Coming and Going
Monday of Pentecost 23
13 November 2017
The justification of the sinner comes from the struggle of sin and goes out to the life in which the sinner conforms his life to God's law. That "coming from" and "going to" is repeated in the Christian's life daily, even every hour, until the life of the flesh is dissolved. The life of the flesh remains a pilgrimage at every turn, seeking the kingdom that is yet to come and is now coming among us through the preaching of the Word of God. The antecedent of justification is the clear confession: "I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me" (Ps 51:3). Without true contrition, justification from God cannot be received. Sorrow over sin and repentance before the holy God precedes the hearing of the Word which brings life in the declaration of mercy for Christ's sake. Without true contrition we are but smug sinners, confirmed in our wickedness. The justifying word is of no value to such smug sinners. They are "sent away empty by God" (Lk 1:53) because they are full of everything they think they need.
 
If we confess ourselves to be empty, then He fills that emptiness with good things (Lk 1:53). The antecedent of justification then is really a "nothing." Contrition recognizes the great black hole of our wickedness. Only those who are empty and nothing will receive the fullness of God's gifts in the verdict of Christ's justification of sinners. Lutheran theology teaches that those who have faith are "purely passive" in receiving all that God so graciously grants in Christ, who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Faith is mere and absolute receiving. The Bible's word for that passive receiving is "faith." Thus the Bible teaches justification by faith alone.
 
As Luther says, however, while faith alone saves, faith is never alone. The consequence of God's justifying work in Christ is the entire third article of the Creed. The Spirit creates faith in the church and there gives the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life. While all this is received by faith and is thus a gift of a gracious God, still the result is the work of the Christian life. This Luther called the second part of justification. He is thinking of the result of justification by faith in the world. Justification is always going somewhere. This is the "going to" of the Christian life.
 
The Christian life is never a smooth progression. I learned to drive behind the wheel of a vehicle with a standard transmission. There was no end of stalling and jerking. As soon as it seemed I was getting it, I would let the clutch slip out too fast or put the shift stick in the wrong place with a great grinding racket. Yes, by jarring fits and starts, like learning to drive a standard transmission, the Christian life is lived, all under the forgiving umbrella of God's mercy. The Christian life is always lived in the coming and going.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"These are the two parts of justification. The first is grace revealed through Christ, that through Christ we have a gracious God, so that sin can no longer accuse us, but our conscience has found peace through confidence in the mercy of God. The second part is the conferring of the Holy Spirit with His gifts, who enlightens us against the defilements of spirit and flesh (2Co 7:1). Thus we are defended against the opinions with which the devil seduces the entire world. Thus the true knowledge of God grows daily, together with other gifts, like chastity, obedience, and patience. Thus our body and its lusts are broken so that we do not obey them. Those who do not have this gift or do not use it this way, but fall into the uncleanness of either the flesh or the spirit, so that they approve of all doctrines without discrimination, they are dominated by the flesh, and they do not know the bath of the Holy Spirit for which David is asking here.
 
"For I know my iniquity, and my sin is ever before me." (Ps 51:3)
 
"We have heard two verses of the psalm (Ps 51:1-2), in which David asked first for grace and the forgiveness of sins, then for the gift that would purify and cleanse the dirt or remnants of sin. These two things perfectly absolve a righteous and holy man in the sight of God, without all our preparations and satisfactions and without the counterfeit repentance which we have taught the people until now and which the papists still teach. There is only one cause for justification, namely, the merit of Christ, or the gracious mercy which hearts that are ignited by the Holy Spirit grasp by faith. If someone wants to, he may list the acknowledgment of sin as a second cause or, as the learned say, a causa sine qua non. It is the sort of cause that the whole thing still depends on the mercy of God or on the promise, that God has promised He will have mercy on those who acknowledge their sins and thirst for righteousness (Mt 5:6).
 
"Otherwise, if you are talking about the nature of sin, even about the 'conscious sinner,' as we called him above, on the basis of Law and nature, he deserves nothing but the deepest punishment and wrath. When such people escape punishment and wrath, it is all by the mercy of God, who has promised that by freely forgiving their sin He wants to give life to those who feel their sins and the horrors of divine judgment. There is nothing that could in any way be cited as merit, because even the acknowledgment of sin is nothing except what the divine promise makes it. When sin is denounced and revealed by the Holy Spirit (as David in his mind looks not only at his own adultery, but generally at all of nature, which is completely deformed through sin) when if there were no other recourse than our rendering satisfaction, David would be crushed by the fear of the judgment of God and by despair, as we have often been taught by our own experience."

Martin Luther,  Exposition of Psalm 51, 51.2-3
Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, I confess my emptiness without You. Grant me Your righteousness by grace. Help me to live in the struggle of the "coming and going" that I might arrive where You want me to be. Amen.
 
For the family and friends of Millie Johnston, that they might be strengthened by God their heavenly Father as they mourn the loss of a beloved mother and dear friend
 
For Nabil Nour, that the Lord Jesus would grant him healing a full recovery of strength
 
For the Council of Presidents of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as it meets this week, that its members would be kept safe in their travels
 
For students in colleges and universities everywhere, that they might not be kept from full inquiry into the divine things by the narrow-mindedness of materialists
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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