Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lost in the Jungle of Works Righteousness

I was listening to an old favorite song by Leon Russell from Leon Live, "Out in the Woods" a while back and had forgotten about a story he tells during the performance. A friend from South Africa, a Zulu, was in the studio while Russell was recording the song. He told the friend that he wanted to put something in the song about being lost in the jungle and wanted to know how to say it in Zulu. The friend responded that Zulus don't get lost in the jungle. There was no way to say that.

That story reminded me of a comment I saw in another blog about how Lutherans "don't do sanctification well". It is an excellent point. Actually, Lutherans don't "do" sanctification at all. God does sanctification. What Lutherans do is repentance and this Lenten season is especially the time for it. We turn to the cross, fall back to rely on our baptism and keep our focus on Christ and His work of salvation for us.

In short, it is all about Justification. We can never say "I'm past all that salvation stuff. Let's get on with living the Christian life!". The Christian life consists of nothing other than a turning to Christ, to the Gospel message, for comfort and renewal. This is the life of repentance. To whom shall we turn? Not to ourselves. Not to anything of this world. Only to the One who has the words of eternal life.

It isn't that Lutherans think Santification unimportant. It always follows from Justification. The two are distinct but inseparable. You can't have one without the other. We simply take God at His word that this is the case. We focus on the Gospel knowing that good works are the natural result. It is an organic process that doesn't require the intervention of human will or reason. Lutherans don't get lost in that jungle, or at least they shouldn't!

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