Devotional Thought of the Day:
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:3-8 (NLT2)
28 Our know-it-alls, the new spirits,4 assert that faith alone saves and that works and external things contribute nothing to this end. We answer: It is true, nothing that is in us does it but faith, as we shall hear later on.
29 but these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe—something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand. Thus faith clings to the water and believes it to be Baptism in which there is sheer salvation and life, not through the water, as we have sufficiently stated, but through its incorporation with God’s Word and ordinance and the joining of his name to it. When I believe this, what else is it but believing in God as the one who has implanted his Word in this external ordinance and offered it to us so that we may grasp the treasure it contains?
30 Now, these people are so foolish as to separate faith from the object to which faith is attached and bound on the ground that the object is something external. Yes, it must be external so that it can be perceived and grasped by the senses and thus brought into the heart, just as the entire Gospel is an external, oral proclamation. In short, whatever God effects in us he does through such external ordinances. No matter where he speaks—indeed, no matter for what purpose or by what means he speaks—there faith must look and to it faith must hold.
760 Here is a thought that brings peace and that the Holy Spirit provides ready-made for those who seek the will of God: Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit—“The Lord rules me, and I shall want nothing.” What can upset a soul who sincerely repeats these words?
One of the challenges that all public speakers and authors having is being understood. People hear one thing you say, they read one thing you write and they latch onto one phrase and interpret it in a way that appeals to them.
I see this with Luther, and especially with His statement that gets dissected about the fact that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed in scripture alone (you can add through Christ alone and to the glory of God alone to the mix as well)
When I became a Lutheran some 17-18 years ago, (although my friend always thought I was, and that I didn’t know it) I misunderstood this phrase, breaking each Sola/Only phrase apart as if they were bullet points First understand this one, then that one, then add the third. They don’t see them as a continuous phrase, that radically changes its meaning f you divide them.
Yet Protestants do this all the time, especially with faith alone and scripture alone. And when you see Catholic criticism of Luther, it is offered by criticising what people think Luther said.
This isn’t new by the way, Both Zwingli and the Anabaptists did this during Luther’s lifetime, and in the quote from the Large Catechism, we see Luther confronting the misrepresentation! These “know-it-alls” in redefining “faith alone” separate from the rest create an anti-sacramental version of what Luther taught and personally depended upon. When they separate faith alone, they dismiss any work that is done, saying no works matter, even Gd’s.
And this one is critical. For in taking Luther’s phrase out of context, they steal from believers the security God provides as He baptizes and seals us into His family. It’s not about the water as Luther clarifies, but the word of God that infuses the water with His promise.
This is what faith grabs a hold of, it is what faith depends upon. Not something vague, not something that we do, but something God promises and does as He gives us a new birth and new life in Christ. A specific action of His, mixed with a specific promise wherein God is the change-agent in our lives.
To have faith in Him means to depend on Him, to trust in His words as He makes good on them specifically in each of our lives. As St. Josemaria says it is recognizing that the Lord rules, that his action He does so care for us, so changes us that we want for nothing, This is something Zwingli and the Anabaptists don’t offer, an assurance based on God’s tangible work. It is also something the Catholic Church didn’t catechize well in Luther’s time, as people just assumed baptism worked because they were told it worked because the water was holy.
It works because of God’s promise, because of God’s love poured out on us in action He ordained. Knowing that brings comfort and peace, something to personally hold on to, a promise that guards our hearts and minds.
May we all hear Him, hear His promises
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1769-1771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought for our day:
20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. 2 Peter 2:20-21 (NLT)
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)
325 Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit out the lukewarm.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the phrase “faith alone” (sola fide in Latin.) In those conversations, I have read what Reformed think I believe, that Romans Catholics think we mean by it, and even what Orthodox think we believe by the term.
Unfortunately, none of them told me what I actually believe, even though they said they were accurately representing what Lutheran and Calvin mean by the term. (there is the first clue when they claim Luther and Calvin mean the same thing when they use “faith alone”)
As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, it got me thinking about the difference between faith being passive (which it is) and faith being lazy or lukewarm.
