Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge! Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.(ESV)
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Gospel Liberty or Lustful License
Monday in Pentecost 14
31 August 2015
Impiety encouraged in the name of the gospel is a great offense to the church. Martin Luther assailed those who lived a lustful or greedy life in the name of Christian liberty. He curses such persons, who ought to return to slavery to the papal laws, because they can only be terrified into the most basic earthly piety, that is, service to the fellow human by the demands of the law. But Luther knew right well that the church could never give her imprimatur to such lust or greed. While the church might be misunderstood by those who hear her preaching about the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, the church herself has no excuse before God for preaching moral impiety and lustful license on the basis of the gospel of freedom.
I can't help but be amazed that organizations that make loud claims to the title church are not only declining to warn their adherents against morally disordered, lustful, and degraded lives, but are actually encouraging such lust and license. Indeed, now such disorder and lust is undertaken in the name of the gospel and the church. Recent decisions by some Lutheran churches to accept practicing homosexual clergy are bad enough, but such decisions are being forced on those who still think that the Bible forbids such an immoral life in the name of the unity of the holy church. Schism is now defined as rejecting the homosexual lifestyle. "We've come a long way, baby!"
Those who leave the church over this issue are now considered to be the very troublers of Israel (1K 18:17
). So not only is the church turning a blind eye to impiety, not only is the church encouraging impiety, the church is actually condemning those who decline to countenance such impiety. We have come upon those days predicted by the Apostle Paul, "The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2Ti 4:3
). Ultimately, if institutions that crow about their Christian liberty reject the bodily obedience we all owe to our neighbor in his need, they will descend into sub-Christian societies committed to impiety, wickedness, and license. Christ expects us to repent of such things. He expects the church to preach against them and to demand repentance, not to encourage and celebrate them. They have lost Christ and liberty of the gospel.
"To keep them from abusing their freedom (Gal 5:13
), the apostle (Paul) imposes service on Christians through the law of mutual love. Therefore the godly should remember that they are free in their conscience before God from the curse of the Law, from sin, and from death on account of Christ, but that according to the body they are slaves. Here each must serve the other through love, according to this command of Paul. Therefore let everyone fulfill his office in his calling and to help his neighbor in whatever way it is possible. This is what Paul requires of us with the words 'through love serve one another' (Gal 5:13
), which do not permit the saints to be free according to the flesh but subject them to servitude, etc.
"Of course, it is impossible to teach or persuade unspiritual people that this doctrine of mutual love must be observed among us. Christians freely comply with it. But when the others hear this freedom proclaimed, they immediately infer: 'If I am free, then I may do whatever I please. This thing belongs to me; why should I not sell it for as much as I can? Or again, if we do not obtain salvation because of good works, why should we give anything to the poor, etc.?' In their spiritual security such people cast off this yoke and servitude of the flesh, and they transform the freedom of the Spirit into the license and lust of the flesh.
"We make this sure pronouncement to these secure mockers (although they will not believe us but will make fun of us): If they use their bodies and their powers for their own lusts (as they are certainly doing when they refuse to help the poor and to share, but defraud their brethren in business and acquire things by fair means or foul) then they are not free, as they boast that they are, but have lost Christ and freedom, and are slaves of the devil, so that now, under the title of 'Christian liberty,' their state is seven times as bad as it used to be under the tyranny of the pope (Mt 12:43-45). For when the devil who has been cast out of them returns to them, he brings with him seven spirits more evil than himself. Therefore their last state becomes worse than the first."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.13
Lord Jesus Christ, send preachers to proclaim our duty to our neighbor and our failure to provide appropriate service to him. Lead us to repentance for our hard-heartedness. Amen.
For Walter Friend, that the Lord Jesus would be with him as he completes his chemotherapy and he would be granted a full recovery
For all those serving in the US military, especially Troy Gaub, Heidi Baker, and Robert Baker, that the Lord would keep them safe as they serve their country
For President Larry Rast and the faculty of Concordia Theological Seminary, that the Lord of the church would grant them the strength of His suffering
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015