Which will do what?

” He must increase, I must decrease.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Responses

  1. One thing the Gospel does if we see Jesus and the purpose of the cross deeply enough is it allows us to be honest with ourselves. This may not necesssarily make sin go away but at least we can recognize it, see it for what it is.

    I would not say hard on ourselves. Christ died, paid the price. Deal done, It is finished!!!!!

    I think the Gospel gives us a freedom to not be pretenders anymore.. to quit putting on our best game face on Sunday….. bue somehow we still do… but maybe less of one.


  2. Jon,

    Good comments on the gospel, Jon. It does give us freedom to be oourselves, warts and all.

    But what about the law? How should the law be presented? As self help. As biblical priciples for living. As strict law that must be kept perfectly, all the time, no exceptions.

    I think the answer determines what kind of people you’ll end up with.

  3. St Stephen,

    The problem your coworker has is disbelief in what scripture says of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. He may be the type of person who, outwardly, seems to have it going right. Having been raised in the Holy Christian Church many tend to look that way at themselves.

    One section to combat this is Romans 7. This Keeps pointing out to us no matter how good St Paul said he wanted to be he was still by nature a vile sinner. We are that type of sinner who needs dead Jesus each and everyday. Tragically minimizing ones sinfulness before God is to minize Jesus’ innocent suffering and death for sinners. It is terrifying to see a person who thinks that Jesus died for them less than he died for others.

    Stephen we are continually in prayer for our evangelicals, papists, Lutherans and others who seem to forget their flesh. And pray that God never let us forget it either.

    Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

  4. “But what about the law? How should the law be presented? As self help. As biblical principles for living. As strict law that must be kept perfectly, all the time, no exceptions”.

    As the instrument which DRIVES us to Christ!
    Paul makes it clear that the Law slays every single one of us, so if there are those who are seeking to use it to do little more than decorate the chains of their depravity, they have never seen the Law correctly.
    We’re terrible creatures exiled from Eden, and the Law is the mirror to portray that so well. Trouble is, of course, we just don’t want to have that in front of us, so we re-vamp ‘law’ into a comfortable little fig-leaf theology to keep everything “nice” and properly pious – the tool of a self-esteem ‘gospel’ which flatters the flesh and keeps the angel of light doing a roaring trade in most Sunday services, with Christ, standing outside the camp, wanting to be heard, to be met, to truly set us free.

    Re:John the Baptist. The words, I believe, referred to his ministry – his job was done: the herald had been replaced by the King. Nothing to do with sanctification (except, I suppose, we can say that there’s a day coming for all of us, when the herald’s seeking to tell of the King will all give way to His glorious appearing).

  5. Thats a good question. This quesion all Christians need to wrestle with.

    In Christ, we can live as if the law does not exist. Whye? Because we work toward obeying the law our of a thankful attitude for Christ did for us. Its not a burden to have the law over us… even in our sin. We can have a joy, honesty, and light heartedness even in the midst of trouble.

    Christ wins our salvation through losing, achieves power through weakness and service, and
    comes to wealth via giving all away. Those who receive his salvation are not the strong and
    accomplished but those who admit that they are weak and lost. This pattern creates an ‘alternate
    kingdom’ or ‘city’ (Matt.5:14-16). in which there is a complete reversal of the values of the world
    with regard to power, recognition, status, and wealth. When we understand that we are saved by
    sheer grace through Christ, we stop seeking salvation in these things. The reversal of the cross,
    therefore, liberates us from bondage to the power of material things and worldly status in our
    lives. The gospel, therefore, creates a people with a whole alternate way of being human. Racial
    and class superiority, accrual of money and power at the expense of others, yearning for
    popularity and recognition–all these things are marks of living in the world, and are the opposite
    of the mindset of the kingdom (Luke 6:20-26).

    In Christ,

  6. I apologize for the formatting. It was something from another document of mine that I am using for a Bible study I will be leading starting next month.

  7. Thanks Gentlemen for your excellent takes on how the law should be presented to siners and the difference it makes in the lives of the sinners (hearers).

    I do like the “fig-leaf theology” term, painting a picture of how our poor brethren go about their self-cleanup routines.

    I really do think so much of it is ignorance and a portion of it stubborn will.

    I think so much of it stems from a literal understanding of scripture (wooden understanding). Applying the same value to each verse can render a schizophrenic faith where one is as much beholden to the law as they are to Jesus for their salvation.

    Poor theology is the problem. The doctrine of the Word becomes legalistic. With that the law becomes a handmaiden and not an executioner.

    I know they would say that the poor theology is on our end, and that we’d better get busy.

    Two things for these folks, I think. Pour the law onto them full force ) and pray for them.

    Try and get to the preachers first!

    Thanks to all of you.

    If you’ve got more…please share it when you can.

    – Steve

  8. I believe that John the Baptist’s message was the same as the disciples heard at the Transfiguration: “Hear ye Him”. Remember, also, that some of theLord’s disciples had been followers of John. This could explain the decrease/increase. Today, Christians need to be made aware that Jesus spoke more of Hell than heaven. How else will we fear and love the Lord?

  9. Luther, believed that the dafault mode of the human heart was legalism … or maybe in todays world it would be moralism. But it says in Matthew that Jesus came for sinners and not the righteouss,

    One of my favorite verses is when Jesys says “Go and learn what this means, I require mercy not sacrifice”.

    The fact that Jesus says “go and learn what this means” tells me this is not something easy to do or easy to comprehend. Its really hard to just sit back and all Christ to soak in. We take control.

    The question on the proper distinction between law and mercy is not easy.

