The Long Climb

Daily Reformation, Mark 8:31-38

From the Reformer

Spirit, he says, comes from Christ, who has given us his Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit makes us spiritual and restrains the flesh. The Holy Spirit assures us that we are God’s children no matter how furiously sin may rage within us, so long as we follow the Spirit and struggle against sin in order to kill it. Because nothing is so effective in deadening the flesh as the cross and suffering, Paul comforts us in our suffering. He says that the Spirit, love and all creatures will stand by us; the Spirit in us groans and all creatures long with us that we be freed from the flesh and from sin. Thus we see that these three chapters, 6, 7 and 8, all deal with the one work of faith, which is to kill the old Adam and to constrain the flesh.

In chapters 9, 10 and 11, St. Paul teaches us about the eternal providence of God. It is the original source which determines who would believe and who wouldn’t, who can be set free from sin and who cannot. Such matters have been taken out of our hands and are put into God’s hands so that we might become virtuous. It is absolutely necessary that it be so, for we are so weak and unsure of ourselves that, if it depended on us, no human being would be saved. The devil would overpower all of us. But God is steadfast; his providence will not fail, and no one can prevent its realization. Therefore we have hope against sin.

—Martin Luther, Preface to The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans

Pulling It Together

The surest sign he knew that God loved him, beyond the sending of his Son, was the sending of his Spirit. He knew God greatly loved him because every time he fell in his faith, every time he sinned or doubted, he somehow immediately sought the Father’s forgiveness and pursued him again. It was not that he picked himself up so much as he was picked up. His flesh raged against him but could not keep him down, for the Spirit within him was stronger than the whole world and its spiritual rulers. Each time he failed God, God’s Spirit lifted him up and gave him a fresh portion of faith and hope. By this he knew that God loved him very much and would not leave him go. He knew he belonged to God because God kept him for himself. This caused him to love God more and try harder not to fail him. The first and last step in his walk with God was to depend on God more than he depended upon himself.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers

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