Saturday, May 26, 2007

Drowning myself daily...

To write Drowning Myself Daily as the title of my post makes me feel like I'm borrowing someone's excellent blog title, but the very visual description of drowning one's self daily can be traced a bit further back to Martin Luther. Recently, the WELS Q&A site addressed this concept:

The familiar words and imagery used by Luther may be found in his Small Catechism, under "Fourth" in the exposition of Baptism. Most if not all youth confirmands in Lutheran churches memorize the words, so it is indeed familiar. For additional information, one may ponder Romans 6:1-15, which Luther refers to in the Catechism.

John's call to "Repent" for the "forgiveness of sins" is first of all a call to repentance in the wide sense, including both contrition and faith in Jesus as one's Savior. Whenever the forgiveness of sins is connected to repentance, faith as well as contrition is involved. John indeed proclaimed both law and gospel, exposing sins and identifying the person and work of the Savior. That was his task and is our task, to preach God's Word, law and gospel.

John's call to "Repent" for the "forgiveness of sins" is secondly NOT a command for anyone to do anything by his or her own power. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that no sinful human being can repent on his own. No one can come to Jesus except by God's power (John 6:37, 44) . That's why we often use a term like "gospel imperative" for this kind of speech. It is a command or an invitation that carries with it the ability for the listener to respond. It is comparable to other divine commands like "Let there be light" or "Let the land produce vegetation" (Genesis 1) or "Lazarus, come out!" (John 11) or "In the name of Jesus Christ, walk!" (Acts 3). The command itself supplies the power and moves the person to do what is desired by God.

...What part is our action? To proclaim God's Word, law and gospel, to point ourselves and others to the reality and seriousness of sin and the reality and greatness of pardon through the unconditional gospel, and to call each other to repentance in God's name. What part is God's action? To work true sorrow for sin and true reliance on Jesus Christ in the human heart, and to preserve that miracle of repentance in the human heart.

In my journey as a human and as a Christian, I have struggled with what is my part and what is God's part. In the past few months, I have been wrestled with what I wish was a final step but is more likely just a next step in my journey to heaven.

My many years as an Evangelical taught me a very bad habit. The continual emphasis on my works as the way of salvation, apparently, deeply ingrained in me the idea that I am impervious to certain things, certain behaviors, certain temptations. For example, I would see someone in the church or community who was suffered the result of some sin, such as a crime, or lying (the outward act of lying) or murder or adultery (the list could go on forever), and I'd dismiss that person as an unrepentant sinner. Because I was "saved", I believed that such a circumstance would never happen to me. The spirit of God resided in me because I had asked Him. This was my protection. My faith was actually in myself and it worked...for a while.

It's easy to be full of ideals in your teens and twenties. Everything seems black and white in those days of clarity before a career, spouse and kids. I was right and whomever disagreed with me was wrong, from religion to politics to diet. What I didn't count on is that I would change as I aged. What I didn't count on was that, just perhaps, my so-called clarity was really a near- blind rigidity based on fear of the unknown and poor theological underpinnings. What I didn't count on was that any Christian is capable of any sin, particular ones he or she thinks would never occur.

In equal rigidity, perhaps, it is easy for me to blame that fear of the unknown on a poor education. My parents gave me the best, in their minds. I got the basic suburban high school education and a state college teaching degree. I received a typical ELCA confirmation and then attended various IVCF activities in college. I read scripture often...more often than most college students, I'm sure. Still, my lack of a strong Christian education made me easy prey for many false teachings through the years. Like a Christian not being able to fall into certain sins.

Today, the only thing I know I can do for certain is to drown myself daily in my baptism.

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.


What is Baptism?--Answer.

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.

Which is that word of God?--Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.


What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.


How can water do such great things?--Answer.

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.


What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?--Answer.

St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

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