Part Two (Continued)

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WHO FORGIVES ALL YOUR INIQUITY

Through this man Jesus forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is righteous. (Acts 13:38-39; from the German.)

This is the way of it! The Savior slips into us; and when anyone else wants to enter and demand a right to us, then he has to deal with the Savior. Our natural, sinful man is put behind; and the Savior steps forward and says, "What do you want? I stand security for this man. You have no more business here."

Even if the person still has a sin, he no longer has to negotiate about it; that is now the Savior's concern. And in this respect the person is righteous; no accuser can begin proceedings against him. Yet the Savior still negotiates with us regarding our sin. We must not be so stupid, as some evangelical Christians are, as to think that even God never deals with us regarding our sins. We are not righteous in the sense that God will no longer censure that which is sin, but rather in the sense that God now has us where he wants us, where he can do something with us. Yet, surely, he cannot leave us as the tramps we are.

It is here that we make a terrible blunder; and this is the glaring misunderstanding between the Evangelical and the Catholic Churches. One is as stupid as the other is. The fact of the matter is simply that God sees in us only the Savior. If the Savior can get into us, then we are righteous; but now God's dealings with us begin. God demands from us a total believing, but no less a total effort. And these lazy Christians who run about thinking that no one will ask whether they are doing anything or not--they will run up against it! It would be well to take to heart all the seven virtues of the Catholic Church.

It is amazing how immorally pious we can be. Yet, if a person is excessively pious without having morals, he becomes a fool. When a person has entered into grace, the first requirement is that he get set properly and then consider what is right according to the gospel, that is, that he perform works. I can't see why we should want to do away with works. For what purpose then do I have my faith? Surely that faith must prove itself in some way. "To believe" does not mean "to think." Believing means being; and being means becoming. If I am good, then good will be produced. But faith is produced by God; and works are produced by God; and it is thus one becomes a true person.

Prior to this, a person already is righteous. In that his sins are forgiven through Jesus--but this in itself is the equivalent of God's saying, "Give me that man; I'll manage with him all right." In this way the Savior stands up for us when, as a consequence of the preaching of the gospel, we are gripped by him, by his Spirit. This too must be correctly understood. The act of believing does not lie within our power, as if we could say, 'Till now I didn't want to believe; now I want to." Hold on a minute! You will be told when you are to believe; you don't simply come to the faith when you please. Faith is a gift and cannot be taken for yourself as you choose.

Of course, there are many people running about who think they have faith. They may have the language of Canaan; but they still do not believe. Often I prefer the unbeliever; at least he is honest. Faith comes out of preaching; preaching comes out of the Spirit; and the Spirit is God's.

When the Savior comes down and gives himself as the one who liberates, who delivers us through the gospel, then man breathes this redemption-air and comes in confidence to that one through whom redemption comes. Therefore, the words, "Every one who believes in him is righteous," are not meant to imply that a certain sovereignty has been given to man so that in his sins he is able to turn either to the devil or to the Savior. Rather, this is the meaning: he whom God sets within the sphere of the Savior so that he can recover his breath within the scope of redemption, this person recognizes that the help is coming to him from the Savior and consequently turns his eyes toward him. And it is this person who is saved. [It is not that he spied out a Savior for himself and chose him but that he recognized the rescuer who was at hand.] It is as though a man was drowning and then, in seeing someone on shore, is rescued.

This is faith, to have from the Savior the actual impression that he can help. Then one is saved; that is sufficient. That which we normally call "faith" is not enough. Many "believe" and yet do not have the impression that the Savior can help. And then, when they dispute against miracles, I think: "You surely don't have much of a faith. Someday, when you are sitting in hell, you will notice how little you believed that the Savior is the mighty one."

Your faith will not carry you from the earth by one hair's breadth; but the Savior will, by his miracle-working hand. We must not give the honor to our faith: the Lord Jesus shall have the honor. When a community is based upon him, then it becomes a truly evangelical church. Praise God, we have a God who makes right those who believe in him.

CFBL 1:103-108 (#21). Published table talk of January 11, 1884 (the last half).

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TRUE REPENTANCE

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and rewarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted." (Lk. 18:9-14)

It is not exactly easy to preach on this text. It is, of course, a message announcing the kingdom of God that, upon becoming effective in the hearer, gives God an opening to reveal his righteousness and truth on earth. Yet there is a great danger that the hearers will take this very message of repentance out of the hands of the messenger and make of it what they choose.

Every person has a natural propensity for repentance. We thirst for it, as it were, and then seize upon it when and how we choose. Thus, that which should be our first step toward God, often becomes the means by which we are estranged from God. We practice repentance only in such a way as to justify ourselves, and thus repentance becomes arrogance.

There thus come to be two forms of arrogance on earth instead of only one. The one form of arrogance belongs to the world. As long as things are going well, the world exalts itself through its own accomplishments and claims a place alongside God. The other form shows up in devout people who have justified themselves through repentance--or suppose that they have justified themselves by worshiping God in their particular way. Thus a religious structure emerges which presumes to set itself up alongside God, or even against God, just as the worldly structures do. These religious forms of arrogance are the more dangerous because the sacred is involved in them....

We can see clearly how both sorts of arrogance showed up in the story of the Savior, how they gave him trouble in becoming the Savior he wanted to be. There were only few--very few--who were willing to give themselves up to him. Worldly arrogance--represented by King Herod and others--as it encountered Christ, obviously could not give itself up. These people wanted to profit from the Savior: he was to be good for them, he was to contribute to them; but they didn't want to give anything to him, they did not wish to give themselves up.

Yet the other side acted no differently, the devout of the land, the Pharisees, those in whom resided the actual strength of Israel, those through whom the Bible had come to the people, those who were the guardians of morality. They wanted a prophet; but when a prophet came, they did not want to give themselves up to him. They wanted to remain what they were; and God was supposed to serve them just as they were. That is how it was in those times, and the apostles later had to struggle against the same thing in the early church. People again used repentance and faith to fabricate a religion that took the ground right out from under God's feet.

And what shall I say about how it is today? ... In our day human society in general has attained tremendous proficiency. It creates conditions and arrangements without the need of any help from God. In trade and traffic, which have been promoted by machines of all kinds, in human employment as it has been arranged and is in progress everywhere, one does not require God. On the thoroughfare of life one needs steam engines and machines and the like; nothing else is necessary. One does not need God as a power.

This character, more than anything else, makes our age what it is. And in this age in which everything is moving forward with such human proficiency, there must at some point be a people who cry out: "Halt! Halt! It must not be like this! God be merciful to me a sinner!" Our religion, our Christianity, our church, our best arrangements, our progress in culture, our social life, all these together must teach us to cry: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" That is the opening for the kingdom of God.

