I was going to write another whole post on the subject of the last two posts, but I'll just throw out some quotations I've run across. From the New Reformation Press, a Lutheran blog:
I can’t imagine being on a never ending treadmill of “maintaining my salvation through my own constant active efforts to be better than the sinful guy I was yesterday”!
You can say that again.
Michael Horton wrote a recent Christianity today article, on why Jesus as a historically separate person from ourselves remains the substance of Christianity, and not some hazy, ill-defined "Jesus-power" inside of the believer, leading us by our own reason and moral conviction. Jesus as Incarnation, that which we celebrate this season, marginalizes our constant need to resort to inwardly focused spiritual adjustment programs in the service of what we've deemed as sanctification:
Our inner self is not the playground of "spirit," but the haunted plains on which we build our towers of Babel. In other words, our hearts are idol factories, in bondage to sin and spin.
The mistake we make is that "now that I'm born again, my heart is corrected, so I can go ahead and whip all that sin in my life." Epic fail. The heart is still a "haunted plain," and while the Spirit takes ground on it gradually, it's safe to assume that your default position is idolatry, that only death will free you, and that you can't be trusted to "work for your sanctification" as many assume. The end result of this is not some worm theology, it's joy in who Jesus is and what he's done.
Here's what Gerharde Forde says about this:
Talk about sanctification is dangerous. It is too seductive for the old being...
The result of this kind of thinking is generally disastrous. We are driven to make an entirely false distinction between justification and sanctification in order to save the investment the old being has in the moral system. Justification is a kind of obligatory religious preliminary which is rendered largely ineffective while we talk about getting on with the truly “serious” business of becoming “sanctified” according to some moral scheme or other. We become the actors in sanctification. This is entirely false. According to Scripture, God is always the acting subject, even in sanctification.
"Holiness hype" is the lemon juice in the eye of a Gospel conversation. If there's anything that's going to kill joy and awe over the gospel, it's being told that there's a danger that we're going to backslide if we don't tie up all the moral loose ends in our life, and that it won't happen without our devotion and effort. This can be subtle. A simple shift in emphasis. Think about this the next time you're in one of these conversations. See how quickly it degenerates from Jesus Christ, the Risen and exalted King, into talk about us and our faith or our progress. What would happen if, every time someone decided to move the subject from "Jesus is amazing" to "how we can fix ourselves and our faith," we pointed it out and brought it back to Jesus. One could become unpopular very quickly. But ever since I've begun to notice these subtle, uncalled-for shifts, it's been like sand grating into my eyeball. Hopefully, this won't be too painful...