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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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In 1519, Martin Luther used an earlier passage in Paul's epistle to preach a sermon on "Two Kinds of Righteousness." The first, being clothed in Christ's righteousness, really is first as Paul counts all else as loss, including his considerable record in terms of human reckoning of righteousness. In Luther's words, God's infinite righteousness "swallows up all sins in a moment." This is a done deed.

But there's a process in this text too. Luther knew that, for he wrote of how Christ's "alien righteousness is not instilled all at once, but it begins, makes progress and is finally perfected at the end through death." So Paul speaks of "pressing on" toward the goal of fully knowing Christ.

We may know our own struggles of faith. But we are called to keep Lent through the power of Christ's resurrection which flows from the "done deed." With Paul, we press on, because "Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:12b).

Gracious God, we humbly claim your promise of forgiveness, given through your unconditional love. Clothe us in your grace and let your resurrection power work in us, so that we may fully know Christ in our own daily struggles. Amen.

Paul Sponheim
Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary
Master of Divinity , 1957

Philippians 3:4b-14 (NRSV)

4b If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:

5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;

6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

This God Pause daily devotion is brought to you by the alumni of Luther Seminary.