It takes courage to become quiet and to contemplate these things a little, to force them out of human hands so that one can come to faith again and stand as a poor person before God, acknowledging the truth that all this splendid life is of no use regarding that which is most important. Indeed, human proficiency ultimately leads to an end which must be called "destruction"--unless new powers enter into the process, powers of God, the rule of God wherein Christ can reign and be victorious, living and bringing into being what God wills rather than what man wills.

Will we achieve this? I hope so. Therefore, I present my old slogan again and will keep saying it until somebody understands: "Die, then Jesus will live!"

Perhaps you understand a little now what I mean by dying: surrender! When you die physically you must surrender your best, your body; and that is difficult to do, is it not? Why is it you must surrender it? Because, as it now is, it cannot live. In its present condition it is destroyed; one cannot make any eternal use of it.

At some point, every person inevitably has the feeling that he cannot continue any longer. And as painful and as unnatural as the surrender of the body is, one finally longs for it. It is similar with our inner being. Therefore, when he appears among us, the Savior says, "Give me your best! In me, die to your best, because, as you have it today, it serves no good purpose. You must take it out of your hand and put it into mine."

Do you willingly surrender that which you have created and which is your own, so that you offer yourself completely to God as Christ offered himself to God on the cross and placed everything into God's hand? Can you surrender like that?

In our day, God wants us no longer to be proud toward others; rather, we are to be humble, as was the tax collector of our scripture. We are in need of a justification before God; we do not need any sort of self-justification! All these books and sermons which praise us as world reformers do us no good. But when we stand as poor sinners and say, "Father in heaven, we have lost out; our cause is done for. Everything we have is so saturated with the human, has taken such wrong BLOCKQUOTEections, and even has so much blasphemy in it, that we give everything back to you. Here we stand; God be merciful to us sinners," ... then to us the Savior must say, "It is your fault that I am being blasphemed among the people, because what you Christians have is not what I brought. You have built your church exactly as you wanted it." Today matters are such that God must adjust himself to every person's ideas. Whatever way a person may choose to practice his piety, God must submit to it. In each church he must don a different cloak, so to speak, a cut that we prescribe for him. This we must acknowledge as our guilt--and thus will we become sinners who can be justified....

It is not this: Make yourselves great, then you will be proclaiming the Savior to the world. No, no, you pitiful man, die in the blood of Jesus Christ; be humble before all people and especially before God; renounce all arrogance; give yourself over to the hope that you will indeed conquer.

However, it is not you who conquers! The only Conqueror in the world is Jesus Christ. We must make way for him; in him we must live and move and have our being. We must stand up for him in repentance, crushed in our own being, sacrificing all that is our own, even the very best that we have. To submit ourselves to him body and soul, with nothing of self remaining--that will assist him to conquer. Truly, dear friends, he is the real Conqueror! Praise God, we know it! He is alive; we know it! The kingdom of God is in his hand; we know it!

CFBL, 2:279-88 (#38). From a stenographic copy; a sermon preached August 9, 1891. Very much condensed.

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THE POOR

The Lord does not forget the cry of the poor. (Ps. 9:12b; from the German.)

It is a good thing that we have the privilege of being poor. We do not have in mind only the poverty of not knowing how we will be able to make ends meet. That, of course, is a part of it; but it is only secondary. Our truer poverty lies in our effort to achieve what God has in mind for us; it is there that we are indeed most poor.

Many people put all their effort into nonessentials. They concern themselves with things near at hand, seeking to make their own way and arrive at human joy: "Let us eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die!" It is this situation the Bible calls "being rich." These people, of course, are as poor as anyone is. Yet, at least superficially, they are known as rich. In their relation to God, they act as though they are rich. They gobble down every sweet that comes to hand; and when God comes with his nourishment, they are already satisfied; they turn their backs and want nothing.

Strangely enough, it is these poorest of the poor who are called rich; and it is another group who is known as poor. These others have their minds set on something better, something higher; and in their striving they have concluded that ultimately man can be helped only by God himself. When a person arrives at this realization, he has made himself an utter pauper. No self-help here! If everything depends upon God, then it simply does not depend upon us. And the more a person becomes aware that things do not depend upon himself but upon God, the poorer he becomes. And thus the word becomes true: "Blessed are the poor, the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."

It is the cry of these poor ones that the Lord does not forget; these are in fact his people on earth. It is their vocation, so to speak, to receive God and not let themselves be satisfied with anything else. A person in this position is truly poor, because now he has no means of help unless God stands by him. What now are wealth and praise and honor--even health and life? What are these if we have not the person of God as our treasure? All else is worthless. Now one is beggarly poor--and yet rich.

At present, after the world has struggled for thousands of years to become rich, it is not easy to let oneself be numbered among the poor. Yet God always sees to it that there are poor people; and that is of benefit to the development of the kingdom of God. When God finds a noble soul, he creates the circumstances of life that will prevent him from becoming rich. This person does not triumph even in spiritual matters; he cannot say, "I have everything; I know everything."

It follows that someone who is weighed down with a particular burden, who cannot seem to find inner rest, of whom cheerfulness and laughter are not companions--he nevertheless can be quite content. God may be doing a work with him so that he can join the ranks of the poor; his cry may be essential in God's finding a point of contact with mankind. For such a person things often are hard, especially in regard to other people who apparently are doing well. He would like to cry out: "Am I to live in misery, to be counted of no worth among men, to be embarrassed? Am I to be weeping while others make merry?" Why does God not give me freedom and make me strong?" Indeed, the whole world conspires to convince him that he is a fool if he does not have the same aspirations as others....

So it is no simple and easy matter to be one of the poor and the grieving--and yet this is the very best of situations for us human creatures at the present time. There are today swarms of superficial Christians who wish only to live always on the heights, to feel blessed; but they can't bring it off. Their high lasts only for a time, like intoxication. A person can intoxicate himself; he can become intoxicated with the Bible, or with religious practices; he can get himself increasingly impassioned over something and then find that it amounts to nothing at all. None of these things endure.

On the other hand, if people are poor and intent upon complaining about it, we must tell them: "Be content; thank God that you do not belong to the rich, that you are one who has good reason to sigh! Or have you it in mind to forget about God, too? Do your sighing in faith, and then you are rich, even when you have cause to sigh."

It is essential that there be people who cry out as though there were no God in the world. Of course, he is in the world; but most people are totally separated from him. They go their own ways; and on those ways they go to ruin. They carry on all manner of activities that spell godlessness; and thus mankind makes it appear that there is no God in heaven able to work effectively on earth.

