The real help against sin is forgiveness. Christians know that, deep down. Lutherans have been particularly good at making this point clear by unmasking the pretenders.
Every person or principle that claims to deal with sin apart from the grace of God which is ours in Christ Jesus is a pretender. Our world is full of such con artists. The name we give such confidence men in the church is "enthusiast." It is a very fitting name. By their enthusiasm and confidence about spiritual matters, they make us think that they know the truth. What exposes their lie, however, is the lack of foundation for what they say in the scripture. Because they have such knowledge of the Spirit and spiritual things apart from scripture, the tag "enthusiast" shows that they depend on the spirit within as the source of their knowledge.
Do you remember some of the great issues of the reformation? You could look at all of them as the clearing away of every pretender that came along claiming to help against sin. Can the bones of dead saints help against sin? Can traveling to a mountain or a desert or Rome take sin away? Can shutting yourself in a monastery or convent put sin to death? Can saying prayers, fasting, and good works deal effectively with sin? "NO!" the reformers said. Below is one of Luthers writings that remain part of our Lutheran Confessions. You can see that Luther called a spade a spade.
"Enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted by the old serpent, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism. Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word & Sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word & Sacrament is of the devil."
Sometimes a Lenten discipline like fasting is advocated as a help in the struggle against sin. Let us be on guard this Lent against the temptation of enthusiasm! How can we do that? By immersing ourselves in Gods Word, for only then can we know when someone makes a spiritual claim apart from that word. How can we do that? By seeking those earthly things to which God, in his word, has bound the Spirit: the sacraments. For the truth of the matter is that God has not left us alone in our sin and our struggles against it. He has given us the best help of all: forgiveness of sins, and the means by which we know it is ours.
Written by Pastor David Norland