Thursday, March 01, 2007

Religious Fanatics

“Each of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, ‘Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.’…Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works.”

“The Holy Spirit provides us with a way to counter this godless delusion. We need to hold tightly to what we have received through the grace of God. God’s approval doesn’t come to us by what we do. Rather, it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead.”*


I am always impressed by the pastoral and loving nature of Martin Luther’s writings. This reading accompanied my morning prayers and was a humbling reminder that my works gain nothing. I am only made right by the holy and perfect works of Christ, my Savior, whose passion we as a Church focus our attention on this Lenten season.

The accompanying picture is by Juan de Flandes of the Temptation of Christ (c. 1500). Interesting, I found, was the dress of the Tempter, monk’s habit and rosary in hand, a true “religious fanatic.” Doesn’t that old evil foe also come to us in that way, in seeming religious humility and fanaticism? As if to say, “I too would offer up to God the sweetest works. Join me in a few Hail Mary’s. Our, if you're Lutheran, why not pray Luther's Morning Prayer with me, or better yet, let us rejoice in our work of the Lord's Prayer.”

Lord Jesus, our Suffering Servant, have mercy on us who turn away from Your holy word and instead put our hope, trust and joy in that which is filthy rags. Keep us in humility to serve You in purity and righteousness, that the great gift of Your Passion may not be removed from us, but engraved in our hearts. For Yours truly are the perfect and holy merits that make us righteous before the Heavenly Father.

*From Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, ed. James C. Galvin. Zondervan 2005.

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