Part One (Continued)

THE FALL OF CHRISTENDOM

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  1. FROM THE SPIRIT TO THE LETTER

    What can we do that the life of God might be in us? What stands in the way? A current mode of biblical scholarship. These scholars have murdered the Savior with the Old Testament and are now assaulting him with the New. We must follow that which the Spirit of God speaks to our hearts--even if it is some thing not completely expressed in the Bible. We should be free people, free from forms and books and the dictates of men, hearing and acting according to what the Spirit of God tells us.


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    There is a certain Bible-spirit that takes away everything which should be heard in such a way that it remains a word for our time spoken directly by God. That spirit leaves us, instead, with the impotent letter.


  2. THE DENIAL cfb

    Today the apostles stand as a sign and wander in the world. A fire of the almighty God went out from them in apostolic fashion, not in words but in power.

    Yet, to a real extent, this apostolic activity ended with a stroke upon the death of the apostles.... Obviously, the Foundation Stone no longer could be eliminated from the world; but the divine, unmediated progress of heavenly demonstrations upon earth, the immediate revelations of God among men, these were over. People helped themselves by means of memories, and in this way there could be truly pious people and many times, also, intimations of Zion [i.e., of the redeemed commnun1ty of the new Jerusalem]. Here and there a light still flashed. But in general, that of God was overwhelmed by "the human".... Human cleverness came up like mushrooms. Heathenish systems got mixed into the true Christian faith.... War and bloodletting marked the course of Christendom.


  3. FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO "RELIGION" cfb

    You are God's.... You need only the self-knowledge that God can show you; you don't need "religion."


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    Our worlds break apart; they don't last, But God's world is established upon the word of God; and that is eternal....

    These worlds, or cultures, which man has made--whether they be Chinese or European--all collapse together. But God be praised, while they are falling, we can smile--if, through the fall of these carnal worlds, we hold firm to and assert God's law and in no way let ourselves be deflected from striving for his world. Such a disposition of the heart and such a striving of the spirit, these alone will lead us to where we can experience the advance of the kingdom of God.

    Recently, in another country, I met a person with whom I had a passing conversation touching upon religion. He expressed this view: "There is no progress in religion; we have learned that much. It is always the same. In all other works of the human spirit there is progress. Religion alone keeps its seat." I cringed but had to say, "Yes, you are right!"

    But in the truth there is progress. The truth imparts life; but no invention of the world can give us progress in life. It is in righteousness that progress must come; but no invention of the world makes men good and upright. Most of all, it is the kingdom of God that represents progress. And in God's kingdom there is none of the old "sitting on the spot"; for the kingdom of God consists in the coming of the truth and righteousness of our God.


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    Where would we be if we had only "religion" which was expressed in certain teachings--and these were all we had to live by and to present before our neighbors? No, the one thing that is truly alive is the hope of a new day for man. But take that hope out of its Christian context, and it no longer exists at all; it is not aroused through some religion or other.


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    "Having Christianity" is nothing difficult. Concerning one "Christianity"--for there are several varieties--a person can hardly avoid it; he comes into it simply by being born, and it causes him no great trouble to stay in. It might cause him a bit of trouble actually to live it out; but whoever wants to can do so blithefully.

    Yet there is another sort of Christianity that is to be enclosed within the heart--this one called "the rule of God upon the earth." It is to be so enclosed in the heart that one knows for a certainty, "It will come to be!" And that Christianity many times will make us anxious and sorrowful.


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    It seems right to me that the Lord Jesus should have said, in effect, "Children, it is on the very turf of Christianity and the following of Jesus that there will be the most lies, the most power plays of darkness trying to destroy us."

    It isn't pretty but is nevertheless true that, on the spot where the Highest and Holiest is fighting for our eternity, there is taking place the most deception and error. And it is all the more dangerous that it is precisely there that error takes on the appearance of truth, because words can play so important a role. It always has been dangerous, in the area of the religious life and the following of Jesus, that words have meant so much. Yet words don't produce anything all that important; only action--people whose only purpose is to follow--then nothing will go forward.


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    We have taken pains to emphasize that we are not to identify our Christianity with Christ himself.... We have sought to explain how Christendom is, so to speak, a secondary world in which Christ is honored as God--although only in the way the world speaks of God. Thus, as the world speaks of God without becoming godly, so the secondary world of Christendom speaks of Christ without following him.

    A person speaks of faith in Christ yet produces no faith for Christ (to use).... He believes in the love of God which was in Christ but does nothing for (or in response to) the love of God. He believes in eternal life but does not believe in doing anything for (or about) eternal life. He believes in the kingdom of God; he does not believe anything for (the sake of) the kingdom of God. So faith, hope, and love are only words if the actions die within us; and all the noisy gongs and clanging cymbals of Christendom, this secondary world which still involves Christ, cannot hide that wretched death. [1 Cor. 13:1]


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    Would it be too much to say that, in Christendom, Christ is dead and Christians have returned to the sin of the ancient people of God?

    Not with "strange gods" perhaps--although Christians may not be entirely free of that--but of themselves they have throttled the God-longing within themselves; and it is now the varieties of Christianity of every form that strive for the highest spot. If formerly the totality of mankind build the Tower of Bable, we now see the Christian churches building that tower. They want to be infallible, to be the greatest and most clever. They figure things out; and they will suppress Godís word and, with their own words, bring in the kingdom.

    [Referring to Mt. 11:25-30), Blumhardt says:] that was the time when the Lord Jesus felt himself forsaken but where, in the little land of Galilee, the simple people began to bring him joy, But those who were rulers among men had quickly turned away.

