Thursday, October 24, 2013

There is No "Can" for the Christian

Here I will be critical of myself, my own thoughts, my own language.  It is that insidious creep of American Style progressive-change-motivational junk impacting how I speak about us in light of God's Word.

Consider this sentence.  "You *can* do good works."

Sounds nice, doesn't it?  See, this is an option for you, see, this is what you might do, see what is possible, if only ________ - and then some preacher fills in the blank with his latest hodge podge of ideas about neighbor-improvement.  And we all become the Infomercial Spokesmen selling the new and better you, but if and only if you call now.  Supplies are limited - life is short, hell is hot.

Listen to the Scriptures speak instead.

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."  1 Peter 2:9-10

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."  Ephesians 2:4-7

or even...

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

Here's my question:

Where's the can?

Where is this discussed in the terms of possibility or motivation or convincing?  It's not.  It's all reality, it's all concrete.  Not you can be a chosen race - you ARE a chosen race.  Not that you can live - you have been made alive.  Not that you can be light - you are light.

Because you are in Christ and Christ is in you.  He is the Light of the Word, He is the One Raised from the dead, He is the Royal Priesthood.  You are now Christ's People.

It's not a question of can - it's a question of who you are.

Are you a sinner?  Yes.  Do you sin daily and often?  Yes.  Do you sin even now?  Yes, for you still are in fallen flesh.  There's no "can" about these.

But there is another truth as well.  Are you forgiven?  Yes?  Has Christ claimed you as His own?  Yes.  Does He dwell in you?  Yes.  Does He bring forth fruit in you daily and often?  Yes.  Do you do good now, so that even the Father in heaven sees only Christ and His Righteousness in you, declaring "Well done, good and faithful servant"?  Yes.

There's no can in this.  It's not a question of what might be - it's not some noble dream.  It is truth.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  We are buried with Him in Baptism, we are His now, and we will be like He is when He comes again.  Simple truth - that's the way it is.


the Old Adam said...

"We are declared righteous and holy, for Jesus' sake (not even for our own sakes).

"It is finished".

"Yeah just can't live anyway you want to...!"

Mike Baker said...

You don't see the can because you left those passages unquoted... St. Paul goes even further than "can". He talks about the good works that Christians have done. Christ also praises the good works done by Christians in several places.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

It's the "further than can" that I was trying to drive at. It's not a mere "the ball is in your court now" approach... it's the announcement of reality. It's not a mere you can do good works - it is you do indeed do good works, for Christ lives in you and the Holy Spirit has given you life.

Mike Baker said...

...And we do participate in those good works according to our ability as redeemed persons. They are God's predestined good works for us to do and the Holy Spirit strengthens us and gives us faith to do them, but it is not as though they happen apart from our own will.

For St Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Clearly we are active participants in these works by faith. We do them and are encouraged to peruse them. We may not notice them at times, but we are actively engaged in their execution.

the Old Adam said...

That's it!

Let's put the emphasis on us!

We all know that Christians do "good works" just like we know that those who are born will breath in air.

But let's make our works the emphasis, so that we can compare ourselves to our neighbors and think we are doing alright.

But wait...this just in. From Luther's Heidelberg Disputation:

" The law of good, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but RATHER HINDERS HIM.

That's ok. Let's keep banging people over the head with the law (works) that that is on their minds, first and foremost.

the Old Adam said...

I should have quoted this one too, also from Luther's H.D.:

"Although human works always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins."

Well...golly gee willikers.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Mike - again, that "can" is not an optional sort of thing.

Look at the verses beforehand - I know how to be brought low and I know... I have learned.

And then there is the Greek - πάντα ἰσχύω ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντί με

Literally it is "I have strength for all things in the One who strengthens me." It's not abstract - and it's not about your potential, it's about Christ and what He does.

It's an indicative verb. I have strength.

All about Christ, not about convincing me.