Under these circumstances a person certainly has the right to cry out, because a jolly Christianity is the greatest possible folly in a world where millions of brothers and sisters are brought to ruin daily; where murder and killings and deception and cruelty and envy and greed and passion destroy everything; where nations strike out to destroy one another; where people work each other's destruction; where all is dark. In such a world, the cry may well be a vehement one, even to the point of accusing God, "Why have you forsaken us?"

To say that in the right spirit certainly is not unbelief; it is rather a suffering with the world--the world that is, in fact, forsaken by God. Although God loves the world, the world truly is removed from him. And when the poor, amidst everything they already have, yet in faith come to be hungry--when they hunger for the nearness of God, hunger for the appearing of the Savior in the final resurrection, hunger for the Holy Spirit who is to be our teacher and guide, hunger precisely for these things of God--then they do not commit sin as they cry out.

Even if I possess something that can satisfy me personally but still have this hunger, then I belong to the poor. Nor can it be held against me when I cry out, because the poverty of the world is so great and the general deprivation of mankind is so pressing. Thus the most gifted people, those most richly endowed, can truly come to be reckoned among the poor. The Savior himself joined the poor; and certainly he was rich with the gifts of God. Yet ultimately he was the poorest of the poor and was forced to cry out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

In this cry lies our way to God and God's way to us. But as long as we still have some little resource of our own which, under the circumstances, can satisfy us, then we do not break through to the kingdom of heaven, to the power of the kingdom of heaven which is required for the overcoming of the world. A little bit of the kingdom of heaven will not overcome the world. A merely general providence over mankind will not overcome the world. No, it is through the poor that the BLOCKQUOTEect and total rule of God must be drawn into the world in order to overcome it....

So, we must be poor, because it is precisely through our poverty that we are rich. We, apparently unfortunate, are yet in fact richly blessed, because the influence of the poor of the world is greater in its effect than the influence of the greatest kings and emperors. It is precisely through these poor that God's own kingship is drawn to earth.

CFBL, 3:130-37 (#19). Table talk of April 25, 1898 (first half).

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GOD'S SHEEP

As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. (Ezek. 34:12)

Expressions similar to this one from Ezekiel appear frequently in the Holy Scripture; and these words contain the great thought of God that must be heard and understood among men. The thought of God always is this: No one is to remain lost. God regards everything that we would call lost as his possession.

With Abraham and even earlier, nothing was ever given up. It is not as though God settled for Abraham when Abraham believed in him. Certainly not! Always, God sees beyond Abraham--and at Abraham's expense! Abraham is not to gain at the expense of the world; but Abraham is to suffer for the benefit of the world. At Abraham's expense, God looks toward all the generations of earth. Israel is called, not that God might have a people in whom he can take pleasure, but that through this people he might reach the nations, the masses of mankind which are his sheep. At Israel's expense, God goes out to the nations, And in this same great thought of God, Jesus Christ enters the world, coming into the flesh. It is not that God will settle for a dear Son and a few disciples serving him, No, at the expense of Jesus and his disciples, God is again looking to the nations, Jesus himself says: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also...." [Jn. 10:16]. At Jesus' expense, God is going out to the nations; at the church's expense, the world is to be blessed.

In this economy of the kingdom of God it becomes dear what our calling is if we, like Abraham and the prophets, wish to be servants of God in Jesus Christ, to be light in the world. God does not clothe his beloved Christians in velvet and silk and make them blessed in preference to other people; rather, at the expense of his disciples, God wants to make others blessed. We must submit ourselves to God so that we can be, so to speak, God's reserve forces when he goes out to look for his sheep. We must stand as pillars; and, as with our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, we must not falter or waver when, at our expense, God moves out to the nations, to the lost and neglected.

This solidity must be evident in the genuine disciples of Jesus if God is to depend upon them. But such firmness is rare, because we pillars wobble when the demand is made of us: "Give up your body and your life, your possessions and blood, for this cause of God. Do not seek your own interests; but consider, rather, that you will be last to receive the benefits, Only when the others have received the blessing will you receive it."

We who, in Jesus, constitute a people of God must not seek rest until God has found rest, until the lost have been found. You understand now why the work of God does not progress as rapidly as it might; there are not enough people at whose expense God can operate. Man's egoism is too great; and this egoism has corrupted our very faith in God. People seek their own interests in God and thereby lose the character of the fighter and the pillar. They waver; and God has, so to speak, no support.

They waver in a twofold way. They waver in the sense of murmuring when things go ill with them, when it is demanded that they give up their life so that the love of God can reach others, when they are to become a sacrifice for the cause of God. They do not understand what it means to die in the name of God, for the victory of the kingdom of God. It often seems strange to me that people do not understand this. They gladly die for their fatherland; why then do Christians not want to die for their own cause, for the will of God, for the Father of nations? If men of the world can die for their fatherland, why can we not die for the Father? I have often wondered why it is precisely the Christians who become the most egoistic of people.

On grounds of the blood of Jesus Christ, people boast of their own salvation. This is bad! If the blood of Jesus Christ is upon you, then you can claim nothing other than that your life belongs to God and that the lost are to be saved at your expense.

The blood of Jesus Christ means that it will cost us our life that the kingdom of God might come. We must not waver--we must not even blink our eyes--when we suffer some loss because of our commitment to the kingdom--even if this means total loss and the giving up of life itself.

But people who should be pillars waver also for another reason: they do not love. They are asked to allow others to share their place with them, and this annoys them; they cannot imagine that someone else is to be their equal. They pass sentence and condemn; they judge and decree condemnation for the world, which they regard as odious.... One must have a certain reputation, a certain status in the world, a certain rank, in order to be recognized. We are always intent upon surrounding ourselves with those who have this recognition. We never get near those who are rejected; we ignore them, they are of little concern to us....

Yet neither sin nor devil nor hell carries weight; only man has value. Why, then, do you who are devout condemn the others? Why do you make it difficult for them? Why do you deny them consideration and love? I am afraid our religious societies will never learn what it means to love as God, in his Son, loved the world. We always assume that we have come to God for our own sake; religious people assume that they must eternally be regarded as the honored ones. Nevertheless, it just possibly could be that the spirits that now are exalted will experience wailing and gnashing of teeth and that those who now are despised by them will experience joy and bliss....

Of course, it is not we who can get to the lost ones; we cannot seek them. Let no pastor or missionary imagine that he can; we are not commissioned to do that. There is only one shepherd who can seek the lost, and that is Jesus--and the will of God within him. But we are to constitute God's reserve forces on earth, and in this way he must be able to reach them.... We cannot seek; we can only walk among men as those who yield body and life in the service of this will of God that does seek the lost. So don't try so much to change people! You are always working to convert them according to your pattern, to drive them into your institutions; and there they are to be sheep who jump to your whip. Do not work so much; but be pillars that do not waver when God is getting to the lost....