    And that is how it always goes among us: that which the Lord Jesus would give, such people are the first not to want it. Whether they are now people of love and goodwill or, as then in Jerusalem, people of pride and arrogance, these rulers who dominate human culture are always and everywhere present.

    And the greatest goodheartedness and kindness is a populace, even the best of wills, is of no advantage regarding that for which Jesus came. He came to raise mankind completely out of earthly things and into the heights of God. And in doing that, he first of al forces earthly things out of the heights of God. And no society is about to let that happen.

    So it has been, even to the present day, One can, in a manner of speaking, enculturate Christianity and even bring it to power; but then it is no longer what Jesus had in mind. Even such "Christian" powers--which ultimately are in opposition to the Spirit of God--will be displaced by other powers or else become bound up with them; and the whole world will again be running on the same old tracks. There is no track driving through to Christianity.


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    We dare not surrender that which we so long have carried in the heart, namely, that, to the glory of God, the Savior might reveal himself in new ways. This is, indeed, a great offense to many people, because, in present-day Christendom, everyone thinks he can see what is needed for the fulfillment of Godís will upon earth. I very much wish that I could do that, hopeful of what I might observe in the various forms of Christianity. However, I am not able to do so; for everywhere there is untruth and unrighteousness that in some way must be removed if, in its truth and righteousness, the kingdom of God is to become public fact.

    I grant you that there are now also many people who object that the Bible gives us no warrant at all for waiting any longer--as does even a Christian "religion," in suggesting that, after death, one becomes blessed and continues so until the end of the world. Yet perhaps one may be permitted to think a bit differently regarding the scriptures. And whoever reads the scriptures carefully will find, in the Old Testament as well as the New, that it is the definite will of God to have, on earth, a people who, in justice and innocence, love not themselves but God and thus become the light for the peoples of the earth.

    When the time of God comes--the time of the end and of the new beginnings--so it shall be that whatever in Christendom has become tainted and humanized shall suffer merciless collapse, even as Judaism did in the time of Jesus.... We must accustom ourselves not to calling Christianity itself the good and the godly, not to taking our confessions and catechisms for the truth. No, the good and the godly, truth and right, are in Christ alone. So it must be all right for the whole of Christendom to collapse, if thereby the good and the godly--name, Christ--might be revealed as Completer and Fulfiller for all the peoples on earth.


  4. THE CHURCH cfb

    "Christianity," as a folk-religion, is headed for ruin.


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    The time is coming when we see that, in the outward church, there is a certain "seeking after God" which has something of idol worship about it.


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    The mind of God for today is not that any human party--even if it be a churchly one--should be the house for which we risk body and soul, which we guard, and for which we pray. It is entirely the other way around. As was the case in ancient Israel, a structure has grown up in Christendom that proceeds from the flesh and does not represent the mind of God.... We certainly will not be deceived if, out of present events, we read the mind of God, the mind which leads out of the old system of the rule of the worldly church and into a new and fresh life of truth.


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    A judgment runs through our time. A finger of truth points to this and that lie or deception in custom and religion. A finger of justice demands that we follow the voice of truth and consider whether everything shouldn't be done differently.

    After the human race has continued to live on in tranquility through the centuries, never having been jolted or shaken by the surging waters of history, then all sorts of comforts make themselves at home by way of habit and custom. Finally, these come to be seen as being of God. Then it can happen that everything is done only with the consideration of defending human arrangements, because it appears that in these consist the survival of society. It looks as though everything would break apart if these time-bound arrangements were to tumble.

    Once a person has made a specialty out of a bad business, he often is too cowardly to hold it up to the judgment of God for itself and against himself.Thus we can see that a whole lot of nonsense and superstition has crept into Christianity; it is easy enough to spot shortcomings and perversities in our religious institutions. However, people have gotten themselves used to these things and so take them all in stride in order to retain these necessary institutions. So, even though there is much that is per-verse and all the people groan under it, still, whenever the righteous voice of God comes, requiring truth and justice, the truth and justice get damned, and the nonsense is defended.


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    Even if we were to collect all the god of Christendom and the church and clothe ourselves in it, the peoples would still remain in darkness. The blackness of sin and death among men and nations is still the typical sign of human existence. In view of this, some people become pessimists and others optimists. However, without the light represented by the actuality of the kingdom of God, neither view has been able to win ascendancy.

    The Jesus who says, "I am the truth," is not so revealed in any congregation of Christians that, regarding their manner of life, an observer could with confidence say, "There, in that group, is taking form the truth of God which makes possible the unfolding history of the kingdom of God and allows the goal of the fulfillment of that kingdom to come into sight." ... What we lack is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth....

    It is no wonder the Holy Spirit is silent when we respect all other spirits more than we do that Spirit. That is why, for a long time, we have taken pains to put ourselves under judgment, in order to become fully conscious as to which we truly prefer: God or the world; Christ or Christendom; Church or Spirit.


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    It is wrong when Christendom allows the life seed of the kingdom of God to remain in its shell, thinking that it should be adored as a mystery. No, it is evident that it must break out at its own time, that it must be planted as something that is by nature necessary for the creative process.


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    Particularly in our own day it has become evident that the kingdom of God does not attach itself to individuals of special piety, to single churches and congregations. Now the world has opened up; and the times display a character enabling us to see that God has not conceived of the world as consisting in individuals but as an entirety. All of todayís spiritual development toward the kingdom of God carries this sign. Christianity shall be worldwide; and piety shall be openhearted toward all humanity.


