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What Luther Says

Just Like Judas? Don't Judge A Sinner By His (Habitual) Sin

Here we are, only a few days after Easter Sunday, and I can't help but feel like I'm just like Judas.

Of course, each and every one of us is just as guilty as Judas was for the sins we've committed that put or Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross in our place.

Even so, how can it be that I celebrated Christ's resurrection and participated in receiving the Lord's Supper a mere 4 days ago, and yet, here I am beating myself up over the fact that I'm still a sinner when I know that the reality is that I'm simultaneously a saint and a sinner with Jesus' righteousness imputed to me as though it were my very own?

Typing the words right now, it seems rather ridiculous, doesn't it? So what is this then? Do I need to hear the Law more and the Gospel less perhaps? Maybe I need more Gospel and less Law?

Here's a little excerpt from Martin Luther's "The Seizure of Christ In The Garden" or his sermon on Matthew 26:47-50 that I think is quite appropriate today...

The Case of Judas 
The case of Judas stands thus. He was an avaricious fellow; the Evangelists mention several times that he was in the habit of stealing from the treasury, which, according to the Lord’s appointment, was in his care. He gave the reins to this sin and became addicted to it. He permitted men to talk and to preach to him, as, alas! some of the miserable, provoking Christians of our day let themselves be talked and preached to; but went nevertheless and stole wherever he could, and thought himself in no danger because he was an Apostle as well as the rest. 
Because he thus gave place to sin, his carnal security finally brought him so far that the devil entered into him quite, and urged him on to the attainment of his outrageous purpose of betraying his dear Lord and Master for fifteen florins. Since the devil was thus successful in leading Judas to this act of treachery, the greater wretchedness followed that Judas fell into despair and hanged himself on account of such sin. This is the end the devil now had in view. 
Now we should diligently observe this case of Judas and, as already stated, be admonished by it to keep a clear conscience; to lie in the true fear of God; and not to cease praying that God would uphold us by His Word, rule us by His Holy Spirit, and keep us from sin. For if we make a mistake in an apparently trifling matter even, unspeakably great misery may ensue. Our dear Lord Jesus, in the 11. chapter of Luke, warns us against this, saying: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh unto him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” We have instances of this before us. Before the blessed Gospel came to light again, the devil enjoyed perfect tranquility; he had ensnared nearly every heart by a spurious worship and by reliance on good works. But God has now banished him by the Gospel, that we might know that God is not served and that we are not benefited by the celebration of masses, by vigils, pilgrimages and monkery. God’s Word has taught us a different form of worship, which the 2. Ps. calls “kissing the Son;” and God from heaven declared it “hearing and believing in His Son.” This we know. 
Let us see what takes place now. The devil would gladly come back to this old home; but he can not, for he finds the entrance blocked up and himself exposed by the light of God’s Word. “Then goeth he and taketh to him seven,” that is, innumerable, “other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter and dwell there.” We see that most men are under the impression that they can lead a lewd life, practice covetousness and usury, lie and deceive, and still be in no danger, and be good Christians all the while. Wherever there is a hole left open for the devil, even if we would think it too small for him to peep through, it is large enough for him to stick his head in and drag his whole body after. In this way he entered into Judas too. We might think his stealing ten or twenty dollars a very little matter; but because he continually hankered after the pleasures of this sin, and did not suffer God’s Word to restrain him, the devil finally prevails on him, for the sake of money, to lead his blessed Lord and Master like an ox to the slaughter. 
Hence the warning: Fear God and shun sin. But if you will continue in sin, you may look out for the danger, to which you thus expose yourself; for the devil does not go to work with the intention of conferring favors on you. He prompted Judas to avarice until he led him though despair to the gallows. Let this be your warning, and desist in time! Earnestly beseech God that he would for Christ’s sake, not impute to you your iniquity, and then reform! This is the will of God. He permitted this dreadful example of Judas to be given that we might study it and recoil from it. For who would have thought that such a terrible sin could have such an insignificant beginning! O, do not make light of this; do not think in your heart: I can do so and so, and still be a Christian,–I will make amends some day, &c. The devil is too cunning for you; when he has once spun his web about you, it will not be easy for you to tear yourself away.

One line from Luther's sermon particularly resonated with me: "He gave the reins to this sin and became addicted to it."


Where is all of this coming from? Well, without getting into specifics, I've been thinking how...

After such a blessed Easter Sunday, that "liar" and "roaring lion" is seeking to "devour" me (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8) with thoughts of condemnation, fear, and guilt due to the annoying truth about the presence of some old sins along with the discovery of some new ones.

