Maybe it’s something in the water…?

I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is it must be acting up again.

The ‘doers’ are out… again(as if they’ve ever left…ha!)… coming on strong.

“Well, it says right here in 2nd Macedonians 12, that Jesus tells us that we are to keep His commandments if we really love Him.”

OK……….then maybe that ought to be your first clue.

Maybe you don’t really love Him? Maybe you’ve got better things to ‘do’? Maybe all of your ‘doing’ is out of guilt, or fear, or legalism, or some other self- centered motive and really has nothing to do with loving your Lord and Savior, or your neighbor?

Maybe you are not really all that concerned (ultimately) with your own ‘doing’, but rather are fixated on the ‘doings’ of others?  You want to see them ‘do the right thing’ so that they can be a “real Christian”, after all.

Maybe you have no idea what the law demands from you? (perfect obedience-at all times) Not your best effort. That won’t cut it. The law demands  perfection in your ‘doings’.

Maybe you think that this whole ‘God project’ that you are on, really is about you? There is no free lunch after all.

Maybe you have never really heard the gospel? I mean ‘really heard’  it?

If any or some of those maybe’s applies to you…then maybe you’d better get busy? You seem to be falling a little behind in the ‘doing’ department. There are prisoners to visit in jails, old folks that need visiting in nursing homes, homeless to feed, poor that could use a little more of your cash, and enemies to invite over to dinner…etc., etc., etc.  All things Jesus said we ought be doing. I am certain that no believer worth his or her salt would ever spend too much time watching television, or engaging in other less than “Christian activity” while there is the work of the Kingdom to be done.

You wouldn’t want Jesus to think that maybe you really don’t love Him…would you?

In the odd chance that this little ‘law bomb’  hit the inteded target and went off right between your eyes (and hopefully killed you…dead)…there is some good news.

All of your sin is forgiven for Jesus’ sake. He died for slackers just like you…and me.

There is nothing left for you to ‘do’. It has all been accomplished…for you…that you might live again with Him, in total righteousness, forever and ever.

He knows who and what you really are. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans, somewhere)

“It is finished” He (our Lord) said that too, you know. (while He was dying for your ‘doing’)

So, as my pastor likes to say, “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?”

That’s the gospel.

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38 Responses

  1. “OK……….then maybe that ought to be your first clue.” (Steve)

    The doing aspect of the gospel and front and centre and all over the place in the gospels – pick a random chapter from one of the gospels – betcha I find a Jesus ‘doing something’ or teaching us to ‘do something’. Go ahead and pick the random chapter – lets see who’s holding their weight on this one (I am going to forgo Paul or the letters for this exercise).

    “If any or some of those maybe’s applies to you…then maybe you’d better get busy?” (Steve)

    But none of them apply to me Steve – that’s the part I don’t quite get – so you missed something along the way (because I can’t include myself in those categories). Thhe reason I do it – is because that is what ‘faith’ is. Faith is belief that causes action – not just beliefs.

    “You wouldn’t want Jesus to think that maybe you really don’t love Him…would you?” (Steve)

    Life is about balance – even Jesus spent 30 years of his life doing who knows what exactly? Even within his minisitry he found times to attend weddings, hang our with shady aspects of society, get alone with his friends, meditate, celebrate the festivals, etc. You think even Jesus spent all his free time doing good? We know his disciples didn’t either – but they did set up programs.

    “There is nothing left for you to ‘do’. It has all been accomplished…for you…that you might live again with Him, in total righteousness, forever and ever.” (Steve)

    There is plenty left for you to do – that’s ridiculous. If Katrina hit your home town do you (a) do nothing (b) pretend your righteous and do nothing or (c) get involved in the clean-up? Lots to do – if the world still has pain and sinful behavior – how can one claim ‘nothing to worry about here’?

    Living with Jesus or God in some other time (there and then) is grand – but we live here right now (present day) – and your blessed wait isn’t all that blessed if it ain’t blessing anything.

    As for righteousness – I am not sayiing Jesus didn’t supply the way to having a relationship with God (righteousness with God in that sense) – but if you think you are ‘good’ because of Jesus’ actions – you are sadly mistaken.

    ““While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans, somewhere)” (Steve)

    I agree – but we are still sinners – not much has changed except Jesus died for us. There is still a sinful world to deal with and work through – what has changed is acceptance with God (of which I am grateful). But sin exists – still.

    ““It is finished” He (our Lord) said that too, you know. (while He was dying for your ‘doing’)” (Steve)

    I agree – the atonement and whatever it means is ‘done’…we cannot add a single thing to that. My doing has nothing to do with ‘earning’ my place in heaven (that’s done already – prepared by Jesus)…my doing has everything to do with being a person of ‘faith’ in Jesus and God.

    “So, as my pastor likes to say, “Now that you don’t have to do anything…what will you do?”” (Steve)

    If nothing is required of you – why do parents bother teaching their children anything besides ‘accept Jesus’ sacrifice’?

  2. Dang people…suck on lemons this morning?!

    You know, even though the doers are seemingly coming out of the woodwork as of late…it is still a good thing, regardless of the heart’s true intent…what was that that the Lord said (somewhere)…leave him alone…if he is not against us, he is for us…
    Who knows, perhaps the doing bug will transform into faith…eventually – one could pray about it anyhow.
    …With God all things are possible…(I am sure I read that somewhere in the Holy Book…)
    ~mp;)

  3. I think the idea here is anything we do is in view of Gods Mercy (Romans 12:1). The bible is very clear AGAINST legallistic thinking doers or what is called as works based righteoussness and its THE WORST THING IN SCRIPTURE because it kills the effectivity of Gods Church.

    The parable of the Tax Collector and the pharisee is a great example. The pharisee stood up and said look at all the things I AM DOING and the tax collector just beat his chest and said God have Mercy on me.

    The difference between the legallistic doers of scripture is a Christian that is a taxpayer with rights vs spiirtual beggars. We need to be the spiritual beggar in the aforementioned parable.

    its also a matter of what you find your righteoussness in (Romans 1:17). Do we get our worth out of our doing and puff ourselves up spiritually or do we get our righteoussness in Christ like Romans 1:17 says.

    The remaining Chapters of Romans goes on to discuss our complete inability to please God in our own efforts (works base righteoussness).

    I recommend reading Tim Kellers book “The prodigal God”

  4. Great comments, all! Thanks a lot.

    I’m actually a bit behind in the things that I have ‘to do’ today. (not to please God…but my wife)

    I’ll try and weigh in late tonight or tomorrow.

    Plus that will give me time to get my arguments straight in my head. (sometimes it just never happens!)

    I will say this much, for now. I do think that ’emphasis’ is extremely important. And I do think that the Holy Spirit working in the life of the believer will bring about works and that we as observers will not always be able to seperate the good from the bad.

  5. societyvs wrote: “Faith is belief that causes action – not just beliefs”.

    I was talking on another blog site (photography) this morning to a young lady who had just been to see the new movie rendition of the story, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’.
    She had been so moved by Keanu Reeves’ performance of Klaatu, sparing humanity because of their feelings, that she was declaring to the world that she’d immediately become a Vegetarian, as she wanted to ease the suffering of others.
    Is that what we mean by faith causing action?

