Friday, July 09, 2010

I finished the introduction to Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross and started in on the meat.  In the introduction, he walks through the differences between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross.  Over the past many pages, I have highlighted whole chunks, but I do not know as how typing up them will help...especially since I am not sure how to explain it all.

In short, the theology of glory is something like:  we came from glory, fell, and are making our way back to glory.  The theology of the cross is something like:  we came from nothing, were given life, chose death instead, and were rescued from our own sin, despite our state and through no work of our own, through Christ crucified and given new life as He rose again.

That's the essence, but that says nothing, explains nothing.  I understand, but cannot teach.  So, I moved on to the first thesis of Luther's Heidelberg Disputation:

Thesis I.  The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance humans on their way to righteousness, but rather hinders them.

...not only is this law powerless to save, but it actually makes matters worse!  It is commonplace among evangelical Christians to believe that we can't perfectly fulfill the law, but we often try to because we assume that if we only could we would do it.  So we believe that we must try to do something at least, and then, it is assumed, Christ will make up for our "shortcomings."  But here is the bombshell:  doing the law does not advance the cause of righteousness one whit.  It only makes matters worse. (24)

The Law does not advance us to righteousness, but we still keep trying to make it so, trying to keep it, at least in part, as if that will gain us something.  Sounds like folly, eh?  And yet I do it. I keep striving to be the Christian I should be, I still put on that cloak of works righteousness even as I am clinging to the sweet, sweet Gospel.  Insanity defined!

I do understand that it makes matters worse. Have I not been drowning in my sin?  Have I not been horrified at learning how much more wretched I am than even I supposed myself to be?  Oh, I understand the worse.  I have felt worse.  It has seemed worse.  Even more so the past week when I have struggled to understand the why and wherefore of things.

Yet as I read this book, as I think about the Word I have heard in Divine Service and in all the sermon hunting I have done, the things in the Book of Concord and the things my beloved Walther writes, I feel as if this gigantic light bulb is flashing before me, blinding me, chasing darkness away.  What do I see?  The making it worse actually drives you to the cross.  The making it worse is actually good and right and salutary.  Worse is better?  How can that possibly be! 

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
Neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth,
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me empty, 
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 
 ~Isaiah 55:8-11

A while ago, I posted some very good words Pastor F wrote about learning to see the good in the Law.  For the first time, I understand what he was trying to tell me.  I mean, I appreciated what he wrote, thought it was quite profound and beautiful, but I did not take it into my heart the way it needed to be.  I could not for I had made an enemy of the Law.

The Law will always condemn.  It is the Word of life that kills us.  But it saves us because it points us to the cross.

All things.  All things by and with and through and in the cross.  Oh, how I am beginning to understand that I do not understand.  I want to.  I really do.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  ~John 10:10b


In a hot, oppressive desert, sheep are vulnerable to the elements and predators.  They need a shepherd who can lead them to water and food each day and keep them safe each night.

Jesus tells us that He is that Shepherd.  Unlike the thief, who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy,"  Jesus has come that we may "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).  He knows us by name and is committed to our care.  Life as one of Jesus' sheep is indeed fullfull of His abundant love, faithful attention, and amazing grace.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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