The Daily Drills of the Faith

The Daily Drills of the Faith

In his preface to The Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote,
Let all Christians drill themselves in the catechism[1] daily, and constantly put it into practice, guarding themselves with the greatest care and diligence against the poisonous infection of… security or arrogance.
But, you say, Isn’t the catechism that little book that we used in confirmation? I could read it in 20 minutes. Is Luther really suggesting I should use it every day?
In fact, Luther knew you’d say that. “Many,” Luther writes, “regard the catechism as a simple, trifling teaching, which they can absorb and master at one reading and then toss the book into a corner as if they are ashamed to read it again.” But Luther didn’t see it as such. He saw its great value in the daily life of the Christian. He understood the place of the thought life for healthy and righteous living. He understood that what you think affects what you feel affects what you do. Our thought life is where everything begins. If this is wrong our lives, just like a house on a faulty foundation, will crack, crumble, and fall.
Although Luther taught theology, wrote prolifically, preached multiple times every week, and would translate the entire Bible into German, he made this his daily discipline:
Each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism – and I also do so gladly.
Luther, the great theologian and reformer, was a lifelong student of the catechism. Might we learn something from him? For a moment, let’s become students. Answer the following questions:
1. What is the Third Commandment?
2. What is the Sixth Commandment?
3. What is the Eighth Commandment?
4. What is the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer?
5. What is the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer?
6. What is the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed?
Now let’s go a little deeper.
1. What does it mean to set apart a day to hear and learn God’s Word?
2. What does it mean to live a sexually pure and decent life?
3. What does it mean to defend our neighbor’s reputation?
4. What are we praying for when we ask for God’s kingdom to come?
5. What does it mean when we ask God to forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?
6. What does it mean that Jesus Christ is your Lord?
Perhaps we would do well to admit that we only think we know the catechism. And perhaps we would do well to appreciate what benefits would come to those who daily drill themselves in it. Luther writes,
Even if [people’s] knowledge of the catechism were perfect (although that is impossible in this life), yet it is highly profitable and fruitful to read it daily and to make it the subject of meditation and conversation. In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and devotion, so that it tastes better and better and is digested…
If the presence and working of the Spirit weren’t enough, Luther continues,
Nothing is so powerfully effective against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and all evil thoughts as to occupy one’s self with God’s Word,[2] to speak about it and meditate upon it, in the way that Psalm 1 calls those blessed who ‘meditate on God’s law [teaching/instruction] day and night.’
The Holy Spirit enlightening minds; Satan, the world, the flesh, and evil desires being turned back – these are the benefits awaiting those who are daily drilling themselves in the Catechism. If we willfully neglect or reject these benefits, who have we to blame but ourselves? If we neglect disciplining our thought lives, who have we to blame when everything else disintegrates about us? Luther minced no words on the matter. Writing particularly of pastors who neglect the catechism, but of all Christians, too, Luther reprimanded:
Should we so flippantly despise such might, benefits, power, and fruit – especially we who want to be pastors and preachers? If so, we deserve to not only to be given no food to eat, but also to have the dogs set upon us and to be pelted with horse manure.
Strong words! Hyperbole, yes, but his point was clear. The catechism gathers the essentials of the faith into one ready resource, essentials that ensure the Spirit’s presence and working and Satan’s eviction. Why aren’t we daily drilling ourselves in its teachings?
Again Luther exhorts us:
Let them constantly read and teach, learn and meditate and ponder… If they show such diligence, then I promise them – and their experience will bear me out – that they will gain much fruit and God will make excellent people out of them.
Please take Luther’s words to heart. He’s not speaking theoretically; he’s speaking from experience. A thought life grounded in God’s Word (as presented in the catechism) will produce fruit: fruit for you personally, but also fruit for your family, your church, your community. Need a copy of the catechism? Pick one up in the resource center or ask one of Zion’s and Trinity’s pastors. The time to begin the drills is now. – Pastor Conner

[1] The word catechism originates from a Greek word meaning echo. As such, the chief parts of the catechism are designed to echo in the lives and homes of confessing Christians. When Luther spoke of the daily drills that should be carried out in Christian homes, he was thinking specifically of The Ten Commandments, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Apostles’ Creed. The Catechism also includes Scripture’s teaching on Baptism, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper. These, likewise, were of great importance, but the daily recitations of which Luther spoke were centered in The Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, and Apostles’ Creed.

[2] This is an important point. Luther exhorts us to read the catechism because it contains (Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer) and succinctly summarizes (Creed) the Word of God. The catechism is our ready access to the essentials of God’s Word.

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