World Wide Wolfmueller

Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity

Rescued from Crumbling Tower: Luther’s Picture of the Troubles of the Last Day

For I know that you need such redemption, and in order that you may have it I must come thus and make an end of the world; for if I am to deliver you, I must first attack those who hold you captive and hinder your redemption. Therefore as a Christian, you must have such thoughts about the signs of the last day, as if you were lying captive among enemies and murderers in a high tower and your pious ruler should come and begin to besiege the tower with great power, so that everything should begin to fall around you; you would not be afraid of the noise and cannonading, but would much more rejoice, if you knew it was for your redemption. Thus you should do here too, says Christ. Let it not terrify you that the world must bend and squirm; this is not intended for you, but for those against whom you have cried out.

Therefore look upon this advent as the appearing of your redemption, for I come not to cast you into hell, but to deliver you from the injurious, sick, infirm, wicked world, to separate you from the devil and his murderous servants, and to place you among the angels, where you shall no more suffer, but live in eternal glory. (House Postil, I, 29)

Roots Campus Ministry Lectures: The Next 500 Years of the Reformation

It was wonderful to be invited by the students of Lindenwood to reflect on the next 500 years of the Reformation. What a question!

In these videos I reflect on how the Christian should think about the future, and how the Christian can have a pure understanding of tomorrow. We push on the dominance of technology, the three estates, the role of faith, love, and hope in considering these things.

If you have the interest and time to watch, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

First Lecture:

 

Second Lecture:

 

All the conference videos can be found on the conference YouTube channel.

PrBW

Grand Rapids Conference, February 16-17, 2018

Thank you to the saints of Our Savior Lutheran Church of Grand Rapids, MI for the invitation to speak to their congregation.

They want to extend the invitation to anyone interested. Here are some details:

On the Christian Conscience
Friday night, February 16th, 2018, 7 pm at Our Savior School
No registration or fees.
Has American Christianity Failed?
Saturday, February 17th, 2018, 9 AM to 3:30 PM.
Registration by 2/1/18:  $25.  churchsecretary@oursavior-gr.org or 616.949.0170.  Lunch included.
Schedule:
9 AM Matins
9:30 AM you til lunch at Noon, Has American Christianity Failed? part 1
12:45 PM to 3:25 PM, Has American Christianity Failed? part 2
3:25 closing prayer
Join us if you can!
Lord’s Blessings,
PrBW

The Ministerial vs Magisterial Use of Feelings

In the fight about the authority of the Bible there was a helpful distinction made: “the Ministerial” versus “the Magisterial use of reason.”

The defenders of the authority of the Scripture noticed that the liberal movement in the church was letting their reason rule over the texts. This is the “Magisterial use” of reason. The more conservative said that our reason should serve the text, but standing below the text. Our reason has limits, and it is not free to overthrow the text or change the meaning of the text to suit its fancy. This is the “Ministerial use” of reason: reason is a minister to serve the text. We understand our reason to be a gift of God to help us love and serve God, but our reason has limits. Reason, then, does not stand above the Scriptures, but sits below them as a humble servant.

I think this distinction is helpful as we consider the role of emotions and feelings in our own life and confession. We recognize a “Ministerial” and a “Magisterial” use of feelings, and we want to encourage a ministerial use, the proper use of our feelings and emotions.

We see, first, the abuse, the magisterial use of feelings, especially in the American Evangelical churches. Consider, for example, the altar call where the preacher asks, “Do you feel the Holy Spirit tugging in your heart?” Consider the conversations with your friends where they’ve confessed you that they “don’t feel close to God anymore” or “are going through a dry spell.” Remember the small group Bible Studies where the participants were asked, “How do you feel about this verse?”

For many American Evangelicals their “walk with God” began when they first felt the Holy Spirit in their heart, and their confidence that they are still Christian is confirmed in the weekly worship experience where they “feel the presence of God.”