Lukewarm or lazy faith is the result of cheap grace, (to use another theologian’s term) We have the right knowledge, we even pursue that knowledge, but it doesn’t make a difference in the way of life the person lives. It instead goes for either intellectual or emotional stimuli to determine what is good. It would rather see that than action, because we know that action doesn’t save, only faith does. (it, therefore, denies the role of the sacraments in regard to faith!) And because it lacks roots, it dries up and fades away. This is not “faith alone” because there is no God that is transcendent, that is here, that is involved.
Passive faith means that we depend on God, for our salvation, for our life, and our dependence is only on Him. He saves us, He brings us to life, He causes us to walk with Him, and the Holy Spirit’s presence transforms us, making us holy, taking on the image of Christ. It is passive in that only finds hope, it only finds an answer in our relationship with God, a relationship He determines, that He defines, that He constantly nourishes.
That is what those who confuse Calvin and Luther don’t quite understand, or those who were trying to represent what I believe (as a Lutheran pastor) over the last couple of weeks. They put forth that “faith alone” didn’t leave room for baptism, or the Lord’s Supper. Yet in Lutheran theology, these things are part of what is “faith alone”, because God ordained them because He promised to work through them, to pour His promises, including forgiveness through them. “Faith alone” doesn’t deny God’s means of grace, it actually requires us to depend on God working in the way He promised, through those things and times we call sacramental.
And it is because we walk with God that we find our lives being transformed, that we respond to His love almost instinctively, but yet visibly. It means we learn to love and love others, responding to their needs, to their search for life and for meaning. This is a life of faith, a life trusting in God, walking with Him whereever we go..
God is with us, and knowing that, we can depend on Him. That is what “Faith alone” really means, to those it originated with …
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 838-840). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The Reformation Cry of a Broken Soul!
† In Jesus †
As God’s grace for us is revealed, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, may we find it easier to depend on Him completely, for we are His people and He is with us! AMEN!
Not a Battle cry!
As we’ve approached the 500th anniversary of Luther inviting people to discuss problems in the church, I have become more and more upset by what I’ve seen. I’ve seen some extremism creep in, as some have label Leather not a reformer, but a revolutionary. I’ve seen that said negatively by some, and some say the same thing with great pride as if we were celebrating something akin to the 4th of July.
As if Sola Fide (Faith alone) was a battle cry, a chant to get behind as we took on an evil enemy, and triumphed by the power of our will. For some Protestants, the 500th anniversary has become a chance for our touchdown dance. For some Catholics, we are still the impertinent upstarts who want to destroy the church for whom Christ has died.
But Sola Fide wasn’t a battle cry at first.
It was the cry of a priest named Fr. Martin, who had tried every way possible to be good enough for God, and yet remained broken and in great despair, tormented by the sin which had its talons buried deep into him, and wouldn’t let Him escape,
Until he listened to the words God spoke through the scriptures, the words of the mass, the worship service he led every day since his ordination, and found hope….
as he learned to depend, not on his on work, but on the work of Christ alone.
That is what Sola Fide, the great reformation cry of a broken soul means.
to depend on Christ, no other, to save us from our brokenness, the brokenness caused by sin.
That is why Sola Fide is a cry, a cry of a broken heart that has found hope, and will not let go of it.
The Brokenness of Those Who Trust in Rubbish
A couple of weeks ago, we heard that Paul tossed aside the rubbish he once depended on, what he thought proved he was a good man, what proved he was righteous, godly, holy.
We see that attitude in the people Jesus was talking to today. They claimed they didn’t’ need to be free from the sin, and the rubbish that they counted on to show them good enough for God.
We were never slaves!
They didn’t remember their own history that well, for scripture tells us these children of Abraham were enslaved by Egypt, (see Exodus), by Midian various Philistine groups (see Judges and the Books of Samuel), by Assyria and Babylon (see the Books of Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets) and eventually by Greece ( see Maccabees) and then, even in Jesus day, hey were the subjects, the slaves of Rome and Caesar.
But nah, they weren’t slaves.
Can you imagine someone who said they don’t struggle with sin at all? Or worse, that they never sin anymore?
That’s what we are claiming when we say we are good people, or when we say that person or this person is so good, surely they will get to heaven. When we say that – we are exactly like the people Jesus encountered, the people who thought they were okay with God, that their sin was insignificant.
