25 August 2010

New Lutheran Quote of the Day

This is the miracle of conversion by the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit.  He creates faith in us through the Gospel, that is, He brings us to our hold on Jesus.  Our coming to faith is not an act of our free will.  Yet it is not by compulsion; we may resist.  Our conversion is the miracle of creative love.  God's love in Christ awakens us to responding love.  Love cannot be compelled or directed.  Love begets love, and there is no greater love than the love of  God in Christ.  -- Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, pp. 243, 244.


tehazy said...

This is a priceless comfort in our trials and tribulations.

William Weedon said...

Indeed, it is!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

We may resist, and that is an act of free will. Or we may not resist, and this is not an act of the free will????

William Weedon said...

He deals with that in the paragraphs that precede - they were gold too. I just didn't copy them. But here they are:

But then, in God's revelation of Himself there comes the utterly unreasonable. We learn of a God who loves us, thought hateful in our sin, who loved us so incredibly much that He sent His Son to become one of us. Taking our sin and guilt on Himself, Christ died for our sin where we should have died. In Christ there is now offered forgiveness full and free. In Christ we stand before God as His loved and happy children.

To us, as we are by nature, this doesn't make a scrap of sense. It is not fair. It is not reasonable. There must be some catch. We can't believe it. The only decision we are capable of making, confronted by God's revelation, is a negative one. That is what is meant when we say we have no free will in spiritual matters. We are incapable of choosing God as He has revealed Himself. It is just all too much for us.

Scripture is quite explicit on this point. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them." (1 Cor. 2:14). We are spoken of as dead, spiritual corpses. Even worse than being dead toward God is that we are in willful opposition to Him. "The carnal mind is enmity toward God." (Rom. 8:7) This enmity against God is an act of our will. We are responsible for our rejection of God, for no one is compelled to reject God.

William Weedon said...

That is our sad plight. We are incapable of choosing God, for God is not within our grasp. God, of course, knows all this. He did not have the way of rescue achieved and proclaimed to us just to make us more wretched as if He were like the Greek gods, like the grapes of Tantalus, grapes that were lowered, then snatched back when grasped at by the tormented wretch. The love of Jesus, which took Him to the cross, moved Him also to send the Holy Spirit so that we might be won to the acceptance of Christ and of all that Christ achieved for us.

Then the paragraph I cited, followed by:

"Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation." This radical change is called being born again or, as Ezekiel says, taking out the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. It is a conversion, that is, a turn around, the whole direction of our lives reversed. Without Christ we are heading away from God to utter ruin. In Christ we are turned around, and our course is set toward God and the life that is with Him. God's will, God's plan for us, is being realized in us.

It is God's plan that we should be His children, belong to Him and rejoicing in His love and strength. The fulfillment of that plan of God is the only thing that we can ever successfully be. A monkey was designed to be a monkey. It may resemble or mimic a human, but it can never be a human just as we may resemble or mimic a monkey, pig, or fox, but we can never be one. We were planned to be God's children. When we try to be something else, we only achieve some pitiful clowning and the end is ruin.

What beauty there is in the bud of a rosebud becoming a rose. It has fulfilled the will of God. So we fulfill the will of God as we become His children. Our becoming God's children is a double becoming. There is our entry into God's family by faith in Christ. When we put on Christ, we stand before God as His forgiven, holy children. We are His children, for we are in Christ. This is justification. It is utterly complete, for it is altogether of Christ. But we are not yet completely as God would have us be in ourselves. The flesh still clings to us. We still falter and stumble and fall. We frustrate the will of God in sin, following our own perverse will. There is division in us, the pull toward God and the pull toward sin and death.

Knowing how our rebellions against God's will grieve our Father, our hearts are crushed in sorrowing repentance. We look to Jesus as our only hope. We pray God may forgive us and grant us strength to conquer sin and grow ever more and more as His children. This growing, this becoming, is an unending process that lasts until our dying day. When we come to death, our prayer still will be, "O God, my sin is great, forgive me for Jesus' sake and make me more Thy child."

Every day we are to grow more like what God would want us to be. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification.


So much more he wrote, but the point is clear. Exactly as we cannot choose to be born and given life; so with our rebirth. As a person once born has the freedom to continue to live or to throw life away, so with our new life in Christ.