Tag Archives: justification

Justified and sanctified in Jesus

I have been asked on a regular basis if Lutheranism is Christian. For all the denominations and “independents” and so many of these faux attempts at Christianity, YES! All of these other denominations and other presumed attempts at Christianity came from Martin Luther. In fact if your non-denominational “pastor” has any training at all (so many don’t and just presume to hand out a shingle calling themselves a church) but if he has any grounding in genuine Christianity he will, on a regular basis, quote Martin Luther. Dr Luther is the one who called out and broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman’s were right on one score, you open up Christianity, and you risk having a lot of presumptuous people thinking they know the drill who will pose themselves as “Christian” teachers and preachers. On the other hand the Roman Church was so wrong on many counts and we see those errors seeping into Reformed Christianity. Mainly in terms of “works-righteousness”. That is the idea that while Jesus saved us, you still have to do a few things to get you over that line into salvation. Make no mistake, we can reject our salvation. But as one Concordia seminary professor puts it, “God does the verbs”. That is God does what is necessary for us to be saved, there isn’t one thing we can add to what Jesus did for us to have salvation. It’s either all about him and nothing about me, or salvation doesn’t happen. There is also what is called antinomianism. That is that the Law doesn’t have any effect on Christians, we can go about and do just whatever we want and because of the grace of salvation, we’re forgiven of everything while we just flout God’s Law. There is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for. That doesn’t mean we can just go off and do whatever we like. There are consequences to our sin and at some point God decides that you really don’t have the fruits of the Spirit and that you’re just not really saved.

The point of this blog, though, is about the Lutheran teaching in terms of how our salvation is worked out. So for you who like to play at being a Christian, take some serious note here. We are saved because we are justified in Jesus. Justified, coming from the root word “justice” that we are completely innocent, completely guiltless because Jesus paid the price of our sin by dying on the cross. He took the punishment that we should have in order for us to be free of the guilt of our sin.

We are also sanctified, from the Latin “sanctus” completely holy, set apart, totally God’s man or woman. Again, that is only because we have been clothed in the holiness of Christ because of His sacrifice for us. If we are not completely justified, if we are not completely sanctified, and the only way that can happen is in Jesus, then we can not be saved. We cannot die and come into the presence of a completely holy and innocent God, God the Father of Jesus Christ.

One of the greatest Lutheran teachers, was C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church in the United States. I’ve started a book by Concordia Publishing House which is a collection of Walther’s writings in a daily devotional, translated by Gerhard Grabenhofer.

Walther writes: “Justification happens in a blink of an eye. As soon as a sinner, in despair, recognizes his sin and desires grace and redemption, God speaks a word in heaven and justification takes place.” ( p 670) Walther wrote in the mid 1800s and I really like the style of writing from that period and Walther doesn’t disappoint. Likewise, he doesn’t pull any punches.

While we are immediately justified in Jesus, there is a process of sanctification, of growing in holiness. “Sanctification, on the contrary, does not happen suddenly. It occurs gradually and it continues until the end of our life. Justification is immediately perfect. Each one who is justified instantly receives the full forgiveness of his sins, the complete righteousness of Christ, and a new status as a child of God. Sanctification, which follows justification , begins weakly and grows until death, but it never comes to perfection.” ( pp 670-671).

Having said that I would point out that while we are, hopefully, always growing in sanctification, when we die as directed by God, the Lord of our life, we come into His presence completely justified, completely sanctified, completely righteous, but not due to anything we’ve done, only due to what Jesus has done for us. In baptism we become that new child in God, therefore we become completely justified. Baptism is the “new birth” in Jesus. We become completely saved in Jesus. Yes people are baptized, then become as lost as anyone else in the world, through their own bad choices. But not because God failed them in anyway, they chose the way of the world, and the way of the world is sin, death and eternal condemnation in Hell. Sure, lots of people would like to amend that and make it according to their own plan, but this is God’s plan and that’s just the way it’s going to happen. You can continue to live in your little world of denial or realize that the only Lord of life is Jesus and He has revealed salvation to us and that’s the way it’s going to be.

Walther writes: “Perfection for the Christian is the clear recognition that he is imperfect in himself, but nevertheless perfect in Christ Jesus”. For those who think that they’re “all that and a bag of chips”, don’t need Jesus, ok, how’s that going to work out. While you’ve made an idol of yourself, because you think you know what it’s all about, the only way to eternal life is through Christ. You can make it up, but it’s pure fiction and you’ve basically told God “yea, not really happy about your way, I’ve got a better idea”. You may think it’s better, but without anyway to save yourself, again eternal condemnation. Harsh? Not really, we want to know how to be saved, but when we get God’s way and decide it just doesn’t work for us, well it’s God’s way or no way and you’re not god, deal with it.

