Thank You to President Harrison for posting this on his blog.
But God’s winsome face must be recognized in His promises, in the sacraments, and likewise in external blessings and gifts, in a gracious prince, a neighbor, a father, and a mother. When I see that the face of my parents is gracious, I see at the same time the winsome face of God smiling at me. As Jacob had previously said that he had seen the Lord face to face, he now discerns the same face of GOD in the face of his brother Esau, for he sees the good pleasure of God’s will in the goodwill and favor of his brother. In the same manner, the face of God shines forth in all His creatures because they are works of God and testimonies of God’s will and presence. By these He coaxes us with an external aspect just as He shows His winsome and kindly face to us inwardly in our heart by the Word and the promises.
Luther’s works, vol. 6: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37 p 173
Whoever does not stand in this constant battle of flesh and spirit, knowing grace in his mind but not in his heart, is devoid of all spiritual life. If he does not fight against sinful impulses, sin will continue to rule over him, rending him from him. To such a person, eternal death is already adjudged, and he can only abandon the sweet dream that he stands in God’s grace. As Paul says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13).
God Grant It: Daily Devotions from C. F. W. Walther p 613
For if you carefully consider the state of our church, we seem to have nothing but the pure Word and the sacraments, and we have an infinite number of adversaries—princes, nobles, citizens, domestics, and pupils, and finally our own flesh which we carry about with us. For this is our glory, to be vexed and laughed at even by those from our own midst, by those in our own household. Those are our lids, on account of which we judge that God by no means wants to recognize and regard us as His own. For nothing becomes the church less than this picture, When I saw such contempt, aversion, and hatred for the Word arising from men after the rebirth of the light of the Gospel, I myself often thought: “Why did I begin to teach? Or, why do I keep on when men rage against us more and more and become worse daily?”
But these things must be borne, and we must conclude that God is the One who is hidden. This is His peculiar property. He is really hidden, and yet He is not hidden, for the flesh prevents us from being able to look at Him. It murmurs, is sorrowful, rages, is angry, and cries: “I am most wretched, forlorn, and despised.” It is certainly true that the pastors of the church together with the godly do not have the protection of princes, or kings, nor even the patronage of the citizens or peasants, which is the church’s due. The patronage which it already has is often taken away, so much are the pastors and the godly exposed to plunderings and wrongs of every kind. So it seems that God is completely forsaking us and casting us away, because He is hidden to us and we are hidden along with Him. But in faith, in the Word, and in the sacraments He is revealed and seen.
Reason, wisdom, righteousness of the flesh, and this light of the sun God regards as dark and misty, but here the Word comes forward like a little flame shining in the midst of darkness and scattering its rays through its doctrine and the sacraments; these rays God orders to be apprehended. If we embrace them, God is no longer hidden to us in the spirit but only in the flesh.
Therefore, also when we are plunged into disasters and troubles and covered by darkness, things on account of which we cannot be sure that we are the church or pleasing to God, let us learn to take hold of the Word and let sink and fall what falls, and let us not be moved by the fall and defection of others. But let us reflect that we are in a dark place, with the lamp of the Word shining before us. “For he who believes and is baptized will be saved” ( Mark 16:16). For that light is the only one which the sun and human reason do not see; but it shines in the heart. Besides this Word we should know nothing and see nothing. For if this Word alone is shining, there is no danger, and the hour will come when we shall come forth and say with joy: “I have seen the Lord face to face, and my soul has been saved.”
Luther’s works, vol. 6: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37 p 147-148
If we can earn nothing by works, it is equally certain that we are in debt to God. After all, He created us. Everything we have-body, soul, and life-is His gift to us. Does not this alone make us His debtors and obligate us to serve Him with all our energies and faculties? But even this is not enough. God has made us His debtors in another sense as well. By sin, we fell away from Him and entered the kingdom of death and eternal damnation. But behold! God has graciously received us once again. He gave His Son for us that He might bring us back into His blessed kingdom and received us into it. Thus we are doubly in debt to God. He has done great things for us, granting us life and rescuing us from eternal corruption by surrendering His Son into death. Is He worthy of no thanks for all of this? By what right are we entitled to reply, “since I cannot earn heaven with works, I won’t do any”? No, no! We are truly bound to live according to God’s Word and no according to our own flesh. Since everything is by grace alone, God must be our God and our souls must be His sacrifice and property.
God Grant It: Daily Devotions from C. F. W. Walther p 612
When Jacob therefore struggles with weakness of faith and does not cling to the promise firmly enough but wavers somewhat according to the flesh and has doubts about God’s will, as the flesh is accustomed to do, then there appears to him the gloomy face of God, struggling with him and desiring to kill him. The same happens to all who are tried when they do not rejoice in the goodness of God which has been clearly perceived but shudder at God’s wrath and are terrified. Here all things seem to threaten instant death, all things are black, cloudy, gloomy, unfavorable, and mournful in heaven and on earth. Neither the sun nor the moon shines forth because the heart, over-whelmed in the flesh, is dying, and when that is dead, all things fall into ruin. …
Luther’s works, vol. 6: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37 p 142-143
A Christian who recognizes his own weakness and corruption knows how easily a person can become lukewarm and forget the danger of losing his soul. He will also know how necessary it is for him to contemplate Scripture daily so his heart is continually awakened to receive its instruction, exhorting, warning and comfort. It is all too easy to be led away by the laziness of the flesh, but if the Christian will take care to consider, earnestly and attentively, something from God’s Word on a daily basis, he will not easily his way from the path of truth and godliness.
God Grant It: Daily Devotions from C. F. W. Walther p 609