Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Victorious Life in the Augsburg Evangelical Faith

In catechizing my children a few weeks ago, I noticed that victory over sin is indeed part of the Augsburg Evangelical life:

God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.

First, we see what the first opponent of the victorious life is: misbelief. This is because misbelief, by teaching wrong ideas of God, the Lord, and the Spirit, and of the forgiveness of sins, closes the door back to Them. And the second is despair, because that leads us to conclude there is no way back to Him. After that follows all the great shames and vices that can't finally kill us as long as we do not fall into misbelief or despair. And why "great"? Do we not pray against venial shames and vices? No, because, as Walther taught in his Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel, in their inherent nature all sins are mortal.

So where is this victory? It is worth noticing that it is not in the third article of the Creed as something the Holy Spirit gives us (as He does the forgiveness of sins in baptism), but in the exposition of the Lord's Prayer's Sixth Petition "But lead us not into temptations, but deliver us from evil." In other words, victorious living has its place in the Evangelical life not in some assertion of what is factually true or what we are or are not capable of, or receive from the Holy Spirit, but in our prayer. Victory is what it is our privilege and duty to pray for. And praying for it we know, as soon as we say, "amen," that we shall have what we pray for. Because what does "amen" mean?

That I should be certain that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven and heard; for He Himself has commanded us so to pray, and has promised that He will hear us. Amen, Amen; that is, Yea, yea, it shall be so.

To doubt that God will grant us the victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil who torment us is to contravene the very Word of God. And to set a time in our minds when this victory must come is to tempt God, either by saying it must be achieved now, or by saying it must not be achieved now, but only in heaven. Rather we pray for it sincerely all our lives according to our Lord's teaching, we know it will happen, and we leave it up to God to answer us in His time.