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October - 2013 Why Lutheran

Why Lutheran

As we find ourselves in October, approaching our Reformation observances, it is a time when we can reflect (and celebrate) why we are Lutheran.  Now of course there are those who will say, “I was born Lutheran, raised Lutheran and will die Lutheran,” settling the matter right then and there.   Certainly having the privilege of growing up in a faithful Lutheran home is a blessing, but as the Pharisees found out, blood and heritage are not enough.   Sometimes I think that God brings in “outsiders” such as myself to help point out and remind lifelong Lutherans of the incredible, rich treasures they have with their Lutheran heritage.  I could say much on this topic, but I think it all boils down to how we emphasize and practice Jesus at the center.  That above all, we poor, weak, miserable sinners keep our eyes on Christ and depend on Him alone.

Perhaps a story from Luther’s life might illustrate this: Once while visiting with his Augustinian mentor Johann von Staupitz, Luther, as he had for much of his life, had been struggling with his faith and love of God. He often would worry if he had confessed enough of his sins, or performed enough good works to be assured of pleasing God and avoiding His wrath and judgment. Yet no matter how much he did, he never felt that it had been enough -- that God was still angry with him.

Now when Staupitz counseled the troubled Luther to stop worrying so much and just look to Jesus and love God, Luther replied: “Love God? I hate Him!”   Did Luther just say that?  Yes he did.  The troubled monk had grown up with the image of a wrathful, angry God. A God of Holiness Who was just waiting for an excuse to drop the ax of judgment and send Martin to hell. With that image in mind, no wonder Luther was frustrated and fearful of God and said what he did.

When you think about it though, that is how we too at times, deep down can still view God –fearful of Him. Wondering if we have really done enough, loved enough, have prayed enough, been faithful enough to stave off His anger and make sure that we get to go to heaven.

That happens to be part of our fallen natures, the sinful flesh that just can’t simply trust in and love God, but must try and be the “god” of our life and work our own way back into heaven. We may not think of it in those terms, but we all can struggle with the attitude that we “still have to do our part”. But there is no “part” for us to do! It is finished! Jesus accomplished our salvation once and for all at the Cross and the empty tomb!

Now I know you know this truth. You confess it and believe it every Sunday. You might be saying: “Oh, Pastor, we’ve already heard this”. And yet, this truth can’t be repeated to us often enough! We have a powerful enemy that seeks to deceive us and destroy our faith and trust in the saving work of Jesus -- the one that is always trying to get us to look to ourselves and our efforts rather that Christ and what He has done in our life. And we have a corrupt and fallen nature that seeks to be “God” of our own life -- that also wants us to trust in ourselves and our efforts instead of Christ alone. But the moment we start to look at our efforts, or look at ourselves, that is when doubt and fear creeps in, for when could we possibly ever “do enough” to please God?

What a tremendously freeing truth of the Gospel that was once again brought to light through Martin Luther! God grant us the grace to always hang onto this truth and look outside of ourselves and rely simply (by His grace) on the grace and forgiveness of God given to us by His Son.  We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus alone.  That is why we are Lutheran. 
Pastor Reiser

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