The Heart of the Christian Faith

A friend of mine shared an article with me yesterday that got me thinking. The article is The missing message in today’s churches, an On Faith article in the Washington Post by Pastor Tullian Tchividjian.

While I’d certainly imagine that Pastor Tchividjian holds to some beliefs that I don’t agree with[1], his thoughts in this article are a refreshing change from what we usually associate with “modern” Christianity.

The hub of Christianity is not “do something for Jesus.” The hub of Christianity is “Jesus has done everything for you.” … The heart of the Christian faith is Good News not good behavior. When Sunday mornings become one more venue for performance evaluation, can you blame a person for wanting to stay at home?

May we all continue to grow in the heart of the Christian faith: Jesus’ love for us, his suffering and death for us, his resurrection for us. Our works will follow, but they are not at the heart. Jesus is.

    1:Pastor Tchividjian’s church is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. This church body takes God’s Word seriously, thankfully, but they adhere to Calvin’s TULIP theology. I won’t go into that all here. Anyone have a good link that explains it quickly and easily?  ↩

The Church Is Not a Building

When we view our building as our legacy—as the thing that will last—we tie the church, which Jesus founded and against which the gates of hell will not prevail, to a building, which will crumble and collapse in a matter of time.

Quote from an article I read about church architecture. It’s especially interesting for me as I serve a congregation who has been blessed to have a beautiful church building built in 1890. It has served our people and community well for generations. But I don’t want our future tied to a building. I want our future tied to God’s power in Christ as found in the Gospel.

This is the Gospel

The main point and basis of the Gospel is that before you grasp Christ as an example, you first receive and apprehend Him as a gift and present given to you by God to be your own. When you see or hear that He has done something or suffered something, do not doubt that Christ Himself with His doing and suffering is yours. You can rely on Him no less than if you had done it — indeed, as if you were Christ. That is truly apprehending the Gospel, that is, the superabundant goodness of God, which no prophet, no apostle, no angel has ever fully expressed, which no heart can ever sufficiently be amazed at and comprehend. That is the great fire of God’s love for us by which the heart and conscience become happy, certain, and at peace; that is what preaching Christian faith means. Such preaching is called the Gospel.

Martin Luther, LW 75:8-9.

Just starting this new volume of Luther’s Works and will probably share a few quotes as I go.

I Am Baptized!

Now then, all of you who believe in God’s Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: “I am baptized!” Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence… nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: “I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!” And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the Angela forever and ever. Amen!

C. F. W. Walther, from today’s reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer .

Serve Him

There are many of you in this congregation who think to yourselves: ‘If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the Baby! I would have washed his linen. How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!’ Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there at that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem. Childish and silly thoughts are these! Why don’t you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbour. You ought to serve him, for what you do to your neighbour in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.

Martin Luther, from Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, ed. Roland H. Bainton.

Read Your Catechism Lately?

Interesting thoughts from Martin Luther in the preface to his Large Catechism.

stainedglass300Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we! While we must ever live and dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils, we still despise our weapons and defense [2 Corinthians 10:4], and we are too lazy to look at or think of them!

What else are such proud, arrogant saints doing who are unwilling to read and study the catechism daily? They think they are much more learned than God Himself with all His saints, angels, prophets, apostles, and all Christians. God Himself is not ashamed to teach these things daily. He knows nothing better to teach. He always keeps teaching the same thing and does not take up anything new or different. All the saints know nothing better or different to learn and cannot finish learning this. Are we not the finest of all fellows to imagine that if we have once read or heard the catechism, we know it all and have no further need to read and learn? Can we finish learning in one hour what God Himself cannot finish teaching? He is engaged in teaching this from the beginning to the end of the world. All prophets, together with all saints, have been busy learning it, have ever remained students, and must continue to be students.

It must be true that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures [Matthew 7:12]. So, in all matters and cases, he can advise, help, comfort, judge, and decide both spiritual and temporal matters. Such a person must be qualified to sin in judgment over all doctrines, estates, spirits, laws, and whatever else is in the world [1 Corinthians 6:2-3]. And what, indeed, is the entire Book of Psalms but thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment? Now I truly know that such lazy “bellies” and arrogant spirits do not understand a single psalm, much less the entire Holy Scriptures. Yet they pretend to know and despise the catechism, which is a short and brief summary of all the Holy Scriptures.

~Large Catechism Longer Preface 15-18

Have you read your catechism lately? Why not take it down from the shelf and take a look at it today!

Faith Is Not Our Work

Here’s a great quote from Walther’s Law and Gospel. (By the way, this book is now available for 20 bucks. It’s worth it.

Finally, Calov, in his Biblia Illustrata, commenting on Romans 5:10, says:

“We have not been redeemed and reconciled – nor have our sins been atoned for – conditionally. Rather, we have been absolutely redeemed in the most perfect and complete manner, as far as merit and effectiveness of the act are concerned. Although, regarding the actual enjoyment and appropriation of salvation, faith is necessary, which is nothing else than the appropriation of the atonement, satisfaction, and reconciliation of Christ. For, in the judgment of God, if One has died for all, it is the same as if all had died (2 Corinthians 5:14).”

This is a golden text, which shines with the radiance of the sun – even in the luminous Scriptures. Since the death that Christ died for all is a death for the purpose of reconciliation, it is the same as if all had suffered death for this purpose. It follows, then, that, without the slightest doubt, I can say with perfect assurance: “I am redeemed; I am reconciled; salvation has been acquired for me.

Walther, Law and Gospel, p.304-305

Regard Everything Else as Darkness

He bids us fix our eyes and keenness of mind on the Word alone, on Baptism alone, on the Lord’s Supper, and on absolution, and to regard everything else as darkness. I do not understand, or care about, what is done in this world by the sons of this age; for they crucify me. I cannot escape or draw away that horrible mask which hides the face of God, but I must stay in darkness and in exceedingly dark mist until a new light shines forth.

Martin Luther (AE 8:33)


My Pure and White Robe

I once again had the great privilege of baptizing a little baby this morning. This is always one of my favorite parts of being a pastor; not that I have the power to do something to the baby, but that God gives his forgiveness, life, and salvation through it!

The baby at the baptism today had a little white robe that her older sister had also worn. So as I was paging through the newest book of Luther’s Works today, I found a quote on baptism that even alludes to it as a pure and white robe, since by it we were clothed with Christ. Check it out!

In Christ — indeed, in our Baptism, since we are baptized into Christ — we have the forgiveness of sins without ceasing. So even if you fall and sin out of weakness — as happens, alas, too much and too often, without ceasing — then run and crawl to your Baptism, in which all your sins are forgiven and washed away; draw comfort; lift yourself up again; and believe that in Baptism you were washed not only from one sin but from all your sins. For just as the baptized Jesus Christ does not die, but lives and remains in eternity, so the forgiveness of sins is also eternal, [the forgiveness] that He won for you and gave you as a gift. Therefore, Baptism is a glorious washing, one that washes away and purifies. Whatever is not washed away and remains left in us is forgiven. Accordingly, whatever Baptism does not purge away altogether is nevertheless completely purified through the forgiveness of sins that we receive in Baptism. The pope knows nothing of this but supposes that Baptism is a transitory thing. That is why he makes up many works through which the rest of the sins must be washed away and removed. No, that is not so! If I stumble and fall into sin, then I should repent and crawl to the cross, go there and fetch my pure and white robe with which I was clothed in Baptism, where all my sins, if they are not all completely washed away, are nonetheless forgiven, because the forgiveness is altogether pure. That is what I cling to!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 58, CPH, 2010, p.367-368.