Friday, May 1, 2009

Sin boldy

2 Thes. 1:11-12 (ESV)
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, [12] so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power. We always fall back to the Old Adam and think we have to make ourselves worthy of the calling. This is the whole sanctification by third use of the law trap that inundates Lutheranism today, a sore agitated by and infection of American Evangelicalism (Wesleyanism). We fail to see that it is God who makes us worthy of the calling. He is the one who sanctifies us. He does this the same way he justifies us. He forgives us with the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. With that forgiveness, He forgives our “righteous deeds,” as I said earlier this week.
It is funny. Sometimes when we come to realize the complete sinfulness of our human nature, and inability to do good, we become afraid to even try. If I sin by doing “good” why do it? Sometimes this is just and enthusiasm for the Gospel that washes over a person when they first hear it. It is good to see that enthusiasm. It is natural to rebel against those things that once bound your conscience, a Muslim convert eating pork with a newfound ravenous appetite. There is the convert from evangelicalism that gets drunk off one beer, and does it every night! I think I can identify with that. There is a joy and a defiance towards legalism, and an enthusiasm for the Gospel that I share. But sometimes this can become a legalism of its own. A legalism I’ve been guilty of myself. It is one that refuses to do good works, because good works are sinful. I suppose there is a time to make that point. But once it is made it is made. Why should we fear good works because they are sinful? So is everything we do when we do them as sinners. Eating and drinking water as a sinner is sin. But in faith it is to the glory of God. Same with our good works, in faith they are done to the glory of God. We have to be on guard not to do them to our own glory. We do not want to fall into the trap that we have to do them or we will lose our salvation. But knowing that Christ has gained our salvation, we can use them to show the love of Christ to our neighbor. Sure in and of themselves they are sinful, but in Christ they are forgiven and good. So to quote Luther, “Sin Boldly!” Do a good work. God has made you worthy of it.


Nancy said...

"We have to be on guard not to do them to our own glory. We do not want to fall into the trap that we have to do them or we will lose our salvation."

James 1:7-8 (NIV)

7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

How can God bless you if you doubt Christ's work on the cross and are deceived into earning your salvation through works? You have made mercy and grace of none effect...

"But knowing that Christ has gained our salvation, we can use them to show the love of Christ to our neighbor."

AMEN, Bror!

Anonymous said...

That was quite a mouthful. Back here in northern Minnesota it is that same as the rest of the world, I tend to not follow through on something because I will fail and or screw it up because I by myself am unable to do it. I tend to try that way too much. To "sin boldly" seem appropriate for me, or should I say something I am capibale of. I haddent thought of it that way.

Steve Martin said...

We are sinners. We will sin. But all those sins have been forgiven and the future ones we will do have been (will be) forgiven.

We are free. In boldness (in our freedom) we ought act, for the other, without fear.

Thanks be to God for the times that I do.

Nice one, Bror!

Anonymous said...


I think you make a good point here but I would also caution it. I don't think this is where you yourself are going with this, but I'd like to elaborate a bit.

Bear with me a moment. It’s the whole third use trap, particularly in evangelicalism and that of evangelicalism that I’ve even seen slip into some “life long Lutherans” that is the real problem.

The alleged third use at all is the problem because it begets list making of what constitutes a good work. And therein lay the problem and the back door as it were for works salvation under the guise of sanctification and so called urging toward good works.

Luther once made the stunning observation that he who appoints himself good works is actually hating the Law of God though he thinks and confesses he does not. This is the faithless person. What the Gospel returns us to is to be the creature and indeed good works but it will not degrade into a listing of them, the alleged third use for example. That’s what’s so amazing about the Gospel it begets good works for certain but not the way the old man counts the beans. In fact the old man seems fearful that if the bean list is not created and urged some how the good works won’t get done. I use to hear this, ESPECIALLY in the SB realm in so many ways it wearied me. And this is a patent denial of the power of the Gospel and simultaneously a hidden insertion of works salvation.

Also something to keep in mind that makes this difficult for Lutherans to grasp is actually having BEEN IN a paradigm in which one is once saved always saved (the more gross version of this) or Calvin’s refined true believers cannot fall away. I cannot urge that understanding enough having been on both sides of this. One MUST grasp this experientially as much as possible to understand what it means to “be on this side” of that line in the sand of the now saved can’t fall away verses on the other side and how ALL third use doctrines of the Law are an outcome of this.

Let me give some examples to perhaps better show the principle at hand.

