Monday, December 15, 2008

Questions from listeners

Wolfie from youtube writes:

I am pondering about "obedience". How do you exactly understand obedience ?

For if we get saved we dont get changed into a superhuman immediatly...or not at all. We are still in the flesh, so our tendency to sin hasn´t gone away. I don´t exactly mean the executive action but the volitional action. For myself brother, I understand all the belief systems and religions force you into a system of works that somehow changes your character and turns you into a better person. With our Savior its different (besides the catholic doctrine I would guess).

But how do I know I am right with God brother ? So often in my life I feel weak, a failure, just a sinner. My eyes crave altough I know that the object will never satisfy me. I know I am guilty, I trust Christ. But what does he expect from me in return ? How far is obedience to be understood ? What to do with the flesh. The Lord said to us, that we commit adultery even by looking and thereby desiring another woman. I would say this goes for everything else. Since its the desire which leads to death one could easily change the gospel into another sort of buddhist training for the mind to accept the obvious and detach from the world by focusing on Jesus. YOu know ? like a yidam meditation in tantric buddhism.

But Jesus taught no meditation, no secret knowledge.

But I am still a sinner, brother and I DO desire a lot but at the same time I know its worth nothing. I hope you understand me. I dunno whether Ive put this well enough.

God bless,


Hi Wolfie,

I've been pondering your email, and thinking about it. I haven't replied till now because I wanted make sure I knew for sure exactly what you are asking. I think the crux of the matter is this:

"I trust Christ. But what does he expect from me in return? How far is obedience to be understood?"

This is what our natural man wants to know every waking moment of our lives and sometimes even in our dreams. I think it's better to reframe the question. What if I asked, "what conditions does Jesus want me to meet in return for his benefits to me?" See, unlike garden variety evangelicals, we Lutherans don't focus on the conversion event in terms of a singular occurrence. Luther was fond of saying that our old Adam is daily drowned in the waters of baptism, and the reason we remember our baptisms like we do is because we are reminded of the first act of Justification upon us and the continued acts of Sanctification given to us through Word and Sacrament. As such, we are called to be children of God, already participating in the kingdom, and receiving the benefits of Christ. We have been called by the Holy Spirit, placed into the hands of Christ by our Father, and really truly are adopted sons and daughters in God's forever family. And because that is absolutely true, we rejoice in the gifts we receive of food to sustain our bodies, homes to live in, shoes to wear, clothes, and other good works God has prepared for us to do.

Pastor Gary Held, who is on Radical Grace Radio with me, tells it to us like this: " God doesn't need our good works. He has all the good works He could even need in Jesus Christ. We don't need our good works because, again, we have all the good works we'll ever need in Jesus Christ. Who then, you ask, does need my good works?

My Neighbor. There's a church that does a ministry where members walk up and down the neighborhood knocking on doors and saying, "Hi, my name is (such and such) and I'm from (such and such) church, and we wanted to know, is there anything we can do for you today?" Now, you can imagine there would be some petty stuff mentioned here and there, but imagine knocking on the door to a house where the mother and father just paid the last of the money they had to pay the rent and keep the electric on and now have nothing left to feed their family... and you, a called and adopted child of God, asks them that simple question: "is there anything we can do for you today?" You could be the best thing that ever happened to that mother and father!

The works we do, seen through the eyes of the world and the natural eyes of Adam, just don't seem all that grand. That's why Jesus says things like, "if you give a cup of water to the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me". Are you kidding me? A cup of water? And the answer is, "yes and amen", and God looks at that tiny little act done in faith, and says to His children, "well done, thou good and faithful servant".

I hope this answers your questions.

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