Luther on Pursuing Marriage

Wedding Rings 2Here is a quote from Getting Serious About Getting Married. The book argues why singleness is not the preferred status for men or women. The book is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. Here is one of my favorite quotes in the book. Not unexpectly, it comes from Martin Luther.

Many think they can evade marriage by having their fling for a time and then becoming righteous….If one in a thousand succeeds in this that would be doing very well. He who intends to lead a chaste life had better begin early, and attain it not with but without fornication either by the grace of God or by marriage…

Why should one not forestall immorality by means of marriage? For if special grace does not exempt a person, his nature must and will compel him to produce seed and multiply. If this does not occur in marriage, how else can it occur except in fornication and secret sins?

But, they say, suppose I am neither married nor immoral, and force myself to remain continent [celibate/single/chaste]? Do you not hear that restraint is impossible without special grace? For God’s Word does not admit restraint; neither does it lie when it says, “Be fruitful and multiply.”….You can neither escape nor restrain yourself from being fruitful and multiplying; it is God’s ordinance and takes its course….

Whoever finds himself unsuited to the celibate life should see to it right way that the has something to do and to work at it; then let him strike out in God’s name and get married.

Heartbreaking and Hilarious~Martin Luther’s Humor

Here are the final paragraphs from Carl Trueman’s book Luther on the Christian Life.  Appropriately enough, Trueman ends with Luther’s humor. Luther was many things, but near the top of the list was his ability to use humor to keep himself and those around him cut down to size. Protestant theologians have kept Luther’s legacy in many ways. But we need more humor. And that is why I love Doug Wilson. He might be the closest man in modern times to Luther’s humor. But even  Doug Wilson is tame compared to Dr. Martin.

And this leads me to my last thoughts on Luther. One of the most striking things about the man is his sense of humor, and one cannot possibly write a book on his understanding of the Christian life without reference to this. In general terms, of course, Protestant theologians have not been renowned for their wit, and Protestant theology has not been distinguished by its laughter. Yet Luther laughed all the time, whether poking fun at himself, at Katie, at his colleagues, or indeed at his countless and ever-increasing number of enemies. Humor was a large part of what helped to make him so human and accessible. And in a world where everyone always seems to be “hurt” by something someone has said or offended by this or that, Luther’s robust mockery of pretension and pomposity is a remarkable theological contribution in and of itself. 

Humor, of course, has numerous functions. It is in part a survival mechanism. Mocking danger and laughing in the face of tragedy are proven ways of coping with hard and difficult situations. Undoubtedly, this played a significant role in Luther’s own penchant for poking fun. Yet I think there is probably a theological reason for Luther’s laughter too. Humor often plays on the absurd, and Luther knew that this fallen world was not as it was designed to be and was thus absurd and futile in a most significant and powerful way. 

Thus, he knew life is tragic. It is full of sound and fury. It is marked by pain and frustration. The strength of youth must eventually fade into the weakness of old age and finally end in the grave. We believe ourselves to be special, to be transcendent, to be unique and irreplaceable. And yet the one great lesson that everyone must ultimately learn in life is that they are none of these things, however much we want them to be true and however much we do things to trick ourselves into believing our own propaganda. We are fallen, finite, and mortal. We are not God. And because God is and has acted, because in incarnation, Word, and sacrament he has revealed and given himself and has thus pointed to the true meaning of life, our own pretensions to greatness are shown to be nothing but the perilous grandstanding of the absurdly pompous and the pompously absurd. 

Indeed, in light of the fact that God is God and has revealed himself in the foolishness of the cross, the tendency of us all to be theologians of glory appears in all its risible futility. That we who cannot even escape our own mortality would assume that God is like us, that we are the measure of all things, including the terrifying and awesome hidden God who rides on the wings of the storm and calls all things into being by the mere Word of his power-that we poor, pathetic, sinful creatures would be so arrogant as to assume such a thing is surely the greatest and darkest joke of all. Luther knew that the tragedy and the comedy of fallen humanity is that we have such a laughable view of ourselves: one that would aspire to tell God who and what he must be. As humans are at once both righteous and sinful, so human existence is at once both heartbreaking and hilarious. Luther cites Psalm 2:4 on numerous occasions to make precisely this point: the tragedy of humanity is that God laughs at our ridiculous attempts at autonomy. 

This is where I leave you with Luther. While the world, even the Christian world, remains populated by the self-important and the self-righteous, the figure of Luther, with his rumbustious theology and his cutting humor, will not cease to be relevant. Many of his writings have a refreshing and appropriately irreverent style to them, tearing down the pompous and the self-assured. They offer a breath of fresh air amid a forced and stale piety. And his emphasis on the objectivity of the action of God in Christ puts all things in perspective and exposes our lives outside of Christ for what they are, acts in a silly farce played out in the shadow of the beckoning grave. 

A Theologian of the Cross and the Same Sex Mirage

I just read Carl Trueman’s Luther and the Christian Life. I highly recommend it. One of Luther’s key ideas was that we need “theologians of the cross.” That is people who understand that God works not through power and might, but through weakness, pain, and suffering. He saved us through the death of His Son on a cross as a criminal. Glory came through suffering and weakness. That is the way God works. Yesterday and today we have seen a power play by our Supreme Court. But it is a mirage. True power is not found in black robes and judges. So what should we do? How should we rise up against this tyranny?  Where is the true revolution? What does a cross shaped response look like in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling? I think Luther would approve of this list because most of it is Christianity 101, which is not surprising since our marching orders do not change.

