Regarding the misunderstood expectation to “Become a better man.”

“The thief on the cross did not have time to ‘become a better man.’ He could not ever have a new life or any good deeds to boast of. And yet no man has ever received a more unconditional promise of salvation. He had done the one thing that is necessary – he had come to Jesus to get his help. He believed in Jesus.

“In the presence of Christ we must never expect to find a gathering of morally perfect people. ‘Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him.’ ‘Many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.’ Whoever finds himself in this category must do the same. He who does not do this should not be surprised to find a mixed company in the church of God.”

– +Bo Giertz+

We do not become “better” by our effort. This is Pharasaism/legalism. Instead, we become better when Christ makes us new, imputing to us His righteousness.

Kleinig on the simplicity of Christian spirituality

Christian spirituality is, quite simply, following Jesus. It is the ordinary life of faith in which we receive Baptism, attend the Divine Service, participate in the Holy Supper, read the Scriptures, pray for ourselves and others, resist temptation, and work with Jesus in our given location here on earth. By our practice of spirituality we are not raised to a higher plane above the normal, everyday, bodily life, but we receive the Holy Spirit from Christ so that we can live in God’s presence each day of our lives as we deal with people and work, sin and abuse, inconvenience and heartbreak, trouble and tragedy. We are not called to become more spiritual by disengaging from our earthly life, but simply to rely on Jesus as we do what is given for us to do, experience what is given for us to experience, and enjoy what is given for us to enjoy.

– John Kleinig, Grace upon Grace, page 23

Luther's comfort when hated by the world

Therefore it should not affect us if the world, whose works we declare to be evil, judges that we are the most dangerous heretics and insurrectionists, overthrowers of religion and of the public peace, and possessed by the devil, who speaks through us and governs all our actions. In opposition to this perverse judgment of the world let us be satisfied with the testimony of our conscience, by which we know as a certainty that it is a divine gift when we not only believe in Jesus Christ but proclaim and confess him openly in the presence of the world. As we believe in our hearts, so we speak with our lips, according to the statement of the psalm (116:10): “I believed, and so I spoke; but I am greatly afflicted.”

– Martin Luther, 1535 Lectures on Galatians, AE 26:375

Luther on Being a Christian

“Therefore a man becomes a Christian, not by working by listening. And so anyone who wants to exert himself toward righteousness must first exert himself in listening to the Gospel. Now when he has heard and accepted this, let him joyfully give thanks to God, and then let him exert himself in good works that are commanded in the Law; thus the Law and works will follow hearing with faith.”

  • Martin Luther, 1535 Lectures on Galatians, AE 26:214-215