Are you addicted to sin?

 Superficial optimism ultimately breeds despair. A theology of glory works like that. It operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem.
Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not 
seriously addicted to sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to good works. Of course our theologian of glory may well grant that we need the help of grace. The only dispute, usually, will be about the degree of grace needed. If we are a ‘liberal’, we 
will opt for less grace and tend to define it as some kind of moral persuasion or spiritual  encouragement. If we are more ‘conservative’ and speak of the depth of human sin, we will tend to escalate the degree of grace needed to the utmost. But the hallmark of a theology of glory is that it will always consider grace as something of a supplement to 
whatever is left of human will and power. It will always, in the end, hold out for some free will.
Theology then becomes the business of making theological explanations attractive
to the will. Sooner or later a disastrous erosion of the language sets in. It must constantly
be adjusted to be made appealing. Gradually it sinks to the level of maudlin sentimentality.
     

Theologians of the cross, however, operate quite differently. 
They operate on the assumption that there must be, to use the language of treatment for addicts,  a 
“bottoming out” or an “intervention”. That is to say, there is no cure for the addict on his 
own. In theological terms, we must confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self,  in whatever form that may take, pious or impious. So theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic
appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth… because those things
are themselves the problem. The truth must be spoken. To repeat Luther again, the thirst for glory
or power or wisdom is never satisfied even by the acquisition of it. 
We always want more…precisely so that we can declare independence from God. The thirst 
for the absolute independence of the self… and that is sin. Thus, Luther’s 
statement of the radical cure in his proof for thesis 22: ” The remedy for curing desire does not 
lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it.” The cross is the “intervention.” The addict/sinner  is not coddled by false optimism but is put to death so that a new life can begin. The  theologian of the cross
:says what a thing is”. The theologian of the cross preaches to convict of sin. The addict
is not deceived by theological marshmallows but is told the truth so 
that he might at last learn to confess… to say, ” I am an addict… I am an alcoholic”,
and never stop saying it.
Theologically, and more universally, all must learn to say,”I am a 
sinner “… and likewise never stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true.
                                                                         
                                                                             – Gerhard Forde
 

 

 

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Jesus Christ is just bad…that’s all.

Anything and everything goes nowadays…except Jesus Christ.

Hinduism, Mohamedism, Budhism, Shintoism, Atheism, Zoroastrianism, Animism, Enviromentalism…all the ism’s are just fine…no problem. But Jesus. He has got to go. We do not want Him anywhere near us, or in the conversation, or to even see the name in print. Jesus Christ is just bad…that’s all.

Why?

Because Jesus Christ claimed to be the living God. He claimed to be the One sent from the Father. Incarnate as a man. He was good. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead. He forgave sins. And for that He was staked to wood and left to sufficate and bleed to death.

I think there are two main reasons that the world hated Him then, and why the world still hates Him. He said He was the One. All other claims to divinity, or roads to righteousness are counterfit…phoney substitutes. That’s reason one…the exclusive claim to Godliness, and the undoing of the religious projects designed to bring people up to a level of acceptabilty towards gaining favor with God.  

Reason two is that we have a natural aversion to God. Because of our sinful nature, we want to be our own god. We want no one telling us how we should live. When true goodness, true Godliness enters the picture, we feel threatened and want to snuff it out, lest we be exposed in our lesser state. “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil.” ( John 3:19 ) 

There is also a third reason, much lesser than the first two, but still a factor (I believe). The legalistic, moralistic  self-righteousness and judgmentalism of many Christians. This creates a comic book characterization of Christians and the Christian faith. Much of which is earned and well deserved.

There is an answer for this problem of Jesus hating. It lies in Jesus Himself. He holds out the only true hope for fogiveness and reconcilliation with the Living God. His love for sinners is great. He died for the sins of the whole world. Not just a few. He welcomes all unto Himself and desires that all come unto Him.  In Jesus Christ there is always hope, there is always forgiveness, and there is always love and authentic life.

That ought to be good news for a world that is hopelessly lost without Him. It ought to be.

Sin…the gift that keeps on giving.

Ok, so you commited a great big one. You’ve outdone yourself this time and hauled off and done something really bad. You have sinned in such a way as to affect not only yourself, but all those around you. And you can’t take it back. You can’t fix this one. This one has had a domino effect that is still going…years later.

What do you do? Well you can say you’re sorry. You can try and make up for it in all the ways you can think of. You of course, have told the Lord your God all about it and He was glad that you did (as if He wasn’t aware of it already). You  begged His forgiveness and He has told you that He does forgive you. You knew He would, He has promised He would, on the cross, in His Word, in your baptism, and in His supper. And that is truly a wonderful thing.

