The cure for little faith

lies, therefore, not in whipping up within oneself a higher energy of believing but in a desperate turning toward the Person who is faith’s object: “Lord, save me,” Peter cried, and “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him” (14:30, 31). The men of the New Testament show remarkably little interest in a definition of faith or an analysis of believing. They are much less interested than we are in examining their religious viscera for tokens and omens. When they think of faith, they think of it as relatedness to an object; and so, when the disciples came to write the record of Jesus, they did not write meditations on faith, though faith was central in their relationship to Him; they wrote Gospels.

Martin Franzmann
Follow Me: Discipleship According to Saint Matthew
p. 142-143


We are bound by our own will.

And it is because we do not really know God that we must, in the second place, construct a theology that enables us basically to place our trust in ourselves. The point of Luther’s writing On the Bondage of the Will is that as sinners we are bound by our own will to do this. The bondage of the will does not stem from the fact that because God is almighty we are therefore forced to do things “against our will”— as though we were “determined” or some such nonsense. No, the bondage of the will Luther was talking about was much more actual. It is something of our own making. We will not accept an almighty God and so are bound by our own will to construct a theology based on our own freedom. We are the problem, not God. We are bound to the folly of taking our fate into our own hands. That is what Luther means when he says in his explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. . . .”

Gerhard O. Forde
Where God Meets Man: Luther’s Down-to-Earth Approach to the Gospel
p. 24-25

God speaks life. His final Word

(in the absolution that renews faith in him), just as his first Word (in the creation of Adam and Eve), springs from his mercy and conveys his steadfast love, his creative and creating joy at shaping creatures and children for himself. . . .

The Gospel, as a Word of re-creation and restoration, serves God as an instrument for delivering his love to those he has chosen and for doing battle in their behalf against Satan. God is the Lord of life, and Satan is a murderer. The two are in perpetual conflict with each other. God speaks truth, also in the Word made flesh, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); Satan lies because that is his nature (John 8:44). The battle over life and death takes place, for Luther, in the confrontation of the two words, the devil’s deceit and God’s powerful, re-creative Word of life and truth. God discharges his responsibility for his creation through his Word.

In the midst of this struggle God’s chosen people remain his children. The creative Word of God has given his people their identity in his creation, as a gift, by pronouncing them his creatures and his children. For that identity flowed expectations for their performance in daily life. The righteousness of their God-given identity vanished as they mysteriously broke their relationship with God and placed their central and guiding faith in creatures rather than the Creator. The performance that flows from unfaith may approximate God’s plan for human performance but always falls short. Therefore, when God’s law evaluates sinners, it may assign a variety of grades to their activities in terms of their usefulness in human society, but in the case of the central trust, the affirmation of their identity, sinners always fail. God must restore them to faith in him; he must revive their humanity. He does so through his re-creative power in the gospel.

Robert Kolb
Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method: From Martin Luther to the Formula of Concord
p. 46-48

