‘Yeah but’, Luther… just hold on a minute!

Luther said to Erasmus in his response, Bondage of the Will, concerning the fear of some form of societal and individual moral rMartin Luther by kimberlyfaye.eform, “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

 

Some interesting highlights in history seem to show that this is the greatest temptation of the church as a whole and Christians individually in changing the message of the Gospel to another gospel.  This temptation is greater even than a sword to the neck.

 

As opposed to the theology of the Cross, all theologies of glory wet the finger and stick it in the air of time and space to measure for a doctrines ability to bring about change (for the good, a good fruit or works producer so to speak).  This comes in many forms for example, “numbers and church growth, moral improvements both individual and societal, etc…”.  Even Melancthon fell for this in the end and almost overthrew what Luther left after his death.  History seems to repeat this.  Example, a 50,000  foot survey of the Thirty Year War from 1618-1648 seems to indicate that what brought about pietism in the Lutheran bodies themselves was the view that “if this is what the doctrine of Luther brings about, forensic justification unconditionally, something is wrong with the message and Spener is the rest of the story.  Can such an assessment be called Christian at all, when it is a rather pagan “finger wetting in the air”.  It seems that under the stress of great persecution, the worries of this world, this faith dwindled and died in this moment in this specific situation.  Yet, both Luther and Calvin in as much as they agreed on the pure forensic nature of the Gospel basically said, ‘let all hell break loose and the world go up into one conflagration, we cannot ever allow the Word of God to be changed on this.’

 

Repeatedly this seems to be the greatest of temptation for both the church as a whole and Christians in general.  If some visible peace or change is not measurable, but in fact the opposite appears everywhere, then the Gospel cannot be the gospel, goes the thinking of the theology of glory, and something needs be added to the message to ‘get it right’ and produce the desired change.  Yet, in fact shortly after Pentecost when the Gospel was highest all hell broke out in the Roman Empire.  Not to forget to mention before Pentecost that all hell broke out pretty much every where and every time Jesus opened His mouth, culminating at the Cross itself (the heartbeat of the Gospel).  The Roman Emperors, by the way, blamed the Christians, which is to say the 200 proof Gospel for the fall of society in their time.  Again, Stephen, when preaching a 200 proof totally unconditional Gospel, and what arose around him?  Peace and love?  Hardly, stones to the head as the fruit police and inspectors and good works merit- mongers gnashed their teeth at him.  Not all that different than the Lutheran pietist, Anabaptist and other enthusiasts of the time of the 30 Year War, and not all that different from the message changing – fruit inspectors of our day and age.  After all if the forensic unconditional message isn’t producing the desired affect surely we must change its forensic/unconditional explosion, should we not, goes the rational Aristotelian thinking.  This was the great temptation of the Puritans, Wesley, Conservative and Liberal Christians alike today.

 

Luther’s response to Erasmus is proved all the more and comes back to haunt us: “Who, you say, will take pains to correct his life?  I answer:  No man will and no man can, for God cares nothing for your correctors without the Spirit, since they are hypocrites.  But the elect and the godly will be corrected by the Holy Spirit, while the rest perish uncorrected.”

 

If the Gospel doesn’t work in any given time or place, either corporately to a society, to a church or group of churches or individually does that give license to change its unconditional message?  Does this ever give us right to so, “Free grace yes, but…”.  The ‘but’ is always the “tuck tail and run” sign of the fear of the persecution against the Gospel proclamation.  I’ve felt and tucked my tail and ran more times than I care to remember. 

 

Here is the GREAT temptation of the “seed sewn amongst the weeds and the cares of this world” that falls away. Here we are greatly tempted to tuck our tails and run for it is always easy to get a good, “Amen”, in affirming the “yea but…”.  Indeed if no man comes to faith by the 200 proof Gospel as far as we can tell our entire lives does that give us license to say, “hath God really said”, by altering the message?  Is not a pastor called to preach the Gospel even if everybody walks out of the church forever?

 

We like to say, “bear your/our cross”, when we mean fruit and law, which is no cross at all but self appointed good works and fruits that are actually quite easy to perform in our own strength.  However, we really don’t like that Cross very much when we have a cross laid upon us by the Word that is a Gospel Cross linked to Calvary itself?  We are like the first thief all too often, “Jesus if you are the Son of God, get us down off of these crosses”.  Or likewise, “Jesus if you are really God and have power get me to producing some fruit so I can get down off of this cross and not be so nakedly dependant upon you.”

