Minimizing Sin…

“…if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

John 2:1-2

The minimization of sin is the tendency of our mortal nature.  “It can’t be that bad.”  “All I did was… “

In the history of the church, different categorizations of sins came about.  Some may even recall hearing about some of these, for example, mortal sins and venial sins.

Mortal sins were understood to be “larger” or “more damning” sins than venial, which came to be understood as less so.

However, in making any such distinctions of sin, it must be remembered that sin before God is sin, regardless of how you define it.  St. Paul makes no fine distinction between greater or less sins when he writes, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Sin before God is not of a greater or lesser degree.  It is sin, transgression and disobedience against the most Holy God (Romans 3:20; James 1:15; 1 John 3:4).  And its wages (reward) is eternal death.

Such reward is what we all deserve, for any sin is really sin against the Holy God Himself (see 2 Samuel 12:13).  Therefore, it is not “the size” of the sin in our eyes by which we are condemned, but because of “the Who” whom we sin against.

Should we minimize or lessen our sin, we at the same time minimize or lessen our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Yet, we do “have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  Jesus did not pay the penalty of a “little” sin, or one or two.  He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world, even for all of your sins (1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 9:11-15, 24-28).

Jesus is not a partial Savior.  He is a complete Savior, whose blood covers all of your sin.  The Savior you have in Jesus is sufficient to cover all that you have done, do, and will do, for Jesus is greater than your sin.  As great as your sin is, Jesus is all the more your Savior.

Consider this statement of Luther “In the sight of God sins are truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.” (Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Thesis 12). [1]

Should you see your sins as they are before God, so will you repent and look to Christ.  Then your sins will not hurt you.

However, should you see your sins only as little, as defined by you or by the world, so you do not see Christ aright, and your sin will be held against you.

Luther

“Our sins are so great, so infinite and invincible, that the whole world could not make satisfaction for even one of them. Certainly the greatness of the ransom—namely, the blood of the Son of God—makes it sufficiently clear that we can neither make satisfaction for our sin nor prevail over it. The force and power of sin is amplified by these words: “Who gave Himself for our sins.” We are indifferent, and we regard sin as something trivial, a mere nothing. Although it brings with it the sting and remorse of conscience, still we suppose that it has so little weight and force that some little work or merit of ours will remove it. But we should note here the infinite greatness of the price paid for it. Then it will be evident that its power is so great that it could not be removed by any means except that the Son of God be given for it. Anyone who considers this carefully will understand that this one word “sin” includes the eternal wrath of God and the entire kingdom of Satan, and that sin is no trifle.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p33).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, look not upon my indifference to your law and my sin before You.  Incline Your ear to me for the sake of Your only begotten Son.  Forgive me for my disregard and my little concern for offending Your Holy majesty.  Bring me to right repentance and firm trust in Your compassionate mercy, that I believe Christ rightly and abide in Your presence for all eternity.  Amen.


[1]Martin Luther, vol. 31, Luther’s Works, Vol. 31 : Career of the Reformer I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1957).

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New Additions to Apostles’ Library

Three books have been recently added to the library of Apostles Lutheran Church:

1. Day, Bart and others (eds.). Lord Jesus Christ, Will You Not Stay. Houston: The Feuerhahn Festschrift Committee, 2002.

A Festschrift is “a collection of articles by the colleagues, former students, etc. of a noted scholar, published in his or her honor.”   The scholar, beloved professor, churchman, and theologian for whom this book was published was Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn, on the occasion of his 65th birthday.  Dr. Feuerhahn served as Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.

This collection of essays, though assembled in honor of a theologian of the church, are not really about the man.  They are about theology, and theology in practice.  Of course, articles of a historical nature are included, but so are articles about the church’s liturgy, doctrine, and life.

Contributors include Revs Henry Gerike, John Kleinig, Robert Kolb, Norman Nagel, John Pless, Larry Rast, and Jon Vieker.

This work serves well in honoring a confessional Lutheran, a Christian who loves His Lord, the Lord’s doctrine, and the Lord’s church.  The reader will recognize this in these articles, and will grow in appreciation for the rich heritage of liturgy and doctrine which is ours as Lutherans.

 

2. Mayer, F.E.  The Religious Bodies of America.  St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956.

In the Preface to the first edition, Mayer writes that he “has endeavored to observe the following theological principles: an unqualified submission to the divine truth as it is revealed in the sacred records of Holy Scripture; acceptance of the Word of God as the absolute and final standard and rule of all Christian proclamation; the conviction that the Lutheran Confessions area  full and correct witness to this divinely revealed truth; a deep concern to preserve and cultivate the true ecumenical sprit which recognizes the spiritual unity of all Christians through faith in Christ, transcending all denominational lines, but which at the same time is conscious of the obligation to censure and to correct every doctrinal trend which threatens to undermine or destroy the unity of faith” (vii).

This book, though outdated, (an updated edition is available) contains much by which the reader can benefit.  Mayer appropriately distinguishes the various Christian denominations in our day according to their respective doctrines, without attacking or criticizing.  He notes histories and primary source documents and offers a “widened view” of differences.

From the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to Lutheran and Reformed churches, and more, Mayer “endeavors to classify all bodies, to trace the historical origin and development of each denominational family, and to show how each related family maintains certain basic theological premises and observes certain practices that figured prominently in historical development.”  In doing so, he “enables the reader to understand and to appreciate why each church body believes and practices as it does” (4).

This is most helpful for the Christian today.  Many in Christendom assume that the differences among Christians are of minor significance.  Mayer demonstrates that this is not the case.  He helps to foster greater recognition between truth and error, and, gives more understanding as to why we, as Lutherans, and others, believe as we do.

 

3. Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy, A Study of the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.   Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

A greater understanding of the why and how of worship of the Christian church is not without merit.  The liturgy always has a place in the Church of Christ, not only historically, but practically as well.  What the Christian congregation does together in worship is not isolated from other congregations.  Nor are the parts of the Service derived only for the purpose of “filling time”.  They have Scripture as their basis, and as such, they direct us to Christ, the center of Scripture.

If you ever had questions about the history of the liturgies we use, where the liturgies came from, what they mean, and why we use them, this book may be of great assistance.

The Lutheran Church is considered a liturgical church for a reason.  She did not all of a sudden appear on the scene in a vacuum.  She has a rich history, and a rich liturgy.

Today’s Lutheran has no need to be ashamed either to be called Lutheran or liturgical, for in the liturgy, God serves us with the gift of His Word (Service of the Word), and then with the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood (Service of the Sacrament), and to confess the Lutheran faith is only to confess the Christian faith.  We need not be ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16), nor do we need be ashamed of Christ, who is the center of our liturgies and our confession.

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