Falling Off the Horse

By:  Pastor Erick Sorensen

It seems no matter how we try not to, we always go to extremes.

Luther said, "The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off again on the other side. One can't help him, no matter how one tries.
" Too often this statement is true not just of the world, but of the Church as well. We tend to be re-active, rather than pro-active and as a result we fall.

Fundamentalists went to the extreme of not engaging the world at all (at least so it's taught by Evangelicals), so Evangelicals engage the world so much that at times one cannot tell them apart anymore. The "Jesus People" Movement of the 60's was almost entirely Arminian theologically, but now we hear that the children raised in this movement are rejecting it for the "New Calvinism." Now, I should note, reactions to problems aren't bad; we need to deal with issues of weakness that we see in our Churches. The problem is over-reactions. (Whether New Calvinism is an over-reaction, I don't know).

For Preachers it seems that this problem is widespread. For those who grew up in a legalistic church, the Grace of God is so freeing that they determine to never be like the Pastor they had growing up. So they constantly preach about Grace, with barely a mention of the Law (or if it is mentioned it's mentioned with the force of a feather, a suggestion really, but not really a command).

On the other hand, if one was raised in a church that never preached the Law, when they finally hear the seriousness (and the consequences) of the Law's demands on their lives, they feel they were cheated by their Pastor for "not warning them enough." In turn, they determine that they must let their people know urgently about the Law. So the sermon is 98% Law, 1% Gospel, and the final 1% are conditions on top of the Gospel to make sure you're sincere enough. Usually these conditions sound something like, "If you truly believe, truly repent, if you sincerely, really, truly, positively, without a doubt, mean it with all your heart" then you can be saved.

The fact is, the Bible has two Words:The Word of Law and the Word of Gospel. Both must be preached with full exposure. The law must be preached with it's full force to drive us to Christ (Gal. 3:24); that, as Luther taught, is it's primary use. The law must be preached in such a way that the sinner isn't allowed a shred of wiggle room (being a sinner, I know how easy it is to wiggle!). The Gospel must be preached in such a way that there is no other possible answer for us in this unanswerable dilemma that the Law has brought, except Christ and Him crucified. We let Christ get the final Word.

Pastor Bill Cwirla states it this way:
"We do not preach conditional “If Law then Gospel” (“If you...then God will forgive you.”) or “Law but Gospel”
(“You are a sinner but Jesus died for you….”).We proclaim Law and Gospel (“you are a sinner and Jesus died for you”). We allow the paradoxical inner tension of the Word to remain unrelieved and unresolved, as it must be, for the Word to accomplish its killing and making alive work in us."
Both must be there for us to stay on the saddle.