appease God? Why is religion after a disaster important, if it isn’t important when there is no immediate past or impending disaster? If God is one to whom people turn in time of need, is He not one to whom one would gladly turn in praise and thanksgiving when things are going well?

We propose that the answer to “Why?” lies in shallowness of spirituality.

Such shallowness is an indictment of the natural condition of man since the fall. Since the fall all people are born without fear of God, without trust in God (Augsburg Confession, Art. II, Triglot, p. 43). Natural man has a god, but it is not the Triune God. The Triune God is revealed in the Scriptures. The Scriptures declare Him to be the Creator of the world, the Redeemer of the world, and the Creator of faith. Any other god is an idol. Paul recognized that the Athenians were too superstitious (very religious) (Acts 17:23). Their shallow religiousness was recognizable by worship of the unknown God.

It is a horrible indictment of our age that heathen are frequently more faithful–for all the wrong reasons–toward their gods who do not exist than are many Christians to the God in whom they claim to believe.

Shallowness of spirituality is a result of a lack of sin-consciousness. Every imagination of the thoughts of his (man’s) heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). As man rejects this divine assessment of human nature, one sees no need for a Savior from sin or for the gospel that proclaims Christ.

On the other hand, they who understand and know the consequence of sin will see an on-going need to come before the Lord in penitence and faith. They crave the refreshing message of forgiveness and the accompanying promise of eternal life in heaven. However, if one does not see sin as a disaster–and an on-going one at that–who needs the message of Jesus, particularly if one holds the false idea that he can appease God by showing up in worship once in a while, or by humoring Him with a good work?

Shallowness of spirituality is also a result of the lack of understanding of salvation. The salvation of which Scripture speaks is not a salvation from some political oppression, or a release from some fear of danger which can be forgotten when the cause for one’s fear is past or perceived to be past.

Biblical emphasis on salvation is salvation from the effect of sin, death, and the power of the devil. It is the salvation of the whole being, body and soul. It is salvation that is won through the meritorious suffering and death and innocent blood of the Lord Jesus. It is realized in all its peace and glory when the Lord takes the believer home to heaven.

As surely as sin infects us every day, there is never a day when the penitent sinner does not desire the message of salvation. But who needs to hear such salvation preaching when there is life to live, pleasure to pursue, and life has returned to normal?

Meaningful worship and religious practice are not activities exercised by man to earn approval from or to appease God. True worship is the exercise of faith through which man receives from the Heavenly Father comfort of heart, hope of heaven, and strength to face the rigors and trials of life.

The Christian worships privately, or in fellowship of the assembly, to give unto God the thanksgiving due unto Him–the living, gracious and benevolent Father. Faithful worship and practice of religion is a fruit of faith. It is not an antidote to the moment, but it is a living expression of one who knows his present and his future is found in Christ.

We are not surprised at the spiritual shallowness of our present culture. But we are deeply troubled and concerned when even among Christians (who claim to believe and confess Christ–and who are upset if their faith is questioned) the commitment to what they claim to believe is often hard to find.

We must conclude that if religion and the practice of our faith is not significant every day, it is not significant at all. Where it is not significant, it will either disappear (as has happened in nations of the earth), or it will be at best a religion of convenience–one that is practiced when times are tough, but is otherwise forgotten.

Our Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem, saying, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:42). Jerusalem was not merely a city of stone and mortar. Jerusalem was people! May terror over our sin bring us to our knees, and Jesus’ love for us so compel us that He need not weep over us!