Devotional thought fo the Day:
19 My friends, if any of you wander away from the truth and another one brings you back again, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from the wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 (TEV)
Anyway, I would gladly know how things are with your soul. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.
What a question for Martin Luther to ask his friend George!
Can you imagine me, or any pastor, or any friend asking that question of you? What would be your response? How would you respond?
Maybe I should ask you!
Or perhaps it is isn’t as questionable as “maybe”. We need to ask this question of each other. We need to care enough about people to ask them this, to genuinely care for their souls, for their spiritual needs.
And while I am not exclusively talking about pastors, elders and other church leaders, it starts with us. We are the ones tasked with shepherding souls, with reconciling the broken. This job belongs to the entire church, the caring for souls, whether they are members of our church, or atheists, whether they are our family and friends or our nemesis.
The words of James’ epistle strike this home. if someone wanders away, we bring them back, we cover a multitude of sins, and we save them from death.
As hard as it sounds, we have an obligation to our brothers and sisters, to lovingly help them bring their sins to Christ, to let Him remove and annul them. Not just to look the other way, not to just say, “well, really, except for this or that, Joe was a good guy, good enough to get to heaven.” That is easy, but really, it isn’t loving, it doesn’t call him back to God, it lets him wander through this life. It leaves him bound to self-righteousness, or to the guilt and shame he dwells in.
The church, you and I, have the ability to be there, to assist the prodigal on the way home, to help them know what we should know so well, the words of God declaring we are forgiven. We need to help them do as Martin Luther encouraged his fried George to do, to take a “deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in it.”
Lord, help us not to hide our sin, help us encourage others to be drawn closer to You, to receive your promise of absolution, and to live lives free and forgiven. Help us to be one people, united together in Your presence, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 3). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Discussion Thought of the Day
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27b (NLT)
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. John 15:9 (NLT)
16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:16-17 (NLT)
21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:21 (NLT)
In a recent blog, I made mention that loving our neighbor is not just law, it is always gospel. The contention was over evangelism, when I said doing such was an act of love, that love compels us to work for reconciliation. But what compels us is not the law, but the love that is the effect of the gospel. And to not love our neighbor, by sharing the greatest treasure we have, the love and mercy of God, is sin.
SO I was asked to clarify how “love thy neighbor” isn’t just law, but the purest of Gospel. Because of that, we have a blog about it.
The simple truth is we aren’t capable of loving each other as God commands, in the midst of our sin. Therefore, a directive to love our neighbor is the law, and we can be judged by it. For most Lutherans (who the discussion seems to be between) this is normal use of the law, it guides our actions in community, and it reveals our need for God. It also shows how we should live, (what it called the third use of the Law)
But it is more than just a command, it is a commission, a way of life God prepared those of us in Christ to walk in, (see Eph. 2 10. ) It is who we are in Christ, formed by Him, transformed by the Holy Spirit. It is the effect of our reconciliation, our redemption and sanctification, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
It isn’t about living within the confines of the law, the don’t touch, don’t do, type of law. It is more than the third use of the law – because it isn’t about obeying, it is about being in Christ, about the Holy Spirit’s work. If it is the only law, it is about us. But loving God and loving our neighbor is more than that.
It is the freedom of living and abiding in God’s love. That is where the commission to love comes from. It is the encouragement to live within the reality of your salvation, As we look to Christ, as the Spirit transforms us, it is indicative of who we become, of who we are in Christ.
If loving our neighbor is only law, it is not an indicative state, it is not that which the Father commissions and makes happen as we are raised with Christ. We are no longer Christ’s masterpiece, the work that He is glorified and raised above all others for accomplishing.
But love is not just law. It is life, in communion with God and all of His people, all of His creation. It is indicative of the eternal life promised and given to us, as the Spirit quickens and transforms us.
Devotional thought of the Day:
You saw it quite clearly: while so many people do not know God, he has looked to you. He wants you to form a foundation stone, an ashlar, on which the life of the Church can rest. Meditate on this reality and you will draw many practical consequences for your ordinary behaviour: the foundation stone—hidden and possibly rather dull—has to be solid, showing no weakness. It has to serve as a support for the building… If not, it remains isolated.(1)
It sometimes seems like the world is darker than it has been in a century, that immorality and unethical behavior are now the norm for life, It perhaps isn’t, for the time when St. Josemaria ministered in Spain had its times, as of course did the Vietnam Era. Yet when you look at Southern California, and the amount of people in churches, one begins to wonder how few people truly know and rejoice in the love and presence of God.
There is a tendency to bemoan our condition, to think that we have been defeated, that our generation will see more and more churches close, as our part of the world sees the light of Christ snuffed out. After all, most of the pastors I know are not incredibly powerful evangelists, most of us are common, ordinary, bland types. We try hard, but we don’t always see the results, in fact we rarely see them.
That is why I like the quote above. For our work isn’t necessarily to be the beautiful marble of huge temples, we are not the beauty of Roman Basilicas, or English Cathedrals. We are the foundations, those who point solidly to Christ, those who have been strengthened and bear the weight, those whose trust in God is revealed in a faithfulness we may not even realize people observe in us. And such lack of self-awareness is not a bad thing – our awareness needs to be focused on the cornerstone. – the one we take our lead and line from.
The people then, that understand we (and I am not just talking about pastors and priests, but about all those using their gifts to serve others) are like the stones that build up the building, the stones that do gather attention, the lives that are radically changed, the ones who are lifted up, the ones who testify of God’s love… because we were used to reveal it to them.
Not doing something spectacular in the faith – that is okay – be faithful in looking to Christ – love Him, adore Him, find yourself, int he midst of that love, loving others… and you will find with that simply done… not just a church being built up around you, but the church being built in the world.
Remember to look and cry… Lord have mercy… and rejoice as that mercy is revealed in your life and others…
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1804-1808). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.