Monday, March 30, 2015

More Grace - introducing MIchael Scott Horton

I really had never heard of Michael Scott Horton until I was breezing around a book store one day and came upon his book, "Putting Amazing Back into Grace."  I read the forward by an old friend, Dr. J. I Packer and that was enough for me.  When I got home I looked more closely at the cover and saw the sub-title that read - An Introduction to Reformed Theology and having read a lot of R. C. Sprouls on Reformed Theology, I laid this book on my shelve and never looked at again until I started to prepare for my blogs on the subject of Grace.  He makes good sense in his opening remarks on Grace.

"Medieval believers were constantly reminded of how much their relationship with God depended on them.  The  'super' saints realized it was impossible to live without sin in their lives, so they joined the monasteries.  Luther was one such monk, but he soon understood the point that Christ made to the Pharisees about sin as being inherent to each one of us as fallen sinners.  Jesus told them, paraphrased, "It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what is already in there." Sin is not out there, in the world, but in here, in me.  It corrupts me regardless of my surroundings. Luther reasoned from the scriptures that God was no softy.  His is just and holy, incapable of overlooking our sins..  So the German monk spent hours in confession, hoping that God would notice him for his many tears.  His fear was, of course, that if he failed to confess, or failed to remember in order to confess, one single sin, that would be enough to condemn him.

Luther Knew his will was in bondage to sin, so how could he ever break the cycle of fear and be free?

Inspirational sermons aimed at motivating hearers to simply use the free will God that gave them, fell short of comforting them.  Luther knew there had to be either another answer, or no answer.

While he was teaching the Psalms, Galatians  and Romans, the gospel began to leap off the pages. As he was reading about God's righteousness, Luther was struck by what felt like a bolt of lightning. All of his life he had hated the righteousness of God, though he appeared outwardly pious.  It was that righteousness, after all, which hung above him like a sword of Damocles ad reminded him day after day that he was a sinner and must be judged.  Now he understood for the first time the righteousness which not only God is, but gives.  "For in the gospel", wrote St. Paul, "a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just a it was written, "The righteous shall live by faith."  (Romans 1:17)   God not only judges us by His righteousness, but with His righteousness imputed to our account.  The doctrine of justification  by Grace alone through faith was recovered and published in its New Testament brilliance.

I have added that as a reminder that those of us who have lived out our lives in the pews and not in the hallowed halls of theological magnificence are often mislead by the sanctimonious appeals that we are to do this and do that without ever questioning the words that appear before us as facts.  Early in my life as I became infatuated with the church as the answer to the pleadings of my heart to first go this way and then that way, merely to ease the pain that had existed from my earliest childhood.  My Father was dead, my Mother was struggling to make her way through the days and years of the Great Depression and I wound in a safe haven, my grandparents home who were faithful in their attendance at church.  But even after they had convinced us that "Jesus loves me" I still hurt.  Somehow, however, I was enabled to live with that pain until the glorious day when I learned that even though I was a accomplished sinner, all that was required was for me to repent and start walking as I had been created to walk, righteously - as a gift from my heavenly Father and experience the joy of living real life as a son, grace fully, and not as that pathetic rebel whose motivation had become the driving force in my life.

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