    I have yet to see the new movie myself (something I’ll remedy tomorrow), but I already doubt it’ll have the some punch (message) as Robert Wise’s 1950’s original. Why. Well, in that version, the first Klaatu (brilliantly played by Michael Rennie) offered humanity a stark choice – life or death, redemption of judgment, no mediocre partial reform!

    The point is simple.
    Christian faith, first and foremost, is not about what we do –
    it’s about having confidence about what HE does –
    HIS promises, HIS actions, His Righteousness.
    Faith is a trust in those, so that we can indeed escape the current cycle of sin and death which marks every current aspect of life here, including our own deeds.

    No one is saying a Christian is someone who slopes off from doing good – love is at the heart of how we live – but that love DEMANDS, first and foremost, a speaking of the Truth, and that truth is something which sends the natural (fallen) nature running and screaming – we can do nothing to help (rescue) ourselves – that is entirely HIS doing.

    If we want to look at the Gospels, take a good, hard look at the ‘work’ of Jesus Himself in the Gospel of Matthew just prior to His crucifixion (chapters 21-23), where most of the ‘doing’ is ripping into the ‘righteousness’ of the religious of His day – funny how this ‘doing’ never comes up amidst ‘do-er’ sermons, or at Easter.

    Churchianity is replete with such “righteousness” (I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been ‘judged’ because of not using the right translation, or not displaying the right gift, or not having the right view of the end times, or not being into ‘submission’ to the right heavily anointed ministry of the day). To paraphrase Oliver Cromwell – AWAY with such baubles (fitting just before Christmas!)
    The righteousness of God is found only in one place in our fallen universe – a manger in Bethlehem, where the naked flesh of a new child nurses upon the breast of a virgin…

    Behold, the Lamb of God!

    There, and there alone, my faith shall rest.

    Sola Christos.

    Howard.

  6. “If you think you are good because of Jesus actions you are sadly mistaken.” (SocVs)

    That’s exactly why I know that I am “good.”

    Good in God’s eyes. Accepted. Justified. Righteous.

    Being good down here, and judging good amongst each other is another matter…and not related to faith in Christ.

    We are not members of a family based on how good we are….but rather WHO we are. We are children of the Father (because of what Christ Jesus has done) and by virtue of our baptisms…so that our actions do not count against us..or for us.

    Now, our actions (and of course we will have them..we are not bumps on a log) are purely for the benefit of the neighbor.

    Emphasis on our actions, takes us away from faith and into the realm of works…it’s just a natural way to go since we are bent that way (the law) to begin with.

    Here’s an observation of mine: Whenever I have gone to a church that emphasizes works…I find lots of religious people… self-righteous people…phoney people.

    I will take a real sinner, who trusts in Christ for his total righteousness, every time.

  7. Jesus receives those real sinners as well. The others he cannot stand and refers to them as white washed coffins. Wow!

    Thanks St Stephen for the post. And thanks be to God for his mercy and grace.

  8. http://spadinofamily.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/what-fules-your-sanctation-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-does/

    I do believe in the process of sanctification but the Glory and work goes to what Jesus did for me on the Cross. Everything I do is in freedom, in view of Gods Mercy, and not a trap to the religious legallistic, pharisee like thinkers we continue to have today.

    Jon

  9. “Everything I do is in freedom, in view of Gods Mercy, and not a trap to the religious legalistic, pharisee like thinkers we continue to have today”.

    That (may) deal with around 50% of the problem. The other 50% is the innate propensity to “religiousness” of the Pharisaical variety that dwells within our own fallen flesh. Sanctification is really all about nailing (daily putting off) that one. There isn’t one of us that doesn’t encounter, like gravity, the pull, the ‘bewitching’ that targets us there.

    Thanks be to God for a redemption which utterly saves us from the tatters of our own filthy illusions of righteousness to clothe us in the real thing.

  10. Good post Steve,

    It is as Luther says and so very true, “many men will talk much about good works and faith and no nothing whatsoever of either one” (LDH paraphrased from memory). But you have to really have the Gospel to understand what Luther is saying there, this is absolutely incomprehensible to the old man and pietist – like light attempting to speak to utter darkness.

    Gerharde Forde, “The Cross is first and foremost an ATTACH on sin…man’s spiritual aspirations”. If we don’t see that, we don’t understand Law, Gospel and the entire Scripture is a black paged book, hearing they do not hear, seeing they do not see. The fall was not a fall as often viewed, that is “into baser things” – rather a usurpation in attempting to be more pious than God. The Cross first and foremost attacks not the baser things of sin but OUR BEST religious activities, our pious things, our works even by the so called “power of post conversion grace”. Here’s a Gospel turn for you: Our good works after conversion put Jesus on the Cross, thus, the Cross crucifies our good works even after conversion! Thus by not “doing” we “do” and without effort effort is made.

    “Maybe you have no idea what the law demands from you? (perfect obedience-at all times) Not your best effort. That won’t cut it. The law demands perfection in your ‘doings’.”

    One thing I’ve learned about pietism and ALL it’s relatives is that even this doesn’t stop them. For some reason they can still “sense” that they can do this post conversion, especially in the “once saved always saved” or “can’t fall away crowd”, like Rome, that you can somehow do this with the aid of “grace”.

    The pietisticide for this is an outstanding observation Luther makes regarding the Law in his HD. The Law demands a free heart, period and nothing less. Implication: One must remember if you have to be told to do it (or not to do it), one must never forget that one has ALREADY fallen into deadly damning sin.

    That pretty much does away with even the Melancthonian/Calvinistic third use of the Law that Luther never conceived of.

    Piestism and piestist will now respond that “you hate the Law” or some other such none sense (the back door cry against the Gospel, too much grace…). In reality this is the highest display of its perfection, righteousness and goodness the “does not need to be told free altruistic nature of it”. No we don’t hate the (real) Law it is good and righteous in this way and can with the Psalmist praise it though we don’t nor can do it, but we do hate the pietistic version of God’s Law (in all its forms) which is manifestly not the Law in the least.

    Yours,

    Larry

  11. “Pietisticide”

    I like it! I’ve never heard that one before.

    I totally agree, Larry, the cross puts an end to the ‘doer’ in us. It nails all our works right up there with the dead corpse of Jesus and renders them just as dead.

    The gospel is an offense to the pietistic ‘doer’ and indeed is an offense to the hearts of all human beings.

    But this is the kind of a God that we have, One who loves those who hate what He’s done for them and indeed hate Him.

    “He sets a table before me in the sight of my enemies”

    What a great God we have! What a great Savior!

  12. Larry,

    There is a blogsite that I think you would enjoy titled ‘Essentially Lutheran’.

    Terry Hahm is the owner and writer of the blog, but he has stopped writing. But there are a lot of great posts from a Lutheran perspective.

    http://essentiallylutheran.blogspot.com/

    Pass it on!

  13. Well, as long as everyone is doing good and living well – what do I care what the focus of this faith actually is. If the focus on God’s grace – makes one more graceful/merciful – then that’s the type of actions we are taught to follow. I can’t knock any of that.

