Today, I read through the first chapter of Gene Edward Veith Jr.’s The Spirituality Of The Cross. He(Veith) says that an important mark of Lutheran spirituality is facing up to our imperfection. Whether in conduct, intellect or our “seeking” after God, it all falls short. This was in the second paragraph of the first chapter and I had to physically search for a highlighter to mark it for future reference.(forgive me as this is the first non-kindle book I’ve read in quite a while)
While this may not be an exclusively Lutheran thought, I appreciated how the author deals with it right out of the gate. He goes on to talk about the two poles of lutheran spirituality, human sin and God’s Grace and does so in a simple and easy manner. He quickly fleshed out the problems of moralism(doing good deeds), speculation(trying to grasp God simply with our intellect) and mysticism(the idea that you can draw nearer to God in some experiential way outside of His Word)
By the end of the chapter he’s firmly established all these attempts of ours are nothing more than filthy rags and cites Romans 3:10-11 as the death knell for all three attempts to draw near to God on our own abilities.
This is the set up for the Gospel. The beautiful work of Christ on the cross. When we began to truly recognize there is no hope in ourselves and our own abilities, how much more wonderful does this awesome act of God’s Grace become right before our eyes. This Grace poured out for our benefit. Calling us to daily recognize ourselves as sinful, always needing the Savior, who is ever interceding on our behalf.
This is where I think Lutheran theology may differ from other churches or denominations. It appears that Lutherans embrace this tug of war between sinner and saint for the believer, while others make a point of
holding fast to the saintly aspect while tossing aside the sinner(because, you know, that’s what we “used to be”). Churches now like to reconcile that distinction by stating that you’re a saint who sometimes slips, falls or trips into sin or you’ve made a mistake.
I don’t know where the idea of that first started, but if Paul can call himself the chief sinner, there’s no reason why we cannot acknowledge our sin all the more, so that we might recognize even GREATER His Grace poured out for us..
It is indeed a mystery to be both sinner and saint.. To always fight against these two natures as Paul and others have and even at times, lose(which might be considered more of “me” winning) I am thankful that Christ came to rescue SINNERS.. Simply speaking, if I’m not one, then how could he have come for me?
For the longest time I have hidden within me the label of sinner because of the stigma of using that title in certain churches and around certain people. In the past, it has made me feel shame, guilt and hopelessness because it seemed at times, I was the only “sinner” in the room. Lutheran theology is showing me something more. The Preaching of Law and Gospel is showing me something greater.
I feel a sense of freedom to know I am a sinner, but one that by the faith placed in me by my Father in Heaven, has been rescued and redeemed.
I look forward to sharing more thoughts as I read on. I also ask your forgiveness if I fail in my words to adequately explain anything I’ve spoken on. Consider me two steps BELOW a laymen speaking on these things.