James Nestingen



James Nestingen is a Professor, Theologian, Pastor and author of Martin Luther: A Life.


“Theology has been professionalized; it has become a guild unto itself. Turned in upon themselves, the theologians have kept the church at a safe distance, treating preaching as incidental instead of as the goal of theological reflection. And so the church, with rare exceptions, has passed over this generation of theologians when it has sought leadership, leaving the guild to its own standards and devices and telling the schools, with increasingly slim financing, to fend for themselves.” – James Nestingen (Theology is for Preaching)

“There is a deep sense, in Luther as well as in the confessional discussion, that repentance is not the end but the beginning of freedom, so that as the law breaks false alternatives, the gospel takes hold to break open the liberty of faith.” – James Nestingen (Theology is for Preaching)

“Luther’s interpretation of what the law requires is analytical – a descriptive examination of the minimal conditions necessary for the determining relationships of life. The commandments hold not because God gave them to Moses, because they are found in scripture, or because Torah is actually a gift. They hold because they make explicit what is implicit in the ebb and flow of human interrelatedness, summarizing the non-negotiables of creaturely life.” – James Nestingen (Justification is for Preaching)

“It is not that the law always should or must accuse. Rather, the law always approaches those in need, those who are troubled, those driven to the edge, as an accuser. In this age, under these conditions, law works this way. Its requirements, as good and just and right and true as they may be, are never neutral. They bear themselves out in attack that may vary in degree but proceeds nevertheless, relentlessly.” – James Nestingen (Justification is for Preaching)

“When the law stops its nagging and denouncing, a person can finally begin to live with what it really signifies: faith, hope and love.” – James Nestingen (Justification is for Preaching)

“When the gospel enters, it overlaps the law, confirming its requirement and accusation by bringing the law to its true end in Christ. The believer, then, experiences the peace which comes when the law’s voice is silenced. The conscience comes to rest in Christ and so under the power of the gospel, the believer begins to actually fulfill the law.” – James Nestingen (Justification is for Preaching)

“True repentance happens along the lines of the prayer of St. Augustine that drove Pelagius crazy, ‘Give what you command, and command what you will.'” – James Nestingen (Justification is for Preaching)

“The law can rest, and happily, because its work is completed. And the joy of repentance is fulfilled in the easy laughter of faith.” – James Nestingen (Justification is for Preaching)

“Lovers do not speak of their relationship as a project or an achievement, but describe themselves as having “fallen” in love or been caught up in something greater than themselves. Faith is another matter entirely. In relationship to the God who creates out of nothing, who raised Jesus from the dead, choice is exposed for what it really is, pretense and obstacle. In faith, the triune God is both author and finisher.” – James Nestingen (The Captivation of the Will)

“Most of the time, the old Sinner in us is a lot more subtle. Instead of hitting the promise head on, the old sinner feints and ducks, moving and weaving to avoid getting caught. ‘God’s decision is a great thing,’ it says, ‘but God helps those who helps themselves.’ There must be something we can do here. We’re not just puppets, after all. Before too long, the old Adam and Eve has turned God’s decision into your decision – a commitment, a promise, something you have to do before God can do anything with you.” – Gerhard Forde and Jim Nestingen (Free to Be)

“God has made a decision about you. God hasn’t waited to find out how sincere you are, how devout or religious you might be, or how well you understand the Bible and the catechism. God hasn’t even waited to find out if you are interested or willing to take this decision seriously. God has simply decided.

God made this decision knowing full well the kind of person you are. God knows you better than anyone else could – inside out, upside down, and backwards. God knows where you are strong and where you are weak, what you are most proud of and what you would most like to hide. Be that as it may, God’s decision is made.

God comes straight out with it: ‘I am the Lord your God.’ This is the decision: God has decided to be your God. For God wants to be as close to you as your next breath, to be the one who gives you confidence and value, to open a future to you and the freedom of the word, God wants to be the one to whom you turn for whatever you need.”


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