Friday, September 17, 2010

You Can Do It

On my daily trek from work back to the homestead each day, I drive by a particular church. The church sign for this church changes on a regular basis. Maybe once a week or so. This week, the sign caught my attention a bit more than usual. It reads: You can do it!

Wow. Nearly speechless. To be honest, this is the kind of stuff I have been taught in nearly every church I have been a part of.  Ultimately this type of teaching will lead to one of two destinations:  self-righteousness or despair.  Despair can possibly lead to agnosticism or atheism.  The person will come to the end of themselves, and think, this CAN'T be done!  This thing has been a complete sham!  I'm done!  Gone!  See ya later!

If your church is teaching this kind of tripe, I would recommend that you confront your pastor and/ or elders. If they don't listen, go away as fast as you can, and don't look back. This is the complete antithesis of the gospel. The question you should be asking is: If I can do it, why do I need the cross? There is no need for Jesus, His cross, or His resurrection. If you are being told that you got the goods, that you can do it, there is really no reason why you would be hearing much of the cross and the Jesus' atoning sacrifice.

Here's a quote from Dr. Normal Nagel:

The cross alone is our theology. These are the words of Doctor Luther and, too, of every Lutheran sermon. If the cross is not in the sermon, it is not a Lutheran sermon. Or if you can take the cross out of the sermon, and it can get along just as well without it, it is not a Lutheran sermon. -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 290.

I have been reading this book entitled, 'On Being a Theologian of the Cross.' It is a commentary on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation by Gerhard Forde. Luther differentiates in the Disputation between essentially two theologies: The Theology of the Cross and The Theology of Glory. Forde writes:
[A theology of glory] operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted t sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to do good works. Of course our theologian of glory may well grant that we need the help of grace. The only dispute, usually, will be about the degree of grace needed. If we are 'liberal,' we will opt for less grace and tend to define it as some kind of moral persuasion or spiritual encouragement. If we are more 'conservative,' and speak even of the depth of human sin, we will tend to escalate the degree of grace needed to the utmost. But the hallmark of the theology of glory is that it will always consider grace as something of a supplement to whatever is left of human will and power. It will always, in the end, hold out for some free will. Theology then becomes the business of making theological explanations attractive to the will. Sooner or later a disastrous erosion of the language sets in. It must constantly be adjusted to be made appealing. Gradually it sinks to the level of maudlin sentimentality.

Theologians of the cross, however, operate quite differently. They know they cannot we can't be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because those things are themselves the problem.

The thing is this:  If anything, we have this promise of the cross, persecution and affliction. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) But this is a temporary, earthly persecution. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:6-7)

Don Matzat, in an article for Issues, Etc., gets to the point with the following:
Living in a theology of the Cross never makes you any "better" than anyone else. Every day in every way you are not getting better and better. In fact, the preaching of Law and Gospel will not lead you to an awareness of your holiness, but rather to greater awareness of the depth of your sin. As a result, you will develop an ever-increasing faith in and appreciation for the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

Your witness will focus upon the work of the Cross, not upon your experience of getting saved, sanctified, or becoming more spiritual. You have taken no step toward God or arrived at any higher level of holiness. You don’t talk about your spirituality. You talk about the grace of God in Christ Jesus.

When dealing with these issues on the radio, I often encounter opposition. People will fight to defend their theology of glory. I often challenge them to share their testimony without ever talking about themselves. I have developed the pet phrase, "This thing called Christianity – it’s not about you!"

Martin Luther accurately defined sin as man turning in on himself. While a theology of glory continues to turn you to yourself as you measure your growth in holiness against a plethora of spiritual experiences, the theology of the Cross turns you away from yourself. As a result of the conviction of the Law, you forsake your own good works and spiritual experiences and cling to the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Clearly you have an inexplicable aversion to the Gospel According to Rob Schneider.