Monday, October 12, 2009

Almost five years ago to date, I sat in a bible study on I Peter 3:18-22.  I am not sure if this was the first one of Pastor D's that I attended, but I suspect it was close. 

Since Saturday, my mind has been filled by that rather disturbing  realization that I have been essentially trying to please God, trying to make myself acceptable to enlarge my faith the whole of my Christian life until just a few months ago when I started my journey of discovering Objective Grace.  Walk in a manner that is pleasing to God.  Obey His commandments.  Strive for holiness.  On the surface, such instruction sounds whole, but without Law and Gospel, it is crushing.

For the Law teaches I cannot please God.  The Gospel teaches that I am holy, but only through Christ.  I can walk in a manner pleasing to God, but only by the strength, grace, mercy, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, for I am a poor, miserable sinner.

You know what it the most prevalent comment in my bible study notes from that day and going forward?  Question marks.  Underlined remarks with many, many question marks bracketing them.

Do you know what elicited the most question marks?  Each time Pastor mentioned the gifts of Christ.  Of those gifts, which seemed the most foreign to me?  Baptismal identity.

I wonder why I never found the courage to ask Pastor what he meant.

I suspect, I am afraid, that I probably dismissed all those questions as just strange Lutheran things, believing Lutherans were just one step better than Catholics with regard to having all sorts of extra stuff.  Little did I know that such assessment was 100% opposite of the truth.  Luther worked specifically to strip out all the human extras and return to the pure teaching of Law and Gospel, faith and promise.

Do you know what I marked with stars and circles and underlines? This bit about how I Peter is full of perfects and passives, tenses that is.  According to my notes, a perfect tense is a completed action in the past that has enduring results in the present.  The "perfect" example of this is the forgiveness we have in the crucifixion of Christ.  Passive tense fits those things God is doing for us (yes, those amazing words are in my notes, barren of marks, ignored as not for me) such as when Peter instructs us to be holy.  He is not teaching us to go out and do things to make ourselves holy, because the Work has already been done, because by His passion and suffering and death and resurrection we are holy.

I rather distinctly remember the joy of that moment, of hearing that bit of teaching, but I eventually set it aside as not for me...primarily because it did not fit with all the teaching I had stored up within my heart, all the teaching based more on Law than Gospel, teaching underscored and measured by works.

I wonder why I didn't ask Pastor the questions that fill the margins of my notebooks.

Of course...I ask too many questions now...

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