Sin is Our Deepest Problem

“Even among Christians, sin is not always seen as our deepest or primary problem. For example, if I were to reflect on the problems of my day, they might include my finances, children, wife, health, weight, reputation, lack of lasting contributions, car, leaky faucet, or environment-endangering lawn mower. Even when I am an obvious wrongdoer, I still can think that sin is not my primary problem. It is one of those problems that come up occasionally; it is not, I feel, a core feature of my very being.

Yet the fact that I do not feel like sin is my primary problem does not prove anything. Sin by its very nature is more often quiet and secretive than loud and public. For every overt episode of rage, there are dozens of jealousies, manipulations, white lies, and malicious thoughts, none of which immediately register on the conscience. And, according to Scripture, the greatest sin of all is even more covert: I do not love the Lord my God with my whole mind and heart. If our failure to consistently worship the true God is the key feature of sin, we are sinners all.

Notice what happens when we lose sight of these biblical teachings. If sin is not our core problem, the gospel itself— the thing of first importance— is marginalized. The good news that Jesus proclaimed and offered is that there is forgiveness of sins, not through our own attempts to please God, but by placing our confidence in Jesus himself, in his death and resurrection. If sin is not our primary problem , then the gospel of Jesus is no longer the most important event in all of human history.”

Welch, Edward T. (2012-01-30). Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave (pp. 20-21). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition.

HT: Hubby

The Church Needs Mary’s and Martha’s

One of the most misunderstood passages of Scripture is the familiar story of Mary and Martha. I can’t tell you how many women’s meetings I’ve been to where someone invariably confesses to being just like Martha.

The passage of Scripture is found in Luke 10:38-42:

38Now as they went on their way, Jesusd entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Unfortunately, many people see this text as a picture of the active life versus the contemplative life. In simple terms, active is bad, and contemplative is good. Therefore, since Mary chose the contemplative life she is good, and Martha, who chose the active life, is bad. But is that really what this passage is about? No. It’s not.

Kent Hughes sums it like this, “The story of Mary and Martha is actually about the necessity of the priority of the Word of God in a life of active service for the Master. In fact, the teachings of Jesus were dramatically actualized in both women’s lives. Both are women of excellence and noble character.”(1)

You see, Martha was not rebuked for her activity. How could she be? That’s how she was wired. Martha was rebuked because her service was dragging her away from Jesus. And as a consequence she grew bitter and accusatory. Ironically, busy Martha is the author of one of the two great confessions of Christ in the New Testament (John 11:21-27). Obviously she was a student and a hearer of the Word of God! In light of this, I wanted to share the following excerpt from J.C. Ryle, which expresses the need in the church for both Mary’s and Martha’s.

“The two sisters of whom we read in this passage were faithful disciples. Both had believed. Both had been converted. Both had honored Christ when few gave Him honor. Both loved Jesus, and Jesus loved both of them. Yet they were evidently women of very different turn of mind. Martha was active, stirring, and impulsive, feeling strongly, and speaking out all she felt. Mary was quiet, still, and contemplative, feeling deeply, but saying less than she felt. Martha, when Jesus came to her house, rejoiced to see Him, and busied herself with preparing a suitable refreshment. Mary, also, rejoiced to see Him, but her first thought was to sit at His feet and hear His word. Grace reigned in both hearts, but each showed the effects of grace at different times, and in different ways.

We shall find it very useful to ourselves to remember this lesson. We must not expect all believers in Christ to be exactly like one another. We must not set down others as having no grace, because their experience does not entirely tally with our own. The sheep in the Lord’s flock have each their own peculiarities. The trees in the Lord’s garden are not all precisely alike. All true servants of God agree in the principal things of religion. All are led by one Spirit. All feel their sins, and all trust in Christ. All repent, all believe, and all are holy. But in minor matters they often differ widely. Let not one despise another on this account. There will be Marthas and there will be Marys in the Church until the Lord comes again.”(2)

In a related post called, “The Everyday Christian Woman” , Diane writes in similar spirit:  “God has uniquely created each of us for His own purposes. I hope you’re content with where He has put you. Christian women should be finding joy and purpose by simply walking with Christ in every day life.” I encourage you to visit!

