‘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

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.

No Next Level Attained

Well, yesterday has come and gone. My wife and I went to worship the Lord Jesus and receive from Him (as my Pastor likes to say) “what the world could never buy…forgiveness of sins, life,  and salvation.”

We sang hymns, we confessed our sins, we received absolution, partook of the Lord’s Supper,  confessed our faith publicly in the Apostle’s Creed and recited the Lord’s Prayer together. We prayed for the world and the Church. The sermon laid us bare for putting faith in anything less than the Living God, such as political parties (or the princes of this world), and clothed us again in the White Robe of Jesus with His death and forgiveness of our foolishness. We learned, once again, that we ought render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we learned that God has His hand in all of it…including what Caesar does. We learned (once again) that the Triune God is actively and intimately involved in not only the goings on of this world, but in every moment of every day in our own lives.

No next levels of spirituality were attained (at least that I know of). No secrets to more Godly living were revealed. No “breakthroughs” were sited. Just the unmitigated love of Jesus Christ in His Word and sacrament for sinners…that’s all. That’s enough.

Thanks be to God that He is enough.

What the gospel is…and is not…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s sooooo complex!

As I read on many Christian blogs around the net, this Christian faith stuff is way too complicated for the average Joe and Mary on the street. How in the world would we ever figure it out if it weren’t for the plethora of books telling us everything that Day 194 (11/26/07)we need to do, think, or feel?

 Are some of those books helpful? Yes, they can be.

But many of them just muck up the clear waters of a crystal clear message…’Christ died for sinners.’

“At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Are you ungodly?  I hope so…for then He died for you.

Personally, I have done much damage, and continue to do damage, not only in my own life but more painfully, in the lives of others.  I have not loved God with my whole heart and I have not loved my neighbor as myself.

But the Lord has had mercy on me, just has he has had on you. He forgives my sin and cleanses me daily, in the waters of my baptism (which I revisit daily) and in the sacrament of the altar, and in the hearing of His beautiful promises, spoken to me by the poor words of the preacher.

“Your sins are forgive for Jesus’ sake”!

Simple.

Powerful.

Life giving.

And it’s not very complicated. Not complicated at all.

The Good News!

The ‘Good News’ is that there is nothing that you have to do to enter the kingdom of Heaven.

There is nothing at all that you have to do. If there was sojump for joymething then it wouldn’t be ‘Good News’.

Christ has done it all, on the cross, in your baptism, at His supper, declared you to be forgiven and righteous in Himself. Now you are totally free!

That’s the ‘Good News’! If that doesn’t feel like good news to you, but rather that announcement makes you a little uneasy…then you haven’t really heard it yet. There’s a part of you that still lives under the law. So, we’ll keep repeating this until (by God’s grace) it sticks…’your sins are forgiven for Jesus sake’!

    – Steve