I believe that Jesus Christ will come, not from heaven as we suppose, but from his haven. The Savior's heaven is there where God has his throne; and his throne is not only in heaven but, as it is written, with the destitute and broken. It is from this heaven Jesus will come, from this heaven where millions of people sigh and groan in their distress. And that is my heaven, too. I decline your heaven of bliss; I do not want to enter there. The heaven into which I want to enter, the heaven of my Jesus, is where he gives his blood and life that men may receive help--there where the apparently godless are, the apparently rejected and unbelieving. This is the heaven of Jesus Christ.

It will come as the greatest of surprises when one day the word will be heard: "These were my lowliest ones, and you did not feed them!" Why did you not feed them? We thought they were devils! "They were in prison, and you did not visit them!" Why did you not visit them? We thought they were devils! Now they are the lowly ones of God who are languishing in misery; and I say: There is the heaven of Jesus Christ, there is the God who leaves the ninety-nine righteous ones in the wilderness and seeks the lost sheep.

CFBL, 3:315-22 (#46). Published table talk of June 10, 1899, abridged.

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ZION, THE MOUNTAIN OF PEACE

In the days to come
    the mountain of the LORDís house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
    and many nations shall come and say:
"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
    to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
    and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
    and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war any more; (Mic. 4:1-3)

"What is the point of origin for God's supervision of the nations?" We answer: The existence of Zion, the mountain of peace, is the basis of all God's decisions in world history. Not for their own sake, but for the sake of Zion, nations must fall and rise again. "I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life" (Isa. 43:4), God says with reference to the continuance of his Mount Zion.

What then is Zion on earth? We say concisely: Zion is the Savior, Jesus Christ, and what belongs to him. With him is bound up a history on earth in which, in ever widening circles, individual people, whole nations, and ultimately the whole world shall be caught up. The goal of this history is a kingdom of peace based on a new world order. All of God's utterances through the prophets tell us this. Likewise, all the verdicts of God are manifested in judgment and grace, because, in consequence of these, all nations shall come and worship God (Rev. 15:1).

The faith that this mountain of peace has its triumphal history in Jesus, to the honor of God the Father; and the assurance that, in the interests of total victory, God the Almighty governs not only the church of Christ but all nations as well--these make us happy and confident and allow our hearts to become wide, since through these we become emancipated from paltry jealousy against each other.

Before God, all nations have equal worth; yet, in the course of time, those people are blessed who enter into God's plans with a self-denying love that seeks the good of all nations. The history of Zion, this mountain of peace, is not open for all to see, as is the transitory history of a nation. The stirrings of God's kingdom-history originate in eternity and reach the nations in a variety of juridical sentences; but people seldom see the connection between their moment of history and the sovereign rule of the King of Kings. Yet the person who believes does perceive something of this connection and trembles with longing for progress in the history of Mount Zion.

The word of God which we have in our text intensifies this longing to no end, because it predicts a time when that history no longer will be concealed--when it will be openly manifest before all eyes that Mount Zion (or, let us now say, Jesus and his judgments) alone is immutable and thus can alone be regarded as the highest good and most desirable goal in all the world.

When God's rule in Christ breaks through into the world, and when the new law of life embodied in Christ becomes dominant, then we shall see the salvation of all creation. In him, all things have life; and that which has died we shall see return to life. In him, too, we shall see the removal of all the evil from among the nations. His disciples experience something of these realities even now. What will it be when the nations acknowledge them?

No wonder our text speaks with excitement: "And they shall come and say: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that he may teach us his ways." Here the promise is given that Zion's salvation shall become known to the nations. It is not that God shall seek them; rather, they shall seek God on this Zion, in the name of the Lord Jesus. It will become clear to them that, from here, laws are issued which man needs in order to live, that here is to be found the life-giving word of God which can create a new birth.

When, in coming to the knowledge of Mount Zion, the nations renounce their old ways in order to gain something new, the result will be the beginning of a great age of peace, a rapid transition to a new life upon a new earth under a new heaven. All this, God will accomplish through Mount Zion. Peoples and nations will come under the judgment of Jesus Christ; and he it will be who, in the end, will compel the hearts of the nations. He will do so with a strong hand and stern righteousness although without forgetting his primary work of reconciliation. What shall be well forgotten are the deeds of the murderer and the liar and the long centuries of bloodletting. We shall recognize one another as God's people, who are called to works of peace, who, together, can again become the crown of creation through our head, Jesus Christ.

As we remember, let us always do so with a view to this great goal of Zion, the mountain of peace, loftier than all the mountains of the world.

CFBL, 1:199-202 (#39). Written for the commemoration of the Franco-German War of 1870 and published in Stuttgarten Evangelisches Sonntagsblatt, August 30, 1885 (second half).

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THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD

The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Rom. 3:22)

This is a verse that has become utterly distorted in translation. There is no "righteousness before God" in the sense that the righteousness that I acquire through faith has validity before God. Rather, the Bible always says, as it does here, that God's righteousness has been revealed through faith in Jesus Christ for all that believe. That is something very different.

I am not to inquire subjectively whether I will be justified before God. I am to ask how God's righteousness may come upon me--objectively. Open your ears--I'll say it again. We are not to ask, "Will I be justified before God?" but rather, "How do I attain the righteousness of God?" The Bible never says, "The righteousness which is valid before God." Luther translated it that way because he had an erroneous idea in his head, and so the Bible had to submit.

The Bible always says "God's righteousness"; and this is achieved through faith, not through the law. Legalism does not achieve God's rightness and truth; but our conduct in faith toward God brings us God's righteousness. The world cannot of itself attain this; and you cannot attain it, either. All your effort is in vain. You may struggle all your life to do everything to a "T." You may be as brave and as good as you like. You may found a society which is smooth as a mirror, where people hardly laugh anymore, let alone dance and frequent the bar, and where the daily activity is only rising, praying, working, praying, eating, praying, sleeping, praying. Go ahead and create such a society; the world will not be helped thereby. All your effort to be righteous before God is nothing but a waste of time.

Are you sure that it is not occasionally the righteousness of God to dance? If it pleases God that you dance once in a while, why don't you dance then? Did not David have to dance once for the sake of God? "But I don't approve," you say. Their legalism rises against righteousness, and legalism strikes the deathblow.

Can the righteousness of God still get a hearing in the churches today? No, the righteousness of God has to adjust itself to the church's legalism. We stray into superstition and bad habits, because we seek out righteousness before God; and that is wrong. You are not to be righteous; God wants to be righteous. You are not to seek what would be your own righteousness. You can't succeed; that doesn't amount to anything. What do you think you can do that would in any way honor God? Your concern should be that God's righteousness enters the world.