We can trace the origins of this emphasis on feelings back to Charles Finney (author of the Second Great Awakening who taught that our wills are free but manipulatable, and invented “new measures” to do the manipulating) or John Calvin (who distinguished “two species of calling” and said that the true calling to be a Christian was the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart) or the devil himself (who in the Garden tempted Adam and Eve away from the clear external word of God to their own internal judgment, a theological move identified by Martin Luther as “enthusiasm”). No matter where we trace the source, we note that for much of American Evangelicalism, and, indeed, for most Christians of any type, the theater of spiritual activity is internal, in the heart. And the way we identify and talk about this inner life is through the language of emotion. “I feel moved, touched, blessed, etc.”

There is a larger trend in our culture to replace “I think” and “I believe” with “I feel,” but this is paralleled and even amplified in the Christian church with disastrous results. Our feelings, then, become the chief source of information about how it is with God and me. We look for comfort and certainty in our feeling close to God. When we live by the feelings we also die by the feelings. How many times have we heard, “I’m going through a dry spell”? “I don’t feel close to God.” “I don’t feel like God hears my prayers.” “I just wasn’t feeling it in church this morning.” When we look to our feelings for assurance and comfort, they are gone just as often as they are found. Our emotions are liquid, and the Christian looking for confidence via their emotions is like the ship tossed on the waves of the sea.

Our feelings become a hermeneutical principle. We read the Bible with our emotions. “How to you feel about this text?” “How does this passage make you feel?” When we are “touched” and “moved” by the passage then we take note of it. If we are not, we let the passage go. We approach the text asking the question, “What does this mean to me?” instead of simply asking “What does this mean?”

This goes even farther. Often times Christians are taught that they are to listen for the voice of God. “Prayer is a two-way conversation” we hear: we talk to God, and God talks to us. But how? Internally, in the heart, and that this voice is often an impression, a thought, or a feeling. This practice is nowhere in the Scriptures, but it is so common that it is rarely questioned.

We can identify all this as the “Magisterial Use of Emotions,” our emotions and feelings are understood to be a trustworthy authority. Our feelings teach us what is right. We look to our emotions to understand the scriptures. We interpret our feelings as the voice of God. We pin our confidence of God’s presence and kindness on our mood.

We reject the “Magisterial Use of Emotions” as unbiblical and dangerous.

A lot of pastoral care is fighting against the authoritarian rule of emotions. “Pastor, I just don’t feel close to God anymore.” “Well,” I respond, “Do you have a promise that God is near you, like the words of Jesus, ‘I will be with you always’?” “Yes.” “Well then, your feelings are lying to you.”

“I feel like a divorce would be best.” Your feelings are lying.

“I feel like I’m not forgiven.” Your feelings are lying.

“I feel like God will understand why I’m so angry and sinning against this person.” Your feelings are lying.

“I feel like God has forgotten me.” Your feelings are lying.

Who taught us to trust our feelings in the first place? Disney? It wasn’t Jesus. He wants us to be sure, certain, confident, unwavering. It’s difficult to find a more wavering thing than our feelings and emotions. If building a house on sand is dangerous, how much worse is it to build a house on clouds.

The Lutheran fathers, with great pastoral wisdom, are always directing us to the “external Word,” the words of the prophets and apostles which is outside of us. God speaks to us in His Word. He tells us His will in His Word. He gives us commands and instructions, promises and blessings in His Word.

When we want to know what God thinks of us, what God wants us to do, what the future holds, we don’t look to our feelings or our emotions, we look to the Word. There is no doubts, no wonderings, no uncertainties, no wavering. The words which will endure forever are established for us and our faith, our confidence in God. “This says the Lord” stands firm in the midst of the unpredictable storm of our emotions.

Is there a proper place for our emotions, our feelings, and other aspects of our inner life? Yes indeed. The Scriptures often speak of our emotions and feelings. In fact, our definition of repentance as contrition and faith is, at least in part, an emotional definition: we sorrow over our sins and we rejoice in the promise of the Gospel. The Psalms are pressed down and overflowing with emotions. Jesus, who never sinned, wept, rejoiced, was angry, disappointed, and sorrowful. He had the full range of human emotions. While we warn the Christian of the dangers of the Magisterial use of emotions, we want to promote the Ministerial use of emotions.

Here, then, are a few thoughts about the proper place of emotions in the Christian life.