    My point is faith in God is not seperated from your actions. If you believe God is gracious to all – then you will also be gracious to all (out of gratitude or what i call faith in God). If God is love – then we will be loving – because we have faith in this God.

    As for the parable of the sinner and the Pharisee – that’s a matter of humilty – and meant to teach us to be humble before God (and others to be exact). Faith is not a ‘show’ – its a real and licing pathway for us to enact in our lives – but not out of pride – but out of love.

    My concern is simple – if all that matters is faith – then why should one care about anything they do?

  14. “.. if all that matters is faith – then why should one care about anything they do? – (SocVs)

    SocietyVs,

    Faith leads to works. Works do not lead to faith.

    Faith is a gift of God.

    That’s what I believe.

    Thanks Jason!

  15. “As for the parable of the sinner and the Pharisee – that’s a matter of humilty – and meant to teach us to be humble before God (and others to be exact)”.
    The lessons of this parable –
    The Pharisee thanks God that he is ‘not like other men’ on the basis of his deeds (look out do-er righteousness) – that he did not ‘sin’ (act) against others and therefore was truly pious, but he had already, as noted in Larry’s response, become guilty of the most heinous rebellion by personifying a ‘righteousness’ stemmed from contempt for those who were tagged as lesser mortals by (in his eyes) their failure.
    The Parable is equally to show that God justifies (as expounded by Paul in Romans) only one kind of human being – the wicked! ; those who accept that there is no good (justifying) thing within them, and by faith, thus trust in Christ alone.

  16. Hey Steve thanks for that link. Always looking for good stuff!

    Merry Christmas if I don’t write back before then, it gets kind of busy traveling and all.

    Yours,

    Larry

  17. “become guilty of the most heinous rebellion by personifying a ‘righteousness’ stemmed from contempt for those who were tagged as lesser mortals by (in his eyes) their failure.” (Howard)

    Exactly, he was not humble…he was self righteous/proud (which is like the opposite of humility). He also looked down on other people – denying them their dignity.

    “The Parable is equally to show that God justifies (as expounded by Paul in Romans) only one kind of human being – the wicked! ; those who accept that there is no good (justifying) thing within them, and by faith, thus trust in Christ alone.” (Howard)

    That parable says nothing about what Paul says – that’s a ‘read in’ from a Pauline letter to a passage from Luke’s gospel. Can anyone admit that?

    The parable is about an aspect of faith – prayer – and in the 2 person’s prayers the extent of what they are saying is fairly the opposite. The tax collector says nothing about the Pharisee – but only about his own condition ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ The Pharisee on the other hand does mention the tax collector in his prayer – as a type of comparison. The comparison is duly noted – tax collectors were considered a type of traitor to the state. The comparison is also a game God will not play – this is the same God who provides rain and sun to all equally – so why should not prayers be the same way? It seems to me the tax collector knew his guilt.

    Point of the parable (Luke 8:14) “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    The point is adamantly humility (mentioned twice in verse 14). If we approach God in humility – we will also go home justified in our confessions to God. If we go into some bragging rights with Him – are we paying due diligence to where our faith begins and ends?

    Luke 8:9 (premise of the parable): “And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt.”

    This says nothing about Paul and his justification of faith – but is solely about being self-righteous and viewing others with ‘contempt’ (which happens in this parable). This is a teaching that Jesus is asking his disciples to follow – and in turn – us now.

    The parable is not about Paul’s ‘original sin’ and God’s righteousness being added to us – nothing of the like is mentioned in this parable. I will admit justification is mentioned – and this is not via faith (both persons were praying – both had faith in God) – but attitude justifying the praying person.

  18. I see the parable being about recognizing our need of God.

    The Pharisee was a good religious man, keeping God’s law and doing all that the law said he should do. The parable mentions this, so it must be important to the point that Jesus is making.

    The tax collector knew what he was, and knew his totally unnworthiness and begged forgiveness.

    This is the repentant attitude that God is after and it does not come from keeping the law or doing your best. It comes from knowing that you are pretty much a failure at doing what God commands.

    That’s my take.

  19. “The parable is about an aspect of faith – prayer – and in the 2 person’s prayers the extent of what they are saying is fairly the opposite”.

    Did you miss Luke’s narrative on WHY the parable is told – ?
    You state “The parable is not about (Paul’s )‘original sin’ and God’s righteousness being added to us – nothing of the like is mentioned in this parable”, but Luke begins by saying this is addressed to some who TRUSTED in themselves – in their own righteousness (18:9), so is this teaching us about prayer?

    The two men are paralleled in the story because (outwardly) they are both engaged in the very same activity – prayer – but in two totally different conditions! According to the received piety of the day, the tax man was totally outside of anything resembling being righteous, alienated from God by his life and deeds, but in this lesson, it is the seemingly righteous man who is judged and found miserably wanting!
    We can engage in prayer all day, seemingly pious prayer to, but unless we see ourselves as this poor wretch, lost besides God’s mercy, we are indeed lost.
    Take lessons about the need to pray, to call upon God’s mercy from this example by all means, my friend, but DO NOT miss the point that out Lord is making about true faith and righteousness!

  20. “It comes from knowing that you are pretty much a failure at doing what God commands.” (Steve)

    If this was the point of that paravle – why isn’t that pointed out within the parable? God has no problem with the Pharisee and his religious practices – but his attitude towards others – namely people he saw a ‘less’ than himself. It’s the contrast between ‘being righteous’ and having the attitude ‘someone is less than you’.

    “You state “The parable is not about (Paul’s)‘original sin’ and God’s righteousness being added to us – nothing of the like is mentioned in this parable”, but Luke begins by saying this is addressed to some who TRUSTED in themselves – in their own righteousness (18:9), so is this teaching us about prayer?” (Howard)

    This is addressed to someone whose attitude is in question – thus their ‘just’ standing with God is also in question. How can someone that claims to know God so well – treat someone who doesn’t with such disdain? It focuses us back to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’.

    “Take lessons about the need to pray, to call upon God’s mercy from this example by all means, my friend, but DO NOT miss the point that out Lord is making about true faith and righteousness!” (Howard)

    The thing is ‘admission’ – and I agree with the sinner’s confession in prayer. The religious person’s admission is a little different – it’s self-righteous. This is a problem in faith (becoming self righteous) – and Jesus is pointing that out. Jesus is not making some point about how horrible humanity is – just that humanity needs to recognize its equality before God – whether sinner or seasoned religious person (humility and pride).

    There is no point – that you think exists – about true faith and being ‘just’ before God – unless we mean with concerns to humility and pride (and dealing with these aspects of our behavior). The parable is a ‘teaching’ – for us to ‘follow’. So what do we follow from that parable?

    Be humble. You are equals – not better than someone else. Do not use your faith to demean another person – we have no right to do so. Pride/conceit can set into people of a seasoned faith – we need to be aware of that. Our enemies (so everyone/all) are welcome to seek God. Honesty in prayer is a good exercise.

