Bible Think Tank

This site is designed to help you interact with others about God's Word. I further some thoughts we developed during morning and evening gatherings at church. I have my NT translations from the original Greek to English. Also, I have book reviews and other current events.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Joy in the Journey

Martin Luther on Issue of the Christian Journey

"This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road; all does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified."

- Martin Luther


What helpful insight for this journey of faith we are on. Did you hear his heart expressed in these words? We aren't there yet, but we will one day by God's grace be there. There are two extremes in the discussion of sanctification. Both are unhelpful and are anathema.

The Extreme of Entire Holiness

One the one extreme is the teaching that perfection is attainable in this life. In this camp, many even say that unless one is perfect, they cannot be assured of their eternal destination. We ought to strive to attain perfection since God repeats the call dozens of times in the Scriptures "be perfect for I am perfect." What is unhelpful and dangerous to true piety here is the lie. The lie that some Christians are perfect, sinless, finished sounds nice and comforting but let us call to mind what John the apostle taught "if someone says 'I have no sin' he is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1 John 1:8). Conversely, we are growing toward that end goal day by day as the Spirit makes us like Christ.

The Extreme of Laziness

The other extreme is not so much taught as it is lived out by so many Christians. I dare say that most of us settle in this camp than in the first. This extreme is one of apathy. People here recognize the reality that perfection is unattainable in this life. So their reaction is, well, one of disinterest and one of hopelessness. Here people fail to make efforts to grow. Here people wait to Jesus to act when all the time, He in His still small voice whispers "work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). Too many Christians, I fear, have fallen asleep and just don't try anymore.

Now for the truth...

Luther builds for us a third way which is truthful, motivating, and grace-filled. He speaks the frank truth when he says we are not righteous even as Christians. That is to say we are justified... declared righteous... but we are not yet experientially righteous. This is what he had struggled with while in the Roman Church. He always felt unworthy because he was imperfect. The truth of Scripture is that "in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" (Romans 1:16). Did you catch righteousness in this verse that God used to save Martin Luther? Through faith in the Gospel, we receive the righteousness of God. It is not I who am righteous that earns salvation, but rather God who freely grants to me HIS righteousness. Righteousness is a gift from God to those He makes into believers. The message Luther gives to us is not only truthful, but it is also motivating. It is a motivational truth. Too many motivational speakers pump us up with emotion and challenge, but no substance, no truth content. Luther speaks the truth in a motivating way. We are not righteous, but are growing in righteousness. This speaks of the lifelong journey of Christians. We begin this journey at the moment of salvation and continue down this path with God as we progressively become more like Jesus. Paul describes this sanctifying grace this way "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). God began this work of making you holy when He saved you. It is He who will continue that work until Jesus returns. And not only is Paul pitching the idea of progressive sanctification, he also begins by writing "I am confident of this." How reassuring to our souls is God's Holy Word! Because I know that God is doing this great work, I now live life expecting it, looking for it, watching the quiet background for His change of my life. I now see it and am prepared for it. I now readily await the opportunity to say "yes" when He knocks on my heart.


We are all on a journey of faith with God. Where are you on that journey?



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