“Why Lent?” and “Dying to Self”

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This is one of the best anti-religion sermons that I have heard preached in a long time:

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 Ash Wednesday sermon, 2014 > Dying to Self

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Love it…hate it…indifferent to it…it’s going to work on you in any event.

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( sound quality improves after a couple of minutes )

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Thank you, Pastor Mark.

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And thanks to flicker and hollywoodhollows, for the photo.

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On Death to Self

Pastor Tullian Tchvidjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL has a post up http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/08/13/on-death-to-self/?comments#comments  on the importance and ramifications of dying to yourself.

 

Pastor Tchvidjian has discovered Gerhard Forde and has been reading quite a lot of him as of late.

While there are things we can do to get out of ourself that will free us for the neighbor, and we ought try and do those things, I believe that God isn’t relying upon when it comes to putting ourselves to death.

I left a comment about Romans and Baptism over there (as I have done before), but the discussion usually ends up back in the arena of what we should be doing, saying or feeling.

Am I being too Lutheran persnickity about the external Word which acts for us and upon us, or is a little talk about ways we can die to the self alright?

Thanks.

 

 

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Off to be killed…

…and then raised again.Be More Human / Mehr Mensch Sein by an untrained eye

Not going to receive any special instructions. Not going to find out any secrets for spiritual living.

Not going to get prodded with the stick of how I should be feeding the poor and helping the sick, and visiting the lonely…(all of which I should be doing).

I am going to receive the Word of God. I am going to (by the grace of God) receive from Him His law, in order to kill me off yet once again to my little ‘No  thank you God I can do it myself ‘ project. And then recieve from Him His promise of life, the forgiveness of my sins, my salvation…in the gospel, and in the body and blood of our Dear Lord who has poured out Himself for me (us)…which is pure gospel (no law).

This is a picture of baptism, by the way.

Death and Resurrection.  Repentance and Forgiveness.  Dying and Rising.

 

Isn’t that enough?

 

Death of the Old Adam, Death of the Old Eve

Jesus said that if you would gain your life in this world… you must lose it.

Is there any dying going on in your church? Are people losing their lives on a regular basis?

It’s supposed to happen, you know.

St. Paul tells us that “the law brings death.”

 There is no life in it.    Life… the authentic, genuine life in Christ that the scriptures speak of, and that the Saints testify to, is found only through, and in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Back to death.

The new life in Christ Jesus can only come about as a result of the death of the old Adam/Eve. The old Man/Woman must be put to death and not coddled.

OK, I’ll buy that…but how?     We mentioned it earlier…God’s Law.

The law will do it’s job on us.   It will expose our sinfulness.   It will demand from us.    It will wear us down.     And it will kill us.

In many churches today, there is no dying.   

The old Adam/Eve are celebrated!   They are wined and dined on a diet of Christian progressivism.   They are not killed off but improved upon, made well, made better and better…striving to be like Jesus.

How is that dying?

The law needs to be wielded like the sword that it is.   It needs to be pointed directly at the heart of the old Adam and run clear through him.   All the old Adams and Eves need to die… and that is me and you and everyone else in the pews.

Does this need be a fire and brimstone type sermon with finger wagging and high energy emotions?    No.   Not really.   It can be…but it’s not necessary.

The law is so powerful, so intrusive into all of our lives, that it can just be as simple as pointing out how you are being had all week by your own sinfulness, the demands of work, of homelife, of city and nation, and the devil, who is real and who is after you.  The law does it’s work on you by making you realize how far short you have fallen from the standard that God uses for measuring our performance …and that is ‘perfection’.

“Your righteousness must EXCEED that of the Pharisees and scribes.”
       “You must be PERFECT as your Father in Heaven is PERFECT.”
                     ” SELL EVERYTHING you’ve got and follow me.”

That is the Law.    Jesus’ sermon on the mount wasn’t a lawnmower manual on ‘how to’  become a better Christian…it was a death sentence,  handed directly to you and executed right then and there.  He was trying to kill us!

He was trying to kill us off to the ‘God project’ which is “religion”!    Our efforts at making ourselves more presentable is not making us better…it’s making us worse!

We need to die.  And when we are sufficiently dead enough, to self and our little game of self justification,  then that pure sweet sound of forgiveness spoken from the cross and spoken over you at your baptism can go to work on you and in you,  and raise you up, and breathe new life into you and make you whole again.

It is the other side of that two-edged blade of law and gospel. The ‘life’ side.

It is Jesus’ declaration to you. In the words of the pastor, in the water and Word of baptism, in the bread and the wine of His supper…”You are forgiven!”