    There is a lot in that parable – and the fact you see wretched humanity and law is quite the thing (very Pauline). I do not see that in that parable – although the figure-heads you seek exist in the parable – there is no mention of that point as key to the teaching being made. The parable – if let stand on its own – speaks to our conditions – sinner and faithful alike.

    I am not saying ‘sin’ does not exist and the condition thereof does not need to be dealt with – I agree with you and Steve on that. I am saying this parable is not a lay-out of original sin and borrowed righteousness. The point is made – “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”…what has that to do with being a wretched person? If you ask me the wretched person is the Pharisee in this teaching – not the sinner – and this is the point of the parable. I see it working against the idea of ‘be wretched’ – but rather ‘be humble’ – exaltation of self is ‘wretched’.

  21. “There is a lot in that parable – and the fact you see wretched humanity and law is quite the thing (very Pauline). I do not see that in that parable – although the figure-heads you seek exist in the parable – there is no mention of that point as key to the teaching being made. The parable – if let stand on its own – speaks to our conditions – sinner and faithful alike”.

    The Pharisee saw himself as justified before God in reference to his understanding of ‘righteousness’ – external behavior, which he believed made him pious, but actually made him confident in his own merits. The Tax Collector understood himself to be wretched when it came to his ability to be righteous, and called upon God for mercy. I see an illustration here that fits perfectly into the entire revelation of the Gospel, that we cannot rescue ourselves, and that we cannot have confidence on anything bar God’s mercy to do it for us.
    Paul, in his writings, amplifies on the nature of the problem here – the confidence we can place in ourselves – which is totally mis-placed because of our condition (Romans 1&2). This indeed makes the Pharisee the one alienated from God, for such is blind to God’s mercy bestowed to all who know themselves to be unrighteous, in great need of rescue.

    The miracle in the story is the repentance of the tax collector – his looking away from Himself to God for mercy. Such humility comes when God opens our eyes to our true estate and our need for His redeeming grace.

    “There is no point – that you think exists – about true faith and being ‘just’ before God”

    A man can only be righteous when He trusts in Gods mercy, not having confidence in himself and his fulfillment of what he deems pious, or any other thing – the grace and mercy of God alone allows us to repent, to trust and to know redemption. I see all of this unfolding in the example given here, for if (true) faith and (justifying) mercy are absent, then the actions of this man would be in vain.

  22. Societyvs wrote:
    “There is no point – that you think exists – about true faith and being ‘just’ before God”.

    I can see there would be a real problem here if this is merely what I think exists in the passage, so let’s look further afield, (as I’m certainly not wanting to affirm something here in isolation)…

    1. Adam Clark’s Commentary on the passage:

    In Matt. v. 20, our Lord says, ‘Unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God’.
    Now, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is described here by a Pharisee himself. We find it was twofold: 1. It consisted in doing no harm to others. 2. In attending all the ordinances of God, then established in the Jewish economy; and in these things they were not like other men….This was the Pharisee’s righteousness, and the ground on which he built his hope of final salvation.

    (In contrast) We see at once, the reason why our blessed Lord said that the tax-gatherer went down to his house justified rather than the other:-he sought for mercy through an atonement for sin, which was the only way in which God had from the beginning purposed to save sinners. As the Pharisee depended on his doing no harm, and observing the ordinances of religion for his acceptance with God, according to the actual means of grace and justice, he must be rejected: for as all had sinned and come short of the glory of God, and no man could make an atonement for his sins, so he who did not take refuge in that which God’s mercy had provided must be excluded from the kingdom of heaven.
    From this we may see what it is to have a righteousness superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees.

    2. A Lutheran Ash Wednesday Sermon on the passage:

    “If Jesus had come with the Pharisee’s righteousness and not with God’s, not a soul would have been saved.
    The Pharisee’s righteousness was a manufactured righteousness that was good in comparison to other righteousness, but not complete, not impeccable. The Pharisee’s righteousness was a
    righteousness we could have attained for ourselves with a little elbow grease, if we just picked ourselves up by our bootstraps. But we don’t need the Pharisee’s righteousness to be saved. We need God’s righteousness. If the Pharisee’s righteousness were enough, there would be no Lent in the Church Year.
    Jesus could simply have come and told us to watch Dr. Phil. But there is Lent, and the Pharisee’s righteousness is useful only as eye candy to hang on the devil’s refrigerator.

    God’s righteousness is not something we earn; it is something God gives. Our merit does not move God to give it. Our prayers do not move God to give it. Nothing we do or have moves God to give it.
    Rather, it is just the opposite. Our need moves God to give it, to place it into our broken, desperate, hopeless hands. That is why the Pharisee was the sinner and the tax collector the saint. That is why after you told God what you are at the beginning of the service—a sinner—God told you what He has declared you to be instead—a saint. And that sinner and that saint will wrestle within you all the way to the grave, and the only thing that can drown the pride of the flesh is the humility that springs from your Baptism where you did nothing but receive God’s mercy”.

    And the good Doctor himself:
    “This Pharisee is set up by Christ as the highest example of what a man can do by his own strength according to the law. And it is certain that all men are by nature and from Adam no better, and just such vices manifest themselves in them, when before God they want to be holy and better than other people; and that there is nothing but a mischievous contempt for God and all mankind, and are filled with joy and pleasure when men sin against God. Such are twofold, yea, manifold worse than the publican and open sinners like him, because they do not only not keep God’s law, but they do not want anyone else to keep it; they do not only not help anyone or do good, but rejoice over their destruction and condemnation; and above all this they adorn themselves and pretend to be exceedingly holy, and with a condemned conscience dare to blaspheme and lie before God’s majesty, that they are not like other men, and have kept God’s law, so that heaven itself might fall to pieces before them”.

    Martin Luther.

    May we know genuine righteousness which justifies us before God, because it stems only from His grace and mercy.

    “Justification is of God in Christ; therefore the self-condemned, and not the self-righteous, are justified before God”.

    Conclusion of Matthew Henry on the Parable.

    A peaceful and joyous Christmas to you all,

    Howard.

  23. “The Pharisee saw himself as justified before God in reference to his understanding of ‘righteousness’ – external behavior” (Howard)

    Here is the Pharisee’s words ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.’

    The Pharisee is saying nothing wrong there except for one thing – his attitude on the issue. He is keeping the teachings of God (ie: do not commit adultery, do not cheat your neighbor, etc) – and there is nothing wrong with that (that is not the problem in the parable). Problem is – this religious person thought he was better than others – now that’s being conceited (as per being self righteous).

    “that we cannot rescue ourselves, and that we cannot have confidence on anything bar God’s mercy to do it for us.” (Howard)

    I have no problem with God’s grace – I agree 100% – we fall upon God’s grace. But God’s grace is revealed in a teaching like this – what we can learn from God in it – as per our actions to my neighbor.

    “This was the Pharisee’s righteousness, and the ground on which he built his hope of final salvation” (Adam Clark’s commentary)

    Adam Clark needs to do some serious study of the Jewish faith before making this statement. Pharisee’s did not hold a belief system concerning ‘salvation’ in the sense Christians do. The Judaic faith we see now is based on the Pharisee’s version of the faith – and they do not address salvation in our same way (to heaven and all that). Salvation is more concrete for them – like Israel being saved from Egypt; Israel being saved from exile. Adam Clark’s is presenting a Christian view and putting words in a Pharisee’s mouth.

