When Belief and Life don’t walk together

I recently answered the following question on WE Got Answers, I hope you find this helpful as well:

I am not Lutheran, however I fairly often visit a confessional Lutheran Church. The law and gospel preaching is very good, and I have been blessed. As I have attended there and read the Lutheran Doctrines, I have better understood the cross of Christ. The question I have is that one my family members says there is a disconnect between the pulpit and the pew. “Yes the word is preached but the people don’t get it. Just look at the some of the members. Doing things no Christian should, and one of them is a tavern owner.” They tell me that as a Christian we are new creatures and that in those Lutheran Church members there is no change at all. Now, I do agree on the tavern owner point, but is there a disconnect? Or how could there be? We often have a argument on this issue. Help!

A:  It is quite often the shock of many Christians to discover that within the Church there are sinners. I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, because after all, the Church is a place for sinners. If we are to see the Gospel as the gift Scripture says it is, there is no condition placed on it. Christ forgives sinners, even ones who don’t have their acts together and from our eyes still go on sinning. One does not even need to make up sins that Scripture does not condemn (such as owning a tavern) to see this. In the Body of Christ, there are those who lust, those who lie, those who are prideful, those who cheat, those who covet, those who steal, those who hurt or harm their neighbor, those who do not gladly listen to God’s Word, and those who at times place things other than God first in their lives. Now, I’m not merely talking about the hypocrite who goes to church to put on a good show, but I’m talking about the true Christian who trusts in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. I’m talking here about me and you.

Paul even talks about this in Romans. After laying out the Gospel as the free gift of forgiveness and being declared righteous on account of Christ’s death on the Cross and asking: “Shall we continue sinning so that grace may increase?” He responds, “By no means!” As Christians we are simultaneously justified and sinful. The saint in us desires to put away sin and walk a holy life, the sinner, on the other hand, delights in the desires of the flesh and this world. This is why Paul then goes on to talk about his own struggle in Romans 7: the things he knows he should do, he doesn’t do; and the things he hates to do (because they are sin) he does! This reality brings even St. Paul to his knees as he proclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Ultimately, the life of a Christian is one of repentance — daily repentance at that! I’m a sinner, so is every one of the pastors who answers these questions. So are you, and so are your family members. What does this mean? It means that Christ is for you. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for those who are without sin, but those who are sinners and need forgiveness.

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