One

Acts 4:32 ““All the believers were one in heart and mind.”

People at First Christian Church of Jerusalem could get along and work together because they were truly united in their faith. We, by contrast, are divided into many different denominations–over 30,000 of them! Among Lutherans alone there are more than 25 different flavors.  Each attempt to get them together only seem to create more divisions.

If you pay any attention to the news, you also know that inside each church body heated debates about teachings and morals often take place. They go to their national conventions and fight about what the Bible really says about human sexuality or how the church should be governed.

Some individual congregations claim to be non-denominational and try to stay above the fray. But isn’t that a way of saying, “We can’t get close to anyone but ourselves?”

If you have been part of a local congregation, you know that they have issues, too. Some will divide over disagreements ranging from key Bible teachings to what color to paint the Sunday school classrooms.

Not the church in Jerusalem. “All the believers were one in heart and in mind.” Notice the key to their unity: one in heart, one in mind. This wasn’t an oversized club where everyone shared a common hobby. They were one in heart. They had the same heart, because they had the same faith. Each of them trusted in Jesus as Savior from sin. When trust in Jesus as your Savior from sin fills your heart, you don’t live with delusions of greatness and superiority. You are a sinner who has been rescued from the death and hell you deserved by Jesus’ forgiving grace and supreme sacrifice at the cross. What do we have to be proud of in this?

Being so humbled, believing that you have been so loved by God that you owe him everything, has a very desirable effect on those who believe it is true. Love begins to grow. Love has been called “the great commandment,” but love isn’t just a rule we keep. Taking a picture Jesus uses in the gospels (John 15), it is like a fruit that grows out of us because we are attached to him by faith. It is spontaneous. It just happens. Together, faith and love made this congregation in Jerusalem “one in heart.”

There was still more to the secret of their unity. They were also “one in mind.” They had more than a nice feeling about each other. They believed the same things. Go back two chapters in Acts and we see that they put a high priority on learning the truths of the Christian faith. “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.” “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” When people share the same set of beliefs, what is there to disagree about? Everyone was on the same page.

Hearts and minds made one by faith, love, and good teaching gave this congregation a genuine peace and unity. It made them a pleasant community attractive to outsiders and able to work together to get God’s work done.

Can we be a church like that? Can we repent of our bad priorities? Can we let hearing and learning God’s word rise to the top of the list, so that it can grow our faith, and form our hearts into one heart? Can we set aside phrases like, “Well, I think…,” or “Everybody knows…,” and let the truths of the Bible form our opinions for us? Can we share the mind of Christ, so that our way of thinking is united in him?

People on the outside will probably think we are crazy if we do. This church in Jerusalem received its share of grief from the main religious leaders and general culture around them. Like Jesus, they were rowing upstream, swimming against the tide.

But the greater blessings of their unity make this a church worth imitating.

Almost Famous

Matthew 10:2-4 “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

If it weren’t for Jesus, none of these men would have been anything more than a footnote on the pages of history. As it is, some of them are little more than a footnote on the pages of the Bible. How many Bible stories do you know about Thaddaeus? Zero. How many Bible stories do you know about the other James, James the Son of Alphaeus? Zero. How many Bible stories do you know about Simon the Zealot? None at all. They simply show up in lists of the twelve apostles.

But Jesus sought them all and called them to be his very own. He came to redeem them by his blood, as he has come to redeem us all. Their sins went to the cross together with all the rest. They were saved not because they were good, not because they were men of outstanding character or unusual leadership, not because they stood out in love or good works. They were saved by God’s grace, saved because the blood of Jesus Christ his Son purifies us from every sin.

And then they were called to faith. Though there was nothing to distinguish this bunch of fishermen and social outcasts, Jesus sought them and made them his own. He guided the course of history to bring them to that moment where he met them face to face, and he could look them in their eye and tell them, “Follow me.” 

Not many of us will ever be anything more than a footnote on the pages of history. A few of you may have had your 5 minutes of fame on television after you accidentally became part of some local news story. That is not the kind of thing that makes us somehow more attractive to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t have a special thing for people who are in the right (or the wrong) place at the right time.

Yet you find yourselves among Jesus’ apostles as people the world hardly knows or cares about. You are the people Jesus gave up his throne to rescue, and gave up his life to forgive. More than that he came and sought us out of the billions of this world. In the voice of a pastor, parent, or friend, maybe even a complete stranger, he whispered in your ear, “Follow me.” And in that voice you heard the voice of your Savior sharing all his gifts and claiming you as his own.

