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A Conference Opening Devotion

NOTE: A meditation presented to the West Central District Delegate Conference Grace Lutheran Church, CLC, Valentine, Nebraska (May 24, 2011)

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers… So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” Acts 2:42,46-47

During the course of our Delegate Conference we have the joyous opportunity to join in various acts of Christian fellowship in the worship of our Savior God. Together we raise our voices in songs of praise and thanksgiving and offer up our prayers and petitions to the throne of God in Jesus’ name.

What is so very special about these acts of fellowship is that by the grace and mercies of God we are able to do so sharing the same confession of faith, being like-minded in the teachings of God revealed in Holy Scripture.

One of the reasons these acts of fellowship are so special is that it is not very common in this day and age of false ecumenism. The uncommonness is not the act of worshiping, but worshiping with those who share the same understanding, beliefs, and confession of the words and teachings of our Savior God.

Unfortunately, what is more common in Christendom today is that professing Christians worship together with those who hold to differing, conflicting, and contradictory beliefs and confessions.

We hear it said that it is simply impossible for those who confess a faith in Jesus Christ to be in total agreement in the teachings of God. When that is said, the impression is given that the Word of God is unclear, ambiguous, and even contradictory.

This flies in the face of Holy Scripture’s claim concerning the clarity of God’s Word. The psalmist gives testimony to the clarity of God’s Word as he says to the Lord, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path”
(Psalm 119:103-105).

Holy Scripture is so clear in regard to those blessed truths that even children are able to understand them. Paul writes in his letter to Timothy that “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

When doubters and scoffers (concerning the need for spiritual unity in acts of fellowship) worship together with those of differing beliefs, they are sending a message that not all the teachings in the Bible are important.

However, in the same letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul declared concerning all the Scriptures that they are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Also, when Jesus gave the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, He stressed the importance of faithfully imparting all the teachings of God’s Word (“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”
Matthew 28:20).

Those who overlook and tolerate differing teachings in their midst—and worship on the basis of spiritual dis-unity—fail to realize that their spiritual immune system has broken down and is compromised. The spiritual cancer of false teaching can spread and grow until finally the saving gospel of Christ is lost.

What a great blessing it is then to worship together in true spiritual unity! Such worship is a testimony to the clarity of God’s Word and the great importance of every single teaching in Holy Scripture. And when we worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, we give honor and glory to our Savior God.

The fact that the early Christians (spoken of in our text) and Christians in our day are able to worship together on the basis of being like-minded is not due to any of us being more intelligent or more spiritually perceptive than others in Christendom. Rather, it is due alone to the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. Working through the powerful Word of God, the Spirit gives us minds to perceive, eyes to behold, and hearts to embrace in faith the wonderful teachings of our Lord and God.

When Luke wrote in our Scripture text concerning the early Christians that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers,” he was not indicating that they all had a full and complete understanding of the teachings of Christ. Most certainly there were different levels of understanding concerning God’s Word—just as there are different levels of understanding in our Christian fellowship today. Still, by the working of the Holy Spirit Christians then and now are blessed with a ready mind and receptive spirit which submits to and accepts the teachings of our God in ever-increasing measure.

The more we grow in our knowledge of the gracious saving truths of God, the more our hearts are filled with joy and thanksgiving. Are we not gathered here in conference for the purpose of edifying—that is, for spiritually building one another up in Christian knowledge, faith, and love? And as that takes place, in oneness of mind and spirit we glorify and praise our Savior God.

Praise be to God for enabling us to be of the same mind and the same judgment so that with one voice we can join in acts of Christian fellowship, worshiping the Lord who made us, redeemed us, sanctified us, and will finally glorify us through our Savior
Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear Jesus, our Redeemer and the Shepherd of our souls, we thank You that through Holy Baptism You have made us members of Your body, the Church. We entreat You to bless most richly the congregation of saints of which You have called us to be a part. May Your Word always be purely preached and taught among us, and may we gladly hear and learn it, growing in knowledge of and love for You. May Your Sacraments be administered according to Your command, and may we always value most highly the forgiveness of sins and eternal life You give us through them. Enable us to be of the same mind and same judgment so that we all speak the same thing concerning Your words and teachings, and in spiritual unity lift up our voices together in the worship of Your holy name. This we pray in Your name. Amen.