A number of years ago, on a “Golden Oldies” radio station, a funny-man announcer would routinely break in and say:  “We don’t break the rules; we make them up as we go along.”

After the initial chuckle, a sobering truth rolls in like a gray cloud.  This really is the creed of our times.  We hear it all the time:  “Whatever you think is right for you…if it feels good, do it…”

Major church bodies often determine doctrine not by the divine Word of Scripture, but by majority vote.  Conventions are held, not to study and uphold the Bible, but to decide which parts of the Bible, if any, still apply.  It boils down to voting on:  “Are you for or against sin?”  One can no longer assume how church leaders will answer that question.

This “make up your own rules as you go along” creed has been around a long time.  Jeremiah framed it this way:  “Every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God.”

This is not a new creed.  It is as old as Satan hissing into Eve’s heart the suggestion that she should become the god of her own life.

It is as old as the arrogant architects of the tower of Babel enthroning themselves as the center of their own universe.

It is as old as the book of Judges where the sad theme is twice repeated:  “In those days every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

You and I, who live in a time so similar, sometimes wonder who changed the rules.  How did this happen – not just in the world in general – but in churches which are unrecognizable from a generation or two past?

We can point to an educational system with a book-of-Judges agenda, a curriculum which salutes the creed that there is no right or wrong, that all lifestyles are equally OK, that the children they teach are descended from apes.  We can point to what really amounts to a state-sponsored atheism in university classrooms.  We can point to the endless propaganda of the glowing screens in our living rooms which build every joke and every plot around sex.   These things all play their part.  But these things are all symptoms, not the virus itself. The real problem lies elsewhere.

After the death of Joshua who led God’s people into the promised land, things changed – in a single generation.  The 2nd chapter of Judges delivers the sad diagnosis:  “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel…They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers…”

It is a sad thing to forget that we are vulnerable and mortal, that we can become part of a generation that knows not the Lord, a generation that heedlessly drifts out to sea from the safe harbor.  It is a sad thing to forsake the God of our fathers, to bow down before the sacred cows of our times.

But it is a glad thing to be found by this God of our fathers.  How patient God has been with us in the face of the same old sins!  How good of God to deliver us by becoming One of us, by doing and dying and defeating death for us!  How kind of God to bring us back with His Word and Sacraments!  How blessed are we, dear God of our fathers, to be your children!