Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sharp enough to do the job

Earlier this week, a locust thorn penetrated my finger and lodged within, causing considerable discomfort. I tried serveral times to remove it with my pocket knife, but the point of the knife was not sharp enough to get the job done without unnecessary injury to the finger. Even after sharpening the knife, the point still was not sharp enough.

Some people use a needle to extract thorns and splinters, but this method leaves the puncture wound, which is more likely to become infected than a wound that has been laid open. Puncture wounds are difficult to cleanse thoroughly. Serious infection and even blood poisoning can result from puncture wounds.

Since my pocket knife was not accomplishing the job, later that evening I utilized one of the kitchen knives that had a sharper point. I was able to open the wound sufficiently without excessive cutting. The thorn popped out. The finger has already healed of its wound.

This scenario is not unlike the more serious penetration of our being by sin. Sin is even more serious as it is so deeply lodged within our body and mind and spirit that it corrupts our very soul. It is beyond what we can reach and remove by anything at our disposal. For this reason God Himself has provided the means by which this can be accomplished.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

As this passage instructs us, the Word of God is sharp. It is sharper than any sword or knife or scalpel. It is sharp to the point of being able to separate the spirit from the soul. It is sharp enough to lay bare all that is within, all of the corruption of our sinful nature, so that it may be washed away with heavenly cleansing.

This living and powerful Word is connected to the preaching of the Gospel, and to water, and bread and wine. God Himself has ordained this and established this for our cleansing and salvation. Through these means He cuts through to remove even the deepest portions of our sinfulness, even the things so deep within that we are unaware of them.

This is because God is the Word. As the Word is poured over us through these ordained means, it enters into us, and with the Word is the fullness of God. Thus the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus come to us to pierce deeply into our hearts and souls and work the miracle of conversion. In Baptism the Holy Spirit is given to dwell within the newly generated believer. And where the Holy Spirit is, so also is the Father and the Son, for they truly are one. But this is most powerfully manifested in the Holy Supper of God’s Communion, where the Holy Trinity draws us to partake of the fullness of His Communion, not only in our hearts and souls, but also in His body, the Church, the communion of saints. And so God not only removes our thorny sin and all of the filthy corruption of our sinful nature, but He heals us and restores us and continually renews us and nourishes us in His Holy Communion.

However, we are inclined to turn to less invasive means. We tend to want to remove the sharpness of the Word. We are inclined to attempt to restrict the cutting that the Word would do so that the pain of exposing the deeper cancer is avoided. We even are inclined to try to explain away the disease of sin as something less damning. The judgment that cuts so deeply that even the tiniest fragment of our sinful nature is exposed and purged hurts. We cringe from this and try to avoid it. But in so doing we hinder the wonderful work that our heavenly physician would do for us. In fact, when we interfere in these ways, we not only hinder Him and His miraculous means of grace, but we actually reject Him and His works. By so doing we cut ourselves off from the means through which He works these miracles for us. We cut ourselves off from His salvation and His kingdom of pure grace.

God’s way only works when it is truly His way. When we interfere and interject our words and ways with His words and ways, they are no longer His words and ways. His Word is pure. His Word is perfect. His Word is powerful. His Word is life. His Word made Himself to be flesh and blood so as to cut through to the entire corruption of humanity and carry it to the cross and grave. If we reduce this with our corrupt words and ways, we join ourselves again to the very corruption from which He is working to save us.

We need the cutting power of the pure Word. God gives this to us in ways that remove us and our corruption from them entirely. This is why God works through the ordained means of grace. For in these, if we do not interject our own ways into them, God is the only one at work. If the preaching is truly the preaching of the pure Gospel and if the Sacraments are truly administered as God has given them, then we are merely vessels that receive them and not actually the doers of them. When He is the doer of the works, the works can be trusted fully. It is, after all, His kingdom and His Word and His Church and His salvation.

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Gary Cepek said...

Pastor Siems,

Ouch; the locust thorn was clearly used for its God given purpose as an agent to make painfully evident that God's righteous curse rests on us all because of Adam's sin; and so you suffered. God grant you continued healing.

Your posting highlights the Spirit's work, using Christ's pure Word and Sacraments for the benefit of those whom God call, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps as His own.
Your posting alludes to the two kinds of righteousness the Spirit employs. The Formula of Concord makes clear the needed distinction between these two kinds of righteousness so that they are properly understood and believed, both for God's glory and the good of the believer's faith.

F.C. ThD, Art. III, The Righteousness of Faith: "32] It is also correctly said that believers who in Christ through faith have been justified, have in this life first the imputed righteousness of faith, and then also the incipient righteousness of the new obedience or of good works. But these two must not be mingled with one another or be both injected at the same time into the article of justification by faith before God. For since this incipient righteousness or renewal in us is incomplete and impure in this life because of the flesh, the person cannot stand with and by it [on the ground of this righteousness] before God's tribunal, but before God's tribunal only the righteousness of the obedience, suffering, and death of Christ, which is imputed to faith, can stand, so that only for the sake of this obedience is the person (even after his renewal, when he has already many good works and lives the best [upright and blameless] life) pleasing and acceptable to God, and is received into adoption and heirship of eternal life.

33] Here belongs also what St. Paul writes Rom. 4:3, that Abraham was justified before God by faith alone, for the sake of the Mediator, without the cooperation of his works, not only when he was first converted from idolatry and had no good works, but also afterwards, when he had been renewed by the Holy Ghost, and adorned with many excellent good works, Gen. 15:6; Heb. 11:8. And Paul puts the following question, Rom. 4:1ff : On what did Abraham's righteousness before God for everlasting life, by which he had a gracious God, and was pleasing and acceptable to Him, rest at that time?

34] This he answers: To him who worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness; as David also, Ps. 32:1, speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works. 35] Hence, even though the converted and believing [in Christ] have incipient renewal, sanctification, love, virtue, and good works, yet these neither can nor should be drawn into, or mingled with, the article of justification before God, in order that the honor due Him may remain with Christ the Redeemer, and tempted consciences may have a sure consolation, since our new obedience is incomplete and impure."

Gary Cepek

Novelty Pens said...

Sometimes it's the little things that sting the most.