preaching on Psalm 51. He is right. We are every bit as sinful as David, and the only thing that distinguishes us from him is opportunity. As I read his words, I was reminded of the many discussions surrounding the recent Tiger Woods scandal. I heard many Christians lambasting Woods for his adulterous behavior, as if they would never ever do what he had done. Really? How many of these Christians ever faced the sort of ongoing temptation a high profile celebrity like Woods faces daily? If we make the claim that we could never possibly fall prey to such temptation, we are deceiving ourselves and need to do a little more self-examination. And, even if we were able to withstand such temptation, it would only be by God's grace. On our own, by nature, we are every bit as sinful as Tiger Woods and King David and all the worst criminals we could cite throughout history. Or, do you suppose your sins are less wicked than the sins of those really bad sinners? They are not. You are David. You are Tiger Woods. You are guilty. Repent!
Now, recognizing the truth about ourselves does not mean that we throw in the towel and willingly, knowingly, and willfully indulge our sinful nature. We don't say, "Oh well, I'm a sinner and there's nothing I can do about that, so I may as well eat, drink, and be merry." Not at all. As St. Paul declares, "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound? By no means!" No, we strive against sin. We fight it. We crucify our flesh, doing our best to not give way to our sinful desires. But - BUT! - we fail daily at this. Try as we might, battle as hard as we can, we are still left with the reality of our sinfulness. It's still there. We are never rid of it this side of glory. We may win little victories here and there, but we are wholly incapable of winning the war against our sinfulness. We are like St. Paul, who confesses in Romans 7 that he fails to do what he wants to do and does those things he doesn't want to do, that he is a wretched man, the chief of sinners. And yet, he also rejoices in the fact that, sinner that he is, he is clothed with Jesus Christ, who gives him the victory he is unable to win for himself. This is where we get the phrase: Simul iustus et peccator (we Christians are saints and sinners at one and the same time).
This brings me to the second must read post, written by Pr. Brown on his blog. He is right, too. True Christian growth occurs as we discover more and more the depth of our sinfulness. Why? Because the more we realize how sinful we really are, the more we will come to rely upon the One who takes our sin away. If you can get it done on your own - and YOU CAN'T! - then you really don't need Jesus. This is why most of what you hear being preached on the television and radio is utter nonsense and very dangerous. These so-called preachers go out of their way to make their hearers feel good about themselves. They promise them God's blessings if they would only do such and such. They avoid preaching about sin like the plague, which is probably why they gain such popularity among the masses. Sinners love to be told how good they are. Sinners love to be encouraged and motivated to work out their own salvation. Sinners love to be told that they can do it themselves. Sinners hate to hear the truth about themselves. The truth hurts; better to avoid it.
But, whether these false preachers and their deceived hearers avoid the truth or not, the truth remains. And the truth is very clear: We are all sinners and that reality remains with us as long as we draw breath in this vale of tears. You can't get rid of that reality by reading the latest self-help book, which passes itself off as Christian. You can't get rid of that reality by following the seven steps of some self-proclaimed expert in the Christian life. You can't get rid of that reality by working harder or doing your very best. Your best is never good enough. God's Holy Law demands perfection; your best efforts fall woefully short. You are never in a position to say, "Well, I may not be perfect, but at least I'm better than those people." No, you're not. You are a sinner, every bit as much as anyone else. That's the truth.
When you are brought to this realization by the Holy Spirit through the Law, there is but one faithful response: Lord, have mercy upon me, a poor, sinful being! There is the cry of faith, the cry of the sinner who recognizes that he can't get it done by himself and is in desperate need of a Savior. Faith lives best on its knees. Faith grows and matures when we are brought low and humbled by God's Law, so that we have no other choice but to cry out to Him for mercy.
The Good News is that He answers our cry and has mercy on us for the sake of His Son, our Lord, who lived the perfect, sinless life in our place and suffered and died on the cross for every one of our sins. It is only through Jesus Christ that the reality of our sinfulness is taken away. We need Jesus. We need His perfect holiness and righteousness to clothe us. We need His perfect life and sacrificial death to stand in place of our sinful lives. And, we never stop needing Jesus. This is the mistake so many Christians make. "Yeah, I needed Jesus to accomplish my salvation, but it is up to me now to fend for myself." No! If St. Paul, great apostle that he was, continued to need Jesus until his dying breath, how any Christian today can think that they can handle things on their own is beyond me. You never stop needing Jesus. Period. That's the truth.
And that is one of the strongest arguments for continuing to use the historic liturgy, by the way. From beginning to end, the historic liturgy delivers Jesus to sinners who need Him. But, that is the topic for another post. I really only meant to direct your attention to the two fine posts by Prs. Esget and Brown, linked above. So, I'll shut up now. :)