‘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!

A ‘Jesus shaped spirituality’?

The following is my comment on the question of whether we should observe real change in the lives of a Christian. This discussion on the blog, ‘Confessing Evangelical’  is from another discussion on his blog and others, concerning a so-called ‘Jesus shaped spirituality’:

“When someone is in Christ, their lives will change.

Will they all change in the same ways? Of course not. Or to the same degree? Of course not. Jesus

Is it for us to judge what is real change and what is not? Of course not.

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completetion.” – St. Paul

It doesn’t even say there, that we will even co-operate.

Who knows the heart?
Could a person who is in church twice on Sunday and in every bible study and works at the soup kitchen and visits the elderly sick and dying, not even really be a Christian? Sure. We don’t know who the Christians are. We do know who the baptised are, and those that profess Christ.

The trouble here is one of focus. This Jesus shaped spirituality stuff puts the focus exactly where it does not belong…on us.

One starts to look at himself in light of the other and the other’s performance (or lack thereof) in comparison to some standards of behavior that Jesus modeled. What a waste of time. It is not even necessary.

We are free in Christ. Free to live. Free to love others and help them…or not!

The heroin addict dying in the alley might have a much stronger faith in Christ than the preacher in the pulpit.

I say proclaim God’s strong, uncompromising law…and then hand over His gift of forgiveness…freely…with no strings attached.

This emphasis on performance is ridiculous. People are being led astray from Christ..right into the arms of Moses…and the law!

What a huge waste of time and energy.

Thanks for the opportunity. “

I have been accused by some (one ‘post-Evangelical’ in particular) of being a “hyper-Lutheran. If that means one who defends Christ and His work for us, against those that promote a performance based ‘hyper-religiosity’…then I would be honored to be known as a “hyper-Lutheran”. 

– Steve Martin      A Lutheran who’s spirituality is shaped by Jesus in His Word and sacraments…alone!

When times are rough…

When things go wrong…terribly wrong, and they will, don’t be afraid to let God have it. Pour out your guts to Him with all you’ve got.   But in  the midst of our suffering God is there. Listen to a short (4 min.) audio clip that drives the point home.Numb

Another great quote from Luther…

“There are some who have no understanding to hear the truth of freedom and insist upon their goodness as means for salvation. These people you must resist, do the very opposite, and offend them boldly lest by their impious views they drag many with them into error.

For the sake of liberty of the faith do other things which they regarded as the greatest of sins… use your freedom constantly and consistently in the sight of and despite the tyrants and stubborn so that they may learn that they are impious, that their law and works are of no avail for righteousness, and that they had no right to set them up.”

                                                                     – Martin Luther

How do I know for sure that I am a Christian?

I am baptised.April 1997

  – Steve M.

(has there been a shorter post on a Christian blog?)

The Two Christian Paradigms

Within Christianity there are basically  Two Christian Paradigms.    One is where God has done everything for you. So. Let's say you're in a foreign country.

And the other, where God has done a portion for you. God may have done 99.9% and all that remains for you is that miniscule fraction of a percentage point, but it is a portion nonetheless. In this paradigm there are, of course, varrying degrees of percentages of effort, and or sincerity on your part, from a very little (as we have already discussed) to extensive, and quite involved.

Pastor Mark Anderson has done a pretty neat job of explaining just how these paradigms operate within our Christian lives and offers some good reasons as to why one of these paradigms is the truth, and the other is a lie.

Maybe you disagree with this assessment of the two modes of Christian faith, and can offer up a viable alternative.

The accompanying sermon is about 22 minutes and might just supply you all the ammo that you need to either concur or refute Pastor Anderson’s claims.

(click on the blue ‘Two Christian Paradigms’ in the first sentence to hear the sermon)


A Real Eye Opener!

Slow Down on the Caffeine

Here’s a little snippet from one of Pastor Mark’s classes on the book, ‘Where God Meets Man’, by Gerhard Forde.