The True Burden
In the Luther movie we watched last week, Luther’s mentor Staupitz confronted Luther, saying that of all the monks, his confessions were the least interesting! They were boring because none of the sins were interesting.
Yet Luther felt all too well the distance those sins led him from God. He despaired of the brokenness. A book I am reading on his life gave a little more detail. One of those times of private confession lasted over 5 hours, as Luther tried to account for every sin he committed in the last week. He walked away from that confession convinced that he wasn’t sorry enough, that he missed sins that wouldn’t be forgiven.
I get that. Part of me doesn’t want to look upon my own sin. I want to excuse it, find justifications for it, dismiss it as not as serious as it is. But when I am thinking seriously about my sin, for example when I am up here, and we have those brief moments of confessing, there are times I wonder why God has me up here, heck why He even let me in this place.
Like Luther, it would be easy to sink into despair, to believe that God wouldn’t accept someone a sinner like us.
How I wish we could take sin that seriously, for only one reason.
If we did, how much more would we be overwhelmed by the knowledge that He comes to us, picks us up, forgives of our sin and cleanses us of our unrighteousness.
Then we would know how much God loves us, as He embraces us, prodigals still smelling like the “rubbish” and pig slop we lived in, as He calls for us to be dressed in the best robes. As he tells everyone, my child is home.
hear again Jesus.
“You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I’m going to rephrase that a little, for clarity
“You are truly my disciples if you depend on my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus, the Son of God came for one purpose, to free you and I, and every other person from the power of sin. Jesus dying on cross shattered the hold it has on us. His resurrection comforts us, as the promise is clearly seen.
You are free of that sin, you are cleansed of that unrighteousness,
Depend on that as you approach the altar, confidently as the Book of Hebrews tells us to do, knowing we are in the presence of God who loves us.
Depend on Jesus, trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, for He alone is our Savior, our Lord, who brings us home to the Father.
And as you cry out, aware of your need, don’t be surprised that knowing He is God brings you peace that passes all understanding, and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:20-25 (ESV)
17 On the other hand, it is correct to say that in conversion, through the attraction of the Holy Spirit, God changes stubborn and unwilling people into willing people, and that after conversion, in the daily exercise of repentance, the reborn will of man is not idle but cooperates in all the works which the Holy Spirit performs through us.
18 9. Likewise Luther’s statement that man’s will in conversion behaves “altogether passively”5 (that is, that it does nothing at all) must be understood as referring to the action of divine grace in kindling new movements within the will, that is, when the Spirit of God through the Word that has been heard or through the use of the holy sacraments takes hold of man’s will and works the new birth and conversion. But after the Holy Spirit has performed and accomplished this and the will of man has been changed and renewed solely by God’s power and activity, man’s new will becomes an instrument and means of God the Holy Spirit, so that man not only lays hold on grace but also cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow.
426 Today once again I prayed full of confidence. This was my petition: “Lord, may neither our past wretchedness which has been forgiven us, nor the possibility of future wretchedness cause us any disquiet. May we abandon ourselves into your merciful hands. May we bring before you our desires for sanctity and apostolate, which are hidden like embers under the ashes of an apparent coldness…” ”Lord, I know you are listening to us.” You should say this to him too.
There is, within the church today, a sense of defeatism. The church seems to be dying in America; it no longer serves the community as a place of peace, a sanctuary from the world. It is no longer the place of people set apart to a life walking with Christ.
This is happening, even as American seminaries are be asked to influence the training of pastors in places where the growth of the church is exponential, and that scares me, for what if what we teach them is what has caused our churches, liberal and confessional, traditional and contemporary to diminish in size, and in effect?
I can’t speak to the denominations and movements I know not of, but I can speak, and will speak to those I know well.
In our situation, there is a strange misunderstanding, a problem with one of our prize confessions, the cry of “Faith Alone”, and how it has morphed into something it never was.
It was about conversion; some people think it is about the entirety of our life. They take another summary of theology – we are simultaneously sinners and justified – and it and what has developed is a theology that there is no need for spiritual growth, there is no need for being transformed into the image of Christ, for growing in faith and holiness.
