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Psalm 116

 

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!" Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. I believed, even when I spoke, "I am greatly afflicted"; I said in my alarm, "All mankind are liars." What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!(ESV)

Stop Abusing God

Wednesday of Pentecost 22

12 November 2014

Living in the faith is quite difficult because of our spiritual timidity. We have to believe against all our sense, feeling, experience, conscience, law, reason, and all that the world calls piety. Everything, both inside and outside, tells us that we are not worthy in God's sight and that we deserve nothing but punishment and eternal damnation. We easily fall into despair at the least failing. If a cake falls while we are baking, or a household renovation project does not turn out as we expected, we accuse ourselves. Even such trivial things will start up the legalistic howling of our own hearts: "See, I told you! You don't deserve anything but failure, rejection, and ultimately God's wrath." This is why we so easily accuse others of having done something to deserve or merit their misfortunes, "They must have done something to deserve this." We believe that this is true about ourselves and we project such despair upon the lives of others. Such projections may temporarily make us feel better about ourselves, 'Look how much worse off that other person is!' But such comparisons will ultimately turn back to us because we can only lie to ourselves so long and then we must face what we are, or we are confronted by the Other who is holy.

 

We are afraid to attribute to ourselves the righteousness of Christ when we have not the feeling or the experience of holiness in ourselves and we feel only the opposite. "What right do I have to be sure of such a thing? How could I really maintain to myself that my heavenly Father sees me as holy, who is anything but! When God proclaims me to be righteous in His Son, He must be mistaken, because I feel no such thing." But listen to what you are saying! You are claiming that God is wrong in His judgment about your status in His sight. It is a perilous thing to charge God with error. It is the worst kind of blasphemy; a blasphemy far worse than using "bad words;" a blasphemy that charges God with false speech and the proclamation of lies. It is a denial that God is God, because to be God is to be able to stand behind all that He says and promises. It is a false piety that says that because I don't feel it, God could not have been correct in His judgment of righteousness in His sight. This is akin to claiming that God could not have created the universe because you weren't there to experience its creation. How silly!

 

How the law lodged in our heart robs us of the peace that our Lord wants us to have and the freedom for which He has set us free. We are fighting and struggling incessantly with our own conscience as though that human opinion is capable of trumping God's attitude toward us. How could we think that our feeling is more believable than God's decisive act to redeem us from sin and death through the bloody death of His only Son? No wonder Luther calls this blasphemy. Stop abusing God! Trust what He says no matter how you feel. Faith doesn't mean you won't have any fear, but that you will believe what God says no matter how afraid you feel.

 

Martin Luther

 

"When the Law accuses and sin terrifies you until you feel nothing but the wrath and judgment of God, do not despair on that account. But snatch up 'the armor of God, the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, and the sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:13, 16, 17); and experience what a good and courageous warrior you are. By faith apprehend Christ, the Lord of the law and of sin and of everything that comes with them. By believing in Him, you are justified. This is something that your reason and the feeling of your heart do not tell you amid your trial, but only the Word of God. Then, in the conflicts and fears that continually return to plague you, you should patiently look with hope for the righteousness that you have only by faith, even if only incipiently and imperfectly, until the time it is revealed perfectly and eternally. 'But I do not feel righteousness, or at best I feel it only dimly.' You are not to feel righteousness; you are to believe it. And unless you believe that you are righteous, you insult and blaspheme Christ, who has cleansed you through the washing of water with the Word (Eph 5:26) and who finally by His death on the cross condemned and killed sin and death, so that through Him you might attain to eternal righteousness and life. You are not able to deny this, unless you want to be obviously impious, blasphemous, and absolutely to despise God, of all His divine promises, Christ, and all His benefits. Therefore neither can you deny that you are righteous."


Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.5
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have set me free from sin and every accusation against me. Help me to live in peace with You by trusting what You say instead of what I feel about You. Amen.

 

For Rachel Hunt, that the Lord would be her strength and shield

 

For those who struggle with cancer, that the Lord would grant them healing in accordance with His will

 

For all those struggling with the challenges of marriage, that they might be strengthened in their life of service to their spouse 

Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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