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Are We Losing?



The troops are withdrawing and coming home. The Wall Street Journal reports that the remaining US combat forces will leave Afghanistan sometime in 2016, after a bloody fifteen year conflict.

Not many, however, are calling it a victory. The enemy has not surrendered. Battles continue to rage. Political analysts and countless commentators speculate on whether the US is losing its influence on the world’s stage.

Fifteen years of conflict is a long time, but it’s nothing compared to the five hundred years since the battles of the Reformation began. History records some armed conflicts of the period, but the heart of the struggle was for the truth of the gospel: the liberating news that sinners are saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone as revealed in Scripture alone. Luther took his stand on that Rock of Christ. By God’s grace, we stand there now.

But are we losing? Has the Lutheran Church made any progress over the past five hundred years, or is it in retreat? Christ-confessing believers are marginalized by the world and are shoved into an ever-smaller corner of influence in society. The world doesn’t want to hear about sin. It rejects the Savior who reconciled sinners to God by His blood. Many who identify themselves as Lutherans have withdrawn from the battlefield, choosing to compromise with the enemy rather than contend for the truth. Persecution is becoming bolder, and outwardly we are weaker. Few congregations in our synodical fellowship would say they are doing better financially, numerically, or materially than they were fifteen years ago.

It’s an ongoing and at times discouraging struggle. Are we losing?

As we commemorate the Reformation, it’s important to remember that the Lutheran Church was never intended to be about political pull, social acceptance, or impressive buildings and numbers.

Luther wrote: “We hold to that Defender of our church who says in Matt. 16:18: I shall build My church, not upon length of time, nor upon the great number of people, nor upon ‘so it must be,’ nor upon the practice or word of the saints…but upon this sole and solid Rock, Christ, the Son of God. Here lies the strength of our faith, here we are safe against the gates of hell….” (WHAT LUTHER SAYS, Vol. II, p. 863)

The battles we face are fierce. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV1984). The enemy and his allies are strong, but our Savior is stronger. In fact, He has already won the war. He went to the front lines and suffered the full assault of the enemy. It cost Him His life, but He gained the victory. Now He lives and rules as King at the Father’s right hand, interceding in our behalf.

Are we losing? How can we lose when we are proclaiming Jesus’ victory over sin and death? Take all the personal battles we face as individual believers, the challenges and difficulties we have in our congregations and church body, the opposition of the world and Satan’s relentless attacks—add them all up, and Paul still says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…”
(Romans 8:37, NIV1984).

May the Spirit through the Word give us strength to keep fighting the good fight of faith! Confident in Christ’s victory, let us press on until we hear Him say, “Come home!”