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(1) Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (pp. 394–395). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
(2) Ryle, J.C. (2007). Expository thoughts on the Gospels, Luke (pp. 334-335). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Why Katie Luther Wouldn’t Have Had a Blog

Katharina-v-Bora-1526One of the effects of the Protestant Reformation was the restoration of the institution of marriage. Luther and the Reformers boldly challenged the church’s unbiblical teaching regarding clerical celibacy. Luther wrote a great deal on the subject, yet when the time came to put legs to his conviction, he hesitated. But after conferring with his father, he concluded “his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh and the devils to weep.”[1] And so on June 15, 1525, the union of Martin Luther and Katie Von Bora took place. Admittedly, Luther did not marry for love but their bond would strengthen over the years. So much so, that he wrote, “there is no bond on earth so sweet nor any separation so bitter as that which occurs in a good marriage.”[2] Of his beloved Katie he once gushed, “I would not give my Katie for France and Venice together.”[3]

After the wedding, Mrs. Luther wasted no time getting to work. Her single and most important priority was to bring structure to Martin’s disordered life. And boy did she have her work cut out! Luther once wrote that before Katie, “the bed was not made for a whole year and became foul with sweat.”[4] Moreover, the Reformer was plagued with a host of physical ailments ranging from gout, kidney stones, constipation, dizziness, and a sharp ringing in his ears. Katie made it her business to become a master of herbal remedies and medicines so that she could nurse her husband in his sick days. Indeed some who witnessed this, wondered if it weren’t for Katie, would the Reformer’s days have been cut shorter? The children came early in the marriage. Six altogether, and almost back-to-back. This means that Katie accomplished all that she did while pregnant! The house, as we like to say in New York, saw more traffic than Grand Central Station, and was filled continually with “a motley crowd of boys, students, girls, widows, old women, and youngsters.”[5] Katie oversaw the entire parsonage operation and made the Luther home a safe house for many. In fact, during the plague the Luther’s converted the house into a hospital and at their own risk, cared for the afflicted.  Luther affectionately called Katie, “The Morningstar of Wittenberg” because her workday started at 4am. She brewed her own beer, and made her own wine. She raised, slaughtered, and prepared the livestock for dinner. She planted, and cooked vegetables from her farm. She raised, caught, and served the trout. And in true entrepreneurial spirit, supplemented the family income by renting rooms in the black cloister. Seldom did she prepare a meal with less than a headcount of 30 in mind. She was a woman of great enterprise and skill.  For that reason, Martin trusted his wife in ways unimaginable for their time.

Given all that was on her plate, is it any surprise she didn’t pursue theological study with the same rigor of her husband? One author tells of Martin’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade her to study Greek: “She found the Greek language dreadful. Her husband wasted his time in vain trying to get her to memorize in Greek the passage: “The just shall live by faith.” She just replied: “Dear God, who could repeat that!”[6]

Most of what we know about Katie is gleaned from her husband’s letters. Unfortunately, not many survived and the ones that did betray a woman preoccupied with practical matters – namely, that of her husband’s well being. Kirsi Stjerna, author of “Women and the Reformation” explains Katie’s non-pursuit of theological matters in an insightful way:

“On her own part, it is also clear that she was incredibly busy, with no free time to sit down, reflect, and write.  It also appears that she was most concerned about “living” the faith, not writing about it. Unlike academically inclined women such as Olimpia Morata, she did not make study her priority, not after leaving the convent anyway.  Luther teased his wife that he would give her a reward of 50 Gulden if she would read the Scriptures – which give us as much of an indication of Katharina’s priorities in her use of time, as does her reply:  she said she had read enough, now she wanted to live it.”[7]

Of course, we’re not all called to be Katie Luther’s! And by no means am I suggesting women should not study and write about theology. I am only acknowledging the devotion and productivity of an enormously capable woman who sacrificed everything so that her husband could be free to accomplish all that he did. This is why Katie Luther wouldn’t have had a blog. And like most pastors’ wives I know, she was content to work hard and sacrifice in the shadow of her husband’s greatness.

