Giving Jesus Your Heart? (Giertz)

This is a repost from January, 2008.

A LCMS pastor and dear friend of mine recently gave me Bo Giertz’s Hammer of God to read as a sort of “fun” read.  It was not only fun, it was outstanding.  This book is fiction but it is based on historical and theological happenings in 19th century Sweden.  This book could be C. F. W. Walther’s lectures on the Law and Gospel set in narrative/story form.  Here’s a blurb from a dialogue between an old confessional Lutheran pastor and a young pietist Lutheran minister named Fridfeldt.

“So you are a believer, I’m glad to hear that.  What do you believe in?”  Fridfeldt stared dumbfounded at his superior.  Was he jesting with him?  “But sir, I am simply saying that I am a believer.”

“Yes, I hear that my boy, but what is it that you believe in?”  Fridfeldt was almost speechless.  “But don’t you know, sir, what it means to believe?”

“That is a word which can stand for things that differ greatly, my boy.  I ask only what it is that you believe in.”

“In Jesus, of course,” answered Fridfeldt, raising his voice. “I mean – I mean that I have given Him my heart.”  The older man’s voice became suddenly as solemn as the grave.  “Do you consider that something to give him?”  By this time, Fridfeldt was almost in tears.  “But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.”

“You are right, my boy.  And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved.  You see, my boy…it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give Him one’s heart and commit oneself to Him, and that He now accepts one into His little flock; it is a very different thing to believe on Him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is the chief.  One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to Him.  The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap.  A fine birthday gift, indeed!  But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him.  That is how it is….  And now you must understand that these two ways of believing are like two different religions, they have nothing whatever to do with each other.”

Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God trans. Clifford Ansgar Nelson (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1960), 147-8.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Lutheran Pietism vs Lutheran Orthodoxy

This is a repost from January, 2008.

A LCMS pastor and dear friend of mine recently gave me Bo Giertz’s Hammer of God to read as a sort of “fun” read.  It was not only fun, it was outstanding.  This book is fiction but it is based on historical and theological happenings in 19th century Sweden.  This book could be Walther’s lectures on the Law and Gospel set in narrative/story form.  Here’s a blurb from a dialogue between an old codgy Lutheran orthodox pastor and a young warm Lutheran pietist minister named Fridfeldt.

“So you are a believer, I’m glad to hear that.  What do you believe in?”  Fridfeldt stared dumbfounded at his superior.  Was he jesting with him?  “But sir, I am simply saying that I am a believer.”

“Yes, I hear that my boy, but what is it that you believe in?”  Fridfeldt was almost speechless.  “But don’t you know, sir, what it means to believe?”

“That is a word which can stand for things that differ greatly, my boy.  I ask only what it is that you believe in.”

“In Jesus, of course,” answered Fridfeldt, raising his voice. “I mean–I mean that I have given Him my heart.”  The older man’s voice became suddenly as solemn as the grave.  “Do you consider that something to give him?”  By this time, Fridfeldt was almost in tears.  “But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.”

“You are right, my boy.  And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved.  You see, my boy…it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give Him one’s heart and commit oneself to Him, and that He now accepts one into His little flock; it is a very different thing to believe on Him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is the chief.  One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to Him.  The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap.  A fine birthday gift, indeed!  But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him.  That is how it is….  And now you must understand that these two ways of believing are like two different religions, they have nothing whatever to do with each other.”

Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God trans. Clifford Ansgar Nelson (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1960), 147-8.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

Law and Gospel: Faith on Trial

Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today Here’s a great quote from John Pless’ book, Handling the Word of Truth (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 24.

“The clash between law and gospel puts faith itself on trial.  Is the gospel really God’s last and final word that trumps the accusation of the law?  Or is there something yet that I must do if I am to have peace with God?  The ability to distinguish law and gospel is brought to the test when the heart condemns and accuses with the memory of past sins.  Where does the tormented soul look like?  When we are crushed by law, the only place we can find relief is in the wounds of Christ Jesus and the promise that his blood cleanses from all sin.”

“This point is wonderfully illustrated in the novel, The Hammer of God by Swedesh bishop Bo Giertz.  In this story, Frans, a man known for his piety, lies dying.  As often happens with a person on the edge of death, Frans’s mind wanders back to the days before his conversion.  Drifting in deliriousness, the dying man utters words of an oath and froths on about drinking and a fellow who had cheated him.  Disturbed by the impious ramblings of her father, Lena exclaims, ‘You are thinking about Jesus, are you not, father?’  Frans replies, ‘I am not able to, Lena.  I can’t think any longer.  But I know that Jesus is thinking about me.’  With those words, a dying man distinguishes law from gospel and dies a Christian death.  The gospel is not about our ability to think of Christ but about his promise as the friend of sinners, his promise that nothing will pluck us from his hands (John 10.28).”

Excellent.  Reminds me that I need to read The Hammer of God again this year.  Also on my ‘Lutheran’ reading list for the upcoming year, I want to read Wingren’s book which discusses Luther’s view of vocation; this book containing Luther’s prayers also looks worthwhile.

shane lems