  5. PROTESTANTISM AND CATHOLICISM cfb

    We should not think that either the Catholics must become Protestant or the Protestants Catholic. No it was God who prevented Luther from taking over the whole of Germany. Today this failure of the Reformation is seen as a real evil; many have considered the Reformation unfortunate in that it introduced a kind of religious diversity that admittedly has created great strife and conflict in our fatherland. Nevertheless, it still was out of the goodness of God that the older religious life has been preserved. That tradition includes what is good and true. And, on the other hand, the Protestants have not represented the truth of all things; they have incorporated much that is not true. Consequently, God has willed that Protestantism and Catholicism remain standing alongside each other.


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    Godís primary purpose in the Reformation was not simply that a more appropriate Christian viewpoint, or religion, or denomination arise, under which our religious lives could continue. No, it was rather that new light might come, in deed and in truth a preparation for the coming of the Lord. If I were to add anything further, it is that, for me, the three hundred fifty years of the Reformation have been nothing other than an image of a spiritual renewal which must extend through the entire world, beginning as the light and glory of God over all the peoples of earth until it leads to a revival into a new and godly life.

    It is a mistake when, in considering the Reformation, we think only of the establishment of Protestantism, the Evangelical Churches--Lutheran, Reformed, or whatever. The Lord had much greater and extensive intentions for the Reformation. Our long-held understanding, that all the redemptive purposes of God would have to be fulfilled in the Evangelicals, as though no other peoples or churches even existed, as though we were a new Israel which had only to dream egotistically and self-lovingly about herself--that was not right.


THE NEW AWAKENING AND THE BLUMHARDTS' CONCEPT OF HOPE

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There is no other way to quench the thirst, to end the drought, than through God pouring out his Spirit. There are many in this day and age that no longer want to believe this. Why? Because this would be something out of the ordinary, not fitting into the usual courses of this world.... For that reason, it appears too big to most people. But I can't help that; I can't make it any smaller, or think of it as any smaller, than it is.

A stream of the Spirit will come.... Only let us await it with confidence! Indeed, a small part of the expectation already was fulfilled in the time of the apostles.... Indeed, must it not now be fulfilled on a large scale as it was then on a smaller one? In that first outpouring of the Spirit we had proof that God keeps his word. However, now we need it again. We are a ehydrated people. The thirst is almost killing us; and it is entirely too awful how people are deteriorating both inwardly and outwardly. But now, because we need it again, God will also give it again.


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We must exercise justice and seek it with a whole heart. Then our hearts will call for the Holy Spirit to draw near and rule over us. Today justice is like a trembling sword above us. However, it does not yet fall, in order that we not be shattered. There is rather a waiting to see whether people can be found to whom judgment can be revealed, thereby making a new beginning.


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"What should be happening from the human side so that things again can be better?" To this I can answer nothing other than that, among Christians, there should be more sighing and longing for that which is missing, in general more faith in the Holy Spirit.

However, people let everything stand as though it was good enough just as it is. They act as if nothing more were required of them from above--even as they betray the fact that what they do have was contrived and acquired by study rather than by inspiration.... Because an evil race still will not believe, it will let the Savior be the one who destroys, who, in judgment, even now smashes everything into the abyss--this, rather than the one who blesses and whose heart, out of concern for the deliverance of the many, moves him to be the instrument for mediating what otherwise would be the still-promised Spirit.

Whoever truly wants to do something should learn to have a heart for the millions, as did Jesus, who, not just in appearance but through his blood, showed a desire to bring reconciliation to the entire world. Those who, out of sympathy with the lament over endless misery on all sides, do themselves sigh, weep, and yearn, seeking in the scriptures an understanding of the Holy Spirit--they are the ones who truly help us toward a better time.


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I see that you are entirely correct in waiting upon God for your health. I would say only one other thing: do not weaken yourself with the thought that, because you are not yet well, you must be guilty. One can always reproach himself about many things; but it is not good when a person makes the action of God dependent upon his own doing or not doing--especially when someone like you has his whole heart and longing centered upon the authority and help of God. Only remain firm in your love for God, even when the move out of disease and into life and health goes slowly. You are and will remain God's; and you can continually come to know that in your heart.


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All sick people should note this: God cannot save when guilt is present; he is just. This has been dear to me for many years; there has never been a time when I could simply pray, "May the people become healthy." No, for a long time I have known very well that, under the circumstances, help does not come through the prayer, "Make me well," but rather through the patient word, "I will suffer." Often, through suffering, one must do a kindness for our dear God, as it were. The more a person will, gladly and entirely, go to meet him, the more that which is lacking can be made whole.


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Signs and wonders are all right as legitimate proof that one has to do with our dear God; but they cannot truly help us. What helps us is justice and truth; and a hundred thousand miracles are of little use in comparison to one word of truth, or one command of truth through which God makes something straight that was crooked.


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A great many prayers and sighs climb clear up to heaven and then fall back to earth again like the rain. Very few penetrate to the throne of God so that it can be said, "They have been prayed."

If I do not have an ear to the telephone in order to receive from God into myself then likewise God does not have an ear on the other end to receive my words into himself. God will not hear us one-sidedly; there must be correspondence between us.

Thus, it is understandable that sometimes it must be said to people, "Suspend all your praying for a time! Seek first to receive God into yourselves, be fair to him; and then prayer will come of itself without forethought. It will be childlike and in accordance with the truth."

From our side, the first thing is that we listen to God. However, if, in our inward being, we are open only to the next best, the bustle of the world, then in earthly pleasures and afflictions our hearts are roused for our own sakes. Then, if the uplifting God does not make us uplifted, we may be sure that our praying is not actually prayer. God can well hear the sighs of everyone, even the foolish; yet, in reality, only those can pray who listen to God.


