Sunday, February 25, 2007

The devil waxes furious...

Incarnatus est posted these good words from an early church father. It's so good I've copied the entire post! Be sure to visit Incarnatus est for other helpful posts. I love his header:
A Blog. Lutheran. Catholic. Sacramental. Addressing the contemporary life of the church from an authentic, ancient Christian point of view. And the occasional thought on rock and roll.
The perfect blog, then.

Leo the Great on Lent and Satan and the Christian

And, dearly-beloved, no season requires and bestows this fortitude more than the present, when by the observance of a special strictness a habit is acquired which must be persevered in. For it is well known to you that this is the time when throughout the world the devil waxes furious, and the Christian army has to combat him, and any that have grown lukewarm and slothful, or that are absorbed in worldly cares, must now be furnished with spiritual armour and their ardour kindled for the fray by the heavenly trumpet, inasmuch as he, through whose envy death came into the world, is now consumed with the strongest jealousy and now tortured with the greatest vexation.

For he sees whole tribes of the human race brought in afresh to the adoption of God's sons and the offspring of the New Birth multiplied through the virgin fertility of the Church. He sees himself robbed of all his tyrannic power, and driven from the hearts of those he once possessed, while from either sex thousands of the old, the young, the middle-aged are snatched away from him, and no one is debarred by sin either of his own or original, where justification is not paid for deserts, but simply given as a free gift. He sees, too, those that have lapsed, and have been deceived by his treacherous snares, washed in the tears of penitence and, by the Apostle's key unlocking the gates of mercy, admitted to the benefit of reconciliation. He feels, moreover, that the day of the Lord's Passion is at hand, and that he is crushed by the power of that cross which in Christ, Who was free from all debt of sin, was the world's ransom and not the penalty of sin.

Sermon XLIX: On Lent XI

Thursday, February 22, 2007

True Christian Piety, part 1

True Christian piety does not consist primarily in what we do but in recognizing what our God has done for us.

Author: John M. Brenner

pi·e·ty n. pl.: The condition of reverence and devotion to God that comes with faith in Christ.

pi·e·tism n. :Making subjective standards of piety and religious experience the essential measure of Christianity or the Christian faith.

Luther was not the first to try to reform the church. Many before him recognized that something was wrong in the life of God's people. But most who went before Luther focused on behavior or organizational reforms.

Luther, however, recognized that the real problem in the church was not how people were living but what the church was teaching. The Roman Church emphasized what people were to do to contribute to their salvation rather than teaching that Jesus has accomplished everything for salvation in our place. Rome had raised tradition and the decisions and decrees of popes and councils to a position of equal or superior authority to the Holy Scriptures.

Medieval piety included making pilgrimages to "holy" places and praying to Mary and the saints. Taking monastic vows and doing works of penance were considered meritorious. Among the common people, knowledge of the basic teachings of the Bible was often minimal. The Lord's Supper was viewed as a sacrifice we offer to gain God's favor rather than a gracious meal of life by which God offers and seals the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Striving to gain God's favor by leading a life of medieval piety drove Luther to the point of despair. The more he tried to keep God's law and appease God by what he did, the more his conscience became burdened with the knowledge that all of his efforts fell far short.

Piety in Luther's time

As Luther studied the Scriptures, he came to understand that true Christian piety does not consist primarily in what we do but in recognizing what our God has done for us. The message of the Lutheran Reformation centered on God's full and free forgiveness won by the perfect life and sacrifice
of God's own Son. Jesus made
full atonement for our sins. He has defeated the Prince of Darkness and opened heaven's doors. True Christian piety consists in trusting that message.

To foster true piety, Luther and his colleagues translated the Bible into
the language of the people, published books of sermons and devotional material, and wrote hymns and catechisms.

Luther's Small Catechism provided a summary and explanation of the basic truths of Christianity in terms so simple that even a child could understand. Those basic truths were so important that he reviewed them every day. In his preface to the Large Catechism, Luther wrote,

I, too, am a doctor and a preacher. . . . Yet I continue to do as a child does that is being taught the Catechism. Mornings and when I otherwise have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I like, but must remain a child and student of the Catechism.

