Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thoughts on “Good works”…

A hang over from my Evangelical past is that of the doctrine of sanctification. First of all, it is hard for someone to realize that you don’t have to do anything to earn your salvation. But then, it’s hard for someone to realize that after you’re converted there isn’t a list of things you have to do to keep God happy.

It’s that second thing I’ve been struggling with. Am I sinning less? Am I growing in my faith? Am I doing enough to witness to people? What more should I be doing? Something that is hard to explain to cradle Lutherans is the pressure one has to perform to the expectation of the leaders of your church. I have to remind myself that every time there is a “use your gifts at church” flyer that it is not directed specifically to me.

I receive a great deal of comfort reading some passages in the Book of Concord, Readers Edition . In the Augsburg Confession:
Article II:3 “Our Churches condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, thus obscuring the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits. Pelagians argue that a person can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.”
Article IV:1 “Our churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works.”
Article XII:7-8,10: “Our churches condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those who have once been justified can lose the Holy Spirit. Then also condemn those who argue that some may reach such a state of perfection in this life that they cannot sin…. Our churches also reject those who do not theach that forgiveness of sins comes through faith, but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own. They also reject those who teach that it is necessary to perform works of satisfaction commanded by Church law, in order to remit eternal punishment or the punishment of purgatory.”
Article XX:19: “Until now consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works. They did not hear consolation from the Gospel.”

You see modern American Evangelism imposes good works on its followers, and if you do not perform according to the standards of your denomination, you had to ask Jesus into your heart again because you were not really saved. And for particularly sensitive souls, there’s the rapture dream. I still occasionally wake up dreaming that the rapture happened and I was left behind, and if I find Josh not there, I freak out. This was particularly inconvenient during Josh’s deployment, which is why I slept with the TV on. So, just in case, I could flip to Foxnews just for the assurance that all was OK.

Lutherans do not condemn good works, rather, it is best explained in The Defense to the Augsburg Confessions, Article XIIB:77 “We have already frequently testified that repentance should produce good fruit. These good fruit are what the commandments teach: prayer, thanksgiving, the confession of the Gospel, teaching the Gospel, obeying parents and rulers, and being faithful to one’s calling. We should not kill, not hold on to hatred, but we should be forgiving and give to the needy, so far as we can according to our means. We should not commit sexual sins or adultery, but should hold in check, bridle, and chastise the flesh, not for a repayment of eternal punishment, but so as not to obey the devil or offend the Holy Spirit.”

And what is my calling? According to Holy Scripture, as listed in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord… For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening." (Ephesians 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:5-6)

It is comforting to know that there are not burdensome expectations on me to perform. As Jesus says, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."


  • At 3:45 PM , Anonymous alden said...

    Not all of evangelicalism focuses on works "to keep God happy," but unfortunately there is much of that teaching out there. Even though I was raised as a Lutheran, I was exposed to much works-based teaching from friends, etc., which confused me for a time. Fortunately, I landed in a church where the pastor (Ken Blue, author of "Healing Spiritual Abuse") taught radical grace.

    Paul challenged the Galatians with, "having begun in the Spirit, you now want to continue in the flesh?" It sounds stupid, but that's what many are trying to do. The enemy keeps tempting us to try to earn our salvation, because he knows that once we try to do that, we toss out the Gospel completely. However, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

    Great post. Stay in grace!

  • At 6:39 PM , Blogger Liz said...

    I agree, not all of evangelicalism is works based, I have just been so fortunate as to have a lot of experience with works based evangelicalism.

    I find a lot of problems arise when one asks, "What does this mean to me," instead of "What does this mean?" And also there is some dishonesty among evangelicals I grew up with. They say, "Oh, we use scripture alone" but what they meant is scripture and the Scofield study Bible and John Darby. Once one is honest about what theologians one relies on for Biblical interpretation, then Christians can have an honest theological discussion.

    And my other problem with evangelicalism is the emphasis on getting people to make decisions for Jesus instead of making true disciples.

    Thanks for the encouragement!


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