Maybe you will never even be as famous as Thaddaeus, or James the son of Alphaeus, or Simon the anti-government terrorist. But you are no less saved than they are, no less dear to Jesus, who knows and loves every one of us by name.

Tell Me Again!

Romans 15:15-16 “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God…”

Not everything Paul taught in this letter to the Romans was new to them. The way he writes here, it seems that most of it was not. He reminds them again. He reviews the saving truth for them. He rehearses them in the gospel they already knew.

Such methodology was not unique to Paul. Do you remember Peter’s similar concern from his second letter? “So I will always remind you of these things even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” What was Peter going to do for these people? He was going to remind them of God’s gifts.

From a pastor’s perspective, such reminders make perfect sense. Every other endeavor in training and teaching people involves repetition in one form or another. For eleven years I reported to football practice in the fall, from late grade school through the end of college. The first day was always the same: how to get into a proper three-point stance, how to break down for a tackle, how to keep your feet driving on your blocks. For five years I took piano lessons, and for five years I reviewed scales, chords, and key signatures. Those things worth remembering are worth repeating.

What did Paul remind the Romans about? Some painfully dull drills? No! He had “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God.” Paul reminded them of God’s gifts in the gospel! Gospel means “good news,” but just what is that good news? Don’t take the answer to that question for granted. Even many Christians find it hard to define. At its core the gospel is the good news of Jesus’ love, all he did to forgive our sins and spare us from death. He lived for God the life of love we owe. He died the death our sins deserved. He rose to reveal the new life we’ll receive. Through his Spirit he even gives us the faith that makes these gifts our own.

From that good news flows one gracious blessing after another. Because God loves me so much he died to save me, I know that he will keep his promises. I know that he will give me my daily bread, listen to my prayers, guide me through temptations, give me the words to share my faith, strengthen me to handle life’s heartaches and disappointments, guard me with his angels, and walk me by the hand through the gates of death into heaven. My confidence in every good thing God gives me is somehow related to Christ’s love at the cross.

Is that a tiresome message to hear? Are we weary of being reminded of God’s gifts? I once heard a person complain about her pastor, “Law and Gospel! Law and Gospel! That’s all we ever hear!” When that pastor goes on to glory, I think they should inscribe that on his tombstone! Isn’t the message of law and gospel the greatest love story ever–God’s love for you and me?

When my wife does something particularly kind for me, I often ask her, “Have I told you lately how much I love you?” Believe me, she gives me plenty of opportunities to ask. Her stock answer is always, “No. Tell me again!” She has never said, “Yep. That’s enough.” Not even once.

Here is our Lord with his message of sacrificial love asking us, “Have I told you lately how much I love you?” We haven’t even done anything to prompt such a question. Are we going to tell him, “Yep. That’s enough”? No! Tell me again! That’s why Paul wrote what he did. That is what every Christian who understands God’s love wants to hear.

The True Meaning of Hard Work

Ecclesiastes 2:20-21, 24-26 “So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune…A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.”

The writer of these words (likely King Solomon) understood the truth that there is no U-Haul behind the hearse. Ancient Pharaohs may have been buried with their royal treasures, even food for the next life. Vikings were buried in their ships with their weapons. You may be buried in your best dress or favorite suit. But all these things must still be left behind, together with the other things that don’t make it into the tomb. No matter how expensive, how useful, or how enjoyable they are, we don’t get to keep the fruits of our hard work forever.

Despairing over our work signals that we are ready to give up on these things to do so much for us. We might even say that it is the logical conclusion. In some cases despair is a sin. Martin Luther says that when we pray, “And lead us not into temptation,” we are asking God to “guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh do not deceive us or lead us into despair…”

But when God is using it to rearrange our priorities, it is a wholesome thing. When it is teaching us not to put so much trust in our human efforts or perishable earthly possessions, he is blessing us. Despair hurts, but so does pulling an infected tooth. There is a reason that the Bible describes repentance–and confessing our false hope in hard work and possessions is certainly repentance–as a kind of death. It hurts. But the rotted tooth needs to go, the sinful nature needs to die with its evil desires, and we need to despair of the idea that there is any lasting comfort to be found in our earthly labor and its results.

