Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'll see the Progress you want and Raise you true "Progress"

Here is the main problem I have with so many who are calling for "Progress" in Sanctification.  They really aren't calling for progress, they aren't really calling for growth -- they are calling for someone else to not annoy them with some quirk or thing that they dislike.

I know a man who in his youth was a junkie, an atheist drug addict who was utterly destructive.  Now, by the grace of God, he is not only a Christian, but a pastor who is faithful, who zealously preaches the Gospel.  The man who was totally selfish now cannot stand to hear anything about how good he is, but insists that everything be about Christ and how good Christ is.

What growth granted by God!

Yet - do the folks clamoring for "Growth" in Sanctification celebrate this man?  Do they even point to him himself - look at how you have grown, there is an example of growth in Sanctification!

Nope.  They disdain him, write him off.  He is the example of one who has not grown in Sanctification... because he is not up to their standards.  He's too coarse, perhaps.  Or he isn't as patient as they would like.

Now - if you look upon this one with disdain, as one lacking growth... why should I listen to anything you have to say at all upon the topic of growth?

Now, me myself - I cannot remember a time when I was not in the Church.  The trials I have faced have not been near what this man has - yet with him I will say gladly that Christ Jesus is my justification, my sanctification, my life.  To God alone be the glory.


Bror Erickson said...

"Or he isn't as patient as they would like." This is what cracks me up about it all. Patience it's a fruit of the spirit. It seems though the best way to display it is to act offended whenever someone uses language half as harsh as Paul.

Anonymous said...

"Clamoring for growth," "calling for growth," or merely suggesting that it actually exists, only to be called a heretic?

There's being offended and annoyed. And then there's watching those interested in Lutheranism dismiss it entirely because of proud anti-pietists. There's watching Lutherans give up the internet permanently in disgust at how pastors are misrepresented. If that doesn't bother you, by all means... congratulate yourselves for having dodged the pietistic bullet.

Steve Martin said...

"We must decrease, He must increase."

All over the place we are finding people who'd rather walk by sight, than by faith.

We really don't have much to commend ourselves. Live in repentance, and live freely...outwardly. And then repent, yet again.

There's your progress.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

There are many reasons why many dismiss Lutheranism. For some, it isn't exciting enough. For some, it doesn't focus enough upon me and what I do. For some it is a love of the liturgy or hierarchy that isn't always present here in the US. For some it is a romanticized view of history. And for some, it is disgust that Lutherans are not holy enough and don't show enough interest there in.

And that's the way it always has been. Look at the life of Luther - look at the complaints leveled against his teaching by Rome and by the Anabaptist and Reformed. He ignored history, he didn't go far enough to teach good and new works. He didn't keep enough of the liturgy, he kept too much.

I have no joy over this. I wish it weren't this way. But I am called in all things to point not to history, not tradition, not myself or my goodness or my growth, but in all things to point to Christ.

Some see this focus as folly or unwise - but I know that Christ and His Cross is my salvation, my life, my justification, my sanctification, my all in all.

What you call dodging a bullet, I call clinging to Christ. SDG

Anonymous said...

So because people dismiss Lutheranism for poor reasons, it's no big deal when we drive them away through our own sinfulness? As long as we keep talking about how important Jesus is, pretending that the objectors aren't as Christ-centered as we are? No, something has gone far wrong.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

See, there's a comparison in there... "that the objectors aren't as Christ-centered as we are".

Why the comparison?

Hebrews doesn't instruct "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus more than those people" - it just says, "Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith."

I'm content to be there. Why the comparison of who does more or less?


Of course something has gone far wrong. Have you not read the Scriptures? When do things ever go "right"? After Genesis 3 we see constant troubles. We are sinners in a sinful world, we endure solely by the grace of God.

I see my sin, I see my Savior - thanks be to God who gives me both life and salvation.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"So because people dismiss Lutheranism for poor reasons, it's no big deal when we drive them away through our own sinfulness."

I take sin very seriously. So seriously that I will never think I have vanquish it while I am still in this life.

