Challenging but Necessary…
Thoguhts that drive me to Jesus… and to the Cross
When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the paralysed man, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” Then some teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is speaking blasphemy!” Jesus perceived what they were thinking, so he said, “Why are you thinking such evil things? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralysed man, “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!” Matt 9:2-6 GNT
Wherever the carnal man is savingly touched by the Word of God, one thing is felt, another is wrought, namely, “The Lord killeth and maketh alive.” Though God is the God of life and salvation and these are his proper works, yet, in order to accomplish these, he kills and destroys, that he may come unto his proper work. He kills our will, that he may establish his own in us. He mortifies the flesh and its desires, that he may implant the Spirit and his desires; and thus “the man of God is made perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
For what, indeed, is a position of spiritual authority but a mental tempest in which the ship of the heart is constantly shaken by storms of thoughts, tossed back and forth, until it is shattered by a sudden excess of words like hidden rocks of the sea?
All too often what happens is that the systematic theology short-circuits the process and usurps the place of the proclamation. The secondary discourse about love displaces the “I love you.” One ends then by delivering some species of lecture about God and things rather than speaking the Word from God. When this occurs, it matters little whether the lecture in question is conservative, liberal, evangelical, or fundamentalist. That only means the lecture is to one degree or another theologically correct. But that is of no great moment if it does not issue in proclamation.
Luther’s words about God killing off our will are so needed today, in my life. And I believe they are needed to be heard by every person in the world, if the individual and indeed, communities, are going to survive.
For until our will is finished with, we will be satisfied with whatever thrills us, whatever agrees with us, and we will not see a need for anything else. We will be satisfied with talking about love, rather than knowing we are loved. We will be glad about talking about God’s covenant, rather than rejoicing we are in a relationship. Mercy will just become a blessing, rather than something which transforms the soul.
In order to take that step, we need to be put to death, our passions, our pride, our will. I think this is why Gregory talks about the tempest those in ministry go through…because, like Peter, we need to let Jesus rescue us from drowning… it isn’t enough to just walk on the water. We need what Luther calls mortification – the dying off time, when all there is to life is the hand of God, lifting us out of the darkness.
This is what Paul shares with the church in Rome in Romans 6-8 – that part of salvation is God cleansing us, breaking us, and killing off our will so that we rise with Christ anew. I see it in the lives of some of my people, who take on incredible burdens, and find it joyous, as they see God at work in the lives of those they help, or those who see them helping. It is amazing to see God at work at such times. There is a correlation between knowing God’s love and showing that love to others that is only possible because of a deep, intimate relationship with God.
This is stuff that needs to be not only thought through – but lived through. Some may even experience it, without being able to put it into words. Like the man whose friends brought him to Jesus, they have imply clung to God during the storm, and treasure His presence. They know He has said to them, “I love you”
I pray then that we can enter those stormy times in our lives… assured of His love for us, and His presence that will see us through.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 397–398.
St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 42.
Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 4–5.