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“Turning the World “Upside Down”

CLC President’s Report to the 31st Convention

Dear saints in Christ and fellow workers in His kingdom:

Does it matter? Does what we do here make any real, significant, positive, lasting difference? If it does, we have reason and incentive to get to work; if not, what’s the point? From a human perspective we have little chance of accomplishing anything lasting. We are a small group with no political capital to spend and few material resources. What could we possibly do?

However, that could also have been said of the Apostle Paul and Silas when they arrived in Thessalonica in the course of Paul’s second missionary journey. There was nothing impressive about these two itinerant missionaries of Jesus. Yet before long, the Jews were accusing Paul and the other Christians of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Sent out from the living Lord of the Church, they upset the status quo. Hearts and attitudes were completely changed. Without question, they made a difference.

Isn’t that our assignment too? Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” “Turn the world upside down” is another way of phrasing it, for repentance involves a total change of heart within the sinner. By ourselves we cannot effect anything out of the ordinary. Like all others, we were dead in sin by nature, enemies of God, unable and unwilling to do anything about it. Yet by His grace God uses His people to truly turn the world upside down.

By Using the Word of God

To make a real difference we need something outside of ourselves. What did Paul use? He was a highly educated man. He could have boasted of his studies under the renowned rabbi Gamaliel. He was well acquainted with Greek poets and philosophers. He could have held his own in any debate based on the rules of logic. But instead, when he came to Thessalonica, “Paul, as his custom was” went into the synagogue “and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:12). Paul counted on the Word of God to make a difference.

What a contrast to our age. Many religious leaders and churches have given up on the power of the Word. Some are embarrassed by it and explain away Jesus’ miracles by saying that the disciples were ignorant men prone to exaggeration when it came to their claims about the Lord. Some view Scripture as ancient literature which may be of some historical value but which has no practical relevance for today’s society. Some pick and choose what they are going to believe, making their own human reason the judge over the Word. To make a difference in people’s lives, they believe the Word should be replaced with new ideas more suited for our times.

But Paul was right. To turn the world upside down, we need something other than man’s wisdom, for no matter how they are packaged or presented, man’s thoughts and views cannot be better than man himself or extend beyond his severely limited reach. Because it cannot overcome sin and death, man’s wisdom cannot make any significant difference in his fate. Every attempt is a tired recycling of what has been tried and failed in the past.

The Word has no limits, for God Himself has none. By His Word the heavens were formed and by His Word all things hold together. He has given us that Spirit-breathed Word which is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Man’s wisdom is turned upside down and proved to be foolishness when exposed to the light of the Word—that powerful, saving Word which the Lord has entrusted to us.

Therefore, ongoing study of the Word and a strong education program in it are essential for us as individuals, congregations, and as a church body. I thank the Lord for the freedom we have in our nation to preach and teach it without interference. Some of our overseas brethren face much more difficult and dangerous conditions. We are blessed with Sunday schools, TVBS and VBS programs, and dedicated teachers who freely give of their time not only in presenting lessons but also in hours of unnoticed preparations each week. Our Christian day schools are a special blessing in providing our children with daily instruction in the Word and its practical application to life. It is encouraging to note that after the school closings of recent years, a growing number of congregations are expressing renewed interest in opening schools. The spiritual benefits far outweigh the material and monetary costs.

Immanuel High School, College, and Seminary continue to serve an essential role in the training of new generations of teachers and pastors. We thank the Lord for our two seminary graduates and our two graduates from the teaching program this spring. After fifteen years or so of relative stability and few pastoral changes in our congregations, we are now facing several pastoral vacancies—with more to come in the near future due to retirements. As in the past, the Lord will certainly provide servants for His Church. Still, the current need underscores the importance of parents, pastors, and teachers instructing our young people about the blessed nature of the public ministry and encouraging them to go to the Lord in prayer and ask whether He might desire them to serve in the pulpit or classroom.

Immanuel also aids in equipping young men and women for faithful service as lay members of their congregations. While ILC is not able to provide the variety of courses that secular institutions offer, the additional grounding in the Word on the college level will strengthen the believer for life in an increasingly hostile environment. I urge young people who are planning a career other than that of the public ministry not to rule out Immanuel as a starting point but to consider how the AA degree program or the program in Religious Studies could help ground them even more firmly on Christ. Paul encouraged the Colossians: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).