“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In Chapter 11 of Hebrews we hear the story of the heroes of the faith: the believers who stood strong in the face of temptation, enduring persecution and even martyrdom. They were patient and trusted that God would keep His promise to send the Messiah. Then, in chapter 12, we hear that those believers are a great cloud of witnesses. By their lives and confession of Christ, they bore witness to the fact that He is the Savior.
And now in our day, Hebrews exhorts us also to, “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” We run together in the church. Others have run the race before us. Others will follow we are done. But all of us, in every generation are to look to Jesus. To “look to Jesus” means He is the Lord of the Church. He is the Word that we hear. He is the Light that we see. He is the Living Bread that we eat. He is the Living Water that wells up within us. He is the Good Shepherd who protects us. He is the Savior who died and rose again to give us eternal life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one come to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6).
So, we need to stay focused on Jesus alone as we go through this world. That is not as easy as it sounds. Satan is real, and he uses a thousand lies to get individual believers and the entire Church to turn their eyes away from Christ and His cross. Satan doesn’t care where else we look, as long as we stop looking to Jesus. Satan has lies, both ancient and modern, that he uses to attempt to turn people from Jesus.
The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word, the Bible, and the sacraments, to create and sustain faith in us. God’s Word is important. It is vital that we hear it and understand it in truth. For God never changes, and His Word remains the same too. It means the same thing from generation to generation, for it speaks of Christ. So when the faithful Church in a generation encountered a particularly noxious, deceptive lie that Satan launched into the world, the Church would counter that lie with a confession of what the Bible truly taught. The Church would go to the Word and craft a statement that spoke the truth of Jesus against that lie. Those confessions stood as strong statements of the truth of God’s Word from generation to generation.
We have a number of such confessions: the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the writings in the Book of Concord. These all stand as guiding statements for the Lutheran Church. We hold to Scripture alone, but we also confess that these Confessions are faithful to the unchanging Word of God. They all look to Christ, and they help guide us to do the same.
One of the writings in the Book of Concord is the Augsburg Confession. It is a bold statement of faith against the false teachings that had infiltrated the church in Luther’s day. It is beautiful and concise, courageous, and comforting. The Augsburg Confession has guided the teaching and practice of Lutheran congregations for almost 500 years, and it still guides our congregation today.
But have you read it? If so, how long has it been? Do you remember what it says? I can give you a hint: it focuses completely on Jesus. It is the statement handed down to us from many in that great cloud of witnesses, saying, “In our day, Satan tried to lie to the people. But we held to the truth of God’s Word. And this is what we confessed, even at the point of death.”
This October will mark the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. So, this is a perfect time for us to start a study of the Augsburg confession. The study will run for five consecutive Saturdays, starting on September 23rd, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. It will help you grow in faith in Christ, and in appreciation of your heritage in the Lutheran Church. Plus, it will be interesting and fun. I hope you can attend!
Pastor Jeffrey Horn