    There is a lot of mis-understanding of who these Pharisee’s are and what they thought. Pharisee’s followed the law of God – given on Sinai to Moses – by GOD HIMSELF! How can they be accredited their own righteousness when they follow the ‘teachings of God from Sinai’? These teachings are not of their own device – so to claim righteousness based on that – means they are following God’s righteousness. That would be more close to their view.

    “As the Pharisee depended on his doing no harm, and observing the ordinances of religion for his acceptance with God, according to the actual means of grace and justice, he must be rejected:” (Adam Clark’s commentary)

    Clark is a huge read in from Pauline thought – into a parable that has nothing to do with Paul – this is all out of context (or cut n paste scritpurizing).

    Adam is also way off about the Pharisee and his religious observance. Actually the original Jerusalem council was ‘okay’ with Pharisee’s keeping their way of life (see Acts 15) and Paul did not seem to mind some of that either (for Jewish followers). Paul’s words to Gentiles is they are allowed in via ‘faith’. Judaism has always had the grace of God – the just God revealing to them…and Adam wants that ‘rejected’? I reject Adam’s perspective – it’s limited and not studied enough.

    “The Pharisee’s righteousness was a manufactured righteousness” (Ash Wed sermon)

    Manufactured from what exactly? These people seem to think they are ‘just’ (right) before God – based on what exactly? Unless they manufactured the Torah and the whole OT – I admit your point here is accurate – then they are manufacturing their own righteousness (via their own writings).

    “God’s righteousness is not something we earn; it is something God gives. Our merit does not move God to give it” (Ash Wed sermon)

    I admit this is true – with concern to coming to God – this pathway has been opened once and for all by Jesus (that is God’s grace). We come in with a form of gratitude to God – seeking His way – His mercy – His life. That is not something we can ‘earn’ – I agree – that was freely given. However, when it comes to being a righteous person – we need to follow the teachings of God the best we can. How can someone be just before God when they are an adulterer? A swindler? Unjust in measurement? God does require we answer for our deeds/actions.

    “This Pharisee is set up by Christ as the highest example of what a man can do by his own strength according to the law” (Luther)

    Luther seems to be referring to Pharisee’s as an example throughout the gospels (many examples) – and not this particular parable. However, I disagree with Luther on this issue. The Pharisee’s keepiing of the law is not the problem – or else Jesus is also a hypocrite in Matthew 5:17-20. Jesus chides the Pharisee’s for their focus concering the law and many little add-ins that kind of change things…and most of all – the hypocrisy he is seeing (people saying and not doing).

    Here is what makes no sense in this argument. Isn’t it believed Jesus kept the law perfectly? Why? What’s the point of that? And we want to chide people for keeping the law also? Why? Jesus kept it – and he is our messiah. The law is not the problem – never was and never will be – sin is the problem. Now law can reveal where we are making mistakes and our short-comings (I agree) – but thank God it exists or we might never know where we need to develop our personal lives.

    Law is not the antithesis to grace – they co-exist. God’s grace is seen in the giving of the Torah to Israel…in prophets…in writings. God’s continued grace is seen in Jesus – inclusion of all people to serve and know God. Grace is God added us in – not that he rubbed someone else out.

  24. Sorry Howard if I seem a little agitated – I am not at all…although I can see how I seem that way. I just don’t find Judaism all that bad an ideology…and I come off a little defensive when discussing the subject.

    Either way, Merry Christmas Howard – may you and your family have a blessed one this year – and a great year coming up.

  25. Jesus did break the law. He healed on the Sabbath. He and his diciples didn’t wash before they ate.

    Jesus did the intent of the law, without having to follow it by the book. That is why He was sinless.

    Law and Grace are not on the same plane.

    The law was given to keep us in check and to show us our need of a Savior.

    The problem with law keepers (for righteousness) is that they become Pharisees. They become self-righteous. It is human (sinful) nature.

    That is why the law exposes our need, and knocks us off our high horse, or our religious ladder.

    That is why when Jesus re-presented the law in His Sermon on the Mount, He gave it in the hard manner that He did. He didn’t want anyone to be under the illusion that they could actully keep the law the way it has to be kept (for righteousness)…perfectly…in every way…every moment of every day.

    In keeping the law, our motives are shot to hell. We do not keep the law, perfectly, out of love for God.

    St. Paul reminds us in Romans that “no one seeks for God.”

    But, God seeks us! He comes to us! (Christmas!)

    Thanks.

  26. “The Pharisee is saying nothing wrong there except for one thing – his attitude on the issue. He is keeping the teachings of God (ie: do not commit adultery, do not cheat your neighbor, etc) – and there is nothing wrong with that (that is not the problem in the parable). Problem is – this religious person thought he was better than others – now that’s being conceited (as per being self righteous)”.

    This is where I would, in love, have to disagree.

    The Apostle teaches me that there is none righteous, not one.
    There is none that do good. That we are all concluded in the same judgment – unrighteous (My previous reference to Romans 1&2). We simply cannot be ‘good’, because as Jesus teaches us, we are evil. The attitude of this man confirms this conclusion – his belief and practice had merely brought about a confidence in himself.
    Luther actually goes into some detail in his sermon on this parable as to why we should venerate and acknowledge the piety of this man, but only to a point, and that is the crux. It is here that the far more weightier and all pervading view regarding our redemption needs to be applied, recognizing where such attitude, such righteousness (as we would understand it) leave us – outside of God’s mercy, blinded by our own conceits, and, without a miracle, forever lost in those presumptions. Clark and Luther, therefore, I believe are right to finally reject such piety and to focus upon the mercy which comes to a sinner who seeks God on no other merit than that they are lost and in need of rescue.

    The human heart, as it now is, is prone to lead us towards our own conceits, the mind towards a ‘form of godliness’ . Only that which is outside of us; the objective , perfect justifying work of Christ can intrude upon this and through the troublesome, turbulent ‘seed’ of the Kingdom, the gift of faith, turn us towards grace in our time of need.

    God’s grace exposes us to the law to confirm our actual condition before God (the example of the rich young ruler in the same passage of Luke comes to mind) – we simply cannot meet its requirements (which Christ amplified in the Sermon on the Mount), hence the need for another righteousness, not through the law, which now destroys us, but by faith in God’s work of redemption.
    As I’ve said pretty much all along, I see this parable fits this state of affairs perfectly.

    Many thanks for the correspondence, and a joyous Christmas to you and you kin.

    Yours in the marvel of His saving grace,

    Howard.

  27. http://essentiallylutheran.blogspot.com/

    Great link Steve! Keepem coming when you come across them. I’ll do the same. I’d like to hear more from that guy!

    Yours,

    L

  28. Will do, Larry! (me too!)

    – Steve

  29. I always think of the verse in my weakness I find strength (paraphrased).

    The parable about the pharisee and the tax collector runs much deeper than humble vs non humble. I think of the words of Jesus when he said “go and learn what this means, I desire Mercy not sacrifice” .By themselves both mercy and sacrifice are both good but Jesus was talking about a life theme or life narrative of how people live … and these themes mimic Christians still today. Many (maybe most) Christians live the life or moralistic obedience and are always contrasting their moralism with the irrelgiious “sin” out there. However, at the same time as they use this outside-in approah of always looking at someone elses sin they are also engaging in religious sin.