Solomon did not intend to discourage work altogether. He simply wants to help us keep it in its place. Has it kept us clothed and fed? Do we have enough for today? Do we have a way to serve God and serve our neighbor? Then our labor has done all God expects it to do.

But how can we be satisfied with that? “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness.” Such a satisfied and happy life is a gift from God. He gives it “to the man who pleases him.” But doesn’t that exclude us, since instead of pleasing God, we have been trying to replace him with our work and with our things?

No, pleasing God is another place where our hard work does not apply. If we think working to build a lasting legacy, or have our daily bread, is hard, that would be just a drop in the ocean compared to the effort required to secure God’s smile. We could work from now until eternity and never do enough to secure forgiveness for even a single sin.

The one who pleases God is the one who has put his faith in someone else’s work–the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ faultless work led the Father to say at his baptism, and again at his transfiguration, “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well-pleased.” Jesus’ death on the cross was the pleasing sacrifice that pays for all our sins. Jesus did the hard work of fulfilling God’s demands. Jesus did the hard work of dying the death that sin demands. So it is that pleasing God is not our hard work for him. It is Jesus’ hard work gifted to us by faith.

More than anything else, that truth transforms our work. God has already given us all we need. We can trust him to bless our work the way he determines will serve us best. We can work hard, not to get, but to give–give him our best. That’s a joy. That’s a satisfying life. When we are satisfied by results like this, then God has shown us the true meaning of hard work.

Your Servant Is Listening

1 Samuel 3:9-10 “So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”

“Speak, for your servant is listening” is a refreshing response from Samuel. God’s very first words for Samuel were going to include some unpleasant news. The Lord was about to bring his judgments against the family of Samuel’s friend and teacher Eli. But Samuel understands the right attitude of God’s children to God’s word. There is not a hint of Samuel wanting to debate the Lord, as though Samuel were his equal, or even his superior. “Lord, let’s discuss these ideas of yours. Why don’t you sit down and let me tell you what makes sense.” He doesn’t try to offer the Lord advice.

No, Samuel is merely a servant, who is listening. It is not a servant’s place to lecture his master, nor to follow his own ideas. It’s not a servant’s place to search for new and different meanings for his master’s words, to fit them to his own preferences, so that he does not have to believe or do what they plainly say. A servant has set aside his own ideas. He listens. He believes. He obeys.

Why? Because those same words have won us as his servants. He doesn’t drive us to serve him with threats. He woos us to service with his promises. For Samuel, living at the tabernacle, the daily sacrifices were another word. They introduced him to a Master who would not make us pay for our own sins. He is the Master who provides the way out himself, because he loves us.

For us, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the dead communicate the same thing. We have a Master who gave his own life to pay for our sins. We have a Master whose love for us has won our trust. When his word comes calling, we are his servants, who listen, believe, and obey.

God was on speaking terms with Samuel. Though his means are different, he is still on speaking terms with you and me. That is not a burden. It is a privilege. Listen, when his word comes calling.

His Word Finds Us

1 Samuel 3:2-8 “One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord; the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.”

 Many important characters of the Bible received messages from the Lord in the middle of the night–Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, Daniel, Joseph, Paul. Maybe it doesn’t strike us as unusual that God’s word came calling on Samuel after he had called it a day and gone to bed.

But it does say something to us about who was looking for whom, doesn’t it. It’s not that Samuel was looking for a message from the Lord. Samuel was going to bed. The Lord was looking for Samuel. He was choosing him to hear his message and carry out a special purpose. It is another example of his grace that the Lord comes looking for us this way.

He made the same point through Isaiah: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1) Jesus impressed this on his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) The hymn Amazing Grace celebrates it, too: “I once was lost, but now am found.” We are found, not because we searched for God, but because God found us.

His voice didn’t speak to you and me audibly, directly, out of the darkness. But the Lord still went looking for us, because he had chosen us to be his hearers. His word came calling through parents, friends, an evangelist, teachers, or a pastor. There are many people he could have chosen to hear him. But he must have wanted you, because here you are today, reading what he has to say.

His purpose in choosing Samuel was a vital one. At the end of this chapter we read, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.” Samuel was going to be God’s man to lead this nation to a more faithful walk with God. He was going to anoint the first two kings of Israel. In that way God was using him to set the stage for the future King of kings, the Savior King whose death on a cross would defeat Satan and set us free from sin and hell. God needed Samuel to pay close attention to his word, if he was going to serve the purpose for which he was being called.