Some of this might make your eyes bug out!    





click here  ->  What the law intends





What the gospel is…and is not…

The gospel of the Lord is not something that can be proven. Nor is the gospel of the Lord something that can be sized up. The gospel of the Lord is not somEscondido | Hiddenething that one can be coaxed into believing. The gospel of the Lord is not something that you can decide to make valid in your life. The gospel of the Lord is not something that is 99% finished and you just need to add that last 1% to complete it.

The gospel of the Lord is an objective truth that must be done to you. It takes hold of you from outside of yourself. It makes it’s own way into your broken heart, mind and soul.

It is the Promise of God, spoken to you by a preacher… read in His Holy Bible… washed over you in Baptism… given to you freely in the Sacrament of the Altar. That is the gospel of the Lord.

This life giving good news is done to you, by God, through the means mentioned above.

“Well, that doesn’t sound too sexy.” “That doesn’t sound like there’s much for me to do.” “That doesn’t leave my ‘free will’ intact.” “That just puts an end to my religious efforts.” That means that just anyone can qualify.” “That just doesn’t make any sense.”

Maybe not. But that’s the truth. That’s the gospel. Have a nice day.

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?

How should Christians use their money?

I was a bit disingenous with that title. This post really isn’t about how you, as a Christian, should use your money. This post is really about the proper, and improper use of the law in a sermon.

Here is a ficticious sample sermon on the use of money (which is law, remembering the principle that anything you should, ought, or must be doing, is law language):                          

“As a Christian, you should give money to help thos101 Dollars!e less fortunate than yourself. Jesus said, “give to the poor.” There is probably more you could be doing along those lines,  not hanging onto so much for yourself… for God will always provide for you all the things that you need. Jesus tells His disciples to do these things with respect to the giving of money and everything else that we own, as well. A Christian should give to be in the will of God, and show that he or she has been taken hold of by the Holy Spirit. So, friends in Christ, you have the power to get out there and do what is right.”

Was that a Biblical message?  Yes it was. It’s all right there in the Bible.

Was it a proper use of the law in a sermon? I say it was not a proper use of the law, and especially not if it was not followed up with the announcement of the gospel…the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.

Now here is what I believe to be a proper use of the law in a sermon…

” Jesus tells us to give money to the poor, to those in need, those less fortunate than ourselves. He tells His disciples that not only should they give their money, but everything else they own, as well. Are you hanging onto a little more of your money than you ought? Are you taking what you can down to the homeless shelter and making regular donations? Are you making an effort to seek out and find those truly in need and not put that extra money in a bank account or go out to nice dinners at your favorite restaurants?  Jesus expects us to give and to give generously…all the time! Well…how are you doing in the giving department? If you are anything like me, the answer to that question is…not very well. But while Jesus clearly demands that we give all, He also gave all. He gave His very life for sinners like you and me, those that for their own lack of trust in God, simply will not relinquish all that they have, or even very much of it. It was for people like that, people like you and me, that He died on that cross and asked the Father to forgive us. And the Father answered His prayer that we might live again. That our selfish aims and lack of trust in God would not be held against us.  We ought give, out of Christian charity and concern for others… we ought give. But more importantly, we ought give away the ‘good news of Jesus Christ’ and His love and forgiveness for all those that just don’t quite measure up. I you ever find youself not measuring up to the high standards that God has demanded of you, just remember that One did measure up. That One is Jesus, and He gave everything He had…for you.”

Now, in the latter example, notice how the law was not used to prod, or make better…but rather to accuse, or to expose. Once the sinner is exposed the law can go to work to kill off the old Adam who believes that what he’s doing is good enough. “I’m not perfect, but I’m better than he is”, kind of stuff. The unmitigated wielding of the law is used to crush the sinner.  Then notice how the gospel is handed over…free of charge! Nothing left to do…no more law…only the promise of what God has done for the sinner. That is the Word! And that Word, when by God’s grace, is heard by a broken sinner, can give new life. A resurrection can then take place! The gospel is actually done to the sinner…just as the Word of law was actually done to the sinner to cause the death of that sinner.

I realize that this sort of thinking with regard to preaching is certainly in the minority.

I’m just wondering what you think about this Law/Gospel style of preaching. Does this make any sense to you?


       – Steve Martin