Sunday, December 28, 2014

We only grow in obedience when we grow in grace

"..as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us Himself."

"When you are baptized, partake of Holy Communion, receive the absolution, or listen to a sermon, heaven is open, and we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father; all these works descend upon us from the open heaven above us. God converses with us, provides for us; and Christ hovers over us--but invisibly. And even though there were clouds above us as impervious as iron or steel, obstructing our view of heaven, this would not matter. Still we hear God speaking to us from heaven; we call and cry to Him, and He answers us. Heaven is open, as St. Stephen saw it open (Acts 7:55); and we hear God when He addresses us in Baptism, in Holy Communion, in confession, and in His Word as it proceeds from the mouth of the men who proclaim His message to the people."

 --Martin Luther (1/19/1538 [LW 22:202])

There is no bad news in the Gospel

"The gospel is so clear that there is little need of learned interpretation. It is only necessary to ponder it well, to contemplate it, and to take it completely into your heart. None will benefit more from it than those whose hearts hold still and who divest themselves of material considerations and concentrate diligently on it. This lesson is just like the sun: in a placid pond it can be seen clearly and warms the water powerfully, but in a rushing current it cannot be seen as well nor can it warm up the water as much. So if you wish to be illumined and warmed here, to see God's mercy and wondrous deeds, so that your heart is filled with fire and light and becomes reverent and joyous, then go where you may be still and impress the picture deep into your heart. You will find no end of wonderful deeds."

-- Martin Luther, Christmas Eve Sermon

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Martin Luther's Christmas Sermon, 1534


LUKE 2:1-20
After the angel’s proclamation, the whole army of the heavenly hosts sings a hymn of praise. A good message or sermon should be followed by a joyful hymn. That’s why the dear angels rejoice over the birth of this Saviour of all the world, and follow up the glorious proclamation with a joyful hymn in these words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
They divide their song into three assertions or points that form a triad, so that they cite three things: God, earth, mankind; and to each of these they attach an appropriate prayer request. To God be the glory; to the earth, peace; to all mankind, great joy. The word Wohlgefallen is bad German. The Greek text says eudokia, i.e., “joy and delight.”
Their first assertion is: GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST. What the blessed angels wish for God is glory, that is, they sing and wish that we people will recognize in this newly born infant the true God, and they thank God for the great, endless blessing, that out of pure grace and mercy God has sent his Son, and permitted him to become a true human being, in order that he might be able to redeem the entire human race. . . .
The second assertion is: PEACE ON EARTH.They also wish that there will be peace on earth, and that the kingdom of Christ, which is a kingdom of peace, will flourish on the earth. The kingdom of the world is characterized by stealing, robbery, murder, clubbing people to death, war, and bloodshed. In short, on the earth there is nothing but lack of peace, or turmoil. Each person harms the next person, no one practices faithfulness toward his neighbor, each one beats the next person over the head. That is the essence of life on the earth! That is why the blessed angels wish for us Christians a peaceful life, so that we will be friendly toward one another, each one demonstrating to the other person love, faithfulness, and reciprocal service, bearing one another’s burdens so that no one will be at odds with anyone else, and that everyone helps and shares good counsel to his neighbor. It is the wish and the prayer of the angels that God will provide these things on earth, so that our life on earth will be friendly and peaceful. That is the second assertion or petition of the angels.
And that is followed by their third request: GOODWILL TOWARD MEN. In effect they are saying: It is our sincere desire that all men glorify God in the highest and that they live at peace with one another. Unfortunately it is impossible for these conditions to exist at all times because many people pay no attention whatsoever to the gospel. They refuse to accept this Son of God. Instead of that, they persecute both the gospel and the Son. May God, therefore, grant to the Christians a cheerful, joy-filled heart so that they will say: I have a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord! If people mistreat me and persecute me because of this Saviour, I’ll rejoice over that too. I will maintain good cheer and joy in the midst of suffering. That is the kind of heart the blessed angels desire for us Christians, so that we may have joy in the face of hatred and go on singing when the devil goes on a rampage. The angels want us to be proud in Christ and in him to defy all misfortune; and if the devil attacks us, that we mock and ridicule him by saying, Satan, you can only attack my body, my life, my property, and so on. You might as well give up on that, too, Satan, for you cannot harm me since I have an eternal Savior, who will delight me with joy as a recompense for all my physical suffering here on earth.
That is the third assertion: that we will have a cheerful, joyful, defiant state of mind in the face of whatever suffering we may experience, so that we can tell the devil, You do not have permission to make life so bitter for me that it would deprive me of the joy I find in this infant. That is the meaning of eudokia: a cheerful, unruffled, joyful, and courageous heart that pays little attention to misfortune and confidently tells the devil, Go ahead, be as mean and poisonous as you wish; I will not let my joy be embittered or destroyed by your wrath. Christ fills me with more joy than any amount of suffering you can impose on me. That kind of heart the angels wish for us sincerely with their song.
Excerpted from Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils, ed. Eugene F. A. Klug, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), pp. 141-42.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Keep your eyes on the prize

Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn't actually say this. But one of his recent biographers used it to summarize one of his thoughts:
Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.
                          
--Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010), p. 486

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's not about your repentance, either

It was Norman Nagel, the great blessed Norman Nagel who talked about adverbs being the great enemy of the Gospel... I deeply repent, I am deeply sorry... Bah! I repent in a half-assed way, at best and I am sorry, sort of, but it's really split up and corroded. That's all we can do. Even our confession sucks. But the gracious God in Jesus Christ says, 'Be of good cheer my son, your sins are forgiven. Peace be unto you,' and all is based on Christ, not us.
- Rod Rosenbladt, Confessing Your Sins

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Christ's victory- and ours!

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness
By: Paul Gerhardt

1. Awake, my heart, with gladness,
See what today is done;
Now, after gloom and sadness,
Comes forth the glorious sun.
My savior there was laid
Where our bed must be made
When to the realms of light
Our spirit wings it flight.

2. The foe triumph shouted
When Christ lay in the tomb;
But lo, he now is routed,
His boast is turned to gloom.
For Christ again is free;
In glorious victory
He who is strong to save
Has triumphed over the grave.

3. This is a sight that gladdens
What peace it does impart!
Now nothing ever saddens
The joy within my heart.
No gloom shall ever shake,
No foe shall ever take
The hope which God’s own Son
In love for me has won.

4. Now hell, its prince, the devil,
Of all their power are shorn;
Now I am safe from evil,
And sin I laugh to scorn.
Grim death with all its might
Cannot my soul affright;
It is a powerless form,
However it rave and storm.

5. Now I will cling forever-
To Christ, my Savior true;
My Lord will leave me never,
Whatever he passes through.
He rends death’s iron chain;
He breaks through sin and pain;
He shatters hell’s grim thrall
I follow him through all.

6. He brings me to the portal
That leads to bliss untold,
Whereon this rhyme immortal
Is found is script of gold:
"Who there my cross has shared
Finds here a crown prepared;
Who there with me has died
Shall here be glorified."


Hymn # 128 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Johann Cruger
Tune: Auf, Auf, Mein Herz
First Published in: 1648

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tετέλεσται


The word τετέλεσται- the sixth of Christ's Seven Last Words from the Cross- is usually translated "It is finished." But it has a much deeper meaning than that.

 In the ancient world, it was the word that would be written across a canceled bill. "Tετέλεσται" meant "paid in full."

Jesus actually spoke Aramaic, of course, But the word τετέλεσται- the word the Holy Spirit uses in Scripture to express His thought- conveys far more than meets the eye. It conveys the most essential thing about Christ's suffering and death: its completeness, not merely as satisfaction to His Father's justice for every sin you have ever committed or ever will ever commit, but its having left nothing undone. Even your repentance and faith are His doing in you through the Word, and not your own contribution needed somehow to complete some unfinished business left over from Golgotha.

It's not just that Jesus has already paid for your sin. It's that you don't have to look to the quality of your own repentance, or of your faith, or anything else of your own for assurance of God's constant love and forgiveness. All you have to do is to look precisely away from yourself and your own supposed contributions to forgiveness, to Jesus.

Tετέλεσται. "Paid in full." There is nothing else for you to do or worry about doing. Your sin cannot hurt you as long as you look away from your own efforts and merits, to Jesus. He has done it all. Tετέλεσται. It is finished. Paid in full!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dead to the Law, alive to Christ


Here Paul is the most heretical of heretics; and his heresy is unheard-of, because he says that, having died to the Law, he lives to God.

The false apostles taught: "Unless you live to the Law, you do not live to God. That is, unless you live according to the Law, you are dead in the sight of God."

But Paul teaches the opposite: "Unless you are dead to the Law, you do not live to God."

Martin Luther, Galatians (1535) (LW 26:156)

Friday, March 7, 2014

The bottom line


Lord Jesus,
You are my righteousness,
I am your sin.

You took on you what was mine;...
yet set on me what was yours.

You became what you were not,
that I might become what I was not.

- Martin Luther