Good works in true pietism are urged in such a way that one never says “Christ is not sufficient”, but you better be doing good works, third use, etc… because its held out there as the sign of the “saved” or “elected”. What naturally comes next is the elephant in the room question, “what are these good works that I may be doing them”. Right here one has already fallen into works salvation without even knowing it. So the list is generated depending on local denomination/congregation and perhaps what the convention is driving from on high, not to mention the local social culture. The “good works” are the church yard works; and IMPLIED but not EXPLICITLY spoken the regular duties of life (being a wife, husband, daughter, son, etc..) are not. Now the later are not bad or evil in this thought but not just “up to snuff” so as to be counted as a good work bean per the third use of the law. Depending on the local piety you are under these mundane works of life might be as much as nice adornments to the “real” good works but by themselves and at length, especially, they are not “really” good works. At least not so much that you can ‘count that bean’ per se and make use of it for consideration as a good work you are doing. You always need something more and the “more” are always the high end good works, the high octane as it were good works. By this time one is well on the tread mill and doesn’t even know it. The doctrine of this will never be explicitly nor openly admitted to because to do so would be to admit to denying the efficacy of Christ alone and admit to being a protestant Roman Catholic whose “faith without works is dead” and “works prove faith” and “third use” doctrine is nothing less than word games meaning “faith formed by love”. So that if I went to a typical pietistic pastor of any color and said, “Is being a good father a good work”, they’d reply yes. BUT if you weighed it against some church yard business and in fact choose that over the church yard, then you’d get the hidden implied reality, it’s not a good work at all and this over here in the bean box of the church yard piety list is the real good works.

A real example: A SB friend and his wife of mine was meeting with his pastor and his wife (A sovereign grace type to so we are not speaking of a Rick Warrenite pastor). And they asked his wife, “What do you think your calling and gift is”. She and he said, “Well to be a good wife and a mother to our son.” Well the pastor and his wife’s heads just shook no in disbelief because that was not the pietie’s bean list of true good works. If she’d said that then followed up, and “be a missionary” or “be a SS teacher”, she’d been all right. What they were fishing for was an answer of something like, “To be an evangelistic missionary and get out there evangelizing” or something like that. If THAT had been the answer they would have got neck breaking nods of affirmation. Thus, sine quo non of what a good work is revealed for what it is, the church yard duties, protestant monkery, Romish Popery (that is to say antichristic) under a SB cloak.

I say this because I’ve been on that tread mill. I was very active, I’m generally a very conservative and disciplined person, and when I was in that type of piety my zeal and energy generally well exceeded the pietistic teachers and preachers who were telling us to do these things. But the harder I tried, the worse my assurance got. In fact the harder I tried the more I was sure I was not saved and unelect. And it all hinged on this idea of “do good works” to prove your faith is real and true, faith without works is dead, make sure of your election and calling, and making use of the third use of the law. The irony of it all is if I compared myself to others around me, kind of like Paul does in Phil., I exceeded them but YET my assurance was not there at all, in fact the reverse. In fact the only thing that stayed my hand from suicide in the darkest moments, which were not too few, was the fear of the second death and being before a holy God before I had to be to be judged. Thus, not even physical death is as fearful as this second death for the first death only has a sting in so much as sin is there and not forgiven…the first death is truly as Luther said, trivial and childish by comparison.

It got to the point that I felt guilty for getting married and started having children because these held me from “real ministry” and “real good works”. And you hear that A LOT in pietistic circles, especially Baptist, even the best of them like Dr. John Piper. Such pietism, third use crap, is afraid at least secretly, that if you say good works are being just a dad or just a husband and just a (whatever your job/vocation is) or just a son, etc…that’s all you’ll get. And THAT is very revealing, because so what, if that is all you get…is that not a true good work! And such pietism eventually cannot stand it if you do not annex to these the sine quo non of good works, church stuff. In this the light of day is shed upon it like cockroach in the dark; and it must finally say, “NO, that’s not what I meant. I’m willing to give you these as adorning mundane earthly good works and allow the title as such only so long as I can keep you REALLY busy doing the churchyard stuff and the religious stuff. But the minute it becomes that these are the good works truly in your mind and heart and I can’t get the sine quo non pietism out of you, I will reveal myself for the doctrine I truly am…antichrist! And thus show by this that Christ is not nearly enough.”

And here is where ALL such good works resistance MUST be made. Here we see Luther’s wise Gospel advice of doing exactly the OPPOSITE of what the devil tells you to do, especially the white devil disguised as an angel of light, another spirit, another Christ, another gospel…EVEN if outwardly it’s the GREATEST of good works! Even love, says Luther, must succumb to faith, for faith never gives so that true love really IS.

In a similar story; Dorthy Sayer once rebuked some ministers that were attempting to get her to do something she had some talent at, and make that her calling. But she firmly rebuked them as drawing her (drawing here away mind you even by another good work) away from her real calling from God. In this way we SHOULD indeed often reject so called calls unto so called “good works”. It’s not a fear of doing good works because I might sin it doing them but a Gospel resistance and a rebuking of the devil’s abuse of God’s word attempting to call such “good works” and thus stealing a man or woman away from their true calling and ULTIMATELY hiding the Gospel itself.

Thus, Luther rightly identifies that those “good works” that are self appointed are truly not good works at all and such in fact hate and despise the very Law of God itself, and elsewhere that many will blabber much about good works and faith and know absolutely nothing about either. This is why Luther could say that a milk maid does INDEED a true good work that glorifies God in just that, milking the cow, similarly “picking up a straw”. And when probed what he would do if Jesus was coming today, he boldly replied, “Plant a tree”. That flies in the face of the devil’s “good works” and false teachers who espouse such enthused false doctrines (enthused is an EXCELLENT word for these WILD and WIDE EYED false preachers and teachers as it paints the picture of the doctrine’s false nature and despising reaction to the every day creaturely good works – they do in fact become WILD EYED when you get them JAKED up in opposing there works salvation).

I hope that is helpful.