This can happen when you offer yourself to Christ and say, "It is not I who live; Christ is to live; the righteousness of God comes through him." And God's righteousness can be revealed in you just as you are. You can exemplify the righteousness of God even while you are sick; therefore, rejoice! You can exemplify the righteousness of God while you are in temptation and distress; therefore, rejoice! God wants only for you to allow him to be at work in his righteousness.

There is a purpose of God in our having to endure struggle. It makes no difference if we feel ourselves to be sinners, as long as we know that God is dealing with us as he chooses. We must not seek ourselves and our righteousness; we must seek to have God enter into the world with his righteousness. And when he says that, with his coming, we will see ourselves all the more as sinners, then we must rejoice and gladly acknowledge ourselves to be such, if only God comes with his light. Though I may be black as coal, yet I know that, when the light of the righteousness of God comes, I may well be burned but I nevertheless will arise anew in the righteousness of God.

Yet this objectivity has been utterly lost in Christianity. "I want to stand before God--I, I, I!" Oh, you poor man, don't worry about your standing before God; but see to it that God and his righteousness can get to you whether you stand or not! And if he must strike you down, rejoice, because you will rise again afterwards. But your first concern should be not that you gain something but that God does....

Submit yourself so that the righteousness of God can jolt and shake you. Do not seek to be reckoned righteous; that would be at least partially deception, as though God were to say: "It doesn't matter even if you are not properly clean; I won't look too carefully. Just believe that you are credited with being righteous." No, the righteousness of God must get into the world in an honest fashion; otherwise all Christianity is useless!

What kind of a world do we have? A Christian world? Yes, but one full of unrighteousness! Yet God wants to dwell with us; he wants us to make a way so that he personally can rule in every heart. For this reason Jesus died and has said, "Die with me so that our God may come, so that his righteousness may come upon earth." Rejoice, then, when everything is destroyed. When body and soul suffer pain and are in trouble, rejoice! The righteousness of God must be revealed in all flesh.

But when that which Godcalls "righteous" is revealed, then you will be surprised. We don't anymore know what is right and pleasing to God. Actually, only one thing pleases him--and that is when he sees that I am not pleased with myself, when I say that I, with all my house, want to be broken in pieces because no part of me is wholly right. This attitude alone sustains me! In nothing that we carry on here--whether eating and drinking, sleeping or working--is there yet righteousness. We still can't do anything right. We still have not been able enough to make a way for God; and, consequently, we are perplexed in many matters.

And yet, finally, the world must be saved through righteousness and judgment. So we must crucify ourselves and exert effort; and perhaps then God's righteousness will yet be revealed--whether in judgment or in kindness, either way will suit me fine. We dare not stand up to face the nations before this righteousness has been established. A preaching of the gospel behind which there is nothing but unrighteousness has very little value.

We don't even know, for example, whether God approves our sitting in church. When you have worked all week and are tired, then, under certain circumstances, it may be right for you to stay in bed--and it may be a disgrace to God when you place your broken body on the hard church pew. God wants to lead us according to the truth of life; and he may despise our best because there is falsehood in it. He may indeed say, "Get away from me with your bawling; seek righteousness and not legalism."

It is terribly discouraging that one little word could have caused such confusion for centuries. Because Luther said, "I seek my righteousness in faith," the entire Lutheran Church has adopted a wrong course. I do not want to force this idea onto people; they wouldn't understand it anyway. But I, personally, want to make an about-face; and I hope that, if I accomplish it, God can deal with me in such way that something comes out of it that will serve others as well.

We must sacrifice ourselves for the righteousness of God. Forget about yourself. Don't always seek to be right in yourself; pray only that God may come. He will jolt you, of course; and the deepest motives of your being will be exposed; and these things cannot occur without much bitter pain. But let us rejoice even when the way leads through the severest judgments. Let us rejoice in the judgments, because we do not want to become happy with our sins, but we want God to rejoice in his creation; and we do not wish to stand between him and his creation any longer. Only in this way do we serve God aright; and then he can use us once more.

CFBL, 2:434-38 (#57). From a stenographic copy; table talk of September 28, 1893, slightly condensed.

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WONDERS

In your majesty ride on victoriously
    For the cause of truth and to defend the right;
And let your right hand perform wonders.
(Ps. 45.4-second part from the German)

This we know for certain: if the Lord once should draw the line in this world according to truth and right, then wonders would have to come crashing in upon one another, because at the same time, that which has become crooked would have to be broken and straightened out. Things will not straighten out on their own They have become so accustomed to being crooked that they will have to be broken, as when a doctor breaks a limb that has grown crooked in order to straighten it out. The doctor is harsh and must use force; but when God rides forth for the cause of truth, things go more easily, because he does not use force; he uses wonders. He enables things to become normal again, so that the perverted is made right and the crooked straight--and, with that, a "wonder" has occurred.

These wonders of God always come in connection with truth, in connection with the right. Consequently, they are never marvels that astound and leave us confused as to what their meaning might be. Always light is produced; always things make sense; always the event has moral value. Therefore, we do not really have to beg for wonders; we need simply pray: "Dear God, be so kind as to draw the line according to truth in our house!

Work according to the right among us, that is, in the hearts that are here. Dispense with ceremonies, and move straight ahead!"

Then there will be no lack of wonders. Wherever it is needed, things will be made right; and there will not be cause for a great Commotion about it. If difficult matters present themselves, or if you get into a very perplexing situation and don't know which way to turn, don't just catch hold of the situation at the point where its awkwardness is apparent and seek to heal it from there. That awkwardness one must bear and suffer. But look behind, where something is not right, and say to God, "Make that right! Here is something of falsehood, and there; I can't remove it; you will have to do it! " Then the wounds will heal; and the awkwardness on the outward side of life will fail away when inwardly matters are established according to the truth.

We have no inkling of how much falsehood there is inside man, how much self-deception, how much self-conceit, how much ill will, how many deaf ears. And all this can be so cunningly hidden, while outwardly one appears quite polished. A whole society can appear to be very elegant, while underneath it amounts to nothing. This is the cause of many maladies, because one trouble leads to others. Physical deformity is a result of the deformity and distortion in the inner part of mankind and of the individual. Of course, it is not as though the distress of the individual--say, his physical illness--is necessarily the BLOCKQUOTEect result of his own inner perversion. No, everything is intertwined. We are like a chain in which the corporate deformity produces its fruits right along with those of individual deformity, to the point that we cannot determine from where this or that stems. We can only say that, in general, if things were operating closer to truth and right, matters would be very different. Therefore, we don't pray, "Do wonders!" but rather, "Let truth prevail! Let things be broken so that they can be set right!" Ask this, and we don't need to concern ourselves about the rest.

