Martin Luther declared that Christians are simul justus et peccator – simultaneously righteous and sinner. Another popular way of saying this is that Christians are “saved sinners.” Just what did Luther mean? Is it appropriate for Christians to see themselves as sinful saints?
At the risk of stirring controversy, I suggest that pastors should refrain from using “study Bibles.” At its best a study Bible is a devotional tool, not meant for serious study of the Scriptures. At their worst study Bibles are the dubious reflections of popular preachers that propagate sectarian or questionable doctrines. Also, too many readers of study Bibles fail to make the distinction between the inspired text and the notes contained on the same page. Instead of a study Bible, I suggest investing in just a few books that, with constant use, will make the pastor/teacher a competent interpreter of Holy Scripture.
As a child in Pentecostal church I often heard sermons warning against the dangers of worldliness. The words of John were seared into my Christian psyche:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).
I’ve enjoyed our transition and settled in to my new work at Pentecostal Theological Seminary. As I ponder the New Year the words of Paul come to mind:
Each Christmas we celebrate with lights, songs, and feasts. And, each Christmas our songs of praise are interrupted by the cries of those who suffer from violence, sickness, and death. This brings us to the story of the slaughter of the innocent boys in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). It’s part the Christmas story that we don’t often tell, or sing about. The words of the prophet are haunting and familiar.
I enjoyed the first Star Wars movie (1977). It was fun and the conflict was palpable. So was the hope. Luke Skywalker was a young hopeful idealist, even somewhat corny. He was strong in the Force. Obe-Wan Knobi, the Jedi master, was somewhat brooding, but had an air of confidence which engendered hope. Likewise with Yoda. Obe-Wan and Yoda had faith.
Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence—To make Your name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! (Isaiah 64:1-2 NASB).
Advent is a word that speaks to the arrival, or appearing, of a notable person/event. Advent denotes hope, expectation, joy, and even fear. Christians celebrate a season of Advent as a time in between. The first Sunday of Advent is both historical and eschatological, that is, it remembers God’s appearances in history, and it anticipates the culmination of God’s kingdom in the future.