Thursday, April 5, 2012

Martin Luther, Counseling and the Cross

I just finished reading a sermon from Martin Luther on the cross. The sermon consists of 17 meditations on the cross and is divided into three sections. The first section is "The False Views of Christ's Sufferings." The second section is "The True View of Christ's Sufferings." The final section is called "The Comfort of Christ's Sufferings."

There is some immensely practical stuff in this sermon...especially for pastors who have to do a lot of counseling. Rather than retype the whole sermon, I will attempt to capture the 17 meditations that Luther gives:

I. False Views of Christ's Suffering
1) Don't reflect upon the sufferings of Christ in such a way that you get angry at either the Jews or lament about Judas. You are losing sight of what really happened and meditating on the wrong thing.

2) Do not think that there is anything magical in and of itself flowing from the Cross that prevents suffering. You are simply looking at the cross as something you can derive purely physical benefits from.

3) Do not mourn as those who have no hope when thinking about the cross. While a proper view of the magnitude of our sin is important, there is no reason to wailing as if Christ were still dead.

II. True View of Christ's Sufferings
4) When thinking about the cross, the horror of your sin should leave you absolutely terrified. The fact that Christ was killed because of your sin should devastate you.

5) Never doubt for a moment that it was you who killed Christ.

6) The suffering Christ underwent should have been yours...not for a few hours but for all of eternity.

7) The judgment of God should humble us and terrify us.

8) You must meditate upon your own wickedness in view of the cross and learn to hate your sin even more. If you do not look at the cross and hate your own sin, the sufferings of Christ are really no benefit to you.

9) If, for whatever reason, you do not feel horrified by the cross and your own sin, you should be scared. Pray to God to soften your heart for you are in danger of the fire of hell.

10) Meditate upon the cross frequently for it will greatly benefit your Christian walk.

11) If you are praying for Christ to devastate your sinful self when meditating on the cross, do not expect that it will happen right away.  However, God will eventually prick your conscience and you will be humbled. God will work in his own time.

III. The Comfort of Christ's Sufferings
12) Once you are done meditating upon your own wickedness and sin and are devastated by it, remember the glories of the resurrection and the forgiveness found in the cross. Then, make sure your sin is not still found in your conscience.

13) Cast all of your sin upon Christ and believe, with joy, that he has your sin and has made satisfaction for them.

14) If you can't believe this, ask God for faith to believe it!

15) Now, stop thinking about Christ's sufferings and meditate instead upon the love of Christ for you. He has done this out of love! What a glorious joy!

16) When your heart is established in Christ and you hate your sin, not out of fear of judgement but out of love for Christ, let Christ's death be an example for you. If you are suffering, remember that Christ suffered more. Your sufferings are but a shadow of what our Lord suffered.

17) Remember that in Christ, you have strength and comfort against any sort of sin you might encounter.

So many great meditations here by Luther! There is a lot of practical counseling material here. What a huge blessing to know that the cross is so multifaceted.

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