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Are you aware of Mike Reeves' new book on the reformation, The Unquenchable Flame

 

Mark Dever says about it:

 

'With the skill of a scholar and the art of a storyteller, Michael Reeves has written what is, quite simply, the best brief introduction to the Reformation I have read.'

 

How about that?!  You can check out all the wonderful resources surrounding it on Theology Network.

 

Anyway, in the book Mike makes the point that there were no Lutherans among all the refugee theologians who came to England (something still felt today in the almost total lack of Lutheran flavour to English evangelicalism, which has always been much more Zwinglian and Calvinist). p129

That seems to me to be a very great loss.  Take for instance Luther's advice to a friend, Jerome Weller who suffered great bouts of depression:

Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some sin in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. We shall be overcome if we worry too much about falling into some sin.

Accordingly if the devil should say, “Do not drink,” you should reply to him, “On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount.” Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me? Would that I could commit some token sin simply for the sake of mocking the devil, so that he might understand that I acknowledge no sin and am conscious of no sin. When the devil attacks and torments us, we must completely set aside the whole Decalogue. When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satis­faction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.”

 

Compare Luther with Zwingli - here's Mike on p69:

Luther believed that when Adam sinned and was declared guilty, the entire human race became, as it were, ‘clothed’ in his guilt; but when we turn to Christ we are ‘clothed’ in his righteousness. Zwingli, on the other hand, believed more that we each become guilty when we actually sin, but that Christ makes us righteous in ourselves. Luther’s idea that believers are at the same time righteous (in status before God) and sinful (in heart), did not really figure in Zwingli’s mind.

 

Where can I get me some sweet draughts of Lutheran liberty??

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athanasius1

c.293 - 2 May, 373

Out of His great love, [Christ] became what we are so that we might become what He is.  (Against Heresies)  

Why not celebrate by listening to two outstanding talks by Mike Reeves on his life and teaching.

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Lest you think I've taken a disastrous turn towards the self, here's Bonhoeffer on the only basis for Christian community - the alien righteousness of Christ.  There is here a whole theology of salvation, of church, of pastoral care and of preaching:

The death and the life of the Christian is not determined by his own resources; rather he finds both only in the Word that comes to him from the outside, in God's Word to him.  The Reformers expressed it this way: Our righteousness is an 'alien righteousness' a righteousness that comes outside of us (extra nos).  They were saying that the Christian is dependent on the Word of God spoken to him.  He is pointed outward, to the Word that comes to him.  The Christian lives wholly by the truth of God's Word in Jesus Christ.  If someone asks him, Where is your salvation, your righteousness? he can never point to himself.  He points to the Word of God in Jesus Christ, which assures him salvation and righteousness.  He is as alert as possible to this Word.  Because he daily hungers and thirsts for righteousness, he daily desires the redeeming Word.  And it can come only from the outside.  In himself he is destitute and dead.  Help must come from the outside, and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing redemption, righteousness, innocence and blessedness.

But God has put this Word in the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother, his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure

And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.  As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community.  Their fellowship is founded solely upon Jesus Christ and this 'alien righteousness'.  All we can say therefore is: the community of Christians springs solely from the biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone; this alone is the basis of the longing of Christians for one another.  (Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, SCM Press, 1954, p11-12)

 

Here's a snippet from Watchman Nee, read the whole quote from Dev:

Now the breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance.

There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness. The odor which filled the house that day still fills the Church; Mary's fragrance never passes away.

...We like to be always "on the go": the Lord would sometimes prefer to have us in prison. We think in terms of apostolic journeys: God dares to put His greatest ambassadors in chains. "But thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

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Here's a snippet from Watchman Nee, read the whole quote from Dev:

Now the breaking of the alabaster box and the anointing of the Lord filled the house with the odor, with the sweetest odor. Everyone could smell it. Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance.

There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness. The odor which filled the house that day still fills the Church; Mary's fragrance never passes away.

...We like to be always "on the go": the Lord would sometimes prefer to have us in prison. We think in terms of apostolic journeys: God dares to put His greatest ambassadors in chains. "But thanks be unto God, which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest through us the savor of his knowledge in every place" (2 Corinthians 2:14)

 

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Rediscovered this old quote from Barth's Homiletics:

"The theological damage of sermon introductions is in any event incredibly extensive... For what do they really involve at root?  Nothing other than the search for a point of contact, for an analogue in us which can be a point of entry for the Word of God.  It is believed that this little door to the inner self must first be found and opened before it is worthwhile to bring the message.  No! This is plain heresy.... We have simply to approach people knowing that there is nothing in them that we can address, no humanum, no analogia entis of any kind that we can put in touch with the divinum, but only the one great possibility which has no need of our skills, which alone is efficacious, and which does not need us as advocates... We have simply to assume the attitude of a messenger who has something to say.  We have no need to build a slowly ascending ramp, for there is no height that we have to reach.  No!  Something has to come down from above.  And this can happen only when the Bible speaks from the very outset." (Homiletics, p124-125)

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You've been told!

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From the ridiculous to the sublime.

I've posted quite a few long-winded reflections on faith in the past.  (And how we shouldn't reflect too much on it!)  Here, here, here and here

 But they're all summed up and vastly surpassed by one paragraph of Stott's Romans commentary:

"Further it is vital to affirm that there is nothing meritorious about faith, and that, when we say that salvation is ‘by faith, not by works', we are not substituting one kind of merit (‘faith') for another (‘works').  Nor is salvation a sort of cooperative enterprise between God and us, in which he contributes the cross and we contribute faith.  No, grace is non-contributory, and faith is the opposite of self-regarding.  The value of faith is not to be found in itself, but entirely and exclusively in its object, namely Jesus Christ and him crucified.  To say ‘justification by faith alone' is another way of saying ‘justification by Christ alone'.  Faith is the eye that looks to him, the hand that receives his free gift, the mouth that drinks the living water. ‘Faith... apprehending nothing else but that precious jewel Christ Jesus.' (Luther's Galatians).  As Richard Hooker, the late sixteenth-century Anglican divine, wrote: ‘God justifies the believer - not because of the worthiness of his belief, but because of His worthiness Who is believed.'  (John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p117-118).

 

Isn't that brilliant?

He goes on a bit later...

"...The antithesis between grace and law, mercy and merit, faith and works, God's salvation and self-salvation, is absolute.  No compromising mishmash is possible.  We are obliged to choose.  Emil Brunner illustrated it vividly in terms of the difference between ‘ascent' and ‘descent'.  The really ‘decisive question', he wrote, 'is the direction of movement'.  Non-Christian systems think of ‘the self-movement of man' towards God.  Luther called speculation ‘climbing up to the majesty on high'.  Similarly, mysticism imagines that the human spirit can ‘soar aloft towards God'.  So does moralism.  So does philosophy.  Very similar is the ‘self-confident optimism of all non-Christian religions'.  None of these has seen or felt the gulf which yawns between the holy God and sinful, guilty human beings.  Only when we have glimpsed this do we grasp the necessity of what the gospel proclaims, namely ‘the self movement of God', his free initiative of grace, his ‘descent', his amazing ‘act of condescension'.  To stand on the rim of the abyss, to despair utterly of ever crossing over, this is the indispensible ‘antechamber of faith'."  (John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p118.  Brunner quotes from The Mediator)

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In the debates on justification - don't ever lose those two paragraphs!! 

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