But you just can’t get over it. You see the damage that you have caused and it you wonder if it will ever end. You replay the incident over and over in your mind. “If I had only done this, or not done that”. “If only I hadn’t …”. But all the ‘If’ I had only’s’ only seem to make matters worse. Those that were hurt say they forgive you. And whether or not they really do or not, they will never forget. The trajectories of their lives are forever altered. They now are passing on the hurt to others. The wreckage adds up and multiplies in ways we cannot know, but we know it is happening whether we see it or not.

This is sin. This is what happens when we least expect it. These are the depths we have fallen to. This is why we deserve nothing more than temporal and eternal death as creatures of a Holy and Righteous God. 

While the pain oftentimes does not subside, and while those we have hurt may never ever fully recover, we can be sure of one thing. Because of the cross of Christ and His answered prayer to the Father, we surely are forgiven. He chooses not to remember this injustice against Himself, ourselves, our families and our neighbors. He chooses to honor the prayer of His Son…”Father forgive them…”

“All things work together for good for all those who have faith.” I have a hard time believing that. I often have very little faith. I have to hope that He will keep me in His faith and give me the faith that I need, and carry me through times when I just don’t believe Him.

“Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

Got ‘Smote’?

I got ‘smote’.

It happened yesterday at church. In the pastor’s sermon. In the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine (the body and blood). It happened as I lay in bed this morning examining my life. It happened as I returned to my baptism (I do it quite often out of necessity). It happens in ways great and small all throughout my life, my week, my day.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be, if you dwell on it. If you take the attitude that this whole thing depends on you. If you think that there is something inside of you that needs to be brought forth that in some way will enhance your goodness quotient. If you think that you can do better so that you won’t need God’s Word of law to smite you…then it can be a bad thing. ‘It’ is not actually the bad thing, but more aptly put…you are.

Not only isn’t it necessarily a bad thing… it is a good thing. God’s wants to smite you. He has sent forth His law to make sure this happens to you.

Having been smitten, smote, smacked, whacked, bludgeoned, killed…isn’t the end of the story for the Christian. There is another side of baptism, you know.  The side where God lifts you out of the water and breathes new life into you.  The side where the wound that the blade has cut is cauterized and you are made whole again. The joyful, redemptive side. The new and everlasting life in Christ, side.  “O death, where is thy sting?”

So don’t be afraid to get smited, smote, whacked, killed. “For if you would lose your life in this world, you would gain it.”

Thanks be to God for His law and His gospel. Thanks be to God for His death and His resurrection.

Thanks be to God that He does all this for us in our baptisms, in His supper, and in the hearing of His Word.

Got ‘smote’?

Christians who want to keep God’s Law for righteousness sake…

St. Paul goes to great lengths in his letter to the Galatian Christians to distinguish between law keeping and faith in Jesus.

He talks about the freedom from the law that Christ has given to us with respect to pleasing God.

Listen in on Pastor Mark Anderson from Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar  CA,  as he upacks the scriptures in the book of Galatians with respect to the vital question, Why did Christ die for me ?”     

click here for Bible study  -> for freedom Jesus has set us free 

 

… and some more ->part 2 of bible study

Your opinions (except Brent’s) are appreciated!  Thanks!

So what will you do for God today?

 If you plan on doing something for God today, it had better be pretty darn spectacular. It had better be something far better than you’ve ever done before and better yet than you’ve ever e ven dreamed of doing.

I put it like that because God is not easily impressed. God doesn’t get giddy when He sees one of His creation doing something for Him which, quite frankly, doesn’t cut the mustard.

God does not need you to do cartwheels for Him and then looking up and saying,”pretty good, huh!”

God is not interested in your keeping His commandments for His sake.  “The sabbath was made for man, man wasn’t made for the sabbath.”

There was really only one that has ever done the necessary work to impress God. There was only one that was of pure heart, of pure motives, who acted out of pure love and faithfulness to the Father. There was only one that heaped upon Himself the firery coals of our sinfulness. God was impressed by this one. One who would take the punishment onto Himself and willfully give up his life for those who murdered Him. This One impressed God so much that He answered the prayer to forgive the murderers, the liars, the thieves, the self obsessed idolators. This is what impresses God. Not our half-hearted efforts at obedience.

 Jesus Christ has impressed God by His faithfulness and has asked the Father to forgive us…for His sake.

And now we are at peace with God because of Christ. No more struggling to do what is right that we might be acceptable in His sight. No more wondering if we have done enough to merit forgiveness and entry into Heaven. We have not, and will not. But He has, and He does, and He always will, that we might live with Him eternally.

So do not worry about what you can or should do for God. It has already been done…for you!

Now, in that great freedom, purchased for you with the blood of Jesus, go out and live the way that God always intended for you to live…in love for others. Realize that He is already pleased with you because of Christ. Realize that when you fall back upon yourself in sin that you ARE forgiven. Realize that now, in your baptism and in hIs supper, He has put to death the old sinner in you and is conforming and transforming you into the person that He wills you to be.

A much better question, then, is ‘what will you do for others today?’