HOW DOES THE KINGDOM OF GOD COME?

  1. GIFT AND TASK: WAITING AND WORKING cfb

    That which is of God is ready at all times; but the question is whether you are ready for it.


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    God makes use of us. We must not want to make use of Jesus for ourselves but must want Jesus to make use of us, must want to give ourselves entirely to his use.


    It is wholly proper that we earthly people put in an appearance before God. We are part of God's creation; and it is a matter of sorrow in heaven when nobody comes in the Spirit, bowing in adoration before him. For God, that is grief, because he loves the world.


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    Christ takes his stand in a very high domain, to which he would draw us. Not everybody can manage it, for those who would go to Jesus must see all things in a high light and yet not be afraid to take the distress and need of mankind upon themselves. Only when we will move into the deep misery of mankind, where so many hearts are bleeding, can we break the new road up to Jesus.


    Must it be only out of goodness and not from any need that God employs someone? That is exactly as if a person should say that a father has no need that his sons help him; it is only goodness when he simply allows them, as his children, to come on their own. As if it could make no difference to a father whether his sons desert him and he has to hire outsiders!

    But all that is nothing. We do not even want to stay with the Father simply as servants. No, then it would be preferable that, like the prodigal son, we waste in riotous living the wealth that the Father gave us, until we land with the pigs. Then, naturally, it must be an honor for the Father when we return home in rags--although, certainly, we should not be as stupid as the prodigal, who wanted to work and be a day laborer. No, we come only to be blessed in that very coming!


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    Once in a while God needs people who will help him. That is the secret of the summons into covenant; without the covenant with God, nothing happens. I know very well what is regularly hurled at me: "We can't build the kingdom of God." Obviously not; we cannot build it; and it is just for that reason the Almighty founded a covenant. Through it, he would have people who bear fruit for him, who fight for him, who no longer misuse weapons upon human flesh but use them to carve Out of the evil, blasphemous world of men that which will be to God's honor, that it might be great. For this, God needs people. Yet many are called, but few are chosen, Why is this? Because they do not truly give themselves; and when they are called, they still can't be used.


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    Mark this well: The kingdom of God takes shape through nothing other than the coming of the Lord. It is not formed through any human discovery, no matter how worthy and honorable.... Yet it is remarkable that, for all of this, not only God, the creator of the heavens, but also men must be in on the plan. But this makes sense. For if there were no people at all involved, but only God, then truly it would have to be said that man was not created in the image of God. Nevertheless, man shall be in the image of God and shall remain so; as such, he shall become the coworker of God in the most great and most holy work of that which God purposes for his creation.


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    Through the whole life of the Savior we see his desire to find faith among people on earth. It is although, without this faith, that which he has in mind could not come to be. We could say that the Savior, on the one side, places his trust in his Father in heaven; yet, on the other side, he places it in people also, as those to whom something from the Father has been given. People put their faith in Jesus; and out of this faith he sees, thriving and growing, the work of God which shall bring his kingdom to its glorious end.


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  3. THE LITTLE FLOCK

    Meanwhile, God does not need much upon earth. He needs only a few yet total persons; he can lay hold of these few, so to say, and by them the whole world can be held firm. Do not consider yourselves too insignificant, dear friends. Leave behind the ordinary disposition of people who think that there must always be large masses representing the kingdom of God on earth. It is much better when we are a little band. One, two, three, ten people who are united are stronger than a hundred thousand who thrash about in their piety yet never arrive at a true and unanimous striving for the kingdom of God.


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    This light [i.e., the hope of a new heaven and a new earth] would not deceive anyone. In it, you may remain a little rascal; but it is the greatest folly to believe that we must straightway become the greatest heroes. God always works through weak people. Yet they are the strongest, because in them, through the Spirit's power, hope can be most effective.


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    Things were very dark for the disciples of Jesus, because they did not see in him any power by which he could make people subject to him. He was always the weak one--the poor one among the poor, the despised one among the despised--and he didn't lift a finger to create any sort of importance for himself.... In the world, one is wed to seeing only strong people making something of themselves, people who understand how to take power into their own hands; but he was always the weak one. The Lord Jesus was not the sort of man who would say to his disciples, "Pay attention to how I bring things off. The future is mine!" No, he refused all this and came to nothing--in this world, perhaps we should say.


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    In every age, whatever is difficult is understood only by a few. That to which everyone runs--that which everyone, as part of the herd, simply accepts--that is easy. So, not where the many dash and run, but where only a few are to be seen--there lies the deeper truth. And so today Jesus' "little flock" consists of those who are not content with run-of-the-mill Christianity but who trust in one who is greater, having hope in a high goal for mankind.


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    Dear friends, God can help through just a few people and through our hope, which is the Spirit. The Spirit is greater than the whole world. The children of God depend upon the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit enters them and makes of them a dwelling of God so that from just one sighing child of God the entire glory of God can radiate. God does not need to count and say, "Yes, by all means I must have a hundred thousand in the world; otherwise nothing will succeed; if there are only a thousand, then all is lost." Such calculation is not necessary for God. If he has only several--indeed, at present, hardly any--yet through one person he can let such glory radiate that the hope gleams through the whole world.


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    Our dear God never lets his little flock become prominent. They are always in the background. They might be ever so successful and strong within themselves; but they will never win human fame through human deeds, not even if they be the finest of prophets or angels. Indeed, precisely because they are such, they must remain hidden. Our dear God is not about to strike a deal with mankind on the basis of any great personages he can claim for himself.