Worship God every Sunday. No matter what. Be there with God’s people. Sit underneath the mighty Word. Hear again the old, old story. Do not lose confidence in the ordinary means of grace.  A theologian of the cross knows that true power is found in the sanctuary where the Lord is worshiped, the Word is preached, water is poured, and the supper is celebrated.

Don’t forget the gospel. Plead the shed blood of Christ. You are a vile, wicked person. Your sins are many and great. But Christ is greater. He has removed them. Be at peace. All of your sins are forgiven in Christ. They are vile, wicked sinners. Their only hope is Jesus Christ and His blood. If we forget the gospel what will we have to offer them when they cry, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

Sing the Psalms. The time for impotent songs is over. We have been at war, but we forgot and our swords gathered rust. Now the enemy has burst through the wall and we are waking up. We need Psalm 2, Psalm 3, Psalm 9, and Psalm 56. Okay we need them all.

Read the Bible again and again. Believe every word it says without apology. Teach it to your children.

Be bold. Do not fear the world. A theologian of the cross knows that death, their greatest threat, is our greatest triumph. Why fear them when the most they can do is usher us into glory?

Be prepared to suffer. Following Christ will now cost. Rejoice when your reputation is ruined, you lose your job, friends reject you, and you are run out of town. You are starting to catch up with the prophets (Matthew 5:12) and your brothers and sisters around the world.

Love sinners, including homosexuals, but do not expect them to feel loved. Sinners do not love those who call them to repent. But love them anyway. Overcome evil with good.

If you are in a church that is compromising on human sexuality or is silent about it, leave. The ship is sinking. It is time to get off.

If you are in a church that refuses to call it members to repent, leave.  Without repentance in here, there will be no repentance out there.

If you are in a church that refuses to call sinners out there to repent, leave. You cannot worship Jesus without repentance. A church that does not call the culture to repent is a church that is not preaching Jesus.

Learn what the doctrine of lesser magistrate is. We need politicians with the balls to say no to our Federal government. We need men who will take the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court and burn it in the street. Here is a good place to start.

Pray for your leaders (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Marry someone of the opposite sex. Stay married.  Make love. Have children. Raise them in the Lord.

Remain cheerful. Life is a comedy. If God can laugh (Psalm 2:4) then so can we. In the end, all will be well.

Counseling Begins in the Pew

Carl Trueman on why Luther thinks you should go to church.

“One could imagine a person seeking Luther’s advice for, say, struggles with assurance. Luther’s first question of him would almost certainly be, Are you going to church to hear the Word and receive the sacrament? If the answer came back in the negative, it is safe to assume that Luther would send the person away to attend church for a few weeks before he would consider giving him individual counsel. If the person had excluded himself from the objective means of grace, not only would spiritual problems be expected, but also Luther could really offer nothing else to help him.”

 

Advice on Prayer

Here are a few suggestions Martin Luther makes on prayer to a friend. They come from the wonderful book Luther’s Prayers. 

1.      Let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last business at night.
2.      Be careful not to allow things which seem more important to crowd out prayer.
3.      Use biblical tools to jump start your praying.  Luther would use the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Psalms as a way to help him when he felt cold and joyless about his praying. It is very difficult to come to prayer and not have anything to direct your thoughts.  Let God’s Word guide your prayers and give it some direction. Luther then goes on to describe how he prayed through these different portions of God’s Word.
a.       He would first look at a particular portion of God’s Word and ask what it was teaching him.
b.      Then he would give God thanks based upon that passage.
c.       Then he would confess his sin based upon that passage.
d.      Then he would pray that God would help him to obey what that passage required.

For example he does this with the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” First, this passage teaches us to trust in God alone and not in anything or anyone else. Second, it teaches us to give thanks for God’s fatherly kindness. Third, it leads us to confess that we are ungrateful for all of God’s kindnesses and we too easily worship idols. Finally, Luther ends with a prayer asking God to help him learn, understand, and live by God’s commandments.
4.      Prayer requires discipline of mind.  Luther said it is the hardest work. Most of us do not reap the blessing of prayer because we are not willing to put the time and energy into that God requires. 

David McIntyre in his book The Hidden Life ofPrayer says that prayer usually requires the following:
1.      A Quiet Place
2.      A Quiet Hour
3.      A Quiet Heart

Take Up and Read: Thursday Edition

Justin Taylor takes a brief look at Martin Luther’s home life. I am continually amazed at how poor the reformers were, how much they got done, and how many people they had in their homes.

R.C. Sproul Jr. has been one of my mentors as I have grown in the faith. His love for Christ and his  family have spurred me on during difficult times. His love for the good life has also brought me a lot of joy and helped clarify what it means to follow after Christ. During the Christmas season he lost his wife Denise whom he loved so dearly. Here is a moving tribute to his wife and the influence of God’s Word upon her life.

Trevin Wax does a good job of helping pastors to ask the right kind of questions when approached about sexual issues. Several things struck me as I read. First, in previous generations the mom or dad discussed sex with their children. It was a family matter. Now children learn about sex from friends, books, movies, or the opposite sex. Second, we live in a culture that is drowning in pornography. As a pastor, I cannot expect my flock or new converts to have a correct perspective on sex. That means it should probably be brought up more regularly in private with the man or the couple. It cannot be ignored, but it also cannot be discussed in most public forums.

Finally, here is a post by James K.A. Smith on worship music. He addresses it to praise bands, but it will help anyone involved in worship music to think through certain things. I thought his emphasis on the congregation being able to participate was good.