Nagel on Matthew 4:1-11

        The names put on Jesus at His baptism were Son of God and Suffering Servant. With those names came what was His to do. The voice from heaven spoke words from Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42. “Son of God” was used to describe the people of Israel; the people of Israel are gathered up in their king. The Davidic title, Son of God, is put on Jesus at His baptism, which is His anointing to kingship. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). “Beloved” and “with whom I am well pleased” were said in Isaiah of that Son of God, that Servant of God. We will hear the names “Son” and “Servant” again at Jesus’ transfiguration as He stands with Moses and Elijah, speaking of the death that He would accomplish.
Then we are told Christ would make Himself a sacrifice for sin. He will make many to be accounted righteous, for He will bear their iniquities. Such is the Son, Servant of God, the King who stands for His people, the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The next thing that Matthew tells us is that
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted
by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and
                                               afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to
                                               him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to
become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man
shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that proceed
from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4 RSV)
The last words from the mouth of God to Jesus were “This is My beloved Son, in whom I well pleased (Matthew 3:17). The tempter cast doubt on these words: “If You are the Son of God.” This is similar to the first temptation that involved us all: “Hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1). The devil is saying, “Doesn’t God want you to have food? Doesn’t He want you to have what is good for you? Doesn’t God love you? So take the fruit.” Eve did take the fruit. And with her sin, her taking, her unbelief, she brought all her children into bondage, one from which, try as they may, they can never get free. All their efforts bring them deeper into slavery, no matter how many styles of fig leaves they try.
In Jesus’ temptation, when everything that is wrong with us hangs on Jesus, He did not sin. The words of God come first and are sure: “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus’ victory is not with some magical blast but in the strength of the words of the Lord. The same words have been give to you too. Jesus was tempted to slip away from the words of God, away from the cross, into the bondage and slaveries of power. For Him to grasp power as the way of being a Servant/Son/King would make bad news out of the Good News. It would mean that is indeed the way everything goes. Everybody wants power, even God. Those who look for a big power god get that kind of god. The ways of power and coercion and necessity. God does not want to deal with us with coercion. That is not His saving way with us in Jesus. Jesus came to set us free—no whip, no rope, no slaves. (p. 86-87)

        Religion comes in the next temptation. And what could be more religious than the temple and its pinnacle? The devil knows how to behave himself in church. A telling word of Scripture would be just the thing that is called for. He has one, but one fixed to fit his purpose. No captive is more delicious to the devil’s taste than one he captures by using the words and the name of God. Verbal inspiration is not his primary problem. The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, says Shakespeare. And every heretic can too, says Tertullian. So Satan tempts: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone'” (Matthew 4:6 RSV). You can trust God’s promises, can’t you? Satan certainly sometimes sounds like s reasonably good Lutheran, doesn’t he?
Jesus sees it straight because He says God’s word straight. There won’t be any tempting of God, calling Him up for a miracle, or all those more subtle ways in which we try to get in on God’s power and use it to our purpose–even good purposes, perhaps. But with us, getting control of God, binding Him, is the native meaning of the word religion. Thant can be a dirty word.
Jesus, who refused to do a spectacular miracle in the temple, could not be taken captive there. A few years ago it was quite the thing to say, “You won’t find Jesus here in church. He is out there in the world doing what people need to have done for them there. That is the real Jesus.” Satan seems to follow something of the same line of thought. The devil took Jesus to a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdom of the world and their glory, and said to Him, “All these I will give You if You will fall down and worship Me. You can be king of the lot, Jesus. All the power that is mine I will put at Your disposal. The two of us together can hardly fail, if You will only do things a bit more my way.” (p. 88)

        Satan’s sort of king is not the one who hangs on the cross, the one who resists temptation on His way to the cross. Along that way we follow again with Jesus this Lent, deeply rejoicing in what He does for us, in what is only His to do, in what He does that counts for us, in what He does on the cross by which we come to be forgiven and righteous. “By one man’s obedience. . . shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Only God (who doesn’t have to prove He is God) does it. So hidden, so human, so weak, so hungry, so declining to make it big in the church or in the world. Here is the way of the cross. That is the way Jesus does it.
One expectation of the Messiah would be that He would be invulnerable. Nothing could hurt Him, not even a fall from the pinnacle of the temple. Now there is a sensible sort of Christ. And Satan rides along on our natural way of projecting God and getting maximum mileage with our “religion,” No wonder they had no use for a man who got Himself crucified! There was never such a way of being a king before, of being God’s Son, the Suffering Servant, of being Christ, of being Savior, of being Jesus for you, even to His body broken and His bleed shed—for you. Amen. (p. 89)

Select Sermons of Norman Nagel
First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11
Concordia Seminary (1995)

What is Christian Pastoral Counseling?

