Sunday, May 21, 2006
Rod Rosenbladt quote/photo (feat. Dave Zahl):
from "Solus Christus and the Pastor"--
(pp. 39-40) A Reformation pastor is called to preach Christ crucified to the congregation and to administer the sacraments to the congregation. Someone says, "But surely you don't mean that the pastor should be evangelizing believers from the pulpit?" Most evangelicals have no category for preaching Christ to a congregation of believers; their only category for preaching the Gospel is the evangelizing of pagans. But important as the latter is, the former is no less important.
Think of the inner soliloquy many Christians experience week by week. "There may have been grace for me when, as a sinner, I was initially converted. But now, having been given the Spirit of God, I fear that things have gotten worse in me rather than better. I have horribly abused all of God's good gifts to me. I was so optimistic in the beginning, when the pastor told me that Christ outside of me, dying for me, freely saved me by his death, and that the Holy Spirit now dwelling within me would aid me in following Christ. I looked forward to so much. But it has all gone badly (!). Others have no doubt done what God equipped them to do, but not I. I have used grace and Christ's shed blood as an excuse for doing things I probably wouldn't even have done as a pagan. I have rededicated myself to Christ more times than I can count. But it seems to stay the same, or even get worse, no matter what I do. Whatever the outer limits of Christ's grace are, I have certainly crossed them. I have utterly, consciously, and with planning aforethought blown it all.
"I guess I was never a Christian in the first place, because if I had been, I would have made some progress in the Christian life. Maybe I was never part of the elect. If I wasn't there's nothing I can do about that. Anyway, I am now beyond hope. I'll try going to church for a while longer, but I think I've tried every possible thing the church has told me to do. After that, I guess I'll return to paganism and 'eat, drink, and be merry' for the time I've got left. What else is there to do?"
First of all, he recognizes that the Law has done, and is doing, its work on him or her. The pastor realizes that what is needed in this case is not the Law but the Gospel. One of the effects of Wesleyan revivalism in this country has been the common conviction that genuine conversion always shows itself in measurable moral progress (and correlatively, the lack of such progress is evidence that no true regeneration has taken place.) so the still-sinning believer is led to believe that he is not now a believer at all. Luther recognized the deadliness of this sort of theology. He knew that any counsel that turns us back into ourselves for assurance is no assurance at all. To put the matter bluntly, Luther knew that the death and resurrection of Christ in our stead was strong enough in its effect to save even a Christian!
Posted by John Zahl at 5:06 PM