Steal Away Home

The superhero film genre shows no signs of slowing down. Every month a new DC or Marvel film tries to quench our thirst for heroes. We were made for heroes. We need them. The problem is we lack authentic, relatable, real-life heroes who show us what a life of passion, love, virtue, courage looks like in a flesh-and-blood human being. Superman and Wonder Woman might leave us looking for someone to save us, but they are so fundamentally unlike us that they fail to provide fallen human heroes we can emulate.  Continue reading Steal Away Home

Favorite Books From 2017

Ecclesiastes 12:12 says, “Of making many books there is no end.” Today, we might add, “Of the year-end list-making for books there is no end.” All such lists are faulty because they’re limited to both the list-makers preferences and the works they read (and didn’t read) in a given year. Nevertheless, I find such lists helpful in for pointing me to books I might have missed but might want to add to my ever-growing Amazon wishlist.

Below are a few of my favorites I read in 2017 (not necessarily published this year).

Continue reading Favorite Books From 2017

Looking Back at Puritanism (with blanket statements)

ryken
While not comprehensive, here’s a short list from Leland Ryken’s Worldly Saints of the contributions and weaknesses of the Puritans.

Contributions of Puritanism
• A God-centered life; all of life is sacred because all of live is lived to God
• God can be seen in small things and big things, ordinary and extraordinary
• Be active and expectant of God working
• The Christian life is practical and must be lived.
• A focus on inner realities and not just external appearances; root issues
• Able to balance things often polarized; head & heart, activism & caution
• Simplicity. A simplicity that exalts, not diminishes

Weaknesses of Puritanism
• An inadequate view of recreation
• Could lead to too many rules or strictness in exactness
• Verbose, too wordy
• Partisan spirit; lack of sensitivity to other groups

This also isn’t comprehensive, but here’s a list of what I see as a few of the reasons why I love the Puritans and what their legacy has been.

Legacy of Puritanism
• Pious evangelical theology.
o Bible governs all of life and leads to communion with God and growing in holiness.
o Spiritual heirs: Isaac Watts, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd Jones
o Westminster Confession & Catechisms, Savoy Declaration, Cambridge Declaration
o Christianity as a religion touching head (knowledge), heart (affections), and hands (practice)
• Its reforming emphasis helped lead to Great Awakening and other revivals.
• The family dynamic in the West.
• In some ways, the formation of the United States—republicanism and democracy.
• America’s early institutions: Harvard, Yale, Princeton.
• Banner of Truth and Puritan literature.

Why I Appreciate the Puritans
• A perspective different than 21st century
• No separation between academy and church; the leading theologians and influencers were pastors
• They thought deeply and felt deeply
• They sit on a doctrine or thought and press out its conclusions
• All theology is practical and all practice is theological
• They wrote amidst hard circumstances; persecution, plague, hiding, sickness, war
• They hold up both the glory of God and communion with God

Puritans vs Quakers

nuttallI recently finished Geoffrey Nuttall’s The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience. It was overall a very helpful book on understanding some of the key theological and practical issues that 17th century Puritans and their opponents were wrestling with. Throughout the book Nuttall compares the conservative Puritans and nonconformists (largely though not exclusively relying on Sibbes, Petto, Owen, Baxter, T Goodwin, and Howe), the “radical Puritans” and Separatists (Saltmarsh,
Llwyd, Ebury), and the Quakers (Fox, Dewsbury).

One of the dividing lines between Puritans and Quakers was the relationship between the Spirit and the Word. The Puritans followed Calvin (see my past blog ) in the indivisible connection between the Spirit of God and the Word of God, whereas George Fox and the Quakers allowed for a separation between the two. What this led too in the Quakers was an elevating the Spirit within over the Word of God that we’ve received, which then quickly progressed to a trust in inner impulses over the written and authoritative Word of God. The relationship between the Spirit and the Word wasn’t a 17th century matter but is a Church matter…in every century (see past blog on Spirit and Word in Acts). How does God speak to us, lead us, and open our eyes? How does the written Word become alive in our hearts and minds? Do we trust first something inside of us which may or may not be the Spirit or do we trust first what we know is the Spirit since He has spoken through the inspired Word? These are questions that aren’t talked about enough in churches today but are absolutely essential for how we live the Christian life. Here are a few important thoughts and quotes from the book on the relationship between the Spirit and the Word as a fault-line between Puritans and Quakers.

