Faith that lives up to its name
Sunday, 22. 05. 2022 – important moments in Berlin: Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider released District Apostle Wolfgang Nadolny into retirement, appointed a new District Apostle, ordained a new Apostle, and amalgamated the Regional Church of Berlin-Brandenburg with the Regional Church of Northern and Eastern Germany.
District Apostle Nadolny had led the large district for seventeen years: “At such times, emotions arise, perhaps even questions, perhaps even some fears,” said the Chief Apostle in his introductory remarks. “After all,” he went on to say, “we are not simply members of an organisation! Our work is also always a matter of the heart.” But he also had a message of comfort ready to share with the congregation at this point: “The story is not over! God has always been present, and He will continue to be with us in the future. He has always been in our midst, and He will always remain in our midst.”
The biblical basis for the sermon was taken from John 7: 38–39: “‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Chief Apostle Schneider went on to explain that water is an image for life. Living water also represents salvation, eternal life, and fellowship with God. And the thirst of the soul describes the state of deficiency that the soul experiences when it is at a distance from God. “But here Jesus Christ is using the image of water for something else—here He is talking about the Holy Spirit.” Belief in Jesus Christ is a prerequisite for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Faith produces works
However, belief in Jesus Christ is not only a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit, but also for allowing the salvific effect of the sacraments to fully develop. This applies to every sacrament. “Where belief in Jesus Christ is no longer strong enough, the activity and effect of the Holy Spirit can no longer be felt as intensively when He comforts, purifies, strengthens, and encourages.”
But what exactly constitutes this faith? First of all, Holy Scripture states that faith in Jesus Christ consists of not doubting things which cannot be seen. Chief Apostle Schneider: “People have always had problems with this—including those who live in our time. But we must believe and not doubt that which we cannot see.” Modern man is no longer capable of dealing with the discrepancy between the sermon and reality: “They have doubts about the things they do not see and the things they do not understand. People are no longer capable of believing because that which they see and perceive does not conform to that which is told to them by God.”
Faith has real implications
The Catechism defines faith in yet another way, he said: faith is an unconditional bond with Jesus Christ, an inner drive to live one’s life in accordance with the commandments of Christ. It is thus not simply a matter of not doubting that which one cannot see, but rather a matter of this unconditional bond with Jesus Christ. “The Holy Spirit is still there. The gift of the Holy Spirit is still present within us. But it can no longer properly develop because our faith has become weak.” For this reason, said the Chief Apostle, the question is: “What can we do about this?”
“We must concentrate on those things that promote faith!” As an example, the Church leader mentioned the words of Paul from the epistle to the Romans: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10: 17). It is also by partaking in Holy Communion that our bond with Jesus Christ is repeatedly reinforced. “If we deliberately and enduringly fail to attend the services and refrain from partaking in Holy Communion, there is a risk that our faith will decrease and that we will no longer experience the full effect of the Holy Spirit,” said the Chief Apostle.
The effect of this bond with Jesus Christ is that living water—in other words, salvation—will stream forth from us: then there will be no deficiency. “Whether there is Covid or not, whether there is war or not, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are part of a larger or smaller congregation, the effect and activity of the Holy Spirit can be experienced here and there and everywhere!”
The Holy Spirit causes us to testify!
This not only applies to the believer himself, noted the Chief Apostle. After all, the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of testimony: He bears witness of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the source of this testimony, and wherever He becomes active, there is also testimony of Jesus Christ. In this way, believers can also become a blessing to their surroundings. There are still a great many people who thirst and who feel a lack of love. “There are a great many people who have no peace, no confidence. They are afraid of the future. This is a thirst of the soul. And that is where we can help with our faith.”