  10. Steve,

    “you shouldn’t be so hard on yourselves.” Oh man, I heard that a hundred times in my former evangelical SB days. I’m surprised its still being used today. It’s simply a way to deny the severity of the reality because its always used to “pump up” their good works, “we are not THAT bad”.

    “…Preaching a sort of Christian progressivism…”. It’s funny that you say that. I was just reading Forde on this very point. He makes the point that Luther in particular and the Lutheran reformation sola’s attacked this very thing. It was the ESSENCE of the reformation. He does a great job at peeling that apart.

    Something like this:

    Progression (in all its forms) and justification are mutually against one another. Again, it goes to what is the REAL simul Justus et peccator. If you put justification at the end of the “progression” then the justification itself is superfluous. If you put justification at the beginning of the progression then the progression is really superfluous. The legal metaphor eventually falls apart says Forde and this is why Paul when pushed, and Luther later, go to the death – life metaphore which is in fact the primary REALITY, not symbol. Full justification is the REALITY in the death/life (baptism) not a symbol (that’s HUGE to remember), and the second HUGE thing is it is the PRIMARY thing not the legal metaphor. In fact the “legal” language is really the symbol and metaphor for the death – life reality.

    Here we MUST see that grace is not some mystical power operating behind the curtains (which begets this evangelical – baptistic – reformed progression type of conversion/growth, and anti-sacramental bend in their sacraments). Rather that TRUE grace is the very proclamation of God (the imputation as Luther said Forde reminds us). It is the speech of God a PROCLAIMED reality that causes what it says like “Let there be light”, again not a mere symbol. When Paul speaks of death life in baptism after being pressed by the question “what shall we sin that grace may abound”, he does not return to the legal metaphor but blasts on forward with the death/life reality and contra the Baptist doctrine on this, in baptism.

    Once we see that grace is truly the speaking proclamation of God, a Word of promise, or even just the Word spoken – then we easily see that it can ONLY be apprehended by nude faith. For what else can have it but a naked passive trust IN IT. It is a WORD and can ONLY be TRUSTED apart from and quite dead of works (death/life reality, not the legal metaphor which breaks down). This Word of Grace literally, Forde goes on to say, is like a bolt of lightening or breaking forth of a light into an utter darkness that by its very speech and speaking REVEALS the reality of God and of man. Which is the very point John makes in the opening of his Gospel.

    Thus, faith comes into being by it and paradoxically reveals that unbelief is the ENTIRE reality of the same man. For the first time as faith comes into being and simultaneously and paradoxically we see ourselves unbelievers for real NOW and this comes about by that Word proclaimed and not a movement or progression before, during or after.

    The reality of justification to be utterly imputed (spoken of) ALONE precludes any movement or progression whatsoever and THAT is in REALITY, to the shock of many evangelicals and Baptist. It IS IN FACT the VERY death knell or crucifixion of the old man. The movements or progressions many speak of are really the Satanic fallen religion of the old man. That sounds very harsh but it’s not harsh for the sake of being harsh but a sheer unadulterated FACT of the very essence of the offense of the Cross. The Cross REALLY REALLY REALLY TRULY is an offense to our fallen natures/religion. It is not a pretend offense. We often just take that real statement of Paul’s for granted, that the Cross is an offense to those perishing. We glaze by it, “of course, of course”, without apprehending or actually “feeling” that offense. When our defense of progression or movement or getting better arises, THEN we are SEEING the offense LIVE and not pre-recorded for your viewing pleasure. The Cross is by its very nature an utter polemic that is a singular relentless incessant unyielding attack to all such movements or progressions.

    To put it frankly and shortly; the Crosses very purpose is to kill, condemn and crucify ALL of these progressions or movements; outside of or inside of the church, before or after conversion, yesterday, today and tomorrow for the unbeliever and the believer. That’s why it is offensive and EXACTLY why the DEFENSE is thrown up when the Crosses OFFENSE attacks it nakedly and relentlessly and uncompromisingly. Christ didn’t come to give that peace but brought a sword for that, peace with God comes after that death.



  11. Steve,

    I found your blog from a post you made on Cerulean Sanctum. This post jumped out at me because it is the focus of my blog or, at least, the goal of my life. My name is Joseph which means “May God increase” or “May God add.” My blog’s name came to me, quietly in the spirit. It was not the name I was planning on using. But I digress.

    John 3:30 on the one hand is definitely speaking of John’s ministry. He was the new Elijiah, paving the way for Jesus. But I believe that John 3:30 has impact and meaning for us today.

    We all know that God hates pride. How and why should we be proud, the created things: the clay pots, the earthen vessels, the dust? I believe in order for God to increase in our lives we MUST decrease. We must get out of the way and let God do His work through us.

    That’s my prayer for myself as well as my blog. That we see ourselves in the proper scheme of things and that Christ increases in us and through us.

    Great post. I’ll be reading!


  12. Joe,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting on ‘The old Adam lives!’

    I very much like the fact that you realize that pride can and is a real problem for a great many Christians.

    We try to address things here from the theology of the cross, which we believe, nails all our pride and our efforts at righteousness to the cross with Jesus.

    Much (not all) of the posts here, deal with issues from a Lutheran theological perspective, but we have folks that stop by regularliy who are Baptists, Catholics, non-denominational, Calvinists, and all other Christian points of view. An occasional Atheist or Mormon might drop by as well.

    Anyway, Joe, your insights are always welcome. Sometimes we play a little rough, but we hold no grudges and readily forgive and try to forget and then move on.

    I look forward to checking out your blog. I’m going there now!

    Thanks Joe!

    – Steve

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: