November 25, 2007 Commentary:
Called by God
Those whom he predestined he called, those whom he called he justified, and those whom he justified he glorified. That's the announcement of the apostle Paul. No wonder he says after this, "What shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?" But what does the Bible mean when it speaks of God's calling? Does God provide the opportunity for salvation and then leave it up to us, or is even our faith the gift of God? Are we saved because we made a decision, surrendered all to Jesus, or made Jesus our Savior and Lord? Is the new birth something that we bring about, or is it a surprising work of God that he performs on us, while we are dead in sin and enemies of God?
Besides being called by God to union with Christ, what do we make of all the other instances of God's calling or vocation that we find in Scripture? We read of being called as worshippers for example, called to a holy life, and called to love and serve our neighbor through our various vocations in the world. What does it really mean to be set apart by God? Does it mean that we try to remove ourselves from the world or that we are claimed by God as his people in the world?
It's often noted by historians that the Reformation's doctrine of calling or vocation brought enormous vitality to the practical everyday life of ordinary Christians,. It isn't the life of the monk or nun that God approves, but the life of ordinary Christians at their stations serving the world in their divinely appointed places. That's what brings delight to our heavenly Father. God delights to give us salvation by grace alone through faith alone and then he also delights to see us loving and serving our neighbor in our vocation. God gives us his gifts of Word and Sacrament turning our eyes upward to Christ in faith and outward to our neighbors in love. That was Luther's revolutionary insight which the other Reformers embraced. How does this God-centered and Gospel-driven approach to our life in the world change our attitudes and relations to our fellow citizens, whether believer or unbeliever? How does it raise our work as parents, single people, spouses, employers, employees, neighbors and citizens from the level of a job to that of a calling? Calling and vocation, that is our topic as we are talking about Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory, in this edition of the White Horse Inn.
November 18, 2007 Commentary:
Pursuing a Life of Gratitude
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn. The gospel makes people lazy, grace is fine in appropriate doses, but if you go too far with it they will loose all motivation for holiness and good works. Put all the best news up front in order to attract coverts to sign up, but after that comes the fine-print. The assumption makes perfect sense if there were no such thing as regeneration, that is, God's free gift of new life that yields repentance, faith and good works. Everyone knows that if you want people to do anything you need carrots and sticks, that is, enticements and threats. In fact, one reason John Wesley said that he couldn't accept the doctrine of unconditional election was that he felt it undermined the motivation for holiness namely, the fear of punishment and the hope of rewards. But as counter-intuitive as it may seem God doesn't drive us along in the Christian life by carrots and sticks. The same gospel that creates faith in our hearts to embrace Christ for justification keeps on giving us faith for sanctification and a life of bearing fruit. The more we hear of Christ and his sufficiency the more the candle of faith is enflamed with zeal for loving and serving our neighbor. In any case, it's only works done out of gratitude anyway that can be called good works in any sense at all, without faith it is impossible to please God. In fact, thinking that anything we do as Christians can in any way contribute to our standing before God, may be the greatest sin we can ever commit from God's perspective. Inasmuch it adds the insult of foolish pride to the injury of our ongoing sin.
Does the gospel have to be qualified by all sorts of fine-print? Does the "good news" of free grace in Christ alone through faith alone undermine sanctification? Do we need to balance the good news of the gospel with threats and rewards in order to keep believers advancing in their Christian life? Or is the same gospel that justifies us sufficient for sanctifying us as well? Pursuing a life of gratitude is our subject in this program as we are continuing our focus on Soli Deo Gloria- to God alone be glory.
November 11, 2007 Commentary:
"Soli Deo Gloria"
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn, where we are continuing in our series "A Time for Truth" looking at the last sola or "only" - Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone be glory. In our culture today especially in America is alien to the thinking of the prophet and the Apostles. In fact the Apostle Paul said that people would especially in the last days be lovers of self, boastful, proud, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And what is that power of godliness? Paul says elsewhere, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation." Both for justification and for sanctification. It's possible, Paul warns Timothy, to have a superficial form of religion, that is actually narcissistic, that is, focused on the self and its felt-needs. By contrast, the gospel calls us out of ourselves raising our eyes to God and his purpose for our lives, a purpose that we have fallen far short of reaching, but that he has nevertheless has secured for us in Jesus Christ.
For generations, millions of children have learned the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "What is the chief end of man? Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." Notice the double emphasis here: created by God for God, his glory and our joy go hand in hand. God's glory isn't set over against our enjoyment rather our deepest joy is fully satisfied in God's glory and God's glory is most fully manifest in our salvation. Well, today it seems the new catechism goes more like this, "The chief end of man is to use God and enjoy himself forever." It's rarely expressed this brazenly, but a lot of popular presentations come pretty close. Think of some of the best-selling books, like Joel Osteen's, Your Best Life Now, which offers a God who exists to make sure you are enjoying your self. Or, from a while back, Robert Schuller's, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation. As R.C. Sproul has said, "the Great Awakening came when a whole generation was gripped by Jonathan Edward's 'Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God,' but today it's more like, 'God in the hands of angry sinners.'" Instead of us being on trial before a holy God for our treason, God's on trial for apparently failing to not give us what we want, when we want it. Instead of God saving us from his just judgment, the new gospel says that God saves us from loneliness, boredom, stress, and low self-esteem. The Bible tells a story of God's victory over sin and death, casting us as new characters his play. American spirituality offers tips for gaining our own victory over our daily problems with God's help. The Bible says that we've fallen short of the glory of God, the popular message today says that we've fallen short of realizing the American Dream.
As Columbia University historian Eugene Rice has observed, "The Reformation's cry Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory, represents the gulf between the secular imagination of the twentieth century, and the sixteenth century's intoxication with the majesty of God." You see folks, if God has saved us by his grace alone, by Christ's merits alone, and even the faith through which we are justified is his gift, then God alone receives all the glory. That 's why all of the other solas, or "onlies" we have considered point ultimately to this one. What else can the truth that God alone saves yield than the exclamation of praise? As Paul says, "For of him and to him and through him are all things to whom be the glory forever and ever."
November 4, 2007 Commentary:
"Roman Catholics & Justification"
Due to the nature of this program as an interview, there is no formal commentary.