Death and resurrection. Repentance and forgiveness. A picture of baptism.

     All…for you!      Go now… and live!      You are free!       That’s the gospel!

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All of that came as a result of a death.

Is there any dying going on in your church?

Which will do what?

” He must increase, I must decrease.”

  Well, that’s what John the Baptist said.  Do you beSt John the Baptist by Fidelity Masonic Supplieslieve it? Does this only apply to John the Baptist, or to each of us as well?

 If we buy into that statement, then what can bring this about?

 In preaching and teaching what would be more apt to bring about an increase in Christ Jesus and a decrease in Joe and Mary in the pew?

Preaching that puts our performance in the fore? Preaching that uses God law to try and make us better?  Preaching a sort of Christian progressivism?

Or, preaching and teaching that uses God’s law to put the striver in us to death? Preaching God’s law the way that Jesus preached God’s law…full force…not watered down, so that the law will chop us off at the knees so that no one will be left standing after the sermon other than the One who died for us.

I spoke of this kind of hard law preaching to an Evangelical friend of mine at work last week and he looked at me with a very puzzled look and then said, “you shouldn’t be so hard on yourselves.”

Should we be so hard on ourselves? Or ought we make it easier for the sinner in us to improve?

No More Dying?

Once we become Christians (however you think that happens) the dying is supossed to stop…right? From that point on in our life with Christ, it is upward and onwarDeath Becomes Med…right? We will have an immunity from the trials and tribulations that plague other people (non-Christians), and we will not have to deal with the little deaths along the rest of our journey in this world…right?

Any Christian worth his or her salt…I take that back, any Christian that has a pulse, knows that those statements are patently false.

St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15:29-31, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptised on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptised on their behalf? Why am I in peril every hour?  I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die everyday!”

“I die everyday.”   St. Paul knew the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. But he also knew that the power of Christ and His victory over death was the real truth about himself.

As Christians, we are not immune from troubles of life and the little deaths that occur as the result of the whirlwind of sin that we all contribute to and reap the benefits from. Death and dying, for the Christian is not a one time event when you are born again, or when you “accept” Jesus.

As Christians we all accept and reject Jesus each and every day…. many times within a single day, especially for someone like me who’s faith is at times weak at best.

Dying and rising (‘being raised’- to be more accurate) is the shape of the Christian’s life. Repentance and forgiveness…dying and rising, these are synonymous. This dying and rising is the process that we go through. It is the race that we run. But we don’t run it alone. We don’t go through it alone. Our Lord is right there to carry us along the way. We are carried in the forgiveness of sins, in our baptisms, like a boat carries you along through the water. And along the journey we are fed by His Word and His Holy Supper. And along the journey we return to our baptism, daily (as Luther said), and that is not hard for us to do because it is the boat in which we travel.

 Baptism is not a one time event that we do, or that is done to us by a pastor, priest, or minister, it is something tangible, done to us by God Himself. Baptism moves with us through life and carrries us though life. It promises us and gives us new life…over, and over, and over again, as we need it, each day, everytime the circumstances of life, or the results of our own sin, or the sin of others, or the work of the devil, bring us to the point of death. And again we are washed clean and riased  with Him to new life.

I think the advocates of ‘after you are born again, there is no more dying’  defend their point of view because they somehow believe it is preserving God’s power.  I think, that they think, that if you believe in a cycle of dying and rising that somehow God’s power hasn’t really been enough to squash the powers of darkness and evil in the world. Also, if you believe that salvation is a process, you somehow are tying this in to man’s efforts to save himself. I think they believe these things because they fail to recognize the paradox that is the life of faith. What apprears to be so, really isn’t, and vice verse.  Failure to recognize the paradoxes in Christianity will naturally bring about a desire to nail everything to the floor and make it understandable.

The one thing that all of us ought to remember is that God’s ways are certainlly not our ways.

Do I know everything about God and the Christian faith? Hah! That’s a good one! Of course I don’t. I’m going by what I have been taught, what is in scripture, and of course what the Spirit of God reveals to me as truth.

I always appreciate it when someone is able to straighten me out when I might be in error. So here’s your chance to do something good for a brother in Christ! Thanks!

   – Steve Martin

‘Sin’ vs. ‘Sins’ , and the ‘spiritual muscle building’ game

Many folks in the Church really like to keep busy by pumping their ‘spiritual muscles’. They’ve substituted the Charles Atlas (I’m dating myself) poster on the wall, for a poster of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. 80's Muscle Mom # 2

I believe that Jesus’ sermon was a re-presenting of God’s perfect Law, wherein no one would be left with any wiggle room at all when it came to living their lives in the manner that God demands. 

