Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How are you Holy?

We struggle as sinners to appreciate both the calling, out of our sins to faith, and the freedom that faith give us to live. Our trouble starts when we look for proof–for evidence–not of what God has done for us in Christ but of what we are doing for God. And this is where simple faith always stands strong and works always fail.
We sinners by our very nature need a redeemer–and no matter how hard we try to be pious or righteous we are still sinners saved simply by grace. One of the clearest teachers I've ever had was Gerhard Forde. And Dr. Forde pointed to Hans Joachim Iwand as a clear teacher about the nature of faith, grace, and salvation. When Dr. Forde wrote, “Justification and Sanctification” in the section Christian Life of Braaten and Jenson’s Christian Dogmatics (P 438-439) he was wrestling with these very real questions of personal identity as a follower of Jesus Christ. Dr Forde wrote,

Being holy or saintly in that sense cannot be identified with being Christian. The Reformation means a complete break with such thinking.
Here it finally dawns on one why Reformation comes about, because here it is not merely mistakes and shortcomings that are repaired, but here the ideal that shaped the entire life of the Middle Ages is rejected: “Therefore one is not called a Christian because one accomplishes much; something higher is here. Rather it is because one takes something from, draws from, Christ, and simply lets oneself be given to. When one no longer takes from Christ, then one is no longer a Christian. The name Christian stays only in the taking and not in the giving or the doing, and that one takes from no one except from Christ. When you begin to regard what you have done then you have already lost the name of Christian." [Hans Joachim Iwand Nachgellassene Werke, vol 5 Luthers Theologie]
Such a view is preposterous to the world and the old Adam, but this is exactly what it means to die to the old and be born again to the new. One must simply be still and listen where God enters the scene—and believe, for only such faith will save. This rejection of the ancient ideal of piety and sanctity is what lies behind Luther's shocking advice to Melancthon: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe even more boldly and rejoice in Christ, who is victor over sin, death and the world.” The point is that when one begins to be grasped by the overwhelming gift of grace, when one is beginning to die to the old, the temptation (Anfectung) will always sound: “Is it not dangerous?” “Are you not going to far?” “Is not this grace too cheap?” “If you lose your 'virtue' what will protect you then?” Luther's advice in such situations was: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe even more boldly.” The point is not to go out and find some sins to commit. The point is rather not to be deceived by the glitter of ideals, of sanctity and piety, by the quest for the Holy Grail. Christ and Christ alone has dealt with sin and saves sinners. It is impossible for there to be any sin which is not removed by him and by him alone. “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe more boldly” is simply a stance of a faith which know that Christ alone saves sinners. Out of such faith good works come. Sanctification happens. The good works come out of the spontaneity, the freedom, the “hilaritas“ of faith. They come out of love and the hope that begin to dawn when one realizes the unconditionality of grace, when the old self dies. Gerhard Forde "Justification and Sanctification" 11th Locus: Christian Life Vol. 2 Christian Dogmatics ed. Braaten C., Jenson R. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984) p438-439
Freedom in Christ starts always in faith. Faith that God's Word is for us because of what Jesus has done. Faith that the Cross is for us us becuase of what Jesus has done. Faith that new life is for us because of what Jesus has done.

Thanks for the freedom

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

I am declared Holy...for Jesus' sake.

Isn't it great!

Thanks, very much.