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From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Monastic Vows
But listen; hear how the composers of the Confutation take flight. They only apply this passage of Paul to the Law of Moses, adding that the monks observe all things for Christ’s sake, and endeavor to live more closely to the Gospel in order to merit eternal life. Then they tack on a horrible closing with these words: “Therefore, those things that are here alleged against monasticism are wicked.”
Pulling It Together: What does God want? What does he want more than anything? What does God want from us “above all things”? He wants us. He wants our hearts, our trust, so that he may bless us. We tend to think of it in reverse: we are to bless God by doing and being good. Then, perhaps he will have us in his company.
God joined the Hebrews, was determined to live among and bless them, before they had a thought of him. He gave himself to them: “I am the Lord your God,” just as he gives himself to us today: “Given for you.” So, God is not received by our doing but but our faith. What do you do to receive the body of the Lord? What do you do to receive his shed blood? They are given for you—not taken. We do not earn; we receive. God gives himself to us just as he has from the beginning. “I am the Lord your God.”
He is not God because we acquired him or decided he is the god we will have. He is our God for precisely the opposite reason: because he decided to have us. Now that he is our God, there are certain things he expects of us: nine things to be sure. But those nine commandments are all about faith—not works. You do not always honor your parents and spouse any more than you honor the name of God or the Sabbath rest. Sometimes you lie and covet. Nor do you always cherish human life. When you fail God by not keeping this simple, short list of commands, do you give up? Or, more to the point, does God give up on you?
When you fail the nine, return to the one, to the first commandment. That return or repentance takes faith. When you fail the “shalls” and the “shall nots,” have faith in the “I am.” God does not give up on you. He is the Lord your God, given in Christ Jesus for you. He is your merit. Have faith in him, not yourself, not your good deeds and religious service.
Prayer: Crush, O God, every thought of my goodness, so that I may rely on you who are my only good. Amen.
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