The most cogent text I can think of for our present discussion is Luke 11:24-26: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." Here was a hypothetical case of a man who was no doubt converted and baptized, but then left high and dry on the shelf. He had never been confirmed in service. He was better off in his former state.
It would be good for us at this early point in our discussion to come to a definition of the term confirmation. No doubt some of you have been Lutherans in your
earlier years or you have worked quite carefully with Lutheran people. You know how serious the time of confirmation in the life of a Lutheran is. It is stressed greatly by this Protestant faith. The airline industry uses the term confirmation quite freely. When one lands at one's destination and expects to return on a certain plane one immediately calls the reservations desk and confirms the return flight.
A minister friend of mine and I had the privilege of visiting the Federal Aviation Authority control tower in the world's busiest airport, O'Hare International Airport, in Chicago, just recently. While there we were (riven a tour of the radar "shack" where several operators sat guiding in between twelve and thirteen hundred flights a day on the radarscope, giving the pilots direction toward the field and setting them down perfectly on the runway. After a while we were taken to the visual-control tower on top of the building. The one corner of the tower that fascinated me the most was the area called "ground control." The man in charge spoke with the pilot of a plane waiting to be given clearance to taxi into position for the take-off. Before he could give this clearance he had to receive instructions as to the plane's routing from a station about thirty miles west of the field. Once he received this routing he gave it to the pilot verbally over the intercom system. Then the pilot had to write it down and repeat it to the ground control officer before he was permitted to taxi his plane away from a standing position. In other words he had to confirm all his instructions before being allowed to take off.
In summary, "confirmation" means a "seal, a double check, to be established." When we switch into spiritual pathways the term takes on eternal significance and the ministry must be the translators. The great evangelist, Charles G. Finney, has said, "The great object for which Christians are converted and live in this world is to pull sinners out of the fire. If they do not effect this they had better be dead." It may be that for our church members, both the neophyte and the veteran, to be confirmed in service means that first they must have highly descriptive language of the worth of a soul. We can find that from an unknown author in a short article entitled, "The Vision of a Lost Soul." For this I am indebted to Elder J. L. Tucker's little magazine, The Quiet Hour.
The night was wild, across the midnight sky the rugged clouds sped fast, and the hoarse wind seemed chanting some weird requiem. Alone I stood, and a strange horror thrilled my soul. Above the noise of wind crashing limbs of leafless trees, I heard a voice cry out in wild and piercing tones. It seemed afar, but to my spirit's eye at last the form appeared, all clothed in mist and wrapped about in mystery. Its wings were luminous, and by this light I saw its face. 0 God, and such a face! writ o'er with agony, a picture composite, and strange, and yet familiar too. At last unto my spirit's ear it spoke wild, awful words that evermore will haunt my heart and brain and burn their dreadful lesson there. "Mortal," said he, "Dost thou not know me? Look again and see. I am a human soul that thou once didst call by the sweet, sacred name of friend. And thou,—thou couldst have saved me if thy heart had cared. That Bible which thou takest for thy guide, that Bible which in life I scanned, hath said that if thou dost not warn the wicked man, he shall be lost, but at thy hand his blood God will require of thee. Thou couldst have saved me if thy heart had cared, and now I'm lost!" And then methought he pointed to my hands, and they were dyed in blood. I dared not speak. My soul was guilty in the sight of God. Too well I knew my coward heart had failed in friendship true. I meant someday to speak. I was too busy here and there, and lo! the man was gone. Such was the story sad of my neglect. By that lost soul accused, by my own soul condemned, I turned and fled. 0 God of mercy, teach us ere it be too late, that no man lives unto himself—that every saved man must a saver be!
You as a gospel minister must be a burning fire as a preacher following carefully the admonition of Romans 10:14, 15: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Your parishioners must tell their friends, "Come hear my pastor—he has been here some time now and each Sabbath his messages grow stronger and warmer." Then, when your people have come to hear and see you burn in the pulpit you switch into your dual role as a counselor, a gentle friend and companion, and that burning fire now becomes a warm glow as you give them information that will be invaluable in confirming them in service.
Here is the core of this message. Perhaps you could call it a little secret of successful ministry. When your member comes, whether he be a veteran worker in the cause of God or a new convert, and asks you a question concerning his line of missionary service, refer it tactfully to the questioner. Make him think. Make him think through his own method of service for the Lord. You have preached to him Sabbath after Sabbath and he has begun to have a picture of his own life in relation to his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Instead of pontificating your ideas let him confirm his service by his answer to his own question.
You may give guidance to his answer, you may encourage him in service, you may help refine his answer, but let the direction be his. He may not be able to serve in the exact direction that you would have him to go. Put yourself in his shoes. Put yourself in his place of work and then ask yourself the question, "How could I witness were I in this man's shoes?" He will still love and respect you as a pastor, but will not lean on you as a post only to topple when you leave the church. Your real strength will then be his strength. You will both be confirmed in service in the Lord as is written in Galations 6:14: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord -Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
Perhaps we can illustrate it this way. Thomas a Kempis, a fifteenth-century author, has written one of the best-known religious books of the world—Imitation of Christ. In this book the story is written concerning a man who found himself perplexed and confused as to his religious future. One day he flung himself before the altar of the church and said, "Oh, if I only knew if I should persevere." Then a voice spoke to him saying, "And if thou didst know what thou shouldst do, what wouldst thou do? Go then and do that which thou wouldst do now and thy soul shall be secure." And the story ends stating that the man arose never more to give himself over to an anxious feeling about the future, but doing his duty clearly in Christ Jesus day by day.
Brethren, if our 435 churches in the Lake Union were filled with people certain of their Saviour, growing in happiness and service, our sanctuaries would be jammed to the doors. There would be no greener pastures for us. Why, if each church had a net gain of just five members a year because of heart-warming preaching and diligent and pleasant service by our parishioners we would have our 50,000 membership quota by the time of the next quadrennium. It sounds small but "who hath despised the day of small things?" (Zech. 4: 10).
In summary then, our people will have no evil spirits if we confirm them in worship by preaching the warm, deep, and abiding love of Christ with moving power. Their spiritual houses will not only be clean but they will be filled if we confirm them in fellowship, so that they regard the Advent Movement as the greatest thing on earth and their brethren as princes to be treated courteously and graciously. And their end will certainly be better than their beginning if we confirm our people in service so that they themselves have their spiritual radar pointed toward hungry souls, thus keeping their own minds prepared for the second advent of our Lord. May this be our immediate experience in each church in our charge!