“When a person is justified, God generally lets him taste the sweetness of His grace in order to draw the sinner from the world to Himself. At this point, many a beginner in Christ thinks he is rid of the world, sin and Satan. but if that were truly the case, it would not be long before such a person became secure and proud. Therefore, our faithful God removes the sweet feelings of grace and power from most of His believers and from that time on, He bestows such blessings meagerly and allows His Christians to grow in humility. When a person becomes truly poor, he must daily beg God for everything and adhere to Jesus’ word of grace so he is not lost. He also comes to realize that God’s work of grace in sanctification is revealed in the fact that his spirit continues to struggle against his flesh. If he feels that sin rages in him, but something else in him prevents sin from gaining dominion over him, this moves him to prayer and to the word of God.If he succumbs to sinful temptations, he goes to Jesus and prays to Him for forgiveness. Such a person is not dead, for a dead heart no longer beats.”

“We have been reborn into true life in Jesus in our baptism. We were dead in our sin with the rest of the world, now we have true life. When we are given that new life, we become completely righteous in Christ and as a new child in Jesus we begin the journey of Christian maturity in our sanctification in Jesus.” (pp 671-672)

This is what is truly important about being saved in Jesus. We can get into a lot of mushy, pointless, emotionalism, or we can understand that we are sinners, that our only salvation is in Jesus and only through Jesus do we become justified and sanctified and truly fit to be made a child of God and to be in His presence and to live in the resurrected, eternal, perfect world that God had always intended for us.

Justified by the faith that God gives us

Justified by the faith that God gives us.
March 23, 2014 First St Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and of God the Son and of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the faith that God gives us, said … AMEN!

