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Salvation is More Than Forgiveness of Sins

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

14  Their minds, indeed, were closed; and to this very day their minds are covered with the same veil as they read the books of the old covenant. The veil is removed only when a person is joined to Christ. 15  Even today, whenever they read the Law of Moses, the veil still covers their minds. 16  But it can be removed, as the scripture says about Moses: “His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord.” 17  Now, “the Lord” in this passage is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 18  All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18 (TEV)

10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

298      My Lord Jesus has a Heart more tender than the hearts of all good men put together. If a good man (of average goodness) knew that a certain person loved him, without seeking personal satisfaction or reward of any kind (he loves for love’s sake); and if he also knew that all this person wanted from him was that he should not object to being loved, even from afar… then it would not be long before he responded to such a disinterested love. If the Loved One is so powerful that he can do all things, I am sure that, as well as surrendering in the end to the faithful love of a creature (in spite of the wretchedness of that poor soul) he will give this lover the supernatural beauty, knowledge and power he needs so that the eyes of Jesus are not sullied when he gazes upon the poor heart that is adoring him. Love, my child; love and hope. (1)

As i came across the quote from St. Josemaria this evening (above in blue), I had to think through it several times. It’s not that I don’t know this, but it seemed so different from the conversations among Christians and pastors on-line recently.

So often are conversation is about justification, whether it is evangelicals trying to be missional and covert people, or whether it is Lutheran theologians attempting to focus on our ineptitude to obey Christ (and applying that to the redeemed as well as the unregenerate).  In either situation, salvation is reduced to the forgiveness of sins.  There might be a mention of eternity in heaven as opposed to hell. Even that seems to be diminished these days, in light of glory of being righteous in the eyes of God.

But we can’t describe heaven well, apart from what isn’t there, and a vague idea of God seated on the throne, and the activity around Him, like the praise songs being sung.

But what makes our lives the work of art that Paul tells the church in Ephesus about?

What did theologians talk about, when they mentioned the life of the baptized?

What is this transformation that the Corinthians hear is happening to them, this work of the Holy Spirit that happens as we reflect the glory of God.

That means something is going on now, this transformation in our lives, this work of art, this being created (re-created) in Christ Jesus to do that which God ordained us to do.  Not to sit and argue about, not to dismiss because it makes us uncomfortable.  The idea of being close enough to Christ to experience His glory, to reflect that glory to a world, broken and comfortable in darkness is a challenge.

I like how Pope Francis put it,

“”We feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home; leaving our home to answer God’s invitation, go to God’s house, with others? No. I’m afraid. And all of us Christians have this fear hidden deep inside … but not too hidden.” (from a quote from “Divine Office” on facebook)

We want to hide in the comfort of our sins, as Israel did. We want a veil that keeps us at a distance….

God will remove that veil, enabling us to walk in a relationship trusting Him.  He will make our lives that masterpiece, He will transform us into the very image of Christ.  He will walk with us, and we will be so amazed by that, we may not even notice the rest of what He is doing…..

That is His love for us.

That is the baptised life….

That is salvation.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1211-1218). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pastors, Christians and Enforcing “the” Law

Devotional Thought of the Day:Photo: I hope this isnt a comment on what they perceive my role to be as a pastor. ... ( yes I was wearing my collar)

13  “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”   Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT)

 15  This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16  but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 17  To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen1 Timothy 1:15-17 (TEV)

Yesterday, on the way to church, I stopped by my usual fast food restaurant at 6 am.  This has become, if not tradition, something close to it.

One of the reasons is the manager, who at 6 am always has a smile and a warm greeting for me, something I imagine is part of her – for who else is cheery and bright that early in the morning!  ALthough I have noticed her staff is usually that way as well, perhaps because hers is contagious.  About a year ago, I started to notice that she was discounting my large Ice Tea from on the ticket, and thanking me for serving others.  You see, on Sundys, especially, I am wearing my clerical collar.  It’s a nice thing – but the reason I return is their friendliness and attendtiveness – even when I am wearing a polo shirt with the church’s name on it, or even old raggedy clothes.

Yesterday, I actually looked at the receipt and noticed that the discounted Ice Tea was labelled. “Law Enforcement Discount” and I had to chuckle, actually laughed quite a bit.  Because I know that is how some perceive pastors, and far too often, Christians in general.  Matter of fact, people often ask me why I don’t slam those who regularly flaunt God’s law with their very public behavior. The Miley Cyrus’s, or the politicians, or those who would shut Christmas celebrations and signs, those who would justify killing, whether euthenasia, or abortion, or depriving the poor of food.  I get the sense that many Christians are disappointed when I don’t single out one sin, and that non-Christians often expect me to condemn them.

My primary mission isn’t to condemn people, or to enforce the law.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  It is to comfort and free sinners from shame and guilt, carefully using the Bible and the sacraments, the ways in which God has promised His grace to be be delivered.

Neither is “law enforcement” the mission of Christians, it is not in our job description, for were we to do it well – all would stand condemned. That’s why Paul points out that he is the chief of sinners, so that others who have sinned (IOW all of us) can know the joy and peace of being freed from sin’s effects.  That is the light we are called to be, the grace that is the “salt’s” flavor.  Condemning others robs them, and us of the grace of God, which should be so predominant in our lives, that others know it, even before we begin to explain the reason we have this hope.

Yes, there are times, as a pastor, where I ahve to confront some specific sin, some problem that is on going and is wrekcing people’s lives. Yes there are times where it helps to identify the sins and temptations that overwhelm us, to warn of the dangers, to encourage people to come and confess them – so that they can hear those beautiful words, “your sins are forgiven”.  So they can realize the need for Christ’s grace, at that point in their lives, allowing Him to bring healing, restoration, and enable them to peacefully rest in His presence.  Perhaps then, as we understand that pastors are priests aren’t law enforcement officers, we will be less anxious when the guy in the black uniform with the little plastic “badge” at his throat shows up,

So that together, free in Christ Jesus, we can praise and glorify God

Law Enforcement is a good thing, and I thank God, and often those involved in it, for fulfilling their calling.

But mine is different, as is the church’s.

May we get this – and may Christ’s grace bring light whereever we go!  AMEN

 

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