Nuttall summarizes the Puritan’s stance as follows: “The normal, central emphasis throughout Puritanism is upon the closest conjunction of Spirit and Word” (23). What this means, in sum, is that God’s Spirit always speaks to us today in, by, or through the Word of God. Also, the Word of God, written or spoken, is only made effective or enlightened in the reader/hearer by the Spirit’s illumination of the Word. This means the Spirit and the Word always work in tandem. The Spirit has spoken authoritatively and infallibly through the Word, and the Word needs the Spirit’s illumination for it to penetrate our minds and hearts. This neither set the Spirit over the Word nor do it set the two in opposition. Rather, since it is the Spirit who inspired the Word we cannot and should not imagine the Spirit now contradicting himself or setting up a different authority. Richard Sibbes explains it like this: “the breath of the Spirit in us is suitable to the Spirit’s breathing in the Scriptures; the same Spirit doth not breathe contrary motions” (23).

This is immensely helpful in testing our faith and experience. How do we test something we feel “led to do” or we think “God is saying to us” through an internal prompting? “Hitherto, God’s Word in Scripture has been treated as the criterion by which to test faith and experience. Now, the Holy Spirit is introduced as the touchstone by which all else is to be tried, including the Bible itself….Throughout the years from 1650 onwards there is a perpetual controversy, whether the Word is to be tried by the Spirit, or the Spirit by the Word” (28). Here Nuttall summarizes the issue between the two groups: do we test the internal Spirit by the external Word or do we test the Word by the Spirit? In other words, do we take our internal promptings we suggest are from the Spirit and submit them to the Word of God, or do we validate the Word of God by what we feel or experience as an internal leading?

The author continues: “Cause for sorrow arose from the Quakers tendency to contrast (as it seemed) even to oppose the Spirit in themselves to the Spirit in the Word, and to treat the former, not the latter, as the criterion. One chief charge against them was the charge which had already been brought against the Grindletonians, namely, that they held ‘that their spirit is not to be tried by the Scripture, but the Scripture by their spirit.’ The Associated Ministers of Cumberland and Westmorland, for instance, complained of the Quakers that ‘the Scripture binds not them, if not set on their hearts by a present impulse” (30).

We can see here both a theological and a practical problem. The theological problem was noticed by Sibbes and will be exposed in the next couple of Puritan quotes. It is that the Spirit of God has authoritatively and infallibly spoken in the Word of God so he would not speak differently in us. Because our internal promptings are not infallible and harder to discern what is from us and what is from the Spirit we must test them by the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word are inseparable and so the Spirit will be consistent in what he says. The practical problem is this quickly tumbles into a blind approval of one’s sinful desires and actions. If the Scripture is no longer binding, and what is binding is a present impulse in my heart, than it quickly becomes easy to dismiss what God’s Word has plainly stated in favor of what my heart wants. There is always a connection between separating the Spirit and the Word and rise of Antinomianism. The same link in the Quakers was the same link in the Antinomians of the 17th century. The Puritans were not only safeguarding the connection between the Word and the Spirit but they were promoting the holiness of the Church. Here are a few quotes typical of Puritan responses.

John Owen insists on the conjunction between the two: “he that would utterly separate the Spirit from the Word had as good burn his Bible” (31). Richard Hollinworth writes: “God’s people are led by the Spirit, when they are led by the word inspired by the Spirit, and they are taught by God, when taught by His Book” (31). Richard Baxter is clear about which source to trust if we feel any discrepancy between the Spirit in the Word and the Spirit in our hearts. “We must not try the Scriptures by our most spiritual apprehensions, but our apprehensions by the Scriptures…This trying [testing] the Spirit by the Scriptures, is not a setting of the Scriptures above the Spirit itself; but is only a trying of the Spirit by the Spirit; that is, the Spirit’s operations in ourselves and his revelations to any pretenders now, by the Spirit’s operations in ourselves and his revelations to any pretenders now, by the Spirit’s operations in the apostles and by their revelations for our use. For they and not we are called foundations of the church” (32).

Finally, John Howe provides his thoughts on the matter. “It’s not that God doesn’t speak extraordinarily to people, but that this is both not what is ordinary and to be expected and even in extraordinary cases it is never against what He has already spoken in the Word. “We speak here not of what God can do, but of what he does do…Nor do we speak of what he more rarely does but of he does ordinarily, or what his more usual course and way of procedure is in dealing with the spirits of men. The supreme power binds not his own hands. We may be sure the inward testimony of the Spirit is never opposite to the outward testimony of his gospel which is the Spirit’s testimony also;…he never says anything in this matter by his Spirit to the hearts of men repugnant to what the same Spirit has said in his word” (33).

