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The Struggle of Being Holy….and How it Accomplished!

clydes-cross-2Devotional Thought of the Day
15  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16  For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17  And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:15-17 (NLT2)

6. We also believe, teach, and confess that, although the genuinely believing and truly regenerated persons retain much weakness and many shortcomings down to their graves, they still have no reason to doubt either the righteousness which is reckoned to them through faith or the salvation of their souls, but they must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, on the basis of the promises and the Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God.

Men expect redemption from themselves, and they seem quite prepared to provide it. Thus there is linked to the primacy of the future the primacy of practice, the primacy of human activity above all other activities. Theology, too, shows itself more and more open to this concept—orthopraxis replaces orthodoxy. “Eschatopraxis” seems more important than eschatology. If in earlier days it was left to popular enlightenment to tell the lower class that artificial fertilizer was more effective than prayer, now, after a suitable interval, we can read similar commentaries in the kind of “religious” literature that strives to reflect the contemporary Zeitgeist; we can even find voiced there the argument that under certain circumstances prayer itself will have to be “refunctioned”: it can hardly be considered any longer an appeal for divine assistance; on the contrary, it must be regarded as a period of quiet composure in preparation for the practice of human self-help.

Benedict XVI’s words about orthopraxy replacing orthodoxy (right practice replacing right praise) seem eerily prophetic.  Written in 1971, these words I believe talk of the church today.  For the focus on doing things correctly, doing things in a way that seems holy to man dominate both traditional and contemporary Christianity, It can be seen in both conservative and liberal voices.

As he notes, even prayer becomes the preparation for doing things correctly, 

As I look at this, I think I see a tie into the quote from the Lutheran Confessions in green.  I think that we struggle with the fact that while we believe, the weakness and shortcoming we have (which is simply a fancy way of saying we still sin).  We don’t know how to deal with our own frailty, our own brokenness.  We are impatient with the healing we are experiencing in Christ, and so we seek to fast track our own sanctification.

If only we can do everything right, if only our performance reveals how much faith we have, then maybe others will see us as holy, and then, based on our testimony, we can believe we are holy.   So we look for the masters, the life coaches, the pastors who will show us the way to worship, how to live, how to raise our kids, and be a bastion or moral and religious perfection.

And instead of being an imitator of Christ, we try to become a clone of those who we follow.  Driven by the fear of being revealed to be something less than faithful, we take on the mannerisms, while leaving a soul behind that is empty, broken, and struggling with the sin that so easily ensnares us.

Prior to the passage from Romans above, we see Paul going from the joys of rising with Christ in baptism, to the absolute low of discovering he still can’t get things right.  Orthopraxis is impossible,  He can’t do what is right, he can’t help but do what is wrong.  In this moment of shame and self-pity, he finds in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That despite his struggle with sin, God sees Paul as righteous, holy, a son of God.

This discovery changes things, it changes our fear of our sin being discovered into a cry for help,  Daddy! Daddy! HELP!  We realize that our hope is not found in our attempts to be holy, but in hearing His voice tell us we are His children.  In hearing His promise to complete everything in the day of Jesus. We find our transformation not by our work in ministry, not in our perfection of word and sacrament, but from being there, broken, and finding healing.

Nothing I can do will bring you the level of holiness you will be satisfied with, in this age. For satisfaction means you want to judge if you have made it, or rely on the judgment of others. That desire for satisfaction will drain you, ripping out from you the core of your heart and soul.

But allowing God to minister to us, allowing His grace, His mercy and love to pour into us, living life being drawn to Him, sometimes in tears, this is our hope.  Not starting with prayer, but a life lived in Him, allowing Him to recreate us.

This is our hope of wholeness, of holiness.  Letting God be God, as we realize we are His.

 

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 474). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 242–243). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

When Something Excellent Turns Bad…the Challenge of Teaching in the Church

Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:Concordia Lutheran Church - Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

4  Teach me your ways, O LORD; make them known to me. 5  Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you. 6  Remember, O LORD, your kindness and constant love which you have shown from long ago. 7  Forgive the sins and errors of my youth. In your constant love and goodness, remember me, LORD! Psalm 25:4-7 (TEV)

5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6  Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. 7  Never let yourself think that you are wiser than you are; simply obey the LORD and refuse to do wrong. 8  If you do, it will be like good medicine, healing your wounds and easing your pains. Proverbs 3:5-8 (TEV)

Deliver me from self-trustfulness, In the frequent days in which I must do battle with my self as foe, arm me with a constant trust in Thee. (1)

 

Heresy is not so much a new doctrine, but an Orthodox doctrine that is overemphasized. (2) 

A sincere resolution: to have faith in God always; to hope in God always; to love God always… he never abandons us, even if we are rotting away as Lazarus was.

