Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What is man(kind)?

To say that humans tend to have a high opinion of themselves and their abilities is an understatement.  We are so convinced of our "selfness" that we think we know ourselves better than anyone else.

"You don't know me."  "Who are you to tell me?"  "I know what's best for me!" 

With eyes only for ourselves we cannot see the prison of our own thinking.  The prison of our "(un)freewill".  We think either "I can do it" or "I know I cannot do it."  We are unable to consider other options.  How dare you suggest there even is one!?!

But what about when you are blind to the fact that you cannot do it?  When you don't know you are enslaved?  What about when you think you are free - you believe you are free - but that "freedom" is a lie keeping you from seeing your prison?

Enter God's Word.

The Psalmist writes, "Who can discern his errors? (Psalm 19:12)

Jesus says, "Truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)

Luther expounds, "Scripture represents man as one who is not only bound, wretched, captive, sick and dead, but in addition to his other miseries is afflicted, through the agency of Satan his prince, with this misery of blindness, so that he believes himself to be free, happy, unfettered, able, well and alive.  For Satan knows that if men were aware of their misery, he would not be able to retain a single one of them in his kingdom, because God could not but at once pity and succour them in their acknowledged and crying wretchedness, seeing he is so highly extolled throughout Scripture as being near to the contrite in heart [Ps. 34:18]...  Accordingly, it is Satan's work to prevent men from recognizing their plight and to keep them presuming that they can do everything they are told."  (The Bondage of the Will)

St. Paul writes, "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor. 4:4)

The will of man is not only bound and incapable of freeing itself, it is blind to its bondage.  It doesn't even know that it is dead.

Who then can be saved?

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

God's grace is for you.  This gift is for you.  No, you can't choose it.  No, you can't earn it.  But you don't have to.  You don't have to do anything.  You've been chosen by God.  Chosen to receive the gift of true freedom.  Chosen to have His undeserved loved and mercy despite and in the face of all of your sin.  Believe it.  This is Christ on the cross.  God's Only Son dead where you should be dead.  The innocent Lamb of God bled dry for your wrongdoings.  It happened.  It is finished.  And to you go all the benefits.  You have been made new, made by God, made for God.  Special.  Chosen.

What is man(kind)?  A race God made.  A race God entered.  A race God redeemed.  For you.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why is being a Christian so hard?

It is hard being a Christian.  Almost every influence out there works against your faith, working to make you downplay it, or disregard it entirely.  Even your own flesh.

St. Paul explains in Romans 6.  "Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." 

Dead to sin?  But sin remains.  No it doesn't condemn me.  No I am no longer guilty of it because of Jesus, but it is there, working to destroy my faith in this Jesus.  I have fleshly desires.  My eyes are distracted by worldly things. 

And this is hard.  In fact, it is war.

You know, Christ has shed His own blood for you.  You know His blood takes care of all your sin, but your flesh remains, and until the day of the resurrection it will war against your faith.  War. 

It is a dying and rising everyday.  The Christian life is not about becoming better.  It is about dying.  Death and resurrection.  Rising new in Christ.  Rising new in faith.  Yes, it is going to be hard, because it means that you are going to have to have your own self die over and over again.  But this is exactly the life the Christian is in - all on account of Christ.  All on account of baptism.

Paul writes, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"

Your life begins in death.  The death of Jesus.  And it continues there in the waters of baptism as you daily die to sin and rise to new life.  So today, don't think of how you can be a better Christian.  Look to see where God is calling you to die, that He may raise you up.