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Psalm 31


In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many - terror on every side! - as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, "You are my God." My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! O LORD, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol. Let the lying lips be mute, which speak insolently against the righteous in pride and contempt. Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm,"I am cut off from your sight." But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! (ESV)

It's A Revolution!

Monday of Pentecost 20

27 October 2014

While in college, my daughter told me of the pietistic school mates she encountered in the small Midwestern college that she attended. They would chide her whenever they thought she was guilty of the least inappropriate speech, sometimes even by saying, "Jesus would not want to hear you say that." You do wonder how they know these things, don't you? To her credit, my daughter just laughed this off in the freedom of the gospel. Unfortunately this use of the person of Christ is all too common among American evangelicals. Jesus becomes a law giver and accuser, molded into a new Moses, who comes down from Calvary, not bearing our salvation but a new law forbidding anything deemed "inappropriate." O Lord, save us from such a Christ! Such a Christ is just a white Satan.
This pious and middle-class Jesus is one made up out of the whole cloth of our American religiosity, rather than the divine revelation of the God made Man for our salvation. One of the things that Jesus of Nazareth is saving us from is conventionality. The Bible seldom portrays Jesus chiding His disciples for what we would call today "inappropriate language." I was delighted by Chesterton's take on the revolutionary nature of the Christian faith which the Son of God gave to His people. "To the orthodox there must always be a case for revolution; for in the hearts of men God has been put under the feet of Satan. In the upper world hell once rebelled against heaven. But in this world heaven is rebelling against hell. For the orthodox there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration" (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy). Talk of rebellion is hardly the stuff that merely restrains "inappropriate language." Christianity aims for much bigger game: such as death and eternal corruption. Christianity hunts not with bromides about "saying nice things." It hunts with the elephant gun of the divinely purchased righteousness of God's Son, which He won for us by His suffering and death. This He spreads to the sinful world spattering those who are sinners with His life-giving blood. This is the great revolution; taking Christ not as an enforcer of piety, but as a gracious giver of life. The world has enough enforcers of piety, and these need to be overthrown. She does not have enough of Christ.

Even the Beatles were quite wary of "Revolution" in their 1968 hit of that name, "you can count me out." The Beatles, for all their posturing as counter-cultural icons, preferred the status quo; a status quo that was quite lucrative for their art. Christianity, as taught by Jesus, has a much less conservative quality, because it recommends the tearing down of strongholds (2Co 10:4). The stranglehold of Satan is broken through the remarkably luxurious expressions of divine grace that Christ preached and gave to the world. What Satan seeks to control at great cost, Christ frees without any cost to those who are freed. Now that is what I call revolutionary! So to keep Christ freeing people, let's continue to preach His grace to the world and not turn Him into a new Moses. Let's leave the policing in the hands of someone else. There are plenty of volunteers for the job. And some of them even think that Jesus has appointed them to do it.


Martin Luther


"Let us learn, therefore, to distinguish Christ as completely as possible from all works, whether good or evil; from all laws, whether divine or human; and from all distressed consciences. For Christ does not pertain to any of these. He does indeed pertain to sad consciences, not to trouble them even more but to raise them up again and to comfort them when they have been troubled. Therefore if Christ appears in the guise of a wrathful judge or lawgiver who demands an accounting of how we have spent our lives, we should know for certain that this is not really Christ but the devil. For Scripture portrays Christ as our Propitiator, Mediator, and Comforter. This is what He always is and remains; He cannot be untrue to His very nature. Therefore when the devil assumes the guise of Christ and argues with us this way: 'At the urging of My Word you were obliged to do this, and you failed to do so; and you were obliged to avoid that, and you failed to do so. Therefore you should know that I shall exact punishment from you,' this should not bother us at all; but we should immediately think: 'Christ does not speak this way to despairing consciences. He does not add affliction to those who are afflicted. 'A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench' (Is 42:3). To those who are rough He speaks roughly, but those who are in terror He invites most sweetly: 'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden' (Mt 11:28); 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners' (Mt 9:13); 'Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.' (Mt 9:2); 'Take heart; I have overcome the world.' (Jn 16:33); 'The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.' (Lk 19:10). Therefore we should be on our guard, lest the amazing skill and infinite wiles of Satan deceive us into mistaking the accuser and condemner for the Comforter and Savior, and thus losing the true Christ behind the mask of the false Christ, that is, of the devil, and making Him of no advantage to us. So much for personal trials and for the proper way of dealing with them." 


Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.2


Lord Jesus, You have overturned the conventional wisdom of this age by offering Your blood for the world's sins. Keep us from being cozened back into conventionality by pietism. Set us free to live in Your liberty that we might not be set under the law as a way of salvation again. Amen.


For all missionaries foreign and domestic, that they would proclaim the blood of Christ to free those who hear them


For President Antonio Reyes of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines, that the Lord would show him how he might serve best in the church for the benefit of Christ's holy people


For all military personnel, especially Chaplain Donald Ehrke, that the holy angels would guard them
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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