Perhaps this is a great time to revisit a popular episode from Worldview Everlasting on this very same subject.

Don't Judge A Sinner By His Sin 
Are you less of a Christian if you struggle with habitual sin? Can you know if you or someone you know is saved by what they do? Shouldn’t there be progress in the Christian life, like getting better or something? Some deep questions in this episode answered with some awesome Gospel.

Man, do I hate the struggle I have with my habitual sins!

I suppose that's a "good sign" though like Pastor Fisk pointed out.

I like what Rev. Dustin L. Anderson wrote...

Know that you are not alone in your battle against the flesh, “for [you] do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with [your] weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as [you] are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). Jesus Christ is with you and for you in the midst of your deep and dark battle with the world, the devil and your own sinful flesh. He has suffered and died for you and all your sins, without any worthiness or merit within you. You are loved by God in His eternal grace and mercy. Habitual sin attacks and cripples everyone of us, each in our own way as the Fall into sin has affected us. Nevertheless, all sin is equally condemnable in God’s eyes. Therefore the medicine and defense against such pernicious and wicked sin is the same – Jesus Christ crucified for us for the forgiveness of our sins. So, in faith, we direct our gaze on Him, who saved us all with His precious blood. 
Paul in Romans 7 expresses the struggle every baptized believer endures, who wrestles with habitual sin. "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." (Romans 7:15-25 ESV) 
As you mentioned at the end of your letter “I think I need to go to confession, but I am terrified of telling this to the pastor.” You are right! Private Confession & Holy Absolution are exactly what the Lord would have for you. And as a penitent myself, I understand the fear associated with the idea of going to confession. Yet, I would counsel you to look at this Sacrament as the precious gift from God that it is. 
The last thing the world, the devil and your flesh want you to do is audibly confess your sins to the one sent by God to loose (forgive) your sins. The unholy trinity does not want you to claim your sin as your own so as to have it forgiven. And because they don’t want you to confess your sins, they stir up fear within you. They do this by introducing doubt into the promises of God. “Did God really say?” The unholy trinity appeals to the core of your fallen nature. They arouse unbelief. According to the fallen flesh no one believes God’s Word & Promises. But all is not lost. To overcome this unbelief God gives you His Spirit & Word. He sends you the beautiful feet of His pastors to remind you of His gospel promises and to actually deliver everything Jesus is for you. 
The Sacrament of Confession & Holy Absolution is a gift of unimaginable comfort, especially for habitual sins. In the confines of the confessional all your darkest sins are called what they are before the pastor so that the pastor, in the stead of Christ, can intimately forgive you, by name, with God’s Holy Name – the very name spoken and given to you at your baptism. 
Does confessing your sins hurt? Yes, but only because the flesh, the old man, the sinner in you is being crucified to death so that a new man may arise to live in God’s grace and love for Jesus’ sake. The comfort that comes from Confession and Holy Absolution is the certainty that God forgives you all your sins, every single one of them, no matter what they may be, even homosexuality. 
The habitual sins of which Luther speaks of in the Smalcald Articles are those sins that are held outside the forgiveness of sins. That is to say, to persist in sin without any concern or care with what you are doing. Faith cannot survive without the reception of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus sake. You are not that man! Consider King David, he committed sin after sin, because sin breeds sin, that is until it is confronted and killed by the Law of God, which says, “You are the man!” Then, repentant faith says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” It is that man, who is then absolved with the Gospel, “The Lord also has put away your sin…” You are the man and you know it! More than that, your sins are put away, they are forgiveness in the bloody cross of Jesus. Believe it and receive it. The fruit of the cross, the forgiveness of all your sins, is delivered to you superabundantly through the means of your baptism remembered, Holy Absolution heard, and Christ’s body and blood eaten and drunk. None of these are dependent on you, but come from outside of you by grace in the beautiful feet of those who are sent to deliver them to you. The thorn you bear is difficult, but the grace of Christ is greater! He is ever for you and so are those pastors sent by Him. There is no greater joy that a pastor has than to forgive sins in Jesus’ name, no matter what they might be.

That's a fitting place to end I think. You might want to bookmark this helpful resource too.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, yes, we are just like Judas, but we are unlike him in that we don't need to let our sins (even the habitual ones) drive us to despair if not also death, because we have the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross in our place for those same sins to atone for them, to justify us, and to give us eternal life through salvation.

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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