Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 8 This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Titus 3:4-8 (NLT)
Article VI: Of New Obedience Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone. ( The Augsburg Confession: The Chief Articles of the Fatih)
For all of this, I must thank Him, praise Him, serve Him and obey Him. Yes, this is true!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained, Under: “Part Two: The Creed”.
In these days following Easter, as we move towards Pentecost, the readings in my devotionals, and the assigned readings for church describe a major shift in the lives of those who trust in God. They don’t change; they are changed. They aren’t simply justified by faith, as if that is the end of their salvation, they are also sanctified, set apart in a holy relationship, described as the New Covenant between God and His people.
I think as a church we do a disservice. At the time of the Reformation, Lutheran and some Reformed churches has a balance between Justification and Sanctification. While we were absolute that nothing we do merits our salvation, that there is nothing we do to justify ourselves before God, there was a change that He did to us.
In the green and blue quotes above, from the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism, this change is made clear and absolute. It is necessary to do good works, and We must thank, praise, serve and obey Him. There is no option allowed in those words
Change happens. Change will happen. We are not saved by faith alone as if that is all that salvation is; it is to misrepresent Luther and the rest of the evangelical Catholic reformers to indicate that is so. They knew what would happen to us in the relationship we have with God; the New Covenant spells it out, as clearly as it spells out the assurance of Christ’s work in redeeming us.
So how does this work? How much effort will it take to change? How mandatory is it?
Regarding mandatory, I think Luther and Melanchthon and the words necessary and must make it clear from Lutheran theology. The quote from ROmans 12, Paul pleads with people to let God work this our lives, just to give ourselves into His hands (which is where we belong anyway!) and let the Spirit mold us, working through us.
Paul will also tell Timothy to keep teaching about God’s work transforming us, and the Spirit overwhelming us, for that will result in our devoting ourselves to doing good. That is the key to this, our grasping, not just with our mind but with heart, sou, mind and strength what it means to be in Christ, to have the Spirit dwell within us.
As we pray, as we learn, as God reveals Himself to us, in us, He transforms us. We become His masterpiece, a divine work of art. This is the promise God makes to us in His word.
So it makes no sense to argue about works or to call those who teach what God is doing pietists. Some need to be corrected gently, that they realize the change is made in us, rather than we make the change. Often we aren’t even aware of it, as the sheep in Matthew 25 were unaware when they ministered to Jesus. Love and ministry become more natural, more of what needs to be done. The sacraments become dearer, these active, covenant renewal moments, when the grace of God promised is delivered, whetting our appetite for the feast when all become completely transformed when all are welcomed home into the presence of our Father.
Look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, look to Him as the Holy Spirit transforms you from glory to glory, Look to Him, know HIs love, hear His promises, and let His word direct your thoughts words and actions. And if you fall, confess it, let His absolving cleanse your heart, and continue to journey with the God, who loves you.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day
10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (TEV)
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)
“If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?” “why?“ (1)
“The only preparation which multitudes seem to make for heaven is for its judgment bar,” (2)
Nearly 30 years ago, my pastor and I were trained in what was known as Evangelism Explosion. The goal of the ministry was to prepare people with a scripted message that they could share the Christian faith. Tens of thousands of pastors and people were trained in the method. The scripts basic concept (as with most evangelism methods ) was to give peopel the assurance of eternal life in heaven, rather than eternal damnation/annihilation/punishment and the wrath of God.
In fact, last week someone asked those very questions to me via social media.
And this blog has been simmering ever since. The key was the quote from my devotions this morning, which brought it home. is our evangelistic work as believers primarily focused on making sure people get into heaven? Or is it about giving them the life, the peace, and the knowledge of God’s presence in this life, that is our hope for eternity?
If it is evangelism to prevent them from being sent to hell, there is strong motivation that would cause us to share God’s love with those we care for, with those we love. But that mission accomplished, is there the tight communion that you should see, is there the shared life, is there a willingness to stay together through thick and thin. To be blunt, does create a life that struggles with sin, and strives to love others as Christ did?
If our questions and manuscripts lead people only to get past the St Peter and those who guard the gates of heaven, what are we really doing? is conversion something that happens in a twinkling of an eye? You were going to hell, woops now you are going to heaven?
Or is our hope, our expectation based on a promise that we have a hint, a glimpse of in this life, and that glimpse changes everything? A promise that is repeated time and time in the scriptures. “You will be my people, and I will be your God.”
isn’t that where our hope lies? In the fact that who weren’t once a people, are now a people? Isn’t our hope seen in the promise that God will transform us and cause us to walk in ways that are incredible and blessed. (even though they might include suffering)
The evangelism explosion questions have their place, much of the material I still use to this day. Even so, the direction of our evangelism must be more than selling eternal fire insurance. What our hope is based on is one promise, that is as true now as it will be then. That gives us hope for this world, when it seems like it is falling apart, and yes for eternity.
The hope that is found when we know that the Lord is with us, and will never abandon us.
May the questions you ask lead people to realize this.
(1) paraphrase of the two questions from Evangelism Explosion used in many evangelism training seminars
(2) Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper 1 Publcishing – the devotion for this day