We see them come to faith, find their seat in church – and leave them there. We remind them their sins are forgiven; we tell them to trust God for their salvation, but we fail to encourage them to live life with Christ.
But as you see in blue above, the early Luther’s never meant that sanctification was optional, that serving alongside Christ was just for a chosen few, that the rest could be passive in how they live life, that a signed check was good enough.
We are meant to be instruments, means of grace as we share the gospel given to us via God’s word, and the sacraments that are tangible means of that grace. Every Christian, growing in faith, seeing themselves set apart to be used by God, interceding and ministering to those who are around them, loving them as CHirst loves us.
Are we going to be perfect? Nah>
Are we still going to be occasionally wretched? It’s possible, even probable and in my case. definite. But that shouldn’t stop us from being drawn to the cross, abandoning ourselves into the hands that were crucified, into the life that we died with at the cross, and are raised to, quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit – which raised Christ from the dead.
It is time to return to encourage holiness, to encourage people to live as God intends, as one, holy, called together and sent into a broken world people.
Faith Alone- yes it saves – and brings us into a journey with God -where it sees us made into a holy people…people that can bring God’s healing to a lost and broken world.
Lord, I know you are listening to us, breathe on us, and cause the embers of our desire for your mission and our holiness rage into a holy inferno. AMEN!
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 472). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. Formula of Concord: Pt 1 Epitome II Free Will
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1637-1641). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
devotional/discussion thought of the day:
22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (NLT)
7 This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8 Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9 not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)
It was one of the cries of the men who tried to reform, to re-focus the Catholic Church. Faith Alone, Sola Fide in Latin. It is still the point of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and a few of the protestant denominations. Even as I pray that the Church would be visibly one, hole, catholic, and apostolic; I struggle to see that this issue would be ever resolved.
There is a twist to this issue now, one that might be distinctly American, or perhaps it simply originated here. It cuts across all of the church, and it may be more destructive than anything the Great Schism or Reformation/Counter Reformation has spawned.
It is the addition of the little pronoun “my” to either “saved by faith”, or “saved by faith alone”. To add that skirts the border of heresy, and it bows to the idol of narcissus. It puts the glory and the credit for salvation, not in the God in whom we trust, but in the “me”. As if in some way, faith originated in me, by my own reason, by my own intellectual/spiritual/holy prowess.
Perhaps this is why we take every attack on Christianity so personally, as if ISIS, or the atheists, or whomever, is attacking us directly. Perhaps it is why we avoid martyrdom and suffering, instead finding our shields up, our notions of self defense well exercised. It is why we can justify missing church, despite what scripture says, because after all, this religion, this belief, this faith is mine. Such a personal faith focuses on our knowledge, or our work, on what we have gained or achieved. It can then grow into Gnosticism, or Agnosticism, for as long as faith is “my faith”, as long as it focuses one me, it will lead to emptiness, and more searching out for that arcane bit of knowledge that will justify me. At least it will justify me in my own sight.
Which is what really matters today, at least in the our own view.
Self-righteousness, self-justification, as if in “my faith” it is also “my judgement” that needs to be appeased.
I mentioned that this idea borders on heresy, but I didn’t say which side of the border. It is across the border, I believe, from both historic Catholic and Protestant perspectives. Because it ignites that faith is more than a doctrinal statement, more than a set of core beliefs. It is more than knowledge.
For you can’t have faith without having faith “in” someone/something. It is a verb, not a noun, and it requires an object. Going back to the Latin, we see the root of the word “confidence” (that is with faith) My confidence doesn’t save me, it is that we have confidence in the love and mercy of Christ which saves us. Not the confidence, but the love and mercy is what saves us. We see this in the Creeds, the “I believe IN”, I have faith IN”. Faith is simply the reception, the trust, the dependence upon the God who is revealed to us, revealed to be working in/on/upon and through us. That faith, trust, dependence radically changes us, not just how we think bu how we live. For that transformation is the promise.
That is why faith can never be “my” faith, it must focus on the object, the Lord whom we trust in to do what He promised, to do what He has done. To have faith in God means we abide in Him, we find refuge in Him, we recognize His work in making us His children, His people.
He has had mercy, He loves. Trust Him, have faith in Him, and know He saves you!
