Martin Luther on the First Sin

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands”
― Martin Luther

I don’t know about anyone else, but this is certainly true of me. One of the books I read during Lent (40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole) suggested that we fast from premature resolution — in other words, wait for God rather than rushing to find the answer yourself when there is a problem or question. I’m trying to do this, but it’s hard. I like to fix things, get things done, take care of any issues. Why? Because if I don’t, I worry about it (there’s that lack of trust issue). So, like any addict, I’m taking it one day at a time.

What about you, reader? What’s the sin you need to conquer every day?

For more about sin see these posts:

Wash Away Your Sins

A Prayer Confessing our Sins

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

Behold the Man #2

I posted earlier this month about a phrase that caught my attention —Behold the Man!–this is what Pilate said when he brought Jesus out to face the crowd demanding his crucifixion. God evidently isn’t done with teaching me about this yet, because it came up again, in a different form.

My husband and I watched a miniseries entitled North Water. It tells a dark and disturbing story that I didn’t especially enjoy. However, the first episode was called “Behold the Man!” so that got my attention. Now, this series has nothing to do with Jesus. It focuses on the depravity of man. The main character, a surgeon named Patrick Sumner, suffers betrayal and is exposed to all sorts of difficult experiences. He encounters thievery, perversion, murder, selfishness, addiction and more. He almost dies as the result of the sinful behavior of others. He starts out as a “good” person who wants to do the right things, but by the end of the story he also kills a man and steals his money. Some would say his behavior was justified because he was trying to right the wrong that had been committed against him, but sin is still sin.

So, what is my takeaway from this? The comparison between the human being Christ was (sinless) and the human being I am (sinful). Christ was able to suffer many of the same things Patrick did. He was betrayed, deserted, mocked, beaten and finally killed. Yet, as the Bible tells us:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Patrick cracked under the strain of sin. He couldn’t be righteous. He needed a Savior. So do you and I! Behold the man Christ, and behold yourself. Be thankful He could do what we cannot.

For more posts about the atonement of Christ see:

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Most Certainly True

Interactive Study Blog – Hebrews Chapter 10

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

We can’t be in Christ without sin consciousness. In other words, we need to understand that we can’t save ourselves — we need a savior. As an example of this, in our last class on union with Christ, we looked at the life of the apostle, Paul. Paul had every reason to trust in his own ability to keep the law. Here’s how he describes himself in the third chapter of Philippians:

  1. He had the right pedigree –an Israelite, a member of the tribe of Benjamin
  2. He was outstanding in his performance — a Pharisee, faultless in righteousness
  3. He had been strictly raised and trained in all the Hebrew rituals — circumcised on the eighth day, and so on

He had no sin consciousness at all — and many of us have the same mindset. Although we profess our belief in Christ, we believe we are “good” people, raised in the church, who have never sinned in any significant way. We don’t want to accept the fact that our sinful nature makes it impossible to obey God.

We see in chapter 7 of the book of Romans that the sin of covetousness was the one that got Paul’s attention. (Perhaps his encounter with Stephen led his to covet the grace Stephen displayed.) He realized that the law was given, not so that he could become righteous, but to help him recognize his sin for what it was. He puts it this way:

“Did that which is good then (the law), become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” Romans 7:13

Finally accepting his inability to do good, he is able to turn to Christ. He became a man in Christ who found that nothing was more valuable to him than knowing Jesus and being united to him. As he says,

“… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death … ” Philippians 3:8-10a

Are you sin conscious? If not, the season of Lent is a good time to ponder this.

For more about sin see:

Why to Avoid Sin

Sin and Grace

More About Sin

Cheer up! You’re Worse than you think!

I’m currently reading a book about spiritual formation, and the author mentions the Jack Miller (pastor, author, missionary) quote I’ve used as the title of my post. I liked it, because it reminded me of something I was thinking about during the readings at our Sunday worship service. Here are the verses that caught my attention:

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgement. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1-5

In other words, we’re going to be judged someday by God Himself. That should strike terror in us! But often we read these verses smugly, thinking, I don’t do those things. I haven’t committed adultery or practiced sorcery…. I’m not even an employer so I can’t be guilty of unfair wages. I practice hospitality, and so on. I’ve thought these things myself.

However, Jesus teaches us to look deeper. We’ve committed adultery in our hearts if we think lustful thoughts about someone other than our spouse; the clothes on the backs of most Americans are produced through the exploited labor of people in other countries; many argue that our immigration laws and policies are unfeeling and unfair toward immigrants (our sojourners), we don’t fear God because we secretly think we’re the “good” people … and so on. I don’t claim there is an easy answer to these issues, but we must face up to the fact that we are indeed worse than we like to think. We sin in thought, word and deed and we do it every day.

Jack Miller evidently had a response for this too: “Cheer up, God loves you more than you know!” We’ll be judged for our sins, but not condemned, because God Himself has paid the penalty. That’s what Advent is really about. So be merry, not because of the gifts under your tree, but for the true and lasting gift of salvation given to those who believe.