    Not the strong and powerful, but the simple, the insignificant, the ones the world doesn't count, those who face great difficulties without apparent help but who yet have a place within them where God an rule--these are the ones through whom God will accomplish his purpose, whether they be men or women, the children or the aged, the foolish or the clever. None of this depends upon our intellect or strength but upon the rule of God.


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    Until Jesus comes, his will remain a "little flock." Yet this is not simply because only a little flock are to be called to glory--oh, what an awful mistake! No! No! --It is because the rest of the poor people simply have not the wherewithal to bring off the assignment.... But the little flock arrives at the goal; and it is through this flock that the kingdom will be given....

    Before this time, the kingdom remains a matter only for individuals, but thereafter, for all. Then shall they be retrieved from the hells and the depths, from sin and from death. Sin and death shall not have won a single person. This is a freedom we have in God; we will be able to stand so firmly that not a single hell will be able to say, "This man belongs to me." "No, he belongs to God," I say; and if no one else will say it, I do. Not a single hell can say, "The man is mine." No, no! Either all belong to my Father in heaven or else none do.


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    If I must give up hope for any person in any respect, then Jesus is not risen. I tell you this before God and his angels, before Jesus himself, "You are not the light of the world if I have to give up hope."... For me, this is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Of course, it takes a real battle to keep oneself within this light of redemption, because I must ever create this redeemed world within myself, as it were. We always stand in psychological, spiritual, and physical relationships to the world as a whole. And now one sees all and feels all; when one is thus transformed by the light of resurrection, there is pain, but it has an end. There are hells; but they have an end. There is death and sin enough; but they will reach their ends.

    In this knowledge, I can bear the pain; it is integral to justice that there be reward and punishment, grace, and judgment. As long as good and evil are operating simultaneously, then it is a necessary part of justice that these things exist--even if only temporarily.

    But before you come to faith--the faith that hell, sin, and death have an end; that all people are Godís; that, if we believe in Jesus Christ, we are to fight in behalf of all people--before we can promote the love of God in heaven, under the earth, and in all people; before we can ourselves become realized persons in eternal life--before any of this, we believers have to fight against melancholy, a melancholy that is laid directly upon us. However, we must not, to the world, be an example of mourning. If we cannot rejoice in our faith, then we cannot invite other people into it. So we must put the pain behind us and hold firmly and steadily to the Lord, placing heaven and earth under their master.

    Because God has made us great, so that we cannot be satisfied with small things, so we must also learn to think big. If you can believe me, throw off the shackles; think big! The hellish gospel, the devil's gospel, must be trodden under foot so that, in the end, Jesus can come to all creatures and no false prophet can make difficult the path of my soul to the Father in heaven.

    My beloved friends, the one who does this is Jesus!


  4. THE PEOPLE OF GOD AND THE SERVICE OF GOD cfb

    There should always be a people gathered on the basis of revelation, of whom God can say, "You are my people," To these, his people, great promises regarding both earthly and eternal life are given. And the promise has been maintained in the revelation of God even into the new age, the age of Jesus Christ. Also, in the name of Jesus Christ, a community shall be founded in which everything God has promised shall come to fulfillment. Today it is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that produces the community for which the promises are intended.


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    It so happens that there is only a very small band of those who truly want to be fighters. I tell you, there are peoples, Christian peoples, where not a single person is a fighter, not one. There are thousands of Christians, and not one will hazard his blood; they all make excuses.... They bow and scrape around the Lord Jesus, but they are not fighters. They will not give their lives even unto death; and whoever will not do so can never be a disciple of Jesus, fighting for his victory.


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    Until all sin is checked, until the darkness which have accumulated for centuries are dissolved and removed from among people, the community of Christ must suffer. Yet, thanks be to God, in this suffering we also discover a help that makes it possible to hold out.... We who believe in the Savior can legitimately think of ourselves as people who, through our own suffering, help in the suffering of Jesus Christ by which the darkness is overcome. Insofar as we are thinking of other people, our suffering becomes a force that helps the Father in heaven in building his kingdom on earth.... The cross of Jesus led to the resurrection; and our cross will also bring resurrection.... Those who bear their crosses are Jesus' coworkers, working to make all things new.


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    It is possible that the fruit of our prayers will first be experienced by later generations, by generations breaking forth in the songs of praise which we ourselves would have liked to address to heaven in thanks for the granting of those prayers. Yet, how many attacks does it take before the walls of a well-entrenched city are breached? Our prayers, it might be said, are hammer-strokes against the bulwark of the princes of darkness; they must be oft repeated. Many years can pass by, even a number of generations die away, before a breakthrough occurs. However, not a single hit is wasted; and if they are continued, then even the most secure wall must finally fall. Then the glory of the Lord will have a clear path upon which to stride forth with healing and blessing for the wasted fields of mankind.


  5. THE ZION OF GOD cfb

    What is Zion, and who is "the inhabitant of Zion" who is said to "shout and sing for joy" (Isa. 12:6)? It is the personality who, according to God's revelation, dies to the world and lives for God. Sometimes it has been only one person who could shout and sing for joy because he was allowed an experience of the living God. Often it has been several, an entire community; it could be thousands or even millions. The more people it is, the more pleasing it is to our dear God. But Zion must be a sort of people who are so fired by the light and life of God that they give themselves body and soul, making God the single treasure of their hearts, cost what it.... Zion is not an earthly faction, not a community possessing mere religious teachings and forms. The true people of Zion have no particular artistic or technical skill, no strength of character that would make them persons of importance. Their strength is in God alone.... These people are "the inhabitant of Zion."