First, we recognize that our emotions are part of our created humanity. Like everything else God created, our emotional inner life was good, but is now corrupt and twisted by sin.

Second, our emotions, then, are subject to the rule of the Lord’s Law. Consider the 9th and 10th commandments, “You shall not covet.” The Ten Commandments extend the rule of God even over our inner life. Our desires, our wants, our thoughts, even our emotions are subject to God and His governance. This means, at least, that our emotions can be sins. Our being happy or our being sad, our desires or our lack of desire, all of these things can be sins.

This is a simple point, but should not be missed. The Magisterial Use of Feelings exalts our emotions above God’s law, make the law subject to our feelings. The first step in putting things back in their proper order is to put our feelings under the rule of the Ten Commandments. I can be wrongly happy. My anger can be sin. My desires can be false. My feelings can be wrong. Just like our words and our deeds, our feelings and emotions can offend God and hurt our neighbor. Just like our other sins, our emotional sins are confessed and forgiven.

We ought to give a fuller consideration to anger, but in passing, we notice that there is a right and a wrong use of anger. When anger is executed according to office (like a parent punishing a child for something, or a judge sentencing a person to prison) it can be good. But when anger is bound up to our person (and not to an office, i.e. anger as an emotion) then things go very wrong very fast.

Also, a word about desire. It is important to note that desire itself is not a sin, everything depends on the object of desire. If I desire the right thing, God’s Word, for example, or eternal life, or a peaceful life for my family, my desire is good. My desire for another’s house, or wife, or life, or hurt, or god, all of these desires are false and dangerous. God’s Word, then, also points our emotions to their right object and insists that they grow from the proper source.

Two-and-a-half, because our emotions are subject to God’s law, they cannot be set against the law of God. Neither are they an end in themselves. I am often asked, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” The answer: “Probably not.” Our emotional state is a servant, not the master, and certainly not the goal.

The conversation usually goes something like this: “Pastor, the only way I will be happy is if I get a divorce. Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” “God wants you to be married.” Happiness is the last of God’s concerns. He puts happiness (or contentment) at the end of the commandments, so that happiness comes after we go to church, say our prayers, honor our parents, care for the lives of our neighbors, live in chastity and faithfulness, work hard and are generous, and tell the truth. Then happiness. God is certainly unhappy if we set happiness (or any other emotional state) against His commands.

Third, then, our emotions can also be good works. Just as the Law condemns wrong emotions, it praises right emotions. Consider, as a small example, Paul’s words to the Philippians, “it is right for me to feel this way about you” (Philippians 1:7). Paul’s feelings of affection, thankfulness, and confidence were good and right. “Blessed is the man… his delight is in the Law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:1,2). Just as sin is conceived in wrong desires (James 1:14-15), so good works begin with a desire for what is good. “As new born babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).

The Lord’s Prayer is especially helpful here. As we pray the seven petitions we are learning what to want, what to desire: God’s name holy with us, His kingdom come to us, His will, His provision, His forgiveness, His leading, His deliverance. We desire these things and we delight in these things. We abhor evil. We rejoice in truth. The Psalms expand on this, taking our emotions and feelings up in prayer to God, all the anger, frustration, joy, confusion, disappointment, sorrow, panic, rage, wonder, loneliness, all of it is wrestled with and, at last, brought to the feet of God where our emotions bow down to worship.

Forth, and finally (at least for today), the devil would use our emotions to lie to us about God. Our emotions and feelings are often found contradicting the truth of the Scripture, and especially the truth of the Gospel. These emotions arise in the conscience, feelings especially of guilt and shame. Here we must simply put our feelings next to the promises of God, and let the promises win.

“I don’t feel forgiven” must submit to the promise “Whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven.”

“I don’t feel close to God” must bow to the promise “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

“I feel like God has forgotten me and abandoned me” must acquiesce to the promise “I will never forget My people, I have not left you as orphans, even when You walk through the valley of death, I am with you.”

This is the Ministerial Use of Emotions.

When our emotions match the commands and promises of God, we rejoice that the truth of the Word is echoing in our hearts. But when our feelings contradict God’s Word, we let them go, and find our certainty and peace not in what we feel, but in what God says.