Read on:

The law and gospel of adultery

For any baptized soul who has struggled with sin, I offer this heartfelt letter and pastoral response. I found it on the WELS Q&A site this morning and was very touched. I think that in this age of pietism, it is a temptation to make certain sins worse than others and tell ourselves that God couldn't possibly forgive a particular type of sin. It is also easy to compartmentalize our sins by putting them into boxes. It is easy to say that you didn't commit adultery, but only thought about a person in a sexual way. Yet Christ's words are do so is adultery. Jesus said in Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Who can truthfully say that he or she has NEVER done that? I imagine very few. The law does indeed convict...with a very sharp knife to the heart.


I strayed very badly from God last year. I was extremely sexually immoral. In a nutshell, I committed adultery. My question is, is there any hope for me to be saved? I knew God before I did this unspeakable gross act. In fact, I did it in the face of Him. How can I expect to be saved? Yes, I'm highly repentant of my sins. Yet, how can I expect Him to forgive me?

Pastoral response:

What you are saying is that you have committed the sin of adultery. You are saying that you did it last year. You are saying that you did it deliberately in the face of God! You wonder how you can expect to be saved? You say that you are highly repentant, but wonder, "How can I expect him to forgive me?"

There are five sections of the Scripture to which I would like to refer you: II Samuel 11; II Samuel 12:13; Psalm 32:3-5; II Corinthians 5:19; and Romans 8:1 ff.

In II Samuel 11 we have the account in God's Word about how David and Bathsheba sinned. Like you, David knew that what he was doing was a sin. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David even tried to cover up his sin by having Uriah, Bathsheba's husband come to her to sleep with her so that everyone might think that Uriah was the child's father. When that did not work David arranged to have Uriah murdered in such a way that it looked like he died in battle.

Just like you, David knowingly and willfully sinned. Can you see the comparisons between David and you?

God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin. David repented. He said: II Samuel 12:13, "I have sinned against the Lord." I hear you saying the same thing.

Then, in Psalm 32:3-5, David tells his people about his sin and his forgiveness from God. He first describes the emotions I hear you expressing: vs. 3-4 "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer."

This is the pain I hear you saying. "How can I expect to be saved?" I deliberately and knowingly sinned! How can I expect God to forgive me?"

David describes his faith in God's solution in this way: vs. 5 "I said, ' I will confess my transgressions to the Lord' -- and you forgave the iniquity of my sin."

I hear you saying, "I am highly repentant of my sins." David said the same thing. Now, you ask, "How did David get that confidence and trust that God forgave him and I don't have it?

Repentance always involves two things. The one -- that we confess our sins to God. The other -- that we believe that we receive absolution or forgiveness from God because of Jesus."

I hear you saying that you have confessed your sins. I also hear you saying that because of the way you feel you sinned so knowingly and willingly, and because you so strongly feel guilt for your sin, you can't understand how God could forgive you.

First: God forgave David who not only knowingly and willingly committed adultery, but also knowingly and willingly caused his lover's husband to be murdered. God forgave David because of Christ who has paid for the sins of the whole world upon the cross. God forgives you also because of Jesus.

When Jesus went to the cross, he paid for all the sins of all people of all time. That includes the sins of King David and your sins also. Listen to what God tells us in II Corinthians 5:19: "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." You are a part of the world for whom Christ died. You can't tell me or God that you are not a part of the world for whose sins Christ went to the cross. You are also a part of the whole world which has been reconciled to God because of Christ. That part is just as true. To be reconciled to God means that God, in Christ, has made peace between you and him.

In others words, trust in the mercy of God. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He has made peace between you and God. Be at Peace!

Romans 8:1 "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Jesus died for you. He paid for your sins upon the cross. Be assured that there is nothing in all creation that "will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:39. That "us" includes you!

My last encouragement to you is that you go to your pastor and hear this same message of peace from him. Take your question and answer with you. Show it to him and talk with him about it.

Be at peace! Your Jesus loves you, died for you, arose for you, and lives for you!

Out of faith and love for Jesus, live for him! As a fruit of your repentance, fight the temptation to commit adultery again.