Law & Gospel


“It bears repeating that we are made right with God because Christ is our substitute. He lived a perfect life in our place, died to atone for our sins, and was raised not only for himself, but for us–guaranteeing our justification, sanctification, glorification, and the redemption of our bodies. This is how Jesus Christ fulfills his mission–not merely by showing the way, but by being the Way. He saves us fully and finally, and leaves no room for us to say, ‘Ah, yes. But I did do that one good thing.'”
– Mike Horton “In the Face of God”

Because our heart is an idol factory until the day we die, let us not forget the Gospel.

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Well…..I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long, and chances are I won’t be putting up any of my own thoughts for while (who knows, that might be a good thing), so I thought I’d post a prayer written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his time in a concentration camp (where he eventually was murdered). If you have never heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, then my best suggestion for you is to look him up, my explanation of his character and reputation would be shallow.

Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, penned in 1944…..murdered on April 9, 1945

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Here is a clear example of a man who was broken by the law, completely understood that he was unrighteous, and in complete fear of God’s wrath. He asked a series of heartfelt questions such as, “How can I even hope for forgiveness?”, “Is atonement even possible?”, “What does God want from me?”, the chaplain could not answer one bit of his questions. We know however, that for everyone of his questions the answer is found in Christ, this is why we must cherish the gift of Absolution.

So here are my questions:

1. Who was closer to the Kingdom of Heaven? The Man or the Woman?

2. What would you have said in her place?

3. What does this clip say of the significance of Truth?

After watching this scene, this passage from Isaiah 52:7 finally makes sense to me, “How Beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news, proclaim peace, bring glad tidings of good things, proclaim salvation, and proclaim to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

In my first post a few days ago, I published the speech that my roommate gave to the congregation at one of his last Sunday’s at our Lutheran Student Center.  One week later, I had my own opportunity to address the congregation after the Offetory in the Divine Service. 

This is what I said: 

It has been almost three years since I first began coming to the Lutheran Student Center.  Much has happened in the past three years and much has changed about me in that time too—but rather than tell you the whole story, I will summarize in one sentence:

 

Throughout my time here at Immanuel Lutheran Student Center, I went from disliking the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to being confirmed in it with hopes of someday becoming one of her pastors.

 

What caused the change?  Was it the friendly people who welcomed me every time I kept coming back after the first day?  No—the people were most certainly friendly and welcoming, but that’s not what kept me coming back.  Was it the beautiful hymns and music that I got to sing and hear when I came that kept me coming back?  No—while Lutherans do have one of the richest repertoires of hymnody of churches, that wasn’t what kept me coming back either.

 

While many factors contributed to both my change of heart about the Missouri Synod and my desire to become a member, there is clearly one that stands out far above the rest: the clearly proclaimed Gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

 

As with many people, starting college was a tough time for me emotionally and spiritually.  There were many changes that were taking place in my life.  However, as my comfort and confidence levels were on shaky ground, there was one thing in my life that I knew would always be there: sin.  The first night I came here to Immanuel for worship and Bible study, I came in convicted of my sinful imperfection and total depravity before God—those were not things anyone needed to tell me I had, because I was already well aware of my possession of them.  In fact, I was aware of my sin to the point of despair.  Past mistakes and shortcomings coupled with sinful habits made for me a very heavy cross to bear—a cross that I actually could not bear and did not know what to do with.  If you can remember what you learned in confirmation, you might recognize that I, as a young freshman, was broken by the Law: I was convicted and convinced of my sinfulness and need for help. 

 

That help came to me when I came to the Lutheran Student Center—it was the purely proclaimed Gospel that lifted the heavy burden that I was carrying. 

 

That Gospel I heard was that of the forgiveness of sins that was sure and certain in the words of Absolution after Confession when Pastor said: “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  The message of Christ’s sacrificial life, death, and resurrection for the sins of the world—for my sins—was spoken in the sermons.  Here in the Lutheran Church, I found what I was looking for and am still looking for: the certainty of God’s forgiveness of my sins.  And that forgiveness, my friends, is not something that I could find anywhere else.

 

St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

 

And this message is also proclaimed in Galatians 2:20—one of Bible verses that Pastor Burdick had us memorize the first semester I attended Bible Study at Immanuel:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.”

