When I wanted to be a professional musician, I dreamed about having the right rig. I already had a Les Paul, but my amplifier wasn’t what I wanted. Nor could I get all the cool effects that I thought I needed. So I looked at guitar mags and dreamed about what might make me a rockin’ guitar player.
It’s a pretty common malady with any craft. Amateurs think that if they just have the right tools, then their skill will somehow automatically improve. It’s most amusing when you have wealthy folks picking up new hobbies. The rich kid in school had a Les Paul and a Strat, with a Marshall full stack…but everyone knew he couldn’t play worth beans. Same goes for investment bankers who sport Leicas on vacation.
Of course, there is something to using good equipment. My woodworking follies happened yesterday due to two main faults: me and my tools. I am not experienced enough and don’t work at it enough to keep consistency and “momentum” going. But my dado blade is impossible to measure against–it’s a “wobble” blade– and my table saw fence deflects like crazy. It makes cutting a slot in the middle of a heavy panel a tricky situation. If I had better tools, it would eliminate the second problem, and I’d be left with poor technique to blame.
Or take the guitar player again. That rich kid with the sweet Les and full stack is going to have an easier time learning his scales than another kid who’s playing a $250 Chinese “Flatocoaster” with action like high-tension wires. The Les plays nicer, easier and sounds better. Practice time is easier and more fun.
But practice time you still need.
Sometimes you hear Lutherans falling for the same fallacy regarding sanctification. They speak as if one just has the right tools, then Christian living and faith will increase. If people only went to Church, received the Eucharist and “remembered their baptism” then everything would be good as gravy in their Christian life.
I’m not denying the efficacy of the Word. It does what it says, to be sure. Nor would I dare deny the power of the Eucharist in giving life and salvation. But they are to be received, used, and, dare I say, practiced. The Confessions themselves confess the same thing; in numerous places they deny the Roman Catholic teaching of the sacraments working opera ex operato, that is, by themselves without the faith to receive them.
The Sacrament is life-giving and immortality-conveying. But one must be prepared and be examined for it to be for our good (1 Cor. 11). Likewise the Word gives faith and life (Rom. 10), but still must be done, and not just heard (James 1:22).
They are the correct, best, and only tools for the job of living as a Christian, but they are tools to take the dead wood of our lives and shape it. They take the cacophony of our lives and tune and arrange it into a pleasing song of praise to our Lord and Creator.