God’s purpose for choosing you and me may not look so impressive at first. It is highly unlikely that the entire Christian world will be reading about our service to God’s plans for generations to come. But we were still chosen to be holy and blameless, because Jesus’ blood has washed all our sins away (Ephesians 1). We are still a chosen people so that we can declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2). Jesus still calls us the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Hearing God’s word is still important if we are going to carry out the purpose for which he came looking for us.

The Word Becomes Rare

1 Samuel 3:1 “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”

When Samuel says that the word of the Lord was rare, he is not noting a lack of Bibles, or even preachers. His Bible consisted of 6 books, not 66 books as it does today. As important as those words were, most people did not expect to have their own copies. Still, it was not difficult for people to have a working knowledge of the contents of those books if they desired. Samuel was learning from Eli. The opportunity was there for those who wanted to know.

But the Lord had much more to tell his people than those 6 books contained. Through Moses he had promised to continue to send them prophets. They would receive his word more or less directly from him and pass it along to the people. This went on for thousands of years. The author of Hebrews notes: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” He may operate differently today, but we have his entire message in writing, and almost all his work in fulfillment.

At the time of Samuel, God wasn’t talking much. Why? You know how frustrating and irritating it is to talk to someone who doesn’t listen. Maybe you can tell by the lack of eye-contact. Their eyes wander while you to talk to them. Maybe you can tell by awkward silences, or strange responses to something you have said on the telephone. Maybe it’s because they don’t do what you ask, and are even unaware that you asked. Wives, parents, teachers–you know what I am talking about.

For hundreds of years Israel hadn’t been listening to the Lord. Samuel was the last of the judges to lead Israel. The book of Judges describes the times this way, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Finally, the Lord stopped talking. He stopped sending prophets. If the people were going to do their own thing, he would let them see how that worked out for them. His word became rare. There were not many visions.

Does that sound scary to you? It should. It is hard to imagine a more severe judgment. Calling God’s word “rare” reminds us not only that it became scarce. It is precious, like a rare jewel, or coin, or antique. Faith comes from hearing the message. Without the word there can be no faith, no life, no salvation. The word becoming rare is like water becoming rare, or air becoming rare. Without the word, our souls, our spirits, will surely die.

Are our times so different from Samuel’s? “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Even professed Christians find themselves putting their own ideas ahead of God’s word. Even churches deny, overlook, or criticize what God has to say about sex and marriage, riches, the only way to heaven, men and women, or how he made us. Eighty percent of our American neighbors don’t consider God’s word important enough to attend worship on any given weekend. Should we, then, be surprised if he decided to stop sending us preachers and teachers, if he let the Bible go silent among us, since so few want to take his word seriously anyway?

This is why it is exciting, and comforting, to see God’s word come calling on Samuel. The Lord was ending his silence, not because his people had changed, but because his love remained the same. He still wanted their souls to live. He still wanted their sins to be forgiven. He still wanted to tell them about Jesus and the wonderful things he was going to do for them.

And in this moment, in this place, he is not silent for us, either. His word has come calling on you and me. We have heard its call to repent of our sins. We have believed its promise that his grace knows no bounds and his forgiveness covers every sin. Let’s hear it while we can. Let’s share it so that its sweet voice does not become rare.

Well Fed

Ezekiel 34:26-27 “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers of blessings. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in the land.”

Our Good Shepherd pours down showers of blessings on his people. Those are not neutral, passive terms. Water is a powerful thing. It can carve a canyon out of rock. It can uproot trees and flatten buildings. It can turn a turbine and light a city. But its most amazing power is its power to support life. That power is present even in a gentle shower of rain. In the desert, a little rain can make the landscape come alive.

“Blessing” is likewise a powerful term. The Bible has a number of different words we translate as “bless.” Sometimes it means simply, “Speak well about someone.” When we bless God, that is what we are doing–we are praising him. Sometimes it refers to a state of happiness. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” in the Sermon on the Mount, he is saying that they are happy.

But when God blesses, as here, he is using his power to give success, prosperity, longevity, even life itself. When God blesses, things change. The situation improves. His people benefit. When God blesses, he is at work on our behalf.