Here are a few implications from this discussion.

  • The Spirit and the Word are inseparably joined. The Spirit will speak to us by, in, and through the very same Word that He inspired and we also need the Spirit to be the one speaking to us when we open the Word. The Spirit will never speak or lead us contrary to the Word and we should not expect him to speak to us apart form the Word. Conversely, the Word is illuminated by the Spirit and so we must ask his help to take what He’s said and drive  it into our minds and hearts.
  • Test what you feel or think you experience by the Word. Any leadings, impulses, or speaking by God internally to you must be tested against and judged by the sure Word of God. God might be prompting you internally but it also might not be God, so test the internal Spirit in you by the external Spirit in the Word.
  • Be wary of modern movement that downplay the authority of the Word for life and godliness. Some of the present forms (emphasis on some) of free-grace antinomianism and “new covenant theology” tend to separate the Spirit and the Word so that we rely too much on our internal leadings and not enough on God’s fixed Word. The Spirit of adoption who speaks to us is the Spirit of sanctification that changes us. The Spirit that applies grace to our hearts is the same Spirit that leads us into making war on the flesh, pursuing conformity to Christ, and enjoying communion with Christ.

 

All quotations are from Geoffrey F. Nuttall. The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1947.

Philippians and Richard Baxter

Baxter
This week my church begins preaching through the book of Philippians for the rest of the summer. The opening section gives a glimpse into the heart of Paul for the believers in Philippi. While the beginning of Philippians shows us more of the Apostle Paul it also shows us what hearts united in the gospel feel for one another. The love for Jesus and “partnership in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) lead to holding one another in our hearts (1:7) and yearning for one another with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:9). As I read Geoffrey Nuttall’s The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience I stumbled upon a letter from Richard Baxter. This short snippet from Baxter’s letter (1658) to Barbara Lambe demonstrates how Baxter, maybe the most pastoral of Puritan pastors, also shared a love for other believers he never met that is created by a mutual partnership in the gospel and common bond in Jesus Christ. After Baxter received a letter from Mrs. Lambe he responded with the following.

“Dear Mrs. Lambe,
How true did I feel it in the reading of your Husband’s Lines and yours…that unacquaintedness with the face is no hindrance to the Communion of the Saints. So much of Christ and his Spirit appeared to me in both your writings, that my soul in the reading of them was drawn out into as strong a stream of love, and closing unity of Spirit, as almost ever I felt in my life. There is a connaturality [relationship created because of the same origin] of Spirit in the Saints that will work by sympathy, and by closing uniting inclinations…as a load-stone will exercise its attractive force through a stone wall. I have an inward sense in my soul, that told me so feelingly in the reading of your lines, that your husband and you and I are one in our dear Lord…”
[1]

[1] Geoffrey F. Nuttall, The Holy Spirit in Puritan Faith and Experience (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947), 143.

Lent: History, Cautions, and Benefits

For those groups—and there are a lot of them in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism—that hold to a liturgical calendar and its celebrated seasons and days, Lent begins the pilgrimage to Jesus’ cross and resurrection. For most in the West, the season begins with Ash Wednesday and takes place over the next 40 days (Sundays excluded). Can Lent be abused or misused? Yes, of course. Can Lent be observed in a helpful way? I think so. It’s certainly not prescribed in the Bible so we shouldn’t see it as a God-ordained means of grace or as required for Christians, but at the same time, if done in the right way it might be a helpful teaching opportunity that prepares our hearts to feast on the Bread of Life, Jesus. Here’s a very brief explanation as to what Lent is, what is dangerous about it, and what might be helpful about it.

Continue reading Lent: History, Cautions, and Benefits

A Framework For Understanding Puritanism

pilgrimThis famous picture by William Blake of John Bunyan’s character in The Pilgrim’s Progress highlights some key ideas in the mind of a Puritan. He’s on a pilgrimage away from the city of destruction under God’s wrath and headed towards his true home, sin and guilt are heavy on his back, and his eyes are fixed on the Word of God which is leading his path. That’s one quick snapshot of how a Puritan might have understood his spiritual journey. As almost every book and article on Puritanism explains in its first few pages, defining a Puritan or the movement of Puritanism is challenging. It wasn’t a monolithic movement, it spanned more than one hundred years and multiple countries, and the focus varied over time and in different locations. For that reason, most authors are hesitant to actually define Puritanism and instead they’ll offer characteristics.

The English Reformation essentially lasted from 1520-1558 and Puritanism essentially lasted from 1558-1689, although there is much more overlap between the two. An extended timeline on English Puritanism can be found at Christian History. Here are a few lists of characteristics and descriptions of Puritanism. They might not capture everything but they go a long way in conceptually building a framework of Puritanism.

“Puritanism must be understood in two ways: first, as the endeavor to effect thoroughgoing reforms of ecclesiastical practice, and second, as the attempt at a godly life.” [1]
“Puritansim was essentially a movement for church reform, pastoral renewal and evangelism, and spiritual revival.” [2]
“A ‘Puritan’ was one who, politically, reacted against the via media of the Elizabethan Settlement in favor of a more thorough reformation in England; who, socially, promoted evangelism, catechism, and spiritual nourishment through the preaching and teaching of the Bible; who, theologically, held the views of Luther’s doctrine of faith (sola fide), Calvin’s doctrine of grace (sola gratia), and the Reformers’ doctrine of Scripture (sola scriptura); and who, devotionally, strove for personal holiness, a practical faith, communion with God, and the glory of God in all things.” [3]

Characteristics from Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken
1) A religious movement (characterized by a strong moral consciousness)
2) A reform movement (reformation of self, church, and state)
3) A visionary movement (a vision of a reformed society)
4) A protest movement (against Roman Catholicism and at times Anglicanism)
5) A minority movement (minority of population; persecuted minority)
6) A lay movement (the lay Puritan participated in all these characteristics)
7) A biblical movement (the Bible was central to everything)
8) A political and economic movement (politics and religion were intertwined)

7 Characteristics from The Devoted life by Kapic & Gleason
1) A movement of spirituality.
2) Stressed experiencing communion with God.
3) The Bible was the sole authority and supreme source for truth and guidance in life.
4) Augustinian in their emphasis upon human sinfulness and divine grace.
5) Emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.
6) Troubled by sacramentalism of Catholicism and its remnants in Anglicanism.
7) At least partially a revival (reform) movement.

Footnotes:
[1] Ernest Kevan, The Grace of Law, 305.
[2] J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 28.
[3] Brian Cosby, “Towards A Definition of ‘Puritan’ and ‘Puritanism,'” 307.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (chapters 7-8)

sibbesI’ve been blogging my way through The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. It’s only a couple of chapters a week and I’m now halfway through the short book. Books are like movies in that it’s hard not to make your most recent favorite your all-time favorite. The temptation to overstate things notwithstanding, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite books. Sibbes was known as “the sweet dropper” and throughout this book the sweetness of the gospel is thick. He wrote against the Catholic (“popish”) remains in religion such as a reliance upon external behaviors without consideration of the sincerity of the heart and ritualistic forms of penance instead of genuine repentance. Later Puritans outside a heavy Catholic context would write with other issues at the forefront.

In Chapter 7 of The Bruised Reed, Sibbes addresses two main concerns. First, he investigates some things that might hinder comfort, and secondly, he answers the question whether our weaknesses should keep us from our Christian duties. In the first section, he addresses four ways our comfort and assurance might be hindered in the person who is a “smoking flax.” Whither those hindrances come from Satan or from within the answer is the same: fly to Jesus and open up your complaints to him. As he mentions earlier in the book when discussing the bruised reed, Sibbes here mentions that remaining sin and a struggle of comfort can be an opportunity to be honest about our helpless estate and lean harder upon the mercy and supply of Christ. The realization of the weakness of the flesh can lead to a more steadfast watching and purging of the flesh, and a thirst for pardoning grace from God. The bright compassion and grace of Christ can be seen more clearly against the backdrop of our dark hearts. Furthermore, the fact that there is in us a discontent with our weak state of grace and an unhappiness to remain might conflict us in the moment but it gives comfort by its evidence that we are not happy in our sin. Such is a mark of the work of the Spirit in us.

In the second section of chapter 7 he encourages believers to keep performing their duties even when they don’t feel like it. Though their faith might be weak and they struggle to believe anything they do might actually change the situation or be pleasing to God, don’t let feelings trump the truth. Having seen the compassion of Christ to a bruised reed and smoking flax throughout the whole book, “it should encourage us to duty that Christ will not quench the smoking flax, but blow on it till it flames” (50). The image their is striking. Though there is but a spark of grace in us, Christ will stir this spark into flame by gently breathing into it. Sibbes gives the example of prayer. Although our efforts in prayer might be weak and our thoughts unclear and confused as we pray, this should not keep us from praying. Weakness in prayer is always better than not praying, and the same is true in all Christian duties. “Christ looks more at the good in them which he means to cherish than the ill in them which he means to abolish…Christ loves to taste of the good fruits that come from us, even though they will always savour of our old nature” (50). Going back to the example of prayer, Sibbes preached these words to his congregation: “There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray” (51).

In chapter 8 Sibbes asks where these discouragements come from. From what he’s already said about God he reasons with us that these discouragements cannot come from the Father, the Son, or the Spirit. They cannot come from the Father because he will “pity us as a father pities his children (Psa. 103:13)” (56). They cannot come from Christ. “We see how Christ bestows the best fruits of his love on persons who are mean in condition, weak in abilities, and offensive for infirmities” (56). And finally, they cannot come from the Spirit because he is our comforter (Rom. 8:26; John 14:16). “If he convinces of sin, and so humbles us, it is that he may make way for his office of comforting us” (57). That conviction is quite different from the discouragement the author has in mind. So, if they do not come from God then what is the source? “Discouragements, then, must come from ourselves and from Satan” (57).

The next chapter-“Believe Christ, Not Satan”-will continue on with this line of thought. In his last sentence Sibbes exhorts us to flee from our Accuser and run to our Advocate. “In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy and a murderer” (61).

Stephen Charnock on God’s Eternality & Immutability: It Matters

CharnockI get it. Thinking about the attributes of God can be tough work, but it is work with a payoff. As our minds do the heavy lifting our hearts reap the benefits of bigger affections. We often think of God in small, bland, and largely insignificant terms. We bring God to our level as we construct our view of him by tiny, often misguided thoughts. Thinking biblically—i.e., theologically—quickly leads to our view of God being shattered as we see him getting larger and larger in immensity, glory, and holiness.

Thinking through God’s attributes also helps us know how God relates to us. A firmer grasp on who God is directly relates to who God is for me. Most of God’s self-revelation in Scripture is relational, or covenantal. God explains himself in the context of how he relates to his creation, especially his own people. The fact that God reveals himself not primarily in philosophical or scientific terms but in relational terms should convince us he wants our theology about him to directly influence our relationship with him.[1}

I’ve started slowly reading A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life.[2] Is there any other way to read the Puritans than slowly? Chapter 4 concentrates on Stephen Charnock’s (1628-1680) Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God. Charnock, like any good theologian, doesn’t talk about God’s attributes in isolation from each other as if sometimes God is more of one attribute than the other. Instead, God is all of his attributes to their fullest extent at once. Furthermore, these attributes are actually God’s essence. God isn’t simply loving, but he is love. “For though we conceive the essence of God as the subject, and the attributes of God as faculties and qualities in that subject, according to our weak model…yet truly and really there is no distinction between his essence and attributes; one is inseparable from the other. His power and wisdom are is his essence.”[3]

God’s eternity teaches that there never was a time when he was not. There is no beginning or end to God. “His duration is as endless as his essence is boundless.”[4] Here is one description Charnock provides.

“[God] is not in his essence this day what he was not before, or will be the next day and year what he is not now. All his perfections are most perfect in him every moment; before all ages, after all ages. As he hath his whole essence undivided in every place, as well as in an immense space; so he hath all his being in one moment of time, as well as in infinite intervals of time….He is what he always was, and he is what he always will be.” [5]

As the quote indicates, there is a clear synthesis between God’s eternality and God’s immutability. God always has and will exist (eternal) and he always has and will exist in the fullness of his perfections (immutable). There is no change in God because he eternally exists as the whole essence of all his perfections which are “most perfect in him every moment.” Beeke and Jones quote Charnock to explain how these two attributes of God relate. “Immutability in God is a ‘glory belonging to all the attributes of God.’ God has attributes and perfections that are different, but ‘immutability is the center wherein they all unite.’ What God is, He is eternally and unchangeably.”[6]

Doctrine for Life
Let’s briefly consider how God’s eternality and immutability are what the subtitle of the book suggests, doctrine for life. If God is all of his perfections perfectly—all the time—then I never have to pit his attributes against one another. Nor should I worry if at any given moment he is acting out one of his attributes more than the other. Because every person I know is the opposite of this, unless I intentionally remind myself God is not like us I will think of him in finite and false terms. For example, how I treat you might depend on not only the day but the moment you run into me. If I had some great coffee and an easy drive into work, then I’ll probably be in a good mood and so I’ll act with more grace and patience than normal. However, if my morning gets off to a rough start or the day goes south quickly, then you’re more likely to get the impatient and graceless me.

When I’m not thinking rightly about God I start believing his relationship with me and how he treats me must be similar. Maybe God’s had enough of my failings and is tired of me not getting it—and so I imagine I’m in danger of God deciding to give up or lash out on me. When trials or seemingly avoidable pains are placed on my path I can quickly conclude God is not as good or caring as he used to be. Our faith operates from our theology, and unfortunately our theology often starts to err as it’s built upon false thoughts from our own minds instead of truthful thoughts from the mouth of God (Bible). This is why theology is vital for all Christians. We study the Bible so we can know God better and more rightly.

The truth is it takes work on our part to think of God rightly and not piece together a view of God based upon how fallen people act and upon my own thinking and assumptions. Studying God’s eternality and immutability does me good because it reminds me God is not like me or anyone else I’ve come across. He doesn’t relate to me according to up and down moods he’s in but according to his unchanging and perfect character. If he is perfect in all his attributes and is them perfectly all the time, then I can trust he always deals with me according to his goodness, care, and love. In the midst of either frustratingly confusing circumstances or unbearable pain I might not have answers as to the why but I know the Who. During seasons of life where things seem trivial, or where “darkness hides his lovely face,” or even when our hearts are bursting with gratitude, I can know that God has not changed and he is not being anything other than the fullness of God. As James tells us, there is no variation or shifting shadows in God (James 1:17). In you and I, yes; but not in God. That type of theology not only evokes adoration in the moment but it sustains us for a lifetime.

For Christians who tend to shrink because of weak hearts, doubting minds, troubling fears, or soft consciences, we would do well to commit ourselves to studying God’s attributes—especially his love, grace, compassion, and care. As we start to grow in our theology of what God is really like it becomes an immense encouragement to know he is all those attributes all of the time to their fullest extent. God is always all of his perfect perfections.

Footnotes
[1]. This of course isn’t to suggest God’s self-revelation doesn’t involve philosophy or science, and it certainly doesn’t suggest God is not accurate in his revelation. It simply conveys that God’s revelation comes in the context of relationship. He reveals Himself as Maker, Sovereign, and Redeemer.
[2]. Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012).
[3]. Stephen Charnock, Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God (London: Thomas Tegg, 1840), 242. Found in A Puritan Theology, 65.
[4]. Charnock, Existence and Attributes, 175-76. Found in A Puritan Theology, 63.
[5]. Charnock, Existence and Attributes, 178. Found in A Puritan Theology, 63
[6]. A Puritan Theology, 64. Emphasis mine.

Martin Luther on the Christian Life

luther It’s never too early in October for a Martin Luther plug. I just gulped down my first pumpkin pie slice of the year so Reformation Day can’t be too far away.

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg. It’s slightly less dramatic than it sounds, although that’s not to diminish Luther’s boldness. It wasn’t like putting up a flyer at your local Starbucks but it also wasn’t like pinning it on the White House door. Think of it along the lines of an ad in the paper. Since the church remained the center of society, notices were often nailed to the church doors. These theses were meant to call the Church back to living in line with God’s Word instead of the drastically off-course path Rome had taken it on.

Theses number 1 reads as follows:
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

This idea of the Christian life as daily repentance remained a constant part of Luther’s teaching, and for many people it continues to aid their understanding of the Christian life. Even our best deeds carry hints of corruption. Rather than feeling crushed by this it should free us to pursue sanctification in Christ without the need to be perfect. Repentance isn’t relegated to conversion. No, the Christian life is a life of daily repentance.

Robert Kolb provides the following commentary on Luther’s understanding of repentance.
“Repentance is an earnest attack on the old creature and an entering into new life. In light of the passive righteousness of faith, confession is no longer something that we do for God while trying to render the appropriate recompense to God for our sins (that would be to deny the work of Christ). Instead, by the activity of confessing sins, Christians empty their hands of their sins. It is a way of carrying out the blessed exchange. In confessing their sins, Christians may say, ‘Lord, I don’t want to hang on to my sins anymore. You take them. Get them out of my sight.’ Only when their hands and hearts are empty are they in a position to receive the benefits of Christ” Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 99.