Christian pastoral counseling occurs within the framework of the church’s mission. This context becomes extremely important. Pastoral counseling should go hand-in-hand with the use of the means of grace—the Word and sacraments. Hulme notes that “to separate the church’s means of grace from pastoral counseling would divorce pastoral counseling from its Christian context.”* The pastoral counselor may also employ other distinctive Christian resources: prayer, individual confession, the giving of absolution, pastoral conversation and consolation. Christian fellowship, liturgical formulae, Christian teachings and theology, signs and symbols, and benedictions. Naturally, these resources may be an advantage or disadvantage depending upon how they are utilized. The pastoral counselor must avoid regarding these “resources of faith” as psychological palliatives or mere support therapy but must rather view them as avenues and channels for the reception of God’s healing grace.

The keys to the dynamics and distinctiveness of pastoral counseling is found in the Gospel. The Gospel is the Good News of a person’s reconciliation with God and with other people through Jesus Christ. The Gospel becomes the integrating factor in pastoral counseling because the forgiveness of sins is the source of its healing power and life-giving therapy. In what other kinds of counseling is forgiveness from God and others central and clearly sought after? The aim of pastoral counseling is not to get people merely to feel better or to act differently, but to be different. The “old self” must die and the “new self” come alive. Here, pastoral counseling does not differentiate between the redeemed and the unredeemed in its methadology. The forgiveness of sins is vital for sanctification as well as justification. No matter at what stage of relationship with God a person is, pastoral counseling is able to become an instrument through which the Holy Spirit can carry out a sanctifying work.

In the various kinds of psychotherapy, success often depends on the theory, techniques, and skills of the therapist. In pastoral counseling the same would be true to some extent; however, in pastoral counseling God works through the tools and resources. It is His power that effects change in people’s lives. This does not imply that pastoral counseling can be carried out in a shoddy manner; rather, quite the opposite should be the case. In all of pastoral counseling the pastor is acutely aware of God as the measure of all things.

Walter J. Koehler Counseling & Confession: The Role of Cofession and Absolution in Pastoral Counseling p. 40-41

* From William. E Hulme, Counseling and Theolgy page. 202

I must still read and study the Catechism daily.

“Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism,” writes Luther in the Preface to the Large Catechism. “Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly” (LC Pref 7-8). How well it would be with us Lutheran pastors, how well it would be with our church, if we paid more attention to this word and let it become active in our life and in our office! How many false conceptions of Lutheranism would be gone from our own souls, how many prejudices about our church on the part of the world would then vanish all by themselves! Kyrie eleison!

Letters to Lutheran Pastors Vol. 1
Hermann Sasse
p. 67

We are both/and sinner and justified

Therefore, when Luther says that a Christian is at the same time sinner and justified, he does not mean in terms of an open-ended circle, but he adds that the “both/and” of these two powers (i.e. God and sin) is ever an “over/under” in our lives. We live, to be sure, in the twilight and the shadows of the night are ringed with the glow of light. However, it is not the glow of sunset, but rather the dawn of the morning. The power of sin is already weakened and it has already lost the battle. But the new righteousness of God has been raised and we already live in its hope: “The night is advancing, the dawn is almost nigh.”*

The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther
Hans J. Iwand
p. 33

* Iwand is quoting from WA 2:586. 9; LW 27:363-364: “Accordingly, one must not imagine that these are two distinct human beings. But it is like a morning twilight, which is neither day nor night yet can be called either one. Nevertheless, day, as that toward which it is tending after the darkness of night, is more appropriate. By fat the most beautiful illustrations of both truths is that half-alive man in Luke (10:30ff.) who, on being taken up by the Samaritan, was indeed being healed but still was not fully restored to health. Thus we in the church are indeed in the process of being healed, but we are not fully healthy. For the latter reason we are called “flesh;” for the former, “spirit.” It is the whole man who love chastity, and the same man is titillated by the enticements of lust. There are two whole men, and there is only one whole man. Thus it comes about that a man fights against himself and is opposed to himself. He is willing, and he is unwilling. And this is the glory of the grace of God; it makes us enemies of ourselves.”