 

“By this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater that our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God.” 1 John 3:19-21

 

A Candle that Cannot Be Blown Out: Luther on the History of the Church

You, no doubt, have noticed that this October 31st is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses against the selling of indulgences. This was only the beginning of the theological conversation, and then theological fight that became the Reformation. It began with the fight over indulgences, but it quickly clarified as an argument about the Gospel.

Here’s a summary of the history of the reformation in the context of the history of the church, written by Luther towards the end of his life. He compares the Gospel to the light of a candle which the devil is trying to blow out, but which the Lord Jesus always defends:

In just these terms we could easily, if we wanted, trace the history of the church from its inception. We should perceive that such was at all times the course of events: when God’s word flourished somewhere and his little flock was gathered, the devil became aware of the light, and he breathed and blew and stormed against it with strong, mighty winds from every nook and corner in an attempt to extinguish this divine light. And even if one or two winds were brought under control and were successfully resisted, he constantly stormed and blew forth from a different hole against the light. There was no letup or end to it, nor will there be until the Last Day.

I believe that I alone—not to mention the ancients—have suffered more than twenty blasts and rabbles which the devil has blown up against me. First there was the papacy. Indeed, I believe that the whole world must know with how many storms, bulls, and books the devil raged against me through these men, how wretchedly they tore me to pieces, devoured and destroyed me. At times I, too, breathed on them a little, but accomplished no more with it than to enrage and incite them all the more to blow and blast me without ceasing to the present day. And then when I had practically stopped fearing such blasts of the devil, he began to blow at me from a different hole by Münzer and the revolt, by which he almost succeeded in extinguishing the light. When Christ had nearly stuffed up this hole, he broke a few panes in the window by means of Karlstadt, and rushed and roared so vehemently that I feared he would carry light and wax and wick away. But God again helped his poor candle and kept it from being snuffed out. Then came the Anabaptists, who flung door and windows open as they tried to extinguish the light. They did create a dangerous situation, but they did not achieve their aim.

Several also raged against the old teachers, both the pope and Luther together: for example, Servetus, Campanus, and others like them. I will not mention here the others who did not attack me openly in print, whose venomous and base writings and words I personally had to endure. I only wish to say that since I paid history no heed, I had to learn from my own experience that the church, because of the precious word, indeed, because of the cheering, blessed light, cannot live in tranquillity, but must forever live in expectation of new gales from the devil. That is the way it has been from the beginning, as you read in the Tripartite Ecclesiastical History as well as in the books of the holy fathers.

And even if I were to live another hundred years and should succeed by the grace of God not only in allaying the past and present storms and rabbles but also all future ones, I realize that this would still not procure peace for our descendants so long as the devil lives and rules. Therefore I am also praying for a gracious hour of death; I care no more for this life. I exhort you, our posterity, to pray and to pursue the word of God with diligence. Keep God’s poor candle burning. Be warned and be on the alert, watching lest at any hour the devil try to break a pane or window or fling open a door or tear the roof off in order to extinguish the light; for he will not die before the Last Day. You and I have to die, but after our death he still remains the same as he always has been, unable to desist from his raging.

I can see there in the distance how the devil is puffing out his cheeks so vigorously that he is turning all red as he prepares to blow and rage. But our Lord Christ from the beginning (even when he was in the flesh) struck these puffed cheeks with his fist, so that they emitted nothing but the devil’s stinking wind. He still does this today and will ever continue to do so. For Christ does not lie when he declares, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” [Matthew 28:20], and when he assures us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church [Matthew 16:18]. At the same time we are enjoined to remain awake and to do our part in preserving the light. We read, “Be watchful,” for the devil is called a “roaring lion” who “prowls around, seeking some one to devour” [1 Peter 5:8], and this he did not only in the days of the apostles when St. Peter uttered these words; he does so to the end of time. Let us be guided by this. God help us as he helped our forefathers, and as he will help our heirs, to the honor and glory of his divine name forever. For after all, we are not the ones who can preserve the church, nor were our forefathers able to do so. Nor will our successors have this power. No, it was, is, and will be he who says, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” As it says in Hebrews 13 [:8], “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” and in Revelation 1 [:8], “He who is and who was and who is to come.” This is his name and no one else’s; nor may anyone else be called by that name.