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    Whenever, upon earth, Godís cause was to take a step forward, then God always created a Zion, i.e., a smaller or larger community of people differentiated by their manner of life, with hearts kept open to God's doing and speaking. Apart from such a Zion, there has never been anything of God's splendor given to the world. Out of a Zion, for the first time, come rights and laws that are themselves right, living, and true; without such a Zion, they die off and become a dead weight on the body of humanity.


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    Godly truth and eternity can dwell upon earth only so far as there is created what we call a "Zion," in which people pay attention to these things.


  6. THE INVISIBLE BATTLEFIELD cfb

    Because our human world displays increasing activity in its resistance to God, there is a battle. It is a battle taking place primarily in inwardness, in the invisible life-impulses of man. However, the expectation is that, once the invisible has been swept clear of all hindrance, then visible change also can show itself in dear and true manifestations of life.... If, through the stirring and moving of their lives toward the truth, the people of God achieve victory over this unjust and untrue interior existence, then the outward--as far as this age will allow--can immediately be formed as new, true, and eternal.


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    There is a battle taking place outside of human society. There is a battle taking place in the spiritual regions surrounding us. There is, on the one side, the bright, dear light of God which presses toward people, allowing them to lift themselves from the ground to experience new spiritual development time and again, to come, time and again, to moral growth and achievement--all of this being the great and mighty working of the good in the midst of humanity.... And on the other side, there is always the enemy of the good and of mankind, the enemy of God and his people.


BAD BOLL, A ZION OF GOD

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Here at bad Boll I have not cared to emphasize the fact that I actually am a person. Simply as a housefather, I have more freedom of movement.... So I have decided to remove from my person everything of a churchly character.... I believe that, here at Boll, regarding those matters with which we essentially are concerned, still truer ways will develop. In particular, we do not want simply to learn the churchly conduct of gatherings and sermons, No, in our daily life we want to learn how to be Out meeting the kingdom of God in order, thus, to make our way into the will of God....

Among us, that shall not be called "worship" which, through words and thoughts, seeks merely an elevation to spiritual heights. Rather, the illumination of hearts in body-life and the burning struggle there where living takes place--this, as a testimony to the honor of God, is what we would call "worship."... In Bad Boll we are founding not another preaching station, but a livingstation.... Let us live with one another. And most important, let us climb from the spiritual heights down to the completely simple ground of life.... All the circumstances of our day cry, not for preaching and rhetorical deluge, but for examples of the good, examples of the truth.


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Today someone wrote to tell me that, at his house, Bad Boll is called "The Island of the Blessed." That very much touched my heart; and I thought, "Yes, if only it were so!" ... We don't have any special teachings and don't offer any special rites; but we do want to be a people of blessedness. All who came here should sense something blessed among us. At least, it is to this end that I would like to be a servant of God.


THE HUMAN VISION

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When we look back over the history of mankind, we see a forest where trees once grew but where the storms have passed, laying it waste. In this, in the whole unhappy course of mankind, our dear God is still the manager who allows people who must belong to him--to be his saints. These are people in whom he is a power and to whom he simply says, "You must go my way and demonstrate that, even under evil conditions, a way is to be found which can be traveled without becoming entangled." ... Always, when things are to move forward, God must have saints who also stand in their own times; who understand the times; who know how to live among the people of the times; but who, even though the times be ever so perverted, still carry the high thoughts of the kingdom of God in their spirits.


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There are at hand battles against evil that must be carried through. God assigns these battles to us, and for that reason we must not think that things always have to go well with us. Our existence is justified only if we will fight against evil and make a pact with the good against the evil.... That, at a future time, this battle will resolve itself into a victory in which we can rejoice--that is our consolation. For the present, however, the battle itself is our joy. And even when the going gets hot, we will remain loyal in battle--that is our calling. It is because the entire human race is not in a position to do so that God entrusts this battle to particular individuals, individuals who can intercede on behalf of everyone.


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What I see to be the greatest danger for most people is that they judge themselves and others against a norm set up by society, one by which people can flatter themselves. And this self-justification becomes a powerful force. As a stance before God, it is colossal autonomy. In that situation, one dare not raise any questions about the encompassing social milieu.

Ultimately, however, the only thing of importance is God's opinion. Men can neither justify nor damn; only God can.... To be able to live before him--this is what we must seek. We don't need the slightest recognition from men; and we don't want it, either. We need only God's recognition on earth. His freedom, nobility, and superiority must captivate us. I do not want to be dependent upon anything else, so that I can be completely dependent upon God, his eternity, truth, and greatness.


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We should be in high humor all the day, strong in spirit, vigorous, godly, and powerful against all enemies and the hindrances of life.


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No cursing, no ill will, no contempt ever should be heard from our mouths; this is the new--perhaps brand-new--attitude that can work inconspicuously in our time. We have been prohibited from heaping hatred on our enemies, even when we have been totally misunderstood. Today it is this enemy-loving Jesus who has become great, in whom we are able to bear all enmity with hearts full of blessing.


WORK, DISAPPOINIMENT, AND FULFILLMENT

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When I see people as they are, when they are building things higher and higher, when they are aroused against all that is evil--I always see also that they will soon fill away, exhausted and sick. The weeds choke them; they don't have the breath of God; they think that, by external means, they can do what needs to be done; the breath of God has gone out of them.

