Fear and Faith
Monday of Pentecost 25
7 November 2016
Fear does not keep the humming bird in my backyard from approaching the humming bird feeder there. He attacks it with all the verve and boldness of a bird that is ounce for ounce the most aggressive creature aloft. Oh, he is cautious all right. He reconnoiters and alights only for a few seconds. But this thumb-sized dive bomber will cruise noisily right over my head to drink of the nectar in the feeder. They will chase off birds many times their size if they feel threatened by them. Many a cat has learned to steer clear of the humming bird.
 
The Christian heart schooled under law and gospel experiences this contention between courage and fear. We should truly fear the God who judges our sin. But the believer does not flee from the God who judges, because He also knows and has drunk of the sweet nectar of the gospel. Just as in the tiny pulsating heart of the humming bird fear and boldness reside together, so law and gospel, fear and confidence live together in a continual tug of war in the Christian heart.
 
It is one thing to speak of law and gospel and to know how to distinguish between judgment and mercy. It is entirely another thing to know how to live the life in which the tug of war goes on in the Christian heart. It is easy to counsel others how to live in law and gospel, it is hard to know how to live in this life ourselves. We fall into despair if we have not drunk of the nectar of the gospel and God's grace. We fall into self-righteousness if we no longer fear God and the threat of His judgment. But with the nectar of the gospel even our fear of God will be shaped by the boldness of faith. Our fear does not keep us from attacking the sweet nectar of the gospel, drinking boldly of it. We will not rail against God's judgment and its chastisements but we will bear our backs to its scourging and believe with all our hearts that such judgment is for our blessedness. Only those who know the gospel can believe such things.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"We should not run through such outstanding declarations [of the gospel] in Paul (2Co 12:7-9; Rm 6:9-10) so sluggishly, as the papists and the sectarians usually do; for these declarations contain words of life that marvelously comfort and strengthen afflicted consciences. Those who understand them can correctly judge rightly what faith is and what false and true fear are. They can also judge all their feelings and discern all the spirits. The fear of God is something holy and precious, but it should not be eternal. It must always be present in a Christian, because sin is always present in him. But it must not be alone; for then it is the fear of Cain, Saul, and Judas, that is, a servile and despairing fear. By faith in the Word of grace, therefore, the Christian should conquer fear, turn his eyes away from the time of law, and gaze at Christ Himself and at the faith to come. Then fear becomes sweet and is mixed with nectar, so that he begins not only to fear God but also to love Him. Otherwise, if a man gazes only at the law and at sin, to the exclusion of faith, he cannot drive out his fear but will finally despair.
 
"Thus Paul distinguishes beautifully between the time of law and the time of grace. Let us learn also to distinguish the times of both, not in words but in our feelings, which is the most difficult of all. For although these two are utterly distinct, yet they must be joined completely together in the same heart. Nothing is more closely joined together than fear and trust, law and gospel, sin and grace; they are so joined together that each is swallowed up by the other."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.23
Psalm 30

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: "What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit?Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!" You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!(ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, speak to me both law and gospel through the lips of Your servants that I might both fear and trust You above all things. Send the nectar of Your gospel that I might receive chastisements as blessed visitations from You. Amen.
 
For Robert Bennett, who is in hospital recovering from a heart attack, that he would recover fully
 
For all parents who grieve over the loss of their children, that they might be confident that God hears their cries as he heard the wailing of Rachel
 
For all officers of the law, that they may be kept safe and be strengthened in every good deed
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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