What is that power our Lord uses to shower us with blessings, showers that make life fruitful and feed his people so well? When Jesus was sitting at the well of Jacob, talking to the woman from Sychar, he told her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…. Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:10, 13-14). What is the life-giving water Jesus gave? Earlier in his book John says, “The Law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” God’s word of grace brings these blessings. It is the message that he loves us though our sins made us unlovely. He has saved us because we can’t save ourselves. It is the good news, the gospel, that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. That gives life. That feeds faith. That makes things spiritually grow.

Then what happens? “The people will be secure in their land.” His sheep live in safety. Why? “The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops.” After World War I, much of Europe teetered on the brink of famine. In order to give people the illusion of having food, some bakeries substituted sawdust for flour in bread. The people felt full after eating, but they were still seriously undernourished.

Sometimes people eat the spiritual equivalent of sawdust. It gives them the illusion that they are spiritually fed. It may take the form of “God-talk” that is little more than sweet sentiments or speculation. It may be served as moral instruction, loads and loads of it. It doesn’t add strength; it just adds weight. Over time the burden becomes heavier, and heavier, and harder and harder to bear.

But where sins are regularly confessed and forgiven, where God’s grace in sending a Savior is sung and celebrated, where the cross and all it means is preached week in and week out, where Jesus himself regularly offers the forgiveness of sins in his supper, there God is pouring down his blessings. His sheep are being fed, and they are safe from spiritual famine.

That They May Live in Safety

Ezekiel 34:25 “I will make a covenant of peace with them, and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety.”

Ezekiel was not describing a problem with actual wild animals. Chapter 34 of his book is an extended parable in which the Lord portrays his people as sheep, and their leaders as unfaithful shepherds. He promises to gather his scattered sheep himself. He promises to send them his servant David–that’s Jesus– to tend them properly. Now he pictures the results of his good shepherding for us.

For centuries the wild beasts who attacked his people had been false prophets of one sort or another. Their message destroyed faith and murdered souls. Many of them promoted a religion that tossed out some part of God’s law. Some served Baal, whose service not only ignored the sixth commandment. It even incorporated sexual perversions into their worship rites. Others offered Molech, for whom parents murdered their own children.

Even worse were the prophets who claimed to be speaking for the Lord. Most of them had chosen popularity and acceptance over truth. They would not confront the sins of God’s people. The preached a message that made the people feel good about themselves. “You haven’t done anything wrong. God is not angry about your behavior. You are his chosen people! You have no need to change. You have nothing to feel sorry about. Be at peace.”

The ironic thing about that kind of religion is that, for all its lawlessness, it is really a graceless religion. When people are told they are good enough just the way they are, the actually believe they can please God on their own. They don’t need grace. They don’t need forgiveness. They just need to make God happy. And since his law has been watered down, that isn’t hard to do.

The same wild beasts are at work today. Even inside Christian churches one finds “prophets” approving of sexual perversions, practicing them themselves, or proclaiming that it is acceptable to murder your own children before they are born. The worship of Baal and Molech continue in new clothes.

Others have chosen the path of popularity. They tell their people to feel good about themselves. “God will bless you if you just try a little harder. Here are a few secrets I have discovered to make it easier.” A part of us that wishes they were right. We envy their success. We may lack the courage to say they are wrong.

Yet what does the Lord promise his people through Ezekiel? “They may live in the desert and sleep in the forest in safety.” “They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.” His sheep live in safety. He protects them. But how can he say that?

He has made a covenant of peace with them. When God sent his Son as the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus’ death on the cross took away the sins that cause our greatest safety concern: can I be safe with God? Since God forgives our sins, he is at peace with us. That’s his covenant. Though he is the only truly free being in all the universe, he has contractually bound himself to forgive us and give us peace. He feels no hostility toward us, and we are safe with him.

With the Lord, peace is so much more than the end of hostilities. It’s more than confidence he will not hurt us. When God is at peace with us, all of life begins to fall into place. That does not mean that everything becomes easy. It isn’t the end of all troubles. But by faith we cling to the certainty that the Lord is directing traffic and everything serves us now.

Perhaps the landscape has not been completely cleared of the wild beasts. But if we take these dangers seriously, he may even use them to bring us closer to him, like a frightened child who holds more tightly to mom or dad the closer the frightening thing comes. Godless governments can legislate, intimidate, even exterminate all the Christians they want. They have no jurisdiction over hearts and souls that belong to God’s spiritual kingdom. He protects his sheep. He protects and defends their faith until he brings them to complete safety in heaven.