A thousand years ago you and I were nothing, and yet the church was preserved at that time without us. He who is called “who was” and “yesterday” had to accomplish this. Even during our lifetime we are not the church’s guardians. It is not preserved by us, for we are unable to drive off the devil in the persons of the pope, the sects, and evil men. If it were up to us, the church would perish before our very eyes, and we together with it (as we experience daily). For it is another Man who obviously preserves both the church and us. He does this so plainly that we could touch and feel it, if we did not want to believe it. We must leave this to him who is called “who is” and “today.” Likewise we will contribute nothing toward the preservation of the church after our death. He who is called “who is to come” and “forever” will accomplish it. What we are now saying about ourselves in this respect, our ancestors also had to say, as is borne out by the psalms and the Scriptures. And our descendants will make the same discovery, prompting them to join us and the entire church in singing Psalm 124: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say,” etc.

It is a tragic thing that there are so many examples before us of those who thought they had to preserve the church, as though it were built on them. In the end they perished miserably. Yet such fierce judgment of God cannot break, humble, or check our pride and wickedness. What was Münzer’s fate in our day (to say nothing of old and former times), who imagined that the church could not exist without him and that he had to bear it up and rule it? Recently the Anabaptists reminded us forcefully enough how mighty and how close to us the lovely devil is, and how dangerous our pretty thoughts are, impelling us to pause and reflect (according to the advice of Isaiah) before any undertaking, to determine whether it is God or an idol, whether gold or clay. But it is no use—we are so secure, without fear and concern; the devil is far from us, and we have none of that flesh in us that was in St. Paul and of which he complains in Romans 7 [:23], exclaiming that he cannot deliver himself from it as he would like, but that he is captive to it. No, we are the heroes who need not worry about our flesh and our thoughts. We are sheer spirit, we have taken captive our own flesh together with the devil, so that all our thoughts and ideas are surely and certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and how can he be found wanting? Therefore it all has such a nice ending—namely, that both steed and rider break their necks.

But this is enough of such lamentations. May our dear Lord Christ be and remain our dear Lord Christ, praised forever. Amen.

 

(Martin Luther, “Against the Antinomians”, Preface, 1539, LW 47:115-119)

 

 

 

 

Martin Luther’s Introduction to the Psalms

Image result for psalter

PREFACE TO THE PSALMS. Martin Luther.

Many of the holy fathers have highly eulogised the Psalms, and preferred them to the other sacred books of Scripture. The Work, in fact, abundantly eulogises the Master. I will add now my own praise and my own gratitude.

So many legends of saints have been circulated in former days, and so many histories of sufferings and of works for our imitation written, that the Psalms at one time were quite neglected; they were involved in too much obscurity that scarcely one Psalm was properly understood, and yet they afforded such preeminent consolation as, even in their badly understood state, to influence and to strengthen the hearts of the pious and the devout. Their language was an object of veneration. But I maintain that no legend and no manual of devotion has ever yet appeared, or can, superior to the Book of Psalms; and if a man wished either to read or to select what is best, both in example, in legend, and in history, he could not do better than adopt the Book of Psalms. For we do not merely find here what one or two saints have done, but what the head of all saints has done, and what all saints still do.

We learn how we are to conduct ourselves with respect to God, to our friends, and to our foes, and how we are to act in all cases of danger and uncertainty. But the Psalms are especially dear and valuable from their detailing to us, so clearly and prophetically, the death and resurrection of Christ; and so declaring his kingdom, and the state and spirit of Christianity, that they may be fairly called a little Bible, in which everything that is in the whole Bible is contained in a beautiful and compendious manner; and they may be considered, therefore, a preparatory vade mecum or hand-book to it. It would seem to me as if the Holy Ghost had inspired the composer with the idea of a small Bible, or of an epitome of Christianity and godly men, so that those who have not the means of reading the whole Bible may find the summary and sense condensed in a small volume. But above all, there is a virtue and a soul which breathes throughout the Psalms, whilst in other religious books they are full, not of the words, but of the works of the saints. The Psalms are an ex ception. They breathe the very odour of sanctity : for they not only relate the works but the words of holy men, how they communed with and prayed to God, and how they still commune and pray to him. so that other legends and other examples, when placed in comparison with the Psalms, appear dumb, empty, and unprofitable. The Psalms repre sent to us the life and the image of sanctity. A dumb man, when placed in opposition to a man who can speak, may be considered as a man half