So Paul starts right out of the chute for us: “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through out Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) Faith one of the four onlys. I got a little red line in my word processor when I wrote “onlys” there is only one only, yet in Christ, there are four onlys. Remember back in confirmation, the four onlys that guide our faith, yea, I don’t know how you can have four superlatives, there’s good, better, best right? Best is the superlative, the best, there can only be one best, yet in the mystery of the Christian faith, we have four bests, four ultimates. Go figure? Sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola Christi, sola fide. Only Scripture guides our life in Christ, only grace guides our life, only Christ guides our life and only faith/fide makes us righteous. Paul says we are “justified”, because of our faith in Christ we are justified, we are just. If we were brought to court, if we were accused, we would be found innocent, justified. Why? Because we are innocent? Ambrosiaster writes: “Faith gives us peace with God, not the law, for it reconciles us to God by taking away those sins which had made us God’s enemies. And because the Lord Jesus is the minister of this grace, it is through him that we have peace with God. Faith is greater than the law, because the law is our thing, whereas faith belongs to God. Furthermore, the law is concerned with our present life, whereas faith is concerned with eternal life. But whoever does not think this way about Christ, as he ought to, will not be able to obtain the rewards of faith, because he does not hold the truth of faith.”1 So, where do we get this faith? We have a lot of churches that teach that you are responsible for generating your own faith, if you aren’t stacking up, if you’re not healthy or pretty, or talented, or rich, it’s because you lack faith, they teach that God wants us to be happy, healthy, wealthy, pretty, talented, but if we can’t crank up our faith ability, well then it’s our fault and if we don’t make it in these areas it’s a sign that our faith is lacking. Can we, being sinner, somehow miraculously generate our own faith? By grace “sola gratia”, we are given the faith that we need through Jesus. God’s grace gives us the free gift of faith, nothing we can do can give us faith, or help us to increase our faith. We pray, we journal, we attend worship and receive absolution and the Body and Blood of Jesus, we study scripture and through these God gives us faith, God gives us what we need, when we need it. We can reject it, we can decide it’s not fast enough and far enough, like Israel in our Exodus reading. They decided, they wanted what they wanted now! It’s tough to be in the desert, no water in sight, wondering when you’re going to get your next glass of water. We’re all guilty of that, I’ve decided that this is what I need and I need it now. The Hebrew word hsn means to test, as the “Keyword Study Bible” points out: “the Lord has the right to test the faithfulness of His people, Abraham, Moses, David the people complaining to the leaders or the leaders complaining to God or both. And also the sense that God can test our faithfulness.”2 You probably saw the story in the last couple of weeks of the 18 year old daughter who sued her parents, because she felt she was entitled to support even though she was technically an adult. She picked up and left her home, but still expected her parents to foot the bill. The judge in the case according to the New York Post even “blasts her for gross disrespect”. Pretty much every article I saw about her described her as a spoiled brat. That is how the Israelites come off in our reading. God has miraculously delivered them from their grinding slavery in Egypt, he has provided them with food every day in the desert, He has provided them with clothing that for forty years will not break down, He has provided them with water and at the right time would have provided them with the water they needed, but because they were acting like spoiled brats and threatening to stone Moses, God gave in and gave them what they wanted. But they failed the test, God had kept them alive and promised to continue to do so, but they decided they were too important, God was continuing to give them faith, but they rejected it, got what they wanted, but failed. The Hebrew word ,byrI means to quarrel but has the same sense as the spoiled woman, that Israel was somehow entitled to plead their case in court against God, that they felt they were unfairly treated and “deserved” what they wanted.
If God is giving us our faith, we should know that God is faithful and therefore we really don’t have a right to test His faithfulness. The faith that He gives us is intended to be sufficient, when we presume to be above testing, we make an idol of ourselves, we decide that we are above that, too important for testing. Instead of looking for what God is doing in your life through this test, just like taking a history test to show how much you’ve learned in school, when we are tested we look for the lesson, the advancement in our life and grow in our relationship with God, in our ability to be a good disciple a disciple is a student, but he/she is also a teacher. We have to learn in order to be able to teach those who God gives us to disciple. What better way for someone to learn, then by you being able to say, this is how God taught me faithfulness, how God put me into a situation that tested my faith, this is what I learned, how I learned to apply the lesson and now I’m teaching you because of what I learned through God’s testing. Because at some point, that person that you are discipling is going to come into his/her own testing, and the hope is that they will remember what you taught them, see how God is working in their life and we pray their attitude will be, “ok God, I can see this is testing, help me to see what this is about and help me Lord to, essentially, pass this test.” Your disciple learns through your teaching, through the testing that God gave them and they grow as disciples and have something to pass on to those that they disciple. The cycle of life in the Christian life.
We see great examples of faith and we admire those who have lived a life of great faithfulness, St Patrick in last weeks sermon showed great faith in going back to dark, dangerous Ireland. Mother Theresa in the dark streets of Calcutta, St Paul going from city to city preaching a man who is God, who was crucified, and then resurrected. The suffering and testing these people were put through and to what end? None of them really knew in their lifetime, but years later we still remember and admire them, because they did not resist the faith that God gave them.
Chuck Swindoll writes about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn during his eight years in the Russian Gulag Archipelago: “…his parents died and his wife divorced him. Upon his release from prison he was dying of a cancer that was growing in him so rapidly that he could feel the difference in a span of twelve hours. It was at that point that he abandoned himself to God, in three lines of the incredible prayer that came in that dark hour: ‘Oh God, how easy it is for me to believe in You. You created a path for me through the despair … O God, You have used me and where You cannot use me, You have appointed others. Thank You.’” Do you want to be remembered as a spoiled brat? That it’s all about you and what God wants, what He is trying to do in your life doesn’t matter? Swindoll tells about a monument at Saratoga, the turning point battle in the American Revolution. The statue has four niches in it, one for each American general who participated in this vital battle, “the first stands Horatio Gates; in the second, Philip John Schuyler; and in the third, Daniel Morgan. But the niche on the fourth side is strangely vacant…” Anyone care to guess who should have been in that niche? … Benedict Arnold! “’The empty niche in that monument shall ever stand for fallen manhood, power prostituted, for genius soiled, for faithlessness to a sacred trust.’”3 We remember people like Arnold with contempt, we spit on the name when it’s mentioned. We remember the Israelites who so shamelessly rejected God’s faith and threatened His prophet and teach about them with contempt. We remember, someone like the Samaritan woman in our reading today and while she questioned Jesus, tested Him, she is remembered by us for her simple faith, she was the first woman evangelist. After she was given the faith to understand who Jesus is. She said to Jesus: “I know that Messiah is coming… and Jesus said to her ‘I who speak to you am he.” She rushed back to her village to tell everyone that Messiah was here and Jesus spent two days, with hated Samaritans and because of that many more were given the faith to believe “because of his word.” Do we want to live in faithfulness, to know true life in Christ, to daily remember our baptism in Him and His sacrifice for us and to trust in the hope and promises of our baptism? Or do we want to be remembered as the spoiled brat who sued her parents?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.