For more about sin see these posts:

Sin and Grace

Occasions of Sin

Martin Luther on Sin

Martin Luther on Sin

“Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved. Now choose what you want.”

Martin Luther

For more Martin Luther quotes see:

Martin Luther Quote on the Psalms #2

A Quote from Martin Luther

Martin Luther on Hope

The Devil’s “D” Words

This is from a Bible study I wrote years ago and it seems to fit with our topic this month.

DECEIT–Satan always seeks to deceive us, and often his falsehoods sound good. “When he lies he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

DOUBT–The devil questions God’s Word and His goodness. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

DIVERSION–Satan draws our attention the wrong things and makes them appear more attractive and appealing than the right things. “For God knows that when you eat of it (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:5-6

DISCOURAGEMENT–Satan uses our problems and difficulties to depress us and make us give up. He tried this with Job. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

DELAY–Someone once said “if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” He tries to make us put off doing what is good, so that we never do it at all. “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” ….If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:13-17

DIVISION–We are stronger together, so Satan seeks to separate us from other believers. In his letter to the Roman church, Paul says: ” I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ…” Romans 16:17-18

The result of all these “D” words is another one: DISOBEDIENCE— and we all know what that leads to:

“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23a

Thankfully that’s not the end of the story–

but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23b

Satan may deceive, divert, discourage, delay and divide, but he will not defeat us. God has the last word. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

For more about disobedience see:

It Started in the Garden

,Grieving the Spirit

Against You Only

A Thousand Tongues

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing was used in a recent worship service I attended. It was one of the more than six thousand hymns written by Charles Wesley and was originally titled “For the Anniversary of One’s Conversion.” Part of any conversion experience is the realization that we are sinners, and we can’t stop sinning. The only remedy is a Savior, and Wesley recognizes and proclaims that truth in this well known hymn.

In May 1738, Charles Wesley was suffering from pleurisy, and during this time he was plagued with doubts about his faith. On May 21st, he attend a Bible study where he listened to a number of testimonies. He was deeply moved by this experience and considered it to be the moment that he turned to Christ.

Eleven years later, he wrote a 18 stanza poem about his conversion. It is thought to be inspired by Peter Bohler, an influential Moravian leader, who said “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Christ Jesus with all of them.”

For more hymns by Charles Wesley see these posts:

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Rejoice!

Deeper by Dane C. Orland — Book Review

Subtitled, “Real Change for Real Sinners”, this book is about the process of sanctification. At first, I found it a bit simplistic — but that is actually the author’s point. We all need to go back to the basics in order to grow. Real, positive growth happens when we go deeper and deeper into the basics that we may have known for years.

The first step, if we’re growing in Christ, is to know what Christ is like. Then we need to despair — despair of being able to save ourselves on our own. We have to see and admit the sin that is always with us. When we collapse into the love of Christ, we are united with Him. We’re transformed, and our future is no longer bound up in the sinful Adam –we’re a new creation in Christ. All of this is the necessary foundation that leads to the dynamics by which believers change. We have been acquitted, or justified and are now reconciled with God.

The author then turns toward the question of how we practically, absorb the truth of our salvation into our daily lives. He focuses on two tools which he considers most important — the Bible and prayer. Our relationship with Christ must be nurtured and fed.

So, yes, this is a book about basics, and the most basic instruction is this — Look to Christ. We need to reminded, and to follow His teachings and example every day.

VERDICT: 5 STARS.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more book reviews see these posts:

Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer–Book Review

More About Sin

In a previous post I shared a quote about sin from my devotional. Here’s another. The author is W. C. Gannett (1840-1923), a Unitarian minister:

“Yes, this sin which has sent me weary-hearted to bed and desperate in heart to morning work, that has made my plans miscarry until I am a coward, that cuts me off from prayer, that robs the sky of blueness and the earth of spring-time, and the air of freshness, and human faces of friendliness,–this blasting sin which perhaps has made my bed in hell for so long, –-this can be conquered. I do not say annihilated, but better than that, conquered, captured and transformed into a friend: so that I at last shall say, ‘My temptation has become my strength! for to the very fight with it I owe my force.'”

It reminds me of some of the things Paul tells us in his letters:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sin can separate us from Christ, but it doesn’t have to! When we rely upon God to resist temptation, we become stronger, and closer to Him– and when we fail, we remember that we are clothed in His righteousness.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Resisting Temptation

In Sunday School this past week, we sang the hymn, Yield Not to Temptation. Horatio R. Palmer (1834-1907), an American musician, wrote it shortly after the Civil War. One day while working on a music theory exercise, the idea for this hymn suddenly came to him in a burst of inspiration. He quickly wrote it down, and very few edits were needed.

Or course, this hymn reminded me of the monthly theme. Sometimes we sin unwittingly, but often we are tempted (sometimes over and over) until we finally give in. We fail to turn to our real source of strength –God– for help in resisting sinful desires. This hymn is a bracing reminder that we are not alone in our struggle with Satan.

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

For more about temptation see these posts:

Pure In Heart by J. Garrett Kell–Book Review

Grade Yourself

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you– Part 2