God's Strange Way of Relating to Us
God has a strange way of relating to us. He gifts us with people and things that often appear as contradictory and out of tune with what we expect from Him. For example, even though hope and hopelessness stand on opposite sides of the street, Scripture teaches us to hope we are caught in the midst of hopelessness. Hopelessness is the fruit of fear, but hope gives birth to recovery from fear. In relation to our old Adam self, God teaches us to fear, give up all expectation in our own strength, skills, and talents, and accept death. But, in relation to Christ Jesus, God teaches us to hope, look forward to resurrection, and receive all from Him as gift, whether this has to do with faith or works. God acts in this way toward His children because we are not one person or the other depending on the hour or day. Instead, in relation to God, we discover that we are two people simultaneously: old Adam and new man in Christ.
Both the old Adam and the new man in Christ are one person and are embraced in relation to Jesus crucified and risen as one work of God. Our whole life is caught up in the work of our heavenly Father, daily putting us to death and raising us to new life at the same time. Or, to use the illustration Dr. Luther used for his students, God goes to work on us through His Word like a woodcarver chisels a block of wood. The woodcarver chisels away and takes "away the wood that does not belong to the carving, enhances the form of his work, so hope, which forms the new man, grows in the midst of fear that cuts down the old Adam."
The old Adam in us depends on himself always. The new man in Christ waits for all things to come to him from God's fatherly hand. In this double sense of self each Christian wrestles with each day, God lays crosses on us to kill old Adam. Therefore, we do not retreat or give up hope. We do not believe in our ability to fix the messes we have made of life. We trust only and always in God's grace, which we want and pray will overshadow us. But always we live each day believing that even struggles and affliction can be of use in putting to death the old Adam in us who hates and resists God's free grace in Christ Jesus.
In this way we are freed from placing our hope in our goals, what time and when we expect God to do right by us, and prescribing how He will help us. We recognize in these expectations the old Adam at work. Likewise, when we lose hope that God loves us, that Jesus is for us, that the Spirit is at work regardless of whether we recognize Him or not, this is simply the old Adam reacting to not getting his way. On the other hand, the new man in Christ, (whom Dr. Luther pointed out is the Holy Spirit at work in us as asserted by St. Paul Romans 8) looks forward to old Adam's death because he holds the Christian back from fully enjoying Christ as the God who is all-in-all for us.
We wait on the Lord even while we run away from His Christ-saving and forgiving grace. We hate and reject Him even as we cry out to Him for mercy. We go to our work in faith and joy even though we trust that He will use such work to kill us (and raise us to new life in Christ). This is the Christian's life and hope. This is our true joy in the deepest, most profound sense: that God names us, works for our good, and chases after us even when we are dead-set on rebelling against Him. This, in the deepest sense of the word, is what it means for God to show us grace.