Thus, our situation always would be hopeless, If it weren't that we have a great hope: the Lord sends reapers into the harvest first to dear out the weeds (Mt. 13:24-30). For me, this represents the most heartfelt need of our times. These reapers, we should know, are not men, not visible men. We could not possibly do this job. No one should think that he is able to loosen the weeds from any other person. He always will destroy the grain itself; and weeds look to him like good grain.

The weeds are actually people's desire for reputation one over another--envy, jealousy, and all. Yet all the greater is that which the Lord Jesus sees and proclaims and to which he also opens our eyes. There are the reapers whom the Lord very quietly sends into the harvest. These are invisible powers, including his Holy Spirit and his angels. These are all the million-faceted powers of the good that God has given. The time is coming when they will receive a knife in their hands; and the enemy of God and of men will be deprived of his fruit.


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Regarding that which the Lord is waiting to bring together for the first time, in quiet and obscurity God already has done a very great deal. The eternal God can create at the deepest, most hidden levels that which no human being notices, In fact, he creates much that, if our eyes were opened to see, would truly amaze us.... Indeed, on the surface it can look as though there were no God in heaven. Yet none of us sees into the depths; and God does not intend that we should be able to. Yet, if we are awaiting something--a new age, a time of redemption--then we dare not assume that this possibly would come overnight, without preparation.


DANGER OF DEGENERACY

Areas in which Blumhardtís thought might become distorted among his followers. -- V.E.
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  1. BEING QUIET OR QUIETISM?

    The hope derived from the light of the Holy Spirit also has its reverse side, namely, that we come alive and recognize that the hope itself is alive with possibilities for us--possibilities, we should say, that lie in God, certainly, but in the creation as well. There are people who think nothing more is possible than what they can see with their half-dead eyes. Thus, when they hope, it is a feeble matter, because they always think, "We can't do anything at all; everything must come down from heaven."

    It is different with those who know true hope; they be-come active on their own. How can I hope for a new heaven and a new earth in which justice dwells, how can I hope out of the strength of the Spirit, unless I am conducting myself in such a way that something more just, something better, can be created on earth? For everything God does must happen through us. It would be wrong for us to do nothing at all. As soon as God lays some promise in our hearts and he has laid it in our hearts that things shall be better--in his doing this, there also comes a certain strength: "Now begin! The hope is there; so you can begin!

    As in an earlier instance, Ragaz's personal predilection here again seems to have biased his choice of Blumhardt quotations, His heading has it exactly right in implying that "being quiet" is something different from "quietism." He is right, too, in suggesting that there is the danger that, among his followers, Blumhardt's position could degenerate into a humanistic, self-confident "activism." The full truth of Blumhardt will be better served if we supplement the Ragaz quotation by putting it into tension with these--again, taken from the Lejenne book, Chistoph Blumhardt and His Message, 77-78:
    "Waiting is a great strength. Waiting is a great deed."
    "Let us arise in the knowledge that a Christian is a helper in this hope, full of the strength of waiting."
    "Truly waiting people, true Christians who wait for the day of God's mercy upon all men, may gently spin the thread and twine it around the nations, tying them to our faith and preserving them for the day of Jesus Christ. What a coming of Christ that would be if many Christians were to say, 'I too want to do something, I want to be a strength in quiet, through my waiting for the sake of others.'"

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    I would say that, in a certain sense, it is a deception when Christians seek peace--if they understand peace as though, through the gospel, a comfortable life should be made for them. The opposite is the case. The verse is relevant here: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Mt. 10:34). We have peace as long as the battle endures--but only in the battle. A soldier has peace when the bullet hits him and he falls dead, as an honorable fighter in the war. A soldier does not have peace when he lies in his tent sleeping through the fighting.


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  3. FREEDOM OR FORMULA?

    The love of God makes free. We always have been free people, for we stand in the love of God. And I say to you, dear friend, "'Wherever you may be, if you succeed in saying 'Jesus' in such way that everything of your own falls to the ground and you come into the love of the Father, then you are free."

    The regime of God requires free people.... God needs flexible people; in the love of God we are uncommonly flexible. And in direct correlation to the needs of the kingdom of God we must be ready to change; we cannot continue century after century in onemanner.


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    God meets me in a completely different way than he does you. All of us may have the same concept of Yahweh; but he will never speak to you as he does to me; he will appear individually to you differently from what he does to me. There remains a certain freedom in every individual regarding our feeling for God and our relationship to him--even though we are united as one people through one Spirit. Yahweh is nothing mechanistic.


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    I cannot say more than that I would that everyone might he placed here, where we are weak, in order that, together, we could experience the kingdom of God. You should not say, "I am something, and you are nothing; you must become as I am!"--which generally is the way Christians relate to one another.... But the closer you are to the kingdom of cod, the more gentle and humble, the simpler you will become. Christ will become your life. ... Be meek, and thus Christ will rule.


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    The world will be captured for the kingdom of heaven without proselytism. In time, the conversion will happen of itself the more the rule of God becomes part of us, the more the eyes of others will be opened.... The more we succeed in accepting all of God, all of Jesus, all of the Holy Spirit, the more the world will become enlightened....

    At this point, Christians understand the word of Jesus in an entirely false way: "Go forth into all the world!" Do your going into the world in the greatest sense; but conversion is not your business. It doesn't even occur to the Lord Jesus to commission us to convert people! ... If the Spirit of God does not do the converting, we had just as well put our cause on the shelf. There is something so high and yet so hidden in human beings, something so exclusively the property of the Father in heaven, that, when it is ready to break free, our fumbling hands and course sense dare not interfere with the secret fabric of a human soul.