But above all, there is a virtue and a soul which breathes throughout the Psalms, whilst in other religious books they are full, not of the words, but of the works of the saints, the Psalms are an exception. They breathe the very odour of sanctity: for they not only relate the works but the words of holy men, how they communed with and prayed to God, and how they still commune and pray to him. so that other legends and other examples, when placed in comparison with the Psalms, appear dumb, empty, and unprofitable. The Psalms represent to us the life and the image of sanctity. A dumb man, when placed in opposition to a man who can speak, may be considered as a man half dead; for there is no more powerful or more noble distinction in man than that of speech, which elevates him above all other animals, more than form or any other action. Wood and stone may by the art of the engraver acquire a semblance of humanity; and an animal can hear, see, smell, sing, move, stand, eat, drink, fast, and suffer thirst, hunger, frost, and hard fare as well as a man. But the Psalms do more. They give us not only the daily but the best language of holy men, the language which they used in their applications to and intercourse with God, corresponding both with the gravity of the case and the seriousness of the subject. By these means, we have not only laid open to us their words and their works, but their very heart — the vital treasure of the soul, — so that we can look into the ground and foundation of their words and works, that is into their hearts. We know the thoughts they have entertained, the resolutions they have formed, and the conduct they have pursued in every state of doubt, danger, and difficulty. This, however, is not the case with the histories and the legends which describe the manners and the miracles of saints. It is impossible for me to dive into the heart of a man whose works I alone see, and of whose reputation I only hear. As I should much more prefer hearing the language of a saint to seeing his actions, so I would rather look into his heart and inspect his soul than hear his language. But the Psalms in this respect are copious, since they give us the certainty of knowing both how holy men thought and how they addressed their words towards God and towards man. For the heart of man is like a ship upon a troubled ocean, driven about by winds from every corner of the earth. Care and fear, under the apprehension of impending evils, impel it one

For the heart of man is like a ship upon a troubled ocean, driven about by winds from every corner of the earth. Care and fear, under the apprehension of impending evils, impel it one way; grief and fear, under the influence of present distress, impel it another; hope and presumption, and the prospect of future prosperity, another; the actual possession of prosperity and the breezes of security and of pleasure, another. But these tempests of the heart induce us to hold the language of earnestness, and to examine the bearings and the recesses of the soul. For he who is weighed down by fear and poverty speaks of misfortunes in a very different way from him who basks in the sunshine of prosperity; and he who is elated by prosperity speaks and sings of joys in a totally different strain from him who lives under the trammels of fear. It has been well said that it comes not from the heart when a wretched man is to laugh, and a happy man is to weep; the avenues to his heart are closed, and the whole effect is disappointment. But what is the chief subject of the Psalms, if it is not

But what is the chief subject of the Psalms, if it is not earnestness of language in all the storms and contradictions of life? Where shall we find words more adapted to express joy, than what are contained in the Psalms of thanksgiving and of praise? We see here the hearts of saints. Our thoughts are like the flowers of a beautiful and well-cultivated garden, and our gratification consists in a grateful adoration of divine goodness. Again, where do you find more profound expressions of melancholy and of sorrow than are contained in the Psalms of affliction and of mourning? You look, I say, into the very hearts of holy men; you become familiar with death, and the interior of the tomb is opened to you. We see it dead and dark, under a consciousness of the just wrath of God, and we perceive that His countenance is, as it were, turned away from us. In the two great passions of fear and hope, we find them depicted in language which no painter can embody, and which the greatest human actor would in effectually attempt to transcend.