This verse is a real encouragement for me, because recently I have had great trouble concerning the wonders being performed nowadays, Often I am asked what one should make of them. Through Spiritism, Magnetism, and the like, men perform the greatest wonders, healing everything. And the whole business is Christian! They say:

We all believe in one true God,
Jew, Christian, Turk, and Hottentot.

There are stories, too, of the immediate effectiveness of the laying on of hands. People are struck with astonishment. Yet these all are oddities and not wonders; they are not bound up with some truth. Assume for the moment that one of these people were able to heal all the sick at one blow; what would we have gained? Then we could jump about for a little while, until we got sick again! Beyond that, nothing would have been achieved.

I am saying this only to make you cautious. God shall perform wonders, true--yet only if they grow from the setting right of the inner man. There must be a basis, a kingdom-basis, from which we are illumined and renewed in our godly aspects. It is there that the wonders shall take place; and then we can shout for joy when outward things become right because of what has happened inside.

However, then the significance of outward wonders diminishes; one does not speak so much of the healing of the body. This wanting to heal from the outside inwards makes me very suspicious of all such phenomena; and I would like to draw your attention to it. Spiritism can cure; Magnetism can cure; sorcery can cure; and now prayer can cure, too--everything can cure. Everyone wants help in the area of medicine. Yet they want only to be healed; they have no interest in God! And it is strange that, in these stories of healing, it always is added, "So and so many doctors have confirmed it!"--as though it were necessary for the doctors to confirm God!

I am quick to say for the sake of our house: I am sorry that we have acquired a reputation of healing and have been placed on a plane with so-called Prayer-Cure Institutions. Yet anyone who has been with us for a while must certainly be aware that this is not what we are after. I do not want to see a single miracle performed upon anyone that is not the consequence of the inner righting of that person. I would be afraid for the person who got well so quickly. He would deceive himself if he supposed that he was something now that his little finger had been healed. He would be spiritually deceived!

"Therefore, O Lord, ride forth for the cause of truth! Make hearts right! Let the inner man become something genuine and proper!" And then what can and must take place in the outward man will happen of itself.

CFBL, 1:230-33 (#46). First part of the table talk of January 30, 1886; published. Abridged.

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NEVERTHELESS I WILL HOLD TO THEE

Nevertheless I will hold to thee;
    you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me with honor.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    and there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Ps. 73:23-26. First line from the German).

The subject of this passage is God, whom very few people understand. When we read such words, we must consider how the psalmist was able to say: "Nevertheless I will hold to thee."

In what way do I havehim? Is God something one can grasp? Can one lay hold of him with the hands? If a strong man is standing at my side and I am in danger of falling, I hold on to him: then I can say: "If only I have you. then I will not fall." But what then is God?

In our misery we have made it a habit to say, "God! God! God!" But with very few people is there any substance behind the cry, because, when God does something rather different from what they expected, they fall anyway and remain down until some other person comes and helps them up. Thus there is a whole flood of terminology with which these people satisfy themselves, because it is part of social etiquette in our day to be just a little pious. But when life comes to the point where "their flesh and their heart may fail," then they despair: "No, I cannot bear to have my soul fail, or I am undone!"

Or if heaven and earth tremble, if my fate on earth becomes uncomfortable or difficult, brings conflict or heartache, then to what shall I hold? Where is my God then?

When we read the scriptures, we are always amazed at how firm a stand those people were able to take. We must consider, however, that in Israel they did not speak of God in the giddy way we do. When they spoke of God they thought of him in relation to something, something established upon earth; and it was to that they fastened themselves. When, therefore, the author of this psalm said, "Nevertheless I will hold to thee always! ... If I have only thee! ... Thou art my God!" he was thinking of something he had experienced--and that was God. Consequently, the Israelites called God "Yahweh"--meaning "he who has so given himself as to be experienced," he of whom it can be said: "There he is! Lay hold of him!" That is what the word "Yahweh" means: "There he is!" And with him I will remain, where he is.

And where was he? He was with Abraham and began something there. He was with Isaac and continued there. He was with Jacob and made further progress there. He was with Joseph, with Moses, and there proved himself the one who acts, out of whose deeds a people emerged, a people presenting itself time and again as a savedpeople.

Following these accomplished deeds, the promises of God appeared. As he has done once, so he will do again. And his history is eternal, for God is with us. He has begun a work; and he will bring it to completion!

Thus the biblical people reminded themselves of the history that lay behind them--not merely their national history, but also the life-history that lay behind each one. Their personal history fell into place as a part of world history, as part of their national history. Read the hymn of praise that Mary sang, or the thanksgiving hymn of Hannah or Deborah, or the many psalms that people of this sort sang. All of them were people of the world who in their own lot were experiencing the great story of God in the world.

At times things went against them, and it seemed as though they had fallen prey to destruction; but then they rose, and there they were again! In this up-and-down of events, of individual fortunes and those of the nation, they observed God; they saw how God steps in to act. Out of these many experiences an image of God was formed in the hearts and emotions of the Israelites. They never philosophized about God as we do; a Jew would have been ashamed to do that!

But we have carried on for thousands of years now--and one stupidity follows another. We lose the vision of what God already is in us and what of him already has become history in us--and then we are unable to endure hardship. Poor rogues that we are, we immediately suffer defeat and give up in despair:

"Where then is God?" We see only outward things; and according to how these affairs are going, we are either contented or we are not. And thus God, the living God, the God who reveals himself, of whom one can say, "There he is!" does not acquire a people; and man loses the ground under his feet....

We must come to the point where we can experience God again and in that experience have fellowship with him. I am not talking about any sort of theology; something much more real than words must enter our being! There must be deeds! Deeds are true, and on them one can stand secure. By them, we regularly can observe, in our own lives or in the lives of others, that God has begun a work! ... We must have in mind something specific. Thus, we keep insisting that something be experienced. You must consider talk as something quite secondary. Others may instruct all they wish; we want experience. And, praise God, not only do we want it, but we actually get it.

Frequently I experience something, so that, in my room, I am compelled to fall down on my face in thankfulness and worship before God and say, "Praise and thanks be to God, that person is now saved for eternity!" The person himself, of course, is jubilant and happy too; yet, often he does not know what a great thing he has experienced. If tomorrow something unpleasant comes along, he is laid low, whimpering. It is as though he had been given a mere penny, so readily he throws away his experience!

We must acquire wisdom. We must get to the place where, if for decades we experience nothing and it seems as though God is leading us through a tunnel, we keep reminding ourselves that once we did stand in the sun. If there was nothing to experience and one was forced back upon "spiritual uplift," I would have nothing to say; such hours of inspiration pass away. If we had only spiritual inspiration to depend upon, then we would be the most miserable people on earth.

