Devotional Thought of the Day:
29 I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as heaven lasts. 30 If his sons abandon my instruction and do not live by my ordinances, 31 if they dishonor my statutes and do not keep my commands, 32 then I will call their rebellion to account with the rod, their iniquity with blows. 33 But I will not withdraw my faithful love from him or betray my faithfulness. 34 I will not violate my covenant or change what my lips have said. Psalm 89:29-34 (CSBBible)
By grace alone are we saved. God doesn’t want to be obligated to anybody. Once we believe, he tells us (and this, too, is by grace), ‘Give, and it will be given to you [Luke 6:38]. You are bound to give in any case, whether out of pity for the Turks or some other unfortunates, so you may just as well do it when I command it.’
Christian life can never be reduced to an oppressive set of rules which leave the soul in a state of exasperation and tension. Rather, it accommodates itself to individual circumstances as a glove fits the hand, and it says that, as well as praying and sacrificing ourselves constantly, we should never lose our supernatural outlook as we go about our everyday tasks, be they big or small.
The quotes I use may seem ironic to amateur theologians.
The Roman Catholic saint demanding in a very Lutheran manner that the beleiver is not, and should not be, oppressed by the law. Luther saying we aren’t obligated to anyone, but then saying we are bound to give, even to our enemies, as God has commanded it. These seem opposite the way their church bodies are normally reprsented. And of course a Psalm, which talks of discipline and punishment when God’s instruction and rules are not flaunted and disrespected.
So, is a Chirstian obligated to obey the law, to honor what God has established, or not? Are we indebted to God, and tberefore we have to keep in step with His demands or face His wrath? And what good is it to say that we are saved by grace, when we then become enslaved to God?
We talk about all this in very theological terms, but what does it mean for the average guy who may come to church once a month or less?
I think we first have to talk about prior to being drawn into God’s grace. In those times our slavery isn’t by choice. Satan and the demonic world oppress and enslave the one who doesn’t know they can believe in God. There is no choice about it, we are born into sin, and even in sin were we conceived. Involuntary slavery, and we live life in ways that are more oppressive.
When we are freed from that power, we still have to deal with a tendency to sin. Paul describes in Romans 7 how it haunts and depresses him. But then, in the midst of despair, he finds the relief in Christ’s declaration from the cross that all is finished. That we are free, that there is no condemnation for those who are drawn to the cross and join with Him there.
And unlike sin, which demands us serve its desires, Jesus invites us to walk with Him, to let Him be in control of our life’s journey. We join Him, trying to remember that He is in charge, that He is Lord. It is dependency, it is, in a way, voluntarily ceding our will, our futire (and past and present) into His care. It is, because of experience, knowing His direction is the safest, the one that occurs in peace, the one of healing. Letting Him be in total control of our lives, is the blessing of the cross and the resurrection.
Call it slavery if you want… yet it is the most glorious of freedom as well.
This is life in Christ.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 91.
Escrivá, Josemaría. Friends of God . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.