But what is the most glorious of all is, that when they speak of the Deity they use language which is instinctive with a superfluity of life, and which gives an importance to words beyond the conception of man. In speaking with human beings upon these subjects we rarely succeed in reaching the heart. We feel a deficiency of fervour, and we acknowledge that there is not in ourselves an adequacy of devotion. The impression is different. Hence it arises that the Psalms are a book for all religious men, and that every reader, under every circumstance of life, meets with words which apply to his own situation, and which seem so adapted to his case that he could neither compose, discover, or desire anything which so little required alteration or improvement. And there is also this advantage, that when we are gratified by the

And there is also this advantage, that when we are gratified by the language, and sympathise with it, we are certain of being in the communion of saints; and that all saints must have felt as we feel, because we unite with them in uttering the same song of adoration. Singular ! that the Psalmist should have been able to make them speak in this manner to God, and which must have been the effect of their speaking in faith, because to a person without faith the Psalms are not a source of gratification.

Finally, an assurance is given to us, upon which we may confidently rely, that we may without fear and hesitation follow in the footsteps of the good men who have preceded us. Examples drawn from other books, and from the legends which are contained in them, describe the works of saints as far beyond our imitation; or else they relate to facts which it would be hazardous to apply to our own situation, because they frequently give rise to sects and to opinions which only end in contradicting or depreciating the greater part of those good men whom we have been instructed to revere. But the Psalms inculcate no such feeling of dissent or schism. They lead us to fear, to rejoice, and to hope, and to a serious coincidence of thought and of language with the good and with the wise. In short, if you wish to see the Christian church painted in the true colours of life and beauty, if you wish to possess it in miniature, take the Psalms, and you will find in them a faithful mirror reflecting with perfect purity the image of Christianity. You will find yourself in them, and also that great principle “Know thyself ” engraved in them, as well as God himself and the creatures whom He has made.

Let us, in consequence, be grateful to our Maker for this his unspeakable goodness, and let us accept and enjoy it with equal devotion and diligence, and so honour and praise him that we may avoid, by not being unthankful, the effects of his just punishment.

In former times, what a,  treasure it would have been to have well understood the Psalms, and to have been able to have heard and read them in the common language of our own country. But this was a comfort which we did not experience. Blessed are the eyes which see what we see, and the ears which hear what we hear. But we are like the Israelites in the wilderness, blindly exclaiming, whilst the manna continued to nourish them, ” Our souls are disgusted with this insipid food.” But we should recollect how they were plagued and punished, in order that we ourselves may escape a similar punishment.

May the Father of all grace and mercy preserve us in this, through Jesus Christ our Lord. To him be praise and honour, thanksgiving and glory, both for this Book of Psalms and for his unspeakable, innumerable, eternal blessings. Amen! Amen!

 

Excerpted from The prefaces to the early editions of Martin Luther’s Bible (tr. by sir G. Duckett) ed. by T.A. Readwin (1863). Find the book on Google Books here.

Where the Law Should and Should Not Go: A Sermon Preached by Pr Jared Melius

A few weeks back Hope Lutheran Church hosted the Steadfast Lutheran Conference on the Three Estates. The following sermon was preached by Pastor Jared Melius of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Denver, CO, on Friday, July 21, 2017 to begin the conference. It is fantastic.

 

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is this: that for the sake of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, your sins are forgiven and you are reconciled with God. Your sins are not counted against you. This is irrespective of if your sins have been relatively minor and have just kind of collected like dirt on a filter over the years or whether you’ve had major infractions that haunt you. God thinks nothing of your sins now for the sake of Jesus. In fact, even more than that, God Himself has declared you free from all condemnation, all guilt, and all punishment. God as the almighty judge has justified the ungodly, he has released guilty prisoners who didn’t deserve it. He has released you. That is the Gospel, and there is not a truer Word of God in all the Scriptures.

We, however, are gathered here for a conference to study the Three Estates, which is not the Gospel. It is the Law. It is the three realms or over-arching stations that the Lord’s commandments – his Law! – apply to us. Now, when it comes to the Gospel, we are given merely to hear the Word in humility and believe it. That’s it. But, when it comes to the Law, we Christians are given a far more demanding duty. We must exercise wisdom when hearing the Law.