 

Does such EVER allow us to change the Gospel’s utter unconditional forensic message the least bit in order to ‘firm up the fruit production’?  I ask a question that expects, obviously a resounding “no” answer.  Is it not the greatest sin of all to call God a liar and use men who are liars to prove the point?  

 

Larry Hughes

wimpy god?

How wimpy is your god?

Does he need your decision for him in order to act?

Does he need to have this guy touch that guy, and that guy touch this guy,  and this guy touch you… in order that you be saved?

Does he need to have perfect documents written by entranced individuals acting as automotons putting down everything  ‘just so’ with no possibility of error or human interaction, in order for him to act?

Does he need you ‘to do anything’ , anything at all…in order for him to act on your behalf?

If so…you have a wimpy god.

If God is actually free to act on His own without being hampered by any conditions , or prerequisites…then you have a real God.

God is free. He needs nothing in order to speak things into and out of existence. He needs nothing from us sinful creatures that do not desire Him in the first place.

He has told us who He is, what and who we are, what He expects from us, and what He has done for us…in the Bible.   We either trust that Word…or not.  If we trust it, it is because He has made us trust it (given us faith).  If we don’t, it is beacuse we are still dead in our sins and trespasses.

We don’t need to trust in our “free will”, and we don’t need to trust in perfect holy people, and we don’t need to trust in a perfect book.

We need to trust in a Perfect God who has given us His Perfect Son expressed in His Perfect Word (which includes preaching and teaching and sacraments).

When you believe this, you no longer have a wimpy god.

Is your god a mendicant at your door pleading with you to make a decision for him?  Pleading with you to believe in a book?  Pleading with you to be more obedient? Pleading with you to believe in a pope?

Or is your God the God of the Bible, who acts freely, in His Word, to save sinners who need only what He can give?

The Law

God’s Law is more than the 10 Commandments. Way more.

God’s Law is every demand that your existence places upon you. It is the total demand that you fulfill your humanity. That you do all that you are supossed to do, and that you do it in the manner that God has intended for you to do it. And that is, ‘perfectly’.

“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Are there any pressures in your life? Do you have to eat? Do you have to pay the rent or the mortgage? (no bailout jokes) Do you have to be a good employee so that you can bring home the paycheck? Do you have to pay your taxes  . Do you have to be a good parent, or a good son or daughter? Do you have to stay healthy and take care of your body?

All these things and much, much more are manifestations of God’s perfect Law.

No one, absolutely no one, from the villager in Papua New Guinea to the cabbie in Cleveland,  is exempt from these laws of nature which are given by God for our existence in the world which He created.

Do we live under the law?  You betcha we do. Every last cotton pickin’ one of us.

We all do our best to manage under the sheer weight of it. Although some do a much better job of it than others, it isn’t easy to handle for any of us. The demand of the law is relentless. It never quits demanding from us. Day after day, week after week, year after year…it is always upon us…always demanding …never ceasing.

We can escape it here and there, for short periods. We call these holidays, or vacations. A week, or two…maybe three or four. It ‘s great!  But then it is over and we must again be good  for something. The bills just keep coming and the world keeps nipping at our heels.

I saw a friend of mine yesterday. He’s 45 years old and is in the hospital, a victim of a couple of strokes. The last one severely affected his brain stem and the chances are good that he may not make it. He is dying, and there is a good chance that he may not be alive yet as I write this.

He was a very bright man with a wonderful creative mind and a sense of humor that was infectious.

That is all gone now, unless God decides that Jerry should be healed to continue the fight in this world.

Jerry had an awfully tough life in so many ways. The law started in on Jerry when he lost his Mom when he was only ten…and it never let up on him from there.

But He did the best that he could.

His pastor, who is also my pastor, went to see Jerry the other day to remind him that he has a Savior. To remind him, no…it was more than a reminder…to hand Christ over to Jerry, once again. To tell Jerry that he belonged to Jesus and that Jesus would not fail him. That Jesus will always take care of him, and that if he were not to make it, then Jesus would be right there for him… to raise him from the dead.

