Ernie struggles with lustful thoughts. He has prayed frequently that God would deliver him, but no release has come. Ernie believes that because God can't look upon sin that He won't forgive him. Ernie truly desires to please God, but doesn't have the discipline to reach the goal.
What should Ernie do? Should he:
1. Rest in the belief that Christians are justified by faith alone and seek professional help for his problem?
2. Seek a special blessing from the Holy Spirit to fill his heart with divine love?
3. Remember the power of the Holy Spirit in salvation and develop this power to resist sin, and expect a new response to the world, himself, and others to emerge?
The Lutheran position would attempt to help Ernie by promoting option 1. This leads to my critique of the position based on the practical implications.
A fourth weakness of the Lutheran view is the practical implication. If Ernie was counseled from the Lutheran view, the counselor could not tell Ernie to do anything in fighting his lustful thoughts, except to continually reflect upon and remember his justification. As noted earlier, Scripture does more than only tell Christians to remember their justification. A number of passages command Christians to “put off” and to “put on,” to do right things, and not do sinful things. Ernie will need to do more than remember that he is justified in his fight against sin. He needs to be warned of the danger of continuing in sin, to be called to repent, to put off his love for other lovers than Christ, and to put on a love for Christ. Scripture does not have a problem with commanding Christians to do things, and neither should counselors in the case of Ernie. For example, Powlison points out the danger of only stressing one aspect in the Bible, especially when it comes to counseling people. He states, “Am I saying that pointing a person back to the justification of sinners could actually be pastorally hurtful? Yes. If what you need to know is ‘I am with you right now. I am your refuge in this affliction,’ then you may well go hungry if you are given ‘I died for your sins once and for all.’” Powlison’s point is important. True, sometimes Christians are sanctified by remembering their justification. To only stress this however is to miss out on other aspects of sanctification that sinners need as well, such as putting off, putting on, or following the commands of Christ so that they can grow to be more like Christ.
Powlison, “Sanctification: Part 1.”