Related Posts:

Thank You, Katie Luther - Read about Katie’s part in getting Luther to write his most important work, “The Bondage of the Will”

Women of the Reformation:  Katharina Luther by Hollie Dermer - Read Hollie’s contribution to “The Women of the Reformation” Series hosted at Heavenly Springs.

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[1] Gene Edward Veith, A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther (Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing, 2005). 98.
[2] Christian History Magazine-Issue 39: Martin Luther: The Later Years. 1993.
[3] Christian History Magazine-Issue 39: Martin Luther: The Later Years. 1993.
[4] Christian History Magazine-Issue 39: Martin Luther: The Later Years. 1993.
[5] Christian History Magazine-Issue 39: Martin Luther: The Later Years. 1993.
[6] Ernst Kroker, The Mother of the Reformation: The Amazing Life and Story of Katharine Luther, (Missouri: Concordia Publishing, 2013), Kindle Edition.
[7] Kirsi Stjerna, Women and the Reformation (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2009), 61.

Charles Spurgeon on Separating from False Teachers

Thanks to Eric Young for posting this on his blog last year. If anyone has earned the right to speak of this kind of gospel stance, it is Spurgeon. His decision to be unyielding cost him much.  Yet, for Spurgeon, there was no alternative.  You may be unpopular.  You may be misunderstood.  But make no mistake, no good will ever come from a gospel compromise for the sake of unity.  In a day when too many Christians seek love and tolerance over biblical truth and orthodoxy, the words of this saint are a huge encouragement.

spurgeon-portrait-roneyNumbers of good brethren in different ways remain in fellowship with those who are undermining the gospel; and they talk of their conduct as though it were a loving course which the Lord will approve of in the day of his appearing. We cannot understand them. The bounden duty of a true believer towards men who profess to be Christians, and yet deny the Word of the Lord, and reject the fundamentals of the gospel, is to come out from among them. If it be said that efforts should be made to produce reform, we agree with the remark; but when you know that they will be useless, what is the use?

Where the basis of association allows error, and almost invites it, and there is an evident determination not to alter that basis, nothing remains to be done inside, which can be of any radical service. The operation of an evangelical party within can only repress, and, perhaps, conceal, the evil for a time; but meanwhile, sin is committed by the compromise itself, and no permanently good result can follow. To stay in a community which fellowships all beliefs in the hope of setting matters right, is as though Abraham had stayed at Ur, or at Haran, in the hope of converting the household out of which he was called.

Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. If any body of believers had errorists among them, but were resolute to deal with them in the name of the Lord, all might come right; but confederacies founded upon the principle that all may enter, whatever views they hold, are based upon disloyalty to the truth of God. If truth is optional, error is justifiable. If some supposed “life” is to be all, and “truth” is to be thrust out of doors, then there is room for all except the believer in the doctrines which have been revealed by the Eternal Spirit.

Our present sorrowful protest is not a matter of this man or that, this error or that; but of principle. There either is something essential to a true faith—some truth which is to be believed; or else everything is left to each man’s taste. We believe in the first of these opinions, and hence we cannot dream of religious association with those who might on the second theory be acceptable. Those who are of our mind should, at all cost, act upon it. The Lord give them decision, and wean them from all policy and trimming!

Our one sole aim is the preservation and spread of the gospel of our Lord Jesus, and we mourn that godly men should be parties to a system which is destructive of good, and only promotive of error.

taken from: Sword and Trowel, October 1888.