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Psalm
34:15-22


The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
 
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. 
(ESV)
So-Called Gospel
Wednesday in Lent 3
2 March 2016
A great deal of what is called gospel is actually law. American evangelicalism is awash in law preaching, which evangelicals misname "gospel" preaching. For example, "four square gospel" is really four square requirements, that is, the law. What God does for our salvation is turned into the things we do so that God will save us. Sometimes, what we need to do includes relatively innocuous requirements on clothing and appearance. Modesty of dress is after all a good thing. It simply does not save. Sometimes, so-called evangelicals hand out voting guides and tell people who to vote for, if they are truly "good Christians."
 
Yesterday was primary election day in Texas, and so there has been a fair amount of this kind of "evangelical" electioneering here in the last few weeks. That kind of campaign rhetoric will get turned up a notch in November. The language of these evangelical true believers often savors of jihad, as though they know exactly which candidate is favored by God. God's favor is exhibited by the particular campaign positions held by the candidate. One candidate has been claiming that among his other stellar qualifications for office he "loves God." I am sure God is flattered to hear it. Perhaps, more importantly, God loves him in Christ (1Jn 4:19). But that is not so important in popular evangelical thought.
 
Luther warns those who will be pastors against the redefinition of the gospel that turns it into law. Such a redefinition is not a small thing. It overturns the whole Christian faith and turns it into mere religion. This religious reinterpretation of the gospel makes a pseudo-Christianity that becomes just one religion among many, which shares with all religion legalism, ritualism, and the performance of works.

 

Martin Luther

"I urge you, who are to be the teachers of others, to learn this doctrine of the true and proper use of the law carefully; for after our time it will be obscured again and will be completely wiped out. Today, we are still alive and are insistently urging this doctrine. However, there are nevertheless very few, even among those who want to seem 'evangelical' [Lutheran] and who acknowledge the gospel with us, who correctly understand the use of the law. What do you think will happen when we have been taken away? Right now I am not even speaking about the Anabaptists, the Neo-Arians, and the spirits who blaspheme the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; they are all as ignorant of this proper use and function of the law as the papists are. They have long since defected from the pure doctrine of the gospel to laws. Therefore they do not teach Christ. They boast and swear that they are intent on nothing except the glory of God and the salvation of the brothers, and that they teach the Word of God purely; but in fact they distort the Word of God and twist it into an foreign meaning, so that it is forced to tell them what they themselves imagine. Under the name of Christ, therefore, they teach their own dreams, and under the name of the gospel nothing but laws and ceremonies. And so they are and remain true to form, that is, monks, performers of works, legalists, and ritualists; all they do is to think up new names and new works."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.19
 
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have done all to procure our full and complete salvation. Set us free from the law that we might never again be enslaved to works. Help us to use our freedom to place ourselves at the service of our neighbor that the freedom You give us might never become a excuse for spiritual laziness. Amen.
 
For Pastor David Rakotonirina of Madagascar, that the Holy Spirit would lead him to continue faithfully confessing the true faith of our Lord Jesus Christ
 
For all those who lack gainful employment, that they might find work that is in keeping with God's vocation and of service to others
 
For Ellie Scherer, that she would recover fully from cataract surgery with sight restored by God

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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