It’s not as easy, apparently, as saying, “Well, if there’s law, then isn’t it just that we’re supposed to follow it? Or at least give it our best shot?” No. There is far more than that. You will find in the    Bible places where we are urged strenuously to apply ourselves to the Law of God and follow it and grow in it. Not just anybody, but Christians. The law is highly,  highly regarded. But you will also find places in the Bible where the law is degraded in what I think are just shocking ways. In other words, there are places where Christians are told that we are still bound up to the law and if they aren’t they are not Christians. And, there are places where    Christians are told they not bound by the law and if they think they are… they are not Christians. So which is? Are we supposed to take the law seriously or not?

Well, the answer is both. We are bound to the law AND we are free from the law. Now here is the outline: Before a Christian can even begin to understand how they are bound to the law and must keep, they must FIRST understand how they are free from it. And this is best described by St. Paul in Romans 7.

He says in the strongest possible terms how we Christians are free from the law. In fact, he says it even stronger than that, that we are “dead to the law through the body of Christ.”I’ll read it: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit for God.” 

Imagine that your heart is like a big mansion, one of those twisty kinds of mansions with all sorts of rooms and back stairways and secret passages. If your heart is like that, there are certain rooms where the law is allowed and should be given full access, but there are other rooms in your heart where the door must be shut and locked so that the law has no access. The law should not be allowed access into your confidence room. Nor into your standing before God room. It should not be allowed into the room where you consider if you will go to heaven or if God loves you. In fact, it should not even be allowed into that room where you consider if you are a good person before God’s face, because your goodness or badness is determined by Jesus’ declaration and He by grace has declared you righteous in the     Gospel – not the Law. From these rooms, the Law must be strictly forbidden. Now the problem is that the law is like a little 8-year-old boy, who is always trying to wiggle into rooms and find secret passages into a room where he does not belong.

Now some have thought that it would be safest to simply bar the whole mansion of your heart from the law. Pay no heed to it at all.   Allow it in none of the rooms! But that’s wrong. There is a place for considering the 3 estates, the godly vocations given by God and blessed by Him. In fact, if you pay careful attention here to Paul’s words in Romans 7, he says that “we should become dead to the law through the body of Christ… that we should bear fruit for God.”

Well… I have a feeling – I could be wrong – but I have a feeling that there are some of you here who are not altogether dead to the law. You’re still alive to it a bit. And so Paul’s saying that you must be dead to it will come as a great relief. Lay aside your stress about making sure you’re doing life right. You’re trying so hard to hold yourself together before your neighbor and before God Himself. Stop. God does not and He never did need your efforts; He loved you and suffered His dear Son to die for you before you ever took a breath. Before you ever thought to get things right, He already made them right in His Son Jesus Christ. You’ve done a lot of things well; and a lot of things not so well. None of it determines your standing. Jesus does.

Very well. Once that has been stapled into your conscience firm, that the Lord loves you – in Jesus and for no other reason – now we can proceed to give full consideration as to how to best to please the Lord in our vocations – free from accusation.

Amen.

#MartyrMonday: St. James the Great

 

James the Great

The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apsotles’ Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place A.D. 44.

Foxes Book of Martyrs

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Martin Luther’s Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer), Published!

Here’s the latest edition of Everyone’s LutherLord, Teach Us to Pray, Martin Luther’s Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer!

You can download a PDF copy of the book for free here: Lord Teach Us to Pray.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can pick up an unapproved print version through Lulu for $4 here.  (Use these codes: “FWD15” for 15% off, and “ONESHIP” for free shipping for this weekend.)

(Use these codes: “FWD15” for 15% off, and “ONESHIP” for free shipping for this weekend.)

I’ll let you know when I have hands on the print copy and everything looks good.

I think this would be a wonderful book to give to friends and family.

And, we’ll be using this text as the outline for the next few months on Issues, Etc. So,

It’s a short read, 40 pages with big font. So, download a copy and listen as Luther unfolds the most wonderful of all prayers, taught to us by our Lord Jesus.

-PrBW

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