Sunday, July 31, 2011

Telling the Devil to Kiss Your Backside

Learning from Luther

(Or, if you are a Fundy, If the Devil Doesn't Like It He Can Sit on a Tack.)

 Luther at table was earthy, bombastic, unguarded in his remarks, remarkably open about himself, and often funny. But he is also profoundly spiritual and pastorally wise. The following are quotations from Table Talk on the topics of forgiveness and faith. They are offered on a Lord’s Day for encouragement.


The question is…whether the law, kept with the Spirit’s help, justifies. I reply by saying, No. Even if in the power of the Holy Spirit a man could keep the law completely, he ought nevertheless to pray for divine mercy, for God has ordained that a man should saved not by the law but by Christ. Works never give us a peaceful heart. Christ would never have been sad in spirit unless he had been pressed hard by the law, to which he subjected himself for our sake.

Our Lord must be a very devout man to be able to love knaves. I can’t do it though I am a knave myself.

In the article of the forgiveness of sins we have the knowledge of Christ, which alone can comfort us and lift us up. Apart from the forgiveness of sins I can’t stand a bad conscience at all; the devil hounds me with a single sin until the world becomes too small for me, and afterward I feel like spitting on myself for having been afraid of such a small thing. So only the knowledge of Christ preserves me.

The sin which Judas committed when he betrayed Christ was a small sin because it could have been forgiven. But to despair of grace is a greater sin for it cannot be forgiven, for God has determined for Christ’s sake to forgive the sin of all those who believe…Sin carries us down to despair or up to presumption. In either case sin is not repented of, for sin is either exaggerated or not acknowledged at all.

For when Satan disputes with me whether God is gracious to me, I dare not quote the passage, “He who loves God will inherit the kingdom of God,” for Satan will at once object, “But you have not loved God!” Nor can I oppose this on the ground that I am a diligent reader (of the Scriptures) and a preacher. The shoe doesn’t fit. I should say, rather, that Jesus Christ died for me and should quote the article (of the Creed) concerning the forgiveness of sins. That will do it!

When you confess a sin and yet do not cease from it, it is a grievous sin and is contempt of God, but it’s not the sin against the Holy Spirit. ON the other hand, when you know you are wrong and nevertheless defend your self, that is too much…Our Lord God can suffer it that no sin should be so great that it cannot be forgiven when the sinner falls down before Christ…we see that all history presses toward the forgiveness of sins, Everything circles around the center, and that is Christ.

You say that sins we commit every day offend God, and therefore we are not saints. To this I reply: Mother love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness of a child, and so the love of God is stronger than the dirt that clings to us. Accordingly, though we are sinners, we do not lose our filial relation on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of sin.

But a Christian remains firmly attached to Christ and says, “If I am not good, Peter wasn’t either, but Christ is good…a Christian says, “I wish to do as much as I can, but Christ is the bishop of our souls. To him I will cling, even if I sin.” It is thus that one has assurance.

It’s the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him every time that he should kiss my backside. Even if I sinned I would say, “Should I deny the gospel on this account?” …Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, “The forgiveness of sins covers it all,” I have won. On the other hand, if the devil gets me involved in what I  have done and left undone, He has won, unless god help and says, “Indeed! Even if you have not done anything, you would still have to be saved by forgiveness…”

Christ is friendlier than we are. If I can be a good friend, how much more will Christ be good to us! When Satan leads me to the law I am damned, but if I can take hold of the promise, I am free.


In short it does not occur to a man that God is Father. If it did, man could not live for a single moment. Accordingly in his infirm flesh we must have faith, for if we were capable of fully believing, heaven would be already here. Therefore there is no reason to fear, in so far as the object of fear is concerned, and yet we cannot understand and are compelled on account of the weakness of our flesh suffer assaults of desperation and depression.

It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp t his…This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.

When we are brought to life on the last day we shall spit on ourselves and say, “Fie on you for not having been bolder in believing in Christ, since the glory is so great!”

Our faith is an odd thing – that I should believe that man who was hanged is the Son of God, though I have never seen him, known him, or met him. He is to me like a stone place in the middle of the sea: a stone about which I know nothing except what the gospel says: I am the Lord. Well, then, if he says so, so be it!

Why do we more readily believe Satan when he terrifies than Christ when he consoles?...Because we are better equipped to doubt than to hope; because hope comes for the Spirit of God but despair comes from out own spirit.

The greatest gift is to have a conscience pacified by the Word. For this did God permit his Son to die, that we might have a good conscience.

To say, “I am a child of God,” is accordingly not to doubt even when good works are lacking, as they always are in all of us. This is so great a thing that one is startled by it. Such is its magnitude that one can’t believe it.

1 comment:

Alexander said...

Can you tell me from where in Table Talk these quotes are taken? Which articles?