Devotional Thought of the Day…
9 This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; 10 may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today the food we need. 12 Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. 13 Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.For yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory, now and forever! AMEN Matthew 6:9-13 (TEV)
31 “So do not start worrying: ‘Where will my food come from? or my drink? or my clothes?’ 32 (These are the things the pagans are always concerned about.) Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things. 33 Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what he requires of you, and he will provide you with all these other things. Matthew 6:31-33 (TEV)
857 The Kingdom of Jesus Christ: that is our task! So, my child, be generous: don’t be anxious to know any of the many reasons he has to want to reign in you. If you look at him, it will be enough for you to consider how much he loves you… You will feel a hunger to correspond to his love, crying aloud that you really love him here and now; and you will understand that if you don’t leave him, he won’t leave you.
Back in the 1990’s there was a controversy over what it meant for Jesus to be our Lord. Interestingly, it focused not on God, but on our obligation to God, or more precisely the code of behavior laid down in scripture. On one side, there was a focus on complete obedience to Christ as the only way to be sure we were in God’s will. On the other side, there were pastors and theologians who took a position that since faith alone saves, our behavior had little to do with our salvation – but rather affected our peace and comfort in this life.
The battle seems to be raging anew – with different descriptions, – the latter group being called anti-nomians, the former pietists Old labels for sure, but being applied anew. I chose a different translation for the second passage – we usually hear it as “seek first the Kingdom” – but this to comes on the heals of realizing God’s promise to provide, so that we can focus on living in a relationship with Him. As we focus on what God requires os us, especially we hear His invitation for us to walk humbly with Him
The challenge is realizing that these views are arguing about Christ’s Lordship by looking at th wrong subject. They start by looking at responsibility in the relationship – but they set their priority in the wrong place. It all starts with the master’s responsibility, not ours. IF we are to understand the Lordship of Christ, if we are to understand what it means that He is our master, we must begin there…We must begin by seeing His commitment to us.
As He teaches us to pray, look at what is promised to us, look at the things God is taking responsibility for in our lives. Look at the burdens He would have us place in His hands
I love the point St Josemaria makes – we can think all day of why God would choose to call us, to walk with us. We can try to comprehend all of His logic, to analyze it, to create the theological systems But what if instead, we looked to God, we knew His love, we expored, as Paul urged the height and depth, the breadth and width of that love. What would happen if we looked at His commitment, HIs faithfulness, HIs desire – and our thoughts and our heart were focused there? The resulting response by us as we consider His love as we bask in it, as we realize he loves us, will cause be far more of a change than we could ever negotiate on our own.Looking to His love, knowing it, will see that love work and create a level of trust and bind us to Him.
That’s the point – Christ being our Lord and Master is a promise to us, a promise that He will care for us, be there for us, that He loves us.
And in the end, it becomes even closer, as we hear him say, “I know longer call you servants…but friends”
Be at peace – for you live in Christ Jesus.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3035-3039). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/devotion of the day….
It is amazing to me, how much we get caught up in the intrigues and plots and plans of government. How much anxiety, how much sin, how much pain is created when we look to our governments, when we look to our candidates to provide that which can only come from God. (somehow we also do this with athletes, which is even more perverse…)
Do we really think that the problems caused by sin will be overcome if our guy wins? Is there any proof that if our opponent wins, that somehow he can override the will and work of God? How much of God’s peace can be stolen from us by politicians? How much of what really matters can be overcome?
A survivor of the Spanish Civil War, which was brutal on both sides, which had believers on both sides, which had pastors and priests killed by both sides, wrote this,
“The measures taken by some governments to ensure that the faith in their countries dies out reminds me of the seals set upon the tomb of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. He was not subject to anybody or anything, and despite those seals, he rose again!” (1)
It isn’t rocket science to realize that in this day, people have turned politics, like so many things, into a form a idolatry. Can we, for a moment, for a day, trust in God more than we trust in the war for “right” or “wrong” in the elections? Can we find our unity in the one who didn’t run for office, but ran to the cross for the joy set before Him? Or will we be like the Israelites, who forsook God’s reign, to have a king…
Lord Have Mercy on us! Help us to look to you for the peace that the world and its governors and kings and presidential candidates cannot deliver…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1084-1087). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.