    The Gospel shows us sin is much deeper and we ALL need a savior. It focuses in the relationship with Jeus and everything we do in view of the Cross and Gods Mercy.

    Jon S

  30. “Many (maybe most) Christians live the life or moralistic obedience and are always contrasting their moralism with the irrelgiious “sin” out there. However, at the same time as they use this outside-in approah of always looking at someone elses sin they are also engaging in religious sin”.

    The ‘way of Cain’ (murder of your brother) warned about by Jude has been alive and well for much of the past twenty centuries, which makes Jesus’ teaching is this parable totally applicable (and sadly generally ignored) in the modern church.

    “The Gospel shows us sin is much deeper and we ALL need a savior”.

    Focus upon HIS work, HIS righteousness is the only thing that can truly free us from the tyranny of sin. Only when faith focuses our eyes upon HIS grace, can we truly be made free.

  31. “Jesus did break the law. He healed on the Sabbath. He and his diciples didn’t wash before they ate.” (Steve)

    What law did Jesus break exactly? Jesus healed on the sabbath – there is no such law against doing good to your neighbor on the sabbath (albeit a day of rest). Not washing your hands was also not a law – this was more of ritual that developed over time concering be religious.

    Even if Jesus broke the law (which I may concede at some point) – he did it for the weightier things of the law (concering importance). This was a vital teaching of Jesus.

    Matt 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

    Jesus actually sees an importance factor to the teachings of Torah. The weightiest being the ideas of ‘Love God, Love your neighbor, and love yourself’. From Jesus’ teachings we see that there is an importance level – not that all of isn’t important – but that some things take precedence. In the example above we see this idea – the focus on the tithe isn’t ‘bad’ – but they neglect other ideals more important in that collection.

    “Jesus did the intent of the law, without having to follow it by the book” (Steve)

    This is a long held Christian belief concering Jesus – recent Jewish scholarship on the issue is revealing otherwise. Amy Jill Levine’s book “The Misunderstood Jew” speaks to how Jewish Jesus really was. I think he upheld the law – in that he kept the principles and rituals – and that my friend ‘is keeping it’.

    “He didn’t want anyone to be under the illusion that they could actully keep the law the way it has to be kept (for righteousness)…perfectly…in every way…every moment of every day.” (Steve)

    (a) This is the premise for the sermon on the mount – Jesus giving teachings he knows we can’t keep? That’s a horrible teacher.

    (b) Jesus simplifies the law in the sermon on the mount – making it easier to follow by breaking down some key premises inherent in many teachings. Jesus even summarizes the law down to 2 laws at one point in Matthew. Is that making something impossible or something easier? That is left for the beholder to decide.

    “In keeping the law, our motives are shot to hell. We do not keep the law, perfectly, out of love for God.” (Steve)

    How are our motives ‘shot to hell’? The law is not really that bad. As an American citizen – do you keep the American law? That law could be viewed the same way as Judaic law – which was for a people and governance of society. For some reason most people fail to realize this obvious fact. Paul knew this. Paul tells Gentiles they are not bound to Jewish law – because they aren’t (same to this day in Judaism). But Paul is pretty clear they are bound to Gentile laws (ie: Rome). For some reason – that’s not a problem to him. Whether you like it or not – your life (while on this planet) – is governed by laws. I think we tend to borrow from Judaism law – no problem with that.

    As for saying “We do not keep the law, perfectly, out of love for God” – this is a very strange statement to make (concering faith in God). The law was given by whom? To whom? I would think twice before making that statement.

  32. “We simply cannot be ‘good’, because as Jesus teaches us, we are evil.” (Howard)

    Where is this teaching from Jesus calling humanity ‘evil’?

    “I believe are right to finally reject such piety and to focus upon the mercy which comes to a sinner who seeks God on no other merit than that they are lost and in need of rescue.” (Howard)

    Here is where I have to break this down more:

    (a) There is nothing wrong with focusing on the mercy – no probs there
    (b) You need to move past that step of ‘mercy’ (grace/forgiveness) or what is really being gained?
    (c) The next step – none of us will argue with – is repentance/responsibility. We move from mercy to repentance – in a move from grace to gratitude.
    (d) From there we develop upon that ‘gratitude’ – and how do we do this? We develop our morality based on the teachings of God. We enact ideals from those teachings to replace old one’s we held that ‘hurt our neighbor’.

    It’s all very simple in my opinion. In that parable we have the ‘sinner’ coming before God – a first step if you will towards God. We have the Pharisee being quite ‘smug’ – but faithful. The Pharisee is further along in his faith path – but his ‘smugness’ is the problem – not his ability to have changed his direction in life. Or are we going to debate the virtue of ‘change’ (repentance)?

    “we simply cannot meet its requirements” (Howard – on the law of God)

    I am not sure why we need to meet the requirements of the law perfectly – no such thing exists for the believer (nowhere is this written in Torah or its accessories). Steve even points out Jesus didn’t even follow the law to perfection…and he didn’t need to. Following the law means you live by the statutes provided – and base your existence around those details.

    I have compared this to following American law – whether civil or criminal in nature. I believe we all live by these laws – in accordance with what is being asked. Here is an example:

    If the law states ‘do not defraud your neighbor’ – we are all likely noy going to do that because we know if we do get caught in fraud we have to face the penalty of that action. If the law states ‘adultery is forbidden’ – we will likely take that to heart and try to sustain our marriages and protect our partner (by watching our own actions).

    I do not see how we do not follow the law in our daily lives. You are probably aware of a 30 to 40 laws in your country that you live by on a daily basis – from not stealing from your place of work to knowing the penalties for murder. The heart of the law in these laws is simple – love and protect your neighbor.

    Do you have to be perfect to meet those laws? No. We have all stolen – but do we make a pattern of stealing? If you answer ‘no’ to that – then you live by the law of ‘I will not steal’. Does this make sense?

    Now with Jesus’ teachings on the Torah – the same thing goes. Jesus teaches on adultery and how that starts in the ‘heart’ of the person wanting to committ the action. Basically, we can keep the intents of the law (which is good in this instance) by keeping a daily check on our intents towards other people that are not our wives. Circumvention starts in the heart is basically all Jesus is saying (for any law/moral teaching).

    On a side note, Jesus keeping the law in perfection proves nothing. The keeping of the law in perfection is not a type of atonement (not according to the law or Christian doctrines on this subject). As Christians we recognize the sacrifice of Jesus as the atoning work done on our behalves – not his keeping of the law in perfection (this only proves he was without sin – says nothing about our keeping of it).

  33. Jesus says we must be perfect. He teaches us that.

    We cannot do it. Therefore He died in our place.

    There are different uses of the law. Let’s not mix them up, it just muddies these discussions.

    We are talking about the theological use, and not the civil use…which we keep to stay out of trouble and make our lives work better together.