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    Jesus wants a people who will bring forth the good and yet leave the bitterest adversary his freedom.


  4. HEARTS OR HEADS? cfb

    Donít believe that we can accomplish anything toward the furtherance of Godís goal unless we, in some way, become honestly centered in him alone. Every other consideration is a matter of indifference. It is completely unimportant what, otherwise, we have in the way of "thoughts." We want to be prepared for him, because, in the end, it is the person of Christ that makes the difference and not some teaching from him or about him. In the meantime, then, we must look into the invisible and cry, "Jesus!" That is not so easy to do-that is, if one does it without "thoughts." With "thoughts," it is easy.

    Very many people come to me, all crying, "Jesus!"--but with thoughts. I first have to make them "thoughtless," because, in their calling to Jesus, they are laying down certain conditions, even though all unconsciously. They are calling for a Jesus of a particular color, so to speak. One person likes the color "pietism" and so wants only the pietist Jesus. Another prefers "churchliness" and wants the Jesus of that color. Thus, human preferences and thoughts set themselves up above Jesus himself.... When it comes to what people would rather have, whether Jesus or their own thoughts about him, they will fight to the death for their own thoughts....

    With the help of theological systems and convictions, anybody can call, "Jesus!" If a person can't do it for himself, he attaches himself to a teacher and, in the name of this teacher, calls, "Jesus!" But, without reserve, to have it that Jesus is Master, because he comes from God--that happens but seldom.... Yet, where someone calls, "Jesus," because that is what he perceives; where someone slips out of his human achievement, out of that into which he was born, out of what has become historical custom; where someone calls, "Jesus," and calls in faith--there wonders happen, there something flashes down from heaven, there one is overwhelmed by the holy.


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    It is not upon our thoughts that all depends but upon our hearts. The final outcome of religion must be simple enough that all can understand it.


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    Everyone must concede that the kingdom of God comes not through logical concepts but through surprises.


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    Jesus gives no religion, no philosophy or morals--he gives us power.


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    If the gospel were served only by us parsons, if it had to be maintained only by human wisdom from the pulpits of the learned, then it would have died long ago. Truly I say to you, it never comes to the place that things depend upon our knowing something scientific about Christianity or our remembering particular principles of faith and morals.... No, It is not that. The essence of Christianity is not to be found in our understanding. Rather, it is there where simple hearts are awakened time and again, there where resurrected people are present, the inexplicable ones for which science hasn't even words. If it were not for these joyous, faithful people, often coming from the lowest strata of society, then the gospel would die.


OUTLOOK AND TASK

It was in the fall of 1914 that Blumhardt spoke these words. -- V.E.
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Before peace can come, there is much darkness that must be overcome.... When that has happened, then it shall be said, "He comes! Our dear God has answered our hope in him and our understanding with him by again giving peace."... Thus we can rejoice--right now, in these troubled times. At least I am rejoicing, for I am certain that the living God is doing something among us. Following this sad time, a new grace will arise from him who is there and who was there and who will be there.

The entire history of the community of Jesus Christ has proven this: time and again, after the most sorrowful times, when one has believed that everything is going to smash, all at once our dear God is again there with his powerful help.... With you, I groan before God over the outbreak of the grievous events annihilating humanity. Yet these circumstances have come from God and are holy; there must be a transformation of all things.

God's ways lead through judgment; and that judgment must create good. A cleansing shall take place in our unclean society; and the word of God shall remain our light and comfort even in the death of an age and its culture. The kingdom of God will now be prepared in earnest; and I rejoice that, in his earnestness, God is now speaking with mankind. This is itself a grace which remains firm in our hearts. Trouble and the works of men will pass away. God's grace and the victory over sin, death, and hell will become fact even in our time.


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The last times very likely will be troubled in that, as the past perishes, a great mass of people will arise wanting to defend the behavior of their false persons and to gather the worshippers of that past.... It is written, "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Messiah!' or 'There he is!'--do not believe it" (Mt. 24:23).

We see, then, how certain cultivated religious causes will arise, claiming that Christ has become lost, when, in actuality, it is only the causes themselves that have become lost, i.e., very simply, they must disappear. For here lies a secret, namely, that until these false Christs are silenced, the true Christ will not let himself be heard aloud. You may believe that for certain. Yet we must also live through times when Christ is lost--and we must not cry for him to reveal himself clearly to the world. One must be sensible when one prays; today I would not at all want the Savior to join the cryings in the wilderness. Against the last shrieks of irrational religiosity, as they now echo through Christendom, we must plug our ears and look on serenely while these causes die. One day they must die; and until they have died, Christ cannot make his voice audible.


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We are convinced that in this time, when everything is being ruined and broken, inconspicuous seeds of the kingdom of God yet are being planted in the world. These seeds, which come from God himself, will not rot under the debris of the present day world but will much more truly, while the old is being rolled out of the way, grow upwards to serve as a transfiguration of the name "Jesus" to "The Christ of the World."

Therefore, let as much torment and grief take root here and there among people as will, we will not despair but rather look to the future with courage, not letting ourselves become dependent upon this or that law or human order but letting ourselves be dependent upon Jesus, the light of the world. He will live and conquer until the entire creation glistens with his light to the glory of God, until our race of men who have ever been lost finally find the path which alone will lead than to the goal, to the destiny which, as sons of God, they have in creation.


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CONCLUSION

We in the final battle stand,
Where Life and Death are fighting.
Remain, then, under God's command,
If wrong you would be righting.
The world, the old, is overthrown;
And Jesus' kingdom, it alone,
Arises from the ruins.

Copyright (c) 1968