From the Confessions: The Smalcald Articles
If monasteries and convents will not serve this purpose, it is better that they be abandoned or demolished, rather than continue with their blasphemous services invented by people, claiming to be something better than the ordinary Christian life and the offices and callings ordained by God. All this is also contrary to the first, chief article concerning redemption made through Jesus Christ. Besides this, like all other human inventions, these have not been commanded, and are needless and useless. Furthermore, they cause dangerous and vain efforts, such services as the prophets call aven, that is, deception and evil behavior.
Pulling It Together
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for well-meaning people to be caught up in religious practices, thinking they are doing right, while acting unrighteously. Add to this that they are deceiving themselves. Yet, at the base of all these actions is generally the notion that there is some benefit to come from these so-called services for God. The prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all, promises good fortune if you sow a seed in the collection plate. Living the monastic life falsely promises favor from God, and the hope of becoming a saint through communal service.
All the while, it is ordinary Christians who are already saints, living the lives to which God has called them. They are not saints because they live these lives and perform acts of devotion to God. They are saints because God has made them holy by the single virtue of his Son. It is faith in Jesus that makes us well (ESV, NASB, RSV), heals us (NIV), makes us whole (KJV, ASV), or saves us (σώσω, Mark 10:52). This is where holiness comes from—not from works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:9) and fall into sin.
Life, crazy as every day may be, lived in Christ Jesus makes one holy, not a life lived in the ordered world of a cloister.
Prayer: I take heart at your word, Lord, and will follow you with the help of your Spirit. Amen.
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Disciples of the Cross is a two-part Bible study addressing the topic of Christian discipleship from a uniquely Lutheran perspective. Part 2: What We Do is an introduction to the practice of discipleship, using the Lord's Prayer to take us through key aspects of our life of faith as followers of Jesus.
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The study may be used in conjunction with various discipleship programs and studies to highlight themes from the Lutheran tradition that are not often addressed in many discipleship materials. These include: a Theology of the Cross, the centrality of the Word and Sacrament, an understanding of the Means of Grace, and a recognition of the Christian as both "Saint and Sinner."