Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fears Around, Grace Abounds

image taken from here.
People:We confess to You and before one another that we have fallen short of Your glory and call to us iin Christ. We have broken Your commands, and left undone works of love that please You and serve others. We have neglected Your Word and prayer, nad ahve failed to trust You at all times and places. For the sake of Christ, forgive us and rew or hears by Your Spirit, that we may delight in Your will and walk in YOur ways, to the glory of Your holy name.

Pastor: God sent His innocent Son into our world to be made sin for us. By His death He forgave the world; and by His resurrection He restores us to newness of life. It is my privilege and delight, to assure that all sins are forgiven in teh name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Put your faith in Him, and receive His lifechanging grace.
(from the bulletin of Calvary Lutheran Church, Saturday 5/6/06

I needed those words last night. I did. I needed them badly. After the confession and absolution I found myself thinking about Cheap Grace and I asked myself if I was doing nothing more than practicing Cheap Grace on myself. Do my words, as I speak them before God, sound hollow to him? James hits the nail on the head when he writes "We all stumble in many ways." (James 3:2) I have a black and blue spiritual big toe from all the stumbling I have done.

Bonhoeffer writes this:
Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "concept" of God.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace there fore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.... Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can reamin as it was before.

I don't know about all of you, but sometimes I find myself reveling in sin. Bathing in it and ingesting it. Speaking sin, watching sin, actively engaging in sin. I find myself doing this with the quiet thought I am forgiven! I doesn't matter! Paul writes this in Romans 2; "But because of your stubornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done." (vv 5,6). I know the Jesus was not sacraficed so that I would have an eternally punched ticket to do what I wanted when I wanted.

Didn't our own Martin Luther told us to sin boldly, right? Well, your friends and mine over at Purpose Driven Drinking have this to say about that. In this post Walther's 19th Thesis (XIX) from his work The Proper Distinction Between Law & Gospel is highlighted. So, I got my copy of Law and Gospel and read it.

...ask any person who has all the critereia of a true, living Christian whether he has experienced all the things of which he speaks, and he will asnwer in the affirmative, telling you that, after experience the terror which God sends to a sinner whom He wantes to rescue, he had an experience of the sweetness of God's grace in Christ....Again, he will also telly that, spite of the fact that he knows he has obtained grace, he is frequently seized with fright and anguish at the sight of the Law.
(p. 138).

And I was lead to the following Biblical references that I have read before, highlighted, underlined, and starred... but at a time like this have special signifigance. The first comes from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 5, verses 1-10):
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

and then this, from Psalm 103:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

So, again, I am reminded that I am forgiven. That I should have no fear of sin and feel comfort in Justification I receive from God through Christ.

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