Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trusting in Christ Alone

God got my attention during my quiet time with Him yesterday. I read Luke, chapter 13, and two verses leapt off the page at me. No mystery in that: "...the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here's a little information on how I keep quiet time.

Here's my journal entry from yesterday:
Look: “‘Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”’” (Luke 13:26-27)

Jesus is asked, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” (v. 23). Jesus ignores the issue of numbers of people saved. He basically tells people, “Tend to your knitting.”

Our “knitting” is to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (v. 24). Jesus is that narrow door. Jesus says in John 10:9: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent,” Jesus says in John 6:29.

In other words, our “work” is to trust in Jesus. He is the narrow way by whom we can be saved.

Jesus says at the judgment that there will be people who say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” They’ll be saying effectively, “We were in worship when Your name was proclaimed. We drank the wine of Holy Communion and ate the bread.”

“Yes,” Jesus is saying, “you may in fact have done those pious religious things. But I don’t know you.” There’s a difference between hanging around when the Word about Jesus is spoken and consuming the elements because it’s time to go up for Communion, on the one hand, and following Jesus, on the other.

The Small Catechism asks, “When is a person worthy to receive the Sacrament?” The answer: “Fasting and other outward disciplines are indeed good preparation, but people are truly worthy and well prepared who believe these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But those who do not believe these words or who doubt them are unworthy and unprepared, for the words, ‘for you’ require truly believing hearts.”

Simply going through the motions, as the synagogue leader who condemned Jesus for doing an act of love--healing a woman afflicted by Satan on the sabbath day--did, is not belief in the God revealed in His Son, Jesus.

The question is whether we believe in Jesus rather than in our behaviors, be they going to church, receiving the Sacrament, or healing a person on “the right day.” Christians should worship regularly. They should receive Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins as often as they can. 
But those who follow Jesus aren’t just saved from something (condemnation), we are also saved for something: A life lived differently from the way it would otherwise be lived because we have been saved by Jesus, a life whose primary object isn't my personal fulfillment or enjoyment, but God's glory. (This, honestly, makes me uncomfortable.)

Jesus says in Matthew 3:8 (New Living Translation): “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” People who have entered by the narrow way of faith in Jesus “bear the fruit of repentance.”

This is why it’s so important for me to turn to Jesus each day. My default mode dictates trusting in things like the world, myself, and my good works, all things that I can see right now, to validate my existence or to save me from myself--my sins, my death, my darkness. Under this way of thinking I become the subject of my salvation rather than the object of God’s salvation, given through Christ. 
I must learn that even my own salvation is not about me! 
“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) And Jesus says in John 5:24: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

Those who don’t trust in Jesus have no relationship with Jesus. Those who breezily “accept” the proclamation of their forgiveness and promise of forgiveness that comes from the body and blood of Jesus, given in, with, and under the bread and the wine, going through the religious motions without surrendering trust in Christ, have no relationship with Christ. They are not saved. Those who trust in Jesus, including entrusting their sin and sinful desires, who trust Jesus to wage war against their sins and trustingly renounce sin to embrace Christ, are saved. They enter via the narrow door.

Listen: You show me in this Word, Lord, the subtle ways in which I allow sin to have its way with me. I excuse my sin, effectively saying, “I’m only human.”

Your grace is all I need for life; I simply need to trust in Christ for Your grace to forgive my sins, save from death, and save me to live.

But I can’t thoughtlessly drag my sin into Your presence and expect You to bless me when I fail to listen to Your call to repent and to avoid temptation, which is to say Your call to trust in You.

When I depend on self-righteousness, self-indulgence, or any other worldly thing to save me from my sense of guilt, inadequacy, or disconnectedness, I’m following the wide streets of the world. You are Who I need. You alone!

Respond: Today, Lord, help me to resist temptation. Help me to follow and trust in Christ alone. In His name I pray. Amen
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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