    Theologically, the law must be kept perfectly for righteousness sake. God will not allow imperfection into his realm…hence the need of a Savior.

    If God were to judge us on the basis of our performance in the law keeping arena, He might as well just line us all up and start the comparison game and letting in who did the best or tried the hardest…or maybe just everybody. And then there would have been no need to become incarnate as a man and go to the cross.

    Why then the cross?

  34. Societyvs wrote:

    “Where is this teaching from Jesus calling humanity ‘evil’?”

    Matthew 7:11 – “If you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven”
    (Greek “Evil’ – essentially hurtful and diseased).

    “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.
    For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander…these are what defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18, 19).

    “b) You need to move past that step of ‘mercy’ (grace/forgiveness) or what is really being gained?”

    Life from God, which genuinely sustains us (Hebrews 4:15 & 16)?

    “From there we develop upon that ‘gratitude’ – and how do we do this? We develop our morality based on the teachings of God. We enact ideals from those teachings to replace old one’s we held that ‘hurt our neighbor’”.

    I’m sorry, but that’s the kind of thing you can read in a code of medieval chivalry!
    I’m redeemed because God, in His mercy, has given me a gift – faith – that allows me to trust in His redeeming promises, nothing more, nothing less. Christ’s righteousness saves me, justifies and sanctifies me, and if there are any deeds etc in my life now of value, it is because He enabled me by His grace and life to do them. My righteousness is filthy rags at best. His righteousness is complete and sufficient.

    “I am not sure why we need to meet the requirements of the law perfectly – no such thing exists for the believer”

    Perhaps Paul’s teaching in Romans 7?

    “Do you have to be perfect to meet those laws? No. We have all stolen – but do we make a pattern of stealing? If you answer ‘no’ to that – then you live by the law of ‘I will not steal’. Does this make sense?”

    That pretty much equates to an ‘externalizing’ with regards to fulfilling the law, when it’s true fulfillment is much harder. When I get really angry with someone, I am essentially guilty (in many cases) of something greater than anger. The truth is we are all inherently ‘evil’ in this fashion.

    “Basically, we can keep the intents of the law (which is good in this instance) by keeping a daily check on our intents towards other people that are not our wives”.

    The famous C H Spurgeon story, regarding sinlessness, comes back to mind. I’m with Paul in Romans on all of this, my friend, and I know my only sure and certain holiness is found in another. Where is the downside of that?

  35. “Jesus says we must be perfect. He teaches us that” (Steve)

    Not really – the one time this is addressed in Matthew 5 – it is related to being ‘like God’. How was God? God made the rain and the sun fall upon both the wicked and the righteous – basically – God was fair. Perfection in that one setting (since it never appears again in another gospel) is a teaching we can follow – treat people with equality.

    “We cannot do it. Therefore He died in our place” (Steve)

    We can follow laws – we know that – and Jesus died as an atonement for humanity – not for the law. Jesus’ death has nothing to do with the law – unless we are dealing with a section of the law concering ‘atonement’. Oddly enough, Jesus’ actions find their basis in the law given by God the Father on Sinai…the justification for Jesus’ blood atonement is the law…without the law we have no reference point.

    “We are talking about the theological use, and not the civil use” (Steve)

    Then you need to read the Torah very closely – it deals with civil/criminal law (ie: the 10 commandments). The Jewish faith understands this and use these teachings to develop case law and situational laws for subjects. They do mix their religion and law together – no doubts – but religion is the cornerstone for the giving of the ‘law’ and is included.

    Look at some of the laws and punishments – these are to be decided by courts and judges. Moses and many others were ‘judges’ – to enact justice in the community. They did not see some disconnect between being spiritual and being a citizen of this society – they were one in the same.

    This did evolve I will admit – to some degree – but the law is basically having the same funtion as the American constitution. It sets the stage for the laws and practices of the society. Now you want to see the theology only in this law (Torah) – that’s really only a part of it.

    “Theologically, the law must be kept perfectly for righteousness sake. God will not allow imperfection into his realm…hence the need of a Savior.” (Steve)

    Prove it. I actually do a lot of leg work to get my points on this site – and find much of the reasoning being ignored (likely for safety reasons). I do not ignore your statements – I answer every single one of them – but I do find they are quite unproven (they are merely stated as fact).

    Nowhere in Torah – which Jesus based his very life on (Matt 5:17-20) – do we find the idea ‘the law must be kept in perfection in order to be righteous’. That teaching does not exist – its really not until Paul do we see something like this…this does not even exist in a single gospel.

    So if nothing imperfect gets into heaven…how is it we are getting in? Jesus is going to acclaim as ‘righteous’ because he followed the law perfectly – on our behalves? I personally doubt it. If this is so – then no one is going to hell in my personal opinion and there is really no need for ‘judgement’ at the end…all will be saved. Jesus’ action was for ‘all’ by himself – there is no acceptance of that action needed – it is done/finished/history – applied to all because none of us can earn it. All will be saved then via acclaimed righteousness.

    “If God were to judge us on the basis of our performance in the law keeping arena, He might as well just line us all up and start the comparison game and letting in who did the best or tried the hardest” (Steve)

    What is there to compare in regards to keeping the law? You do not steal and I do not steal – does one of us do that better than the other? We will be judged according to our deeds – not a single gospel or letter writer actually disagrees. The reason we all need to be judged according to our deeds is because they do define us – they are what we were responsible for and could control. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But can we change that? Yes. God is merciful and loving – this is the judge we face – and if we are such people to acclaim His teachings – I really don’t see the problem facing that God.

    “And then there would have been no need to become incarnate as a man and go to the cross. Why then the cross?” (Steve)

    (a) I do not believe God became incarnate as a ‘man’ (no need)

    (b) The cross was the place of sacrifice – atonement if you will. The cross still exists to set-up the place where God was pleased with the life Jesus gave on behalf of humanity (as the messiah). For people the atonement takes on many things – but for me it was the grand inclusion into the table of faith – the Gentiles having immediate access to God via Jesus (mediator).

    The cross does not lose its appeal whatsoever – Jesus asks us to ‘bare it’ also – but I see that as living a life based on the teachings and life Jesus lived. My mediator with God led me to follow Him type thing.

  36. Howard, Matthew 7:11 and Matthew 15:18-19 do not explicitly say ‘humanity is evil’ – but has the propensity to be ‘evil’ – and those are different things altogether.

    “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt 7:11)

    If Jesus was addressing humanity as evil – and wanting to prove this point – he doesn’t do much of anything concerning it. In fact Jesus never once again mentions this point as part of this sermon – nor does he beat it home in any other ones. The fact we are ‘evil’ is just par for the course with him – in this instance – it’s used as a comparison with God concerning giving…God is good – His gifts are much better than ours type thing.

    “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man” (Matt 15:18-20)

    Jesus is basically stating that evil does come from the heart – no problem there – and eating with unwashed hands means nothing (in comparison). The heart is where we need to start to deal with real issues of hurt/anger/pain. However, just because Jesus notes that the heart has these abilities spewing from it does not negate the antithesis he is also making – from the heart also comes the good of life then (since we can deal with the problems at the source and create nice outcomes).