However, many well meaning preachers and teachers in the Church today believe that it is proper  to convince Christians that they can become better Christians by addressing their sins. ( a short audio clip of less than 10 minutes).

Is it possible to become a better Christian by addressing your sins?

Thanks for your input!

In a Nutshell…

My last post was probably a bit convoluted. The examples maybe were not the best.

What I was trying to get across is that so much of today’s pHMMMM, WALNUTS !reaching and teaching regarding the Christian faith is nothing more than ‘law’ . St. Paul  tells us that there in no life in the law…only death.

So when a person goes into a worship service and the law has had it’s way with them all week, at work , at home, and in society, the last thing that person needs is more law trying to get them to improve. It’s like pouring gasoline on the fire! That old, tired, sinful self needs to be killed off (not propped up!) and the new man or woman put in it’s place…by the gospel!

The problem is that so many churches have no idea of this. Their theologies are ‘man’ based to start with, and so they just naturally progress from there along the path of man’s efforts to become more Christlike. They don’t understand the objective nature of the sacraments and the comfort that they bring to real sinners. So the comfort they are seeking and that they need must come from themselves. It has to come from their feelings, their sincerity, their good fruits, as proof that they are really in Christ.

That we are Christians has nothing to do with what we say, think, feel, or do.  It has everything to do with what Christ has done, is doing, and will yet do…FOR US!

This is a real problem for folks in the law churches. For them, the whole enterprise is about what we say, think, feel, or do. According to St. Paul, this way of thinking about the Christian faith is very dangerous.

The question is how do we get them to realize this?

‘Thank you Lord, that I am not like other men.’

A friend of mine recently told me that he was doing a lot better now at not sinning than he was doing before he became a Christian.

This struck me as an odd thing to say. What would possess a Christian, who’s been freed from sin by the blood of Christ, to say something along those lines?

It seems as though his personal performance is pregnant on his mind. I hear a lot of performance based preaching these days from the mega church preachers that seem to dominate the radio waves here in Southern California.

 Is there some correlation to the preaching of the law for betterment and the notion that one could actually be improving on the ‘sins‘ scorecard?

                             - Steve

‘ Shouldn’t I be Getting Better? ‘

I’ve been a Christian now for about 50 years or so.

 So you would think that by now I would really be exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, doing all kinds of great things, large and small, and sinning less and less all the time.

But that is not the case. Actually, I don’t think I’m doing very many great things at all, compared to the likes of the Mother Teresas of this world. I haven’t given up my material possesions as Jesus tells His would-be disciples to do. I do not love God and my neighbors as myself. In fact, I quite often can’t stand my God and my neighbors.

As I get closer to the appointed meeting with my Lord, I really (for the most part) see myself as for what and who I really am; the biggest sinner that ever walked the face of the earth.

Sometimes I lay in bed at night and think of people that were long ago forgotten in my life, people that I did hurtful things to. People who’s lives may have been irrreparibly damaged…by me. I think also of the many good things that I had chances to do, but never did do.

I sometimes think of what Pastor Mark tells us, that “it’s not my worst that I should worry about when it comes to God, but rather my best. For the best thing that I have ever done on the best day day of my life…isn’t good enough either.”

This seems like a hopeless situation. I don’t seem to be able to, or desire to do the things that my Lord has commanded me to do. I guess that means I could be in for a really rough go of it on judgement day.

And that would certainly be true, if it were not for one thing that we haven’t talked about until now. I have a Savior. Someone loved me enough to die for me. Someone loved me enough to forgive everything I’ve ever done wrong and everything I’ll ever do wrong. Someone has put my old sinful self to death, on that cross 2,000 years ago, and in a more personal, tangible way, 50 years ago in my baptism.(Romans 6)

So now, as St. Paul says (also in Romans 6), I am to consider myself dead to sin. It’s as if it never happened. I was washed clean, for all eternity, in the waters of my baptism along with the Word of God’s Promise to be my God. He says to me, “you are mine”. He has adopted me into His family.

So whenever I dredge up those memories of wreckage that I’ve caused , I am to realize that these accusations of unworthiness are a lie.  I am worthy. Not because of anything that I have done, or will yet do, but because of what Jesus has done , is doing, and will yet do…for me.

I am declared righteous…for Jesus’ sake.

Getting better for the sake of my employer, my neighbor, my family, is always a good thing. Getting better for the sake of my Lord is not possible beyond what He has already done for me.

If you disagree with what I’ve said, that’s ok, but I would like to know why you feel I’m wrong on this one.

           Thanks.

                     – Steve Martin

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