But do not be unduly anxious; God gives to his children as they sleep. Just keep your heart in the right place and remain inwardly attentive. When an action of God does take place, then open your eyes! In that way, a person can experience something, whether it be in the spirit (in which case the experience is adapted to your total being and remains perfectly natural) or whether it be in the physical life. But one can experience something if he wishes to, Even if one does not desire experience, he may get it nonetheless; but he will not perceive it. One could even be very pious in all this; but he would not then understand the words of our psalm.

If we stand within the kingdom of God, we must expect his action in history. We can observe God in world history today, too. In the whole world we can see something of the rule of God and can say, "No human being did that!" But a person is not an accurate observer if he sees the world only from the perspective of his own partisan viewpoint; that which is of God cannot then be seen.

One cannot imagine a newspaper today that would be like the books of the Kings, observing and judging the history of Germany according to good or evil. With us, it is the custom to distinguish between Frenchmen and Germans, between nobility and peasants, between various social strata and religions, but not between good and evil. In that regard, we give no verdict! We would have mankind divided between churchgoers and non-churchgoers; but this distinction is not to be found in the Bible. That is why the Bible is so refreshing--it makes a distinction only between good and evil.

If we have eyes to see, then the good and the evil will be distinguished for us as well. Then we will be able to see where in history God is and where he is not. Then we will have God materially among us on earth. Take a look into life where you live and into the people round about you; when once you observe something, then hold to it; and though body and soul may languish, do not be whining and weeping any longer!

Many people believe that, if once they come under the rule of God, their lives must of necessity be free from instability and turmoil. That is totally wrong. It is precisely when you have come to God that life becomes threatening, because it is only then that you are in fact alive and able to endure anything at all. Previously you could endure nothing. But if once you have experienced something from God, then you are able to pass through tribulation; and your tribulation will produce fruit. Others cannot endure it; but we can endure even death and not be fearful; we can endure hell itself and be unafraid.

God needs to have one of his children in every hell, because it is only through them that he can enter that hell in order to bring it to an end. Therefore, we must enter into all tribulation and endure in it, carrying the comfort of God with us into it, even into hell itself. Thus we are to be present as a people of comfort, a living gospel.

If no man of comfort were willing to enter into hell, that would be terrible indeed. Jesus was a man of comfort upon earth and in hell, in the desert and in palaces, at the side of sinners and of the righteous. He could endure all things, for his Father was in him and was his life. And so he says to us, "Endure it, for what you endure with me, you endure with God; and with us nothing is in vain."

The most insignificant event must serve for good, must bear fruit. Just so, the least significant human being can come to have worth in heaven and on earth. Zacharias and his wife, through their firmness, could contribute to the birth of John the Baptist; and Mary could become the mother of the Savior.

To want to endure nothing is great foolishness; to believe that you are forsaken by God if you must endure something is one of the silliest concepts among those belonging to the kingdom of God. For if the kingdom of God lays hold on us, where do you think God is going to go with us? Clearly, we remain within this foolish world; we cannot live in heaven but must remain below in the world. We are impelled to move into all the situations in which people exist. We must pass through all the grief that other people have, because there is to be a man of faith in every sorrow of the world.

Thus, we must enter into these things, perhaps for long periods of time. Perhaps we must endure to the point that we hear and see nothing of God, until finally God, who is with us in the distress, can bring light into the situation. The very fact that God is in it with us means that the matter cannot fail; ultimately God comes to be acknowledged in every tribulation. But we are impelled to enter into it; he must have us, because he wishes to be a God of people, not a philosophical concept. He wants to have children who remain alive even in the deepest darkness. In this way the kingdom of God will finally come.

Many would be quite content if the kingdom were to come to them; but they will have to wait a long time, because that is not the way it works. Rather, God sends his own into the world; they are to be his gospel! In this way we must endure, until the whole world is filled with his living gospel, God grant that in this way we might become servants and bear our tribulation.

However, never should we permit the tribulation to come into our hearts! Do not permit the satan of sadness to enter. Away with this satan. If it becomes dark in your heart, you can no longer be a person who bears fruit. Today, everyone is called upon to be a living gospel to the glory of God--the God who is with us in the deepest tribulation and darkness and who leads us out again to the high places of life.

CFBL, 3:98-103 (#14). Evening Bible study of January 8, 1898.

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THE POWER OF GOD

"Because the poor are despoiled,
    because the needy groan,
I will now rise up," says the Lord,
    "and I will bring relief."
(Ps. 12:5. Last line from the German.)

How does God do it? That is always a puzzle. Everywhere in the Bible we find this: "Get away, let me do it." Sometimes, of course, it sounds as though God is lamenting, as though he were not quite able; but then comes a time when he says, "I can too! The poor are before me, and I must help them." But how?

Different answers are given. The faint-hearted say, "Yes, he knows how to bless even in distress; and then, of course, there is eternity beyond." But in this way not one single misery comes to an end; not one solitary tear is dried! And this is how this business of eternity is; let's face it honestly: if I am constantly advised to seek comfort in eternity, then I cannot genuinely trust God. If I see nothing of succor in this world, who can guarantee it for the next? Or did the Savior come only into the beyond? It seems to me he came to us!

Consequently, comfort cannot simply be equated with "the beyond." Even if in some temporal situations the outcome is not restricted to this earthly life but lies beyond it, the question still remains whether that outcome will be attained immediately upon my leaving this life. I don't believe it will. God does not operate in the world in so mechanical a way. Matters run much more naturally; and the struggle is more difficult than we imagine. One cannot simply be jumping around in the world and then die--and expect that matters are settled for all eternity. Rather, there are developments; there is progress or regression to the degree that the distress can be taken from us and God can succeed in giving relief.

Our achieving blessedness is a question of the power of God. He must employ force, and it is for us to have faith in his capability. After all, God has made us! When, in their spirits, people come near this power of God, they always draw a little of it into themselves and thereby become the best possible instruments of God, in that they have drawn from him a portion of his ministering power.

It is not so much a matter of a person making an obvious and sudden change toward conversion; of primary importance is the fact that God bestirs himself on that person's behalf and gathers him in. The history of our redemption progresses by moments of God's demonstrating his aid, in acts toward which we can contribute nothing. And some day, when we shall be in the kingdom of heaven and when the last shock, the jolt of death, has come, we will look back once more and marvel at how often God had to intervene powerfully on our behalf, even against our will, in order that we might be saved, God's action on our behalf always takes this form: he is in heaven and keeps approaching us, pressing in on us, until he can enter our life here in this world.