When I read the quote in blue above, from the biography of a man who personally impacted how I preach, it stunned me for its simplicity, and its truth.

I could give example after example of when man’s reason and pride joined together to subtly and slowly twist doctrine, or the reaction to that heresy which caused a quicker reaction that threw them off the cliff in the other direction.

One example is in the discussion of how faith and works are related.  If one overemphasizes the doctrine of justification, he may end up teaching that works and piety are not needed in the Christian life. A reaction to that would be an overemphasis on the doctrine of sanctification, where certain works/gifts/charisms once seen as a reaction to grace now become legislated and those who don’t practice or show those works are taught to question their salvation.  The two sides meet, they harden their position, defending what they see as a true doctrinal position, to the extent that only that doctrine matters.

When I read the quote on the plane, 30 such issues came to mind.  (examples include the Sacraments, the Commandments – especially the Sabbath,  Religion versus Relationship, the Work of the Holy Spirit, Worship Wars, Evangelism/Mission versus Orthodoxy)   Several that friends of mine are dealing with, or have dealt with in recent years. I tucked it away in the back of my mind.  This morning my regular devotions (from which the other four quotes come)  brought up the problem again, and the answer to it.

Hence the blog this morning.

The issue is one of sin, specifically the sin of pride and the exaltation of man’s ability to reason.

We know the danger of man’s reason apart from God, but do we realize that we still fall prey to the pride which exalts our reason, our understanding?  That makes us believe that we know all we need, even more than those around us?  Do we realize we are still but the children of God, that we don’t know it all, and even more importantly, we can’t apply all that we do know?

It is, as the quote in green above states, the battle of self idolatry.  Proverbs reiterates the same thing, our need not to be able to understand, but to trust God, to lean on Him, to continually refer back, not just to man’s wisdom, but to scripture, to prayer. Psalms reiterates this theme of trust, of walking with God.

The challenge is that doctrines are beautiful, there is something overwhelming about those “aha” moments when something life-changing is realized.  But that one doctrine cannot become the defining doctrine of our life.  Even the study of all doctrine cannot be, for doctrine itself doesn’t save us, Christ does.  Doctrine may instruct us in how our souls are healed in how reconciliation occurs, of how the means of grace deliver that precious grace.  The wisdom of God being revealed is a wonderful thing.

But it isn’t our God.

Imagine studying about marriage,  You’ve read every sociological book, every psychological book, every book describing the intimacy that a husband and wife share, physical, spiritual, emotional.  You look at your own marriage certificate, memorizing it so well, that you could reproduce it from memory…even the crinkle in the seal.  You invest every moment of your time in such learning about marriage that many consider you an expert.

But you’ve done so, at the expense of time with your spouse…..

How well can you really know what the union of two souls are?

Same thing with God.

The key to avoiding heresy is not managing to juggle and keep in balance all the doctrines that are taught in scripture.

The key is abiding in Christ.  Of walking with God, of realizing that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Of knowing the dimensions of His love for you and all His people. To receive His mercy, His forgiveness and the healing of our souls. It is then you can hear His voice, it is then you know His love and mercy and grace.  It is then you treasure its words, for what it reveals about God and His people.  It is then that doctrines aren’t just a matter of knowledge, a matter of the mind.  But then that they are a description of our life as thise who trust God.

It is then, that these words, in bold colors above, resonate with us, because they are our prayers.

God’s peace to you… and know that you are kept, your heart and mind, in that peace. by Christ.  AMEN.

 

(1)  From Celtic Daily Prayer, Aidan Readings for 10/25, credited as from Hebridean Altars

(2)  Ortiz, Juan Carlos (2011-08-09). From the Jungles to the Cathedrals: The Captivating Story of Juan Carlos Ortiz (Biography: Great Leaders of Our Times) (Kindle Locations 1717-1718). Vida. Kindle Edition.

(3)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 924-925). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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