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Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.


What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.


I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)  










Jesus at the Center

Thursday of Pentecost 18

26 September 2013

When it first came out, I read a little book entitled: Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus At the Center by Daniel Preus. Pastor Preus's book is a layman's guide to the heart of Lutheran teaching. Jesus is that heart. True Lutheran theology always begins with Jesus Christ and what He has done for our salvation. Human capacity for spirituality is not at the center of the Lutheran confession. Lutherans tend not to ask what humans are capable of spiritually except from a christological perspective. What that means is that Lutherans want to know the depth of the riches stored up for us in the person and work of Jesus. What He has done for our salvation, the bloody depths to which He was willing to be subjected for our sake, the incredibly valuable ransom price paid by God's only Son for poor sinners, tell us how deep and hopeless our plight without Him. Lutherans want to say, "Look how much it costs God to rescue us! Why is the price so enormous? Because the problem of sin is also enormous."


We are all susceptible to overestimating our spiritual powers as though we can do enough, pray enough, have faith enough, sacrifice enough, put to death our old nature so completely, that God would look with favor upon us and our works. We make this horrible overestimation because old Adam, at work in our miserable lives, perverts our sight. Most often, this overestimation of our spiritual strength is merely a comparison between ourselves and other miserable sinners, "Yes, of course, there are people who are more wicked than me." Like the psychologist who remembers how much better off he is than others after counseling several deeply neurotic clients, says, "Thank God, I'm normal;" we humans are more than capable of finding ways of comparing ourselves favorably against other persons. We easily pervert the great Lutheran hymn: "Chief of Sinners:" "Chief of sinners though I be, I'm just glad you're worse than me!" Such thinking leaves Jesus out of the center of our faith.


Our depravity is not measured against the "close-but-no-cigar" holiness of other persons, who are sinners like us, but it is seen for what it is only against the enormous cost that God freely bore to redeem us from the muck and mire into which our sin has plunged us. What we believe about our sin begins with a confession of who Jesus is and the work that He accomplished by pouring out on us poor sinners the blood and water from His wounded side to cleanse us from our sin and rescue us from the wrath of God. I can admit my problem, if I know the whole solution is Christ who died for me and all sinners. The only righteousness about which I may be certain is His. And His is mine by faith.


Martin Luther


"I believe that this Son of God and of Mary, our Lord Jesus Christ, suffered for us poor sinners, was crucified, dead, and buried, in order that He might redeem us from sin, death, and the eternal wrath of God by His innocent blood; and that on the third day He arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, Lord over all lords, King over all kings and over all creatures in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, over death and life, over sin and righteousness.


"For I confess and am able to prove from Scripture that all men have descended from one man, Adam. From this man, through their birth, they acquire and inherit the fall, guilt and sin, which the same Adam, through the wickedness of the devil, committed in paradise; and thus all men along with him are born, live, and die altogether in sin, and would necessarily be guilty of eternal death if Jesus Christ had not come to our aid and taken upon himself this guilt and sin as an innocent lamb, paid for us by his sufferings, and if he did not still intercede and plead for us as a faithful, merciful Mediator, Savior, and the only Priest and Bishop of our souls.


"I herewith reject and condemn as sheer error all doctrines which glorify our free will, as diametrically contrary to the help and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ death and sin are our masters and the devil is our god and lord, and there is no power or ability, no cleverness or reason, with which we can prepare ourselves for righteousness and life or seek after it. On the contrary, we must remain the victims and captives of sin and the property of the devil to do and to think what pleases them and what is contrary to God and his commandments.


"Thus I condemn also both the new and the old Pelagians who will not admit original sin to be sin, but make it an infirmity or defect. But since death has passed to all men, original sin must be not merely an infirmity but enormous sin, as St. Paul says, 'The wages of sin is death' (Rm 6:23), and again, 'The sting of death is sin,' (1Co 15:56). So also David says in Psalm 51, 'Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me' (Ps 51:5). He does not say, 'My mother sinfully conceived me,' but 'I-I myself-I was conceived in sin, and in sin did my mother bear me,' that is in my mother's womb I have grown from sinful seed." 


Martin Luther, Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, 3 
Lord Jesus, I confess that you, who are God of God, have offered Your spotless life in substitution for sinful people like me. Help me to confess my depravity that I might ever revel in Your righteousness. Keep me from claiming my own holiness, which is nothing but a lie, that I might always give right praise and honor to You by trusting in Your perfect life and death for me. Amen.


For all those who are suffering from chronic pain, that they might not despair of the gracious care of God in Christ, who bore our sins and healed our diseases


For Marvin Kluttz, that the Lord Jesus would continue to comfort and strengthen him in the holy faith


For Don and Sherry Porter, that the Lord Christ would keep them in the palm of His hand
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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