by Pastor Lehmann
Posted on January 20, 2016 4:31 AM
It's a common feature of magazines, newspapers, and websites around the turn of the year: just as December saw the "Best and Worst" lists for the preceding year, January sees the "What to Expect" lists that lay out predictions for the next 12 months. There's no reason this newsletter can't do the same, so here are ten highly accurate predictions for 2016.
1. People out in "the world" will do some disgusting, sinful things and see nothing wrong with it - even be proud of it.
This will not surprise us, since this is what sinners do - in fact, they can't help but sin. While it's true that the types of things that are done in the open may be quite a departure from what was done openly generations ago, we know that the world is headed toward its end, and Jesus warned us that the wickedness of the wicked would grow and go wild the closer the end gets. So, yeah, expect more of the same sinning we saw last year - only worse.
2. Christians, even the members of this church, will do some disgusting, sinful things.
As much as we'd like to simply point our fingers at the other guy and congratulate ourselves for our holiness, the reality is that we are still sinners ourselves. We do not want to fail, but sometimes our sinful natures will win out over our new natures, and we will do things that not only displease God but disgust us. This is no excuse, of course, but we dare not deny the reality or act surprised when we are brought face to face with our own sins and sinfulness.
3. God will be more ready to forgive our sins than we are to repent of them.
We have a God of infinite love and amazing grace. The whole purpose of sending Christ to be our Savior and the whole purpose of telling us about our salvation in the Bible was so that we would have our sins forgiven for Jesus' sake and be restored to the Lord in holiness and perfection. He has promised, over and over, that when we repent of our sins and turn to him for pardon he will forgive them - entirely, completely, and freely. This is what he loves to do, and since he is a God of mercy, he will. Over and over and over again.
4. God will take care of us.
Another promise from our loving and gracious Lord is that he will watch over and protect us. He has already defeated our enemies with Christ's death and resurrection, so we know that nothing can ever truly separate us from his care and presence, but he has also promised to preserve us, to answer our prayers, and to work all things out for our good - for the good of all he has called to faith.
5. Church members will be Christ's witnesses to non-Christians they encounter in their lives.
This will be true of every member of our church, just as it is true of every Christian. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said to the Church, represented by the apostles, "You will be my witnesses", and this was not so much a command as a statement of fact: when people see us, we represent Christ to them. The question is what kind of witnesses we will be - Ready? Positive? Negative? Winsome? Silent? Loving? Reluctant? Eager? Obnoxious? Unwilling? Be prepared, willing, an able to tell anyone who asks the reason for the hope that you have - that you have been saved from your sins by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
6. Children will learn more about Jesus and God's Word.
Through Sunday School and through our VBS events like Easter for Kids, Christmas for Kids, and Summer Bible Camp, the children of our congregation and community will learn - from us! - about their Savior and what God did to rescue them from sin, death, and the devil. Even more importantly, parents will teach their children, from babies on up, the ways of the Lord their God and Deliverer.
7. Those Christians who turn to the Lord in their troubles will find an abundance of reasons to give him thanks and praise.
God invites his people to call upon him in every trouble and promises that he will deliver them, and then they will honor him. Over and over again that will happen as church members and others, trusting in the Lord and holding him to his Word, bring their concerns to him in prayer and see him answer those prayers with patience, power, wisdom, and perfect love. It won't always be the answers we were looking for, but they will always be what is best for us - and we will praise him for it, and our faith will grow stronger because of it.
8. Youth and adults will stand before the congregation to confess, for themselves, the faith that we share.
Through confirmations and professions of faith, they will freely proclaim their trust in the Lord and his Word and demonstrate that they are one with us in all that we believe, teach, and confess. And we will have yet another reason to rejoice!
9. People will find a way to blame the church for the fact that they don't want to go to church.
It's sad but true. For the same reasons that people will always sin, even Christians who know better and want better, so there will be church members and prospective church members who stay home, depriving themselves of the Means of Grace and depriving others of the encouragement and admonition that comes from worshipping together, because their old man gets the ascendancy and tells them to stay home, commit to other activities, or travel but convinces them to blame it on something about the church (too hot, too bold, too far, too friendly, too unloving, too timid, too pushy, too posh, "They don't listen", "They don't say enough", too serious, too fluffy, etc.) Not that there's not always room for improvement in our or any congregation, but none of those things are real excuses - just rationalizations. And it will be a real and tragic loss for those people and their families - and the family of God here, too - when they separate themselves from the gospel and the fellowship that he designed to strengthen, comfort, and encourage us all.
10. Christ will return.
He will; he's promised. While it's certainly true that he might come in judgment and the absolute last day of the world will come in 2016, in the meantime Jesus will come to us, again and again, over and over, in his Word and in the Sacraments. He will visit us with grace and mercy, with love and wisdom, with comfort and strength, with forgiveness and life and salvation every time the Scriptures are preached, taught, studied, and read, every time the waters of Baptism are applied and remembered, and every time Christ's body and blood are offered and received in his Supper.
So it's going to be an exciting 2016! Armed with this list, I pray you find yourself better prepared for a year full of our needs and God's meeting those needs in every way with all his love and power.