Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD.
- Psalm 27:14
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Pastor's Blog

Law unto Grace 7.23.2017
Dearly beloved,

May the grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with us all now and always, Amen.

This year marks the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation which was marked by Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis on the church door at Wittenburg on October 31, 2017. Luther did not wish to begin another church, but only wanted to bring up for discussion many points that the Roman Church at that time was teaching, and which Luther maintained were unscriptural teachings. He was seeking for a reformation within that Roman Church.

His protests were not received well and as a result the Protestant (protest) Reformation (reform) was launched. It has been 500 years since that major event in the history of the Christian Church which we are especially marking in this year of 2017.

One of Luther's notable and instructive statements that he made at that time was the truth that we are both saint and sinner simultaneously. This reflects that which the Apostle Paul has been teaching in the letter to the Romans in which he has explained of how through being joined to Jesus Christ by faith, we are free from the penalty and the power of sin, but not the presence of sin. This is where the statement of being a saint and sinner simultaneously begins come into play, as it is difficult for us to understand how we can be both at the same time.

In the 7th chapter of his letter to the Romans, Apostle Paul speaks of freedom that we have from the effect and from the power of the law, for it has done its work by bringing us to the awareness and the knowledge of our sin. Through sorrow over sin and turning to God for mercy and forgiveness, we now live under the power and effect of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which has freed us from the law/principle of sin and death.

Romans 7;14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

It was a privilege to know the late Pastor Edwin Erickson, who was a lay minister who was a friend of this congregation. In his later years as his memory began to fail him, he had a very short, but concise message that he would tell me each time we would visit. Pastor Edwin had shared with me on various occasions of how he had struggled with religion, as he called it, and told me of how he slowly came to the realization that salvation was by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. For many years he struggled under the burden of having to match up to what he perceived and understood what it meant to be a Christian. He did not realize it at the time, but he was under which was performing that which it was given for by God, to bring him to the end of his efforts and to rest in the efforts of Christ.

This revelation came to him in two parts. He told me that one day he realized that he could not match up to the laws demands and he came to the place where he gave up, but only partially. He understood that he was not going to be able to meet righteous requirements of God as outlined in the law, but as he told me he still was not free from the law. He said, I believed that I was saved by grace, but now you must live it. He shared with me that even though he understood grace for the first time, he still felt this obligation to live a righteous life as a demand, and not as an outflow from the knowledge and experience of grace.

Then one day he was reading the 7th chapter of Romans, and he came to verses 9 and 10 which state:
Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

At that point the lights came on for him, as the Word opened up to him and revealed to him that he had been trying to do the impossible, by attempting to live up to the laws demands which were never meant to cause a person to be justified before God. I still remember how joyously he retold that story time after time in his last days: He would repeat the words of verses 9 and 10:

For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. Then he would intently look at me and ask me: Have you died?

Those verses (9 and 10) form a huge part of the Apostle Pauls testimony of his life, for we know from other parts of the bible what he is referring to when he says that. I was alive without the law once.

What Pastor Erickson was revealing was very important for me in my learning from others, for he was giving testimony to what the Apostle Paul is writing about in this chapter concerning the role of the law in bringing us to understand, receive and live in grace.

Some of you may recall that occasionally I will ask someone whom I have just met if they would be willing to give me 3 watershed moments of their life. Those moments in their life which changed the trajectory of their lives, either in a good way or perhaps a bad way. Through listening to their sharing of those events, one gains very quickly an overall knowledge of who that person is.

For the most part, I was looking for those events that are more of the natural part of our lives. For example, my three are: Losing my father at 11 years old, being joined to my wife at 21 years of age, and being called into ministry at 50 years old.

As I have been reading, thinking about, praying over and meditating on the letter of Paul to the Romans, I have started thinking more of the spiritual watershed events/moments of my life. This has occurred due to observing the watershed moments of our beloved Apostle Paul.
Apostle Paul in this chapter writes about his three major times in his life: His past when he lived immune from the power of the commandment, His awakening to the knowledge of his sinfulness and his life as a believer in which he struggled with the ongoing presence of sin in his body.

He, like many, lived in the security of self, either repudiating God by ignoring the law and its calling to him, but finally when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, Paul came to himself and saw himself for what he was. A sinner! He saw that in persecuting Christs followers he was persecuting Jesus himself!

Let us think again about Pastor Erickson and his sin revived and I died. We must realize that there are only two places to dwell: Either under the law or under grace. Only after we have been driven to despair over our own efforts will we call out for the help of the mercy and forgiveness of God. When we are living under the law, we have the ability to ignore it or hide from it, but it still is doing its purpose and function which is to show us our sin as well as incite us to sin. It is commandment unto death and was never meant for anything else. In a way it brings us to life, but only through coming to the death of ourselves.

I remember a story that I read in a fiction book of how a man was brought to himself through the commandment coming to him. He was a pastor who was very successful, and in his success he began to neglect his family and his wife to the extent that he chose to have physical relationship with another woman. He was rebuked time and time again by those close to him but to no avail. One day as he was driving on the highway a jackrabbit jumped out in front of his car and in his attempts to save the jackrabbits life, he swerved and ended up smashing into a tree, badly damaging his car. As his car hit the tree, a photo of his wife in a picture frame smashed against the window, shattering the frame and dropping to the floor. At that moment, the commandment revived and he died. He thought: I swerved to save a jackrabbit and I totally killed, destroyed, (metaphorically speaking) my wife, my family, my church family??? How foolish have I been!!! The commandment came, and sin revived, and he died.

May the Spirit of God work in each of us as we think about how this message relates to us, to those we love and to our world upon which God has poured His grace, desiring to bring them to the knowledge of our/their sin. May we think on the watershed events of our lives to our benefit and growth in Him.

Now, what would be our watershed moments in your life in your coming to an awareness of the grace of God? Are we under law or under grace?

Pastor Orval Wirkkala
Posted on 23 Jul 2017 by Pastor Orval Wirkkala
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Help is on the way Isaiah 40.1.11
- Posted by Pastor Orval Wirkkala


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