This is the intent of God's effort toward us. And consequently, our assistance regularly seems delayed. Our distress is not alleviated until the barrier of eternity, between this life and the beyond, is penetrated. The opening must be made from above, not from down here upwards. Christendom has gotten this reversed; now we would make many openings up, out of the world. Through these we would fly like the doves and be saved; and yet we don't even know what is out there! Some people even want to hurry death along; but when they get across to the other side, they make big eyes! One must be extremely cautious! It is very painful for me that the truth of this reversal can't get through to the mind of Christendom. This is why Christianity functions so poorly.

I know how "Blumhardtian" all this is. People will say, "Now Blumhardt is coming up with his queer stories again." But I wish you would prove to me which is biblical: our going to God in death, or God's coming to us in life. From the first to the last chapter, the Bible deals with God's coming into the world; and of all this business about dying, nothing is said.

Every word in the Bible guarantees for me God's action here, where I now stand. If God raises only one finger against my distress, more is accomplished than if men organize a hundred thousand benevolent institutions. It is God's action we need; and very quickly God will have to do something for us, because we cannot pull the load. We must ask God to bestir himself; and we must become biblical again. I would like to say nothing but this: Become biblical! This is what produces understanding and wisdom: our maintaining as a priority the truth that God comes down and Jesus comes down, and that we claim our privilege on earth. Sin and death are overcome here, not through our faith, but through the power of God.

Our pitiful faith doesn't accomplish anything anyway. Most people merely believe according to their heads. This sounds harsh; but I can't help it. I can't bear such prattle about "faith." because it produces the most self-loving of people. They pay attention only to themselves. I, too, know what faith is. But a faith which we create, in which we wish to see things go according to our own ideas, such a faith I don't want. The power of God saves us, and that power is obliged to save many people who don't even believe aright. Who among us would stand up with his faith and say, "Look, I have the right faith!"? That is delusion! But when we reverse this thing and make it biblical, then light comes into every situation, we acquire totally different hearts and heads, totally different hands and feet.

We must be constantly mindful of God's efforts to come into the world and achieve something here. We must not be satisfied merely to have a religion, as the heathen have a religion, even if a little different. God puts no store by our religion. When he finds it impossible to come down and help people, he prefers to permit them to become irreligious. In Egypt, the children of Israel were allowed to do as they pleased, and they became religiously dissipated. But God undertook their cause anyway, because his help does not depend on religion but on his own faithfulness and mercy and power and on the hearts that wait for him to come down.

In this we want to be united, in this hope and in the assurance that God sees the destitute on earth and then says, "There, now I will arise; now I will do it and bring relief." And we know that on the day of Jesus Christ a great restitution is yet to come!

CFBL, 1:239-44 (#49). Table talk of February 12, 1886; from a stenographic copy, (first part).

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THE RIGHT GOD

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.... (Deut. 7:9)

A person must know whether his faith is on the right track or not. I think that many people gradually become unbelievers because, of course, they don't have the right God. In the course of time, Christendom has dropped the right God and acquired a philosophical God--still under the name of the old faith but without the actual reality. The true reality has slipped away. One thinks of God simply as someone in the upper spheres who does not manifest himself to us in our circles as a God of action....

No wonder so many folks become unbelievers! I wouldn't believe in such a God either. "If that which you are preaching to me is God, then I am through; then I will not become a pastor!" This was my sentiment even when I was at the university. "You have the same words, but you no longer have the thing itself. You postulate a God without hands, without a mouth, without feet--so that we can simply do as we please. God has to keep his mouth shut and is prohibited from doing anything." No thanks; I won't believe in such a God!

The same holds true for Christ. When anyone speaks of demon possession, people turn green with rage. They say that the Savior was deluded, that those were notions of the time, that we don't need that sort of thing today because we have doctors and hospitals, and that is all we need....

But then they can dispute very nimbly about the deity of Christ and speak of how he was God's Son--so that one way or another, we are deprived of a Savior on earth. Yet I tell you, the Savior doesn't ask what we think of his duty or his humanity; he inquires only whether we want to make use of him or not, We weren't commissioned to ponder his person. Whatever he may have been we shall discover soon enough in heaven. But to us it is said: "He is your Savior! Do you want him, or don't you? May he do something for you, or may he not? Are you going to throw him out as the Pharisees did, or do you want to have him as the tax collectors did?"...

It often may seem that God doesn't do anything, no matter how much we beg. In this or that area of life it is as though everything has gone dead. What is the consequence? That we say, as many do, "Now I believe nothing anymore!"? No, rather I say, "Then we don't have him. We have gotten onto a wrong track; we are no longer turned to him in the right way. Because only a God who intervenes is our God. If he does nothing, it is not our God."

But, take notice! When you again get pointed right, then you have his faithfulness again, you have his mercy again, and then something must happen again. Then we can stand up again and say, "That is our God!"

We shall never again be able to convince the world with preaching or with books. The world today will have nothing to do with fantasies. For devout people these are fine; but our world of machines and commerce and life, where people seek a solid foundation on which they can stand, this entire world of business which laughs at us when we come with our ideas--people of this world will no longer decide in favor of a religion of fantasy....

We don't need a religion; we need a man, a God. And if we don't get a God, what then is the purpose of all our Christianity? It produces hypocrites! It is as dynamic as cobblestones are! We need an action-God, a God who does something. That is the God of the Bible. The rest will come of itself.

That is what Israel had with its Yahweh. There it was said, "That is the right God! Didn't you see the smoke on Sinai? Didn't you hear his voice and the trumpets? Didn't you notice how he gives bread and water when these are lacking, and how he led you with a wonderful hand? Remember that! That is your God; he is the right God; he is able. The other gods are nothing; they have mouths and do not speak, they have hands and do not grasp, they have feet and do not run. But your God is the right God."

And thus it must be with us in regard to the man Jesus. The Lord Jesus is able; and when he does something, then we can say: "Behold, that is the right God; he is able. Your theological prattle means nothing to me." ... We can no longer manage with words alone; there must be deeds, "Save us! Save us! Help us, O faithful God, and do something!" And then, when salvation comes, then there is light....

Know that the Lord, your God, who demonstrates himself to you and performs deeds, he is the right God. He is the God who made heaven and earth. He is a faithful God who leads his cause on to the end. Let us place our hope in him today. Let us together cry and pray, "Lord, do something for the many, many people!" And our cry will not be in vain; we shall yet experience it. As I have said, much is tossed down from heaven to those who cry out. He feeds the hungry ravens; and he will not let his children pray in vain!

CFBL, 1:420-24 (#78). Table talk of September 24, 1887; from a stenographic copy, condensed.

Copyright (c) 1968