Robert Kolb and Charles Arand wrote an incredibly engaging book called The Genius of Luther's Theology: A Wittenburg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church. I highly, highly recommend it.
Of the book, Michael Horton writes, "Aside from a few slogans and provocative quotes, Luther's theology is largely unknown in the land that Bonhoeffer called 'Protestantism without the Reformation.' Christianity in America desperately needs the wisdom and penetrating insight into gospel logic that is winsomely introduced in this rewarding volume."
I couldn't agree more.
Buy it. Today.
I was especially gripped by these sentences written in the context of discussing Luther's categories of passive and active righteousness (I'm absolutely convinced that if the church understood these two crucially important categories, most of our confusion with regard to law and gospel, faith and works, would go away. For more on passive and active righteousness read this).
Kolb and Arand write:
Living on the basis of Christ's righteousness involves the recognition that God's judgement contradicts the judgement that others make about us, as well as the judgement we render on ourselves. Daily life–the home, workplace, community, society–provides the context for an unending series of performance evaluations in which our capabilities and competencies are under constant critique. In these settings and relationships, we are forced to consider how others see us and judge us.
We also have to live with the image that we have of ourselves as we enter the world around us with respect to education, promotions, finances, popularity, and social mobility. Such daily audits of our own self-evaluation and the daily audit of how others evaluate us will continue until death. Nevertheless, the balance sheet does not have the first and last say about my existence.
The passive righteousness of faith ultimately frees us from being determined now and finally by such an audit. It frees me from pronouncing final judgement on myself. The passive righteousness of faith also frees me from what others say about me, for what they say is not the final judgement, but is always provisional.
For faith believes God's gracious judgement despite all empirical evidence to the contrary. In other words, we cling to the promise regardless of how many times instant replays of our weaknesses and failures flash before my eyes.
Indeed, the gospel not only frees us from what others think about us–it frees us from what we think about ourselves.