When I saw Jerry yesterday, he could not speak to me. I didn’t know if he could hear me. I whispered into his ear and told him that I loved him and that he could count on Jesus to give him life again. It was a promise on the cross, it was a promise in his baptism, and it is a promise that God loves to keep.

While I stood there beside his hospital bed, with all the machinery and the beeps and buzzes, and activity of people engaged in trying to save the lives of people being crushed by the weight of the law and facing the ultimate expression of that law, death…the thought struck me that soon I would be there too. The law would eventually put me down. Death would have me soon, as well.

But Christ really did defeat death on that cross. He really did come out of that grave. He really did everything for me that I could never even dream about doing for myself.

He did it for me.   He did it for Jerry.   And He did it for you.

Working towards those “good fruits”

This post is courtesy of our friend Larry Hughes in Kentucky. It is actually a comment he made in our discussion of Mormonism.

 He touched upon something that I have oft noticed myself, the similarities in many Evangelicals, Catholics,  Mormons, Lutherans,  and others with respect to the desire to prove their metal.

 Fasten your seatbelts:

 

    Those zealous for working their way to heaven are always good outward workers. The great irony here is that what many think is “fruit” is witness for their perdition.

Numbering, and measuring “fruit” is ALWAYS, without fail, a sign of law and self salvation no matter what “grace” words attend it. This is why “sanctification” as a process is false rather than “getting use to your justification”. That’s what Jesus meant when He said good fruit ONLY comes from the good tree (he/she who is getting use to his/her justification) and thorn trees cannot “make good fruit”.

When Luther was asked if Jesus was coming tomorrow what he would do he replied, “I’d go plant a tree”, that’s faith breathing and living. But to works salvation, whether overt or hidden, that seems to be “no fruit”. When a Christian man or woman eats, sleeps, stands still, does his/her job, is a wife, is a husband, is a child, is etc…he/she exhibits true fruits of the faith (that is no fear of punishment nor hope of reward – false faith). But yet when a zealous man or woman works in the church yard all the time he/she exhibits unbelief, but they will call it “fruit of faith”.

Luther points out that he who actually tries to do the law and performs sanctification as a growth by his/her self appointed works actually despises and hates God’s holy Law. But he who does not, and RESTS firmly in Christ alone with no self appointed works or sanctification = growth in holiness, such that “nothing is left TO DO”, actually loves God’s holy Law and is drawn INTO the love of neighbor and bears his/her cross. So “getting used to one’s justification”, IS the one actually being sanctified.

What drives their “evangelism” is a zeal for themselves and their salvation and their sanctification, which is all of the devil. This is the “form of godliness that denies the power therein”.

What drives true evangelism of the evangel, is NOTHING less than the stunning hilarity of the evangel itself. It is SUCH Good News it cannot BE contained. The Law or man’s laws have NOTHING to do with driving the Gospel, it is as Paul says the “power” the “dynamite” entirely in and of itself OF God. This is the power therein that paradoxically does not look like ‘godliness’ any more than Christ looked like God being crucified as an apparently helpless, impotent man bleeding on the Cross at the hands of mere men.

         –  Larry Hughes

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Did Larry nail it?    Or is he a little off?   How can we seperate our desire to produce good fruit from spilling over into ‘works righteousness’?

Chloe…our new Grandaughter!

Chloe is the star of the show.

Erin (burping Chloe) is the Mama.

Erik (with the beanie) is the proud Papa.

Sue (dark blue top) is happy Grandma #1

Pat (my wife,  in red/orange top) is happy Grandma #2

Tom (smooth headed gent, Sue’s husband) is proud Grandpa #1

What is the Purpose of the Law?

This is Joshua, a student at Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry in Redding, CA

                    We are saved by grace through faith, right?

“For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified.” (Romans 10:4  RSV)

So then, what purpose does the law have?

What do you make of this young man’s attempt at teaching us about what Jesus would do…or did?

 

*There is no relationship between this video ‘Way of the Master’  and  Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar, CA

Baptism

This Sunday’s sermon by Pastor Mark Anderson of Lutheran Church of the Master is about   Baptism  < click 

 The author Flannery O’Connor was at  Mary McCarthy’s apartment, and Mary McCarthy said that the communion wafer was merely a symbol of the Holy Ghost and a good one at that, whereupon Flannery O’Connor made her famous reply, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”

                                                                                               Same thing with baptism.  Right?