Daily Reformation, Psalm 133:1-3
From the Reformer
Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, “Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven.” The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, “I believe.” This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.
—Martin Luther, Preface to The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans
Pulling It Together
The young pastor had just left a meeting, feeling as though he had finally begun to break through with his flock on matters where the church needed to change and grow. He was smiling as he locked the church door and walked down the sidewalk. As he turned the corner of church and stepped onto the parking lot, the thought was on his mind that God had begun to work a minor miracle that night. Then he heard her yelling at him. He was dumbfounded to hear this lady of the church accusing him of destroying her church and hurling such obscenities at him as he had never heard at a church. He quickly realized the meeting had not gone as well for her as it had for himself.
The “experience of the heart” is something God provides—not something one manufactures or imagines. How often has the Church experienced its offspring quarreling over matters that the world would find sadly amusing! Brothers and sisters become estranged over nuances of practice, never to see each other again until heaven—if there.
What could the pastor do with his sense that the meeting had gone well and the sister’s charge that it had been disastrous? There was no good recourse but to walk by faith and not by sight (or sound). He had to believe that God was in charge in the church, despite what he saw and heard in the parking lot. He could retreat under the vulgarity of the accuser, the bad feelings of a bruised ego, and the temptation to give up on such low persons. Or he could pursue God in faith, instead of trusting his sight and hearing—and the resultant feelings. The latter would simply be the continuation of God’s miracle in that church.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers