BY MATT JOHNSON
To be human is to be preoccupied with averting pain and despair. But despair gets a bad rap.
An honest faith recognizes that bad news always precedes Good News in the Christian life. Only by abandoning our own efforts to please God and throwing ourselves on God’s mercy will we begin to legitimately thirst for God’s kindness and grace.
THE BEATINGS CONTINUE...BUT DOES THE MORALE IMPROVE?
Let’s be honest. Human beings are stuck on themselves. You, me, your sweet old gramma...everybody. In religious terms, it’s no different. We like to talk about our faith, our efforts to please God, our feelings, our ability (or lack thereof). The point is, life becomes about our doing and less about what he has already been done.
Luther’s 1518 Disputation mercilessly refocuses attention on human inadequacy in living up to God’s demands. When we slither into religious performance in an effort to please God, we get nailed again! So why go through the pains of such a masochistic document in the first place? Will the beatings never end?
PERFECT MEDICINE FOR BROWBEATEN BELIEVERS
The last couple theses of the Disputation are short, sweet, and the perfect medicine for tired, beat-up lawbreakers like you and me.
He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ. –Thesis 25
Did you get that? The pressure is off! Just when you’re at wits end, having been knocked down by the spiritual rat-race again and again, the comfort of the Gospel comes in to save! It’s not about you after all! Your life is hidden in Christ and God is pleased with you because he sees Jesus’ righteousness on your behalf.
The law says, “Do this,” and it is never done. Grace says, “Believe in this,” and everything is already done. –Thesis 26
If we continue to live under the tyranny of the hamster wheel spiritual life, we are headed for disappointment. Jesus never gives us a pass on the law. Instead, he ratchets up the demands of the law. Who on God’s green earth can stand under that weight? Nobody (except Christ). The good news is that he bore the weight of your sin, carried it to the cross and it died with him on Calvary. Now you’re free to respond to that love, in faith.
THE RE-CREATING LOVE OF GOD
The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.... –Thesis 28
Read that again. Let it sink in.
God already knows you can’t obey perfectly. God is not looking for spiritual gurus. Through the work of Christ on the cross, God is pleased with you, and is already creating in you faith, obedience, trust, and love. None of us have arrived. But in Christ, our salvation, our holiness, and our resurrection is already bought and paid for. As a good friend has wisely said, “Your redemption is as certain as Christ’s resurrection.”
Amen, and amen....
Matt is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology. He is a freelance writer and editor with a penchant for redemptive snark. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry. Many moons ago Matt forwent a proper education and traveled the country playing drums in 90 Pound Wuss, Roadside Monument and other bands you've never heard of. He likes long walks on the beach, puppies, and has questionable taste in music.