Friday, January 25, 2019

Faith: Credit Where Credit Is Due (It Ain't Me, Ma)

"...It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see." (Acts 3:16)

This verse struck me during my quiet time with God today.

I find the phrasing interesting.

Peter and John, devout Jews at the temple in Jerusalem, sometime after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, encounter a paralyzed beggar. The beggar wants money. But, after getting the man's attention, Peter tells him, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6)." And the man walked.

Understandably, this created a stir. People came running to Peter, treating him like a god. Peter is quick to correct their misimpression. He insists that it's the power of Jesus' name, the name he used to command the man to walk "and the faith that comes through him" that the paralyzed man was now was "walking and jumping, and praising God (Acts 3:8)..."

That phrase, "and the faith that comes through him" is what strikes me. What it says is that Peter takes zero credit for the faith that led him to tell the beggar to walk. In other words, Peter not only gives credit to Jesus and His powerful name in the healing, but Peter also says that even his own faith to believe that Jesus' name could accomplish the healing is God's work. This is true faith.

I think sometimes I and other Christians are tempted to take just a little credit for the good we do in Jesus' name and in the power of Jesus. We like to think that the good things we do, however small, have just a bit to do with our being faithful people. But Jesus tells Christians, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5)."

Whether it's me resisting a temptation, repenting for sin, deferring to someone else on approaching a long grocery store line, tutoring a child, caring for a neighbor or a loved one, sharing the good news of new and everlasting life for all who repent and believe in Jesus, or whatever it might be that we do in Jesus' name, I can't take credit for it. It's Jesus working in me.

And this applies even to my faith. Martin Luther writes in The Small Catechism:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
If I believe in Jesus Christ, it's because the Holy Spirit, working through the Word and Sacraments entrusted to Christ's Church and to Christ's Church alone has given and is giving me faith in Christ. Peter clearly knew and gave witness to this truth.

Prayer: Father God, in the name of Jesus, get me out of the way of the Holy Spirit so that daily my faith in Christ grows and daily You use me for Your purposes. Amen

[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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