 

No social club, party, videogame, or television show you can find has news that is this good.  Nowhere but in the Church can you hear the great depths of God’s love for us—a love so deep that He sent His one and only son to this world to live the perfect life that we could not live, and die the horrible death that we deserve so that we may be found blameless and forgiven of all our sins against God.  Nowhere but in Church is this good news found.  Nowhere but in the Church can you be made righteous by the Blood of Christ poured over you through the water and Word of Holy Baptism.  Nowhere but in the Church are such great gifts found. 

 

So come today and receive this good news—the forgiveness of sins—here in the Holy Supper. Believe this good news for your sake, and tell it to others.  

 

As you can see, I kept coming back to Immanuel.  And I kept going to Immanuel for no reason more than this—it is in this place that I hear about what Jesus has done for me.  And what he did for me is summed up nicely in the words of this stanza from one of my favorite hymns. 

 

Because the sinless Savior died,

My sinful soul is counted free;

For God, the Just, is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me.    

Save the LCMS has worked a new 95 theses specifically for the context of American Evangelicalism, here is an excerpt:

In publishing these theses, we do not intend to foment division, but to expose those who are creating division within the body of Christ. We are not addressing any particular church body or person, but invite all who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ to engage in this debate. We do so in the spirit of the great Reformer, Martin Luther, as we implore the mercies of God upon His Church, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church and Bishop of our souls.

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” He willed that the whole life of believers should be one of repentance.

2. To “repent” means to be contrite for one’s sins and to trust Jesus Christ and solely in His completed work for one’s forgiveness, life, and salvation.

3. Those who describe the Christian life as purpose-driven deny true repentance, confuse the Law and the Gospel, and obscure the merits of Christ.

Here’s the two that got me…
4. Impious and wicked are the methods of those who substitute self-help and pop-psychology for the Gospel in the name of relevance.

5. This impious disregard for the Gospel wickedly transforms sacred Scripture into a guidebook for living, a pharisaic sourcebook of principles, and sows tares among the wheat.

6. Relevance, self-help and pop-psychology have no power to work true contrition over sins and faith in Jesus Christ.

7. Like clouds without rain, purpose-driven preachers withhold the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross and enslave men’s consciences to the law which they cleverly disguise as so-called ‘Biblical Principles’.

8. By teaching tips for attaining perfect health, debt-free wealth, and better sex in marriage, the purveyors of relevance undermine true fear, love and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

9. They are enemies of Christ, who distort the Word of God by tearing verses from their original context in order to use them as proof texts for their self-help, pop-psychology agendas…..

And the rest you can find here.

“There are only two religions one of do and one of done, that’s the demarcation.”
– Anonymous

Simple and yet profound, man’s religion is performance based, and like the corporate world, you must climb a ladder by your own merit to get to the top. Christianity on the other hand is about a God who in His mercy pitied His enemies and sent forth His son Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those who stood cursed and condemned by their transgression of the Law, and in God’s condemning sin in Christ, man now stands reconciled and at peace with God. There is no ladder we must climb to bring us closer to God, for Jesus Christ is the Way, and by His blood bought pardon we now “…belong to Christ Jesus. Though you once were far away from God, now you have been brought near to him because of the blood of Christ.” Eph 2:13

The religion of man says, “Do this, don’t touch that, pray this much”, but Christianity cries out, “It is Finished!” Hallelujah, Amen.

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain“. (Gal. 2:19-21)

Those who live to the law, that is, they who still expect to obtain salvation by the works of the law, have never felt the strength of the law. They know nothing of death and condemnation to which they are subject, and therefore they are neither hungry nor thirsty for the righteousness of Christ (Mat. 5:6).

Therefore, they are before God as if they were dead — as the Pharisee who praised himself, trusted in himself, and condemned others (Luke 18: 10-12). For God desires and welcomes contrite, troubled, and oppressed hearts who feel their poverty, destitution, and sickness (Mat. 9:20), in order that He might comfort, refresh, enrich, and heal them with the riches of His grace in Jesus Christ (Mat. 11:28).

Consider, for example, the rich young ruler who claimed to have kept all of God’s commandments from his youth. He lived according to the law (Luke 18:18-24); therefore he was dead unto God. However, the woman who was a sinner and washed Christ’s feet with her tears, received the grace of God in Christ through a steadfast faith and heartfelt trust (Luke 7:37-50). She was dead to the law and therefore she lived unto God.
– Petrus Dathenus, “The Pearl of Christian Comfort” pg. 41

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.
Amen
– Horatius Bonar

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