    I will say this – humanity has the propensity to be evil – so much so – in certain situations I tend to think humanity is pure evil. However, I do not believe humanity is ‘evil’ – God created humanity – to say such is to say His creation is evil. I cannot make that step since I do not see it that way. I see a God who created us with choice – good and evil can be accomplished by our choices – but this is what God made.

    “Christ’s righteousness saves me, justifies and sanctifies me, and if there are any deeds etc in my life now of value, it is because He enabled me by His grace and life to do them. My righteousness is filthy rags at best. His righteousness is complete and sufficient” (Howard)

    If I was to take this statement verbatim as it is written – I would ask – then why do you care what actions you committ (good or evil)? If Christ’s righteousness is all you need – this is done deal already – why do you care about morality at all? You are made righteous by acclamation – and nothing you do can truly hinder that since it is not you that accliams the righteousness but Jesus. Your actions become of no value. Is this what Jesus taught?

    “Perhaps Paul’s teaching in Romans 7?” (Howard)

    I said in the ‘Torah and its accessories’. But even with Paul he admits full well the law is ‘good’. Paul’s main complaint is that he is bound to sin – which he see’s as a problem. He even states “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man”.

    Either way Paul is setting up a comparison between the battle of the flesh and the spiritual element to life. We are to crucify the flesh to live by the spirit – correct? The teachings are still valid and lead us in the ways of God’s spirit – Jesus’ teachings. As much as Paul does not like the law the way the law works – prefers absolute freedom – we know that freedom must be free-ing. Freedom will bind itself for the sake of others. Paul’s spiritual freedom is about living the intents of the law and not following base instincts/thoughts that we have.

    Paul likely does not promote adultery, murder, incest, fraud, theft, idolatry, etc. Why? Because the spirit of God doesn’t. Why? We find a God that is concerned with morality in the OT – so much so – he gives a community a guiding document at Sinai filled with morals. God has never supported immorality – so it makes sense Paul’s faith in God also will not.

    Whether we like it or not – Paul is keeping the law in some sense – he does not allow Christianity to do whatever it wants (which is the flesh) – but it is bound by the spirit (which is found also in the teachings from God).

    “I’m with Paul in Romans on all of this, my friend, and I know my only sure and certain holiness is found in another. Where is the downside of that?” (Howard)

    I don’t truly see a problem – but I do see a downside within it (based on how well someone know’s Paul and what he is saying). For yourself, I do not see the problem – you likely get it and live a moral life – without any real excuse for doing wrong in your life (which I find admirable). This is the intent of Paul. Some do not quite get it.

    For some, this reasoning is an excuse to committ sin and do whatever they so much as want to do – without any penalty for their action. They just come back to God and all is well again. That is problematic – depending on the weight of the sin committed. It can let people ‘off the hook’ with regards to their own behavior – and I have seen it countless numbers of time…it become excusatory. That’s not something I would teach my kids – they have to obey and learn – isn’t this just normal?

    I truly do believe that being acclaimed righteous and not having to really be answerable for your actions can be gleamed from what you and Steve are saying. Is it your intent – likely not…but to deny someone with a fragile understanding might take this step is not so out of whack to think. I guess – that’s my worry.

  37. Jason,

    We don’t need an excuse to sin. It comes naturally and we do it. We are bound to sin. It is the sickness that infects us unto death.

    I will say, flat out, that the Christian is declared to be righteous (for Jesus sake) ans there is absolutely nothing one can do to be saved. And the word is NOTHING.

    That’s the good news! Christ has done everything …for us! Thatt is the gospel.

    I’m running around doing chores and errands so excuse my short comments.

    Maybe I can elaborate later on.

    Thanks Jason! Happy New Year!

    – Steve

  38. “I will say this – humanity has the propensity to be evil – so much so – in certain situations I tend to think humanity is pure evil. However, I do not believe humanity is ‘evil’ – God created humanity – to say such is to say His creation is evil”.

    Some years ago, I was in a hospice during the last few hours before losing my wife to cancer. As I sat there with a counselor, I asked her how she dealt with the almost daily occurrence in her line of work – of facing the tragedy of death, often painful both in sense of loss and the trauma of loss. She told me that she inherently viewed everyone as good, that the world was a good place, and that something better awaited us all. I sat there aghast. I had just spent hours in a room, watching my wife suffer – was this a ‘good’ world?
    Why is there so much pain and suffering if things are as ‘good’ as she believed, and where, where was the goodness of men? Had she not heard of the genocide, the horrors we create, not only explicitly, but in the wickedness we can do, one person to another.

    Her understanding was woefully naive – a ‘blanket’ she had woven to shield herself for the painful realities that surround us all.
    “And so you begin to see why Christianity has always taught that the devil is a fallen angel…it is a recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given by goodness, and this is equally true in men – resolution, cleverness, physical stature, existence itself” C S Lewis – Mere Christianity.

    Evil now exists within creation. It exists within us.
    The world which was, ‘very good’ has passed.
    There is only one remedy.

    “If I was to take this statement verbatim as it is written – I would ask – then why do you care what actions you commit (good or evil)? If Christ’s righteousness is all you need – this is done deal already – why do you care about morality at all? You are made righteous by acclamation – and nothing you do can truly hinder that since it is not you that acclaims the righteousness but Jesus. Your actions become of no value. Is this what Jesus taught?”

    Redemption is not about my actions – it is about His.
    When God created the heavens and the earth, He spoke, and it was so (Genesis 1:3). In the same manner in which He caused light from darkness, He has equally caused the light of this truth to shine in us (2 Corinthians 4:6), granting us an assurance of redemption.
    With regards to our redemption, I bring nothing save my hostility, my wretchedness, my enmity, only He can change that – only He can grant me to live by faith in Christ.

    “Paul’s main complaint is that he is bound to sin – which he sees as a problem.”
    And therein lies the rub!
    All men are concluded guilty because of sin. Only redemption changes this.

    “We find a God that is concerned with morality in the OT ”
    Is it – morality – or something deeper?
    Surely God is actually concerned with the fact that sin takes all that was made good and right and holy and wrecks, prostitutes and desolates these, emptying these gifts of their true purpose – to be the means of expressing the union and care of each for each other (God towards us and thereby each to each other).
    It is this consequence of the reality of sin – the severance it creates between the Lordand us, and us and creation – that must be resolved, and then life can indeed become right once again, and death, the consequence of this corruption, ended.

    “I truly do believe that being acclaimed righteous and not having to really be answerable for your actions can be gleamed from what you and Steve are saying. Is it your intent – likely not…but to deny someone with a fragile understanding might take this step is not so out of whack to think”.

    There is an issue here – one which Paul seeks to address in the later chapters of Romans once Justification by Faith is clarified – that of the troubled conscience of those still ‘weak’ in the faith. This certainly needs to be treated with care, as Paul teaches, and where fellow believes have found certain practices of benefit or comfort in their faith, I certainly have not sought (when God has given me aid) to gainsay these. I can only say in my own experience, the opposite problem is far more commonplace – those who wish to inherently deny and disenfranchise the child of God from the essential freedom that are his because he has been set free.

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