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What Luther Says

God Prefers A Contrite Heart Over Your Good Works

The Word of God is pretty clear on this...

Psalm 51:17 (ESV) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The footnote from my Lutheran Study Bible says that, "Even the best sacrifice is nothing if done without a contrite heart, which knows it owes everything to God, deserves nothing from Him, and has forgiveness, life, and salvation in Him alone."

Of course, we also know that God does not need our "good works" but our neighbor surely does as we serve others daily and through our various God-given vocations.

Besides, let us also recall what the prophet Isaiah said about our so-called "good works" in the name of God too (Isaiah 64:6).

All of this should help us to think of the story of Cain and Abel and what the Lord is teaching us through it...

This is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's were righteous. 1 John 3: 11-12.

What offense had godly Abel committed against his brother to be so hated? He had regarded that brother as the first-born, had done him all honor and loved him as became a brother. He was easily satisfied, desiring simply the grace of God. He prayed for the future seed, for the salvation and happiness of his parents, his brother and the entire human race. How could Cain be so unmerciful and inhuman to murder his own flesh and blood? The answer is found in the fact that the devil had filled Cain's heart with pride and vanity over his birthright. He considered himself a man of distinction, while his brother was nothing. His heart is empty of true brotherly love. He cannot endure God's display of favor toward his brother, and will not be moved by the Warning from God to humble himself and seek God's grace. Anger and envy possess him so that he cannot tolerate his brother alive. He becomes a murderer, and then goes his way as if he had done right. This is what John means when he says that Cain had no other cause for his crime than that his works were evil and his brother's righteous. Similarly that obedient daughter of Saint Cain, the world, hates the Christians; and for no other reason than the Christian's love and goodness of heart. In this man Cain is pictured the world in its true characteristic colors; in him its true spirit stands reflected. On the other hand poor, worthless Abel well represents the obscure little brotherhood, the Church of Christ. She must yield to Cain, the lord, the distinction of being everything before God. He feels important in his imagined dignity and thinks that God cannot but favor and accept his offering rather than that of his brother. Meanwhile pious Abel goes his way, meekly suffering his brother's contempt. He yields him the honor and beholds no consolation for himself aside from the pure mercy and goodness of God. He believes in God and in such faith he performs his sacrifice as a confession of his gratitude. 

Sin is an inheritance, born in us (Psalm 51:5), ever damaging us.

The anguished cry of confession from the depths of guilt as we find in Psalm 51 finds God's absolution and renewal on the certain footing of grace alone (sola gratia).

No, none of our works can ever set us free from terror, despair, or death. However, God has blotted out even the worst of our sins -- adultery (also known as lust) and murder (also known as hate) -- by Jesus' sacrifice.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, we repent daily, remember our Baptism, and pray to be renewed and restored, and given joy for our guilt and sadness over our sins; forgiven, renewed, and restored only through Christ's undeserved grace and mercy and never through any act of our own.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just your average everyday Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to "Confessional Lutheranism" and one who recently escaped an American-Evangelical-Non-Denominational mindset a little more than 4 years ago now despite being a Christian my whole life. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way back into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the whole truth myself. With that in mind, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) 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!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavily 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 they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I 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 footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). 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 "Christian 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. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. 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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