Our Faith Begins…

lamentation

Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must be at an end.

Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists!  Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.”

H. J. Iwand quoted in Christian Wiman’s “My Bright Abyss” & Jurgen Moltmann’s “The Crucified God.”

Luther on Psalm 51:3

Psalm 51:3  3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

“God is the God of the humble, the afflicted, and the poor who acknowledge that they are sinners and fear God in such a way that they hope still more in His mercy…  If, therefore, you acknowledge that you have sin, if you tremble, if you are troubled by a feeling of God’s wrath and by horror of God’s judgment and of hell, then have confidence.  You are the one with whom God wants to speak, to whom God wants to show His mercy, and whom God wants to save.”

LW Vol. 12 

 

Christians Smith’s Heartbreaking Conclusion

Following an unprecedented study on the religious lives of American teens, Professor Christian Smith came to this conclusion:

We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that it is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition,

but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism…  The language and therefore experience, of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, Eucharist, and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at the very least, to be supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward.

It is not so much that Christianity is being secularized.  Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.

Christian Smith “Soul Searching: the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers.”

Luther on Psalm 51:2

Psalm 51:2  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

“Once a Christian is righteous by faith and has accepted the forgiveness of sins, he should not be so smug, as though he were pure of all sins.  For only then does he face the constant battle with the remnants of sin, from which the prophet here wants to be cleansed.

He is righteous and holy by an alien or foreign holiness

that is, he is righteous by the mercy and grace of God.  This mercy and grace is not something human; it is not some sort of disposition or quality of the heart.  It is a divine blessing, given us through the true knowledge of the Gospel, when we know or believe that our sin has been forgiven us through the grace and merit of Christ and when we hope for steadfast love and abundant mercy for Christ’s sake…

It consists completely in the indulgence of another and is a pure gift of God, who shows mercy and favor for Christ’s sake…

Therefore, the Christian is not formally righteous, he is not righteous according to substance or quality…  He is righteous according to his relationship to something: namely, only in respect to divine grace and the free forgiveness of sins…”

LW Vol. 12 

Robert Capon on Hell

I came across this bombshell of a quote while I was researching for this week’s sermon about the “Unforgiving Servant.”

In heaven, there are only forgiven sinners.

“There are no good guys, no upright, successful types who, by dint of their own integrity, have been accepted into the great country club in the sky.  There are only failures, only those who have accepted their deaths in their sins and who have been raised up by the King who himself died they might live.

But in hell, too, there are only forgiven sinners.

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J.I. PACKER “WEAKNESS IS THE WAY”

“The truth… is that in many respects, and certainly in spiritual matters, we are all weak and inadequate, and we need to face it.  Sin, which disrupts all relationships, has disabled us all across the board.  We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own.  Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road…”

J.I. Packer “Weakness is the Way