Saturday, October 17, 2015

It's about who I am, not what I do

Today, I share what Jesus taught me during my time with Him this morning. I'm using the "Stop. Look. Listen. Respond." format for my time with Christ. That's explained here. Below is what happened during the look and listen portions today. I leave out the stop and respond, which I keep between Jesus and me. The passage where I met Jesus today is Luke 10.
LOOK: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

LISTEN: I have always heard this as an admonition to not be taken with the power You give to believers, but to instead be grateful that we have been saved by grace through faith in You. And I believe that it’s still part of what You tell us.

But I now think I see You saying even more. The disciples were taken with what they could do (in Your power), but You told them to be taken with what they are (children of God, by Your grace).

You acknowledge the power that they exerted over Satan and his dark kingdom (“I saw Satan falling…”), but even these deeds of power wrought in Your name won’t endure. You have conquered and will conquer Satan and his demons. But, on Your return, there will come an absolute end to them. All that will endure is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all whose names are written in the book of life by faith in Christ, and the angels who have stood with You. That’s the greatest wonder.

Both these things--wonders done in Your name and believers’ names being written in the book of life--are Your doing. But whenever we believers are the instruments of Your power and grace, we fall prey to the temptation of believing that we are doing something, when in fact it’s You doing something through us (Ephesians 2:8-10).

It’s possible also for the spirits to be subject to us--I think of those who weren’t Your followers who invoked Your name to work deeds of power--and still not have our names written in the book of life.

This is a haunting thought for a pastor who has exercised the office of Word and Sacrament. It’s possible to “handle the holy” as Pastor Schein used to remind us and still be far from You. God, protect me from this egotism. “Don’t be amazed by the positive feedback you receive for the sermons that I inspire,” You say, “be amazed that You have eternal life through Me.”

This applies to my personal life too. “Don’t be amazed that people value the deeds of friendship I do through You. Be amazed that by grace through faith in Me, a faith created by the Holy Spirit within you (1 Corinthians 12:3), You belong to Me.”

Be amazed always by Your grace, not by the things Your grace empowers us to do, despite ourselves!

Other incidents in Luke 10 seem to underscore this theme. The man set upon by thieves did nothing to ensure his rescue and healing. They were wrought by a good Samaritan who acted as nothing more than Your agent. And Mary chose the better part precisely because, at the moment Jesus was in her home, she lived as the grateful recipient of His Word, while Martha did so much that she failed to listen to the Word that, as it did its saving work, could ensure that her name was written in the book of life.

Stop, look, listen, and respond indeed.

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