I do harm all the time -- and always will, no matter how "good" I become. People say that Paul drove folks away, that Luther did, that Augustine did...

Eh. But I know that the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens... and sanctifies the whole Church on earth.

To God alone be the glory!

Anonymous said...

"See, there's a comparison in there... "that the objectors aren't as Christ-centered as we are".

Why the comparison?"

Why, indeed. And yet it exists. Merely stating that one is completely dead and only sees Christ does not keep people from proudly setting themselves up as less self-righteous than their fellow Lutherans. Fellow Lutherans who have not advocated looking inward for salvation, have not stated that the Law sanctifies, have not (I believe) actually said that anyone was without the Holy Spirit and bound for hell, have not suggested charting growth and progress of the Christian life.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Chart it? Perhaps not - but note, pay attention, and focus upon - some do.

And that is all the language and focus of comparison. It is not a statement of the mere and wondrous reality that God causes and works good in us -- but rather it deals with expectations and the like.

(Oh, and I think you misunderstood -- the point was why do *you* automatically make a comparison between morality or spirituality... you are assuming a comparison where none exists.... Now, if my complaints prick your conscience, then I urge you to repent of any vanity you might have and console yourself with the truth that Christ Jesus is your Justification and your Sanctification)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

"Merely stating that one is completely dead and only sees Christ does not keep people from proudly setting themselves up as less self-righteous than their fellow Lutherans."

And this, I would contend, belies your underlying assumption.

My point is precisely that I don't think my works or attitude have ANYTHING to do with how I ought to be judged. Only Christ - to Him I will flee. And I have very little interest in judging others -- I simply will point to Christ.

Why is it always what your neighbor is or isn't doing with you?

Donavon Riley said...

As Anthony Sacramone writes:

We sin, we repent, we receive forgiveness in church, we go back into our vocations, whereupon we sin, we repent, we receive forgiveness in church. Lather (work yourself up), rinse (return to your baptism), repeat.

And he's simply echoing Luther where he noted:

“To progress is always to begin again.”

When you clear away all the verbiage, what it's all about for those who misread the Confessions on sanctification, the new obedience, and good works is moral reform. They want to fix people.

Their talk is Christless, Spiritless, chillier than very ice...

The heart of the matter for Luther and Lutherans is justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. In matters pertaining to God and salvation Christ gets the verbs, all the verbs. Thus, as Luther writes, "God is acting in all his saints to make them will what they do not will."

We preach one thing, the wisdom of the cross, the word of the cross, a stumbling block to the world, is the proper content of Christian preaching, is the Gospel itself. (Sasse)

When I hear those who thump on "progressive sanctification" demonstrate that they not only understand, but subscribe to this central doctrine by which the church stands or falls (the beating heart of the Lutheran Confessions, by the way), then I will take them seriously.

Otherwise, what I read and hear is moral reform under the guise of "confessional Lutheranism."

Donavon Riley said...

As a brother pastor remarked, "I understand the desire to fix people," but the real question that I must ask is "why"? To what end, for what purpose are you wanting to fix them? So that they might better love their neighbor, or so that they might be more like you are?

What I read in all these blogs and comments that follow is that those who sidestep or pay lip service to justification (or want to look at the Christian faith and life from a different angle) don't believe God's declaration of justification to the baptized sinners is effective.

Donavon Riley said...

Likewise... what I am pretty sure of, though, is that, if you're going to lecture me about the great need for Lutherans to preach sanctification as some third thing in addition to the preaching of the Law and the Gospel, you would probably be more convincing if you a) didn't act like such an unsanctified puke while doing so, and b) stopped talking about sanctification in a way that isn't totally wrapped up in Jesus. -- Rev. Tom Messer, When "Preaching Sanctification" Hits the Fan.

Donavon Riley said...

Correction: The above comment was made by Gene Veith in response to Anthony Sacramone... Mea culpa.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

As a note, Donavon - that wasn't what Anthony wrote - it was what Veith wrote over and against him.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Good thing your salvation doesn't rely upon your perfect citations...